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Backpacker Magazine – Fall/Winter Gear Guide 2012

Gear Review: BioLite CampStove

Going where no stove has gone before, this wood-burner also charges your electronics.

by: Kristin Hostetter

BioLite CampStove
BioLite CampStove

[innovative charger]

What’s better than cooking over a fire on a cold fall night? Cooking over a fire while the flames charge your iPod. The BioLite improves on previous wood-burning stoves by converting the stove’s heat into electricity to juice up small electronics. As a cooker, the BioLite performs on par with other wood-burners: It boils a liter of water in 6½ to 14 minutes, depending on the conditions and quality of wood, and requires constant stoking. After burning for five to 15 minutes (again, depending on the ambient conditions and the quality of wood) with the help of the integrated fan, the indicator light turns green and you’re ready to plug into the USB port. Don’t expect to get a full charge on your iPhone in record time, but it’s still pretty miraculous. After 37 minutes, one tester’s iPhone netted a 13-percent increase in power. Bummer: The BioLite is not compatible with all USB devices (such as iPads and several testers’ Android phones). Before you buy, be sure to contact BioLite to see if it’s compatible with yours. Bottom line: While this stove is too clunky (think one-liter Nalgene bottle) and heavy to make it an everyday backpacking choice, being able to harness the energy of cooking is a great option for gadget lovers who want the ability to top off in the field. Other pros and cons are no different from other wood-burning stoves: You’ll enjoy cozy warmth and save fuel weight on longer trips, but you’ll need to find dry wood and clean sooty pots. $129; 2 lbs. 2 oz.; biolitestove.com/ 

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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star
tga
Oct 27, 2013

Just brought my new Biolite back from a second trip where I gave it a second chance to perform, and, I must say that I fell for the romantic idea of really living off the land (using biomass instead of packing in fossil fuels) and also being able to charge things (cell phone and batteries.) But, alas, the thing never once charged anything, I'm spite of a few times keeping the fire going for 2 or 3 hours just to see if it would work (waiting now to hear back from Biolite on what they're going to do about it), it took a HUGE amount of little pieces of wood/etc to keep it going--even to just boil 2 cups of water, the fire constantly went out or smothered itself with its own ashes, and when it rained (which it did several times on both trips), there was virtually no starting the stove because there just was no way to gather enough dry material beforehand... much less when it rained for two days straight! This was such a neat idea for the developing world (I'm referring to the large biolites on their website), but the camp stove is just too small toconveniently maintain a fire and really not conducive to the nomadic nature of camping and its lack of a permanent sshelterunder which one could store dry biomass in advance of rain.

Star Star Star Star Star
ZinniA
Oct 04, 2013

BioLite CampStove is a helping hand that is with you, when power goes down and when you lost in storm, when you wish to cook the food during the camping and even to charge the electronic gadgets. For more details click :http://outfresh.com/startups-2/biolite-campstove-a-helping-hand-during-camping/

Star Star Star Star Star
John W
Jul 16, 2013

Even without the recharging feature, this is a great stove. Although a bit bulkier than my other backpacking stove, when you consider that you don't need to carry fuel, it is less bulky. A half-teaspoon of Vasoline on a piece of napkin, and you can get steady flames in under a minute. Temperature control is limited (high fan or low fan) but it can boil liquids faster than my kitchen stove. I only have a dumb phone, but I use the re-charger for my Black Diamond ReVolt head lamp.

Star Star Star Star Star
LaffenLarry
Mar 21, 2013

Hi, just my two cents - and it's worth it! Now listen here, this is a new fangled product, if you want tried-true-and-tested there is plenty out there. It's a work in progress - but think of the progress! Better yet, restrict thinking about it to just this one thing: When all your electronics die, and your batteries are dead, and your solar film is broken, and you have no Whitegas, No Gasoline, No Butane, and your last MSR Iso Can has been dead for 2 weeks - you can STILL Break up a few sticks, keep warm, cook anything, AND RECHARGE your BASIC gadgets - ANYWHERE! .. No it is Not a Generator! If you want one of those buy one! But what it IS - it's 2 lbs or awesome when all else fails, that will run on nature, and allow you to gain access to basic technology! So, from that perspective comes my two cents, and I hope it's worth every penny. I bought one for my backpack - now i can go Anywhere, and I bought 3 more, 1 for the house for emergencies (yes they happen), 1 for the Regular "Family Camping" Kit, and 1 for a Backup. Okie Dokie Smokie, I'm Gonzo!

