Product: Biolite Campstove
Summary: Highly effecient camp stove that burns natural debris smokelessly, and charges USB devices.
- Reaks of sheer genius. Solving cooking and electrical and space/wt concerns.
- It has a battery and an ability to charge it through thermal electric means as it cooks.
- The blower is powered by the battery, and the batter can be used to charge USB devices.
- Boils water fast.
- Burns leaves and sticks, not gas. Makes a great long term solution considering you are not dependent upon natural gas or liquid fuels.
- Highly effecient, gets a lot of heat from the sticks using an intrenal fan blowing on the fuel source.
- Smokeless (well, nearly), allowing you to remain discreet with hot food and drinks.
- Delicate handling required.
- Hard to find. Not sold in stores. Only able to order them from Biolite directly.
- The poly carbonate logo/sticker/power switch piece of plastic wants to peal off.
- Can burn a plastic pot lid if you don't monitor it closely.
- Now way to regulate the temperature.
- Gather sticks (4" long is ideal size) throughout the day as you move around and walk past them. So you can develop a bundle of them for when you cook. Once your embers go out you have to start all over so just keep a bucket full of them ready to go to keep your food cooking properly.
Because of the high oxygenated burning from it's own fan, it burns virtually smoke free, like a bellow on the coals of a forge, high heat output. This is the ideal way to cook if you don't want to draw attention with smoke that can be smelled for miles. And doesn't require any fuels that can't be gathered. Literally sticks and leaves are all you need.
The manual states the first charge will take about 2 hours. I was 5 hours into it by the time I fell asleep and by morning it was done. I have no idea how long that first charge took, but it was much longer than they suggested (and this was from a wall charger, not a pc).
So you may be wondering why charge it electrically... well the answer is simple; cause the manual said to do so. :-) The blower needs to run in order to maximize the heat generated from such a small amount of fuel, and I suspect you don't want to go into it without a good charge cause all the electricity it generates will just go to the fan and not the battery. Just an assumption.
You'll note I said it requires a delicate care in it's handling. This is because it is made out of aluminum, and thin stainless steel. There is an outer screen to prevent you from burnng yourself that is a honey comb mesh, and I can see this being mashed in transit very easy. The legs are a lesser grade aluminim and I am concerned how much wt they can handle with a pot of water on them. They are thicker metal, but I feel like I need to be careful, and certainly careful to pack it in a box so the screen doesn't get smashed.
I think these guys are very clever with their design ingenuity and how practical they make their products... seriously genius designers. But they forgot that when people go camping it's a few hundred pounds of gear stuffed in an SUV. If this was just designed for back packers, I could see why it is this way.
If it was upto me, I would add a metal rod cage around that honeycomb mesh to distribute the pressure of what ever is pressed against it. And I would make that something that can snap on and off so for backpackers that don't need it, they can save weight.
Another gripe I have is price. It's quite expensive for what you get. Though it is well designed, and years of prototyping went into it. Materials cost money (there's a good hunk of copper in this thing, and circuity, battery, custom plastic tooling, etc), and to be a sucessful business need to make money... I get it. But, to me this should be a $60-70 item; not $130. It has that "camping premium" price tag that you find on many camp gear products. The the truth is, hell yes it's over priced!
I'm guilty of allowing myself to be double penetrated for buying two of them. I did it though, just in case one wears out or fails on a 3 week camping trip out to BFE, I've got a back up. And the 2 of them are still 1/3 the space of the Coleman 2 burner campstove. Plus, we sometimes use 2 burners at once, so it is just makes sense to get two. Because there is no other solution for a good means of fire, and being discreet, without the need for fuels that can't be replaced, I paid the price. And gladly for that matter; albeit my ass needs medical attention now.
Grin and bare it. Just grin and bare it. It will be over fast and you get a great camp stove out of the "relationship" to last you a while (I'm not sure how long it will last yet. After all, this is new gear. I see no reason it will fail soon if taken care of though).
Kidding aside about the price, I see what they are doing is making this little cash cow for them to be able to afford the manufacturing costs for a run of their larger home stoves that can be sold to the poor throughout the world. Which is a good cause, and along with being a very "green" means of cooking and generating electricity I am happy to support their efforts. Though I still think this thing should be about half the price.
As for cooking with it....
At first you will have a high flame. If you are using our pot system that we recommended, the GSI Bugaboo, you will need to let that flame burn down or you will melt the plastic lid. The initial flame is quite high.
Once it burns down, throw more sticks in it... keep doing this til you get bunch of burning embers. Now put your pot on there. You will have boiling water in no time.
There's a couple negatives while cooking
1. Is that it will blacken your fancy GSI kit with carbon quick if you put that pot on it while its doing its initial burn. So that's another reason to let it burn off to leave the red hot embers. These ember stay burning red hot a long time. The fan does an outstanding job of keeping them burning oxygen instead of the hard fuel you loaded it with. It's very impressive.
2. You can't regulate the heat like with a gas stove. You get what ever temp the embers are. If you want more heat, add more embers. If you want to cool it down, take the pot off. Which really isn't a good way of regulating your heat, but that's what you get.
All that said, we brought both the Coleman stove for backup and the Biolite stoves, just in case the Biolite let us down we'd have the tried and true Coleman propane stove. However... we went to a new campsite, it was crowded and we had one issue after another, to include flash flooding, hornets, and you name it. So we didn't even bother with the Biolites on the big camp trip we were looking forward to using them on. They tested well at home though and we see no reason they'd not work well in the field.
Highly recommended when space is a concern, or being out in the field a long time.