Having enjoyed using the BioLite CampStove on a recent car camping trip (see my initial impressions here), I was eager to see how the CampStove performed while out backpacking. Now that the snow is melting in the Sierras, I recently got the BioLite CampStove out for a few days in mountains.
The first trip out with the CampStove was an easy overnighter with my family. The shared gear was spread out among the group, and my son ended up carrying the CampStove. Nobody had to carry any fuel, which was nice.
Dinner was easy, a pot of water to boil for some prepackaged meals and hot drinks. Fuel was readily available from all the downed pine branches in the area. A handful of sticks was all that was needed to make the family dinner! I was really surprised at how little fuel it took to get the job done. I screwed up once and poured boiling water too close to the stove, and spilled a little water onto the battery unit and into the fire. The cap on the battery unit did a good job at directing the water away from any vents or vital parts.
The next morning was chilly, and we had some time before the sun made it over the trees to warm up camp. After making coffee and oatmeal, we kept the fire going for at least an hour, enjoying a little extra warmth and campfire ambiance while my son slept in. A gas stove would’ve been turned off immediately after cooking was done. I also tried charging my phone during the campfire time to test the performance. It charged fairly slow, taking the whole time to add 5%. It’s not a bad way to top off your charge if you don’t use your phone a lot, but someone who uses a lot of battery may have better luck bringing along a USB battery charger or two, as they charge really quickly and don’t take up much room. Regardless of how you use your phone, though, the CampStove is definitely a good way to get a little power for emergency use. I’ve heard quite a few stories of people calling for help with only minutes left on their batteries.
Next, I took the stove on a three day, 27 mile trek. I scrutinized the weight of most everything I packed as I would be carrying everything I needed by myself. I was willing to carry a little extra weight when considering the CampStove, though, and there was still plenty of room in my pack with the rest of my solo gear. My Dad brought along his small JetBoil, and it made a good comparison.
The first night there was an existing fire ring in our camp, and an old fallen tree had left small pieces of wood all over the ground. It was the perfect setup for the CampStove. As expected, my Dad’s JetBoil boiled a pot of water in no time at all. The CampStove wasn’t far behind, though. As before, I kept the CampStove going for quite a while after dinner, enjoying the small campfire and sound of the river flowing by. I also imagined that the fire was helping to keep the mosquitoes away!
I didn’t get to use the CampStove on the second night of our hike. After hiking for 12 hours, we finally settled on the first suitable campsite we had seen in hours. Now dark, I just grabbed a handful of cheese and crackers and went to bed. The next morning, though, I awoke to a beautiful mountain meadow view next to the creek. A nearby stand of sagebrush provided enough deadwood on the ground to make the morning coffee. Having no durable surface to set the stove on, I laid down some aluminum foil as a heat shield, and it worked good on the damp short grass. At one point, I got distracted and let the flame go out. When I added some fresh wood to the coals, it got to smoking pretty bad. The same fan that keeps the fire going great also can produce a lot of smoke fast! The fire caught again, though, and I watched my small smoke cloud drift down the canyon. I didn’t think about it at the time, but this would be a good way to create a very visible signal fire if one was in need.
Something weird to report: Periodically throughout my hike, I could hear a faint whining noise. It sounded out of place, and I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. The trees? The mosquitoes? The creek? It wasn’t until I got home when my wife was helping me unpack and she said, “Hey, your stove is running!”. Sure enough the fan was on. It all made sense now. Even though the battery unit was stored in the stove as designed, it appeared that bouncing it around was enough to hit the ON button. The fan turns itself off after a short time when the stove is cool, and luckily I never had problems starting the stove over the three days. I’m going to have to study the problem a bit more, but perhaps a thin sheet of packing foam around the battery unit will be enough to remove the bounce while it’s packed away. I plan to take the CampStove on a bikepacking trip soon, and this solution will be put to the test on the bumpy ride.
My backpacking experience with the BioLite CampStove was great! It was nice to be free from the worries of available fuel, and I really enjoyed having a small campfire. Even though traditional campfires were allowed where I was, I was glad to use the low impact CampStove. I didn’t leave any marks on the land, used very little fuel, and only had to dispose of a few tablespoons of white ash, buried in a small cat hole. It was nice to know that I had the capability to charge an electronic device, but mostly I just enjoyed having an electric powered wood stove that creates its own power. That’s pretty awesome. The only thing I’ll change next time is to bring a little bag for my cook pot, as the bottom gets a little sooty and can rub off on other gear when packed.
Unfortunately, summer fire restrictions are starting to be enforced around the area. While I don’t see the CampStove as any more of a fire hazard than a gas stove, you still have to follow the rules. I do, however, plan to continue bringing the CampStove along backpacking whenever possible and regulations allow.
Read more details and specifications on the BioLite CampStove here in my Initial Impressions.
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Disclaimer: This product was given to me at no charge for test and review. I was not paid to do this review, and provided honest and personal views throughout the entire process. As a BioLite affiliate, I receive a small percentage of sales initiated from my website.