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Two weeks ago, I went on a (3) day, 20 mile solo hike. On this hike, I took along my Bio-Lite stove as my sole cooking method and also to charge my iPhone 5. This is my review. I have owned my Bio-Lite since late 2012. I have used it some during that time, but never exclusively and for this length of time. I also used a Vargo Titanium pot to cook in.

* Weight - Let me just start out and repeat what every lightweight hiker has commented on since the device has been released. Its heavy. At least its heavy for lightweight hikers. I was OK with it. But if you can't, you should probably stop reading here.

IMHO, the weight comes from (2) areas. The battery and the steel stove area. My thought here are, could the internal battery be replaced with maybe a lighter lithium battery? And the steel stove area where the fire burns. This could probably be replaced with Titanium. I payed USD $129.00 for my Bio-Lite. I probably would have paid another $50.00 for a titanium unit.

* Voracious appetite - between the active fans and the (relatively) small fuel holder size, the Bio-Lite goes through fuel like no ones business. I was constantly feeding it. You could maybe walk away for 5 minutes, but really no more. Not that I would expect that someone would be cooking over this for hours on end, but maybe you would be for charging electronic devices. Make sure you have plenty of fuel broken up into an appropriate size if you need to use the Bio-Lite for an hour plus.

* Extremely hot fire - I will be making a number of "master of the obvious" statements in this write up, and this is one of them. With the fan blowing full steam, the Bio-Lite stove makes for an extremely hot fire. You will need to keep this in mind not only for cooking your food, but also balancing out paying attention to the Bio-Lite's appetite for fuel, as mentioned above.

* Very bright fire - This comment comes from being in the very dark woods at night with the Bio-Lite going at it. Again, this is another "obvious" statement if you put the fact that you have a small contained fire being feed oxygen with fans blowing away. The Bio-Lite really light up the dark night. No, it's not as bright or focused as your LED powered Mag-Light. But it is significantly brighter than any other stove I have used previously. And this could be good or bad. If you need light in your campsite, obviously this is a plus. If you need to practice light discipline, don't use this after dusk. Dig a Dakota fire pit or eat cold food from a can.

* USB device charging - on again off again - Previously, it appeared to me that once the fire was going full force with the fans on high, the device was always charging any USB device that was plugged into the outlet. This was an incorrect assumption on my part. I needed to charge my iPhone up one evening from about a 30% charge. What I observed that it would cycle its charging. What I mean by this is that the Bio-Lite would charge my iPhone for a while, then not charge it for an equal amount of time. My assumption (and it is just that), is that the Bio-Lite was spending its time that it wasn't charging my iPhone that it was keeping its own battery (the one that drives the fan(s) and LED lights) charged. That said, it took about 3 hours to get my iPhone back to a full charge.

Final thoughts - as a stove, it surpassed my expectations. The Bio-Lite creates such a hot fire that I needed to pay more attention to food cooking than I normally would to ensure I didn't burn anything. As an electronic device charger, I would give it a mid level rating. What do I mean by that? Charging took longer than I thought/hoped it would, and this was effected by the cycling of charging my iPhone vs. the Bio-Lite battery, then compounded by the high fuel appetite of the Bio-Lite. With that negative out of the way, I am not sure I currently see a better alternative currently.

What I mean by alternatives are:

::electrical outlet
::generator
::solar panels

Electrical outlet - this is an option if you are car camping. I don't typically see outlets on trees where I hike.

::generator - again, this is pretty much limited to car camping. But if you know different, please set me straight.

:: solar panel(s) - this is probably the most frequently mentioned alternative I see, but again, this really only makes sense if you are car camping. When I am hiking, I am almost always in the forest and under trees with no real direct sunlight. I will typically find/establish a campsite about an hour before sunset, and an hour really doesn't provide any time to get much value out of a solar panel. YMMV

In summary, Bio-Lite. Great stove, OK electronic device charger. All rolled into one. Could be better, but if it has any direct competition, I sure don't know what it is.

Hope you enjoyed this.

Your thoughts and comments appreciated.
 

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http://www.biolitestove.com/campstove/camp-overview/features/

Interesting - this was the first time I've seen this device. So in order to charge for 3 hours you need to be burning a fire for 3 hours? That doesn't seem very convenient. Seems you'd be better off taking your chances with a solar panel on your pack while you hike. Still, charging with heat is a pretty cool notion.

