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Beyond Bic: Lighter Choices For Survival and SHTF

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: July 2, 2019
Beyond Bic: Lighter Choices For Survival and SHTF

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We have done posts on the past about firestarters, but lighters have been overlooked. The type of lighter that is best for you depends on various factors.  Here are some of the best survival lighters.

Disposable lighters are often garbage

Disposable lighters are great for barter and trade during a survival situation. You could do a lot worse than having a few packs of lighters. Disposables are inexpensive, lightweight, and reliable. Even if they get run through the clothes washer, a good disposable will still light when dried out.

I am going to save a lot of frustration by saying the only disposable lighter worth buying is Bic or Clipper (read on for more about both of these). Don’t bother with any others. Perhaps there is something I am missing, but over the last 25 years of using lighters, the other disposables fail quickly and do not light reliably. It also seems like they run out of gas or the flame adjuster stops working, so you get in a situation where you have a wasteful 3-inch flame!

The cheap plastic fuel tanks leak or crack a lot easier. What you get is a lighter that has only be used enough to burn half the fuel. What this means is that what was once seemed a like a good deal has left you frustrated and out more money than if you just got Bic in the first place.  I recently discover Clipper lighters but have not used them. They do get rave reviews from people that normally only buy Bic.

In a survival situation to mess around to save a few dollars. It could make all the difference when you are cold, hurt, or hungry!

Bic Lighters

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Clipper Disposable Refillables

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Just when I thought that there wasn’t something out there to match up with Bic for disposables, I found this compact tube style lighter. A 6 pack costs pretty close to the same as Bics but they can be refilled, and you can replace flints. They are plastic so don’t expect them to hold up like a Zippo or other heavy duty lighter but at this price and for the quality you get who cares? Sometimes they can have some far out there graphics on them so if you care about the appearance just make sure to get the plainer ones.

Disposable Lighter Storage

There is some indication that lighters like Bics keep better when they come in 2-6 packs than the trays like you get at gas stations. The sealed nature of it has something to do with it. The packs are easier to budget in as well. The next time you see a sale on Bic at the check out throw a pack in. Do this every once in a while, and you will soon have a stash of lighters that will last you a long time and have extra to trade and barter. It is one of those preps that cost a few dollars but will be worth a lot in hard times.


This is a classic, but I remember Zippos costing more years ago. People still say they are good. They are refillable, and there is something to be said for going with a brand name that has built a loyal following. The Zippo below is pretty basic and doesn’t draw a lot of attention. Zippo makes some lighters with designs on them. For a survival situation, I would stick to colors and camo patterns that don’t draw a lot of attention.

The Zippo features all metal construction and this particular one comes with 12 oz of lighter fluid.

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You can get extra flints and wicks to go with your butane stash.  I found this keychain attachment that allows you to stash some extra fuel and a flint. You could throw this in your bug out bag easily. At this price, it is a pretty neat accessory for easy fuel storage and convenience.  It will sure be a good addition if you are already giving a Zippo as a gift. It has a tool for helping replace flints.

Zippo Fuel Canister


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XIKAR EX Windproof Lighter

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This lighter caught my eye because it is advertised as being windproof and producing a strong natural flame. It is not a torch lighter, so you don’t have to deal with a small incinerator in your hand.  It is simple to use, and the wheel at the bottom allows for smooth and simple adjustment of the flame. If you are looking for an alternative to the Zippo, this is worthy of consideration. It is moderately priced for a quality lighter and has a lifetime warranty.

The Scorch Torch

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This lighter seems to be quite popular with those that hit the trail a lot. The biggest complaint is the size of the lighter. It is a bit heavier and bulkier than some lighter. It runs on butane and uses three jets to create a powerful torch. A dial allows you to adjust the flame easily. The maker made sure the lighter was ergonomically designed so you can use it more easily with one hand if necessary. It doesn’t come with any butane, so you have to fill it up when you get it. On the lowest setting, it will not light. You have to raise the pressure, light it and then turn it all the way down if you want it set at the absolute lowest.

