Survival Matches vs Bic Lighter

If you have a choice between a Bic lighter or a couple of survival matches, which one would you choose?

A single Bic Lighter

In almost every commercial survival kit, survival matches often take the place of a good old fashion lighter….. But why?

Unfortunately, a lot of these so called “Survival Kits” are designed to look cool and sell rather than being designed to save lives. If given the option between a kit that has survival matches, and a kit that has a lighter, I’ll choose the kit with the lighter every time.

In a survival situation, a lighter will start a lot more fires than the few matches you’ll find in most commercial kits. It’s also a lot easier to use a lighter when starting a fire.

  • Lighters are easy to use
  • They can start thousands of fires
  • And even if they get wet, you can usually get them to work by blowing on the top of the lighter to dry it out.

In my opinion, when it comes to fire starting devices, the good old reliable Bic Lighter’s the way to go.


  1. Mungo
    June 29, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Good point. And well after the fuel has run out of the cannister, you can use the small sparker (a tiny ferrocerium rod) to ignite cotton fibres etc… to start more fires. Make some char cloth the first time around and you’ll easily have lots of quick, easy starting embers.

    • will
      July 8, 2012 at 6:06 pm

      its actually a flint, but whatever.

      • Garrett
        May 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm

        Mungo was actually correct when he said ferrocerium. If you have the difference between the two is that when something strikes ferrocerium it shaves tiny pieces off and that is what burns and when flint is struck with steel tiny pieces of steel shave off and burn.

  2. hermitjim
    June 29, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    I have to agree with you on this 100%. I would rather have a bic, and even if I didn’t need it for myself…it makes a teriffic barter item!

    Lights better in the wind, also!

  3. Dave
    June 29, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Not having butane lighters probably has something to do with shipping/freight regulations. I often wondered why they didn’t put a small bic lighter in survival kits you purchase and that is what I figure is going on.

  4. Survivalchick
    June 30, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Good point.. I wonder why that is?

  5. Yeti
    July 16, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    BIC all the way!! Be sure and get one that is childproof and see through though.

    Child proof so that the fuel doesn’t get released buy gear depressing the valve, and see through so you are not left out in the cold with an empty lighter!

    The reason they are not in survival kits is more than likely due to shipping restrictions on combustibles. You might need separate permitting or something along those lines.

    Cheers and Beers

  6. Michael
    July 28, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    I think a part of the reason is that matches will always work as long as they are there (provided they are waterproof or kept dry)

    While a working lighter would certainly be more useful than a box of matches, it can’t be guaranteed to work. Especially if its been sitting in the survival kit for several years. The butane may leak away or the mechanism for sparking may seize up; things which one wouldn’t want to discover when you need to start a fire in a survival situation.

    A good idea would be to carry a Bic lighter for convenience but good old fashioned matches just in case.

    What are some other peoples opinions on this?

    • Jerry
      April 17, 2016 at 10:36 pm

      I had TWO Bic lighters and after 4 years in a survival kit, they didn’t work at all. As Michael mentioned, one of them the butane leaked away and in BOTH of them, the sparking seized up and they were useless.

      Just food for thought…..

      • Renato
        July 5, 2017 at 4:11 pm

        I have several bic lighters here lying around for many years. And they still function as the first day I bought them. Full.
        So the leakening is not standard.

  7. OFFGRID Logo
    July 29, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    I agree Michael that you should have both, I just prefer the Lighter because its a lot easier to start a fire with but….

    I do have backups for just about everything, and still carry a few matches in all my kits along with a couple other firestarters.

    You can never be to prepared

  8. ghostrider_tx
    August 11, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    The Bic is good, but in the winter it can freeze in really cold temps. To prevent this, carry it inside your cold weather gear so that body warmth will prevent freezing. You can also store the small ones in a waterproof match container with a cotton ball on top to keep it from rattling and this will also keep anything from pressing the lever and releasing the gas. The cotton ball also has many uses.

  9. Todd
    August 12, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Bic lighter + a few lifeboat matches as backups.
    Then you can keep the fire going…

  10. John
    August 29, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    YES!!!!!!!!!!!! Completely agree, also the mini ones weigh like less than an ounce. So I carry like 4 on my person, never know they are there til I need them. Also as someone who actually goes out periodically and really tried to start a fire in the wet woods – matches are really not the way to go – even lifeboat NATO matches, sorry. The next best besides a bic is called a “SPark lite” spark steel and the tinder that comes with. Even with lighter or matches or spark steel BRING TINDER!!! :) I find Tinder is often as important as the fire starter. Be safe everybody :)

  11. Solace
    November 20, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    I carry matches in my kit, but i carry a bic in my pocket.

