To celebrate Earth Day 2020, Bioliteenergy has released a limited edition CampStove 2 Bundle. There is so much coolness to share about this, I’m not even sure where to start. Probably most important is that 10% of the sales of this bundle go directly to support Climate Neutral. They’re a nonprofit that helps companies offset their carbon emissions, which I’ll cover in more detail below. Next, in addition to the stove, you get a grill attachment, a KettlePot, and their FlexLight. This bundle also comes in a special black color, which I’m pretty partial to. And it goes without saying that in these uncertain times, it pays to be prepared. This is a piece of camping gear to keep handy in an emergency. Use it to boil water, grill food, and charge your electronic devices. All without any compressed gas or liquid fuel. Just twigs, branches, wood chips, or pellets.
The BioLite CampStove 2
What makes the CampStove unique from other stoves is that it burns biomass, and turns it into electricity. At the same time, there is very little smoke. We reviewed the original CampStove in 2012, and since then, it’s been improved, and its ecosystem has grown. It’s got a battery for storage now, and an improved interface with more information via LEDs. The stove itself still functions the same though. It’s got a module on the side with the battery pack, a fan, and the thermoelectric device. BioLite has refined their design since the original CampStove, so it’s also 50% more efficient in turning that heat into electricity. Without any added weight.
CampStove 2 specifications
At 33 ounces, the stove isn’t exactly light. It does make up for a bit of the weight because you don’t need to carry fuel. As long as you have access to some dry wood or other biomass, you have fuel. The KettlePot adds another pound to that, and the Grill 30 ounces more. But then you have a nice little camp kitchen with a 2A USB charging outlet. Dimensions are 8.25 inches (209.6 mm) high by 5 inches (127 mm) wide.
Inside the CampStove’s module is a four-speed fan. There are LED lights that show fan speed, rate of charge, and state of the 2600 mAh internal battery. A thermoelectric device pokes out of the module, and into the stove. That’s the part that converts the excess heat into electricity.
How it works
There’s a lot going on here. By design, the stove itself produces very little smoke. A fan inside the module circulates air, leading to very complete combustion. As the stove runs, heat is captured and turned into electricity. Some of that is used to keep the fan running, and the rest is stored in the internal battery. With a max of three watts, you can charge your USB device while cooking, even with the fan running. So assuming you’re not in the middle of a desert or damp rainforest, you’ve got unlimited fuel for cooking and charging.
Note that the CampStove 2 is best for topping up your devices while boiling water or making a meal. You’re not going to be charging a laptop with the CampStove 2. But it’s got enough juice for your phone, GPS, camera, or LED camp light. Just use the included micro USB cable (or your own) and plug into the charging port. If the stove isn’t running, a quick press of the button will start the charging.
Using the stove
Setup is simple enough. If you’ve stored the grill in the KettlePot, remove it. Then take the module out of the CampStove. Feed the probe through the hole in the side of the stove. When positioned correctly, the leg beneath the module will lock it in place. With all three legs folded out, unfold the two legs on the grill. You can place the grill on the stove before starting the stove, or once you have a fire going. I put the grill on first, so I could make sure it was stable without burning myself. Note that you can also use a small pan on the CampStove. But really, if you bought the bundle, you’re probably all about the grill.
Having used the original CampStove for boiling water, it’s obvious I was more interested in the grill. So I grabbed some dead grass and leaves from my yard, and a bag of mesquite wood chips. Once the grass and leaves caught fire, I turned the fan on low. This provided just enough air circulation to get the fire going. As the chips started to burn, I threw in some more, and turned up the fan. It took some adjusting of the amount of chips and fan speed to get it just right. I didn’t mind the extra smoke though, as it was jalapeno beef brats that I was cooking. Once dialed in, it worked great, with my smoky-flavored brats grilled to perfection. We repeated this with hot dogs as well.
By monitoring the gauge on the module, you can get an idea of how hot your grill is. This is a definite improvement over the original. No guesswork, just check the gauge and add fuel as necessary. Yes, you can also hold your hand over the grill, or to the side. But that’s not a reliable indicator, even if you’re a grillmaster. To add more biomass, there’s a little cap that flips up. The important thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t overfill the stove. Also, don’t block the air ports inside. Without good airflow, you’ll get smoke.
KettlePot, Portable Grill, and USB FlexLight
The KettlePot is stainless, with a capacity of 1.5 liters, or 6 cups. It’s got internal markings at 0.5 liters/2 cups, 1.0 liters/4 cups, and 1.5 liters/6 cups. It comes with a bowl inside, along with a tight-sealing, BPA-free lid that has a pour spout. On the side is a rubberized folding handle. Dimensions, with lid attached, are 10.20″ x 5.20″ (25.91 x 13.21 cm).
With dimensions of 9.5 x 12 x 3.5 in (24.13 x 30.48 x 26.67 cm), the Portable Grill can handle four burgers or six hot dogs. Or four delicious jalapeno beef brats. It’s got legs that fold out, and a cover for storage. There is no mechanical attachment to the Campstove 2, it just rests on the stove. I had no problems with stability, and it’s more stable once you have some food on it. You’ll want to set it up on a solid base. Either a heavy table or the ground. I wouldn’t mix it with a wobbly folding table.
