Gear Review: Biolite Stove

When deciding which stove to purchase for the BWCA one thing was clear. I did NOT want to haul in a bunch of fuel. I don’t know if it was the idea of the added weight, or the potential for screwing something up with the canister etc. but the MSR type stoves really made me nervous for some reason.

I had contemplated just skipping the stove option all together – to opt for cooking on the fire grate until I ran across the Biolite stove.

Small, compact, and using NO fuel whatsoever except mother natures sticks, and fallen branches – i was immediately intrigued, while also remaining highly skeptical. I mean really – you just add twigs to it, click a light of fire and you’re set to go – with the fan charging the fan by itself?

At $130 a pop – this was not something I wanted to just “try” if it did not work. We decided to purchase EVERY piece of equipment needed for canoe camping since we decided early on that this was going to be our new ‘thing’ – so I did not want to waste money on an item that wouldn’t work.

The worker at REI swore that the thing worked amazing – but still I remained skeptical.

IMG_1608                                I put the stove on my REI wishlist that our family suggested we make for ideas for Christmas/birthday gifts last year, and low and behold my mother-in-law purchased this for me for my birthday! I was floored to try it because we likely wouldn’t have purchased it on our own.

IMG_1540                             On Christmas Eve we took our GSR Cook set along with some branches from the fireplace and tried it out. Much to our surprise in just 8 minutes we had boiling water [faster than our kitchen stove]- and were able to charge our iPhones as well.

I was instantly impressed and was ready to use it in the North Woods.

IMG_1533                         Upon entry into the BWCA our first meal was actually right on the fire grate – but thereafter we used our Biolite stove for every meal. We had our 7 year old daughter “hunt” for some smaller sticks/twigs and branches and form a little pile. This was always her camp chore which was easy for her – and never had a complaint of “its too heavy”.

We always gathered “quite” the little pile. Perhaps the amount of sticks/twigs that would fit in an average shoe box. Yes. You do have to re-stoke the stove by adding more in, but as long as you have all of the sticks/twigs gathered it’s easy peasy.

The food heated quickly without any worry of added canisters/fuel and the worry of running out or using too much etc.

As far as the charging went – it went okay. I kept my iPhone 6 in airplane mode and charged it every night at dinner keeping it consistently in that 50-60% charge.


The BioLite Stove worked excellently for us since we experienced steady rain and snow for the first part of our trip making it difficult to keep the regular camp fire going. Being able to fire up the BioLite under the tarp was hugely beneficial, and we were even able to warm our hands on it!

We also thought it cooled down exceptionally fast being able to store it quickly in its nylon stuff sack.

I’m excited to try out the accessories on our next trip!

All in all I would give the BioLite 5 Stars out of 5 and was thoroughly impressed by it! Give it a try this summer or next!

Countdown to the BWCA ~ Part 6

The packs are packed, the straps are tightened and all but our frozen steak, tortilla shells and gorp have been purchased. A dream –  265+ days of pure obsessive bliss in the making.

I’m feeling a bit like a bride just before the wedding. Knowing that soon all of this endless planning will be put into action and will be over before I know it.

But unlike a bride – if I love it as much as my heart and soul are telling me I will – I will get to ride that horse of planning for the next trip soon! [Oh yes – we are planning on hitting up Mudro or heading far east to East Bearskin & Caribou Lakes in October!]

I laid out under the stars two nights ago around midnight. It was a very clear night and I saw a few shooting stars and reflected what this trip has meant to me, and for me so far.

A trip of distraction. A trip of happiness. When my life had been turned on its axis last July, I’ve had something real and tangible to be genuinely excited about. Instead of being quagmired in the day to day sadness that comes with loosing a parent, unexpectedly, at an early age I poured all of that emotion into planning for this trip. Was God and my dad leading me towards this trip as I’ve said many times for the end result – or for the planning? After all – as my dad has ALWAYS said – planning is half the fun!

Regardless, I laid under those stars the other night and felt deeply connected. Connected to this earth, connected to God and connected to my dad on a level I haven’t felt in a while. The tears came, and I let them. I let myself feel everything I’ve wanted to feel, but have been too terrified to feel. The only thing wrong with the entire scenario was the neeeaaawwwmmm of the cars going down the road and highway. I imagine myself on the far north lakes along the Canadian border in pure silence. Perhaps a splash in the lake of a Walleye getting comfortable for evening, or chipmunks trying hard to figure out how to eat through our food pack… but those are the sounds of the earth.

I cant wait to lay out on the ground in the night and stare at the heavens and let them speak to me without all of the distractions of society.

