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Best Survival Lighter: Factors to Consider When Choosing an Outdoor Lighter

The Best Survival Lighters
by Mark Foster, Copyright ©
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What's the best survival lighter? One you can count on to get a fire started everytime -- but there's a catch:

Some lighters don't work in cold temperatures and others don't work at high altitudes.

Do you want a "Survival lighter" that's going to work for you anytime and anywhere? Keep reading -- don't get left in the cold without a good fire to warm up next to (that's an easy way to die of hypothermia).

When You Need a Fire

When you are braving the forest, coastline or mountains, one of the most important things you can have is the ability to build a fire. First and foremost, you need fire in order to provide the much-needed warmth which can mean your very survival in the wild.

Another important function of building a fire is to cook food and sterilize, which are also survival necessities that you can't afford to overlook. One of the most reliable ways to build a fire is to have a container of high quality wooden matches or a good lighter with you that you can count on. Of course, you always have the option to go the primative route and build your own fire from scratch, but it's just not convenient and reliable.This is why many outdoor enthusiasts make sure that they have the best survival lighter whenever they go hiking or camping.

True enough, having a good reliable lighter can mean the difference between warmth and eating -- or freezing and starving. Thus, many folks choose to have a lighter as part of their EDC (every day carry) items. However, not just any lighter will do, the one in your survival kit should be reliable, durable, and be able to withstand even the harshest conditions.

Considerations when choosing a survival lighter

Choosing a survival lighter that's right for you can be a fairly daunting task, especially if you're a first-time buyer. Lucky for you, we have a couple of guidelines when choosing this type of product so you won't be caught in the dark and cold.


Determining the usage of the lighter is one important consideration when buying a survival lighter. As you might know, these kind of lighters aren't just used for lighting a campfire especially with regards to an outdoor setting. Considering the usage of the lighter is very important because of the unexpected things that can happen while in the wild. With that said, it is best that you invest in a survival lighter that can withstand a variety of weather conditions.


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Not all things that can produce fire are created equal, especially in terms of reliability. For instance:

• Matches are great for starting a fire but once they get wet, you're out of luck.

• Butane lighters and butane alternatives are common but they tend to be quite unreliable in the cold.

• Propane lighters are preferable over butane since they're easy to store and are readily available in portable tanks.

• There are also wick-based lighters that are well-liked by people. These lighters tend to work better in the cold but fuel leaks can be a problem.

The bottom line: each type of lighters has their own pros and cons. That's why in most cases, it's better to have multiple lighters for multiple conditions in your survival kit.

Choose A Survival Lighter for Your Location and or Elevation

The location of your camp or hike is also an important factor when shopping for your survival lighter. For example, if you are hiking to a high altitude location, there's a good chance that some lighters will not work properly. The amount of oxygen, which is needed to keep a flame going, is lower when you are at high altitudes.

For high altitude hiking, it's recommended that you go with a torch instead of a traditional lighter as they are wind resistant and are great for high altitude places.

Deep cold or even higher elevations? Have more than one survival lighter

Research lighters when it comes to higher elevations and deep cold. A lot of lighters that work great might not work at all in low temperatures or altitudes of 9,000 feet or higher. One trick is to keep a lighter in your pocket so it's kept warm by your body heat. Then pull it out and light it before the deep cold chills it.

In the end, considering what high elevation backpackers have said about their personal experiences with lighters (you can read some first hand experiences here), a trusty Bic lighter is the least likely of all lighters to fail -- though a more expensive survival lighter with a torch head in normal daily conditions may work better in higher winds than a Bic while also having more heat and direct flame, which gives you a faster campfire. So, to be truly prepared, have a survival lighter with a torch head, back up fuel canisters for that lighter, and then a few Bic lighters as well.

If for some reason that Bic won't work, pull out your dry box (which you should always have with you for any trek into the wilderness) of highly flammable tinder such as vaseline and cotton wool and magnesium alloy (Swedish FireSteel creates sparks even when wet and works at any altitude) and then proceed to setting campfires that way.

On top of that, make sure that you read reviews from other users to know if a product is worth your money or not. Once you have more experience with using such lighters, you'll get a better feel as to which models to go for.


