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BioLite Turns Stoves into Generators and Powers Group Gadgets

BioLite, which makes camp stoves that charge your electronics, has two new power products for 2014: a stove that powers group gadgets, and a packable generator that works with any camp stove.

BaseCamp Stove


BioLite's BaseCamp stove grills, boils, and generates.

Got a fresh catch to grill? A family-load of headlamps and devices to charge? The BaseCamp stove is made to grill or boil meals for an outdoors group, while charging electronic devices.

Like the original CampStove, the larger BaseCamp generates electricity while burning wood, thanks to a thermoelectric technology converter. You can grill some hot dogs and charge your gadgets, even a tablet, via a USB port.

The BaseCamp features a 13-inch cook top, a one-touch lever to switch between grilling and boiling, a side entry for wood, 5-watt output to power headlamps to tablets, a flexible USB task light for keeping an eye on dinner, the ability to store power for later use, and a flexible cooking height with foldable legs.

The BaseCamp is an evolution of BioLite's HomeStove, made specifically for developing countries. Versus open fires (used by half the planet), the HomeStove reduces smoke by 90 percent and uses half the wood, while providing off-grid electricity.

BaseCamp

  • Weight: 20 lbs
  • Dimensions: 3.25" wide x 17.5" deep x 23" high (with legs extended); 15" high (with legs folded) 
  • MSRP: $299
  • Available: Summer 2014

 

Packable Generator


Use any stove to power up with BoiLite's Packable Generator.

Don't have a BioLite stove? Already have your own favorite camp stove? The Packable Generator works with any stove to store energy for when you need it, including on the trail.

The Packable Generator provides 10 watts of on-demand power, stores power for when you need it, and has a compact foldable handle with a smart dashboard, which tells users if the generator is ready to charge their devices and beeps an alert if temperatures get too high.

To use, fill the body with water and place on top of a heat source, like a camping stove or stovetop. Within minutes, the on-demand generator transforms the heat into usable electricity that can be accessed from the handle's USB port.

Packable Generator

  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • Dimensions: 8" diameter, 3" tall
  • MSRP: $129.95
  • Available: Fall 2014

 

Erica Rosen showed us both the BioLite Packable Generator and the BaseCamp stove at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market this month.


Filed under: Outdoor Retailer, Gear News

Comments

Bill S
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January 31, 2014 at 3:49 p.m. (EST)

There are a couple problems with the Biolite and the similar thermoconversion power generators by other manufacturers. First is that they are emphasizing use of wood fires (note that the Biolite shown in the images and the one of 3rd world countries is a wood-burning stove). Those of us living in California are pretty tightly restricted in burning wood because of (a) pollution concerns and (b) very high fire danger (we have had only a few drops of rain in the whole state for almost a year now plus several devastating fires, many of which were set "accidentally" by careless campers - no end to the drought in sight, and a number of California communities are down to a 60-100 day water supply).

The second problem is that the power output is low enough that it takes hours to recharge even a smartphone. USB ports (which many of these stoves have) are limited to 5 watts, due to the nature of the electronic devices to which they are connected. Yes, I can charge my Nikon batteries in 2 hours and a bit longer for my smartphone. But that means you have to keep feeding the fire for 2+ hours.

The stoves from Biolite are good for the 3rd world countries, where they have no other source of power and can fairly quickly charge small lights or a small portable radio or phone.

I had long talks with Biolite and 2 other manufacturers at the OR Show (Powerpot is the other company that has been at several shows now, plus one new to the OR Show, who happens to be a group of grad students at Stanford, just up the street a bit from me). To their credit, they are working on improving the efficiency and ways to use generated power at a higher level than USB ports.

But thermoelectric generation has a ways to go, and the drought and fire danger remain.

Bill S
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January 31, 2014 at 8:26 p.m. (EST)

I forgot to mention that the Biolite stove was reviewed on Trailspace by the Gear Review Corps August 23 last year and Dec 7, 2012 (along with 7 other  reviews).

Joseph Renow (jrenow)
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February 1, 2014 at 12:29 p.m. (EST)

Bill...I was given a Bio-Lite stove by an enthusiastic friend a couple of years ago for my birthday...I wasn't crazy about it since the thing weighed what felt like a metric ton...but I brought it with me on a few kayaking and canoe trips as an impractical...but equally entertaining center-piece. After a few trips I put it away thinking I would never use it again.

