The BioLite CampStove
is, hands down, the most clever greener product that I've ever had the pleasure of reviewing. It's beautiful in both form and function, combining a camp stove with a oxygen-boosting fan powered by the heat of the fire itself. It's a closed loop of energy sustainability — the fan burns the fire hotter, resulting in a cleaner smoke with less particulate matter, which generates more power for the fan, siphoning off extra electricity to any USB-powered device you plug into it.
This view of the stove shows the detachable orange power and fan unit, which blows air into the silver metal combustion chamber and creates power from the copper thermoelectric generator that sticks out into the fire. The brown rectangular sheet is fire starter that comes with the stove.
The view of the stove below, with the optional grill behind it (more on that farther down), shows the copper thermoelectric generator jutting out from the orange power and fan unit.
Lighting the stove is really easy — just pack it with combustibles, and fire it up. I used some paper, cardboard, and a few pieces of the firestarter included with the stove. You could just as easily use pine needles, dry straw, twigs and bark. That's one of the great things about this stove; you can use whatever you have on hand. You don't have to worry about running out of gas and the fan makes for an efficient, clean burn.
From here it's just a matter of feeding the flames and increasing the size of the fuel. I had coals in no time.
Once you are happy with your fire, you can just put your cooking pot on top of the stove and cook away. Once the fire is hot enough, you can click the fan up into High mode, which really gets the coals going. The heat is intense.
If it's grilling that's on your camping agenda, you can add the optional grill attachment.
The grill attachment has a flap that allows for access to the combustion chamber.
The orange fan and power unit blows its air into the combustion chamber blowing left to right, creating a veritable cyclone of heat and flame that spirals up and out into the grill. This means that one side of the grill is hotter than the other (much in the way that one side of a hurricane is more powerful), with a nice temperature gradient in between that's useful when grilling.
The BioLite CampStove is hyper-efficient — I was able to grill these sausages with just a small handful of small-diameter wood.
They were quite delicious.
I would gladly bring the CampStove on most camping trips, though I would probably leave the grill attachment behind on anything other than car camping or trips with a short hike. The base unit is heavier, at 33 oz., than lightweight gas stoves, so there are definitely situations where it might not be the best choice (ultralight zealots will probably steer clear here).
As good a product as the BioLite CampStove is, the company that produces it is even better. The brains behind the company believe in market-based solutions to the problem of poverty
. Their plan is to use sales of the consumer-friendly CampStove to power the production of a larger unit called the HomeStove
, which would be marketed to the billions of people around the world that currently cook their meals over smoky open fires. Using the HomeStove would mean being able to cook food with less fuel and almost no smoke, while charging devices like phones and laptop computers.
Full disclosure: BioiLite sent me a free stove and grill for review.
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