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BioLite CampStove – The Substance Beyond the Hype

BioLite Wood Burning CampStove
BioLite Wood Burning CampStove

The BioLite CampStove received a huge amount of media attention this summer for being the first camping stove that can burn wood for cooking and recharging USB-enabled electronic devices. That’s a bunch of baloney, in my opinion. There are far better ways to boil water in the backcountry and recharge electronic devices than using a wood fired stove. Especially since you need to sit around and burn wood for HOURS to recharge a cell phone with the BioLite. Instead, I’d recommend that you simply carry extra batteries or a power brick charger if you can’t absolutely live without your electronic devices in the wilderness. This product has novelty value only.

How does the BioLite CampStove Work?

The BioLite CampStove is a top loading wood stove suspended on a fold-out stand. It comes with an orange battery pack and power converter which 1) converts the heat from a fire into electric power and 2) powers an integrated fan that is used to intensify the heat produced bythe wood stove.

Contrary to what you’d expect, the battery is not used to store energy for recharging electronic devices. It is only used to power the fan. If you want to charge external USB devices, you can only do so when the fire is burning and generating more heat and electricity than the amount required to run the fan. This means you can only recharge USB enabled devices when a fire is burning.

How long does it take to recharge a cell phone?

The BioLite takes a long time to recharge a cell phone battery that has zero remaining power. It depends on the phone, but expect to sit around for HOURS to recharge a dead battery. This is much longer than the time needed to cook dinner. My advice would be to use the BioLite to top of batteries instead of relying on it for a complete recharge unless you have a lot of free time on your hands and a lot of dry wood. Even then, you’d need to burn a lot of wood for an incremental top-off.

For example, it took me 2 hours of burning wood in the BioLite to bring a empty Samsung GalaxyS Smartphone battery up to 50% power. The stove only holds a small amount of fuel and I had to constantly add more wood to the fire to keep the heat level high enough to keep it charging.

If you don’t keep the fire hot and let it die down due to lack of fuel, it won’t generate enough extra energy to continue charging your devices. In fact, it will completely stop charging them, even though they’re still connected to the power converter/battery pack, because powering the fan has priority over recharging. Even more annoying, the charger starts and stops flowing current by itself; so your device may stop charging if it’s not hot enough, even if the fire is still burning.

Recharging a Cell Phone with the BioLite CampStove
Recharging a Cell Phone with the BioLite CampStove

How long does the wood in BioLite Stove take to burn?

If you fill a BioLite Stove with wood, it will take 5-10 minutes for all of the wood to be consumed depending on the type of wood used and its thickness (if using small sticks). If you plan on recharging a dead cell phone battery, I’d recommend you gather about two paper shopping bags worth of small sticks because you’ll need a lot of wood to keep the fire burning for the 4-5 hours required to recharge a cell phone. I shudder to think of the damage that our forests would suffer if everyone camping in them gathered this much wood every night to recharge their cell phones. The damage would be equally worse in developing countries.

Further, be advised that you will need to empty the accumulated ashed from the stove after each hour of use. Despite the efficiency of the burn, the growing ash pile increasingly limits the amount of fuel you can get into the stove and the resulting heat produced by the flame.  Hot ashes alone do not generate enough heat and a raging flame is required to generate the extra energy required for recharging.

Conclusion

If you want to cook with wood in the backcountry, get yourself a decent wood stove or make your own. If you’re looking for a way to recharge USB enabled devices, I’d recommend you use batteries or a rechargeable power brick instead of the BioLite wood burning CampStove. This product is a gimmick that will be shelved in your basement after a single outing.

Likes

  • Burns wood fuel completely to ash making it easy to bury in a Leave No Trace cat hole
  • Fuel box is suspended above ground on a stand so heat from fire does not sterilize soil

Dislikes

  • Burns wood very quickly requiring constant wood replenishment
  • Requires multiple hours of burning to charge a cell phone
  • No power storage; can only charge USB devices when a fire is burning
  • Heavy at 33.5 ounces; best for car camping entertainment, not cooking or backpacking

Disclosure: Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) received a complementary Biolite CampStove for this review. 