Then...last winter I got the idea to use it with my Seek-Outside wood-stove! As it turned out...this was a match made in heaven (once I disconnected the fan-motor)! By drilling a small hole in one side of my wood-stove large enough to place the thermal-conductor part of the Bio-Lite into...I had a wood-stove that generates electricity...and since I burn this stove for long periods at a time (usually all day and well into the evening) to stay warm + cook + and dry clothing and other gear...the Bio-Lite thermal-generator easily produces enough power to recharge my power-pack (Guide 10) and all of my companions' devices...power to spare actually. Used with the wood-stove recharging not only becomes practical...the two things I disliked most about the design of the Bio-Lite were eliminated 1) the need to remove the cook-pot to introduce more fuel 2) the need to introduce more fuel every minute or so.

To be honest...now that I have an electric generating wood-stove...it is difficult to imagine hot-tenting without it given how practical it is...and the fact that during the long winter nights my power needs are substantially greater. Now I have ample power to provide light for reading by...or to watch movies on my phone...which is ridiculous I know...but I am hardly capable of sleeping more than 8 hours at a time and sitting in the dark is just strange.

Bill S
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February 1, 2014 at 2:05 p.m. (EST)

Joseph,

I am not saying that thermogeneration is not feasible or does not have its place. It has been around for almost 2 centuries, after all. Seebeck discovered the basic effect in 1821, with further research by Peltier in 1834 and the Thomson effect (the continuous version of the Seebeck-Peltier effect) being observed by Lord Kelvin in 1851. Mostly, the practical applications have been thermocouples, uses in thermostats (switches), and other low-current applications, along with radioisotope thermoelectric generators on spacecraft (which is where I got my introduction to them). They are used in some electric power plants to convert waste heat into electricity.

In your part of the world, you don't have a drought and are not living in a tinderbox as we here on the Left Coast are. We got told yesterday that we have to cut our water usage "voluntarily" by 10% (some parts of the state are getting shut off completely from the state water authority). So my first point was to note that in some areas (here in Calif, for one), we can't burn wood (even for Thanksgiving or Christmas celebration - it's a several hundred dollar fine plus possible jail time). The PowerPot (a competing thermoelectric power generation device for backpackers) can be used with any heat source, including backpacking stoves. It was shown at the ORShow as well.

Second point was to note that there have been 2 good, thorough reviews of the Biolite by Trailspace Gear Review Corps members, with the one by The Rambler in 2012 being a Killer Review. Dunno how those were overlooked.

Joseph Renow (jrenow)
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February 1, 2014 at 2:28 p.m. (EST)

I hear ya Bill...and I was an electrician before I became a sociologist of science and technology (interestingly I didn't fit into the Union mold reading Das Kapital)...so I am actually familiar with the history of the idea (though I'm glad to see that I'm not the only science and tech nerd).

I was simply stating that the BioLite can be a practical device when used in an unorthodox manner:-) Most of the reviews here (also elsewhere) are typically unaware of alternative uses and (correctly) judge it based on its intended use. I just wanted to add to that conversation.

trouthunter
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February 2, 2014 at 2:15 a.m. (EST)

Well, here in the southeast coastal plain we have more down wood than you can shake a stick at, literally. We do not have a fire ban, or a drought as the case is where Bill S. lives.

Still, thermo generation is not currently anywhere near as practical for me as solar generation is.

Although I am excited to see where these technologies go.

 

LoneStranger
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February 2, 2014 at 8:02 a.m. (EST)

The concept has always seemed like a great gimmick to sell units but not very practical.  I'd much prefer a small and efficient hand crank generator if I had power needs.  I'd rather rely on my power than fire or sun for generation but since I only turn on my phone once or twice a day to check for messages from my wife a charge lasts me most of a week.

sitting in the dark is just strange.

That cracked me up.  I love sitting up in the dark.

Joseph Renow (jrenow)
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February 2, 2014 at 2:55 p.m. (EST)

For canoeing and kayaking where sun-exposure is high for long durations I do use solar-generation...but it has turned out to be completely impractical where (also how) I go backpacking (tree cover is way too thick)...and if it were...I doubt it would be in the winter when the days are so much shorter.

