Aug 26, 2013

Biolite Campstove Review

So, what business does a fiber enthusiast, who only (mostly) ever writes about textiles, have reviewing a camp stove? Well, simply put, I love this little thing!! I also think it is being marketed to the wrong crowd. The Biolite camp stove is not necessarily the end-all for the packing-light backpacker who doesn't want to carry fuel and wants to charge a USB port device while off grid in the wilderness. Those folks can "MacGyver" a heat source from an old beer can and a couple of tablespoons of Heet. (If you don't believe me Google the phrase, "build your own open jet alcohol stove" or better yet make yourself a "Fancy Feast" cat tin stove here.) 
No, I think the Biolite Camp stove should be marketed to the middle-aged, crafty fiber addict who wants to simmer-dye a big vat of wool during a heat wave in northern Wisconsin. You know, the average, everyday wool-fiend who lives within the city limits of a small north woods town, has a wee bit of yard debris to dispose of (properly), doesn't have air conditioning, and finds herself dealing with a rare "heat event" on a sultry 99+ degree Fahrenheit day. (You know you've reached your boiling point when you yell at the love of your life for using the toaster.) Enter sanity and a simple outdoor camp stove.
So, what does this thing burn off of?  The stuff we don't want to put in the garbage. (It would be wrong.) The twigs that are everywhere in our yards and, for those of us who don't have acreage or compost space these twigs add up quickly! Look around urbanites. I assure you, there is no shortage of twigage! In less than 10 minutes I collected enough to totally cook a large dinner and fully charge my IPod.
So, with regard to practicality. You may hear complaints about how the Biolite Camp stove has to be constantly refueled. Not so I say! Below I have done a little Macgyvering of my own with an old tomato cage frame. By cutting off a portion and bending a portion...Voila! The perfect kettle stand. Now I can build a larger, longer lasting fire with bigger twigs, refuel without lifting the pot away and, keep my hands free for stirring and adding twigs. 

Things happen quickly and you do want to keep a steady flame so, think of cooking with the Biolite like you would playing a game of chess - stay a few moves ahead. I have all my cooking equipment at-the-ready before I ever light up. Then I just load the little stove with a few twigs and light up a small wad of paper napkin dipped in Vaseline to get things crackling.

Here's where it gets fun. This little stove has a nice built-in fan that charges itself from the heat of your fire. This charge is so efficient that it actually builds up more energy than is needed to perpetuate the fan so, plug in your favorite USB device and grab up some free energy while you're cooking away your yard waste. Also, the fan makes for a very hot flame that doesn't smoke (once it gets going) so, you'll end up with a great fuel source for cooking and only a wee bit of ash to dispose of when all is said and done.

Above: The Treadler Multi-tasking! I'm cooking about 3 lbs. of ground beef without further heating the inside of my house during this heat wave, turning my yard debris into a teaspoon of ash (don't have to pay to dispose of that in the landfill) cooking on a virtually smoke-free wood fire, and charging my IPod all at the same time!  I believe this to be justification for purchasing an additional 10 lbs. of wool...maybe even a nice silk roving.
But wait, Oh no, I'm losing my heat source...
Whew, it's only too easy to add a few sprigs and...

 ...I'm ready to cook another batch of meat for later use.

I have to add, if the weather weren't so dad-blasted hot I think I would also want to express how lovely the fire is and how cool to the touch the outer canister remains, even when producing quite the cooking flame. I can see enjoying this for its own sake some cool, autumn evening  right atop the patio table or on a day outing excursion. (Don't suppose I'll have trouble finding twigs in the local park do you?) 
I think of all the folks who buy little urban fire rings for their back yards. This is so very fuel efficient - you can enjoy an adult sized heat source utilizing Barbie doll sized tinder. (Think of a Brussels sprout in Barbie's hands, it becomes a large cabbage - same here with twigs) And, as it is totally self-contained, and on a tri-pod leg system this little camp stove  leaves no scorched terrain behind. You could have a cozy fire just about anywhere that an open flame is allowed - I'm thinking lakeside while late-night fishing.
Anyway, I'm planning on continuing many of my fiber-dying adventures that would otherwise be put on hold were it not for this efficient outdoor heat source. I'm not about to simmer wool in a dye bath in my dwelling quarters right now - no matter how strong my fiber urges. By utilizing the cheap and easy tomato cage stand I can prop a big kettle 3-4 inches above the Biolite and crank up a strong bit of heat while clearing the yard for Claxton to mow. I'll have an ulterior motive for clearing his path. (He need not know of this.)
I'm taking it group camping soon. I'll enjoy maintaining my IPod while out in the woods and off the grid. It will be nice to have music and Podcasts to enjoy at night over a 5-day excursion.
I'm kind of curious about their grill attachment. I can't speak to it but here's the link to their site and some work underway with their other eco-friendly efforts: Interesting.

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