When the BioLite Wood Burning Campstove hit the shelves a couple of years back, it was the talk of the town.
Not only did it promise to burn wood cleanly and efficiently thanks to their airing technology powered by the stove itself via a thermoelectric generator, but it would also charge your small electric devices via a USB port. And it looks pretty good too, just in case that is the type of thing that matters to you.
Now, this might sound just a little bit too good to be true, so, since BioLite had time to work out bugs and people had time to try it, use it and let the rest of us know what there is to know about it, we decided to have a look ourselves at all the data and make a summary for you, so you can decide if this is indeed the stove for all your outdoor needs.
What to Look Out for
As with other types of stoves, we have previously covered, there are a few key aspects to take into consideration before you make up your mind regarding the BioLite Campstove. First of all, you need to know what you will need it for. What will you cook with it?
Are you going on a long hiking trip and need something to boil water in and maybe heat up a can of beans? In which case, you will have to sacrifice capacity to make it as light as possible.
Or is it a short hike with your significant other, at the end of which you want to have a romantic moment with roasted marshmallows? Or are you going camping/fishing and you are planning on a barbecue? And if yes, then you need something that can handle it, but which will also weigh more.
Also, where are you going? What are the terrain and the weather going to be like? What is the policy about open fires in such places at the time that you will be there?
Maybe you are not going anywhere. Maybe you just need a portable stove around the house in case of unforeseen emergencies.
Once you have clearly answered that question in your mind you will know in which capacity and weight area your ideal stove are located in.
What sort of fuel do you prefer using? Are you environmentally conscious and want to avoid using unrenewable fuels? Or perhaps you are looking for the reliability of a gas stove?
So, basically, the main points you will be looking out for are weight, capacity, cooking speed and fuel type. Now let’s see if the BioLite fits your needs.
Dimensions: 5” x 5” x 8.27”
Weight: 33 oz.
Best Use: Camping, Hiking
Who is it for?
The BioLite Campstove was developed with a modern, environmentally conscious camper in mind. The specialized fan forces air into the burner creating a highly efficient combustion, with very little smoke and leaving behind easily disposable ash.
It eliminates the need for carrying around other types of fuel, which can often be pollutants. This will make your trips easier as the necessary fuel will be readily available in the forest.
- Powers most USB-chargeable devices including smartphones
- For 20 min. of charging with a strong fire gives you about 60 min. of talk time on most smartphones.
- During a full burn, the CampStove can boil 1 liter of water in as little as 4 min. 30 sec.
- CampStove weighs about 2 lbs. and is about the same size as a 1-liter Nalgene water bottle
- An internal starter battery helps kick-start the fire before the stove begins generating its own power
This stove is ideal for young families who are out camping, as it is safe to use even in areas where open fires are forbidden, and the gathering of twigs and pinecones for burning materials can be a fun task for the little ones.
They can then reward themselves by roasting marshmallows without having to inhale the usual amount of smoke, all while their parents can keep their Bluetooth loudspeaker charged while listening to music.
Weighing around 2 pounds, the BioLite Wood Burning Campstove is not ideal for long hauls, as it will feel like a quite a burden after a while. However, if you are only going on a short hike and are quite in good shape, this won’t take up more space in your backpack than a 1L water bottle, as it nests within itself.
Now, if you are a tech-savvy camper and looking at this your first thought is that you have finally found a good way to keep all your equipment charged, you are probably in for a disappointment. BioLite did not set out to design the best technology that allows campers to charge their electrics.
Actually, the charging part was not even an afterthought when the stove was developed. The aim was to make a stove which efficiently and cleanly burns wood and other natural materials, which is why it has a fan, which is powered by its own thermoelectric generator.
Only after the creators noticed a surplus of generated energy, did they realize they can use this to charge devices. This is important to know because the charger function is not the primary function of the device. It will only start charging once it has reached a high enough temperature to generate surplus energy, and even then, you shouldn’t expect a great output.
The stove will generate about 2W continuously and 4W at its peak. According to BioLite if you charge your phone for 20 minutes that should give you about 60 minutes of talk time. Other people who have tested the device reported that it took about 2 hours to charge a smartphone to the 50% mark.
As such, the charging ability of the stove should be viewed as a perk, an added bonus and not as the main function.