I admit that using bio-fuel to generate electricity is mostly impractical...but for me it has more potential than the thermal-generators that use liquid fuels due to the fact that charging takes so long and requires so much fuel...I'd personally rather gather than carry the fuel for generating power. With that said...I can see how restrictions could make bio-fuels a non-option for a lot of folks out West...but honestly most gear and gear advice has what I would call a Western bias...so the fact that one piece of gear has an Eastern bias makes me chuckle a bit:-)

My discussion of the Bio-Lite was simply intended to demonstrate that when used with a wood-stove the Bio-Lite basically produces electricity for no more labor or trouble than is needed to run my wood-stove normally...the two ideas work really well together because the stove is normally used for long periods of times...and burning wood in the stove is much less labor intensive than the Bio-Lite because it requires more wood about every 30-45 minutes as opposed to every 30-60 seconds. With all that said...I rarely go hot-tenting more than once or twice a year...and very few folks do it at all...so overall the generation of power using bio-fuel is mostly impractical.

As far as sitting up in the dark...it is fine for an hour or so (I do like to get up before the sun comes up)...but since I can rarely sleep for more than eight hours a day the darkness can drive me a little crazy during the darkest parts of winter:-)

trouthunter
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February 2, 2014 at 4:05 p.m. (EST)

Joseph Renow said:

"My discussion of the Bio-Lite was simply intended to demonstrate that when used with a wood-stove the Bio-Lite basically produces electricity for no more labor or trouble than is needed to run my wood-stove normally...the two ideas work really well together"

Yes - I like your approach Joseph, I didn't mean to sound dismissive of your post.

Joseph Renow (jrenow)
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February 2, 2014 at 5:06 p.m. (EST)

I didn't think you were being dismissive Mike...I just wanted to be more clear about how in that particular instance thermal-generation makes a lot of sense...and if I sold wood-stoves for hot-tenting I would be looking into offering a thermal-generation option...they are actually very cheap and easy to make...and by using a heat-sink the amount of power produced is increased significantly for very little additional investment. For example: http://www.ebay.com/itm/POWER-GENERATION-TEG-MODULE-HIGH-TEMP-THERMOELECTRIC-PELTIER-40mm-NEW-USA-/171229943369?_trksid=p2054897.l4276 combined with this: http://www.ebay.com/itm/HS-02-40mm-x-40mm-x-10mm-Aluminum-Heatsink-Black-/330923076620. That's thermal-power for about $32.00...I think a manufacturer could easily sell this option for that price...though I admit as a person who typically dislikes gadgets and features I could have never imagined just how much I would enjoy thermal-generation with my wood-stove:-)

trouthunter
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February 2, 2014 at 7:06 p.m. (EST)

That teg module is pretty small huh?

I was thinking it would probably also work on one of these wood burning stoves made from ammo cans.

How about using a heat sink from a computer or ham radio? I have several of those.

Joseph Renow (jrenow)
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February 2, 2014 at 7:32 p.m. (EST)

If given a choice I would fabricate the teg module against the side of the stove instead of in the stove like the Bio-Lite...so if done my way any metal stove should work since metal conducts heat really well. I also imagine any appropriately sized heat-sink should work...I chose the one I did because it is the same size as the teg module. The heat sink might actually be unnecessary...but since the power generated is created by the temp difference between the two sides of the teg module a cheap 5.00 heat sink would be a very affordable way of increasing the watts produced. I think the most difficult part (which isn't difficult) would be matching the wattage produced by the thermal-generator with the recharging wattage your devices demand.

ohkaren
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February 6, 2014 at 3:33 a.m. (EST)

Joseph,

I am trying hard to visualise what you did to join your Biolite to your wood stove. Any chance you have a photo showing how it attaches? I see that the base camp stove is retailing for $299--a little rich for my blood. 

Also, I am trying to visualise the fabrication of a Teg module with the heat sink. Photos, please!

Alicia MacLeay (Alicia)
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February 6, 2014 at 7:16 a.m. (EST)

Yes, I want to hear and see more about this BioLite use and modification too, Joseph. 