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113 comments

  1. I agree with the review in every way. I purchased my son a stove and grill and it took forever for us to cook a burger. What a huge disappointment. Don’t bother with this expensive biolite stove. Next time I will seek reviews before I purchase an expensive revolutionary product like this stove. These folks a biolite must never spend any time in the bush. The stove is totally over rated and needs a lot of work. Back to the lab it must go.

  2. I used a Colman stove for years and still love that smell in the morning. Hot coffee and naptha. Hmmmm. Anyway, these days I travel with a van and a dog. They won’t let the dog in to everywhere I go so he stays in the van on occasion. I just didn’t want him poisoned with naptha fumes so I bought a Biolite. Extraordinarily pleased. Hot coffee and smoke flavoured steaks on short notice. To be honest last winter I did buy a $6 bag of kindling at a gas station because it was hard to find dry wood, but it has lasted months. I have no problem boiling a cup of water in 5-10 minutes starting with dry wood and it will charge my Rugby flip phone in the time it takes to cook supper. I find wrapping some foil over the grill in cold weather will speed cooking thick things like chicken. On the grill it is important to know your wood for best flavour. Dry hardwood is best for everything but it will boil water on pine cones or cardboard. If I wanted light I would just carry a pocket of hexamine fuel tabs and balance my cup on 3 rocks.

    • Steve contact me on FB. Im Anthony Cirullo from Stow OH. There are ways for you to take your dog everywhere with you. Im just an avid camper with a dog myself who cares and hates the fact that we miss out on some good sites because of the dog. Well you dont have to miss out ever again ;)

  3. The BioLite is f*ckn awesome and if you haven’t tried it I would give it a chance and not listen completely to this post. I don’t necessarily disagree that it is not the most efficient way to charge your phone or cook. However, in my experience, it has done each of those quite well.

    Another huge bonus is that when you’re not having a campfire, you can use the BioLite as a little mini hearth. In practice, I boiled a pot of water for two dinners in 5 or 10 minutes at 8,000 feet. Maybe it was a little longer but I didn’t notice because it was absolutely f*ckn beautiful with a marbled sunset on the adjoining ridge, some Jack Daniels, and the joy of building a little fire that is not too far from being fully sustainable and renewable.

  4. Dear Philip, Thank you for your review. I have carefully considered all your criticisms.

    You wrote:
    “This product has novelty value only.
    That’s a bunch of baloney, in my opinion.
    This product is a gimmick that will be shelved in your basement after a single outing.”

    Notwithstanding your well considered advice, “one man’s junk, is another man’s treasure.” I can see some redeeming value in this device.

    Would you be willing to sell this “novelty,” “baloney,” “gimmick” for say $10? You could perhaps take the proceeds to donate to charity or worthy cause, then all is not lost.

    Thanks.

    George

  5. I just got the Biolite Camp Stove Bundle (Stove, Kettle, Grill) for Christmas and I’ve already used it multiple times, and it is absolutely incredible. Some of my friends and I brought it out ice fishing the other day and kept a fire going with debris from a nearby island all day. With it, we were able to make soup in under 15 minutes, keep our hands more than warm enough, as the stove throws off incredible heat, and even cook some of the fish we caught on the grill attachment.

    Using the stove for the above mentioned purposes is what it is intended for. IT IS A STOVE… and then a charger. I’ve had no need to charge a device with it yet, but that could be easy enough to get a usable charge on any device while using the fire for warmth or boiling water. It does exactly what it is intended for!

    I got this stove as I am an avid outdoors man and a practical prepper as well and already, after limited uses, I see that it, and the rest of the bundle will be extremely useful. It not only provides me with unlimited clean energy, but leaves almost no trace as well, as it gives off almost no smoke and very little ash. It is also extremely efficient at cooking just about any food one could want as a camper, backpacker, etc. And for emergency use or bugging out, the little bit of extra weight is excusable, as you don’t need to carry fuel for it (perks of burning biomass) and it can give you life saving heat and electricty, where most other portable stoves can only give you heat.

    I am extremely pleased with it and the idea is ingenious. This guy is one happy Biolite user!

