Yes, they’ve invented a camp stove that runs off sticks and twigs while charging your cell phone — and, with a few caveats, it works! We took the ingenious new BioLite CampStove ($129) along on a recent camping adventure to see just how well it boils water, roasts marshmallows and keeps your iPhone humming.
How It Works:
Typical backpacking stoves run on propane. You screw the burner unit onto the propane tank and blaze away. But propane tanks cost money and are bulky, and if you run out of gas there’s no camp coffee in the morning. Bad news. The BioLite stove instead burns twigs and sticks. Simply gather up enough to fill the small cylinder and throw in a match. The stove’s built-in thermoelectric device coverts the heat from the fire into electricity, which in turn powers a small internal fan. This fan supercharges the fire, making it much hotter and cleaner-burning to boot.
As well as powering the fan, the thermoelectric unit supplies juice to the stove’s internal battery and integrated USB port. Plug your phone into this port and, sure enough, you’re charging your iPhone with wood power. Very cool!
Know Before You Go:
Here’s the most important thing you need to know about Biolite CampStove: It burns through twigs quick! Once you kick the internal fan to “high” and the fire really gets going — best for boiling water — it turns even fair-sized sticks into ash before you know it. Gather several refills worth of wood before you light it up or you’ll be scrounging for fuel as what you’re cooking cools off. It took a complete refill to bring six cups of water to boil.
Getting the fire lit in the first place is made super simple by the small quick-burn sticks that come with the stove, so make sure you have a supply before you set out. Read the instructions — which could be more clear — before it’s time to cook your first meal; it’s critical to charge up the stove at home before using it for the first time. Our only other reservation is the grill/heat shield that surrounds the stove. It looks cool but feels flimsy, and we worry that being thrown around in a backpack will dent it eventually.
This is more than a novelty for the hip and geeky; it’s a fully functional camping stove with a USB port hanging off the side. And we’re still geeking out over that.