I have never liked starting our stove. It is actually a great stove, but the fuel makes me nervous. It’s an Optimus Nova Multi Fuel stove we purchased from Wild Rock Outfitters. It has worked well for years – no problems. It is light and folds up so it doesn’t take up much space at all. On a two week trip we always pack two fuel bottles, but now that we use dehydrated food we don’t really need both bottles; the stove is very fuel efficient. You need to back off the shut off before it cools and tightens, but other than that, no complaints.
In 2018 a woman was hurt on Shark Lake with a “fuel incident” and had to be airlifted out. I also know a woman who was killed in a white gas explosion a few years ago. It is safe to say that I have a healthy respect / fear of fuel.
Earlier in the summer my cousin posted a picture of the ‘stick stove’ she had just purchased to take on her canoe trips. She was raving about the BioLite stove. I was sold! No volatile fuel, safe, efficient, battery-charging …. I loved the idea.
We researched and ordered the BioLite from MEC. We ordered the BioLite CampStove 2 Bundle online. The bundle came with the stove, a kettle (pot), a grill and a light. We also ordered the French Press for coffee, which was separate from the bundle.
I am not going to go into the details on the science and research on how it works, you can see it all on their website https://www.bioliteenergy.com but trust me, it is very cool. It works like bellows, with a fan providing the oxygen for the flames and the flames creating energy to fuel the fan – brilliant.
The first time using our stove was on the first night of a 14-day trip to the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. My husband thought we should barbecue a steak. I thought he was crazy. Our first night with the stove, the first night of the trip and on a day that was calling for rain. But he was so enthusiastic I had to agree.
We had packed a frozen, vacuum sealed steak wrapped in newspaper. It was thawed by dinner. We got the stove going, added a little Montreal Steak Spice and put it on the grill. It cooked fast, it cooked perfectly and it was delicious. We don’t have steak often, and eat mostly vegetarian on canoe trips, so this was a treat. We also had fresh mushrooms, onions, green beans and instant mashed potatoes some butter and salt and pepper and we had the perfect meal after a cold wet day.
We used the stick stove for 2 weeks. We never once got out our fuel stove, even on rainy days.
The kettle was perfect for dehydrated meals. We just loaded it up, covered the food with water and let it sit. We then popped the whole thing on the stove and it was done in no time.
Our ‘regular’ pots were very slippery and when we “practiced” using the stove at home we noticed that they did not sit sturdy on the stove. So we purchased a Jet Boil Pot Support from MEC for $12.50. It was perfect.
We also bought a Sea to Summit collapsible pot from Wild Rock Outfitters and it worked great with the stove – although it is a bit big and you need to make sure the flames don’t flare up the sides. We read where you can protect your pots from getting black from the flame by using a bit of soap on the bottom. We didn’t bother with that step at first, but use it now.
The French Press meant we could leave our old bodum at home. We were a bit worried about making coffee in the same container we would be using for curry meals, but it didn’t hold the smell or any flavours. It made great coffee.
Most of our meals are dehydrated, like our favorite Portobello Curry; however, we also cooked bacon, pancakes and made a Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with no problems.
The stick stove takes a bit longer than the fuel stove but in most cases we are not rushing meals. It can burn hot, so you need to keep an eye on things like pancakes.
It is a bit heavier than our fuel stove, but it packs well, everything fits together perfectly and we were able to leave a few bulky things at home.
- We always had a Ziplock or two full of sticks and always made sure we had a few days of sticks ready just in case it rained
- We used paper bags from the dehydrated meals to start the fire; they also recommend tiny pieces of firestarters
- It is best to use a barbecue lighter rather than matches
- Use twigs of various sizes, starting small; it does hold fairly large sticks
- Use a hatchet to cut pieces smaller – this lets you use hardwood – this is the first time we have taken a hatchet camping – be careful!
- You can pack a plank so you have something stable for the stove – we did this with our fuel stove for years
- As mentioned, add a ring from the jet boil stove
- Charge and test the battery at home first
We found it easier with a hatchet because it allowed us to use hardwood which resulted in a fire that lasted a bit longer without needing to be fed. Softwood doesn’t leave coals, which means you can’t forget to add sticks … continually.
We loved the stove. But here is the ‘however’…..
The fire charges a battery that powers the fan that makes the stove work. You can also use the battery to charge a phone. However, when we tried to charge our phone it drained the stove battery. The battery didn’t have power to keep the fan going on the stove so we needed to use a solar charger to recharge the stove battery. The battery is designed to store some power so you can keep the fan going on the stove which then recharges the battery. We have been in touch with the company and they said they would be happy to exchange it, however, we are too busy camping and cooking with it – we don’t want to camp without it now. We will follow up in the fall.
Note: I talked to my cousin with the Biolite 2 stove and she had no problem charging her phone and the stove battery saved enough power to run the fan.
We also find that the stove is perfect for two people. Cooking for 4, even when they are dehydrated meals, was a bit challenging in terms of the size of the kettle, but it can be done.
As mentioned, we LOVE the stove – as you can see by the million pictures. It is a great addition to our camping gear. It is also a great emergency stove to have at home in the event that there is a long power interruption. Not sure we would take it on a long portage, but we might.
Check out their site for their other very cool products. https://www.bioliteenergy.com