BioLite Campstove: Gear Review



We were really excited to be able to review this Campstove. It’s a unique concept, and like nothing we’ve ever seen.  The concept itself presents special opportunities and challenges unique to the system itself, because it uses wood instead of petroleum fuel for heat.

This is how the stove comes packaged.

This is how the stove comes packaged.

What we initially liked is the ability of this stove to eliminate the need for expensive and polluting petroleum gas sources.  We were a bit skeptical of the wood and that it would smoke too much and create soot on the pots.

biolite stove scharing iphone 5

So how did it do?

The box

biolite 15

The stove comes nicely packaged in a cardboard box with the charging unit stored inside the stove cantister.  Inside the box you’ll find the stove with the orange fan and charging unit stored inside, the metal stove triangle for balancing the pot on the stove, a USB chord, firestarter sticks, and instructions.

biolite plug in

Setting up the Stove

Setting up the stove for the first time is easy. First, extend the legs and remove the charging unit from within the stove.  Click the charging unit in place by placing the fan vent inside the unit. Biolite recommends charging the unit before use, but we used ours without charging and there was no problem.

Here is the charging unit. It should be charged before using.

Here is the charging unit. It should be charged before using.

 

When you press the power button, the fan will start on the low setting. To indicate this, the light above the “Lo” setting will be on.  After you’ve started the stove, and the heat has charged the unit more,  the light above the “Hi” will illuminate, and this indicates there is enough power to start charging your electronics.

We started charging on the “Lo” setting, while the fire was lit, before it went to “Hi”, and were able to get some charge.  It does not take long for the unit to register to the “Hi” setting. It heats up very fast!

How to light the stove

To light the stove, fill the canister with small twigs, and add the firestarter stick, as shown below.

biolite lighting fire

 

The fire will start quickly, and as some of your twigs begin to burn, add more, and then start the fan. The fan will increase maximum airflow to the fire and create a great burn.

starting the fire

 

The fire will be raging in seconds. Have your twigs and sticks ready, as you will need to add lots of them. Make sure to note the direction of the wind, and make sure the flame is blowing away from the orange power unit. Also, make sure to add the pot grill before starting the fire – we forgot to add it, and it was really hard to add it afterwards as the stove was really hot to the touch and had already expanded.

If you forget to add the grill, it’s alright as well – we found we didn’t really need it as the stove top fans out nicely, and balances the pot very well.

hot fire

Quick Boil

The stove boiled a 500 ml of water in 3 minutes.

biolite camp stove produces a remarkably quick boil.

The stove produces a remarkably quick boil.

Boil Test

To test the stove, we thought it would be fun to pair it with one of our favourite stoves, the MSR Whisperlite, to see which unit boils water faster.

The BioLite was the clear winner: it boiled half a litre of water two minutes faster than the Whisperlite.

biolite compare

Advantages

Fuel Flexibility.  The obvious advantages to this stove that we can see are the flexibility it offers by gathering your own sticks for fuel, eliminating the need to plan and carry heavy petroleum fuel.

Quickest Boil.  The fan allows for amazing heat to be produced, allowing an incredibly fast boil time. We were able to boil 500 ml of water in 3 minutes, compared to 5 minutes for the MSR Whisperlite. The heat is surprisingly easy to control with the use of the fan and addition of sticks.

Easy to start.  Thanks to the firestarter sticks, starting the fire will never be an issue. The fan is so high speed that it would dry even wet twigs very quickly.

Charging.  We think the charging unit is a great added bonus. On the high setting, I charged my iPhone from 30% to 40% within 8 minutes.

Portable Campfire.  This stove is great as it can be your own personal campfire. This is perfect for car camping.

Wet or Dry.  We also don’t think that if it rains there will be a problem, as even damp wood would dry very quickly due to the excellent airflow in the chamber of this stove.

No toxic fumes.  Since no petroleum fuel is used, you eliminate the toxic fossil fuel smell, and instead have a pleasant wood burning smell.

feeding biolite stove with small wood sticks

Disadvantages

Limited Uses.  This unit, because it requires wood for fuel obviously cannot be taken on extended trips where wood is not available. High alpine trips or backcountry ski trips on glaciers would be out. Unless you were only in for a few nights and could pack in a bit of wood with you, but this may not be practical and will not leave any room for emergency situations. For example, if you got stranded or had an injury, if you run out of wood and had no access to it, you wouldn’t be able to get your stove started.  

stove produces a lot of heat and boils water very quickly

Expect to be picking lots of sticks for this hungry stove. The stove produces a lot of heat and boils water very quickly.

Weight.  At 2.2 lbs, this stove is much heavier than most backpacking stoves. On the flip side, you can consider that you don’t have to carry fuel, which itself is heavy. If you are heading to an area where wood fuel will be plentiful and not a problem, this stove will work wonderfully.

Pot Charring.  Though some reviewers have found that the stove doesn’t produce charring, the first test caused lots of charring on the pot.  It could be that we put too much wood in the fire as not everyone had this experience.

boiled water pot with stove in the background

Use of wood.  To produce that incredible heat, this stove is hungry! It rips through wood very quickly. So you need to be in a spot where there is adequate access to deadfall and dried up twigs so you can feed this hungry stove.

Coals are produced at the bottom.

Coals are produced at the bottom.

Bottom Line

This stove is great and overall we liked it a lot. The main issue we see is it’s limited applications. We think it’s best for boiling water since the temperature of the flame is hard to control, like most backcountry stoves.  This stove would be comparable to a JetBoil-like canister stove that is primarily used for boiling water and not cooking or simmering food.

The stove gets very hot and boils water quickly. The cost of this of course is the heavy use of wood.  The stove is heavy, so we would be hesitant on taking this stove backpacking with us, though we do plan on giving it a chance in the backcountry next summer. The stove will be great for canoeing or kayaking, or where backcountry camping just required a short hike.

We like the idea of non-petroleum burning with less toxic fumes and a nice campfire smell as a bonus.

What we would like to see is if it’s possible to create a stove without the charging capabilities to save some weight in the unit. Much of the weight comes from the orange charger which powers the fan. If it’s possible to make this smaller and lighter, possibly eliminating USB charging capability, the unit would be a more attractive lightweight option.

Where to buy

The stove is available through the BioLite website and through many other retailers. Use our gear finder to quickly find on sale products.

New Customers can use this Biolite coupon code to get $10 off their fist purchase over $75.

Alicja

Alicja

Alicja is an economist, enjoys climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, cycling and gets out into the backcountry as much as possible. See all of Alicja's Blog Posts
Alicja
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