I’m undecided on the 100 lumen USB FlexLight. It weighs next to nothing, and is handy enough for seeing what you’re doing. The flexible arm is only long enough to cast light across the grill, but not much higher. But I’d rather use a headlamp, and free up the USB port for charging. It’s just a matter of personal preference.
Using the KettlePot
We’re not at the point where we need to start relying on our stash of freeze-dried meals. At the same time, it’s good to know how long it will take to boil water. BioLite quotes 4.5 minutes to boil a liter of water, but there are plenty of variables at play. I’m at roughly 4,600 feet above sea level. And the fuel used can affect heat output. After starting my fires with dry grass and leaves, I added mesquite chips until I got some red hot coals in there. It was only 60 degrees out, so the water stored in my garage was even colder than that. I stopped checking my watch after 6 minutes.
From this exercise, I learned an important lesson about the value of practice. Unlike a fossil fuel stove, where you can just turn it to high and get max heat, the CampStove 2 will take longer to get up to that point. It’s got to have enough wood to burn hot, and it needs to stay at that point for 5-6 minutes. This requires a little practice and forethought. So plan some extra time from first spark to boiling water.
Pros and cons
For each feature, it’s really up to the (potential) end-user to decide which column to check. If you’re a through-hiker counting grams, this is not for you. If you’re concerned about carrying gas or liquid fuel, you’ve found the safest option. And it does save weight over carrying fuel. Depending on your electronics, this may replace a solar charger too, offsetting the weight even more. The grill attachment is a little bulky. Being able to grill meat and vegetables while camping is priceless. A one-pound KettlePot might not appeal to everyone. But it stores the CampStove 2, and you can water in it. There’s even a Frech press option, for making coffee.
Why buy a BioLite stove?
This is a condensed version from my original review: Your purchase helps fund the HomeStove, a larger version of the CampStove, designed for everyday use. It addresses many important issues facing people in third world countries. Of the three billion people worldwide that do their cooking over open fires, 1.3 billion have no electricity. And those fires contribute to about 4 million premature deaths due to smoke alone. HomeStove improves the lives of users by eliminating over 90% of the smoke and carbon monoxide, while providing electricity to power LED lights, which are less expensive than kerosene lamps, as well as zero emissions.
The design of the HomeStove also reduces the amount of wood required by 50%. Cutting down the time spent collecting wood, or the cost of purchasing fuel, is a huge benefit. For many people in developing countries, 20-30% of their income is spent on fuel alone. So purchase a CampStove knowing that it’s not only a great piece of gear, but you’re supporting a worthwhile cause, and a company that puts people ahead of profits. Read about their mission here.
What is Climate Neutral?
All businesses have a carbon footprint. It’s not just a manufacturing concern. The software company I work for has a four-story building housing hundreds of employees. Although we can deliver our products electronically, we still have a carbon footprint. The building has to be lit inside, as well as heated or cooled seasonally. And people drive there each day. All of that contributes to carbon emissions. Which is where Climate Neutral comes in. Jonathan Cedar, BioLite‘s co-founder, is one of the founding members of this nonprofit. They help businesses calculate and then offset their emissions. Some of the ways they do that are as simple as planting trees. Others like capturing biogas from livestock, or methane from landfills, are more complex.
This can get expensive if a company has a large carbon footprint. So Climate Neutral doesn’t just help them offset their carbon output, they look for ways a company can reduce it. You can read more about that here. If you’re wondering why this matters, it’s actually quite simple. Today’s consumers are more aware than ever of our environmental impact. Shoppers are taking into account the toll their purchases take on the planet. And Climate Neutral is helping consumers identify brands that are minimizing that damage. “The Climate Neutral Certified label empowers consumers to choose brands that choose to take responsibility for their carbon emissions.” So look for the label. And always, consider the environment with each purchase you make.
Although I only had a few weeks with it, I really like the CampStove 2. The improvements over the original are noticeable. It’s a useful piece of camping and/or emergency gear. As long as you have biomass, you’ve got fuel. And a little electricity. If you’re only boiling water for cooking, then a separate charger of some sort might be better. But if you want to grill small meals, it’s a game-changer. I can see this having more appeal to a group that can share the load across multiple packs, rather than a solo backpacker. And it’s definitely great for car campers. Whether you’re a camper, a prepper, or a little bit of both, this is probably one of those things you should consider. It wouldn’t replace my gas and liquid fuel stoves. Rather, it would be an addition to my gear.
Besides the obvious utility of the CampStove 2, BioLite does a lot of good. That’s another reason to give them your consideration. As mentioned already, I urge anyone interested to read more about the BioLite mission here. They’re not putting people ahead of profits, they’re using their profit to help people.
I’d like to thank BioLite for providing their CampStove 2 Bundle for this review. It’s always fun to test new gear, and learn something new. And it’s even more rewarding to work with companies that create products which make a difference. Check out Bioliteenergy.com to see their full line of products. If you prefer to do your shopping on Amazon, use this link instead.
Comments? Questions? Have any of our readers tried the CampStove 2, or other BioLite products? Feel free to share below.