Last October I had started the countdown to the BWCA as a way to express my excitement, list off my laundry items of what to do to prepare for such a trip. 265 days ago I had visited the library to get a few books on Indian Lake,  a place that we were going camping for Labor Day in the southern arrowhead region. Next to those books were a few books on the boundary waters. I had no clue what the boundary waters really were besides being in a canoe and portaging in the woods. I had no interest in forgoing luxuries for a wild trip into the woods with minimal gear. Plus I didn’t even think anyone would be up for it.

Then I started to think about it constantly. I tried to use fear to “scare” the idea out of me, and imagined rabid wolves and bears coming into camp, or getting terribly lost in the woods, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that was being stirred up inside of me urging me to go. Finally mentioning it casually to my husband – like, “hmmm… I guess the fishing is pretty epic in the Boundary Waters…” My husband replied something to the effect of, “yeah – why not, check it out!” all nonchalant. I couldn’t believe it. I expected pushback, but instead I was met with open door after open door.

I began researching everything you can about the boundary waters. My first introduction ever into the bwca was a book Lost in the Wild last June by Cary Griffith which is about two lost people in the BWCA and Quetico. Determined I was not going to be unprepared like Jason Rasmussen from the book, I began relentlessly pouring over information on gear, fishing, location, wildlife, and maps and maps and maps. I watched You Tube video after You Tube video, and went to numerous expos in the process.

My biggest help has been the website Without it I would be dead in the water. The fine people on that website and on those message boards welcomed me with open arms, and provided me with top notch, kind advice. Never once was I made to feel stupid, or inferior, and the people I have met along the way want truly nothing more than for you to have an amazing experience.

I can’t wait to share a top notch trip report with you next month! Thanks to all of you who have helped with this journey! I’ll see you on the other side!

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 12.16.18 AM


Countdown to the BWCA ~ Part 5

Seriously – I’m posting part 5 today! It seems as though I was just at the local library picking up a copy of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Western Region book almost as a joke to see what the big fuss was about the BWCA, and now just 8 months later I am dreaming wildly of my first paddle stroke into the wild.

Everything is starting to run together now, but all that we really have to procure now is paddles and new fishing poles – because – eh – why not.

I recently purchased an Exped mat at the recommendation from my new friends over at I asked the kind folks of REI if I could “play” with one before I purchased so I pumped it up like I was giving my mat CPR (kind of wondering if all of this CPR pumping was worth the Exped) and then it was finally to the desired firmness, and I laid on it. I instantly was sold and probably laid in the store on that mat for far longer than I should have. (Later that evening I had a 12 hour drive ahead of me to Oklahoma) so I was taking advantage of the five minute snooze fest on the floor of REI. I’m sure they’ve seen far worse but I digress.

Nature is releasing its grip on winter down here near the cities with all of the snow gone, and ice out on much of the lakes. It is making me crave the wild places with an increased and renewed hunger. I recently spoke with some people from Ely who said the snow is gone-baby-gone (Hallelujah), but alas there is still two feet of perfect glass ice that is holding fast. Each day I am checking the Ely weather forecast to see if it will be warm enough to melt that ice – but ultimately I have to let nature do its thing and not worry about it. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” ~ Luke 12:25. My worrying about it won’t make the ice melt any faster. Well said Jesus. Well said.

At the end of this month I’m heading to the Outdoor Adventure Expo at Midwest Mountaineering and can’t wait! We went to the Sportsman Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center last weekend, and it was pretty underwhelming. Mostly RVs, big boats, and lodges. We did run into a few canoe outfitters, and I did purchase a subscription to the BWJ so I can dork out with a magazine too!
Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 11.25.15 PM


I think that’s it for now. Minimal things left for the month. To do’s include buying my 48″ bending branches espresso bent shaft paddle – leaving the fishing pole stuff up to the husband, and watching lots of videos on how to pack your canoe pack. The way I have it now I nearly tipped over like Reece Witherspoon in Wild.


Countdown to the BWCA ~ Part 2

The days are ticking by and with the merriment of the holidays and our daughters play we hadn’t been quite as immersed in planning as before. That changes this month however with requesting of our permit at the end of the month.

Everyone entering the bwca must have a permit to enter and between April and October you usually have to put in notice ahead of time. The key date to get your permit is on Wednesday January 28, 2015, at 9 a.m.  I of course have my calendar set already!

Between Christmas gifts and my birthday gifts we got much of the rest of the items that we were looking for including the epic Bio Lite stove. We even test drove it on Christmas night, and were able to boil water in 8 minutes flat! (I think that’s faster than my own stove-top and certainly faster than my regular camp stove!) We even used the pot that we are bringing to the BWCA so that we could have the most realistic practice.

