More often than not I head to the mountains to get away from modern day life, technology and gadgets but yet there are a number of times when technology and the great outdoors are perfectly in tune.
After a long hike in the mountains there is nothing like getting off the hills to some hot food. Over the last few weeks we have been putting the Biolite burner to the test. We have carried it up and down mountains and fine tuned the ignition process.
The Biolite is every gadget lovers dream as the Biolite CampStove uses the excess heat generated while cooking to offer a powered USB port that can charge a mobile device or power a light.
The camp stove houses a thermoelectric generator inside the orange Power Pack. The heat generated by the fire is converted into electricity that automatically recharges a small lithium ion starter battery, and the access energy will power a USB device.
The Biolite Camp stove is a really simple system to use and burns biomass that you find along your walk, a small handful of twigs goes a surprising long way. 45g of biomass will boil one litre of water in about 4 to 5 minutes. It moves away from charcoal fuels to a much more environmentally friendly way to cook, and despite a small amount of start-up smoke, when up and running the system is completely smokeless.
The Biolite KettlePot
Although you can put your current cookware on the Biolite stove there is a dedicated Biolite kettle that fits perfectly on the burner. Better still, the burner fits inside the kettle for easy travel. We were able to successfully light the burner and boil water in the kettle in pretty wet and windy weather conditions up a mountain. We had gathered sticks a few days earlier which were not drier which was a massive advantage to the lighting process.
The system acts as its own little wind shelter and it is possible to add fuel through the vents at the bottom of the Kettlepot so it all works rather well and rather efficiently.
The Biolite Grill
The grill attachment is also a wonder of design, it is light and easy to attach to the campstove. The grill comes with a cover (that doubles up as a tray and preparation surface) and it also means you can pack the grill in your bag for cleaning at home.
Cooking wise it is remarkably easy to control the process, food further from the flame cooks slower and you can regulate cooking by opening and closing the fuel lid. The grill is easy to clean as it appears fat from food burns off quickly in the flame area.
Cooking on the Biolite grill is an enjoyable, easy experience from set up through to cooking the food. It is also a remarkable clean experience given we are cooking over what is essential a wood fire. The efficiency of the burner means there is very little ash to dispose of after use.
Over the last few weeks we have been using the Biolite stove on a number of trips and have been taking advantage of the extra energy from the fire to charge a number of different devices. We obviously tested topping up our mobile devices but we also discovered the Biolite Stove was powerfu enough to also top up the charge on our USB chargeable Fujifilm X100T camera.
There are a few points to note, the burning wood can spark, we opted to use a longer USB cable to charge the camera to avoid it being too near the heat. Secondly the Biolite Stove is a charging solution that should really be considered as a way of putting the excess energy in the burner to good use. It isn’t going to charge a device at the same rate as a mains power outlet, that said we were impressed at rate of charge but it would take quite a while to go from zero charge to 100%. The photos show us using some slate to protect the work surface, this probably isn’t essential as there is very little heat projected down under the Biolite Stove.
During a walk in the forest we filled a bag with twigs and pinecones we arrived back to have lunch we fuelled the burner and attached the grill. Having cooked bacon, sausages, boiled two litres of water and roasted marshmallows we let the stove burn out. It is surprising how little ash is left in the burner and how quickly it is ready to cook on but also how quickly it cools ready for packing away.
I did wonder if the traditional ‘buyer’s regret’ I have experienced with other gadgets would kick in but this is a technology that actually does what it claims. The Biolite is a quick, clean and convenient way to cook with the benefit of fuel being easily accessible, even if you are heading out to a location with little foliage packing a small amount of twigs will offer a fair level of cooking. It is a clean and efficient way to cook, although the system is perhaps a little heavy for a long, multi-day trip it has been perfect for cooking on day walks.
Some have commented on the cost of the Biolite, yes there are less expensive camp stoves on the market but the Biolite offers an environmentally friendly, non fossil fuel system that also has the ability to power and charge, for me the benefits are particularly attractive. Start with the Biolite stove and you can build up the accessories over time although the big advantage of the Biolite kettle pot is the fact it also doubles up as storage for the Biolite Stove.
The Biolite Stove and Kettlepot will be a trusted companion on future hikes and the next stage is to research some Biolite specific recipes for evening cooking after a day in the hills.