The great outdoors
02 August 2016
With summer holidays around the corner, Tanya Weaver scouts out the latest products for those camping adventures
Let there be light
Outdoor enthusiasts will no doubt be familiar with BioLite – a US manufacturer of wood burning stoves that not only cook but turn fire into electricity for charging LED lights, mobiles and other personal devices.
The company’s mission is to bring energy everywhere. So, having conquered fire the next area it wanted to tackle was light. The result is the BaseLantern – a 500-lumen flatpack lantern that is also a mini smartgrid controllable via bluetooth.
When starting out on this project the design team wanted to change two paradigms. “First we wanted to make a compact lantern, taking out all the cavernous space needed for traditional diffusion,” says Anton Ljunggren, BioLite’s director of design.
They managed to achieve this with edge-lighting technology, which essentially utilises the same principles as fibre optics to create a flat panel of light that can wrap tightly around a big rechargeable battery.
“The greatest challenge with edge lighting is to design the light guide and its texture to extract all the light evenly and efficiently. When done right, it diffuses the light from our LEDs across a large surface area while only adding millimetres to the thickness of the product.”
The second paradigm was, together with the output of powerful light, they also wanted the product to be able to charge phones, cameras and other USB devices.
The design process began with sketching, either on paper or straight in the CAD tool – SolidWorks or AutoCAD. “We often sketch in CAD, print on paper, make mock ups or 3D print iterations of a model until the feature we’re evaluating is solved,” comments Ljunggren
With the final prototype ready, the team decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign in May 2016 to take it through to market. They were, according to Ljunggren, quite literally blown away by the response. In the 30 day campaign the project raised $816,966, the goal was $75,000.
Manufacturing has began in earnest with the product shipping in November.
So, next time you head out on a camping trip, slip a BaseLantern into your backpack. According to BioLite, it only takes up as much room as a sandwich (a BLT sandwich, that is, not a one-slice-of-cheese sandwich).
Heading out on an adventure means that you don’t want to be lugging a cumbersome stove around with you. Enter the Genesis base camp system from Jetboil that features a two-burner stove, a non-stick frying pan and five litre pot all in a compact nesting design.
The start of this project kicked off like most others at Jetboil, as Mike Hebert, senior mechanical design engineer, describes, “Typically, early concepts are reviewed and discussed on paper, whiteboard, napkins, or whatever happens to be near as ideas bubble up.”
Promising ideas are then modelled in SolidWorks, which also proved very useful when designing the nesting nature of the Genesis. “Being able to analyse component fits, interferences, tolerances, etc. in all configurations allowed us to analyse, adjust, and fine-tune many fits and features before making any parts.”
The team prototyped extensively during the design process including making considerable use of 3D metal printing.
The end result is a cooking solution that not only packs away neatly but works well with a range of features. “I think what customers will most enjoy is the Advanced Simmer Control,” says Hebert, “because what’s better than starting and ending your day outdoors with a meal cooked to absolute perfection?”
Home from home
Of course, no adventure in the great outdoors is complete without somewhere to stay. Tents come in all shapes and sizes but if you’re heading off with your family or a group of friends then one of the new tents from Vango may be just for you.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, this Scottish outdoors brand has expanded its AirBeam collection with the launch of the ‘Exclusive’ range, which comprises two designs – the Edoras and Rivendale – both of which Vango promises will give you that home from home feel.
Also, unique to these tents is the patented AirBeam system. The brain child of Vango’s product and development director Glenn Andrews who, inspired by the inflatable boat market, came up with the concept of replacing a solid poled structure with an air filled structure instead. This was in 1998 and it took eight years to perfect. But then it was another four years of testing until the AirBeam was officially revealed in 2010. And as they say, the rest is (inflatable camping) history.
The AirBeam range has expanded over the years but what’s new in the Exclusive range is the Sky Liners, which attach over the top of the tent to protect the roof from UV degradation, birds and trees. It also provides an additional layer of insulation to help keep the tent cooler in hot weather and warmer at night.