Review: BioLite CampStove
One of the things I enjoy most about adventure travel is having a campfire. I love cooking over open flames and coals. I feel like fire is essential to a great outdoor experience. Last year when I was planning for a 7-week trip across the country, I realized that I was going to encounter several places where I couldn't have a ground fire. After doing a bit of research, I found what I thought would be a great solution: the BioLite CampStove and Grill.
The BioLite CampStove is a small fan-fed wood-burning stove that generates and stores its own power that not only runs the device, but also can be used to charge devices like phones and lights through a USB port.
The BioLite CampStove is a very compact unit. With its small but sturdy legs folded, its about the same size as a 32-ounce water bottle. While the stove itself gets hot, it doesn't radiate much heat downward. I've used it on the tailgate of my Cruiser, on wooden tables, and on plastic tables with absolutely zero issues. It's not only very packable, it's also versatile in that it can be used on almost any stable surface.
The basic stove itself comes with a small USB flex light that can be used to provide light while cooking or eating. There are also several optional accessories available for the stove that can be purchased separately or along with the stove in kit form. I chose the kit that included a 1.5 liter stainless KettlePot and also the portable table top grill. Both of these pieces pack well, but the KettlePot may be unnecessary if you already pack pots and pans.
The BioLite CampStove will run off pretty much any organic material that will burn. Twigs, leaves, wood chips, pine cones, or whatever you can find laying around camp. I usually pack some wood pellets too because they are cheap and easy to transport. Starting the stove is as simple as dumping what ever you are going to use as fuel in and then lighting it. When I use pellets I usually dump in about half a cup of pellets and then place paraffin starters on top of that, followed by a sprinkling. of more pellets. I then use a long lighter to start the paraffin. Once started, I turn on the fan and increase the speed after it's burning well. With the fan on high, the stove produces a very hot and smokeless flame. It takes a bit of trial and error to learn how much fuel to add and when to add it during the cooking process. If you overload the stove, it will smother the flame and smoke but all you have to do is spark a lighter after a few minutes and it will burn again.
Last year I used to BioLite CampStove on a 7-week road trip exclusively for all my stove needs, from making coffee in the morning to pan frying and grilling at night. I've used the KettlePot to heat water for washing dishes and making coffee and also to cook soup. It only takes a little over 5 minutes to boil the 1.5 liters of water that the KettlePot holds. I've also set my percolater and pots and pans directly on the campstove too. It's very versatile.
I've really enjoyed using the optional grill. I've used it to grill sausage, hotdogs, pork chops, and even thinner cuts of steak. The grill packs down flat and has its own tight-fitting plastic cover to keep things from becoming messy when packed.
I've tried the USB ports to charge a phone and it works well. I have plenty of USB ports in my Cruiser so it's not a feature that I use often, but it would work great for someone that doesn't have USB power in their truck.
Overall, the BioLite CampStove has been a great addition to my setup. It's easy to pack, uses fuel laying around camp, and it's fun! The CampStove can't totally replace a full-blown ground fire but it's a nice substitution. Like a ground fire, it takes a small amount of tending, gives off a nice wood-burning smell and warmth for your hands, and it's great to use for cooking!