If you are a camper, glamper, van lifer, or weekend warrior, then chances are you know all about propane, wood, and charcoal. Combustible fuel is how most of us have been cooking outdoors, well, since we started cooking outdoors. The bad news is that these fuels are not great for the environment; they can be hazardous and, of course, cost money.
So what’s an outdoor chef to do? Use the sun, of course. GoSun is a company that uses solar power to power cooking, light, and just about anything you can think of that you might use outside; they also make the most practical and portable silverware we have ever seen.
Below, we look at a couple of their products that we got to test out and fire off some questions to their CEO Patrick Sherwin about the future of solar and beyond.
The GoSun Go is a portable solar oven that you can take with you just about anywhere, even a backpacking trip. With a rugged outer case and a weight of just under two pounds, this little guy gets big jobs done using just the sun. From cooking meals for up to two people to boiling water for your morning coffee, you now have a fuel-free option for preparing your meals.
At first glance, the Go looks a little strange, but as you fold it open, it all starts to make sense with the way the solar energy is captured and used to heat your food or water. It even works in cold weather with cloud cover, although it does take a little longer to heat up.
We took the Go up to Project Basscamp (our mountain testing ground and beer drinking facility) and used it to prepare some boiling water for our coffee, heat some hot dogs, and make some chicken.
Boiling Water – We did this in the morning with full sunlight and it took about 35 minutes and was enough for a couple of cups of coffee or a bag of camping food.
Heating Hot Dogs – Since these are already cooked, it was not that hard to get them to a warm enough temperature to be tasty. In the afternoon sun, we got them warm with the buns in the silicon trays in about 15 minutes.
Cooking Chicken – We took some chicken breasts and cut them down to chicken tenders and got roughly two medium-sized breasts in there with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. The vacuum tube keeps the moisture in and we got them done in about an hour. Make sure to have a meat thermometer handy so you don’t have to remove the chicken when you are checking on it.
So whether you want to bake, roast, steam, or boil – this little device has got you covered, is great for the planet (and the zombie apocalypse) .
Boiling Water with GoSun Go
In the box: Solar Oven, Cook Tray, GoSun Dial, Silicone Cook Pans (4x), Universal Action Mount, Cleaning Brush, SolarDial, Cook Book, User Manual and Drawstring Carry Case
GoSun Flatware is probably some of the best, if not the best, reusable cutlery on the market. The design sets the GoSun version apart with the ability to compact for easy porting and cleaning. So unlike other resusable cutlery, the GoSun version easily fits in your wallet, purse, cool hipster sling pack, whatever. The flatware can be used on camping trips, at festivals, or just on the go when you don’t want to use plastic cutlery that will end up right in a landfill. We tried carrying it around town when we were out for the weekend, and it was easy to get the hang of it and bail on single-use plastic utensils. The hardest part about using these little guys is committing – you just need to do it!
Catching up with GoSun CEO, Patrick Sherwin
What was the spark that drove you to start a solar company in your garage?
I think that goes back to my origin story – basically as a child. I’d restored a creek in my backyard using all kinds of other rivers and streams nearby. We’d restored amphibians, fish and all sorts of other aquatic life. Everyone in the neighborhood was totally in love with it – it was thriving and had been going for a couple of good summers. Then, a neighborhood teenager dumped motor oil directly into the creek, creating an oil slick and an oil spill. It pretty well wiped out everything in the immediate area of the creek, destroying all our progress. So, then I realized the strength that man has to do stupid stuff, and that led me on a clean tech entrepreneurship path.
What is your favorite meal to prepare in your solar stove? Tell us a bit about how the vacuum tube works in this process.
I LOVE cooking sweet potatoes. I find so much flavor range, and I’ve been exploring all kinds of varieties of sweet potatoes. There’s incredible stuff coming out of South America and Asia. It’s just amazing how well things cook inside GoSun products because juices and natural flavors are really well restored when cooked inside a vacuum tube oven. Basically, there are two tubes of pyrex glass that are fused to each other and then evacuated. That vacuum between the two layers creates a perfect insulator. So, these will work in the winter, through freezing cold and wind, and will hold temperature and moisture well into the night. It’s a little bit like a CrockPot, but it’s more of a cross between an air fryer and a CrockPot. Iit just sets up for really succulent, delicious dishes. What you put in is what you get out, and you get it amplified.
Your product line helps make off-grid setups a lot more viable. Have you been seeing people integrating your products into tiny homes, RV’s, and off-grid cabins a lot?
