BioLite CampStove: Burn Twigs To Charge Your Phone And Warm Your Tush

Stoves have come a long way since the humble primus: turbo flames, jet boilers and ultra-light portables are just some of the options around. But now there's the BioLite, a stove that burns twigs and charges your phone all at once. I know, it should erect your tent for you too.

What Is It?

It's a bio-fuel burning camping stove with a re-chargeable power unit attached. This holds a fan to assist combustion, and an ingenious system which recovers heat from the fire, turning it into electricity which you can then use to charge your gadgets via a USB port.

Who's It For?

Wilderness lovers and Ray Mears-types who can't bear to be without their phone/GPS unit or other USB powered devices.

Design

OK, it may look like a cheese grater, but the perforations are a key part of the design. The fan in the clip-on power unit, which attaches to the side of the stove with a rather-phallic-looking probe, sends the air via ducts into the base of the combustion chamber. It's held in place by the fold-out feet which, being tripod in form, give the whole thing stability on uneven ground. When stored in its bag, the power unit sits inside the stove. The orange power unit is simply-designed with just a power switch; a USB port which is protected by a flip-out rubber flap, and two status LEDs. With not a hint of khaki or green, it's unashamedly brash and modern-looking.

Using It

Following the clear instructions, getting a fire started is quick and simple — just make sure you have a ready supply of twigs. Once fire has taken hold, a single press of the power button sets the fan purring on low and illuminates the orange LED. The fanned flames form a miniature fire tornado in the incinerator, and within two minutes will be heating a pan of water quite rapidly. It takes around six minutes of fierce burning before a green LED indicates that charge is available from the USB port. It will keep charging as long as you keep adding fuel (twigs). Hope you have a forest at your disposal, gadget fans.

The Best Part

Twigs and leaf litter really do = (add your own Jeremy Clarkson impression here) POWER.

Thanks to the fan and clever ducting, it burns extremely well which, given its primary function, is essential. Plus, there's no need to carry gas canisters or foul-smelling fuel tablets.

Tragic Flaw

At $US130 a pop, this is no frivolous purchase. You can make a hobo's stove, which will burn twigs and leaves for a few pence, so this is a lot of moolah just to have a few amps at your disposal.

This Is Weird

The power unit contains a large re-chargeable battery which has to be charged fully before first use. It begs the question, why couldn't you just use that as an emergency power supply?

Another oddity, even when the fire is extinguished and the chamber is cooling down, the fan will keep switching itself on, even when you repeatedly turn it off.

Test Notes

  • 14:30 lit firelighter.
  • 14.32 pan on stove, fan on, intense roaring flames.
  • 14.36 green means go for USB charging.
  • 14:42 500mL of boiling tears (it's an eye-wateringly priced ticket).

Should You Buy It?

If you spend a good deal of time camping; fishing by remote rivers; hiking or biking in the wild yonder, then actually this is a worthwhile purchase. Sure, you can probably find a system to cook more quickly or cook using foraged bio-fuel, and there are probably other means to charge your electronic essentials off grid. You'd be hard pressed though to find all these things in one package that looks near as good; is as solidly constructed, and provides you with quite so much entertainment/satisfaction whilst doing the job, mind.

BioLite CampStove

Packed dimensions: 10cm x 20cm Weight: 900g Fuel twigs, pine cones and found biomass Charge output max continuous: 0.5 amps, Peak: 1 amp Compatibility: charges/powers most USB-powered devices Charging time: (claimed) iPhone 4S (2G), 20 minutes of charging provides 60 minutes of talk time. Charging times vary by device and by strength of fire. Price: $229.95 RRP in Australia


Gizmodo UK is gobbling up the news in a different timezone, so check them out if you need another Giz fix.


Comments

    $US130 + $100 Australia Tax = $229.95?

      Ozzy's - buy direct from Biolite.

      Cost is $130 + $50 postage (not tax)

      Still expensive, but remember, you are supporting a venture that is changing the third world with their HomeStoves

      Last edited 05/03/13 10:38 pm

    Camping equipment is ridiculously overpriced in Australia compared to the US. Thank science for the Internet.

      This is a bit of a gimmick.

      http://www.amazon.com/Opteka-BP-SC4000-Powered-Capacity-4000mAh/dp/B005ZSVZRY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362463407&sr=8-1&keywords=solar+phone+charger

      at $25 and 185grams, this is a much better option for hikers and campers. A solid fuel stove will add another 100g/$50 at most.

    Remember that these people are trying to also build something that is potentially a game changer in many communities: See http://www.biolitestove.com/homestove/overview/

    I bought one of these about a year ago. Rather wonderful - even having had to pay the nasty lump of 'Australia Tax'.

      Supporting their bigger venture is probably the main point.

      Second is if you are travelling light you don't need to take any fuel with you.

      I bought one a year ago too, but there is no Australian Tax to pay. Why are people mentioning the tax? You only pay tax on imported goods with a value over $1000.

      Yes, you do have to pay for postage, which is currently $50, so that adds a fair wack to the cost for us Ozzys.

        Noting I'm talking about buying direct from Biolite, not referring to the randomly generated RRP above.

    Had one of these for a few months now. It's great, it's quirky but it's probably not for everyone. In my book the best part about it isn't the gadget charging which is quite slow and needs a roaring flame to work, it's the smokeless operation and the abundant fuel supply. I can imagine the Biolite might suck in the UK as it needs very dry fuel for the best operation.

    Btw, the fan thing isn't weird, the fan keeps blowing after everything is off to ensure the electronics stay cool. It says so in the manual. o_O

      Crikey! I just saw the Oz RRP price. That's outrageous!
      Buy one from Biolite direct, for the love of goodness.
      Even after the $50 shipping you'll still have $50 change! Vote with your mouse people and end this overcharging nonsense!

        Yep - buy direct. I don't think you can buy it locally yet anyway!

        Last edited 05/03/13 10:36 pm

    I think this would be good in the apocalypse (provided of course you're one of the few survivors, if any). I'm just a little concerned/interested about the built in battery though, does it need to be recharged, or will it charge itself up from the fire?

      The battery recharges itself from the fire - that's why it takes minute for the green light to come on as described above. You can, and are advised to charge it up before your trip to make this quicker easier for the first run of course.

    Not sure where this $229.95 RRP comes from.

    Just buy this direct from Biolite, the cost is then US$130 + US$50 postage, no tax.

    With the USD / AUD at less than 1 / 1, your costs will be just under AU$180.

    @phirst: You're quite right. I bought it direct - but thought that the postage/freight charge was excessive. An 'Australia Tax' by the back door perhaps?

      I wrote to Biolite about this before buying, and they were very apologetic. US International postage is, unfortunately, a rip-off.

    I brought one of these for my mate! He loves it

    I agree the solar charger does look like a good product, but sadly it doesn't ship to Australia. I know because I just tried - apparently lithium batteries are classified as "dangerous goods" and now my purchase is stranded in the shipping forwarding warehouse in the US :(

    (I know this is from a few years ago, but I just found this comment by searching the product name + Australia, so might still be relevant.)

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