I’m forever sourcing out new camping gear. Every time I pack up, I realize how much duplication we have, how heavy or unwieldy some of our items are, or that we often bring things we just don’t need. So when I read about BioLite, I was intrigued. The company develops and manufactures what it dubs, “advanced energy products that make cooking with wood as clean safe and easy as modern fuels,” but recently it’s also been working on ways to create electricity to charge your electronics too.
BioLite was founded by Alec Drummond and Jonathan Cedar, who wanted to apply efficient design principals to real world problems. As the company explains on its website, the duo shared a love of the outdoors, but, “Alec, frustrated that all efficient camping stoves required petroleum fuel or batteries, 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.”
BioLite for Cooking and Charging
The BioLite CampStove was the company’s first production piece. The concept is simple and genius at the same time: the CampStove creates a smokeless campfire that can cook meals and boil water in minutes. Setup is easy, fuel is free, and the company says, “flames are hyperefficient with performance on par with white gas stoves.” Then at the same time, the stove’s heat generates usable electricity for charging LED lights, mobile phones, and other personal devices. The stove’s USB connector will charge up most devices, and every twenty minutes of charging with a strong fire gives you about an hour of talk time on most smartphones. Probably more than you need out in the bush! The stove can also boil a litre of water in about 5 minutes in the small, Thermos-sized kit.
A neat add-on to the CampStove, is the BioLite Portable Grill. It gives you compact grilling capacity, without the need for charcoal or propane. The stainless steel grill surface attaches to the CampStove with collapsable legs for support, and will fit up to four hamburgers or six hotdogs. It weighs less than 2 pounds, and gives you a tidier way to get that wood-grilled flavour into your food.
Like the idea of the stove, but you’re not ready to travel that small and light? The BioLite BaseCamp is your next option. It too uses wood to cook and grill, and then also converts the heat into usable electricity for charging. How does it work? The BaseCamp converts heat from a wood fire into electricity using a thermoelectric generator that lives in an attached orange powerpack. The heat powers a fan that blows air back into the burn chamber for better combustion, and surplus electricity goes to the USB port allowing device charging. The BaseCamp also has energy storage capabilities via its integrated Lithium ion battery which will hold the energy you’ve created to use later. An LED dashboard allows you to monitor your power generation and battery level.
The BaseCamp’s 138 square inch grill surface easily fits eight burgers so this grill is no slouch when it comes to cooking for a family.
Another offshoot of this technology is the BioLite Kettle Charge. You fill it up with water which you can use for coffee, tea, soup or whatever, then you plug in your gadgets to the USB extender, which plugs into the kettle’s collapsible handle, and the heat charges them as fast as a wall outlet. How does it work? In this case, the thermoelectric generator in the base of the KettleCharge uses a difference in temperature to produce electricity. The kettle’s onboard computer, (aka the Smart LED Dashboard) gives instant feedback on heat and charging for optimal use, and a built in alarm will go off if the unit is getting too hot for your gear. The Kettle Charge can be used on gas ranges, backpacking stoves, and of course on the BioLite CampStove.
Another option for cooking, without charging abilities is the KettlePot. The idea behind this gadget is that it allows you to streamline your kitchen gear, by allowing you to bring one piece of cookware. The 1.5-litre pot gives you plenty of room for water for hot drinks or a full meal, then acts as a hard carrying case for your BioLite CampStove.
BioLite also has several options for lighting up your campsite, but the one I most want to get my hands on is the NanoGrid. BioLite calls it, “a revolutionary lighting and energy storage system” that consists of a main PowerLight, and peripheral SiteLights. The PowerLight is the central hub, and can be used as a flashlight or a lantern, plus it will power your gadgets and devices. Interestingly, Biolite says the PowerLight doesn’t have any burning-bright hotspots, because it uses what the company calls ‘Edge-lighting’, where the lantern’s panels “bend light around the internal battery, resulting in a compact design and soft light”. The SiteLights connect to it, and then allow you to string more lighting around your campsite. These extension lamps throw off about a 10-foot circle of light and they can be individually controlled, and even dimmed.
The whole kit will run for 22 hours, it’s small and weights hardly anything, meaning it’s super-portable, and it can be recharged using a USB plug, or using any of the BioLite charging options above too. The PowerLight and the SiteLights are frequently available separately too.
I love how all the pieces of the BioLite kit are designed to work together. I also think having a wood-fuelled cooking and charging system is pretty smart and would be very useful on my summer camping and road trips. I’m hoping to get hands-on with these gadgets soon and will share full reviews so you know what you’re getting.