Lighter Showdown: The Best Survival Lighter

When it comes to survival, fire starting can mean the difference between life and death. So having a good lighter is paramount to increasing your chances of survival. What’s the best survival lighter you ask?  We’ve taken some of the most popular choices and compared them to find out which lighter is the best survival lighter.

Disposable Lighters

Survival lightersWhen it comes to disposable lighters there are two basic kinds; the cheap ones and BIC’s. Flat out DO NOT use a cheap disposable for survival purposes, they extremely unreliable and your life is too important to risk over a few dollars.

Pros: Cheap

Easy to replace

Easy to buy in bulk

Cons: Not reusable (I’ve heard you can refill them, but even if it were possible you have a cruddy plastic lighter)

Don’t perform well in cold weather (butane becomes difficult to vaporize at colder temperatures making it harder to burn)

Not very durable, break easily

Zippo Lighters

Zippo lighters have been used since 1932, they are reliable, hold up in harsh conditions and reusable. Not to mention you can personalize your lighter with various cool designs.

Pros: Very reusable (fuel, wicks and flints are easily replaced)

Lot’s of accessories

Withstands a great deal of moderate/severe weather types

Cons: Not completely “wind proof”

Fuel only lasts for a week or two of heavy usage

Stormproof Lighter

Stormproof lighters are really a great survival tool. In the worst wind and wettest conditions a fire could be possible with one of these lighters.

Burton storm Lighter

Pros:Virtually windproof

Burn really hot

Usually very dependable

Cons: Don’t perform well in cold weather (butane becomes difficult to vaporize at colder temperatures making it harder to burn)

Storm lighters are expensive

Fuel is expensive and has short duration during use

The Winner?

The storm proof lighter wins our lighter showdown because of it’s outstanding performance in severe wind, rain and snow. From a cost perspective the Zippo is the best lighter but doesn’t quite meet the storm proof lighters level of weather resistance and heat of flame.

About The Author

Survival Spot is dedicated to helping everyone learn to be prepared. No matter what happens you can be ready.

48 Responses

  1. Spuffler

    And what about moisture resistance? Any lighter that depends on friction against flints will need to be dried before the spark will ignite any fuel. Zippo and Cheap disposables fail here.

    Reply
  2. Survival Spot

    That's a very good point spuffler. But it would have to be a storm lighter that is completely sealed off when not in use, some of them aren't built that way.

    Reply
  3. tjbbpgobIII

    I get and save old, empty (or nearly so) cheap bic type lighters for their flints, one of which you can make into several for zippo lighters. You can find these almost anywhere you look or do what I do, have my friends and family save them for me. I store them in the bottom of the zippos under the cotton. One of the things I store is lighter fluid but I have used helicopter fuel in the 60's and anything like that works fine. I don't think I'd use plain gasoline though, too explosive I believe.

    Reply
  4. Shannon

    I was stranded in the forest for 2 days in a snow storm with a broken ankle while hiking, thankfully I had a gun with me and my Boy Scout Outdoor Essentials (Don't go anywhere without them.) and I was able to light my fire since I had bungled a shelter together with what I could reach. There was enough wood nearby to crawl or hop around and get. The lighter wouldn't light so I tucked it in my armpit to warm it up, it lit just fine after that. As far as the moisture protection, there is time for it to dry out against your body warmth. After it is warmed up, blow on it for about a minute or two, this WILL dry it out enough.
    Now, I am not saying that the Storm Proof Lighter wouldn't work, but having a zippo and extra fuel means that you would have that extra fuel to put on some tinder to get it going quicker as well should you need it in a damp situation….

    Just my 2 cents.

    Reply
  5. Les Walker

    The brunton Storm Light will not work above 6000 feet… horrible tool

    Reply
  6. Shannon

    I am willing to bet that a Zippo will work at that altitude too. Never been there personally but physics tells me that the fuel will burn even in lower oxygen.
    Again, I am not bashing the Brunton, I am just saying that if you don't have one or access to a Brunton, that the Zippo or the Bic would probably do just fine.
    Now, if I were on a planned extreme adventure such as climbing a mountain, then maybe I would make sure to have the Bruton, I personally think of those unplanned times, when I will make due with what I have or what is most easily accessable.

