The BioLite CampStove has been getting a lot of attention ever since it was first released. I admit it. I was a skeptic.

Here's the premise: it's a camp stove that doesn't need a fuel canister, uses an electric fan to tend the flame, and even charges your gadgets via USB.

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions

That all sounds awesome, of course, but I — someone who is not even a default-minimalist — was shocked at its weight: 2 pounds, 1 ounce (935 grams). That may not sound like much, but consider that it's about the third of the weight of a kid's bowling ball. 

Can I really carry this with me on a backpacking trip? I wondered as I unpacked my shiny new BioLite, a generous gift from a kind family member who shares my love of the outdoors.

I decided to give it a test run on a pseudo-car camping trip in the Tunica Hills area of Northern Louisiana. (By the way, we stayed at a wonderful campsite). I packed my trusty Primus just in case.

That evening, my friend and I gathered dead leaves and twigs from the ground, poked a BioLite-provided fire starter down into the canister, and threw in a match.

Once we learned to engage the fan not long after the fire had caught, we had a merry fire roaring away in not too long. Within about five minutes, the light on the fan switched to green, indicating we could charge a phone with the energy the stove was capturing.

The pros:

  • It works really well; the kettle was boiling in no time, and it truly does charge electronics (although not particularly quickly). You just have to get (and keep) the fire hot enough to achieve this.
  • It's fun! It's like your own personal, miniature campfire, and we loved tending its crackling flames.
  • It's well-built and sturdy.
  • It packs down as compactly as possible, to 5 by 8.5 inches, about the size of a chunky plastic water bottle. The tripod stand folds neatly under the canister, the fan goes inside, and the whole thing slips into the provided drawstring bag with no problem.
  • If you love to go on long camping trips, this stove will probably save you money in the long run, as you'll never have to buy fuel canisters again.
  • You can take it on planes, ready to go, since no fuel is required.

The cons:

  • It's still heavy, so if you know you're not going to need a lot of fuel and are comfortable bringing a mostly-empty canister, then you can save some weight with a traditional backpacking stove.
  • I'm guessing they're frowned upon in burn bans. I'd check with local rangers before packing it in this situation.
  • It only works if there's fuel to put in it, so if you've found yourself without an abundance of dry tinder (or camping somewhere where foraging for sticks and leaves is forbidden), you might be going hungry for the evening.
  • The fan makes a decently loud whirring sound (about like a hand vacuum), so you probably won't want to do any late-night cooking if your neighboring campers are already asleep.
  • Goodbye, shiny canister interior! Post-burning, it'll be black with soot, so you'll need to clean it out before storing it. This isn't an issue with traditional stoves.
  • It's expensive, retailing at $129.95.

The bottom line: A-

While the BioLite CampStove is a pricey piece of equipment that can potentially run campers into pitfalls, it's well-made and functional, and it is suited for certain types of camping trips. Beyond this, it's a fun head-turner.

And while I don't go camping to stay glued to my phone, it's nice to have it charged so I can read books on the Kindle app without having to fuss over the extra weight of a paperback. I plan to use mine again!

What are your thoughts on the BioLite CampStove? Have you used it? Do you want one?

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