By Road & Track
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By Road & Track

Tech for travel…

Review: Biolite’s Campstove

THE BIOLITE CAMPSTOVE is a handy doo-dah for car campers who like sitting around an open wood fire when you can’t find enough wood to start one or when the wood is too wet. Fill the device with twigs, light it and there you have your substitute open wood fire. Time to break out the roasting marshmellows.

This useful little gizmo makes use of the principle of the rocket stove, but instead of an air intake through which fuelwood is fed, it uses a built-in thermoelectric generator and fan to force air through the burning wood to produce, once it gets going, largely smokeless cooking. The generator uses the heat from the fire to produce electrical power.

Folding legs are deployed to set up the stove. The campstove not only cooks your food. It has a USB A connector that takes the thermoelectrically-generated current from the stove to top-up your phone or to run Biolite’s optional LED light on a long, flexible stem so that at night you can see how your cooking is going. It would take some time to get a full phone charge, however it does top up your phone battery depending on how long you keep it going.

Other kit options from Biolite include a large grilling tray. A vent at the side allows the flame to escape. The optional stainless steel pot with its folding, plastic-coated handles—they prevent singed fingers—is useful for boiling around 1.5 litres of water for your coffee or a soup on a cold winter day. That’s probably a capacity with the pot brim-full—as most capacities are advertised for cooking pots— so consider around 1.4 litres a realistic estimate of the pot’s useable capacity. The stove and detached thermoelectric generator fit inside the pot, making for compact carry.

What works?

We bought the cookset to use when camping by our van as a supplement to the single burner butane stove in our kitchen box. We have found that we would make use of it only when staying at a campsite for more than a single overnight because the butane stove is less time consuming to use. Twigs have to be found, the stove set up and lit and extinguished after use and stowed.

A tip is to collect twigs before you go camping and put them in a bag to bring with you so that you do not have to scrounge around for fuelwood at your campsite. At popular car camping sites fuelwood is likely to be hard to find.

A potential use of the campstove would be cooking and topping-up your phone during an emergency when the power and household gas supply has been cut. You can still cook and recharge when you run out of butane or propane for your camping stove. Keep a bag of twigs ready for emergencies. The same goes for emergencies when you evacuate to escape flooding or other disruption.

We purchased the optional 1.5l pot that doubles as a carry container, the grilling tray and the little device Biolite offers to snap twigs.

The cookset works well. The only malfunction we have encountered is the optional LED stem light that makes a loose fit into the thermoelectric generator’s USB port. This limits its usefulness. Another limitation familar to Australians is that the device cannot be used during periods of declared high bushfire danger.

At 945g, the device is too heavy to carry for bushwalking (unless used for group cooking). It’s fine for car or motorcycle camping, however, or as a standby at home for times when the power fails. The Biolite campStove is a practical and useful blend of traditional wood-fired cooking and modern technology.

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Russ Grayson

I'm an independent online and photojournalist living on the Tasmanian coast after nine months on the road in a minivan.