Guys, I’m in love.
Let me explain. On August 16th I got married to the love my my life, Colleen. We’ve been together nearly 10 years now, and we finally took the plunge (plunge being appropriate as it poured all day). I know this doesn’t seem significant to anyone here looking to build/modify their Bug-Out Bag. On the morning of the 16th however, she gave me a wedding gift that was further proof I was making the right choice – the BioLite CampStove.
Okay, being a little facetious here, I’ve known for a long time we were meant for each other.
…But what a gift, right?
Included in the package is the stove/generator unit, some fire-starter material, a USB cord, an alternate pot adapter for the top, and a stuff sack for storage and care.
The BioLite CampStove represents a minor engineering marvel. A fire is started/maintained using biomass (ex. twigs, pinecones, etc.). An attached Thermoelectric Generator harnesses energy from this fire to not only power a fan that greatly increases the efficiency of the fire, but also power a USB outlet. Basically, this stove uses readily available materials to create and strengthen a fire. As I have stressed to peers, I value versatility in items I have in my Bug-Out Bag – the more value I can get out of an item on a canoe trip or backpacking, the better. I’m going to make the argument that despite a few limitations, the BioLite CampStove is a perfect addition to your Bug-Out Bag, as it has become part of mine.
PRO – Fuel is free, and typically abundant
Much like the Solo Stove (reviewed by Jake), the BioLite makes use of biomass materials for fuel. Not all fuels are created equal however; dry twigs and wood are still the best candidate for the fire. All that’s needed is a small fire started in the stove, and a press of a button on the generator. The generator starts the fan, and once the fire is hot enough and larger fuel is added, you can hit the same button to speed up the fan, super-heating the fire further. Fire fuels the generator, generator fuels the fan, fan fuels the fire. Brilliant. In a Bug-Out situation, if you have access to plenty of material and feel like you might be limited later, it’s worth collecting material in advance. I’ve been rained on and not had dry tinder ready, and it makes things much more difficult to get going.
CON? – This is a stove that needs monitoring
I need to bring this up – although I like stoking and adding to this fire, it is a process that needs monitoring. The super-heated nature of the fire combined with the size of the stove means that biomass will need to be added with regularity. As I mentioned above, this is a small price to pay for the utility of the CampStove. Be prepared to add material as you’re cooking food/boiling water. You might even notice you enjoy the process!
PRO – Pays for itself in the long run
I stress versatility, because I can then justify spending a little extra up front for long-term savings. 5 bucks here, 10 bucks there, and gas stove/canister use adds up. For the eco-friendly
types, consider the materials that aren’t wasted long-term.
PRO – USB as more than a novelty
Admittedly, I originally thought of the attached USB port as little more than a novelty. Upon first use I noticed it took quite some time to get even a half-average charge on my phone, but what was I going to use my phone for in the middle of nowhere other than take a few photos? The reason I wanted a BioLite CampStove in my Bug-Out Bag, funny enough, was for the USB port. This feature sets the BioLite apart because in a true Bug-Out Scenario, the ability to charge my phone could be of paramount importance (as long as cell-phone service hasn’t been knocked out as well). The generator that powers the fan also charges the USB port.
Sort-of CON – Maintenance
As to be expected when using biomass as fuel, you can expect to have soot covered pots after even a single use. Again, I saw this as a minor inconvenience, as this is easily remedied with a quick wash. What could prove to be more of an inconvenience is forgetting to recharge the battery that is used in initially starting the fan. It’s suggested that if you haven’t used your CampStove in the last six months, the USB cable can be used to plug it into a power source (I used my computer) for about six hours. If this is a stove that waits in your Bug-Out Bag, then it will be necessary to remove it and charge twice a year. If it used more frequently, then the charge collected from burning negates this need. Again, I love this thing because of the benefits it brings to different scenarios – and the more I use it, the better!
PRO – She’s a speedy little bugger
While some might perceive the USB as a potential frilly addition, the CampStove does it’s primary job very well. BioLite claims that the CampStove will boil 1L of water in 4.5 minutes. While this is probably in ideal conditions, I can attest that this number is shockingly accurate. 5, 51/2 minutes and I have boiled water. All this comes in a package that when broken down for travel, will compress to the size of a Nalgene bottle.
So there you have it. I wanted to finish by stating that I have no affiliation with BioLite, but I wholeheartedly back this stove. I have a clear understanding of what it is, and if you avoid nit-picking at some unavoidable drawbacks, it has obvious benefits that I’m happy to utilize, be it in the context of a Bug-Out Bag experience or otherwise. I was hard pressed to find any legitimate issues with this stove, and I know you’d be just as happy as I am! Whether the Biolite CampStove fits your BOB or not, hopefully some of the points I’ve raised will help you in making a decisions about what’s right for you!
Have a camp stove that you prefer? Something I’m neglecting? Don’t be afraid to let me know below! Thanks again everyone!