I got the Biolite camp stove as a birthday present from a good friend. As a family of 5 (mom, dad, three kids: 14, 12 and 9 years old) we usually camp with aself-equipped 4×4 and thus never had to worry about weight. This year however,as a kind of experiment to explore places further away, we traveled by plane to some Greek islands and had to figure out how to put all our camping gear in 5 backpacks. The ideal occasion to test the Biolite camp stove.
In general: I’m 100% pro! The Biolite camp stove is a real genius. It’s handy, it is mega efficient and most of all: it allows you to practise the noble, intriguing and addictive art of making fire. And that’s immediately the biggest issue of the device: you have to make fire!
Let’s get to the details:
The device itself wheighs 935 gr which makes it three times heavier than an MSR whisperLite or a gas stove (without fuel!). But yet and to my opinion the weight is acceptable. It wasn’t the heaviest piece of equipment in my backpack.
And as a fair compensation you don’t have to carry nor worry about the fuel. Especially when you travel to exotic or desolate places, you avoid the permanent stress of looking for / buying spare gas canisters. To me that was a relief: not all places have the brand Campinggaz, if they have gas canisters at all, if there are shops at all!
The orange powerpack is designed to fit perfectly in the combustion unit and logistically that’s a really handy feature. The heat probe, yet a crucial element, inevitably sticks out though. As it seemed vulnerable to me I thought it might need some extra protection. Next to that it’s always filthy with greasy soot. Therefor I cut some kind of From an old sponge I cut some kind of sleeve to protect the unit from breaking and the other gear from the black and greasy soot.
The biolite stove has a smart designed foldable tripod: once unfolded it fixes the ventilator unit and functions as a very stable stand. The Unfolding happens quickly and easy and the tripod ensures a stable position. Even when I placed a heavy cooking pot filled with 2 liters of water I never had stability issues.
Now let’s talk about the actual purpose of the biolite stove: making fire!
Commissioning and fuelling
I always use firelighter blocks (and thus swallowed my boyscout pride). They are light, easy to ignite and perfect to foster the first flames.
Lighting it is easy, the hardest part is getting it the to the bottom of the stove without extinguishing it. Once you managed to do this, further building the fire iseasy, just add tinder material: pine needles, dry grass, the finest twigs, … Switch on the ventilator in the low-position and you gradually add bigger material. It is very handy if you have a little pile of short pieces of wood ready next to you.
Once you got the thing burning be sure to it well, as you have to fuel it more or less constantly. The burning process goes incredibely fast, which means that it also tamps out rather quickly. Monitoring it never bothered me, I love to make fire and you have stay close to your pots to stir, add ingredients or watch the boiling process anyway.
Add the wood at a constant but steady pace. Don’t wait too long asyou quickly loose heating power. Don’t stuff it at the other hand as the burning process gets quickly suffocated, which results immediately in heavy smoke.
When you steadily control the burning you achieve an impressive whirling fire jet that gets your thing cooking really quickly.