    Reply
  7. cale

    Wow what a lame post. 'What is the best lighter for survival situations?' Disposable lighter, zippo, or a STORMPROOF lighter. Wow, stormproof won. What a challenge.

    Reply
  8. steve

    zippo lighters make lots of sparks (which can be used to make fire in any condition) and spare flints, up to 4-5, can be stored in the bottom of the lighter without damaging them.

    Reply
  9. Shannon

    Cale,
    I would have to disagree on this being a lame post. Many people wouldn't have even thought about a BIC not working well in higher altitudes.
    Also, If you don't think this guy is putting together anything useful for your, then don't come back, or at least don't say that what he is doing is lame, at least he is doing something to try to help out his fellow man. Personally, I hadn't even heard of the STORM PROOF lighters. I am a major outdoorsman, I just don't keep up on the latest technology, I am a little more old fashioned, I still start my fires with a bic if I have one, or flint and steel if I don't, or even the Bow Drill.
    Keep your negativity to yourself and let this man be comfortable knowing that he is helping some people and not just annoying you.

    Reply
    • 4D5

      I agree entirely. The other issue is fuel. If it ain't propane, it won't refill your storm proof lighter. You can get darn near any flammable liquid to work in a zippo. I am a heacy smoker, and 1 can of ligher fluid will last me months and months. Propane lighters EAT fuel, it is not as efficient, cost effective, and you will pay MUCH more for the same amount of lights.

      My last thought, drop a Zippo, pick it up and it will still light. Drop a Piezo (sp?) ignition lighter and you have a great sinker for fishing.

      Reply
  10. Shannon

    Cale,
    I would have to disagree on this being a lame post. Many people wouldn't have even thought about a BIC not working well in higher altitudes.
    Also, If you don't think this guy is putting together anything useful for your, then don't come back, or at least don't say that what he is doing is lame, at least he is doing something to try to help out his fellow man. Personally, I hadn't even heard of the STORM PROOF lighters. I am a major outdoorsman, I just don't keep up on the latest technology, I am a little more old fashioned, I still start my fires with a bic if I have one, or flint and steel if I don't, or even the Bow Drill.
    Keep your negativity to yourself and let this man be comfortable knowing that he is helping some people and not just annoying you.

    Reply
    • HatedNation

      I agree Shannon,
      There are many of us writers out there that try to put stuff together for readers and it takes some work, Either read it and take note or leave it alone..Well said!
      This guy works hard to get info out and if its not valuable to you or even interesting then just pass on it, bad comments do not accomplish anything…except maybe start debates..lol

      HatedNation
      <a href="http://hatednation.today.com” target=”_blank”>http://hatednation.today.com

      Reply
  11. High Desert Hermit

    I live at about 7,000 feet, and have spent an entire year camping, even through a very harsh winter with lots of snow. I'll tell you now, nothing beats a Bic. Not only do they light reliably, even mildly damp, they keep lighting until all the fuel is gone, with little degradation of the flame at the end. They're relatively cheap, can be found everywhere (I even scrounged a few from old camps long deserted, rusty and still working) and won't leave you cursing up a storm if you accidentally lost it (unlike losing your favorite Zippo or expensive torch).

    There's no extra fuel to store, pour and spill all over, no real worries about cold (it stayed roughly 20 to 30 degrees F, and just holding the lighter warmed it enough to light reliably those cold mornings) and certainly no issues at high altitudes.

    Sure, you could get by with a Zippo, but it takes more maintenance and gear to do so. Just get yourself a 5 pack of Bics. They'll last you months if needed, and are far more reliable than anything else.

    Reply
  12. High Desert Hermit

    Also, Zippo's have what I call a lazy flame. When you tilt the lighter, the flame still tends to right upwards, not following the tilt of the lighter. At a certain point, the flame is greatly hindered by the metal wind guard around the wick, making the flame nigh useless. A Bic, however, forces out a mild jet of flame, which follows the angle of the lighter more faithfully. Since this flame doesn't rely on a wick, you can turn it completely upside-down and still get a useful flame. Of course, a torch has an even more precise flame, some with adjustable settings for finer control, but I don't need such precision in camp, and I find the Bic is the right balance for me.

