Biolite

by George Paul Tire

Hot food doesn’t just taste better, it can be a life saver in cold weather. Hot water not only makes coffee better, especially on a nippy day, but the process of heating it can save your life by killing bugs that cause disease.

There are countless ways to make things hot, but a nifty one I stumbled into recently is the $130.00 BioLite Camp Stove. If you have used a so-called rocket stove, you have a pretty good idea of what a BioLite stove is, but it has the delightful added function of generating electricity while heating your food and a fan to boost the heat output.

The key to rocket stoves is that air is fed to the bottom of the fire, allowing it to burn fuel more efficiently. They are usually made in a cylindrical form with a hole on the side at the bottom that allows fuel to be added and more importantly, for air to be pulled into the fire. Commercial ones are usually insulated so they retain heat better as well as protect the user. There are many plans for homemade ones, including ones made from concrete blocks. The Dakota fire hole is another version that can be made on the spot anywhere just by digging a couple of holes. The concept just plain works.

The BioLite adds a thermoelectric generator (TEG) to the mix. It charges a small battery in a compartment mounted to the side of the stove. The battery in turn, provides a USB power output and runs a small fan that boosts the fire. The only drawback, is that the hole on the side is blocked by the fan, so all fuel must be fed from the top which means being careful with your fingertips. This thing makes a HOT fire.

The stove weighs 2 pounds and when packed, sits 8.25 high and 5 inches wide. It comes with a stuff sack and some fire starter sticks. You need to sit it on a flat spot and be careful with how much you set on top of it as it can get tippy. You fuel it with small sticks or other flammable items you can pick off the ground in most places. If you like, you can also carry wood fuel pellets.

The outlet on the stove produces 2 watts which will charge most USB device. If you need more power and like having a convenient way to boil water, BioLite also offers the $150.00 KettleCharge. It is 7.5 inches in diameter and 2.75 inches high when folded for travel and weighs 2 pounds. It holds 25 ounces of water, but you aren’t supposed to empty it while hot, so count on enough for three cups of coffee or so. If you let it overheat, you will damage the TEG. They have warning lights and sounds to help keep you from destroying it.

You can only use water in the kettle, no soup or hot chocolate. It has a folding handle on top that also holds a storage battery and the USB port. The battery can store energy used later to recharge something else. You can use it on most any stove, but you don’t want flames wrapping around it and burning up the handle and electronics, so no campfires.

I hate saying this, but you should read the instructions on both products; if you misuse these things, you can wreck them.

We have used the stove for camping and to amuse Cub Scouts. It is in our bugout plans as a shared item. I think it is a bit bulky and heavy for a single person bugout. It would be great for a vehicular bugout or prepositioned at a retreat. I do wonder about the life expectancy of the TEG, but I’ve had no problems with it, but the fact that it is essential to the stove’s operations makes me think about it. BioLite does sell a larger BaseCamp stove for $300.00 on the same principal that will work without the TEG, but it weighs 18 pounds. It looks great, but you probably won’t want to carry it far, so think in terms of a retreat or vehicular camping.

55 Responses

  1. Wow, sounds like a great tool for bugging out: boils water for my tea, heats my food AND recharges my must have electronics.

  2. This stove would amuse me as much as the Boy Scouts! I have made my own rocket stove as a proof of concept, bought one and used it at base campsites, but have always had my eye on a Biolite. The ability to charge from the USB is a feature that could come in very handy! Thanks for the terrific review.

  3. This sounds like an amazing stove. There are many stoves on the market, but this stove seems to have some features which sets it apart. Having hiked the Appalachian Trail (which is a great bug out trial run or learning how little you really can live off of), I know the importance of having a fire and ability to have hot water, food, etc.

    Of course, you might think the power source is overkill, because what would we need to charge if you are bugging out. How about that HAM radio or maybe a battery charging station, it may be small, but better than nothing.

    Great review – would be very interesting in reviewing one myself!

  4. I would like to have a BioLite, I have a Swiss Ranger stainless steel Rocket Stove that works great! But I think having the fan would be a Plus!

  5. Having taught disaster prep for many years, I think this would work for many situations. I have other items I pack and swap around as I test and think about. I would like to try one to see and since I am a scout leader we will see how tough it is by testing it with teenagers. If it can survive that then it is good stuff.