  6. I lost faith in the review after comments about how the land would look if others used it, and sterilizing the soil? Like the ice fisherman I’m an OUTDOORSMAN not a whiner over others footprints in the mud. The land is here to be used (not abused). I hunt & fish make no apologies for it. Sterilized soil from the Biolite?! LMAO! Go back to your biodiesel car! LOL

    • I like my biolite all the negative comments are BS. I did not buy it to fully charge a dead phone. IT IS A STOVE! It is fun to use and works great. I think the sterlized ground comment was a compliment as it does not sterilize the ground a campfire on the ground does.

  7. Well, I’ve got a solar charger, so don’t need it for the power. I like it in that the heat charges the internal battery. Having had a Sierra Zip stove forever (well, um, 15 years of regular use), I like it, but found it rickety, dent-able, kludgey and a pain to lug around the AA or D batteries (and the wiring/plug contraction). After the Zip stove motor started failing on my last camping trip, I reckoned it was time to replace, and I’ve had my eye on the Biolite (and reviews) for a while.

    Thus far, it’s good, and much simpler/effective to use and pack, and the burn seems a lot cleaner, therefore less sooty pots). The build is much better quality, much more stable in cooking configuration, and it cleans up much better than the Zip. No doubt these are not light, but they don’t require fuel bottles or other similar supplies, and I’ve never had a problem finding twigs (and I’m used to lifting and re-supplying the fire, not finding it a big deal).

    Finally, the Zip and this stove are the _bomb_ for table or rock-top smores: perfect size for toasting the marshmallows on little sticks – a bonus I had never anticipated until my son arrived.

  8. I’ve been using this camp stove for several years now & honestly would rather use it than any other charcoal / gas grill for cooking. The re-charging feature for devices works great but is not what keeps me using this little stove. This stove cooks steaks, burgers, veggies, like no other outdoor grilling / cooking device I’ve ever used! I’ve cooked steaks for people on this stove who have said often that they were the best steaks they’ve ever eaten, outside of a steakhouse. The only downside I’ve seen is that by using the grill top accessory you can only cook a couple burgers or 1 steak at a time. Buying the much larger base camp this week. This company is excellent, their products are excellent, & customer service goes above & beyond to address issues that may arise. If you are an outdoorsman or camper who likes to cook on your journeys, this stove & company will leave you fully satisfied. If you are just looking for a cool way to charge a device, there are other more affordable options out there. My point is, as previously mentioned in another post, this is FIRST a stove, secondly a charging option, & one of the best outdoor stoves I’ve ever used!

    • I love comments like this. “it’s the best outdoor stove I’ve ever used, although it can only cook one burger at a time.” Seriously? Buy yourself a small Webber grill dude!

      • I have a small Weber Grill. It just doesn’t pack in a backpack and weigh 2 lbs. BTW, it cooks 2 burgers at a time – 2x your incorrectly stated amount.

        You are however, definitely entitled to your own wrong opinion.

  9. Starting off, I don’t own a Biolite but I think I am going to buy and try one soon. Some of the negative comments on the stove sound, “I think”, a little elitist. I live in the Northeast. If you don’t live here than you can’t know that solar chargers are near useless as the sun rarely shines. Moreover, when i’m hiking, most of my time is spent below tree line. Again, here in the Northeast, the trees have leaves and tend to filter out the sun. Just saying! I like the idea of having a little fire at the end of the day. From oh…..about now until…well about June it gets a little chilly at night here. And in alot of places here you can’t have a ground fire. It seems most reviews I’ve read the weight is a tradeoff with bottles of fuel. Is it for everyone or for everywhere of course not. I do however believe that if used for the right reasons and the right circumstances that this will be a great addition to my gear. One man’s opinion!

  10. As an owner of a BioLite, that has recently used it while backpacking, I find this review…misleading at best. First of all, we had no problems getting a good fire running for cooking with very minimal addition of wood. It took roughly 10 min from starting the BioLite to having boiling water for hot coco at 9000ft, added a few more pieces of wood and cooked dinner with it. All told, we used maybe a handful of dried aspen and pine – but we used 2 – 1.5 in thick pieces and not a bunch of tiny twigs to keep it going.