Sounds worthy of a review to me...

Mark Jones
126 reviewer rep
3 forum posts
February 6, 2014 at 5:35 p.m. (EST)

I have used the Biolite extensively on the last 5 backpacks.  Camping over night in 8 inched of snow melting snow water and charging my gopro camera. 

While your sitting around the fire anyway..it's providing you heat, little to no smoke, charging your stuff and boiling everyones snow melt water supply. AAA.

I used the stove during a 2.6" rain in a cave.  Was able to go out and cut down my own fuel cut it into 5" lengths and then split it with a knife.  All the while lighting up the cave with a usb light and staying warm all the while...no smoke.

I have 8 alcohol stoves, 2 gas butane-propane stoves. While I must admidt..it takes more skill to cook on the biolite and it is a little more suiety... fuel savings pays for itself soon. 

I really enjoy the stove.  It's a win,win.  For the go light folks.  Give half to your hiking partner to carry. 

Joseph Renow (jrenow)
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February 6, 2014 at 8:48 p.m. (EST)

ohkaren and Alicia...I have the Bio-Lite here...but regrettably a friend is currently using my wood-stove up north (Chicago)...at the time I agreed to let him use it this fall I was thinking I might use it for a weekend or two at most down here (as I did last year)...turns out that was a terrible assumption on my part (I could have used it every weekend since November).

Even without the aid of pictures what I did was stupid simple...for storage reasons the Bio-Lite disassembles into the generating/battery/fan unit (the orange-part) and the stove proper (the silver part)...the "orange-part" nest inside the stove proper. All I did was drill a small hole large enough for the thermal-stem of the "orange-part" to be inserted into the side of the stove (the side allows greater temp control when used with the dampener). If you do not mind the noise of the fan (which will run continuously) that's all you need to do to generate power...but the fan has no purpose when used like this (and I don't use it the intended way)...so I voided the warranty and disconnected the fan motor. Also...I would just like to state upfront...that I make no claims that this is absolutely safe (there is a hole in the stove after all). I monitor the use of my stove closely when it is in use...and even closer when I am recharging...so I feel confident to share the idea with others...but I cannot say that there is no risk of fire if not monitored with the same care as I use (I don't like catching on fire at ALL)...so proceed at your own risk:-)

FYI...I have a meeting with my dissertation committee mid-March...so I can bring the stove back with me then and provide pictures for you then if you're still interested...that is...if I don't decide to take a winter camping trip up North before (I'm getting a little stir-crazy). To be honest though I do not think you will actually need photos to understand what I did...in fact I can only think of three pictures to take: 1) stove with hole in it 2) "orange part" of bio-lite 3) "orange part" inserted into hole.

As far as the teg module and the heat-sink idea I mentioned above...I used the words "would" and "if"...so it all remains theoretical at this point...though my electrical background and familiarity with computers (I build my own computers) suggest to me that the idea would work better and more cheaply than using the Bio-Lite stove "orange part"...since it would cost about 30.00 to build...and would simply be clamped against the side of the stove as opposed to inserted into it. Since I have not done it I do not know how I would do it exactly...but I am very confident that all the hardware to connect the teg module to the heat-sink and both of them to the side of the stove could be purchased for a small amount of funds at your average hardware or computer supply store (heat-sinks are typically a part of a CPU as a means for keeping it cool...and since the teg module I linked is the same size as many CPUs...I would venture to guess that a computer supply shop would have the best hardware for the project).

Still further...you do not need to use a "backpacking" wood-stove like that made by Seek-Outside or Titanium Goat (my choice of stove was based on weight...and if I had to do it all over I would go with a heavier stove since the lighter stoves are prone to buckling and I only base-camp with it). Mike mentioned the use of Ammo cans (available at nearly every Army Surplus store)...there are literally hundreds of folks on Youtube demonstrating the conversion of these cans into small wood-stoves...if you don't mind the weight they are superior to the backpacking stoves which are made of thin titanium sheets. Still further...if you are yourself handy with sheet-metal or have a friend in the heating and air trade you could construct a stove from sheet metal quite easily...so don't let cost keep you from a stove...for a few extra pounds you could have a much cheaper stove.