  6. The stove sounds great. I live on the Gulf Coast and Hurricanes can knock power out fast. Having a way to charge a phone would be great. Fuel would be plentiful after a storm. Storm season is coming this would be a great addition to my supplies.

  7. In an emergency, you can’t always predict the state that your gear will be when you go to use it. Having multiple options for any primary piece of gear is a sound principle, but so is having gear with multiple uses. That way if one piece of gear gets damaged or you lose it, hopefully your redundancies will mediate this. The Biolite stove provides another option for heating and cooking with another type of fuel besides fuel canisters, but with the added benefit of providing an additional power source. All great benefits. I wonder though about the trade offs with weight, at 2 pounds this isn’t ideal for a small get-home-bag. Also, how does the consistency of power output and charging rate compare with other lighter solar + battery options?

  8. It’s smart preparation to position in your vehicle or bug-out location a biomass-burning stove and pot to boil water. I would covet this stove because it burns small sticks or wood pellets efficiently, so you don’t need to lug gas, alcohol, or other liquid fuel. This stove would also come in handy during power outages, when the fan produces great heat fast in a compact unit, and the stove would let you infinitely recharge your electronics, such as an iPhone, GPS device, or small light, via USB, so you can save your batteries.

  9. What a great idea. My son would love this in his camping gear. It takes care of two of his favorite things, food and electronics

  10. As a former ROTC survival instructor I can see both advantages and disadvantages. The weight may be enough of an issue to keep me from carrying it in my GET HOME bag. However, I can see some serious advantages to having one in my bug out location. The ability to charge my hand held ham radio gear is always on my mind. I currently have solar back up but that could be an issue after several days of bad weather. Being able to heat water and charge my radio has put a grin on my face. I will be watching this product closely.

    1. I’ve thought the same thing, I probably would not want it in my get home bag, but I would throw it in a bag when I’m hiking with the intent to use it for a picnic. On the other hand though, I might keep it in my vehicle during snowy conditions up north (I’m currently in Florida but from Illinois) with some pellets or something. That way, if I get stuck in the snow I can use the stove to boil snow for drinking water and some warmth (obviously using it outside the vehicle) and I could keep my cell phone charged.

  11. Iv read some fantastic real life reviews about Biolite on different outdoors forums.
    Everyone rates them.
    I’v not seen any negative reviews.

  12. What a unique idea! A stove that charges electronics!
    As cool as that may be, however, I think the most intriguing facets of this stove, for me, are its light weight and the fact that it produces a smokeless heat.
    I love camping, hiking, and backpacking. I can visualize using this stove on a regular basis while enjoying the great outdoors. My cellphone takes amazing pictures, so this stove means a wealth of gorgeous photos of the environments I choose to explore. It also means a good meal to provide strength and energy for ‘roughing it’, and the ability to carry a reliable heat source on my own back, without adding a great deal of weight.
    As someone also interested in being prepared for natural or man-made disasters, I think this stove is perfect for emergency situations as well. Communication, heat, and food are all vital elements during an emergency or bug-out situation, and this stove really is fantastic for that. Smokeless means, if the situation is man-made, you can avoid detection while preparing a proper meal. Lightweight means, if the situation calls for ‘bugging out’, you can carry a great heat and energy source with you easily. And the charging capabilities mean, no matter what the situation, you can keep some power in your phone, and other devices as well (like a weather radio for emergency announcements).
    All in all, an incredible and innovative piece of equipment. Excellent work.

  13. when s.h.t.f. most electronics will not be able to be used. I have a small faraday cage built to protect some of the electronics i will need to survive. this bio stove is a great idea.i would like to win one or look up plans to build a small on. keep up the good work. i love viewing your reports.

  14. man, i saw the bio-lite for the first time ever at a lowes. it was just before christmas and a whole end-aisle display was given over to it. i stood there, in peoples way during the crowded time of the day, just mesmerized. i read everything, watched the video they had playing, and even (i never do this) opened a box and looked thru it, reading the manual. what a great idea! not only does it take all the best ideas for rocket stoves, getting every bit of energy out of the fuel burning process, but then it captures the "leftover" heat as usable power! THIS is where things are headed! this is really ahead of its time! like a glimpse at the near future.

