Outdoor Retailer, a biannual gear convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, looks really glamorous from the main floor. The multiple thousand-square-foot booths, heaps of swag, free beer, and ubiquitous GoPro videos pumping dub step and high action footy can hypnotize you like a Vegas casino.
This is not the case in the Pavillions, a series of three tents across the street from the West entrance to the Salt Palace convention center. The AC didn't cut it today in the 100-degree heat, and while the booths still have a relatively high production value, you can't shake knowing that you are in a tent across from the big show. This week, I will be looking through the Pavillions and various outlying booth nooks to find my favorite gear and to catch brands that would usually be off our radar, as well as reward the hardscrabble entrepreneurs that have made it here.
Matt Ford, the CEO of Power Pot, was showing the Power Pot in the Pavillion at Outdoor Retailer this summer as the result of an extremely successful Kickstarter project. This innovative 12-ounce backpacking pot can generate five watts of electricity—what my iPhone draws from a wall socket at its most thirsty—thanks to some ingenious use of basic thermoelectrics. The pot generates this energy using the temperature difference from the heat source you are using and what you're cooking in the pot. Another bonus is that the Power Pot works with any cooking device you use for to heat the items inside of it.
David Toledo and Paul Slusser came up with the idea for the Power Pot while they were studying at the University of Utah, but the idea didn't come to fruition while they were in school together. After the pair graduated, Toledo went to Cornell to pursue his PhD while Slusser went to work at a tech company in Silicone Valley; however, they never gave up on the idea, and continued collaborating on the product until they had something they could commit to. They started a Kickstarter with a goal of $50,000, and ended up raising $126,000 in funding. Last January they brought the Power Pot to their first Outdoor Retailer and landed a lucky spot just outside of the main hall.
The Power Pot, assembled just blocks away from the company's booth, was the coolest piece of gear I saw in the Pavillion today, hands down. It is light, simple, robust, and a very logical answer for a person who needs to charge electronics in the wilderness.