cool tech posted by

Biolite Stove review – Hands on with the camping stove for gadget lovers

Some Observations
It’s a proper fire! When the cooking’s done, the tea’s made and the marshmallows toasted I still found myself reluctant to put the stove out as it was pleasant to just sit in front of it. Plus the stove actually keeps you warm. Sitting outside with it for 30 minutes while cooking kept me quite comfortable, even with the ambient temperature dropping to 9C. Collect more fuel than you think you’ll need, trust me on this.

I raced the Biolite against my trusty MSR Whisperlite and the Biolite Stove could boil 1 litre of water (initial temperature 15C) in 6-7 minutes compared to the Whisperlite (burning Shellite/White Gas) boiling it in 5.5 minutes. The Biolite Stove could be up and running and ready to heat water in 2.5 minutes (vs 2 minutes with the Whisperlite) so they’re both great for a quick cup of coffee on the side of the trail. Once the ashes were tipped out (and extinguished of course) the Biolite Stove was cool to touch within 5 minutes courtesy of its fan.

You can pick the stove up while it’s running by grabbing the orange power unit, so theoretically you could start the stove outside and bring it inside a hut when it’s up and running and burning cleanly. The fan-forced fire does mean there is almost no smoke, but there is still a slight smoky smell. Strangely it smells a bit like a steam train which greatly tickled my nostalgia. You’ll also need covered cookware to keep out the ash, and the base/sides of your cookware will go black.

Although you won’t need to carry fuel with the Biolite Stoves, you’ll still need something like a small folding saw or knife to split sticks. Fire-lighters were very handy as well. I managed to start the stove with dry grass and small sticks, but with a fire-lighter I was up and running and ready to cook with a lot less smoke in my face.

Just because you can charge your phone with your camping stove, doesn’t mean you should. Aren’t you camping to get away from everything? In my experience, for the Biolite Stove to fully recharge a phone you will probably need to keep it running for 3-4 hours, but you’ll still need to switch it off and empty out the ash periodically. I think it’s way more useful to use it with a little LED light as a light supply for the campsite. You will also want to pack a long USB cable and/or a heat-resistant case for your phone if it’s going to be charged for any length of time.

Conclusion

The Biolite Stove is an inspired device and the Biolite people have got so much right with their first product. The Biolite allows you a lot more flexibility when you travel and frees you from the tyranny of batteries and solar chargers should you decide to carry technology. It would be great if the Biolite had its own built-in LED work light to assist with cooking at night, especially as the stove works quite well sitting up on a table but suspect it may compromise the charging ability.

Mountaineers need not apply, obviously. The stove needs dry wood to burn properly so I’d say it’s useless above the tree-line, or in a rainforest. Never having lived in a snowy climate I can’t comment on its ability in conditions below freezing but my guess is this is a temperate area stove. The stove isn’t for everyone and may not be for all climates, but for weekend hikers or short stays in nice weather it’s the perfect stove to get away from it all. Biolite are selling them now for US$129 so grab one before the first lot runs out. Highly recommended.

 

Continue Reading… 1 2 [View All]

Dan Ferris is the Red Ferret’s Oceanic correspondent and Associate Editor based in Sydney, Australia. Despite not knowing Russell Crowe or Nicole Kidman, Dan has risen above adversity and now scours the world for interesting tidbits to write about. He spends far too much time photographing stuff and tinkering with computers.

Dan – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


18 Comments

  • Becoming a tech savvy hermit just got a little bit easier.

    • Easy way to rustle up a byte to eat? :)

  • Two things:
    It's made of stainless steel – not aluminium; an important fact/distinction.
    Second, I would not burn mine in an enclosed space without ventilation directly from the stove to outside. It will produce CO – carbon monoxide; which is not good for humans!

    • actualy it would produce almost no carbon monoxide, the whole point is it burns more efficiently and would produce mainly CO2, carbon dioxide while not good in high concentration would unlikely be a problem unless in an airtight room, even most tents have enough ventilation

    • As a combustion engineer, I’d strongly advise against running this stove in any confined space, especially a tent. You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, so unless you take a CO detector/alarm with you, you’re only guessing.

      As for ventilation, carbon monoxide bonds to the haemoglobin in your red blood cells some 200 times more strongly than oxygen, and it’s cumulative, and takes a long time to leave. Even small amounts of carbon monoxide in the air pose a serious danger.

      Danger levels for CO in air for healthy people start at anywhere above fifty parts per million.

      So, people, please, please, don’t think that this, or any other non-flued cookstove is safe in a tent or small cabin.

      Stay safe, stay alive.

    • Thanks, I had thought of running it in the open porch of my tent to keep the winter chills off. Nice warning though!

    • Even if the porch is open, there’s significant risk if you are in the tent. Out in the open is fine, but not where you intend to sleep, and leaving it burning for an extended period increases the risk. Low concentrations make you drowsy. Then you fall asleep and don’t wake up. But you make a nice healthy looking, pink skinned corpse, because your red blood cells are full of carboxyhaemoglobin.