    Reply
  13. PsylicybinMonk

    I would say the bic is the way to go, i float the river every summer and someone always drops a lighter in and retrieves it. If you drop a zippo in the water, good luck getting it lit again. You drop a bic in the water, within 2-5 min you can light it again. As for the electric or torch lighters, they are touchy when dry, pressure has to be adjusted perfectly and fuel doesn't seem to last long. As far as price you could probably buy 20 bic for the price of a cheap zippo or torch.

    Reply
  14. Shannon from Iowa

    I will agree with the postings on the Bic lighter. Tit for Tat, the Bic is the least expensice and seems to the the most useful. The zippo offers the element of standalone burning along with the wind protection and extra fuel if needed. And the Expensive storm proof lighter has it's advantages too, like pulling it out to say, well I spent $X.xx on this one.

    Let's call it a draw with the Zippo and the Bic. Bic wins the price war though.

    Reply
  15. Hue Mann

    2 cents worth is all I have to offer. Here it is: If a calamity does befall, my bug out bag contains one fire maker: FireSteel and dryer lint to use as tinder The way I look at it is, unless the going gets real bad, I won't have to worry about finding a dollar store or a circa 1990 era car with a working cigarette lighter.

    Now if the going looks like it's going to get bad, a couple of mini bic's in double ziploc baggies with a left over silica desiccant to handle humidity and I'll be ready to go.

    After using and reviewing all the lighters considered, my conclusion is; the high price stromproof, zippo and peanut type lighters are impractical because they require periodic replenishing. Last thing I want taking up space is a can or butane or lighter fluid and flints. Compounding this is the frail nature of the stormproof types. Each used had a weakness exposed over time causing it to fail (fuel value or ignition system). If forced to select a lighter, it'd be a 'peanut' type. Here's a link to a youtube vid. It makes the point for me. <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xt65TlrDH_c” target=”_blank”>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xt65TlrDH_c and 'no' I'm, not affiliated to the vid maker.

    Reply
    • Survivalspot

      I agree with you Hue Mann, fire makers are a vital component to any bug out bag, 72 hour kit etc. It's great to have multiple options when it comes to firefighting since it's so vital to survival (particularly in cold climates).
      In my packs I usually have a magnesium fire starter, matches, Montana campfire and lighters.

      Reply
  16. Hue Mann

    2 cents worth is all I have to offer. Here it is: If a calamity does befall, my bug out bag contains one fire maker: FireSteel and dryer lint to use as tinder The way I look at it is, unless the going gets real bad, I won't have to worry about finding a dollar store or a circa 1990 era car with a working cigarette lighter.

    Now if the going looks like it's going to get bad, a couple of mini bic's in double ziploc baggies with a left over silica desiccant to handle humidity and I'll be ready to go.

    After using and reviewing all the lighters considered, my conclusion is; the high price stromproof, zippo and peanut type lighters are impractical because they require periodic replenishing. Last thing I want taking up space is a can or butane or lighter fluid and flints. Compounding this is the frail nature of the stormproof types. Each used had a weakness exposed over time causing it to fail (fuel value or ignition system). If forced to select a lighter, it'd be a 'peanut' type. Here's a link to a youtube vid. It makes the point for me. <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xt65TlrDH_c” target=”_blank”>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xt65TlrDH_c and 'no' I'm, not affiliated to the vid maker.

    Reply
  17. HatedNation

    A neat little thing to consider here, or maybe not, but the zippo has the fabric inside that has been soaked in fuel, worst case scenario that you have no fuel, wouldnt that fabric be at least a little helpful if you had to resort to other measures??

    Just a thought…

    Reply
    • Survivalspot

      Good point, you really couldn't do much with a bic or storm lighter in that regard.