  15. man, i saw the bio-lite for the first time ever at a lowes. it was just before christmas and a whole end-aisle display was given over to it. i stood there, in peoples way during the crowded time of the day, just mesmerized. i read everything, watched the video they had playing, and even (i never do this) opened a box and looked thru it, reading the manual. what a great idea! not only does it take all the best ideas for rocket stoves, getting every bit of energy out of the fuel burning process, but then it captures the "leftover" heat as usable power! THIS is where things are headed! this is really ahead of its time! like a glimpse at the near future.

  16. I have seen this on display at Lowe’s and REI. It seems like a great idea, and relatively portable item. From the video demonstrations that I have watched, it looks as if it would be best suited for vehicle camping or a hunters cabin/base camp.
    It is a very interesting concept and shows a great deal of innovation and thought.

  17. I love that this stove not only let’s me cook but also let’s me charge my phone on what I can forage. For those people who couldn’t get calls for help out because their phone batteries died, this is a double life saver. I would put this in my truck GOOD bag, if I won it.

  18. Sounds very interesting,but have a concern about the fact that you can cause damage to the electronics if you do over heat the TEG.It states that there’s a warning system to alert you of the danger of it becoming over heated,but what if you just added more fuel to the stove and then the alert system engaged?
    Other wise it does sound like a handy way to heat/treat your water and to provide a possible charging option for your cell phone.

  19. So my first reaction when I read this was that fire and boiling water are two things I would never want in any proximity to my electronics, especially my phone. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had one of these small camp stoves tip over. The other thing that worries me is the 2 watt output. At 12 volts, that’s only .16 amps. By comparison my regular phone charger is 1.5 amps and it takes 45 minutes for a full charge. That is nearly 10 times the power output of this thing and I can’t imagine needing 450 minutes to charge my phone. You would strip the forest bare of sticks and twigs if you had to fuel this stove for 7 1/2 hours just to get your phone charged. That being said, I am still intrigued by this piece of old school meets new school gear. What’s more old school than a fire in the woods and what’s more new school than adding an iPhone to your kit? Add that to the fact that I LOVE gear that serves more than one purpose and I LOVE companies that innovate with a purpose as opposed to simply trying to take someone else’s hard work and innovation and make it 1% better just to make a buck. This is something completely new and original (in my experience anyway) and I applaud the out of the box thinking that envisioned it. And who knows, placing a rock or log next to the stove to get your electronics off the ground and out of the danger zone may solve my first problem and admittedly I’m no electrician so the charging speed may be much faster than I figured. In any event, I will absolutely buy one to give it an extended impartial field test and a thorough review and also to support a company that is actually inventing, innovating and attempting to put out high quality, useful products in a world where the norm is to pump out garbage gear engineered to fail sooner rather than later. I thank them for their efforts and hope this piece of gear or one of it’s future evolutions lives up to it’s potential.

  20. Aside from the value-add of charging electronics, this stove seems great in that you can burn what fuel you have around you, instead of cans. They just recently released a new model of this stove… Does it still have the same burn-out problems?

    On their larger stove they promote their ability to burn cleaner, for countries where open flame is their only source of cooking energy/technology. As a chef, an adventurist and as a prepper, I totally want one of each model for my kits! Much obliged on the give-away, one way or the other I like supporting this NYC based business!

  21. We’d suggest folks research real world BioLite performance reviews. In our opinion, this review is superficial and did not provide meaningful end user information. Many reviews have shown this product over promises and under delivers in terms of both charging or cooking capability.

    The BioLite camp stove is a fan assisted TLUD (top lit updraft stove), not a rocket stove. It is a wood burning gasifier. End users are reliant on the TEG (thermal electrical generator) function for operational viability. The maximum 5 watt thermal electrical generator cannot function at peak for any meaningful period. We suggest dividing all TEG devices by 50% for meaningful power out put as a general rule of thumb. Since a smartphone requires significantly more than 2 watts of power, the intermittent charging capacity of the BioLite 2 watts of power may not be meaningful to end user. Real world reviews have shown stove burns through approximately 5 minutes and is incapable of charging and cooking at the same time. The charging capacity is intermittent and takes hours to produce extremely low charging results. This translates to hours of sitting and feeding stove non stop with extremely minimal charging capacity.

