BioLite CampStove with Thermo Electric Generator Review

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 […]
BioLite CampStove Review swirling flame

Swirling flame with fan running

BioLite CampStove with Thermo Electric Generator Review

What is the BioLite CampStove?

The BioLite CampStove  is three things:

  1. A small, clean burning wood-gas stove with a built in 2 speed fan for camp cooking
  2. A battery pack for charging devices like phones and tablets or powering the included LED light
  3. 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?

CampStove

Turn fire into electricity using wood

BioLite CampStove Review (18)The BioLite CampStove generates usable electricity for charging LED lights, mobile phones, and other personal devices. Burning only wood, the CampStove creates a smokeless campfire that can cook meals and boil water in minutes. Setup is easy, fuel is free, and flames are hyperefficient with performance on par with white gas stoves.

Bonus Item: Free USB FlexLight Included.

Fuel – Renewable biomass (twigs, pinecone, wood pellets)
Weight – 2.06 lbs (33 oz)
Charging Time – 20 minutes of charging provides 60 minues of talk time. Charging times vary by device.
Fire Quality – 1.6 oz (46 grams) of wood to boil 1 liter of water
Fire Power Output – 3.4 kW (LO), 5.5 kW (HI)
Boil Time – 4.5 minutes to boil 1 liter of water. Boiling times vary by strength of fire
BioLite CampStove Review (28)Packed Size Height: 8.25 inches (209.6 mm) Width: 5 inches (127 mm)
Compatible Devices Powers most USB-chargeable devices including smart phones
Lumens (FlexLight) – 100 Lm
USB Power Output – Max Continuous: 2W @5V
Peak: 4W @ 5V
In The Box
  • CampStove
  • Stuff Sack
  • Instructions
  • USB Cord
  • Firelighter”

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.

BioLite CampStove Review (35)

BioLite CampStove powering the LED touch light

The Good:

  • 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.
BioLite CampStove Review charging smart phone full

Charging smart phone

The Bad:

  • 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.
  • BioLite CampStove Review (37)

    BioLite CampStove Review charging smart phone

    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.

BioLite CampStove Review (32)The Ugly:

Sorry. I got nothing. The BioLite CampStove is aesthetically stunning. It is like a functional piece of art.

Overall

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.

Gear Rating

Gear Score
Gearswww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The BioLite CampStove is an amazing little appliance. It produces heat for cooking and electricity to charge devices. I expect that as the technology evolves it will become more user friendly and with more substantial electrical output. In the mean time, it is a very interesting little stove. Editor's note: I originally gave this a 3.0, but have upgraded to 3.5 after further reflection on my expectations.

 

About Jeff

Jeff is the Editor in Chief of Gear Report and a National Shooting Sports Foundation Media member. He reports on the outdoor industry, reviews gear for camping, hiking, shooting, hunting, paddling, backpacking and other active pursuits. A USAF veteran, Jeff earned a MBA in Marketing and Health Services. He specializes in consultative selling and internet marketing. As the VP of BD & Marketing, Jeff provides sales and marketing leadership to MGECOM, Inc. and helps http://MGECOM.com acquire new clients in need of solutions for online merchants in need of Affiliate Marketing program management. Jeff founded and manages Cress Sales & Marketing LLC, offering online sales and marketing consulting and services to online merchants and service providers.