Bio-Lite stove trial...with pics!

Posted by: Phaedrus

Bio-Lite stove trial...with pics! - 10/28/12 07:40 PM

After a loooong stretch of school + working six closing shifts a week I finally took a week of vacation. I decided to spend a chilly fall weekend at a local state park. Since I'm beat from my schedule I opted to rent a cabin for a couple days so I didn't have to fight with a tent, etc. There were two new toys I was eager to try out: A Traeger Jr. pellet grill/smoker and my Bio-Lite stove.

Well, no pics of the food, I'm afraid. My brother and I were staying at the park and my sister, mother & my brother's GF came out Sat afternoon to cook and and hang out by the campfire for awhile. The Traeger worked great! You pretty much fill the hopper with pellets and select a temp and you get wood-generated heat and smoke. Friday nite I smoked some brats, chicken legs and flat iron steak. Saturday my sister brought ribeyes, and odd choice but the turned out well. For dinner I smoked a few pounds of chicken legs and thighs. Very tasty!

While lunch was smoking I turned my attention to the Bio-Lite. As some of you may recall, the company started out as a project to help improve life in sub-Saharan Africa. Cooking fires there generate a lot of pollution, and electricity for communications is unreliable. The Bio-Lite stove was designed to mitigate both problems. The stove has a small Li-On battery pack, a convection fan for the burn pot and a thermo-electric generator. When you turn it on the fan comes on; you light fuel (generally sticks, twigs, pine cones, etc) in the chamber and the forced air fans the flames to a very high level of heat. At full tilt there's almost no smoke at all.

I batonned some dry Ash wood into finger-sized sticks with my RAT 7. Most of the pieces are very small; it initially didn't occur to me to leave some bigger chunks to extend the burn time. Oh, and learn.

Here's the stove at a full burn:

Note that the cord you see in the pics isn't running to the stove- the Traeger is plugged into it (it has an electric auger that moves pellets into the burn pot).

Now, the stove burns hot and can be used to cook but the real draw is the thermo-electric generator. Once the fire generates sufficient power to charge the battery the surplus can be used to charge another device via the USB terminal on the front.

Sorry if this one is a little blurry:

The stove ships with the battery at least partially charged. They advise the user to charge the battery completely at home. I opted not to do so to better see how long it takes to charge. So after receiving the stove in July, it sat unused til late October. So the battery was probably not all that juiced up.

I neglected to time how long it took to charge but I'd guestimate maybe 15-20 minutes. You can tell it's charged when the green bar on the front glows.

You can see from the light on my phone that it's drawing charge. I actually topped off my phone right from this stove.

It works very well! But I have to say if you use wood split down as far as I did be ready to keep shoving it in. The Bio-Lite has a voracious appetite and burns thru wood pretty fast! At least on the HIGH fan setting. Probably having some bigger pieces would have been wise. Next time!

All in all the Bio-Lite stove seems to live up to the hype. I'm not sure how durable it will be. It seems well made and is backed with a 1 year warranty but like any bit of tech I suppose it could fail. Funny, it really has very similar tech in the burn pot as the Traeger pellet grill it shared the deck with!
Posted by: jzmtl

Re: Bio-Lite stove trial...with pics! - 10/29/12 01:02 AM

Wonder how much power can it provide. If you do this again try battery monitor widget to monitor the charge current (might need root).
Posted by: Phaedrus

Re: Bio-Lite stove trial...with pics! - 10/29/12 03:28 AM

That would be interesting. My phone is a Droid, an HTC Incredible. Maybe there's a widget? Of course, it might also be in the manual for the Bio-Lite...I'm not big on reading manuals! blush grin
Posted by: wileycoyote

Re: Bio-Lite stove trial...with pics! - 10/29/12 04:11 PM

a well-written, nicely photographed and useful review. thnx Phaedrus!
Posted by: jzmtl

Re: Bio-Lite stove trial...with pics! - 10/29/12 07:40 PM

Originally Posted By: Phaedrus
That would be interesting. My phone is a Droid, an HTC Incredible. Maybe there's a widget? Of course, it might also be in the manual for the Bio-Lite...I'm not big on reading manuals! blush grin

I just checked, no root required. You can add a widget to display the present charge/discharge current, andhave log it every couple of minutes.
Posted by: spuds

Re: Bio-Lite stove trial...with pics! - 10/30/12 07:55 PM

If you have to have flame every watt of power is a strong bonus.

Thanks for the review,will be interesting to see how it holds up in use over time.
Posted by: Phaedrus

Re: Bio-Lite stove trial...with pics! - 10/31/12 04:09 AM

I'm on the e-mail list to be notified if they offer the home stove version. It looks pretty bad@ss!
Posted by: GrilledBison

Re: Bio-Lite stove trial...with pics! - 01/12/13 08:24 AM

I, too have a BioLite CampStove. I used it last summer when car camping in the White Mountains. On the same trip, I also used the Woodgas Camp Stove LE, which comes in two larger sizes. The stoves use similar technology, adding air to the burn chamber to aid in burning the biogas that is additional fuel otherwise lost. The air is added by fan holes between the inner burn pot and the outer solid chamber.

BioLite CampStove pros:
good for car camping or bugging in/out
very sturdy fold-out tripod legs
easy to change fan speeds
charges its own fan battery
very little smoke once started
pan rest is an integrated tripod, and does not intrude on feeding the fire
can burn most any dry biofuel (pine cones, twigs, bark)
charges low-power USB chargable devices with excess power. I've charged an iPhone4, iPod touch, LED/laser flashlight, Petzl Core headlight battery.
when cool, fan/power unit nests in burn chamber
only two pieces (burn chamber & power unit)
heat is more focused with a smaller diameter burn pot (v. WoodGas)

BioLite CampStove cons:
heavy for backpacking (2 lbs)
entire metal canister and legs get hot (stove can be moved by holding the power pack)
a bit finicky to get started

Woodgas Camp Stove LE pros:
sturdy--though I did manage to knock it over twice when camping.
bottom (fan below burn chamber) does not get hot
dual use handle/tongs
very little smoke once started
can burn most any dry biofuel (pine cones, twigs, bark)
pan rest stores flat
light weight
can store all pieces and some fuel in cool burn chamber

Woodgas Camp Stove LE cons:
changing fan speeds is a bit clunky (unplug battery pack from "LO" and plug into "HI")
needs charged batteries
pan rest is intrusive for feeding fire
pan rest has to be carefully removed and can easily come apart
several pieces (burn chamber, 2 pot rest pieces, battery pack, 2 batteries, tongs/handle)

And just today, BioLite sent an email to early adopters stating that they will be selling a grill attachment. I will update my review when that is available.