What do you get the survivalist who has everything? This was the question which BioLite must have been thinking when they envisaged their titular BioLite CampStove. Combining the most frustrating aspects of camping, with the somewhat pointless use of a mobile phone in a remote environment, the device which they finally created is a Frankenstein of unnecessary features and useless functionality.
The CampStove is a Frankenstein of unnecessary features and useless functionality.
Fundamentally, the BioLite CampStove works a little like this. It is comprised of a small metallic cylinder a little larger than a soft drink can, which is connected to a battery powered fan system. Once set up, the BioLite CampStove is filled with wood from the nearby environment and then lit using an external flame source. With a small fire burning within the cylinder, the user can then turn on a fan, in order to increase oxygen supply, theoretically allowing it to burn hotter.
With these steps taken, BioLite claims that their stove can boil a liter of water in under 10 minutes, while at the same time, charging the attached battery using a thermoelectric generator. A well as continuing to power the fan, this battery can also power a single USB port which has the capacity to recharge mobile devices such as a smartphone.
Ok so we know what this stove does, but the real question is, is this a good idea?
When we compare this camping stove to others on the market it has several major flaws which relate to its use of nearby wood as a fuel source. Firstly, the metal cylinder in which the fuel is combusted is incredibly small when compared to the size of a common wood fire. This means the a user would have to continuously remove pots and pans from the stove in order to refill the wood fire. Secondly, this stove is rendered all but useless in wet weather. The reason that campers do not rely upon wood fires and prefer gas burners, is that wood is incredibly difficult to burn when wet.
And that brings us to the USB charger. What are charging cables made of? Cheap low-melting point plastic. What is a fan forced fire? Very Hot. We cannot see a way that it would be possible to have so many very hot heating elements in the vicinity of such fragile electronics, without damaging them. Then the question is raised why we even need a charged to phone on a backwoods camping trip? Most people go on camping trips to be escape the busyness of the modern world, not to be forced to light an inconvenient fire in order to stay in contact with their co-workers or family.
There are a lot of products which are conceptualised because they sound like a good idea, but usually there's someone along the way saying “this is a bad idea”, unfortunately for the CampStove this person was taking the day off.
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