    I dunno who the heck would need to have a stove on for an hour or more, unless you’ve severely under packed and are using it for warmth or did a terrible job at meal planning. The charge is okay, it’s not super awesome but if I needed to charge up a usb light or get enough charge to make an emergency call, then it would do fine. Anyone who is buying a camp stove for the main purpose of charging their phones has the wrong things in mind when making purchases.

  11. Totally agree with you xgadjitx. Some people told that BioLite is not suitable for backpacking because it will make dirty inside backpack. But I think it not a problem.

  12. Good review! I like the honesty. However, on the other side I felt it was a tad too negative. I don’t believe the intention of this product was meant to be “gimicky”; I think it’s a company and group of people trying to think outside the box. Whether it works or not, I applaud people attempting to create products like this. Ones that go beyond the traditional and try to bridge new frontiers. Why not step outside the box?

    I can’t attest to the product myself since I have never tried it, and I have very little experience than it appears (at least from this post) you have. I don’t claim to have any immense knowledge over the subject.

    However, I also feel as others have said, that the charging design was not made to fully charge a phone. It was made to give some charge, true, but never really intended to charge 100%. And in reality, if you had this stove why would you wait until your phone was at 0 charge to use it?

    As someone who has purchased many different kinds of charging packs and devices for phones over the years, you don’t wait. I live in NJ, and am often going to NYC to visit friends, etc. What do I do when my phone starts to get a little low? I plug it in. It just makes sense. I don’t often bother so much when camping or outdoors, because it’s can be a pain. It depends on the situation. Mostly I like my phone when outside for 2 reasons: in case of an emergency, and for photos.

    But the world is changing. I love being connected, and I don’t believe there is anything innately wrong with that. People share things they love because they love them. Sharing the outdoors could never be bad–hopefully it encourages more people to love them, as well.

    So the idea of companies beginning to design and create products, which will then allow us to use our phones and do so more easily is great. Maybe it’s not perfect today. But one day, it may be.

    Which brings me to my next point. I love this review a lot, but I would have liked to see you also do multiple tests in a real life situation, and not just with wood you have. I think doing so in the way you did allowed you to fully test its capabilities, which is important. However, the way you use things in a real situation is often so much different then in a staged, controlled one.

    Also, I do believe with experience, most people can give an initial opinion on anything from a first test, but I think a true review is only after having used something for a long period of time.

    That being said, although I at first really loved this stove and considered it, I ended up never buying one. I much rather have a Jetboil. But I won’t give up on the idea, and I’ll keep my eye on Biolite.

    I do have Biolite’s NanoGrid setup, which I love so far. Especially the Powerlite, which incidentally also charges your devices via a USB. Although I agree the CampStove isn’t quite the best option, it’s an interesting concept and could possibly be improved on. I know they have improved other products they sell, like the BaseCamp stove, to be more efficient.

  13. Outdoor Product Designer

    I am an industrial engineer (product designer) by trade and an outdoor enthusiast that is bringing a new outdoor device onto the market. So I’m especially interested in other “inventions” in this space. I really hoped BioLite would live up to its promise and impress me with the experience. In fact, before fully testing it on a four day hike I told many people about my excitement with the purchase – as I bought the FULL kit – the stove, the boiling pot, the grill attachment and the “Nano Grid” which combines a power pack, bright flashlight and little LED camplights that connect with power cords (how cool is that?). If there was indeed a stove that could cook your food / boil water, without the need for cans of fuel, AND that could generate power to provide electric lighting, GPS recharging (the basics) then I would be extremely impressed, and the benefits would certainly outweigh the costs and extra weight. Now that I have thoroughly tested the device in the field, I have a somewhat unfavorable opinion (at least with the current model being sold).

    PROS

    The stove delivers on the cooking promise, it produces an oxygen powered, mostly smokeless fuel source that will boil water fast. Not as fast as my isobutane camp stove, but plenty quick enough. If you only want to power a hot flame for cooking, using only bio-material when in the bush, I recommend this product.

    Overall design and manufacturing is impressive across the board, but the component weight is concerning for backpackers – which may not be the primary consumer the product is intended for. However I did notice a little heat damage to the device after a single trip, which leads me to wonder about the longevity of the product.