Definitely. We build stuff to be highly portable, so we mainly focus on camping, backyard barbeque events, sports games, beaches and boats. That said, we’re noticing that trend and are absolutely designing our products to fit into vanlife, car camping and RV life. We recently built a tiny house that encompasses most of our technologies. We see that most tiny houses, RVs and even off-grid cabins aren’t built very efficiently. They aren’t built with an energy mindset, and it turns out when you focus on being energy efficient you really can reduce the overall cost of your solar system. Essentially if your appliances are well suited for the task, and they just sip on energy, you don’t have to invest thousands and thousands into a robust battery bank and giant solar array. That’s really our sweet spot – we focus on the essential needs: cooking, cooling, sanitation, charging, lighting – and then we figure out how to meet that need with the sun. Since we don’t need very much sun, our products remain portable.
As the world comes to grips with our environmental problems, what other lanes do you see solar becoming viable in that people might not expect?
I think this question sort of answers itself in a unique way. I think resilience is really what we’re going to have to deal with moving forward as climate change becomes much more real and pressing, affecting our daily lives. Resilience – what does that mean? The ability to take care and maintain some semblance of the quality of life that you have. Again, how do you cook food when your stove’s out of gas or keep things cold when there’s a power outage? Our technology fills a big void. What’s unique about it is that it’s the only purchase you may ever make where you’re buying it because you love it and it will be fun for recreational purposes, AND you’re getting the side benefit of having it there for you when you need it. So, it’s about resilience and independence for us. I don’t think that people look at solar that way, certainly not solar rooftops and utility-scale solar – a lot of that stuff doesn’t work when the grid goes down. That’s really our bread and butter – I’ve been in solar for over two decades and when I got started everything was battery-based and worked in an off-grid scenario. The industry has changed dramatically – it’s more of a financially-oriented industry than it is about resilience anymore.
What’s next in the GoSun product line? Any plans for a massive power bank?
Wow! Yes – we are working on a powerbank that will basically become the hub of all of our appliances. That means they can all access power within the solar generator, and all of our solar panels can charge it. It’s totally portable, and is as lean, clean and quiet as we could possibly make it – and is launching in September. We also have a bunch of other stuff in the works – again, largely trying to address immediate essential needs.
What are you scared the most about regarding our environment?
I think the way climate change is pushing people out of their homes is certainly challenging and scary. I think that’s going to be something that affects us a lot over the coming decades. I think more than anything is the human side of it, the human darkness. We lose our cool way too easily and we’ve seen that a lot. Our emotions get a stronger grip on us and create rage, causing people to strike out against others. That, to me, is more scary than anything – of course, I’m scared of the fires raging out west and the hurricanes that are developing in the Atlantic, but it’s always a human issue at the end of the day. The hatred, darkness, and pain inside the hearts of men is really what keeps me up at night, and is what scares me about what’s coming. We can only solve this when we have some ability to get along and work together and agree on things.
What are you the most optimistic about?
I’m pretty happy to see that a rising awareness is growing. I think that during the COVID era people really fell in love again and renewed relationships with the outdoors – I see a lot more people at the trailhead, a lot more people really wanting a better work-life balance where nature is revered, where they’re spending lots of time outdoors. I think “In wildness is the preservation of the world” which is a Henry David Thoreau quote. So, I’d like to think that when we’re in nature, we’ll grow more “wild”: more responsible, more capable, more in tune, and more in love. I think that will ultimately lead to us being better citizens and servants of each other.
If you had five people on your zombie apocalypse team, who would they be?
Yikes! (Laughs) I’m thinking that I don’t want any part of the zombie apocalypse, and I’m not necessarily a prepper so I haven’t had to think about this type of thing. But ultimately, I would think I’d want people that are really easy to get along with, people with real team skills. Which is not easy. Often you’d think you want your team to be a bunch of alphas and really incredible achievers – the Elon Musks and Jeff Bezos’ of the world – but in fact, I’m afraid that would be a disaster. The egos, the clashes, the “my way or the highway” attitude – I think it relates to what I said earlier, the only way we’re going to carry on is if we can get along and stay friends. That’s cooperation, a sense of community, agreeing on certain facts and science. That’s sort of integral in us being able to assemble and carry forward.
What was the most complex product in your lineup to develop?
Wow! My answer is not easy, but I would say it’s the product we haven’t launched yet (laughs)! The most complex products in our lineups are still on our R&D (research and development) side of the business, and we have some big, big doozies. We have a product that I can’t quite speak on just yet but have been working on it for two straight years. We’ve developed quite a bit, and we’ve been pretty prolific and quick about launching a couple of new product designs every year. We just recently managed to launch a water purification sanitation system called the gosun flow. Just last week we installed our first atmospheric water generator out in Mendocino, CA to start addressing the water crisis that’s affecting much of the American West. A lot of times we leverage existing technology and just make it a little better, but in the case of some of our developments, they’re totally new hairbrained ideas that we have to take from 0 to 5,000 units and then ship, and that’s the real challenge. However, we’ve done that quite a bit now and have got about 10 unique SKUs at gosun.co and we feel like we’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg with respect to the amount of needs that need to be met. We feel we’re in a great position to help people thrive and live a more independent and resilient life.
Thanks again, Magnetic Magazine!