Have you ever wondered how you would charge your batteries when the inevitable zombie apocalypse ascends upon us? The plugs in your wall no longer produce electricity, because the power grid is down and not coming back. Zombies are screeching outside your front door, and you need to call your friend Rick Grimes who has experience handling similar situations. Wait, you haven’t thought about this? Well, what about in the event of a massive nationwide blackout… Still no?
Alright, so those examples might be a bit extreme, but surely an outdoor enthusiast like yourself has traversed the backcountry and desperately needed a charge. In some situations, it could literally represent the difference between life and death. Worry not! Our friends at BioLite have your back!
This is a hands-on review of the BioLite CampStove 2.
INTRODUCING THE BIOLITE CAMPSTOVE 2
Look… We love an honest review of products, and this will be, Promise! But we’d be remiss to say we didn’t already love the BioLite Company going into this review. A quick Google search will uncover what this company set out to do; BioLite aims to address the energy needs of the developing world, and provide a means to provide energy to those far from anything considered to be a “power grid”.
Those of us fortunate enough to have three-pronged holes in our wall almost certainly take our endless supply of power for granted, but there is a significant portion of the world where that’s nto the case.
To piggy back on their mission, BioLite has managed to create a product for us outdoor enthusiasts, that turns a simple wood-burning fire into a means of energy – not only cook your food, but also to charge your gadgets on the fly. Seriously! They figured a way to convert a simple cooking fire into a much needed source on electricity.
We’re here to talk about something that goes far beyond the outdoor enthusiast, a review of potentially world-changing technology. Frankly, we’re giddy with excitement about the CampStove 2, and couldn’t be happier about this product. The BioLite CampStove 2 is truly, a revolution in energy tech.
WHAT MAKES THE BIOLITE CAMPSTOVE 2 SO AWESOME?
So… it’s a camp stove, right? Well…yeah, and a darn good one at that! But while you’re cooking away at those freeze-dried noodles that we backpackers have all grown to know and love, this magical device is utilizing its onboard heat sink to charge its own battery pack!
To be honest, we expected a little twig fire to place your pot over, but no. The CampStove 2 has its own onboard fan to stoke the flames, essentially turning itself into a Mini Blast furnace. The multi speed onboard fan produces quite the blaze. While I haven’t attempted to melt down the some jewelry in it yet, I’m convinced it has the potential. We’re talking hot enough to boil one liter of water in roughly 4 minutes, which would be impressive for even a gas powered camp stove.
I’m not a rocket scientist, but in my opinion this thing looks like a mini lunar module ready to conquer the moon. The BioLite team has remained silent on such plans, but I maintain my suspicions. We opted for the packaged bundle which consists of the unit itself, an extremely useful Kettle, and a totally awesome portable grill attachment (more on all that later). The packaging itself was simple and straightforward, as you’d expect from an environmentally-conscious company.
Honestly, it’s really nice to see minimal excess trash in the packaging, as I’m positive that the CampStove 2 is never going back into the package it arrived in.
I wasted no time in pulling it out and promptly scrounging up twigs from the yard to get her rippin as a test run, before I took it out as my sole means of cooking on a 35 mile backpacking trip through the Alleghenies.
Some may call me crazy to go on a deepwoods backpacking trip with a brand new gadget as my only means of cooking, but I never claimed not to be a fool. I could hear my trusty MSR Dragonfly screaming at me from the gear bin as I left, but this was all or nothing. We were off.
Let’s take a moment clear the air. This is NOT an ultra light stove. Weighing in at right around 3.5 pounds, it approaches what some might call cumbersome (in the pack), but allow me to ease your concerns. There is absolutely zero need for fuel or bottles, which certainly chips away at the pocket rocket stove’s touted minimal size and weight. Additionally, there are no constraints on the amount of time you can use it without refueling.
I like to imagine myself roughing it for months on end in the Alaskan wild; it’s a great mind-escape. Just me, a hunting rifle, the perfect dog, and the CampStove 2 as my trusty cooking steed. I quickly returned to reality, remembering that I live in Ohio… and work in an office. However, for hunters and “off-gridders” alike, the CampStove 2 (or one of their larger models) is pretty much a no-brainer as an essential piece of gear.