    The ordering experience was very pleasant and the company was quick to send the items before the holidays. The packaging was nice (something maybe only a designer would appreciate) and the company’s intention to serve third world countries was admirable.

    CONS

    As stated, the stove and components are well made, but maybe to a point that they ended up too heavy in a pack. Even splitting the components up among members of the group proved a little heavy on the straps (considering all the gear collectively). The grill top is especially heavy, but unless they switch to expensive alloys, the added weight is most likely a necessary hindrance to having a grill type cook top when in the bush and off grid.

    It took a considerable amount of fuel to keep the fire raging, it basically requires a handful of sticks or pine cones every 2 minutes, or else the fire will go out and the fan will create a big smoke plume from the hot smoldering ash….lighting newly added sticks / pine cones from the hot ash requires a little help by blowing into the top of the stove…and getting many faces full of eye-stinging billowing smoke. Topping the stove with fuel every 2 minutes didn’t seem a chore, until I tried generating enough power for even a modest amount of electrical charge (a four hour process)….if you do the math…that is feeding the fire 120 times, and yes, THAT is a lot of collecting and work.

    This brings me to the most disappointing part. The BioLite Camp stove simply does not provide enough power to charge your electrical items, even for a modest amount of power. There is a GREEN LED indicator that shows when the unit is powering your device….this cycles on and off in competition for power with the internal fan. It was pleasant at first to see the GREEN CHARGING light come on and provide charging power…but then it became frustrating when you realize the charging would last maybe only a minute, then up to five minutes of “not charging” as the on board fan consumed the power (which you can NOT turn off while the fire is lit presumably for overheating reasons). Hence four hours of trying to get even a 20% charge to the Bio Lite Nano Grid power bank. My hopes were to simply charge the power bank during the daily meals, to provide adequate camp lighting at night…and even with four hours of feeding the fire (there are much better ways to spend time on a hike) it gave me only enough power for about 20-30 minutes of light at night using the camp lights. Which may seem “ok”…but consider we spent much of the day on a marathon burn to generate this power.

    The power producing ability was by far the most disappointing quality of the BioLite, which of course is why you would probably buy one of these products in the first place. I was willing to pay more, and deal with heavier weight if I could get free power from burning twigs in the woods…but the technology simply isn’t there yet. Hopefully the this is a growing pain that BioLite is working on, after realizing that their first generation camp stove isn’t all that efficient…and therefore the promise of power generation is more of a novelty…which comes at a high cost to consumers.

    Although my product experience was mostly good, the lack of power-producing ability leads me to believe that the camp stove was not market-ready for a widespread release…hopefully the next generation products from BioLite will be more advanced. I would like to see at least twice the power output for me to consider using it on a hike, but more importantly, for me to recommend the stove (as a fellow product designer) to others.

    Just being honest.

  14. I CAN’t ENDORSE THIS PRODCT…just the opposite. I bought one of their packages for my son for Christmas. He wasn’t interested because the online reviews from serious campers were poor…with customer care and support being one of the biggest issues. So in order to get your money back you have to get an “refund authorization code” from the company BEFORE you send your return. Good luck with that. They have an email address for authorization codes that they don’t respond to, and they have NO LISTED PHONE NUMBER ANYWHERE! Not kidding, you can’t get a number for these people anywhere on the web or even the phone company. And trust me…we tried. So now I’m on the very edge of the return window before they will refuse the refund….maybe that’s their whole game. This stuff wasn’t cheap! A hassle, poor product, and bad customer service. STAY AWAY FROM THIS PRODUCT AND THIS COMPANY. Pass this on to any campers you know. Thanks.