    From an emergency preparedness or recreation standpoint, end users may want to ask do they want to rely on a TEG requirement for operational capability? There are numerous natural draft gasifier stoves that out perform the BioLite in regard to longer cooking duration, offer greater reliability, are a quarter of the BioLite stove weight, and are less than half the cost. For operational charging capacity, likewise there are numerous inexpensive portable power pack options (solar & battery) that out perform this product for real world charging capacity.

    SilverFire Disaster and Recreation Stoves & Cookware

    1. Interesting points! It would be nice to have an unbiased and equal comparison of the performances between the BioLite and other alternative options.

  22. Reading the comments, both positive and negative, has peaked my curiosity even more. This seems to be a very practical answer for a heating need as well as last-resort source of enough power to charge a phone at least enough to send a text message for help if the need ever arises. I hope to win one!

  23. Looks like a great way to charge a phone and cook at the same time. Have always used light weight solar panels for charging phone, but this would be great in the car or during a power outage at home.

  24. I see this as very useful on a hike our outing with the intention of having a picnic. I honestly don’t care that it can charge USB devices, but I do like that it has a fan to help the fire breathe more efficiently. Another benefit of this is that you would not have to haul fuel around. Perhaps this benefit balances the fact that it is a little heavy compared to other pack able stoves. For fuel, just gather dried twigs off the ground and you’re good-to-go!

  25. We used solar power for charging batteries to charge our cell phones but this sounds much simpler and a whole lot less weight! Sounds like a great addition to our "stuff". Being a woman,
    simpler and lighter are very applealing!

    1. I completely agree with you. You could also use the BioLite when it’s cloudy, raining (given that you are covered and have dry fuel), or at night when solar chargers are not a viable option. You are also limited with the amount of power output with solar, where you can purchase the kettle, as mentioned in the article, and get more power.

    1. Nice last name! I don’t come across anyone else with it…ever…except for on Survival Summit. There must be something in our last name that draws us here, like homing pigeons or something, lol

  26. This Bio-lite sounds great. I don’t want to tuff it if SHTF. I’ve been looking for a packable solution for food and heat. The fact that it charges small gadgets is a plus. I hope I can get one.

    1. A lot of people will say to get comfortable with less, but if you can afford to buy and carry a small luxury item that will provide a psychological boost in tough situations…why not? Even in a grid down scenario, if I can charge my phone and let my daughters watch some home videos we recorded of them having fun to help boost family moral, then I’m going to do it. Today’s phones do more than make calls.

  27. This unit has had me intrigued since I first saw it, I’d love to get me widdle hands on one, but alas, my fundage says no! ;'( Someday, I’ll get me one, but for now I just have to live vicariously through you!

  28. The "BioLite" sounds promising, easy fuel sourcing could makes up for the extra wait and size of the unit. Question: Did BioLite build the (TEG) to withstand an EMP (Manmade or Solar Flair), and still function?

    1. My guess is "no, they probably did not EMP proof it." I wonder if there are any modifications we could do to do that, besides keeping it in a faraday cage until an EMP hits.

  29. Seeing as how much survival information I have stored on my phone these days, the Biolite stove could be considered an essential part to a large scale bug out plan. And without a doubt a convenient part of a camping plan. As our electronic devices and the storehouse of information they hold, become more and more apart of our lives having a way to charge them, cook and and stay warm could easily be considered an integral part of anyone’s survival gear.
    Kudos to the makers, and even more so to the fact that it’s a rocket stove.
    Cheers!

    1. Good point, but I would still run with redundancies and have the information printed and bound. Still though, if you can make your Plan A and primary (much lighter weight) information source last longer with a single purchase…why not?

  30. Seeing as how much survival information I have stored on my phone these days, the Biolite stove could be considered an essential part to a large scale bug out plan. And without a doubt a convenient part of a camping plan. As our electronic devices and the storehouse of information they hold, become more and more apart of our lives having a way to charge them, cook and and stay warm could easily be considered an integral part of anyone’s survival gear.
    Kudos to the makers, and even more so to the fact that it’s a rocket stove.
    Cheers!

  31. What a great innovation! Gone are the days of single use equipment. Having a piece of kit with multiple applications like this is never a bad idea. The roll up solar panel is my go-to mobile charging system, but having another layer of back-up or plan b charging capability makes perfect sense. The portability of it is definitely a plus. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the Rocket Stove I picked up from the Prepper Project team a couple of years ago, but that one is much heavier duty and I use it primarily as a "bug in" or grid down prep. This Bio Lite though, serves a whole different purpose. Being a gear nerd I definitely plan adding one or more of these units to my supply stock.

