BioLite's latest gear includes a stove, lamp and a pair of solar panels

Off the grid, but not out of juice.

Jon Turi / Engadget

The smell of burning wood from pot belly stoves and fireplaces is noticeable in some Brooklyn neighborhoods during the winter, but down underneath the Manhattan Bridge overpass at BioLite headquarters it's business as usual. The company's been hard at work updating last year's line of off-the-grid power and cooking gear. That means plenty of design, testing and the occasional conflagration in its "burn lab" to perfect its products. The result of all this sweat and ash includes a new CookStove, PowerLight Mini and a pair of solar panels, which you can pick up at BioLite's website.


With the new CookStove, BioLite opted to leave off the thermoelectric generator used on the last-gen model; it instead has a chargeable battery to power its flame-controlling fans. It's nearly a half-pound lighter and $30 cheaper than the earlier CampStove, but remains compatible with the existing stove's accessories. The new edition is said to provide up to 30 hours of flame control when it's fully charged and, as before, uses biomass (twigs, pinecones, etc.) for fuel. This is the first time BioLite's engineers designed every component of its fan system in-house, to maximize efficiency. In particular, they constructed a small-scale wind tunnel and used 3D-printed prototypes to finalize the design.

SolarPanel 5/5+

BioLite is offering two versions of its SolarPanel: The 5+ with a battery for storing the sun's juice for later use and the 5, a sip-as-you-go model acting as a conduit for charging devices without saving anything for later. The company is quick to admit that the selling point isn't about the solar cell technology (it uses an ultraslim 5W monocrystalline panel) but rather the user interface and design. We're told you can get a full charge on the 5+ after about two hours of peak sun, but keeping the panel in the ideal position for soaking up rays is the trick. These panels integrate a sundial and 360-degree adjustable kickstand to help you stay on target for maximum exposure as the sun's angle changes.

A quick test proved the dial's bullseye a useful method for manually achieving the optimum angle: full frontal sun. BioLite's in-house engineers even constructed a mechanical stress-tester to put the resilience of its click-stop positionable stand to the test.

PowerLight Mini

This season's lighting addition is basically a scaled-down version of the PowerLight, although it doesn't support the daisy-chainable SiteLights. Still, its one of the more versatile items, with a combination of compact design, light output and a 1,350mAh battery to power devices. It's more of a last-mile solution, though, as I only managed to get a 30-percent boost on my Nexus 5X before it was tapped out.

As a light, the Mini is rated to provide up to 52 hours of illumination (at a low setting). Like the SolarPanel, it also has a rotatable kickstand, but this only spins around about 270 degrees in one direction. When folded flat, it acts as a clip, which can attach to a belt, shirt, jacket or bag for hands-free illumination. (It works great for visibility in a blizzard, although long-term exposure may test the limits of its IPX4 weather resistance rating.) The Mini also comes with a bike clamp so you can easily slot it in as a tail- or headlight for safety and illumination. The output provides various types and levels of light: white (dimmable), white pinspot, red (for night vision) and a white or red strobe.