Thanks for the review!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Interesting - this was the first time I've seen this device. So in order to charge for 3 hours you need to be burning a fire for 3 hours?
That is correct. Power is generated from the heat from the fire.

That doesn't seem very convenient.
For car camping, there are other alternatives. Hiking, not so much.

Seems you'd be better off taking your chances with a solar panel on your pack while you hike. Still, charging with heat is a pretty cool notion.
I did comment on solar panels in my write up, but to reiterate, for hiking for me, solar panels are pretty much worthless. And I suspect that they are for most hikers, unless you are hiking at night and sleep/set up a base camp during the day so electronic devices can charge..

I typically hike in/through the woods where there is typically no direct sun light.

Are you doing something different when hiking?

Thanks for the review!
No problem.

I am hoping to get some discussion regarding the Bio-Lite.

There are a few scattered comments throughout the site on the Bio-Lite stove, but at least the ones I have seen have solely focused on the weight alone and really have not dove into other issues. I have stated the weight issue up front, and I am interested in discussion on other issues.

Again, thanks for your reply.
 

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This was a good review, thanks for posting it. My main curiosity as I think most others was is how well it worked as a charger. Sounds like it works, but may not be the best for all situations. FWIW: I usually take my Goal Zero solar charger (Nomad 7) strapped to my backpack on some longer multi-day outings with a small external battery that charges throughout the day as I hike. Even if I am mostly hiking in shaded areas, I am usually in camp an hour or so before the sun goes down and can always find a place in the sun to lay it out. Being that it charges roughly as fast as a wall charger in decent sunlight, it does a pretty good job of keeping the phone charged. Kept my phone and camera charged on an 18 day hike last summer. But just like the Biolite, it has its limitations and does not work well in all situations.

Back to the Biolite, you mentioned that the fire burns very hot. Can you adjust the fuel load or somehow bring the flame low enough to simmer?
 

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This is a helpful review. I was initially very interested in this stove, but I the wood-burning pack stove is the salient detail for me. Not so much the charger. This stove is a neat device, but I just can't see carrying the weight. I do carry a phone when backpacking, but I keep it off except for a quick call home in the evenings when there's reception. The battery usually makes it the distance on a several-day hike.

As I get older, I'm looking for every way I can to eliminate weight from my pack. The Bio-Lite seems like several steps in the wrong direction. It seems to have a place in the outdoor world, just not with me.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Back to the Biolite, you mentioned that the fire burns very hot. Can you adjust the fuel load or somehow bring the flame low enough to simmer?
Maybe someone smarter than me could.

I think the item I would reiterate to you is that once the fire gets going and the fan(s) jump to full speed, the Bio-Lite has a voracious appetite for fuel. I think that running it low on fuel/wood, you would be more at risk of loosing your fire than the possibility of lowering the heat.

For my cooking, simmering my food meant holding my cooking pot up higher up and away from the fire. I honestly wasn't kidding in my original post. The Bio-Lite makes for a very hot fire.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
As I get older, I'm looking for every way I can to eliminate weight from my pack. The Bio-Lite seems like several steps in the wrong direction. It seems to have a place in the outdoor world, just not with me.
I don't disagree with you comment, but at the same point, that is exactly why I made the weight disclaimer up at the front.

There are numerous comments on the Bio-Lite spread through out this forum, and the vast majority of the ones I have encountered are from lightweight hikers complaining about the weight.

I haven't seen any full reviews on this site, and I really haven't seen many comments on the device outside the weight issue.

I did this post, not only as a review, but to hopefully solicit comments above and beyond the weight issue.

That said, the Bio-Lite is a relatively new product on the market, and its always possible that the manufacturer could release a version 2.0 product that would address weight issues, or a competitor could step up to the plate with a more lightweight product.
 

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As I get older, I'm looking for every way I can to eliminate weight from my pack. The Bio-Lite seems like several steps in the wrong direction. It seems to have a place in the outdoor world, just not with me.
Valid point if you're only going out for a short time, however the weight of several days worth of liquid or gas fuel for your WhisperLite or comparable lightweight stove can easily amount to the overall weight of the BioLite - providing you have access to burnable bio fuel around you. I've had one since they came out, and I'll use it for extended outdoor living without the availability of fuel refills. I do need to keep my tech charged, so I carry a Nomad 7 as well.
 

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That said, the Bio-Lite is a relatively new product on the market, and its always possible that the manufacturer could release a version 2.0 product that would address weight issues, or a competitor could step up to the plate with a more lightweight product.
I think your comments about changing the battery to lithium ion and replacing the steel with titanium are right on.

