Since it hit the market with a gadget-charging portable stove a few years ago, BioLite has been slowly growing its line of outdoor cooking-charging gear. Its latest product, the BaseCamp, gives campers more power for cooking and charging gadgets. It can serve as both grill and stove, while storing enough power to charge tablet computers.
As its name implies, the new BaseCamp is a much larger animal than the original CampStove. It's based on BioLite's HomeStove, which the company distributes in developing parts of the world, but doesn't offer for sale. The BaseCamp adds a 13-in (33-cm) grill top to the large wood-stove design, letting campers cook meat, vegetables and other items directly.
The BaseCamp uses BioLite's established formula of fan-assisted wood burning. The fan is powered by a thermoelectric generator that puts waste heat to work as electricity. That electricity also powers the 5-watt USB charger (up from 2 watts on the CampStove), offering juice for gadgets like water purifiers, headlamps and tablet computers. An integrated battery is included, for storing electricity for later use.
The BaseCamp offers some nice advantages for campers. The idea of having one gadget that can cook meals and charge electronics is certainly attractive. The design includes a side wood loader, so that you don't have to pull the pot off to add wood. The grill-to-boil lever shifts output from a dispersed grill heat to a direct-to-pot heat, allowing you to cook with pots on top of the grill, something that BioLite advises against on its CampStove-powered Portable Grill. The stove also comes with a slim, bendable light that plugs into the USB port, making grilling after dark a little easier.
One of the benefits of the portable CampStove that's nullified in the BaseCamp is its ability to work on found wood. While leaving the fuel at home is an advantage for backpacking (though the CampStove's 2-lb/907-g weight is considerably more than other backpacking stoves with fuel), it's not as big a deal for car camping, where packing wood isn't an issue. In fact, with a grill, you may not want to rely on found fuel at all, unless you know exactly what type of wood you can gather. As any BBQer knows, some woods impart a better flavor than others, and some woods have an acrid smoke that you wouldn't want anywhere near your food. The idea of using a pile of anonymous sticks to grill your food isn't particularly appetizing.
Also unlike backpacking, where firepit construction and open fires are often prohibited or frowned upon, the average car camper can just as easily cook on a $10 campfire grate. With this in mind, the BaseCamp is much more a portable charging solution than a cooking necessity.
BioLite plans to get the BaseCamp to market during the upcoming Northern Hemisphere summer. It will retail for US$300.