Cheap My Gear Style: Hand-Me-Down Hero, Best-Bang-for-Your-Buck Buccaneer, Use It ‘Til It Disintegrates
When I first started up BioLite’s innovative new camp stove I sincerely giggled. This natural fuel burning, USB charging stove is an outdoor gadget lover’s dream. At its core, the BioLite is an aluminum canister with fold-out legs and an attached battery pack. Natural fuels (sticks, pine cones, etc.) are burned, aided by a fan on the battery pack. This supercharged system creates an admirable amount of heat used to cook your food and charge the battery pack, along with whatever is connected to it via USB. The result is a perfect mix between old-time fire cooking simplicity and the Terminator.
With the right tinder the BioLite is extremely effective, boiling water competitively with my MSR WhisperLite, not counting set-up time. However, there are some annoyances. Because a natural fire is more fickle than a gas stove, I felt the need to babysit the BioLite. Set-up is also slightly time-consuming. After a long hike, I care far more about how long it takes to make my food hot than whether that food becomes hot in a neat-o way. In the end, I wouldn’t rely on the BioLite for serious backpacking, but for light recreational use it’s an effective and ethical alternative.
The ingenuity of this stove is remarkable and I can imagine that similar technology would be extremely beneficial in lesser-developed countries as a means of providing heat, cooking ability, and power. Also, when the fan is on, it’s almost completely smoke free.
Without very dry tinder and a running fan, the stove is not easy to get going. It’s also fairly heavy (935 grams). Over long-term use it would definitely be lighter than carrying copious amounts of liquid fuel, but that’s assuming you’re on a very long trip with access to tinder.