      Reply
  18. drawer86

    I used a zippo in the army under very harsh conditions in the alps of germany with no problems. Wind? Learn how to cup the thing, turn your back to the wind, and don't forget to provide a chimney. Learn that and the zippo will never let you down. That is, until you run out of fuel. Don't forget to wrap a big rubber band around the outside to keep it from falling out of your pocket, and keep an extra wick in the bottom with a dozen flints. Anyway, lighters are so small, keep a bic and a zippo with extra fuel in your pack. BTW: there's an endless array of tricks you can do with a zippo that can't be done with any other lighter, to fill your worthless hours while you're waiting for something to happen. Oh yeah, don't get the little pantywaist zippos with pretty things all over get. Get the standard brushed stainless steel one and make sure it has at least 4 slashes on the bottom. Onward.

    Reply
    • Survivalspot

      I like your rubber band tip, I'll have to use that. Whats the purpose of the 4 slashes on the bottom?

      Reply
      • mark

        Indication of date manufactured or something. The Zippo website probably reveals the meaning somewhere.

  19. Pam

    Are the slashes for rubbing the flint on to make spark in case the lighter fails?

    Reply
  20. mark

    +1 on the fire piston. Bics are nice, but after trying to project it's flame into some fuel for 20-30 seconds, just try to keep that tab down with your finger against that hot metal shroud. At least with a Zippo, you can hang onto the cap. Gravity will actually keep it more or less vertical. The only thing about a Zippo is you have to keep refilling it every couple weeks, used or not. It evaporates rather quickly.

    Reply
  21. MrsJ

    I have a Zippo, a firesteel and half-a-dozen Bics at any one time. I mostly use the Bics for sealing the ends of cords as they produce a flame in most conditions. The firesteel is a little one-handed Sparkie and works great on tinder and for lighting the gas stove. The Zippo is a back up.

    I haven't tried the stormproof, but I'm think of getting a Jet Flame lighter. Has anyone tried these?

    Reply
  22. rob

    I haven't read all the posts, so I'm not sure if I'm beating a dead horse here. Zippo's can use other fluids other than lighter fluids (so I'm told)-PRO. If over filled, can leak and cause nasty chemical burns (experienced)-CON. If not paying attention and you fail to have lighter fluid nearby, can and will dry up. I watched "The Postman", and in the film,Kevin Costners character found an old zippo in a mail jeep, and it not only worked, but continued to work for awhile.Anyone who owned and used a zippo,would tell you that it's impossible.No way.I found a ten year old BIC in a used car that was parked out in the weather. THAT still worked.-CON. You can warm up butane in cold BICs just by holding it in your hand. I do it everyday here in upstate NY, in the winter. Hold it in hand a few seconds, give it a shake, light it up.-PRO.

    Reply
  23. smoker

    seems to me the bic would be the winner. They are cheap enough to get 5 for a few bucks and keep them stashed in several pockets and several packs (if you have a 1 day 3 day and 7 day pack etc). The zippo is a close second, but the price and fluid leaking (yes to the chem burn/rash), evaporating.
    The bics don't work well when cold but that is easy to deal with as noted above. The zippo is good because the major downside to the bic is the small tab that needs to be hit/held down. When your fingers are cold and you need fire the most they are the hardest to light and keep lit. the zippo can be lit by running the wheel down your leg. If you can hold the zippo you can light it.
    So the winner is… both. They are so light weight I would carry several cheap bics and one zippo.

    Reply
  24. Ivan

    Zippos are totally unreliable for survival or any other purpose — unless you maintain a ready supply of lighter fluid. In a survival situation lasting more than about a week SINCE YOU LAST REFILLED THE ZIPPO, the lighter will prove quite useless. Even just hanging out in your living room, a Zippo needs to be refilled about once a week. Makes a cool sound — but a survival lighter? Not even worth considering. Zippos aren't even reliable for everyday use, except (again) when there's plenty of lighter fluid to be had. Zippos suck even compared to an old Bic.

    Reply
  25. Survival Sense

    I wouldn't trust any lighter as my only survival firemaking tool. It only takes a grain of sand, dropping it in the mud or cold water to disable the best lighter available. That said, I carry a small Bic in my pants pocket, another in my coat pocket and a third in my pack. If conditions are ideal, a Bic is all you'll ever need. But since survival situations are not ideal (which is why they're surtvival situations!) I also carry a magnesium stick with cotton balls and vascaline and some of the REI Stormproof matches. Here's a story I did after researching various survival firemaking methods: http://survivalcommonsense.com/2010/01/18/best-ig…. Maybe it will answer some questions…

    Reply
  26. Larry

    I've owned 3 windmill storm lighters. I wouldn't consider that brand reliable for a 4th of July BBQ. They are very cool and VERY unreliable. I so wanted this lighter to be the one. I used triple filtered fuel. I would adjust the fuel output due to elevation change. I sent it back to the mfg to repair problems. I know use a BIC with waterproof matches and a striker stick as backups.