Alicia...I have so many reviews to do (as soon as I get a chance I would like to do one of the Klymit vest I got in August)...but during the school year my work-load is a lot greater than it is in the summer...so things are backed-up in the pipe-line a bit. With that said...I would like to do a review of the Seek-Outside stove sometime (there's been enough Bio-Lite reviews)...if I don't get to it before the end of winter I will try to have it in by next fall as people starting thinking ahead to winter.

Alicia MacLeay (Alicia)
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February 7, 2014 at 6:52 a.m. (EST)

Thanks, Joseph! That was helpful.

Good luck with all your work and with the dissertation! We'll be glad to read your reviews whenever you find the time.

ohkaren
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February 7, 2014 at 8:23 a.m. (EST)

Thanks, Joseph. Not being a real techie, I haven't seen the need for charging, but after reading your reviews and comments, I realise that I could reposer my computer at an off-grid cabin using wood and not have to crank up a generator. Appreciate your explanation and thoughts!

David Drake (WildDrake)
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February 7, 2014 at 10:17 a.m. (EST)

I want the Biolite Camp stove to work for me… At 935g it's not exactly an ultra-lighters (backpacking enthusiasts traveling with ultra-light gear) dream but the potential to charge all devices in the wilderness is nothing less than extraordinary. The savings in battery costs alone make this stove well worth the price. Here's my problem, as an ultra-lighter I have two cooking pots and two mugs, all composed of titanium (Ti), all single-walled, all with a maximum useable diameter of no greater than 3.25"/8.2cm. I need a pot stand with a diameter that will accommodate all four of these. Just one, my largest diameter pot, would be great but accommodating all four, three of which have a similar or smaller diameter, would be optimal. The Biolite Camp stove features a pot stand too large for my gear, at 5".

Biolite-Camp-pot-stand.jpg

I do not want nor need to carry a pot that large. If I did I'm essentially increasing both my overall pack weight and volume. For circumstances other than ultra-light backpacking, however, this stove is a phenomenal choice. If only Biolite produced a scaled down "backpacking" version of their Camp stove, I would be thrilled. I would even consider this Camp stove using Ti tent skewers crossed over the pot stand but I'd still need to carry the 935g, which is a lot of weight in addition to an additional electronic device(s) I may otherwise leave at home. Biolite is indeed ahead of it's time, no question, but, Biolite… some of us would like a scaled down "backpacking" version of your Camp stove… hint hint, wink wink.

Eric Labanauskas
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February 7, 2014 at 2:48 p.m. (EST)

My guess is a scaled-down stove would also produce less power.

These always have looked more interesting than they've seemed practical. Has anyone read of someone using a BioLite on a long-distance thru hike? I can see its value when you can't carry extra batteries and are miles from an electrical outlet. Also helps that there's no fuel or fuel storage weight to associate with it - pick it up as you go, and burn it up without packing anything out. 

Joseph Renow (jrenow)
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February 7, 2014 at 4:52 p.m. (EST)

Actually...the teg (that which produces the electricity) is not that large or heavy (1-3 ounces)...most of the weight of the Bio-Lite is due to the fan + battery + stove. For me the biggest weakness of the Bio-Lite is that it takes a long time to charge devices and you must hand feed it small sticks constantly...it simply isn't practical enough...which is why mine found a second life as part of a wood-stove...which I only need to feed every 30-45 minutes...and I burn for hours at a time...but even this is only practical as a base-camp set-up. If you look at many of the reviews here on TS you will see that others come to the same conclusion as myself.

denis daly
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1,045 forum posts
February 8, 2014 at 5:35 p.m. (EST)

Eric Labanauskas said:

My guess is a scaled-down stove would also produce less power.

These always have looked more interesting than they've seemed practical. Has anyone read of someone using a BioLite on a long-distance thru hike? I can see its value when you can't carry extra batteries and are miles from an electrical outlet. Also helps that there's no fuel or fuel storage weight to associate with it - pick it up as you go, and burn it up without packing anything out. 

 Wouldn't be worth it because of burn bans based on states...Most of the Long Trails go through  NPS's and National Forest that may have a burn ban..Colorado Trail comes to mind where you can't use liguid fuel either...Burn Bans on the AT happen as well as the PCT and CDT..

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