The 6-cup kettle that accompanied the unit is also larger, but makes for a perfect carrying case and is large enough to whip up dinner for 2 or more. I hope someone got a pat on the back for thinking of this, because I came to realize that the kettle attachment is essential. It’s made of sturdy stainless and comes with nice silicon sealed lid, pouring spout, and for a couple extra shekels even a coffee press. When I say the kettle is essential, I can’t stress that enough.
It has to be said that this little guy does take some finesse and devoted attention. It’s not simply a “fire and forget” piece of equipment. One has to be sure there’s an adequate source of fuel nearby. You also have to stay diligent in adding to it regularly, otherwise it will burn itself out. The worst case scenario results when you have to start it over again (which can drain the battery and you lose a big chunk of the energy you have worked so hard to create). Pro-tip: this happened to me a couple of times, but I was able to use embers from the campfire to get it back up and running in no time!
Additionally, running the CampStove 2 simply for the purpose of charging your USB devices can certainly be achieved, done, but you really should have some type of cooking utensil on top to maximize heat retention (to the heat sink). During my test, myy friend’s phone was running on empty so I put plugged that baby in and threw the kettle on with some water to seal in the heat. We were able to charge the phone to about 30% in about 30 minutes, which isn’t bad at all! It makes the difference between having some battery left to spare, vs. a completely dead device.
I have to be honest; I had to leave the nifty grill attachment included as part of the bundle behind in the car, as a last minute effort to cut weight. It’s simply too bulky to have in the pack, but I have fired it up for some good old back yard grilling. Let me say, it’s kind of incredible! For “glamping” it’s absolutely perfect. The heat distribution is great, and the lid that allows for fuel to be added mid-cook which is amazing! Just be weary of overly greasy food, as flare-ups can definitely be a thing.
In the end, the risk I took of depending on the CampStove 2 as my only source of food paid off admirably. The stove has performed flawlessly, and also provided some much needed power to my devices.
Once I overcame the slight learning curve, I achieved a level of rhythm with this piece of gear that felt perfect. Of course, I also get the warm and fuzzies knowing it runs entirely on natural fuel.
THE SPEC SHEET
Here’s everything you need to know about the BioLite CampStove 2:
- Internal fan
This helps with air circulation, obviously
- LED power and fan indicator lights
Bad-ass lights make anything look better – these ones actually serve a function
- 50% improved power output
Compared against from previous models; the CampStove 2 puts out a total of 3 watts of generated electricity at peak performance
- Tons of accessories!
Part of what makes the CampStove 2 so incredibly is the versatility – when combined with the right accessories, it can handle a ton of different tasks.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
The unit itself as actually surprisingly affordable at just $129.99 however the CampStove 2 bundle we opted for retails at $199.99 which shaves off about $40 from buying all of the accessories on their own. On top of all of this at a really affordable price a portion of every purchase goes towards the companies larger humanitarian efforts around the world which I highly recommend reading up on here.
SO, SHOULD YOU BUY ONE?
Die-hard ultra light packers hell bent on counting grams need not apply. It’s a bit large for backpacking in general, but I didn’t find it to be overly burdensome on my outings. If you’re less concerned about weight, say for hunting, kayaking, or hardcore “glamping”, then add one to your gear kit without hesitation.
The ability to cut some dependency on fuel sources makes it great for extended periods off-grid, and having the ability to charge up all of your accessories is an absolute game-changer. Not to mention it could actually save your life under the right circumstances.
FEATURES WE’D LIKE TO SEE IN THE NEXT BIOLITE CAMPSTOVE
From all of the reviews I’ve read, the primary complaint is a result of unrealistic expectations and user error. Sure, more energy output and longer burn times would be great, but what this product has already achieved is impressive enough. I honestly was so impressed by the CampStove 2 that I could hardly think of ways to improve this unit, but I know BioLite has people much smarter than I working on that as we speak.
I absolutely love this thing. BioLite’s mission is an incredibly noble one, and the fact that us outdoor junkies can reap the benefits is an added bonus. Will it replace my trusty MSR all together? Probably not. Has it gained its place on my gear rack as a mission dependent option? Absolutely!
The CampStove 2 will become my go-to stove for shorter hauls, kayak trips and other activities where weight and size aren’t an issue. Do yourself a favor and pick one up. The CampStove 2 is available both on Amazon and directly from BioLite’s website. You won’t regret it!