An eco-friendly and portable wood burning stove that powers your devices while you cook
Tired of throwing away empty gas canisters after every camping trip? It might be time to try cooking on a wood burning stove! The innovative and highly practical BioLite CampStove 2 isn’t just a great option for minimising waste, it’s also got some very cool little additions. Power your devices, control the cooking temperature with a built-in fan, and even hook up a light for post-sunset cooking. Why would you ever want to consider a gas stove again? But is it all that fancy technology all it’s cracked up to be? Read on to find out.
BioLite CampStove 2: The stats
|Best use:||Camping and backpacking in dry conditions|
|Weight:||935g / 2.06 lbs|
|Pack stove size:||13 x 13 x 20cm / 5 x 5 x 7.91in|
|Fuel used:||Sticks, twigs, pine cones, wood pellets and other biomass|
Features of the BioLite CampStove 2
Burn chamberAir is circulated into the double-walled, stainless steel burn chamber through holes in the internal wall. This air is generated by the fan that is built into the power module. The outside of the burn chamber features a honeycomb mesh that acts as a protective barrier from the inner chamber. For cooking, the scalloped pot stand can be used with both BioLite accessories and regular camping pots and pans.
The Power Module features a micro USB port for pre-charging the battery at home and a USB port for charging your devices at camp. There is also an internal fan that generates airflow to the fire, and a rechargeable 2600 mAh battery. The power module fits inside the burn chamber when packed down.
The new and improved LED dashboard has three indicator lights. The left hand red lights show the fire strength, the right hand green lights show the power output, and the middle blue lights show four levels of fan speed which you can use to control the flames.
When packed down, the lightweight, aluminum legs sit snuggly underneath the main stove. They fold out on a stiff hinge to provide a very stable, wide base for the stove that keeps it around 4cm off the ground.
The CampStove 2 comes with a bendy light. It can be connected to the power module via a USB connector to provide light to your cooking area after dark. Touch the light to turn it on. And hold your finger on the top of the light to dim it.
BioLite CampStove 2 review
I resisted trying one of these things for a while. Maybe I’m a little old-fashioned, but surely there’s just no need for all this excess technology when you’re out in the middle of nowhere? But actually, that’s a totally illogical argument. We’ve got the technology, so why not use it? And if it means we can stay more connected in emergency situations and have a little bit of luxury at the same time, then it can only be a good thing.
My first experience using the CampStove 2 was a dream. It was WAY easier to use than I expected. Was it smokeless? Not totally, but not far off. The wood was bone dry but it took a little while to figure out how much the fan needed to be cranking… a lot, it turns out. I pan fried salmon steaks, sauteed courgettes and peppers, and boiled water for couscous. Gourmet camp cooking is one of the joys of paddle board camping compared with backpacking; no need to scrimp on weight and space!
Buoyed by my initial success, I awoke early, eager to get some coffee on the brew before my fellow campers rose. 40 minutes later I had managed to almost boil some water. Sigh. Meanwhile, my camping companions smuggly sipped on their second coffee of the morning, a la gas canister stove. I pushed on, spluttering through the smoke, taking the kettle off the stove top every couple of minutes to re-fuel, and finally dished up french toast and coffee. I was hungry and grumpy and wanted to sling this thing in the river next to where we were camping.
The fan seemed to have a mind of its own, turning back on every time I turned it off. I guess that’s user error and lack of experience. But more frustrating than that was the stove’s seeming inability to deal with damp wood. Although there had been no rain, the overnight dew, that had settled on the little stack of wood I’d collected the night before, was enough to put a major spanner in my wood burning works.
I was blown away at how well this innovative little stove hummed with efficiency on its first use. And although I desperately wanted to love it, there was no way I was willing to risk it out wild camping again.
But stuff doesn’t win awards for nothing. So what was I missing? The stove’s updated thermoelectrics create even more electricity from fire than previous versions. And as a result, the USB charge out provides 50% more power. Plus, it’s a really popular bit of kit that seems to be loved by many.
After that first trip I spent a good while only using it in my back garden for fear that using it in the wild would totally destroy my love for camp cooking altogether. I wanted to be much more sure that I could use it to its full potential before taking it out again. And so far, the results have been much, much better.
It’s really easy to set up. Simply place the power pack heat rod through the hole into the main chamber, fold out the legs and you’re good to go. The fan has 4 settings which are easily adjusted. However, as mentioned, once the fan is on and there is heat in the stove, you can’t turn the fan off. It continues until all the fuel has burnt out.
Once it’s going, it’s great. You can adjust the intensity of the burn by increasing or decreasing the power of the fan making temperature control actually possible. Incredible for a wood burning stove. Though Biolite claims that you can boil 1 litre of water in 4.5 minutes, I’ve yet to do it in under 6 minutes. And it took 22 minutes to cook quinoa. If you want to cook on a low heat then burn your sticks down to embers and crank up the fan.
The stability of the stove is a big positive. The heavy battery and wide base means that even tall pots that are full of water feel very secure. That said, wider based pots are better due to design and size of the pot stand.
It’s worth noting that there’s no ash tray at the bottom of the burn chamber. This is fine for quick cook meals. But if you like to take your time over cooking, or you’re making something that just takes a while to cook, this can become a little problematic as there’s nowhere for ash to go and it starts to build up in the burn chamber.
The CampStove 2 is surprisingly packable for what it offers. It certainly can’t compete with other lightweight wood burning stoves out there, like the Solo Stove Lite, in terms of space and weight. However, it offers much more than just a stove, and if having a power source is an essential feature then it’s probably worth the extra weight and size.
When used in optimal conditions (dry, where wood is plentiful), the stove, in itself, is highly versatile. It offers power, light, heat, ambiance and cooking facilities. However, it’s a risky one to take into the wilderness if you’re not guaranteed optimal conditions. Yes, you can carry some backup biofuel, but that will only go so far without significantly adding weight to your pack. Other wood burning stoves are compatible with a small alcohol burner as back up.
What I love the most about the BioLite CampStove 2
One of my favourite things about wood burning stoves when backpacking and wild camping is the added bonus of a post-dinner fire for both heat and ambiance. Too many evenings are cut short due to the dropping temperature. But the times when wood is plentiful, it’s a joy to sit outside long after sunset. Plus, the power charging capabilities mean that the extra wood burning isn’t going to waste. A big win.
What I don’t love so much about the BioLite CampStove 2
Though there’s a lot to love about this highly innovative and portable wood burning stove, there are also a few things that I don’t love. First up, it’s heavy. Yes, you get a battery charger to go with it, but there are much more lightweight wood stoves out there. For canoe camping, however, it’s ideal as it’s relatively small and the weight doesn’t really matter.
It also takes a lot of getting to grips with, or at least it did for me! And it doesn’t like damp wood, at all.
Finally, I don’t like that you have to remove your pot or pan from the stove every time you want to add fuel.
If you predominantly hike, canoe and camp in areas where wood to burn is plentiful and always dry then the BioLite CampStove 2 is an absolute beauty of a wood burning stove. Yes, it takes some getting used to and no, it doesn’t deal well with damp wood. However, its ability to generate power, heat and light in one small (though not especially lightweight) package, makes this portable wood burning stove an excellently innovative, eco-friendly and practical option.
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Disclaimer: Cool of the Wild received this product free in return for an honest review. We only recommend gear that we love from companies we trust and we are under no obligation to give a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are that of the reviewer and we are in no way influenced by the brand or company.