BioLite CampStove with Thermo Electric Generator Review
What is the BioLite CampStove?
The BioLite CampStove is three things:
- A small, clean burning wood-gas stove with a built in 2 speed fan for camp cooking
- A battery pack for charging devices like phones and tablets or powering the included LED light
- And the feature that makes it WAY cooler than most camping stoves… an electric generator that converts the heat from fire into electricity
How does BioLite describe their CampStove?
Sounds great… but does the BioLite CampStove work?
In short, yes. However, there is a bit of a learning curve and some important caveats that need to be understood, else you will probably be disappointed.
- As a stove the BioLite CampStove puts out a LOT of heat from a little bit of wood. Or, more correctly, from little bits of wood.
- There is no need to carry liquid fuel for cooking since the BioLite CampStove burns small pieces of wood. Most places I camp are littered with the perfect sizes of sticks.
- When the CampStove has a flame and the fan is running it produces practically no visible smoke
- The BioLite CampStove really does generate electricity!
- Lighting the BioLite CampStove with the included “firestarter sticks” is incredibly easy
- The base fo the CampStove is very wide making it rather stable
- The BioLite CampStove comes with what appear to be robust directions written in no less than 12 languages.
- The BioLite CampStove will make you the coolest guy in camp (Ok… maybe not… but it IS cool)
- The wood-gas stove produces much less soot to dirty your cooking pots and pans, and is pretty easy to clean up for storage… just dump out the little ash that remains after the fire has burned itself out.
- The BioLite CampStove directions look impressive, but are printed in a tiny font that can be hard to read. Some parts are confusing, like illustrations (3.6, 5.1-5.2, 5.3). I found that some of the directions and diagrams only made sense AFTER using the CampStove.
- There is a real learning curve involved in keeping the flame going in the BioLite CampStove. The combustion chamber is rather small. If you fail to keep up with the burn rate, then you will run out of heat for cooking and charging in a hurry. Put in too much or too large pieces of wood and the airflow critical to the wood gasifier design is choked off, causing the fire to smother and die. Put in wood that is too large and the fire dies out quickly. I haven’t yet mastered this, but am learning a bit more every time I use it.
- Similarly, modulating cooking temperature is rather difficult.
- Adding wood while cooking will be a necessity for most dishes. Expect to have to remove your pot/pan from the fire each time you have to add wood.
The USB port is only active to output electricity when the battery is fully charged. Lighting the fire and keeping it burning efficiently requires use of the fan, which uses electricity. This means that you should expect to burn wood for several minutes before there is sufficient power in the battery to allow use of the USB outlet for powering the LED touchlight or an external device. And you have to keep the fire pretty hot to maintain enough charging current into the battery to allow continued use.
- The BioLite CampStove claims to put out up to 2 Watts of continuous DC power at 5 Volts (Watts = Volts x Amps)… which only translates into about 0.4 Amps of continuous power.
- When hooked to a smart phone for testing the phone warned “The connected charger will take longer to charge…”. That makes sense since many modern smart phones are looking for 2 Amps at 5 Volts. So, yes, it charges a phone, but you will have to spend a lot of time watching and tending the fire in order to keep it burning hot enough for long enough to keep a smart phone charged.
Sorry. I got nothing. The BioLite CampStove is aesthetically stunning. It is like a functional piece of art.
I know there is a longer list of “the Bad” than “the good”, but don’t interpret this to mean I don’t like the BioLite CampStove. I think it is an awesome little stove that also produces a modest amount of electrical power in an incredibly innovative way. It is green, it works, and it looks awesome… but the electrical output will struggle to keep up with today’s HUNGRY smart devices. If you are looking for a way to charge your iPhone or iPad on a long hike in the back country, then I think you will be better served by other means, like a SunJack Solar Panel and battery pack. However, if you have realistic expectations of modest thermoelectric generator performance and don’t mind a rather hand’s on cooking stove, the BioLite CampStove just might fit your needs.