I got out the Playtupus Gravity Works filter system and hooked that baby up too (apparently it was test all of our products night)! Water started filtering like a BOSS! I couldn’t even believe how fast the water filters through this thing!  Jason and I decided that right when we get to a campsite we will do the water, then set up the tent, while Kiki gathers twigs for our Bio Lite stove.

Unfortunately I need to return it though, because there is a gash in the tubing on the clean water side, bummer! Other than this – it works exceptionally well, so I will be making a trek down to REI this upcoming weekend. (Plus its their garage sale weekend – so hopefully we score some good deals and we can go rock climbing!)

Later this month we plan to buy the rest of the food that we are planning to bring, to get that all packed in the bag as well. (Just to make sure everything fits – so that if i need to order a Granite Gear Pack) I will know ahead of time.

So far we have a few Mountain House meals, and a few of the Bear Creek soups which we will just purchase pouch chicken for to add to it. We also will be brining a box or two of Rice-a-Roni and again adding either dried beef, or summer sausage to that etc. Breakfasts we plan to just bring oatmeal, and we’re still working out lunch and if left overs might be a possibility, or bring crackers and the pre-mixed tuna salad you can find in the tuna aisle.

Other than this – we are just trying stuff out to make sure it works, securing a bit more para cord, and at least one one other dry sack (or two). Beyond this – we will likely be renting a canoe from an outfitter, just to make our first experience the best one possible.

This next month we will be spending time procuring food, checking our list for whatever else we might need, and of course getting our permit!

Mid-month we’re heading up to the winter cabin that our family rents (sans kids) to play games, relax and me hopefully do a little hiking or snow shoeing!

Happy New Years everyone!

Countdown to the BWCA ~ Part 1

Join me in this six part series! The Countdown to the BWCA posted on the 1st of each month!

As you may know, since mid-August we’ve been looking forward to obsessed over our upcoming trip into the BWCAW.  Its something I personally am feeling really called to do and have been doing research near daily since. After about 8 weeks of pouring over maps and trip reports we’ve decided to enter in at Mudro and head north instead of east towards Basswood falls where most go.

We recently took a trip down to the mothership REI in Bloomington, Minnesota where we stocked up on a lot of our gear!


Click for Photo Source


It was so hard not to become distracted in the store, you know with the canoes hanging from the ceiling and myriad backpacks screaming for you to buy them and pretty much everything that was on an end cap looked super inviting to buy too!

After speaking with a super knowledgeable employee in the tent department we finally decided upon the Kelty four person backpacking lightweight tent. Perfect for the three of us. Light enough for Jason to carry but roomy enough for the dogs to come in if we ever decided to bring them along in the future.

I had my mind made up that I wanted Granite Gear Quetico Portaging pack but they didn’t have any portaging packs except Chicago IL or Duluth MN. Kiri chanted, “Mama just get one of these packs!” as she was pointing to the hiking style backpacks while being fitted for her own.

I was now at a crossroads. In doing a lot of research at, the way to go is either a Granite Gear portaging pack, a Duluth Pack or a CCS pack. But my family was trying on their packs and my husband brought up a good point… If we ever wanted to do either the POW WOW trail, the Superior Hiking Trail, myriad back pack camping sites at the state parks, or take a trip out west the backpacking pack would be my best bet.

I begrudgingly tried one on, but was instantly impressed with comfort and potential performance. With the thought in the back of my mind if I ever took a trip over to CCS, I could easily return the hiking one, but it is 65L so I think chances are I will keep it.

Here’s a list of items we’ve purchased so far:

GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Cookset
Kelty Discovery 4 Tent
Platypus Gravityworks Water Filter System – 4 Liter
Osprey Exos 58 Pack (for Jason)
REI Crestrail 65 Pack – Women’s (for Lindsey)
REI Flash 22 Pack (for miss K)

Amongst the basics we already own, over the next month we will buy the food we plan to take to ensure that it fits nicely in our pack and secure about 2 miles of paracord, and plenty of stuff sacks including a few hydro bags! We also have to make the choice to use our friends fiberglass canoe [read 80lbs], rent a kevlar from an outfitter near Ely, or borrow our friends Kevlar. Eventually we would like to own our own Kevlar and ditch our motorboat. (We’re fully committing here). I’ve been scouting out the Boundary Waters, the Minnesota 2 and the Quetico 17 so far.

For those of you who have been to the BWCA- what is your “Do Not Leave Home Without” item(s) and tips?