Can a Camp Stove (That Charges iPhones) Save Millions of Lives?

Courtesy BioLite

When I was first introduced to BioLite’s technology a little more than a year ago at an outdoor goods showcase in lower Manhattan, I was equally enchanted and dismissive. The founders of the Brooklyn-based startup had devised a portable, cylindrical wood-burning camp stove that recharges electronic devices through a USB cable. Cool, right? No need to carry gas canisters—or worry about running out of fuel—on an overnight hike. And if you use your smartphone as your camera, here was a way to break camp with enough juice to capture every pano-view and secure photo evidence of that fearsome bear on the opposite ridge. Soon after, I bought one for the one person I could imagine really using it: my friend Claire, who spends much of her year helping to staff a medical clinic in a remote part of Panama where brownouts are frequent (and that’s in areas that have any electricity at all). Yet thinking of Claire confirmed my sense that this was a niche, even superniche, gizmo. A gift for the backpacker who has everything.

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