This device took off in New York when Hurricane Sandy survivors discovered it provided heat, boiled water, and allowed them to jack in to its USB port to charge their smartphone devices. The Biolite CampStove sells for $129 and runs off of any renewable biomass such as twigs, wood scraps, even pinecones – all without generating any smoke. It is about the size of a water bottle (8 inches by 5 inches) and weighs only 33 ounces. The stove will boil 1 liter of water in 4.5 minutes and its built-in thermoelectric generator outputs from 3.4kW to 5.5kW to provide up to 4 watts for charging USB chargeable devices. Independent testers reported the addition of 1% to the battery for every 2.5 minutes of charging. Biolite says 20 minutes of charge time provides 60 minutes of talk time which is pretty good for an in-the-field charger.
The interior chamber is made of high-temperature steel and is surrounded by a honeycomb-patterned steel mesh so you can pick up the stove when it is hot. It has three extendable legs made of anodized aluminum to provide stability on uneven surfaces. The BioLite uses thermoelectric technology to convert heat to electricity that powers a fan to make the fire ultra-efficient. The small fan and generator are housed in a heat-resistant plastic that attaches to the side of the stove (and carried inside the stove area when travelling).
To start a fire, an included firestarter is tossed into the burning chamber along with a few pieces of wood. Turn the fan on low and run it for a minute. Then fill the chamber with more wood, switch the fan to high, and you have a blazing spiral of flames ready to heat or cook. A light near the USB port will glow orange when powering only the fan and green when enough surplus electricity is being generated to charge a phone.
Unlike other portable stoves, Biolite does not require the user carry fuel with them making it perfect for backpackers.