If you recall, back in April we told you about a new carbon-neutral BioLite CampStove 2 bundle (right here). As I mentioned in that article, we had a sample coming in for review. And while the lockdowns prevented us from going camping (so far), I did take this through some paces in our backyard, just to get an idea of how the BioLite CampStove 2 works.
When you first open up the packaging for the BioLite CampStove 2, what you see in the box doesn’t match what you see on the outside. And that’s actually a good thing, as it shows how you can compactly pack things all together. In short, the electricity-generating portion packs inside the burn chamber, and then you can pack that away inside the kettle. It makes for a nice compact package to fit into your camping supplies. So, why is the box so large? Well, here, you’ve got the portable grill attachment as well.
With that, you can turn the BioLite CampStove 2 into something more than just a vehicle to boil water, cook in a pan, or simply toast marchmallows (which was the very first thing we cooked over it). While I didn’t get any photos of it (for whatever reason), it gives you a larger surface to pop things on (say, burgers or hotdogs). Now it’s not overly large, but I did manage to fit a pack of six hotdogs on it at once.
The grill attachment for the BioLite CampStove 2 then helps redirect and radiate that heat outwards. One thing with a wood-burning stove is that you’ll be needing to add fuel. Thankfully, the clever designers at BioLite actually popped a flap on there. With it closed, the heat is held in and forced to go out into the grill. Flip it up with some tongs, and you can pop some more wood in there, and keep the heat on.
Speaking of, I sort of jumped a step here. As I mentioned, the BioLite CampStove 2 is a wood burner. So, while you could use pellets, you’re also able to use paper (to help start things), twigs, bark, pinecones, and the like. AKA, anything you’d use to start up a firepit, you can use here, just at a smaller scale. What helps, however, is the brick you hang off of the burn chamber. Along with containing a rechargeable battery, it’s got a fan that directs air into (and all around) the burn chamber. While things are starting up, you can crank it up, and then you can adjust it down once it’s going.
The brick also tells you how the BioLite CampStove 2 is doing. You’ve got three indicators – one to tell you how hot the fire is (which then impacts how much energy you can generate), how fast the fan is going, and then how much power is in the on-board battery. I’m still fine-tuning my approach for properly loading and feeding the burn chamber, but suffice to say, you’ll want to have a good supply of sticks and such handy, so you can feed them in as needed.
Cooking up the hotdogs on the BioLite CampStove 2 was a similar speed to cooking them with a stick over a fire (though you’re doing more at once) and of course, marshmallows cooked exactly the same. The bigger test is how fast you can boil water. This could be for coffee, to have warm water to wash dishes, or even to rehydrate whatever meal it is you’ve brought along.
To test that, I filled up the included kettle to it’s 6-cup mark (yup, it can also double as a measuring cup) with cold water from the tap, and put it onto the stove that was already going. The base of the kettle is formed to fit tightly into the stove itself, with a space underneath that allows airflow. In fact, I had some flames shooting out of the sides as well, so consider that when you’re setting up. For my test, I had a flame that registered between 3 and 4 (so, not the hottest burn in the world) with a fan setting that alternated between 3 and 4. All told, it took about 16 minutes to get that water from tap-cold to a rolling boil. Not super speedy, but again, I’m still learning how to work that burn chamber; presumably some more experience can lower that boil time.
Given that I camp with my family, if I had to rely solely on the BioLite CampStove 2 to get things cooked up, I’d be in trouble. However, as a supplement to the normal two-burner Coleman stove that I bring (using camping fuel), now we’re talking. Not only do you get an extra cook surface, the big key here is how it generates electricity. While I tend to have my phone off most of the time, it’s handy to check weather reports, so having that battery pack there – and able to recharge just by cooking) is pretty nice. And the included LED light (with tap on/off) helps too, particularly if you’re cooking as it’s getting darker.
So, yes, I would say that yes, I am rather a fan of the BioLite CampStove 2. While I’ve not had a chance to quite test it out in a full camping experience, the backyard one has been positive. It can cook bigger things with the grill, boil water for the morning coffee and oatmeal, and top of my weather report device (aka the phone) – what’s not to like? The added bonus here is that it’s also much simpler to fire up in the backyard to get the kids some s’mores vs the whole firepit, particularly on super-hot evenings.
The BioLite CampStove 2 is not something you’ll want for ultra-light backpacking trips, but for family car-camping, I think it could definitely find a slot. Or even as a backup for emergencies at home (which, frankly, all camping gear works for), even just to generate power (just don’t burn this inside, outdoors only please). It works just as advertised (burning biomass; I want to get some wood pellets to see the heat output on that), and the fact that it all packs away inside itself – with included stuff sacks – means it’s compact and you don’t have to worry about soot hitting any of your other gear.
In the end, I think the BioList CampStove 2 is worth checking out if you like the idea of generating electricity when you’re off the grid. The fan-assist certainly helps you along, and the grill surface expands the capabilities of the stove. Just bear in mind how you’ll want to use it. For me, it works within our current gear (and camping at sites without electricity), and I like what they’ve designed here. So much so, I think I’ll be eyeballing their backard firepit once I finally get tired of replacing rusted out bits in our current (non-technical) firepit. You can check out the full range (including other lighting solutions and that firepit) right here: bioliteenergy.com