Gear Review: BioLite Campstove

My first reaction after coming across the BioLite Campstove was excitement followed by a little bit of skepticism. I thought it was a great idea but wasn't sure if it would preform well in the often wet forests of western Cascadia.

Cooking dinner beside Dillon Lake- Three Sisters Wilderness

After testing the BioLite on my back porch with some dry twigs and dry wood, I was impressed and confident that it wouldn't fail my girlfriend and I on our upcoming backpacking trip to the Three Sisters Wilderness.

Starting a fire inside the BioLite is similar to starting a fire anywhere else. You need something dry to get it going. I always carry Cotton Balls soaked with petrolatum jelly, or plain in case I can't find anything dry. On this trip there was abundant Old Man's Beard (Usnea). Usnea is the lichen that often hangs from low branches or on trees that looks like blue or green hair. More information and pictures of Usnea

After finding the smallest and driest twigs that we could, I loaded the BioLite up carefully avoiding the air holes on the side. Then I began lighting Usnea and putting it into BioLite. After about 10 seconds (as recommended) I turned the fan on low.

Despite the fact that the twigs and Usnea were still somewhat damp within about 45 seconds of turning the fan on the flames were reaching the top and I added more, slightly larger fuel. The fire was fairly smoky because the larger twigs still had some water in them. This didn't seem to slow down the BioLite though, I continued to add more twigs until I had a solid bed of coals. 

Size of stick I would use for cooking with the BioLite

After experimenting around with small pieces of wood, I started to add larger pieces. When I filled the stove with these I boiled 4 cups of water in about 5 minutes. This was close to what BioLite listed as the boil time for 1 liter, I could see that if you had completely dry hardwood. Also I'm fairly sure they didn't use water that was near freezing when they tested their boil time.

Perhaps the coolest part of the BioLite was left untested on this trip. I always forget something when I go camping and this time it was my iPhone charger. So I will post an update on charge time as soon as I can. The only issue I have with the BioLite is it's weight, which is a 2 pounds 1 ounce. I'm not an ultra-light hiker by any means, but I would like the BioLite to be closer to 1 pound. Though if you were on a long trip there could be weight savings in batteries if your headlamp, GPS, phone and other electronics could be charged via USB. I ended up using the charging feature on my trip to the Deadfall Lakes Area.

Something else that was awesome that we used the BioLite for was to start our 'real' fire. After getting a solid bed of coals in the BioLite and drying some larger sticks on top of it we dumped them onto some tinder. We had a great fire to dry out gear, made easy with the BioLite.

 Final Rating: 4 out of 5

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