In general, lighters are portable. However as mentioned earlier, not all lighters are suitable for all types of conditions. If you choose to bring a fuel-based lighter, you will also have to bring a container for extra fuel. Then, you will have to worry the fuel leaking in your backpack or pocket. The fuel container is also at risk of exploding or combusting when it's exposed to extreme heat.

For outdoor uses, flint and steel lighters are highly recommended since they are not just portable and durable, but they are also fairly risk-free to carry. These lighters can also still work even if they are damaged. You can just throw them into your pack and not worry about a thing.

Water and wind resistance

As mentioned, matches are pretty much useless once they get wet and the same can be said with conventional lighters; not so much if the lighter is resistant to water. We're not necessarily talking about a lighter that can work underwater (although there are ones that still work even when submerged in water) but it should still be working even when exposed to heavy rain or water. On the other hand, your survival lighter should also have good wind resistance. In this case, you should look for a lighter with direct flame, meaning that it should be torch-like. Lighters with direct flame are so powerful that they can withstand strong winds: perfect for most outdoor conditions.


In a survival situation, anything can happen. It's almost a certainty that you will drop the lighter and the last thing you'll want is it breaking down on you. Fortunately, most lighters designed for survival situations are tough. However, it still pays to check on the model's durability. A good practice to ensure the durability rating of a lighter is to pay attention to the overall material and make (check if it's vulnerable to rust) and to read user reviews. First-hand experiences are always a good indication when it comes to product's durability.


Although it's not strictly necessary, it's always a good thing if your lighter is refillable. Lighters with refills have no distinct advantage in terms of durability and performance but it's great to know that you can reuse it multiple times. It's a factor that you'll eventually get used to and perhaps love your lighter for, so it's good if you can refill it as needed.

Ease of use

When things start to go south, you need a fire that will come out easily. When you're cold and hypothermia starts to set in, the last thing you want is to clumsily fiddle with your fire source because it's not easy to light. With that said, arc lighters are perhaps the easiest ones to operate. All you need to do is to press a button and voila, you have a fire going.

Wick lighters are also easy to use and will light up as long as you have fuel, regardless of the current conditions. Traditional butane lighters are fairly easy to light as well, although not as seamless when using an arc or wick lighter. Flint and steel offer a lot of benefits but unfortunately, ease of use is not among them because you'll need to use both hands to light a fire. As much as possible, you want a lighter that you can operate with just one free hand.


When you are in the wild amidst a survival situation, it's just not possible to have your lighter replaced. Thus, you need a lighter that will last you a good long time. In that regard, propane, wick, arc and butane lighters are all good options since they require fuel or a power source to keep working. However, survival lighters are not made to last forever and they will eventually wear out and break down. Therefore, it's worth repeating that you need to bring extra lighters in case one of them breaks.

Cost effectiveness

Here's another important factor to consider especially for the budget-conscious outdoor adventurers. As mentioned, many lighters are fuel-based which means that you'll need to buy extra fuel for them. It can get rather pricey if you choose to stock fuel for months or even years. Arc lighters would be ideal since you just need to charge them in an electrical power source, which is far more economical than buying extra fuel once in a while. Flint and steel and a magnifying glass don't require any fuel or power so they're basically a one-time purchase. However, it's better if you use them as backup fire starters in case of emergencies.

With these considerations, you should be able to buy a survival lighter or two that will fit your needs and requirements.

Final thoughts

If you plan to spend significant time outdoors, choosing the best outdoor lighter is of utmost importance. You need a reliable, portable and dependable lighter that will provide the much-needed fire to bail you out once the crap hits the fan on your trek. Choosing the right survival lighter means a lot of research on your part, including knowing what you want and your intended uses for the lighter. On top of that, make sure that you read reviews from other users to know if a product is worth your money or not. Once you have more experience with using such lighters, you'll get a better feel as to which models to go for.

Mark is the guy you want by your side when you're on an outdoor adventure. He has spent a lot of time putting together specialized survival kits with the right tools and without the junk a lot of newbies pack along. His experiences include determining the best survival lighter to have by your side in the wilderness.

When Disaster Strikes, Be Prepared for Anything
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