    Reply
  27. Ian

    I have owned every kind of lighter mentioned here, zippo lighters are probably the least reliable of all, the fuel will evaporate even when not in use, and will run out without warning, they are useless when wet and can take hours to dry out to where it will light.
    The storm type are usually not very reliable because they have electric ignition which eventually fails, this is their only drawback if there was a storm type lighter with a reliable ignition it would be the best kind of lighter.
    I beleive overall i would pack one storm type lighter and several bics and zero zippo's.

    Reply
  28. Snea

    bought the brunton helios…. it worked for 1 day and no longer works… this is inside a warm house at 3500ft altitude… never even got a chance to take it outdoors. Bought fuel refils for it, still not working. I also have a brunton pocket stove, used it a few times again in my house to test it out and show a few friends, last time I used it, it exploded. I only have 2 brunton products and so far 100% of them are crap. Never buying brunton again.

    Again, what is the best survival lighter??
    Answer: The lighter that works…

    Reply
  29. Electronic Cigarette

    I agree, storm proof lighter the best lighter and the coolest as well. I used to use zippo lighters but I never liked the smell from the solution causing my cigarette to taste like gas. Don't get me wrong the design and the different of color to choose from makes the zippo lighter one of the best as well.

    Reply
  30. Cecil

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oe27MhTjL08
    the zippo is the thing i use the only other lighter is a bowers lighter from ww1 still works holds up fluid for a month without even need to refuel and the zippo lasts the same time and it is from 1937 it is ancient but still works so i wonder what you people do to your lighters that makes them not work the fuel dosent evaporate as fast as you all keep saying it does http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7oto4LTJTM&fe
    then the bics i have had them explode in my pocket when it hits 110 out i live in arizona it gets that hot and a zippo you never have to worry about them blowing up or getting cracked and then all the gas leaks out
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXNiWg5TxgM&fe
    then the torch it is good burns anything that comes near it downs is that it is not water proof and i know that is not the most high end lighter out there but any butane lighter including clippers once wet they just dont feel like working at all as soon as water gets into the chamber it just does not light unless you wait a while so i am going to stick with my zippo and bowers lighter

    Reply
  31. sandw44mag

    The best lighter for survival is the one you have with you, being a smoker, I am never without one. On the rare occasion that mine fails to light and I don't have a spare within arms reach, let's just say I've come up with some pretty creative ways to get a flame. Remember all those people you banned from bars and resteraunts? You'll be praying you bump into us when SHTF. Also a cigar or cigarrette is a good way to carry an ember minimal distances, a full pack, several miles. Hope for the best, plan for the worst!

    Reply
  32. TREVOR LEFILES

    Anybody ever heard of a magnifying glass? And then theirs the flint…. I light my cigerettes with wool and a double a battery.

    Reply
  33. VooDude

    Zippo-type lighters aren't tight enough to keep fuel from evaporating. I'm looking at a peanut waterproof lighter (flint roller, wick, zippo fuel, inside an o-ring sealed, tight container).
    In southern Canada, it can reach -30C/F and I have suddenly become concerned with butane not vaporizing. Anybody know how well Zippo fuel vaporizes (versus temperature, compared to butane)? I have decided to have multiple fire-starting devices, and to keep them in separate places. A bic is ALWAYS in my pocket… and I've never been a smoker. There is a bic in every one of my first-aid kits, etc. Next I'm getting sparker-thingies. Ferrocinium, blast-match, magnesium-thingies… UCO stormproof matches (with striker pads INSIDE the waterproof container) [and a few "strike anywhere" matches inside, packed to keep the stormproof matches from rattling around]. Don't forget, you can remove the lithium battery from some device and short the leads together. Waxed cotton "cosmetic" pads, vaseline-soaked cotton pads, (tinder) I keep in o-ring sealed "pill bottle" containers you can buy at drug stores for $5 or less.
    I'm interested in potassium permanganate, to be mixed with glycerine, but what container do you store the permanganate in?

