For starters, the BioLite Campstove is remarkably easy to use. I’ve used several types of gas and wood-burning stoves before, and the BioLite is about as user-friendly as they come. After attaching the orange power module to the main chamber, you fill it with tinder and light it. Then, by pressing the ignition button on the power module, you activate a fan, which stokes the fire. The fan has two settings — low and high — and once the fire gets going, you can set it to high and fill the chamber with thicker twigs.When the stove is set to ‘high’ it burns through fuel pretty quickly, and I found that I had to refuel a couple of times, but it wasn’t too much of a hassle.
Once the fire gets hot enough, a bar of light above the USB port turns green and you can hook up your phone (or anything else with a USB hookup) and it will begin charging. In addition to the fan, the orange power module contains a thermoelectric element, which converts heat to energy. Power output varies based on how hot the fire is, so if you’re slow-cooking some rice, for example, you probably won’t be able to add much life to your phone’s battery.
In the two days that I’ve had the stove, I’ve used it to boil water and I’ve also added the grill attachment to cook a meal. The stove was quite efficient when boiling water; it took about 10 minutes to boil about a half-gallon of water, and in that time I was able to add 2 percentage points to my cellphone battery. That, of course, isn’t enough juice to surf the web and chat on the phone for hours. But if you leave the fire burning a while longer, you can easily charge it up enough to make an emergency call or two.