Gear Guy

The BioLite stove in action.     Photo: Bob Parks

Q:

What’s the Best Way to Charge My Phone While Camping?

I heard about the BioLite stove, which supposedly makes electricity from wood. Does it work?

A:Solar panels can charge up your gadgets while camping. Hand-crank generators too. But now there’s a gadget that turns burning wood into electricity, available this month from Brooklyn startup, BioLite. The device uses a solid-state component inside that turns the heat energy from the wood into electricity—with an output that matches the juice you get from a USB plug. Nowadays, almost every small device works with USB, so as long as you can keep the fire burning, you’re covered.

I had to know how/if it worked, and I was so excited about the very concept of turning wood into watts that I nearly mauled the FedEx guy bearing the review unit. “It burns wood and charges your cell phone,” I kept saying as I signed for the BioLite. No reaction.

Next thing I did was open the box. The public relations person had thoughtfully included some small pieces of wood to burn in the Biolite in case I didn’t have any. It was high-quality oak with a finely sanded edge. Not sure how people in Brooklyn camp, but elsewhere we typically burn what’s at hand. I took the stove into the woods and found a half-dead hemlock whose lower branches worked nicely as a fuel source.

 

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