Star Star Star Star Star
Ben
Feb 01, 2013

How juvenile arguments about what stove is "best" can be, like which super-hero would win a fight. Each is best for something, none for everything. Even at what the BioLite is worst at (ultralight) I can still have a base pack <15 lbs, never need to carry fuel or extra batteries for my led lite/camera/steripen etc…all with a product that is carbon-neutral. Other stoves can beat this one in their own nitch, but this thing is simply amazing and also has its own very appealing set of nitches.

Star Star Star Star Star
Ben
Feb 01, 2013

How juvenile arguments about what stove is "best" can be, like which super-hero would win a fight. Each is best for something, none for everything. Even at what the BioLite is worst at (ultralight) I can still have a base pack <15 lbs, never need to carry fuel or extra batteries for my led lite/camera/steripen etc…all with a product that is carbon-neutral. Other stoves can beat this one in their own nitch, but this thing is simply amazing and also has its own very appealing set of nitches.

Wolf
Nov 01, 2012

This will always hold a solid spot in my "MUST CARRY" backpacking kit. You will NEVER run out of fuel to cook with AND, while the USB port doesnt offer a "quick" charge, it does offer a charge where nothing else will. I agree that the technology can only get better but you have to consider a stove to be a tool. In this instance there are stoves out there that heat better and faster but all will run out of fuel at some point. This one never will.

Mike
Nov 01, 2012

I was also on the pre-order list.

First, the USB port is a novelty item. It works, but you're not going to get high output from it. It's just there to allow you to use some of the excess energy. The power is actually generated to drive the fan that increases the intensity of the flame.

This stove is fantastic for two of my purposes; trail baking and cooking for groups. When you start to consider the weight of all your fuel in a weekend trip for four it actually becomes pretty reasonable. Once at full burn, it'll boil water in about the 4 minute range.

Len
Oct 31, 2012

Do you really carry an IPod backpacking? Sheesh. If you want to cook over a wood fire--build a wood fire and save the money. Mama mia.

Steve C
Oct 30, 2012

One consideration about this unit is that it is right on the edge of technology. I would consider this like an early version of a PC. Expect good things to come.

Steve C
Oct 30, 2012

MI6's Q would be proud. Now if someone would harness a backpacker's stride to charge stuff, that would be cool.

Skittlebrau
Oct 30, 2012

I was on the preorder list for this one and got mine back in June. I wanted it more for the "gadget" aspect of trying out new technology, so I wasn't too disappointed with the lack of performance. I will still bring it along on car camping trips for the novelty and to show off the technology....but it will never hold a solid spot in my "MUST CARRY" backpacking kit.

Mark P
Oct 30, 2012

I purchased this several months ago prior to my Maroon Bells trip. I was excited to get on the trail with an easy way to recharge my iPhone (used as GPS). Even though the BioLite Stove is way heavier than anything I'd like to carry, I sacrificed for the sake of power. Did I ever learn my lesson. Not only did I pack 2.05 lbs of a fancy boiling device, the amount of power received from charging was not worth the weight nor the cost. Camping in the high elevations of the Rockies, the soft woods to choose from were not beneficial for a lengthy charge. The stove had to be emptied after approximately 30 minutes of burning and a complete restart of a fire was in order. This was a pain, but after 30 minutes of charging and only a 7% increase in battery power, I had no choice. Lucky for me, I packed two small solar chargers that were pinned to the top of my backpack as an emergency backup. I'm glad I did.

Overall, it was neat using the BioLite knowing that I'm using a sustainable fuel while on the trail. However, perhaps I had too high of expectations expecting the BioLite to charge my iPhone. Before you buy, consider if the weight is worth the 7%-10% charge you get with a really long burn.

meanolddog
Oct 30, 2012

At two pounds 2 ounces and $129.00 I don't see any advantage to buying this, especially with lighter weight solar chargers out there. My entire kitchen with fuel canister weighs 9 ounces less than this one unit. But someone will buy it.

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