      “Cases 1-4. On the afternoon of March 14, 1999, a 51-year-old man,
      his 10-year-old son, a 9-year-old boy, and a 7-year-old girl were found
      dead inside a zipped-up, 10-foot by 14-foot, two-room tent at their
      campsite in southeast Georgia (a pet dog also died). A propane gas
      stove, still burning, was found inside the tent; the stove apparently
      had been brought inside to provide warmth. The occupants had died during
      the night. Postmortem carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) levels measured 50%,
      63%, 69%, and 63%, respectively, in the four decedents (in the general
      U.S. population, COHb concentrations average 1% in nonsmokers and 4% in
      smokers [3]).”

    • Even if the porch is open, there’s significant risk if you are in the tent. Out in the open is fine, but not where you intend to sleep, and leaving it burning for an extended period increases the risk. Low concentrations make you drowsy. Then you fall asleep and don’t wake up. But you make a nice healthy looking, pink skinned corpse, because your red blood cells are full of carboxyhaemoglobin.

      “Cases 1-4. On the afternoon of March 14, 1999, a 51-year-old man,
      his 10-year-old son, a 9-year-old boy, and a 7-year-old girl were found
      dead inside a zipped-up, 10-foot by 14-foot, two-room tent at their
      campsite in southeast Georgia (a pet dog also died). A propane gas
      stove, still burning, was found inside the tent; the stove apparently
      had been brought inside to provide warmth. The occupants had died during
      the night. Postmortem carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) levels measured 50%,
      63%, 69%, and 63%, respectively, in the four decedents (in the general
      U.S. population, COHb concentrations average 1% in nonsmokers and 4% in
      smokers [3]).”

  • I got one of these for hiking, alas, its a bit too heavy though. Best part about it is you can take it on a plane, no issues with fuel or fuel containers, and not worry about finding a gas cartridge or alcohol at the other end of your flight. Couple it with a $2 ebay USB snake light and you can cook in the dark a lot easier! It will certainly spend a lot of time on my motorcycle tours.

  • My husband got this stove…I wish I could get our $ back on this one. We do camp and hike…and have a msr pocket rocket (great). Compared to using pocket rocket…the biolite is a major pain in the butt! You have to find dry wood…hard in a temperate rain forest like I live in (base of Appalachian Mountains). The biolite's heavy! The fire control is a total pain! As for recharging ability…it's painfully slow! You'd have to keep a fire going for hours to charge anything…completely impractical! I went camping last weekend…happily took my pocket rocket and a battery powered phone recharger…much happier with that setup.

  • "I managed to charge the battery on my iPhone 4 from 72% to 84% in 1 hour"

    What was the ambient temperature while you were charging?

  • Would this be appropriate on a 2+ month canoe trip into remote Canada? I’ll probably also have a small solar panel, but this seems like a good duel purpose piece of gear. I don’t know what electronics I’ll be taking with me but it will include GPS, some sort of communication device (sat phone?) camera, and maybe an e-reader or tablet.
    What do you think?

  • Amazon Kindle ereaders run 2 months on a charge.

  • After 4-5 months of use – is it still recharging as well as it did out-of-the box? Will the stove still charge items even after the battery wears out provided it's burning something?

  • Does anyone know of any Biolite Campstove reviews where the reviewer's used it over a period of months?? Just so we can have an idea of how it operates in the longer term and whether the battery that operates the fan degrades significantly (as batteries do when exposed to heat). It's a great concept and it's for a fantastic cause, but I'm quite concerned about the battery as it isn't easily replaceable as it's reportedly taped in/ soldered, I'm not tech savvy and so really have no idea what happens if the battery dies and the fan no longer works. So far no one has comments on this or other review sites…

    • Mm…that's a very good point Abbi. Maybe Dan can come back with a mini report here if he's still using it?

    • After running the Biolite for 6 months now (nearly) I can say that all is still well. The firebox is double-walled with fan-forced air circulating between the walls. The thermoelectric generator probe (copper bit in the flames) has thick insulating where it exits the orange box and the air drawn in by the fan seems to circulate inside the orange part before going into the firebox. As a final precaution if you turn off the stove when it's too hot the fan will turn back on to cool the thermoelectric unit.

      So as far as I can tell the battery is very safe inside its case and all care has been taken to minimise its exposure to heat. The Biolite FAQs – http://www.biolitestove.com/faq/faqs/ claim it's easily repair and to contact them for more information.

  • Went to the cool tech section of this site and stumbled upon this. After reading the article, to my surprise, it’s over a year ago. But that couldn’t keep me from saying this, I think. I guess the flaw is understandable. On a regular charcoal stove, you can’t make a spark if the twigs or charcoals you are using aren’t all dried up. A stove that could also charge and do stuff? Well, it still amuses me.

comments powered by Disqus

Side Advert

Chinavasion
DHgate Cheap electronics gadgets
BRANDO
Firebox

FB Like Box

Personnel

Managing Editor:
Nigel Powell

Deputy Editor:
Donyae Coles
Editor at Large:
Dan Ferris
Senior Ecological Editor:
Debra Atlas
Senior Motoring Editor:
Nick Johnson
Reviews Editor:
Simon Bossuyt

Write For Us

Red Ferret Video Reviews