Well, It finally came. After almost a year of waiting, they released the amazing camp stove that can recharge your cell phone or other USB powered device using the thermoelectric effect. (Long-explanation-short; it uses temperature differences “ΔT” to produce electricity).
I must say it’s pretty cool, if not a bit quirky and temperamental.
It arrived via UPS in a cardboard box sporting BioLites logo, packed snugly within and it came with an instruction pamphlet, a double male USB cord, 5 tinder sticks and a carry bag.
The power unit was wrapped in cardboard and placed in the main stove body. It was so snug I had issues getting it out and thought I might pull the top off of the unit. With a bit of jiggling it broke free and slid right out.
The instructions state that you really should charge it with the included USB cable for at least 2 hours before first use, but I couldn’t wait that long. I only let it charge for about 20 minutes.
I can now tell you that they mean what they say: I got less than optimal results in the USB charging by ignoring that bit of instruction.
The legs fold up under the stove body and the power unit stores inside the stove and when its all packed up it’s about the size of a Nalgene bottle, and a bit lighter than 2 pounds.
The power unit attaches very easily to the stove body. With the legs folded under, insert the temperature probe into the hole and then open the leg over the bottom tab of the power pack and it’s secure. Couldn’t be any more simple.
To light it, fill the chamber loosely with your tinder and kindling, light a fire stick, let it get about 1/3 engulfed and then light the kindling bundle, leaving the fire stick within. After the bundle begins burning pretty good on its own, push the power button once to turn the fan on low. Immediately the air begins to circulate and whip the fire into a frenzy, super charging the burn chamber so that every bit of fuel gets burned. Not much waste escapes.
The fan has a noticeable hum to it, similar to a small computer CPU fan, but If you’re bringing electronics to charge on the trail, you probably won’t be bothered by another minor source of tech-noise.
I’ve found that it’s rarely needed to turn the fan on high. Keeping it on low is plenty sufficient to keep the combustion running hot and smooth.
I didn’t use the included tinder sticks to start the fire, I had some old dry cedar shakes I use for kindling and they don’t require much to get going at all.
It’s amazing to see it in action. It’s like an afterburner: The smoke and wood gas that normally floats off into the atmosphere gets recirculated until every bit of it is burned.
Due to the super fast burning of the wood It requires a lot of attention but when you get going, it burns hot, fast and smoke free.
The heat shield is (mostly) awesome, you can pick it up bare handed and it’s quite cool. However, it’s very thin and I foresee it becoming damaged very easily. That’s the price you pay, though, for lightweight heat protection.
I tried to charge my phone with it before it was completely ready and was met with less than favorable results: There’s a cutoff point where it won’t charge anymore, and as it hovered around that point, it would turn on and off every few seconds. Allowing the stoves battery to charge more completely stops that behavior. The green bar LED you see to the left is the “charge ready” indicator. If that light is orange, no power is supplied to the USB port at all.
I’ve been talking about this stove for a while now and haven’t even mentioned cooking with it yet. Well, lets just say, I hope you have your ingredients ready, this sucker is hot. I had 16 oz of water steaming in 3 minutes, It would have been boiling within 5 minutes, but I was a bonehead and smothered the flame. It took me a couple minutes to get it flaming again, but once it’s burning, this sucker could cook a turkey… (well probably not, but I bet it could come close.)
Now, due to its fan powered rocket awesomeness, it requires near-constant attention. If it’s fed small sticks, they burn up in very little time, requiring a lot of fuel, relatively. I found that you can slowly build up the fuel size to about thumb sized chunks. If you add large sticks too quickly it will lose flame and smolder, but if you slowly increase size, it works much better.
All in all, I would say it’s worth the $129 they ask for the stove. After burning it for over an hour, there was less than a handful of ash in the chamber; It burns VERY efficiently.
I made a 20 minute video of my initial use of the stove including my water boiling experiment and other “learning experiences” dealing with keeping the fire going. You will see it burning very nicely and also burning very poorly. Keep in mind this was the very first time I used it. There is a bit of a learning curve while ironing out all of its idiosyncrasies. In time, I’m confident that this stove and I will become quite familiar with each other.
- Burns twigs and other readily available materials, NO NEED TO PACK FUEL
- Makes its own power
- Burns hot and clean
- Heat shield works awesomely, stays very cool
- Charge your cell phone/GPS etc
- Roast marshmallows/hotdogs quite nicely
- A bit heavy for you ultralight campers
- Requires a lot of attention
- Heat shield is very thin, easy to dent
- If you overload it it smokes a lot
- Can’t leave unattended too long if your device takes long time to charge
- The whirr of the fan may detract from the outdoor experience