One other potential situation in which this stove would come in handy is the case of an emergency. If you ever wake up, that for whatever reason, gas or electricity or both have been cut in your home, then having the BioLite on a garage shelf somewhere will really come in handy.
Just take it the backyard, find some twigs and you can easily boil water to make sure it is clean or cook a couple of simple meals for the family until the situation is remedied. It won’t take space and all you need to do to maintain is it use it once every 6 months or so.
How to use it?
The BioLite camp stove is comprised of three major pieces:
- The burner, an 25-inch tall metal cylinder surrounded by a honeycomb mesh to keep it cool to the touch and a scalloped pot stand at the top for pots and pans.
- The thermoelectric generator, a plastic device attached to the burner when functioning and which fits inside the burner when it is being transported. This where the USB port is located.
- Three foldable aluminum legs, which keep the stove off the ground, thus avoiding scorching the ground beneath it when in use. These also fit inside the burner.
The whole thing, when disassembled, fits inside a sack which is included in the package. This will also keep your backpack clean if you don’t properly clean the stove of ash after use.
Assembling the pieces is easy and instinctual. All you need to do now is to gather twigs or pinecones to start the fire. An internal battery helps kick-start the fire and getting it properly going should take you a minute or two, though your fire building abilities also matter in this instance.
Once the fire is burning, however, you will pretty much have to sit next to it to feed it, as it will burn through its fuel quite fast. This also means that every half an hour or so, you will have to stop the fire in order to empty out the ash, as this also piles up at a speedy rate. And then you have to start all over again.
Under ideal conditions, this stove will boil a liter of water in about 4.5 minutes, which is as good as a result as you can expect from any regular stove.
As mentioned above, you can rest any pot or pan on the top to cook or fry, but you also have the option of acquiring BioLite Portable Grill and KettlePot attachments, which are optimized to work with this stove.
Bear in mind, though, that these attachments are pretty bulky and are not things you could take on a hiking trip, so this is strict camping territory we are talking about.
After 6 to 10 minutes of burning, you will be able to use the charger function. Simply plug in your device into the USB port.
Cleaning the stove is no hassle at all, just shake out the ash and give it a quick wipe with a dry cloth. This is if you haven’t spilled any grease on it. If you have then you wouldn’t get far without some detergent, so you need to wait until you are home. Then you just bag it up and go on your way.
Other things to consider
To use the stove, you will need your own pots and pans. To fit on the stove these should be at least 6” in diameter, but should not exceed 10” as that might imbalance the stove.
You should also not put more than 8 pounds of weight on the stove.
You also need to keep an eye on the weather, as wet wood will not get you far in getting a fire started. Alternatively, you could pack wood pellets for fire with you, but that would mean an extra weight, and not having to pack fuel is supposed to be one of the main features of this stove.
You should also note, that the no smoke feature, about which BioLite brags, does to a degree depend on the wood you use. Damp wood will produce smoke no matter how good your stove is.
When you buy the Camp Stove the package will also include a USB powered flexlight, which is a small but powerful light, which can sit upright and shed a 100 lumen light on your working area. A fire lighter is also included.
- environmentally friendly
- no need to carry fuel
- no worries about running out of fuel
- get the campfire experience, even if open fires are not allowed
- you can charge your phone or other devices
- if there is no wood around you or the wood is wet you cannot do anything
- needs almost constant refueling
What About The Competition?
Well, it is hard to compare the BioLite Camping Stove to other outdoors stoves, since it is unique in the sense that it can also charge electronic devices. But, as mentioned above, this is more of a perk than anything else.
And for the money you would spend on this stove you could get alcohol stove, fuel for it and a battery charger, all of which together would probably weigh much less than this stove and perform just as well or better.
Leaving all good intentions aside, and even moving past the elegant and modern design, we must ask ourselves if this stove is really what we would take on a hiking or camping trip.
Now, if you are camping with your kids, this might actually be a neat tool to have, but if you are a hardcore outdoors person, in it for the adventure and not the comfort or the fancy gadgetry, then there are better ways you can go.
Where this stove might have a place is in your emergency toolkit for your house or cabin, or even car in case of a power outage, tornado or being stuck in a remote place for hours and hours. As long as you can find some twigs this will make a great temporary solution to boil water, make coffee or cook a simple meal.