  15. Phil – You mentioned the PowerPot as an alternative – Heavy & $100 and you still need a stove/fire and the Solostove which has a smaller fuel area than the Biolite would require CONSTANT FEEDING, if that’s a problem. I understand you’ve drawn your line in the sand but… as I have read the comment log you have contradicted yourself a couple of times… Sometimes you need to re-evaluate your opinion because as I have read through this log you have become more rigid against the biolite than when you started and usually the opposite happens once people make countering points! I can only wonder how much of a drag you would be to hike with if I didn’t have the exact same gear as you because you seem self absorbed and would be ragging on me the whole time… Just Saying

  16. Don’t know what you’re all on about have the whole camping system and this thing is a tank. -15 or lower Cold Alberta winters I’m burning when no one else is..put that in your fancy feast can!!
    If you take the time to learn your machinery there are pros and there are cons… this is true with everything. Do your research, know what you want for performance.
    Biolite didn’t build a gear charger… Biolite found a way to burn clean and practically smoke and ash free on the trail.. the charger is about choosing to use the excess energy efficiently..I only use it for the cooklight…..minimum extra energy.. which is all they promise. If you wanted a charger they have solar panels and the chargekettle.

    Some of you seem to forget that your giving and opinion not writing the bible.
    Do I agree there were some pain in the ass learning curves absolutely! That said once I learned what woods to burn and how to best use the resources at hand I’ll take this little tank everywhere. No questions I love it and think you all pull it out of the box play with it for a weekend and give up.

    Just saying maybe you all are having self-fulfilling prophesies about gear your not familiar with…. perhaps rent one from a gear swap and let’s get some real interesting new opinions out there.. like I’ve never seen anyone review it as a pellet stove in car camping situations…..

    That’s where this baby really shines and if you are hardwood burning instead of that soft wood “insta ash” crap most people seem burn….

    I really don’t know what all this reload every 5 mins is about! Did you try burning on low fan or high?! did you time both for a full chamber? Did you build your fire for a top down burn the first time? ’cause lighting this thing is a dream with the fan doing all the work…

    But you all go ahead and shelf that 350$ worth of free gear you were asked to review cause you don’t actually put in the work to learn what a super tool you were gifted
    …..sigh….

    Opinions are like A@@holes though aren’t they..and everyone’s got one.

    • I personally really like the stove. I bought it originally because I liked the idea of never running out of fuel. It is quiet a task collecting enough twigs or splitting enough kindling to fuel it. The charging capability is minimal and not great but it does top up my power brick. I recently switched to some hardwood pellets and I would recommend that to everyone. I was able to boil 1 liter of water in 7 1/2 minutes which is pretty respectable. I pack this in my Jeep and take it everywhere for my extreme car camping. If they produced a newer model that had better charging capacity I would probably buy it too.

  17. I’ve had and been using Biolite gear for a few years now, and love it. The camp stove is by far the best wood fired portable grill I’ve seen. It packs up small so it’s super portable. It’s still heavier than most gas camping stoves, but no gas bottles to worry about, and way better flavor. The onboard fan stokes the fire for you, which means all you have to do is add more fuel when it needs it. It can reach insanely high temps for quickly boiling water, or searing steaks, and lower temps for bacon, sausage, or burgers. The fact that it can charge a usb divice at all is icing on the cake. If you pre load it, and have it burn top down, it becomes a low maintenance enclosed camp fire that burns for at approx 30 with no stoking or adding fuel (this is also the best method for charging). I saw in the comments some questions about an internal battery, it has one. However it’s just for the fan, when your charging a phone it uses excess power from the generator and the battery to get enough juice to charge the phone, that’s why it charges in cycles (something like 10min charging, 5 min resting, 10 min charging). It may not be for everyone, but I think a lot of reviewers never gave it a real chance, they didn’t want to work through a learning curve, and wasn’t as fast as a wall charger, so they dismissed it as a gimmick and went back to what they are accustomed to… That’s just lazy and they are missing out on a truly inovative and awesome product.

    • Outdoor Product Designer

      These last couple reviews are almost certainly from a company representative…and for the record, no I’m not a competitor to BioLite. Instead, I’m an an outdoor enthusiast who happens to be qualified in product design. Just increase your power efficiency BioLite….and you’ve really got something more than a neat gadget.

      • I’m not… I’m just a person who has been camping many times for days at a time and values the ability to have a hot burning stove that will charge electronics along the way. I was involved with the scouts for years and would have loved to had this stove sooner. Like the previous poster touted – the ability to charge is gravy… In fact, some of my trips it was used strictly for charging. As for power efficiency it is not bad if you know what your doing. My question to you is have you ever used one?

