Turn fire into electricity with the BioLite CampStove 2

Turn bits of twigs and wood you find in nature into fire to boil water and cook food, and also electricity to charge up your smartphone.

I love to spend as much time as possible in nature, even if that means sneaking off into a corner of the garden and leaning against a tree or rock. And there's nothing that tops off that better than warming a drink or cooking a quick meal outdoors.

Enter the BioLite CampStove 2

A biomass stove -- that's a fancy word for a stove that burns wood and twigs and leaves and such -- that generates fire that can not only be used to heat water and cook food, but also generate electricity that can be used to recharge smartphones and other devices.

Note: Outdoor use only! Fire is an unforgiving beast, so be smart. Does this need to be said? Probably.

First, the stove. It comes in two parts. The first being a double-walled stainless steel cylinder (with fold-out aluminium legs) where the burning happens, and a plastic unit that combines a fan to blow air through the stove, a battery pack that powers the fan and also can be used to top up smartphones and other devices, and a thermoelectric generator that sticks into the fire and tops up the battery.

The unit packs down to the size of a 32oz widemouth water bottle, weighs about 2 pounds, and comes with a nylon storage bag. The unit also comes with a small pack of fuel, a charging cord, and a really nifty 100 lumen LED light on a flexible cable.

At the heart of the battery pack is a 2600 mAh rechargeable battery, which can be charged up using the supplied USB cable or with a fire. The battery pack also features a four-speed fan for blowing air through the stove, which dramatically improves combustion and efficiency.

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Over the weekend, I took this for a spin, and I was impressed. First off, while the stove packs away into quite a small space, when set up with the legs folded out, it's actually very stable. Lighting was easy -- assuming you have some dry tinder and an ignition source -- and the built-in fan quickly transformed a tiny spark into quite a blaze. I used a ferrocerium rod to light some natural tinder, and the stove was roaring in under two minutes.

For a biomass stove, the BioLite CampStove 2 is well designed, and has nozzles that direct air jets into the combustion chamber to create hot, smokeless fire. I could use the stove to boil a liter of water in under five minutes.

How long would it take to charge up the battery pack using fire? About 2 to 3 hours based on my testing. There are a lot faster ways to recharge a power bank, but this would work out well for me when I'm camping.

BioLite CampStove 2 Tech Specs:

  • Charge phones, lights, and more with 3W generated power
  • Burn sticks, wood scraps, or pellets
  • Boil Time: 1L in 4.5 min
  • Packs down to the size of a 32oz widemouth water bottle
  • Weight: 2.06 lbs

When done with the stove, you let the fire die down, and once it's cooled -- and it cools down quite rapidly -- there's a minimal amount of ash left. The stove really does burn cleanly, and it quite easy to clean.

Pros

  • Power from twigs, wood scraps, leaves
  • Very efficient stove
  • Easy to light and use
  • Fun to use
  • Boils water fast

Cons

  • Quite weighty
  • Charge time quite long
  • Battery capacity not enough to recharge from zero to 100 percent a high-end modern smartphone like the iPhone 11 Pro Max of Samsung Galaxy S20, but for smaller smartphones this will offer a decent charge
  • Nylon storage bag prone to damage from sparks

Overall, I like the BioLite CampStove 2. It's not ideal for lightweight backpacking because of the weight, but for camp use it's a great little stove that burns fuel you'll find laying around in nature well, and has the added advantage of being able to keep your devices charged up. 

Priced at around $145 (shop around for a good deal), it's a decent enough kit.

Oh, and if you got this far, here's the obligatory fail video for your enjoyment!