Biolite Base Camp
At Biolite $299.95
(Note that the deal on B&H is now gone and has been removed. As I said in the video, skip a trip to Applebees and buy this product at full price if you have to do so. It is worth twice the price.)
From the very start in this column I have been an advocate of “bug-in” as opposed to bug out. Stock up on flour, grains, rice, beans, and canned food, and figure out a means to cook them. In the past I have considered short term cooking solutions, like heater bags and alcohol stoves, and long term solutions, using wood and diesel fuel.
One of the wood products I included in an article about year ago on thermoelectric generators. It was the Biolite Camp Stove, and for you regular subscribers, you may have noticed that I sent that article out last week in our Monday GunsAmerica Digest. This week I’ve tested the big brother to that stove, called the Biolite Base Camp. It is likewise thermoelectric and includes a self charging blower fan, to make the flame burn hotter, and it will charge your phone or tablet at 5 volts, providing the equivalent of roughly a 1 amp charger pack.
The big difference with this stove is that it is side feeding, so you don’t have to remove whatever you are cooking to add fuel. The price is more than double the Biolite Camp Stove, at $299, and it is too heavy to bug-out, so if you are going to buy this stove as a core survival product, my intent was to help you wrap your head around how the cost, size and weight can be worth it. If reheating and hydrating is your own cooking goal, short or long term, the low cost and portability of the smaller and cheaper Camp Stove make it the choice. If you are feeding a lot of people, or you plan to pressure can large parcels of food down the road, like a cow, deer, moose or pig you killed. The Biolite Base Camp is a far superior product.
In the video I discussed a bit the concept of a “Rocket Stove.” If you are new to this column and the subject of Prepping in general, maybe you’ve heard the term, but never looked into the technology in depth. Many people call any small wood burning stove a Rocket Stove, but that is not the case. A true Rocket Stove encapsulates the flame in an insulated burn chamber, so that the unburnt wood gets superheated before it is burnt. This releases wood gas, and the colder parts of the burn also release carbon monoxide. Both of them are flammable gases, so if you capture and burn them as part of your cooking flame, it will burn hotter and longer, with more BTUs.
That is the science, in theory. In practice, I know that when you burn kerosene or diesel properly, and it burns the carbon monoxide, the flame is blue, and I have never seen even close to a blue flame come from a Rocket Stove. So I question that the physics involved are as simple as they sound, or that the self appointed experts have pretended to understand. What I can say is that you can cook a great deal of food on a handful of sticks using a Rocket Stove, and I even successfully ran a pressure canner working on my original Stovetec Rocket Stove article.
The Biolite Base Camp just makes all that happen much quicker and more reliably, through the use of a self powered internal fan.
If you watch the video, the Base Camp lights and feeds just like the Stovetec, but it was difficult to show the intensity of the fire once the fan kicks in, which is about 10 minutes after you get it going. It is hard to believe unless you experience it, but I got propane level heat out of a handful of sticks once the fan kicked in. The Base Camp of course burns fuel quicker, because as I’ve explained in past articles, BTUs are BTUs for any given fuel, regardless of time. But WOW! Tt takes very little fuel to maintain a pressure canner at full tilt dinka dinka dinka rocking the pressure weight.
You’ll see that, as is my custom, I did try to fail. All of my ground wood in South Florida is soaking wet, and I loaded up the stove with it after the valiant Base Camp was going only about 15 minutes. This caused it to smoke up and maintain only a low fire for bit, but it never went out. Once the chamber is hot, you can put almost anything that will burn in there and eventually it will burn. To get the canner back up to pressure temperature I had to help it along by manually blowing on the fire, and I was able to break up some dry pallet wood to add to the wet stuff. In minutes the canner came up to pressure.