We have long been great fans of camp cooking over a wood fire. Frankly, this writer thinks the food tastes better – although that may be due principally to the pleasant smell of a wood fire around the campsite. The idea of using a small fan driven forced-air system to speed up start time and create more reliable high heat emerged some years ago. But Biolite has developed the most sophisticated and functional system yet with its BaseCamp stove. (It’s also superb for tail gate cooking and picnics if you bring the wood chunks needed.)
Standing a comfortable 23" high, the top grill provides 138 sq in of cooking surface (13 -1/4" in diameter), plenty of room for lots of burgers. Made of stainless steel and high temperature plastics plus heavy cast iron for the firebox, it weighs 18 lbs. The fuel is easy to collect as it burns wood sticks, twigs, chunks of wood or any dry biomass (dry grass, bark, pine cones etc) picked up on the forest floor. All you need to bring is a match. The heat is spread around the grill surface or concentrated in a central column depending on the position of a simple lever. (Concentrating heat in the center greatly aids fast boiling in a pot or kettle.
But the technological flourish is the integral thermoelectric generator that uses heat from the cook fire to power an internal fan in the firebox (mimicking what a blacksmith does in his forge). And in addition to powering the forced-air fan, this produces up to 5 watts of 5V power to a battery and a USB outlet that you use to charge any number of devices “on the fly”. In addition, you can plug a furnished gooseneck LED light in the USB port and illuminate the top of the grill after it gets dark. It really works great.