  32. This is great! I love what this means for developing nations as well as for living of the grid. The One Laptop per child program makes more sense now.
    I’d also love to see more solutions for by them for indoor use, as in tiny homes/RVs and/or even post modern kitchen applications. I love to stall or spin back the utility meter whenever possible.

    1. I think the BaseCamp stove is supposed to serve the tiny home/RV market, but it is still for outdoor use though. The indoor concept is interesting, especially if you are considering security and severe weather elements. Besides liquid fuel based stoves, I wonder what else they could come up with. It’d be nice to have a heater/cooking stove (for small things like coffee) that is tent safe too.

  33. I’ve done quite a bit of research on rocket stoves and decided the BioLite is the way for us to go!! I’m just amazed though at this review. I learned some things that no one has talked about, which has given me more points to consider when using it. Thanks for the tidbit too about reading the instructions!! I’ll make sure to keep those close by for husband. Haha.

  34. I could see this coming in handy for hiking, especially in back country. Would this put enough juice out to charge a cheaper gps transponder for rescue?

  35. Did some "field" training last summer (2015) with a small group of folks. One of the guys had, and used, his Biolite…worked like a charm. Used plain ol’ sticks he gathered from the area, so there really is NO need for pellets or other type of fuel. Heated up water very nicely and he did actually charge his phone with it; seemed to work very nicely. I was honestly quite impressed with it. Haven’t bought one, ‘cos I just don’t have the $$ right now. Only issue/drawback I could see to it is that it is a bit bulky for toting in your ruck especially if you’re on a long "walk", and it is a bit heavier than some of the small, collapsible field stoves you can find, that also work with sticks and natural materials. And, if you’re in a "grid down" situation, will you really need to recharge your phone, ‘puter, etc? Just sayin…
    In all, though, it’s a nice little stove and am looking forward to purchasing one soon.

  36. The Biolite is a practical and sometimes necessary item, in any emergency situation. I live in an area where it’s mostly suburban…however at the 30 minute drive, I’m either in remote mountains or desert, away from "civilization." Having the light carrying Biolite in the bag in case of "getting stuck" (not just on hikes, but broken down on the road where there is NO cell phone reception), one might have to make what could be a serious situation a comfortable one, by having practical resources on hand. The USB charger is a bonus….when the SHTF cell towers will not work, neither will your phone. But various light sources, and other portables with USB will. Biolite is on my this year’s "Santa" list.

  37. In a bug out scenario or on the trail, combining the comfort of hot food or drink with powering devices — all without frying electronics — is brilliant. That this life and sanity saver can use easily accessible wood, and comes in a compact package, is even better.

    On a side note, provided a large enough CampStove, one is curious if airing the movie The Revenant on an outdoor screen would be wise

    1. I agree with your point. Having a psychological advantage that one comfort/luxury item can deliver would be nice.

  38. This exciting survival tool has so many uses. It’s well made of stainless steel so it will hold up in rough conditions. The fact that it also charges small electronics using fire is very exciting because in most any situations, if the cell phone works, the ham radio can be charged, the lap top can be used, batteries for lanterns and flashlights can stay in use then one’s survival potential leaps way above primitive living. But what is exciting to me having used rocket mass stoves is how little fuel it takes to keep them running. If you carry a little waterproof bag on the trail, you can gather sticks along the way or under trees, where it’s still dry, in wet weather, and be able to stay warm and cook or boil water to keep the core of the body from hypothermia or make medicinal teas and poultices. It will keep a tent or shelter warm with very little fuel. It’s light weight and compact so it works to hang on the back pack, stuff in the car for car camping, keep in a bug-out bag, store in a cache, or take on a portage with canoes. I have used home made rocket stoves for camping and they are great. But with the electronic aspect, this is perfect. One other aspect, being so small, compact and with careful fuel selection, it can be hidden from view in dangerous situations, still providing warmth, cooking, energy and light. Then it’s just a matter of having food, water and shelter, and you have comfort and communication in travel or survival situations. I’d love to have one of these little beauties. The Garden Lady of Ga – Permaculture Designer, Herbalist, Writer, Researcher, 1700’s re-enactor, educator.

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