      • Outdoor Product Designer

        Yes…read my review above yours. I bought their whole package….the Power Grid I think they call it. There’s no doubt about it, unless they sent me a defective unit, the extra and usable power output of the camp stove doesn’t provide even enough power to charge a cell phone to reasonable levels after hours of burning sticks and keeping the fire stoked (which takes a lot more effort than one is led to believe). If you’re goal is to ONLY get one or two emergency text messages out, then yes, the BioLight makes magic power from heat, and that is cool. I think most of the power is being siphoned by the internal fan that the user can not shut off, most likely to avoid internal overheating. BioLight just needs to make a point of this in their sales and hype messaging….so that the user will expect the results. There’s a way to craft this messaging so this aspect of the user experience is not a “let down”. I think if they published a sales message around its true power output they would have less complaints…and happier customers.

      • *Just increase your power efficiency BioLite….and you’ve really got something more than a neat gadget*

        This is the problem… If clumsy reviewers trash a new product they don’t understand (or that simply doesn’t suit their particular circumstances) they have the power to impact sales and with it future improvements and product evolution.

        This product IS interesting, and even in this first generation has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people. It suits some campers but not others. Any reviewer worth a dime would look for the appropriate context for the product, but this one simply hasn’t bothered. It doesn’t improve his middle-class lifestyle so the product is a piece of junk, nobody should buy it and the whole thing should die and make way for more designer titanium can openers.

      • This review is written for backpackers. If you want to “improve the lives of millions of people,” I suggest you stop reading blogs and get to work.

      • @product designer, I do not work for biolite, or sell their products. My profession is in manufacturing, and I live in the Pacific Northwest, one of the best places in the US to get out and enjoy hiking and the outdoors (biolite is based in New England). As it happens, I am qualified to design products as well. There are definitely some changes that could be made to the camp stove but some things are not realistic when it comes to production costs. As for the improvements, requests for lighter weight (titanium base vs stainless) and higher power output are requests tjat will never go away. But as long as the product see’s adoption with the first gen, a better second gen can be developed address the some of the desires of the public. I stand by the view of “use it and enjoy it for what it is, instead of complaining about what it isn’t”, save that for recommendations for the next gen.

  18. Reading this review one thing was clear – the author had an expectation that this is an “electronics charging” device. It is not. This is a camping stove, with the added benefit that if you are in a bind and require emergency charging, you have that option.

    Interestingly the review does not mention how well this stove performs it primary function – cooking.

  19. Just to echo earlier assessments of the Biolite’s performance… my family went car camping early this month (June of ’16), and had plenty of time to play with my dad’s Biolite stove, a Christmas gift from me a few years back.
    It worked… adequately… for boiling water, fed with finger size pieces of ponderosa pine kindling. I suspect if we had hardwood it may burn hotter and more efficiently… but we don’t have real hardwoods to speak of in our neck of the woods, at least not in camp wood quantities.
    Charging performance was a joke. We set it up to charge my wife’s android, and barely got beyond 40% from a 5% charge after hours and hours of feeding the fire.
    The constant charge/fan focus shift was especially annoying since it would turn the phone on each time it began charging- and of course these devices charge faster turned off.
    Will be looking into a solar charger for the devices… but for now plugging in while showering is a pretty decent alternative. At least in a state park.

    • Yeah going from 5% (dead) to 40% (can make a few calls) is a real joke. If I were you I’d smash the thing into little pieces and go check into a motel.

  20. Try a cube or two of charcoal!

  21. Gerald Van Tassel

    I have to wonder as far as the charging aspect goes. How many of you were using androids? They are a great phone with all the shiny gadgets and apps and all but they require a substantial amount of energy to charge. My question is how many of you used an emergency variety phone? To clarify the most basic of devices capable of making/receiving calls and messages but not running computer platform apps?

