High low tech: Rocket stoves

Backpacking is appealing partly because it forces you to simplify. You consume only what you can carry on your back, and for the most part it’s a low-tech experience. But even if you can be pried away from your phone, iPod, and GPS device, there’s a big chunk of the petrochemical industrial complex you take with you: the stove. You’re toting a metal stove and a bottle or two of highly refined gasoline. I suppose a real Bear Grylls wild man could cook over an open fire, but that’s slow, ineffective, wasteful, and dangerous.

Designers Alexander Drummond and Jonathan Cedar were annoyed that camping involved schlepping bottles of gasoline into the wilderness, so they formed a company called BioLite and dedicated themselves to perfecting something called the rocket stove. I had no idea that such a simple stove could burn regular old sticks so efficiently, but check out this BioLite CampStove in action.

The result is still high tech, but it does simplify the camping experience. No gasoline stink, no gasoline danger, and no gasoline weight. What’s especially nice about rocket stoves is their potential to improve the lives of people who do all their cooking on open stoves. The same design that make fancy-pants first-world designers feel good about their camping can be adapted for a Nepalese woman who cooks over a smoky yak dung fire. Highly efficient biomass stoves in developing countries can make a big difference to CO2 emissions, forest conservation, and the well-being of those doing the cooking. It’s a good story all the way around.

(via Steve Crandall)

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