BioLite Stove Review: Now We’re Cooking With Wood
My wife Julia and I have used a BioLite stove on our latest car camping trip. Who knew you could use twigs and pine cones to boil pasta and charge your phone? In this post, I review the BioLite cook stove. Read on to learn if cooking and charging your phone with a wood-fired stove might work on your next camping or road trip.
You Gotta Eat Right on the Road
When you’re out rambling the country in your camper, whether it’s a homemade rig like ours or a giant RV with 4 slideouts, it’s tempting to fill your stomach and gas tank at the same time. Eating on the go is fine but it’s hell on your budget and guts so Julia and I try to avoid it.
Before heading out on our current road trip we loaded up a footlocker with staple foods and simple cooking equipment. That way, we could cook most of our meals on the road instead of eating meals at restaurants and gas stations.
The Camp Stoves I’ve Used
I’ve traveled and cooked a lot on camp stoves. Past trips include riding a mule from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans, driving a wagon from Canada to the border with Mexico and also across Newfoundland. Eating well on the road is important to me, so I always carry a camp stove on my trips and go to lengths to prepare good meals.
In the past, I’ve cooked my meals on gasoline stoves, either an ancient Optimus Ranger 8R or an MSR Whisperlite. They’re both great stoves. I prefer the Whisperlite because it’s more reliable. On this trip, I decided to bring along my BioLite wood stove.
The BioLite burns small pieces of wood in a stainless steel burning chamber. The burning chamber contains a fan and rings of holes. This makes for efficient combustion. The stove also contains a TEG (thermo electric generator) that makes electricity. The electricity is stored in a small battery in the stove housing. This electricity can be used to charge phones, headlamps, and other light-duty electronic devices equipped with a USB fitting.
Why We’re Cooking With a Wood Stove
Julia and I go on long-distance saddle trips. We’ve ridden mules out our front gate and spent six weeks riding from our home in western North Carolina to Virigina and back. A while back, I rode my mules Brick and Cracker from our home 2,300 miles to Idaho.
We’ve used MSR Whisperlite stoves on these trips and they work great. A quart of gasoline is enough for us to cook two meals a day for a week. On our next trip, though, we want to head into the backcountry. That means we won’t be able to buy gasoline every week to keep our cook stove going. The BioLite stove, because it burns wood, would let us gather fuel as we went. This would let us stay much longer in the backcountry on our next saddle trip.
Wood Stove Fuel
The BioLite stove burns twigs, branches, pinecones, bark, and grass. On our current trip, I brought along a box full of short pieces of wood for fuel. Along the way, I’ve scrounged the places we’ve camped for additional wood. I still have as much wood as I started out with. It turns out there’s fuel everywhere if you know what you’re looking for. So far, we’ve burned cottonwood twigs in Wyoming, juniper and redwood in Oregon, and ponderosa pine splits in California.
I’ve learned that the best sticks for burning are four inches long and the size of your pinkie. Anything bigger takes longer to ignite and anything smaller burns too quickly. Not that that’s a big deal. You’ll just spend a bit more time tending the flame.
What’s it Like to Cook on a Wood-fired Stove?
Cooking on a wood-fired stove is the same as cooking on a gasoline stove like an MSR Whisperlite. The flame makes direct contact with the bottom of the skillet so if you’re sauteing you may have to lift the pan off the flames to keep whatever you’re cooking from scorching. Boiling water on a BioLite is the same as boiling it on a gas range. It’s hard to burn water.
The Pros and Cons of Cooking on a BioLite Wood Stove
Julia and I think you shouldn’t have to spend a lot of money to travel. We travel in a homemade gypsy wagon pulled by the same car we run errands with. We also think it’s important to eat well while we’re on the road. For us, that means cooking as much of our own food and eating out as little as possible. The BioLite stove lines up with what matters to us on our travels. I’ve enjoyed using our BioLite stove on our current trip and look forward to using it on our next long-distance horse and mule voyage.
While I enjoy wood gathering, I understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Cooking on the BioLite is more work than cooking on a regular camp stove because you have to feed it a steady diet of little sticks. It’s also smokier, something that might bother some people.
Here are the pros and cons of the BioLite stove:
- Fuel is available almost everywhere
- The internal battery can be used to charge phones and other devices with a USB connector
- Stove can be used for months in the back country
- Offered with an LED light that makes cooking at night a treat
- Can be smokey to use
- Heavier and bulkier than a lightweight gasoline camping stove
- Needs constant fueling
- Limited 12-volt charging capacity
More on BioLite Stoves
More about the BioLite stove at BioLite Energy (https://www.bioliteenergy.com/collections#campstove-family)
No, I don’t get a kickback from BioLite if you order one of their stoves.
What’s Your Experience Cooking on Wood-fired Camp Stoves?
What’s been your experience cooking on wood camp stoves, whether the BioLite or any of the other wood-fueled stoves out there? Leave me your thoughts where it says Leave a Reply (at bottom of page). I always enjoy hearing from fellow
pyromaniacs travelers who like to cook and heat with wood.
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