Fire starting is one of the most valuable survival skills you can have, and while I think everyone should know and practice multiple different ways to start a fire, one of the best pieces of fire-starting gear you can carry is a good old fashion lighter. While armchair survivalists may laugh at the idea, and go on and on about they saw Bear Grylls or Survivorman start a fire with 20 different methods, during a survival situation, do you want to make things hard on yourself or do you want to survive?
Personally, I want to survive, and I want to make things as easy as I can on myself. You are already going to be dealing with multiple different stressors; the last thing you need during a crisis is extra work and stress.
So yes, I do carry fire steel and other fire-starting tools, but I also carry a lighter as part of my EDC, and I have one in every bag and kit I own. In a survival situation, where I’m cold and need to warm up quickly, I’m not screwing around with matched or bow drills; the first thing I’m going for is that lighter.
What is a Survival Lighter?
While nine times out of ten a Bic Lighter will probably work, when looking for something to keep in your survival kits and bug out bags, I recommend looking for a dedicated survival lighter.
A survival lighter should be weatherproof, windproof and waterproof; it should also be made of high-quality materials that will ensure it lasts and works when you really need it. Keep in mind, the environments that you are going to be starting fires in is an important consideration when choosing which type of lighter to go with.
Fuel and Ignition Types: What fuels are best?
When choosing a lighter, keep in mind that there are many different options. Let’s take a look at your choices.
Lighter Fluid: Lighter fluid can be found just about anywhere. It’s going to be one of the easiest fuels to find, which is always a plus when looking for preparedness related gear. The ability to find supplies during a disaster is always a major factor in the gear I choose, so the fact that this fuel is everywhere is something you should consider.
There are two types of lighter fluid: 1. Petroleum-based which uses Naphtha, a volatile flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture and 2. Alcohol-based fluids like Charcoal lighter fluid, an aliphatic petroleum solvent.
Butane: Butane is an organic compound; it is highly flammable, colorless and used in refillable butane lighters and torches. A lot of the “windproof” lighters that you will find on the market generally take Butane.
Electric Arc and Plasma: Plasma and Arc Lighters are completely flameless, and don’t use combustible fuel. Most are powered by rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries. Unlike open flame lighters, they don’t heat the tip of the lighter; they focus on the exact area you are trying to light. They are also windproof. The downside to these types of lighters is once the battery does, you are out of luck – unless you have a way to recharge them.
The Best Survival Lighters
The Bic Lighter
While technically not waterproof, throw one of these bad boys Waterproof Lighter case, and you won’t be able to find a better built disposable lighter on the market. They are cheap, easy to use and even if they get wet, blowing on the sparking element is often enough to get them working again.
Why we like the Bic:
- They are cheap and can usually be found for under $1 a lighter. Because they’re so cheap, there is no reason not to stash one in every kit, bag and vehicle you own.
- Every BIC is put through more than 50 quality checks during the manufacturing process.
- A single Bic will last quite a while; in fact, they are rated at up to 3,000 lights per lighter.
- They are Made in the USA!
The Classic Zippo Lighter
When it comes to survival lighters that have stood the test of time, there isn’t another lighter on the market that has the story and the history of the Zippo.
During World War II, Zippo stopped all commercial production and dedicated their entire line to supply the military. Since then, millions of military personnel have carried their Zippo into battle, and the term Zippo has found its way into the military lexicon. During Vietnam, the term “Zippo” was used anytime a fire or a flam was used. In fact, the flame-throwing M67 tank was referred to as the Zippo.
Why we like the Zippo
- They are as tough as nails! Most are made of metal or brass, and it’s not uncommon to find a working Zippo that is decades old. To top it off, each Zippo comes with a lifetime warranty.
- The zippo windscreen makes them windproof, and they stay lit even in harsh weather.
- Because they are so iconic, and because they come in some many styles, carrying one isn’t going to look weird, even in an office setting.
- They are refillable and are fueled with butane.
- They are also made in the U.S.A
Vertigo by Lotus Cyclone Triple Torch Cigar Lighter
While technically sold as a cigar lighter, it’s one of the most reliable lighters you can find. They are made for cigar smokers, so they are meant to be used a lot. It uses butane as fuel, and the tank can hold quite a bit so it should last a good amount of time. The triple flame makes it pretty close to windproof, and it tends to hold up pretty well in harsh weather conditions.
lcfun Waterproof Lighter
The Ifcun Explorer is windproof, waterproof arc electric lighter that is great for emergencies. The flameless lighter is lightweight, durable and will even
light when wet. What I don’t like about these types of lighters is the fact that you need a charged battery for them to work, that being said they are getting better, and they do hold a decent amount of charges.
I’m not a huge fan of Arc lighters, but if you are going to buy one don’t get suckered into buying one that costs more than this. These are definitely knockoffs, but in my experience, they work better than the ones made by so-called survival brands.
Lighters to Stay Away From
Unfortunately, 99% of the survival sites you find online are run by internet marketers or magazine conglomerates who don’t know shit about survival!
Tesla Coil Lighters
If you see a survival website promoting Tesla Coil Lighters, they are full of shit! These lighters suck, you can’t get them wet, they only last a couple of days, and they have no business being on a list of survival gear.
Anything made by UST or Ultimate Survival Technologies
I really wanted to like these, but every UST lighter I have ever owned has crapped out on me in less than a week. If you see them promoted on a survival site, the person writing the article has never used them in the real-world!
Survival Lighter Hacks: Getting the most out of your Fire-Starting Gear
If you follow the site, you know that we love multi-use pieces of survival gear and we love being able to hack or find new uses for gear. So here are a couple of items and survival hacks that can make you’re lighter even better.
MecArmy X4S Multifunctional Flashlight EDC Lighter
The MecArmy X4S takes the concept of a lighter and turns it into a multitool EDC. The X7S can be used as a lighter, a USB rechargeable flashlight, a self-defense Kubotan, and a mini IPX8 water resistant survival storage kit. It’s made with high-grade 304 stainless steel and features a CREE XP-G2 LED, with a max output of 130 lumens.
Lighter Cases make cheap lighters better!
Cases like the Exotac Firesleeve take disposable Bic lighters and turn them into floating waterproof tools that are protected from the elements. They also protect the gas button from being accidentally pressed down, so that you know you always have fuel when you need it.
Turn it into a Mini EDC Survival Kit:
Before putting any lighter in my kit or pocket, I take a couple of minutes and turn it into a mini survival kit.
- Wrap your lighter with duct tape. In a pinch, you’ll be able to remove the tape and use it for whatever situation may present itself.
- After Wrapping with tape, I put two fishing hooks one side and a bit of cotton and a few sewing needles on the other side.
- Next, wrap everything with about 100 feet of 20lb fishing line. The line can be used for fishing, repairing gear or making snares and traps.
You now have a mini survival kit that you can carry with you anywhere.