Several years back, the original BioLite CampStove launched and I thought it was an ingenious product combination of high tech in a low tech industry. The CampStove uses the heat from burning wood to make electricity through the use of a Thermoelectric device. At that time, I’ve already known about thermoelectric devices in how it was being used to cool processors in computers, but I did not know at the time that it could be used in reverse to generate electricity.
Imagine going camping and your phone starts to run out of juice. Yes, you can carry a battery backup for your phone but since you’ll most likely be bringing a camp burner, why not bring one that’ll charge your phone while also able to cook your dinner or heat up some water. Also, once your battery backup has been used, there’s nothing left. With the CampStove, you’ll never be out of power as long as there’s wood to burn.
The original CampStove isn’t a quick charger by any means but the CampStove 2 has an improved charge rate. Reports from users on the original CampStove are that it can take several hours to fully charge most smartphones these days. For me, the charging rate should be good enough because I won’t be out camping just to play games on my phone and drain the batteries. I’ll be out there enjoying nature and enjoying the company of others that I’m out there with. If I do use my phone, it would be to take pictures here and there and with the amount of battery power that uses, the CampStove would suffice to charge it up a bit so I can keep snapping away.
I won’t go into too much detail on how it works but a thermoelectric device is composed of two thermally conducting plates with semiconductors sandwiched between them. Ok, that may be over your head already so let’s just say that when you apply power to a thermoelectric device, one plate heats up and the other plate on the other side cools down. This has been used to cool computer processors, but it was very inefficient to do so; therefore, it never caught on as a mainstream cooling device.
The other method that a thermoelectric device can be used is to generate electricity and that is what BioLite has done with their CampStove products. Instead of applying electricity to the thermoelectric device, you apply heat to one thermally conducting plate while the other plate on the other side remains cool. By doing this, the device actually generates electricity. Due to the temperature difference between the hot and cold side, electricity is generated. Not a lot, but enough in this case to power small USB devices and charge cellphones, tablets, etc.
The CampStove comprises mainly of the burn chamber, where you would put the firewood, and the electronics housing portion for the thermoelectric device, fan, and USB port. The fan usage is a bit unique in that it blows air back into the burn chamber dramatically improving combustion and creating a cleaner, more efficient burn.
Recently, they launched the CampStove 2 with much needed improvements. The CampStove 2 boasts 50% more power, an internal battery to retain a charge for later use, and an updated LED dashboard so that you can gauge how efficient the unit is running. This new unit now has a 2A USB output which can cut the charging time dramatically from the original model.
While BioLite is known for its CampStove products and accessories, they also have a line of portable solar panels and lighting products. If you need something with a bit more oomph than the CampStove, they have a larger BaseCamp version that’s roughly 13” in diameter. With the CampStove 2, you’ll never be caught in the forest without power.