SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEW:

The BioLite Stove Proves that Innovation Changes Lives (and Saves Lives)

The cooking experience on the trail is always a fickle experience. Growing up in Colorado, I was always accustomed to cooking with a large Coleman stove while camping or a small MSR backpacking stove. Both required fuel, such as white gas, to generate the heat required for cooking. If neither were available, cooking over an open fire was the answer, but it often proved to be difficult. But, I was a kid in most camping situations and my father always did the cooking. Fast forward to the year 2012—and now having two kids of my own—I’m doing the camp cookouts. However, with the BioLite Stove, eliminating the hassles of campfire cooking combined with the benefits of generating electricity have changed the dynamics of the whole camping experience.

Honestly, after opening the box containing my new BioLite Stove, I had no preconceived ideas… no plans for how I would use it, initially. The more I learned about the BioLite technology, the more the excitement ignited camping plans. So, a Labor Day camping trip to Steamboat Springs, Colo.—with the whole family—would be the ideal opportunity for the stove’s christening.

Out of the box, it worked flawlessly. A quick read of the stove’s operating instructions and I was off to the races—literally.  My wife and I competed to see who could cook the fastest: the BioLite stove versus a campfire, simultaneously.

Once I had the kindling lit and the BioLite’s fan was on the low setting, I quickly added larger twigs to the stove and turned the fan to high. The stove became a cauldron of heat (also known as the fuel chamber), all funneling up to a pot of chili that was starting to steam. And how was my wife handling the campfire? She was coughing from all the smoke inhalation and trying to manipulate a pot of noodles over the open flames. Brutal.

In a matter of minutes, I had my pot of chili boiling—adding more fuel to the stove as necessary. My wife’s pot of noodles wasn’t as lucky; it took longer to boil on the campfire and specs of ash found their way into the pot. Not ideal, but that’s campfire cooking; getting dirty is all part of it. This brings up a good point: the BioLite Stove is easy to clean. After a fire, the inside of the fuel chamber is mostly full of ash and soot. After it’s had a chance to cool, dump out the debris, place the power module back in the fuel chamber, and then store it in the stuff sack.

Here are several important tidbits to think about when using the BioLite Stove:

  • Be sure to place the stove on a firm, flat surface when cooking; it can be rather top heavy once you set a pot on top of it (although, it is reliably stable).
  • The bigger the pot (or pan), the longer it takes to cook. Use a reasonably sized pot for faster cooking.
  • Don’t be concerned if the flames go beyond the stove’s top (don’t let it get too out of control); the power module won’t melt or become damaged.
  • Plan ahead and bring your electronics’ charging devices (USB capable). The BioLite Stove comes with a cord, but it has a USB connector on both ends (don’t expect an Apple-compatible cord or other cables).
  • Bring some twigs and firestarter, just in case. If it rains, your campsite won’t have the dry wood necessary for operating the stove.

Overall, I was insanely impressed with the stove. It has changed campfire cooking, forever. Beyond its cooking benefits, the power module is what makes this product absolutely amazing. Not only does it recharge electronics, it regulates the flow of air through the fuel chamber and “gasifies” wood, promoting clean combustion.

Using the BioLite Stove for cooking.

Pretty rad, right? Wait, there’s more.

The power module uses a thermoelectric generator to convert heat to electricity, which powers the fan to make the fire ultra-efficient. Any extra electricity generated from the fire is used to power electronics. It’s a self-sufficient device; the only thing it requires is added fuel to keep the fire going.

Is there more awesome to discuss? Yes, there is!

The BioLite HomeStove is a larger version of the camping stove. It looks like a cross between a wood burning stove and an intergalactic spaceship.  But, here’s where the “saving lives” part comes into play: the HomeStove reduces smoke emissions by up to 95 percent and nearly eliminates black carbon. Why is this important? According to BioLite’s website, “half the planet cooks on smoky open fires, causing nearly 2 million premature deaths each year and contributing to climate change.”

Cooking over an open campfire.

I haven’t had a chance to try the BioLite Stove while in winter conditions, but that’s just around the corner. If a winter camping experience presents itself, the BioLite Stove will be sure to join the fun.

Product details:

  • Fast to boil: 4.5 minutes to boil 1 liter of water
  • Fire power output (peak): 3.4 kw (lo) 5.5 kw (hi)
  • USB power output: Max continuous: 2W @5V, Peak: 4W @5V

Compatible devices:

  • Powers most USB-chargeable devices including smartphones
  • Fuel: Burns sticks, pine cones, pellets and other biomass
  • Packed size: Height 8.25 inches, Width 5 inches
  • Weight: 2 lbs 1 oz / 935 grams
  • Pot weight limit: 8 lbs or 1 gallon of liquid
  • Materials: Stainless steel, aluminum, plastic

In the box:

  • BioLite Stove, Firelighter, Stuff Sack, Instructions,
  • USB Cord (for internal battery charging)

For more information on the BioLite Stove (and to purchase one), visit http://www.biolitestove.com.

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