  12. Alan
    April 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    I bought a small box of waterproof & windproof matches in 1974. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time hiking and camping in wilderness areas, sometimes for months at a time. Those original matches have been with me through mountains (summer and winter), deserts, rivers, lakes and beaches and I’ve never had an occasion to use them. All I’ve ever needed was a mini-Bic (I carry 2, just in case) and a “metal match.”

  13. Bryan Jones
    July 22, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    One is none, Two is one…so Three must be two.

    its a good saying for survival…ALWAYS have a back up. then a back up for your backup will keep you safe and alive.

  14. Toby Braswell
    August 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Excellent thinking. People (including myself at times) are so caught up in thinking they can be Daniel Boone that they risk their life to prove their poorly perceived abilities. Go with the Bic lighter and keep your camping experiences good with tools that work.

  15. Sean P
    October 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Matches were fine last century. I always bring 2 mini BIC’s… 1 in my pants pocket and one in my pack. My backup is a ferro rod with a 2 inch piece of hacksaw for striking. No tinder better steel wool to take a spark. All these together weigh about the same as a few feet of 550 paracord.

  16. Javier Bonilla
    October 30, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    The post above is hillarious.

    Provided matches are dry, that you have ten thousand and that the scratching paper is limmitless, i would always take matches because a bic lighter might fail.

    Bic lighters rarely fail, even if wet. And for those who would take a bic and matches, why not take two bics like the gentleman above.

    Too much time in the hands of us modern men…. Good wishes, Javier.

  17. Matt
    February 12, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Fire tends to be harder than some people think. Having matches or a lighter does not ensure fire. I have made fires in different climates and weather. A lighter is a good tool, but wind, dampness and the cold can keep it from working. I have used some storm matches that have worked well but agian they are limited by quantity and the weather. Its good to carry a way to create fire but better to carry three and the experience of practice.

  18. Shawn
    May 14, 2012 at 11:02 am

    “Peanut” lighters seem the best, as I have had butane lighters that sat for about 5 years be still-full, but unusable. The valve is the problem with the average butane lighter. If left for years you will have to turn the flame adjuster all the way up in order to get just a tiny weak little flame. “Windproof” or “torch” or “jet” lighters seem to degrade even faster. Lighters that run on zippo fuel have a different problem, usually: evaporation. They don’t have a valve to degrade, but if they aren’t refilled every few weeks they will go “dry” without having been used. This is fine if you want to carry a can of zippo type fuel, or if you’re sure you’ll have gasoline available in a pinch (Warning this is dangerous, and should probably not be tried in normal circumstances even with so called “petrol” lighters, like “Triplex”), but the whole point is safe COMPACT carry. A lighter that runs on zippo fuel that keeps it from evaporation by using an o-ring seems to solve this dilemma. Both “peanut” and “permanent match” lighters have o-rings, but “permanent match” lighters can only be kept lit for about 4 seconds at a time, or the wick will start being consumed. “Peanut” lighters don’t have this problem. This all being said, either of these will only be as good as the o-ring, and if this degrades they will eventually go dry. I carry a mini-bic and “magic relight” birthday candle in my wallet, and a “split pea” lighter (mini-peanut lighter) on my key ring. Hope this helps

  19. Mike
    June 14, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    If the only choice was for either the Bic or Matches, I would chose the Bic, simply because even after the flame/fuel is not longer available, I can still get a spark from the flint.
    The only way to sway from that would be if the matches were 3 large boxes of 300 each of Diamond strike anywhere (red head) in a waterproof case.

  20. Tim
    July 7, 2012 at 7:50 am

    I have a Zippo lighter as part of my EDC, but I will openly admit that evaporation of the fuel is a nightmare, and it needs refuelling every 8 days or so, so I am planning on replacing it with a steel Bic when possible (I don’t smoke, so it is purely as a fire-lighting tool) I also have a miniature Zippo in the kit which is about 2x1cms. I never waste fuel in it, as it would evaporate too soon, but, it is excellent as a spark thrower (and takes standard Zippo flints) In my BOB, I have a Bic lighter for if I eas ever desperate for a flame, as well as several tinfoil-wrapped vaseline-soaed cotton wool firelighters. If the worst came to the worse, I would use a boot/shoe lace to make a fire drill…

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