Whether you’re a camper or “glamper”, you know that sometimes you need power. Whether it’s for your cell phone, camera, or even some silly gadget you shouldn’t have brought to the woods, having a little extra juice is always handy. The problem has often been that when your extra power source (like a battery pack) runs out, you’ve got no way to recharge. Enter the BioLite Campstove.
I got a chance to test this genius device on a recent camping road trip. As the name suggests, the CampStove is a portable stove for cooking and boiling water, but it also comes with reliable, renewable power.
How it Works
The CampStove is a small cylinder, about the size of a thermos. But unlike traditional portable single burner stoves, this one doesn’t use propane or white gas. It uses a revolutionary and easily accessible fuel: wood!
This came in amazingly handy our first night on the road trip, when we ended up at a site with no readily available firewood, and no fire rings. Making coffee the next morning meant merely gathering some sticks and twigs, tossing them into the cylinder, lighting some scraps of paper and watching it light up.
The wood inside the cylinder catches quickly thanks in part to the small size of the burn chamber, but once the fire gets going things really get interesting. A small fan inside the power pack attached to the size of the cylinder (folding legs keep it stable) kicks on automatically, further fuelling the fire. The internal fan forces air back into the burn chamber dramatically improving combustion and creating a cleaner, more efficient burn, according to BioLite.
In just minutes we had a nearly smokeless fire going, and were able to get water boiled in under 10 minutes.
Did my test live up to BioLite’s claim of boiling water in 4.5 minutes? Watch my two minute video to see!
Cooking with BioLite
The company says the BioLite CampStove can boil water in about four and a half minutes. While my experience showed it took more like 8-10 minutes, that was still faster than using my Coleman stove, or the fire pit. I paired the stove with a Stanley brand French press/coffee kettle kit that I have, and found they worked brilliantly together, since the kettle is the perfect size to sit on the stove. Of course, you can also use BioLite’s own KettleCharge, or its KettlePot too.
I also tried and succeeded in cooking a can of beans over the stove, in the can, and it worked like a charm. This stove is not wide enough to fry anything over, or to cook using pots of any substantial size, so it’s really better suited for meals that feed one or two. Bigger families can also look to BioLite’s larger BaseCamp grill or other attachments including a small portable grill rack for the CampStove.
The CampStove is very light, ultra portable, and was cool to the touch even during and after use, thanks to a double layered outer skin, and tripod-style legs. The stove was fully cooled off enough to repack in our gear box about 5 minutes after we’d finished cooking.
Powering with the CampStove
That fan and power pack combo I mentioned earlier also has another purpose. BioLite’s patented technology captures the wasted heat from the fire through a heat probe in the orange power pack. Heat is converted into usable electricity via a thermoelectric generator. This powers the fan and sends that surplus electricity to a USB charging port so you can charge anything.
Within just minutes of getting the stove going, I was able to plug my iPhone into the USB port, and had it charging immediately.
I really like the fact this charger runs off wood, twigs, sticks or paper, because that means you can forage for fuel to recharge your gadgets and have power virtually anywhere you are.
Won’t it Melt my Device?
Worried the stove will melt your device? I was at first. But once I tried the stove, I saw it’s well built to prevent that. The USB port is on the far side of the power pack, well away from the burn chamber. Plus, that dual outer skin that covers the burn cylinder means no heat is leaching out through the sides. Factor in cord length for your charging cable and your device is getting nowhere close to any open flame or heat. There’s just no danger of any damage being done.
The CampStove also comes with a drawstring bag for storage and a USB cord so you can pre-power your stove’s power pack using a wall outlet or car charger, which is kind of a nice added bonus if you can remember to do it before heading out to the woods.
BioLite has an interesting story. Their successful business was borne out of the co-founders’ interest in more sustainable products, particularly for camping and the developing world. As BioLite’s website puts it, “our stove technology was inspired by a philosophy of applying efficient design to real world problems.”
Founders Alec and Jonathan were frustrated that all efficient camping stoves required petroleum fuel or batteries, and Alec had the idea of a wood-burning stove able to utilize its own thermal energy. Jonathan, an avid camper, quickly brought his engineering background to the table and the two began the design process. Countless nights, weekends, and prototypes later, the BioLite CampStove was born.
Long Story Short
I absolutely loved this product and will definitely be getting one of my own. (Honey, my birthday’s coming up!)
It works exactly as advertised, it’s simple, portable, lightweight and I love that it uses found fuel, which also made it a breeze to pack for the airplane, since you can’t put propane or white gas on an airplane.
I find that these days, having extra power away from home is almost mandatory, given the amount of devices we all have on hand, so if you’re like me and need to keep those gadgets juiced on the road, and in the outdoors, you’re bound to love the BioLite CampStove.