I'm wondering if they can get away from the fan entirely and still get the fire to burn hot enough to charge batteries. The stove really only takes 1.5 hours to charge your phone, but the 50/50 device to stove battery charging ratio stretches that to a full 3 hours. And if you can't leave the stove unattended for more than 5 minutes at a stretch...that's a lot of time and effort.

Wondering if a hand-crank dynamo type charger would at least save some time.
 

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Valid point if you're only going out for a short time, however the weight of several days worth of liquid or gas fuel for your WhisperLite or comparable lightweight stove can easily amount to the overall weight of the BioLite - providing you have access to burnable bio fuel around you. I've had one since they came out, and I'll use it for extended outdoor living without the availability of fuel refills. I do need to keep my tech charged, so I carry a Nomad 7 as well.
Agreed. I'm thinking for a trip longer than 3 days this becomes a more attractive option. And/or if I get a GPS.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I think your comments about changing the battery to lithium ion and replacing the steel with titanium are right on.
I stand corrected on the battery. From the FAQ here:

http://www.biolitestove.com/faq/faqs/

When used regularly, the fire will charge the lithium ion battery for thousands of cycles of use.


I'm wondering if they can get away from the fan entirely and still get the fire to burn hot enough to charge batteries.
Quote from this web page.

http://www.biolitestove.com/faq/faqs/

Charging times vary by device, as well as by the strength of the fire and other variables like outside temperature.

From my understanding of the FAQ comments, the hotter the fire, the more electricity for charging is available. Its a good thing.

The stove really only takes 1.5 hours to charge your phone, but the 50/50 device to stove battery charging ratio stretches that to a full 3 hours. And if you can't leave the stove unattended for more than 5 minutes at a stretch...that's a lot of time and effort.
like many thing when out camping, we spend a lot of time and effort to meet task that are almost effortless with modern conveniences at home.


Wondering if a hand-crank dynamo type charger would at least save some time.
how much would that weigh? And would a hand-crank dynamo cook my meals? And light my camp site?
 

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@ratsg ... Thanks for starting this thread. I have been very interested in the Bio-Lite stove since its beginnings. I have been watching it progress, but have not picked one up yet. I appreciate the in depth review on this stove with more then just a "ultra light backpacker" standpoint. I am not one that is too concerned about weight, if I think the item is useful. So thanks for the other viewpoints and info! :thumb:

-FireResQ
 

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Easiest way to get the heat down on the fire is to turn the fan to the low setting and not put as much fuel in. It takes some experimenting but you can get an extremely hot base of coal and no other fuel with the fan on low speed, it will simmer halfway decently, when you want to crank it back up just add some sticks and soon as they catch switch the fan to high speed
 

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This is a helpful review. I was initially very interested in this stove, but I the wood-burning pack stove is the salient detail for me. Not so much the charger. This stove is a neat device, but I just can't see carrying the weight. I do carry a phone when backpacking, but I keep it off except for a quick call home in the evenings when there's reception. The battery usually makes it the distance on a several-day hike.

As I get older, I'm looking for every way I can to eliminate weight from my pack. The Bio-Lite seems like several steps in the wrong direction. It seems to have a place in the outdoor world, just not with me.
I own it. And agree completely. It's a brick. And goes against everything your trying to do when hiking - loose weight. If you need a wood gas stove use a can stove. Weighs next to nothing and burns great. And doesn't need to be attended every five minutes.

If you need to charge things get a solar charger. Electronic items should not need to be charged daily if used correctly - sparingly. And you can always set up camp a few hours early every second or third day to set up your solar charger in a perfect spot.

The biolite seems like a neat art school project that made it into production. They even volunteered the use of a bunch of them on the streets of New York during a black out recently. It's "neat" for that. But seriously packing this thing around is ridiculous. There are much better items to carry for the weight.
 

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Great write up- thanks I believe I will buy one and bear in mind the limitations- at 2.5 lbs with the pot its still the only thing going that can say- recharge a handbeld GPS unit in the evening.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Great write up- thanks I believe I will buy one and bear in mind the limitations- at 2.5 lbs with the pot its still the only thing going that can say- recharge a handbeld GPS unit in the evening.
Hello warbirds,

Thanks for your comments.

Somewhere down the road, I think that BioLite, and/or a competitor can and will do better. Right now, I don't see a lot of competition.
 
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