    Reply
  34. Spencer

    Surprisingly me and my friends use lighters for hobby stuff like heat shrinks and what not. BIC s always seem to come on top: They don't waste fuel like Zippos or torches. From my understanding Zippos waste gas due to the long wick and tall flame. I'm not sure whether or not there's a way tom make the Zippo more efficient though, I use Ronsonol fluid for it.

    Reply
  35. MikieG

    One thing i can say for zippo wick type lighters that cannnot be said for the other types is that more fuel (turpentine) can be made in the field as you go.
    Little lighter history. Ronco made the first lighter. Bowers made every single military contract lighter for both world wars. Imco made war lighters for germany. Zippo was started as an american copy of the imco and never ever had a government contract durring either war.
    My choices would be bowers, imco 6700, peanut type long before zippo.
    Butane types are done in the field after all fuel is gone.
    Wick types will run on anything until flint and wick is gone.

    Reply
  36. Mark

    The purpose of going outdoors is to enjoy nature-in good weather and alwais with friends -never alone- well prepared and with a good camera .My third backup lighter after a gasoline lighter and a magnesium fire starter for $2.95 would be a modified 45cent Bick with a one and one half inch flame.– How do you modify it ? go to youtube-There will always be someyone dopey that will modify the flame to 4 inches and waste fuel.

    Reply
  37. ahmed

    Clipper, has no one seen or heard of a clipper? does the job flint can be taken out to use as a fire starter some metal clippers let you change flame size like mine and theres differnet models a lot less then zippos when it comes to price best reliable lighters very good for everyday every zippo is refilable and works well even really cheap models which are very good quality anyway, butane gas though but doesnt smell bad like petrol and quicker to fill up feels like less hassal.

    Reply
  38. Landofrath

    I carry a Zippo with a striker backup as well as a few storm proof matches. Zippo's are easy to light, almost unbreakable, run on white gas (Coleman Fuel) which I carry during winter anyway. Yes they have a "Lazy Flame" but you can still light a fire easier than with a spark. And you should be able to do that in a survival situation.. (Zippo's make nice sparks) They work stand alone (no button to hold down) You can use a rubber band or a small piece of inner-tube to stop the Zippo fuel from evaporating. as well as add more grip. and nothing goes into the landfill. If you get it wet,(I have never got it wet enough to stop working) its not hard to dry it out.

    I have had multiple torch style lighters fail on me, cheap and the pricey ones. I want to love them but they keep failing. The more high tech, the more to go wrong! Bics are the most popular but when it comes to winter camping I hate them, when your fingers get cold its a total pain to light them. I have broke a few as well.

    Another option is to buy one of the new inserts that fit in zippos. They don't leak fuel and don't have a button to hold down since the fuel activates by the switch when opening it. I have heard many good things about them.

    Reply
  39. JTWY

    I have to disagree a little here. I would choose the Zippo. My Uncle ( Mom's brother ) was in the U.S. Navy on the U.S.S. Redwing MSC200 Mine Sweeper . He was a heavy smoker and used a Zippo lighter with a picture of the U.S.S. Redwing on it and the name of the ship under it. My uncle has passed on , but I still carry his U.S.S. Redwing Zippo lighter with me daily.
    My wife and I live at the base of the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming and camp up there often. I take my U.S.S. Redwing Zippo camping on every trip and use it at altitudes over 10,000 feet above sea level. It lights every single time and I haven't had a problem starting a fire in any weather up there.
    If you run out of lighter fluid you can use gas from your car , atv , snowmobile , or Coleman Fuel from your camp stove ( Try that with a Butane lighter ) . I also carry a couple of spare o-ring sealed Zippo lighter fluid canisters on a chain , the canisters have a spare flint on them as well . Each one holds enough fluid to refill the Zippo lighter once. On the same chain I keep the canisters on I also keep a magnesium fire starting kit . For the money , I prefer the Zippo.

    Reply

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