EDC: Lighter

Make fire to cook, light in the darkness, heat in the cold you just must have fire. While I have previously discussed the heated lawnmower blades as a fire lighter, for many they are not easy to use, especially when so many simple alternatives are available. Certainly the pair of iron strikers will last much longer off grid, often fire is needed fast and easy not eventually. Lets look at some commonly available cigarette lighters and their features, pros and cons.

Typical low pressure disposable plastic lighter

Typical low pressure disposable plastic lighter

Disposable plastic type lighter.

Fuel : pressurized butane

Refillable: usually no, sometimes yes check for valve.

Fuel life span: depends on use

Ignition system: usually striker wheel and flint, sometimes piezoelectric

Ignition life span: striker wheel good, piezos can often fail

Material: Mostly plastic

Weight:  low

Cost: low $1-2

Main advantage: cheap readily available.

Main disadvantage: not refillable usually

Typical high pressure piezoelectric butane lighter. Some have an LED light as a optional feature.

Typical high pressure piezoelectric butane lighter. Some have an LED light as a optional feature.

High pressure butane type lighter

Fuel: butane at high pressure

Refillable: Sometimes

Fuel life span: Fuel often will leak, 2 weeks at most.

Ignition system: piezoelectric.

Ignition life span: often fails before fuel is gone.

Material: plastic.

Weight: low.

Cost: medium, often gimmick factor in price.

Main advantage: very hot flame, good in windy conditions.

Main disadvantage: very unreliable.

Typical Zippo type lighter. Iconic.

Typical Zippo type lighter. Iconic.

Zippo type lighter

Fuel:  volatile liquid hydrocarbons

Refillable: yes

Fuel life span: 2-3 weeks depending on fuel, temperature, and use.

Ignition system: striker wheel and flint

Ignition life span: long 3- 6 months between replacing flints

Material: metal, brass  is common

Weight: heavy

Cost: high $30- 50 depending on brand and quality

Main advantages: very robust, big flame, very simple design.

Main disadvantages: heavy, difficult to replace flints, fuel will evaporate quickly.

Typical Imco type lighter. One of the better options.

Typical Imco type lighter. One of the better options.

Imco Triplex type lighter

Fuel:  volatile liquid hydrocarbons

Refillable: yes

Fuel life span: long

Ignition system: striker wheel and flint

Ignition life span: medium, uses flints fast.

Material: metal

Weight: medium, not much heavier than plastic lighters

Cost: medium, $20

Main advantage:  small and easy to maintain, quite reliable creates large spark, long fuel life

Main disadvantage: uses flints fast, seem complex at first, lots of sliding parts and a spring.

Conclusions:

If you already have a Zippo type or Imco type lighter, keep it. If you can justify $20 or more for a lighter, get one of those two, if not, two or three low pressure lighters. Avoid the high pressure lighters, their special feature is seldom needed and they fail often. If you are deciding on a liquid hydrocarbon fueled lighter remember to have fuel and periodically check the fuel levels.

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