Camping with Thermo-electric Generation (Powered SmartPhones)

While camping over Memorial Day this year, I witnessed several people complaining about their SmartPhones (iPhones, etc.) and having to sit around the bathroom trying to get even to 20% charge. Last year Alicia and I had to coordinate who had the chargers and cables to plug in our iPhones so that we could keep them charged when we showered or went to the restroom. This year was remarkably different and much better – we were both able to charge our phones using just our BioLite BaseCamp thermo-electric camp stove.

Now another alternative might be to just turn them off while camping, but they can come in very helpful too. On this trip one of the kids had a bicycle accident at the other end of the camp ground and her sister used a cell phone to call for adult help and we used Alicia’s to play “sleepy time” music for the kids to help drown out the sound of  adults enjoying kid-free time around the camp fire in the evenings.

burgers on biolite basecamp

Jon grilling some burgers on BioLite BaseCamp

One of the things we love about the BaseCamp stove is that it doesn’t need special fuel or extra batteries with.  Instead, we used the fallen twigs and logs from around the site. The BaseCamp is big enough to grill for cooking for a medium group (or a large group in batches).  I  fit 6 burgers and a few hot dogs on at a time. Another benefit of the BioLite stoves/grills is they burn cleaner (aka less smoke) and more efficiently than an open fire or charcoal.  The fuel is totally renewable and required no extra processing, other than a few strokes with a hatch to make some of the bigger pieces small enough to fit.  I feel much better using the fallen wood than the white gas we use in our normal camp stove (which we only used for 2 out of 7 meals on that trip).

frying sausage in cast iron pan on BioLite CampStove using wood

Cooking and Charging on BioLite CampStove

I also own the BioLite CampStove, which is great for back packing because it is small and light.  Packed nested in the BioLite Kettle it is perfect for multi-day hikes where you have to carry everything with you.  You don’t need to worry about packing enough fuel if you are in the woods and you can top off your phone in the process.  Like its big brother, the Camp Stove can charge a smartphone, but I found it required a constant fuel maintenance to keep it charging the phone because it is so small.  The Camp Stove is awesome for boiling water and has become my go to camp tool for making hot chocolate or coffee.

BioLite has a couple other thermo-electric solutions if you already own a stove or you want to turn the Camp Stove into a grill.

So, would you rather be hanging around inside a stinky bathroom waiting for your phone to charge, or sitting around the camp site with friends feeding the fire in your BioLite Thermo-electric generator to charge your phone while cook a meal?

Alicia pressing aeropress coffee maker with BioLite Camp Stove charging iPhone

Alicia making coffee and charging her phone while camping

If you like camping, check out our other great camping posts.

Happy Greening!


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How to Easily Grill Corn on the Campfire

This year Ellie & Christor were old enough to actually help us plan for our annual camping trip, including participating in meal planning. They declared that they were going to make pancakes, and since I know that Ellie is perfectly capable of making pancakes at home by herself, that sounded great to me.  She also put in a strong vote for corn on the cob.  This is something we frequently enjoy while camping, but our family usually is usually not the one cooking it.

Campfire Grilled Corn

How to Easily Grill Corn on the Campfire

Our camping trips tend to be “organized potlucks”.  We have a spreadsheet that one of our friends developed, which we share through Google Docs. We each sign up to bring parts of meals and cook jointly, frequently at our tent site.

On the morning of pancakes, Jon woke me up to let me know that I had missed 1st and 2nd pancakes, that my kids had made the pancakes, but our friend cooked them. Perhaps not exactly what I had intended, but I had just slept an extra 2 hours longer than Jon and the kids. Tradeoffs have to be made.

This afternoon I decided to take over the corn on the cob.  While the children, all 10 of them on this trip, were at our friend’s site making ice cream, I brought out 20 ears of corn and in about 5 minutes 4 of us had them ready to soak. Some people think you need to get the silks off before you cook them and talk about getting the corn all prepped to cook before you go camping.  This is a lovely idea, but we didn’t have time to *buy* the corn before the trip, let alone prep it. Also, prepping it with friends is a lot more fun! 

Step 1: Cut off the tassels

One person cuts off the tassel ends, removing much of the silk and the dried husk ends. The other people take about one layer of husk off so that the fresh husks are exposed and the dried husks, which one would expect to catch fire easily, are removed.  We’ll burn these later to cut down on the trash.

corn with husks soaking in buckets of water

Soak the corn for 20 min

Step 2: Soak the corn in water for at least 20 minutes.

We put the corn in to soak and took the kids for a 20 minute bike ride.  Next we got the kids ready for a swim and some of the other parents took them down to the pond for swimming and kayaking. I decided that it was better to cook the corn and have it ready and warm before everything else was cooked, than to have people waiting for corn to come off the fire and burning themselves on it during the meal.

Step 3: Build up a hot fire.

camp fire with grill over top

Build a hot fire

Step 4: Put the corn on a grill

7 ears of corn on campfire

Put the corn on the grill

Put the corn on a grill above the fire. I set a timer and grilled the corn for six minutes.

Step 4: Flip the corn.

When I turned it over, I also flipped it end to end, because the back of the fire pit was hotter than the front. 

grilled corn over campfire

Flip corn end over end and rotate

Since there were no kids around, I decided to write this blog post while I cooked the first batch of corn.  I’m leaning heavily towards roasting some marshmallows for myself during the 2nd batch.  

Step 5: Decide the corn is done.  

I wasn’t sure how to check it.  I stabbed it with a fork. Then to be sure, I cooled it a little bit and took a bite out.  Delicious!

Ok, there were some difficulties.  I kept eating that first ear of corn and realized that the end that had been near the front of the grill wasn’t cooked as well as the end near the back, which is why for the 2nd batch I flipped it end to end as well as over. I also ended up putting that first batch back on after the 2nd one finished, to make sure they were well cooked.

If it had been a cold day, pre-cooking might not have worked as well as it did today, it’s 80F out right now!  Not much is cooling off.

People who have time to prep the corn before hand talk about buttering the corn and then pulling the husks back up for cooking.  That might be easier for people at the campground, but if that kind of pre-prep work was required, we wouldn’t have corn on our trips! 

Step 6: Serve

Serve with butter, salt and pepper.  Or, if it needs to be reheated, throw husked ears on the grill for 1-2 minutes for a nice grilled flavor.


  • Have long tongs.  Open fires get really hot, and you need a hot fire to grill the corn.
  • If you do multiple batches you will likely need to re-build the fire between batches.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended. Not even “just to go to the restroom”.

If you like camping, check out our other great camping posts.

Happy Greening!


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