Working at Republic comes with the prerequisite that you love technology. At any given moment you can walk over to one of our TAC (Technical Assistance Center) specialists’ desks and find a pile of gizmos both old and new. Ongoing office bragging rights seem to go to whomever can amass the biggest collection of vintage phones. Our lead designer still even has an old Moto bag phone in his car for giggles. One of our developers has a self-tuning Gibson Robot Guitar. And then, there’s me…the guy whose house resembles something like a Borg Cube from Star Trek. I can’t help it. Gadgets fascinate me. Most recently, I took “glamping” (glamor camping) to such a new level, even Tom Haverford would be jealous (Parks and Rec anyone? DJ Roomba in the hizzouse!). My tent had a light switch, a ceiling fan, and an ice cream ball (hey, if you’re gonna go, go big)! But perhaps the coolest piece of tech I brought along was my Biolite. A small, wood-fire, camp grill that captures the heat from burning twigs, leaves, etc. and turns that heat energy into power to charge your tech. Wait, what? Burn wood and charge your phone? Yep. That’s a thing and it works great.
If you haven’t heard of the folks at Biolite, no worries, you’re not alone. They started out as a crowdfunded Kickstarter idea and, to my own surprise, recently slid under the radar into the retail world. You can find a Biolite on shelves at Cabela’s and REI. I bought one out of sheer curiosity in prep for my recent beach camping trip. It was $129 bucks, but I needed a grill anyway. I figured the charging aspect of the device would be a gimmick – people at my campsite aptly made jokes about it. But come day two, I had a line at my campsite of people wanting to charge their phones. I could’ve charged admission. $5 bucks a pop. This thing legitimately rules.
I purchased the extra grill attachment, and every night, was able to cook a pack of hotdogs, a pot of soup, or about 4-6 burgers at a time. The handy lid on top flips up so you can put in extra twigs/fuel. While I cooked, I also charged. It helped keep insects away and made a nice substitute for a camp fire for those cold beach nights (the campsite only allowed fires if they were off the ground – luckily the Biolite sits on three fold-up legs – boom – life hack!). My Biolite quickly became the highlight of the trip and with so many folks stopping by to keep warm and charge their phones, it also made a great conversation starter for meeting new people.
If you’re venturing into the great outdoors anytime soon, I highly recommend this super cool invention, especially if you’re gonna be in the woods, surrounded by an endless supply of fuel. The Biolite is totally self sustaining – no batteries to worry about and it was relatively easy to clean. Just dump the ash out and douse with water. It even comes with a little bag to store it in. Happy camping!