  22. What a rubbish review!
    This is products main feature is make heat so you can cock on it not charge USB devices. The review focuses on it’s charging capabilities and not how it is as a cocking device or grill.
    I have one and realy like it. It boils water realy fast and I realy love the grill attachment. I use Scandinavian pine as fuel. It has never bothered me to put more firewood in it to keep the heat up. I fill the chamber half full to boil one liter of water and that is more than plenty.
    After grilling big burgers with bacon and one liter of water it is about two tablespoons of ash.
    If you what to charge your USB devices it is best to bring a solar panel. Using a pot with charging capabilities or a Biolite is just stupid. It’s secondary feature is to charge.

  23. I’ve not actually used the biolite, but I have made my own gasifier stoves (the fans were battery operated). After dozens of iterations I came up with a solution that was about the same size and worked well – if you have good fuel and start it right, you’ll produce blue flame.

    The bottom line, you have to work a little harder, and think a bit more to make these work well. Quality of wood is key. If you’re using small sticks of which have a lot of bark, it’ll burn up quick, it’ll burn dirty, and it’ll produce a lot of ash. The bark has very little energy to give up, and takes up 50% of your firebox space. Try getting quality wood pellets and try it again if you want to see the difference. When you do use sticks in the wood, bust them up to pellet size. You also need to use some sort of starting wood. “fatwood” chunks work well to get the initial fire going.

    It IS more difficult, but if you can get good at using it, it is by no means a bad idea. I have propane heat in my house, but I love wood heat – I also love getting out in the woods and gathering my own fuel. That’s the kind of person I am, so I like devices like this one. To each his own.

  24. I own a complete kit of Biolite products – nearly everything they sell. Clearly, I am impressed with the technology. However, I am considerably less impressed with the company.

    1. Biolite is intentionally not a part of the Better Business Bureau (obvious reasons).
    2, Biolite products only score 4 & 5 on Amazon reviews (the largest review network) for approximately 50% of sales (extremely low). Most comments concern exceptionally poor customer service, lack of service, or no service at all.
    3. Biolite products are notorious for breaking / stop working in the first few months of use (poor quality control) – not a great product for the “when the lights go out” selling philosophy.

    If you must purchase a biolite product, do so from a company like REI where you have a year to return it (no questions asked) if it does now work to your expectations. Clearly, REI has the buying power / influence to impact the only thing Biolite is interested in…the bottom line. It is unlikely Biolite Customer Service will ever help you.

  25. Just a couple of points to consider. I have one of these stoves and a well running fire that is almost smoke and soot free is gold to me. I have and will continue to use it chiefly because of this and the endless fuel source. Yes it is heavy but so is fuel on multi-day hikes & rides.

    Re charging. It is a tiny power source that used well, can augment solar or whatever other sources you have quite well but as usual there are stumbling points to work around as there are in arriving at a well running solar setup.

    Most smart phones will want to negotiate their power at plug in time and will only go down should the power availability temporarily dip as is highly likely to happen to a variable source as a fire. Those of you who got extraordinarily long charge times were probably a victim of this – your phone requesting less and less power at every dip and ultimately just asking for a tiny trickle and never asking for more. You could reset this by unplugging and replugging it but this is just a kludge.

    So, what is a smart thing to do? Use a small battery bank.

    Battery banks typically are much more flexible about their input power fluctuations. They just put away whatever they can. This way a smart phone (which is really only designed to charge from a known source – typically the companies own plug pack on a mains supply) can see a steady predictable power stream that it is able to negotiate and get reliably. Until phone manufacturers wise up to the alternative users of their products – campers, walkers, hikers, cycle tourers etc etc etc, and enable their devices to make use of diverse and varying power sources we will all have to trick them into submission. 1000-3000mA should be fine but each manufacturer has different characteristics.

    I have had good results with Voltaic battery that I also use with my solar panels. They design their batteries to do just this pack away whatever the solar panel can muster. As I said in many way this is a similar situation. No I don’t work for Voltaic I have just had good results with them and am happy to say so. Batteries with miniusb inputs/charge sockets usually have to contend with the limitation of that specification as well but I would still try that as even these will sock away the charging pulses from this stove better than a modern phone.

    Hope that helps. Happy outdoors times to you all. PS My opinions are mine, your experiences may vary, your risk is yours.

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