Uco Stormproof Torch Lighter

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I like how this lighter is made to withstand use in storms. If you get stuck out somewhere, this is a lighter that you will be glad to have. The striker itself is guaranteed for 30K ignitions, A single fill up of butane is enough to ignite the lighter an amazing 700 times. This means a single can of butane is going to keep you fire secure for a good while. The lighter has a carabiner attached the waterproof cap, and oddly enough you get 3 feet of duct tape with the lighter which could come in handy. I sometimes know that tools like this that have extras on them are only so-so in quality, but this lighter seems to be solid for the price.

Vertigo Cyclone

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This reminds me a lot of the lighter my dad has used for 20 years. The fuel tank is made so that you can see how much fuel you have left. So if you are going out on a trip, you can top it off or know to take a refill with you. This torch lighter features three flames, so you get a lot of “firepower”. The one disadvantage is that it gets pretty hot in your hand if you keep it on for an extended period.

It weighs less than 1.6 oz which is something a lot of people that use them mention a lot.

USB lighters

These lighters create an arc of electricity that you can use. The biggest disadvantage is that you have to get something to come in contact with that arc. So what you would have to do is get some tinder and get it near it to get fires going. These are a bit harder to use for fire starting, but they have the advantage of not relying on butane fuels.

If you have any battery banks or small solar chargers, you could keep your lighter going off of the power of the sun, or even a hand-cranked radio that is a battery bank. To me that makes this lighter style stand out. While I would not want them to be my only option, I could see having one just for some extra security in my fire starting kit. I have a lot of solar chargers so it would be easy to keep one going, even off my hand-cranked flashlight.


Tesla Coil Lighters

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I know that right now the name Tesla brings to mind cars that catch fire and reminds us of Elon Musk’s frequent tweets. I don’t think this lighter is one of his products, but when I was researching survival lighters, this one kept coming up a lot. There are a lot of other USB lighters out there too.

Child Safety Issues

The Bic lighters have a child safety, but that is not going to keep a lot of kids from being able to use them. I had access to fire-starting devices when I was a toddler, but I knew better. Zippos don’t have any type of child safety, but they require a little bit of work to get open and flick. I don’t think any lighter is truly childproof. Keeping them put away and out of reach is about the best you can do.

So how many lighters should I have?

I have done some write-ups on firestarters in the past, and I have to say that given a choice I would choose a lighter because it is easy and reliable. It is great to know how to use other tools to build a fire, but it can be frustrating to take more time when you are cold and hungry.

We have a lot of brush to burn around here and a woodstove so lighters don’t last as long as they would at some households. If you are just using yours to light a fire here and there, they are going to last a long time. Of course, things happen like falls and losing them. Our general rule of thumb is to let at least not it get to the point of having less than two of the 5-6 packs of the standard sized Bics. We also have Ferro rods and strikers and a box of books of matches.

I think we should have more lighters. If you plan on using them for trade or barter during hard times, then you should always have 24, or more so you can cover your needs too.

Cost Versus Quality

I have to say that cost and quality are not always as in line with one another as you would think when it comes to lighters. My Dad has a cheap butane torch lighter my brother got him 20 years ago, and he still uses it all the time. I remembered being high school age and amazed the thing lasted more than a year.

On the other hand, you need to be careful. There is a lot of garbage out there, and when it comes to survival gear, you don’t want to risk your safety and well being over a couple of dollars.

Always have a backup fire source.

I don’t trust one thing for fire. Good prepping means having a backup and with fire, it is not that hard or expensive to have a variety of options. In addition to some lighters, I recommend having a few or all of the following. A lot of you probably already have some or even all of these things.

  • Matches. Books of matches in a box are great, but I like having some strike anywhere matches on hand too. Waterproof matches in a sealed container can be nice for bug out bags or stash anywhere that moisture might be an issue.
  • Ferro rod or fire piston if you don’t have issues using your hands. Ferro rods and strikers are easy to find and simpler to operate than fire pistons, but both require some dexterity and strength. I never get a fire lit fast with a Ferro rod, to be honest. They are good trade material too. Fire pistons are neat, but they are really expensive to buy. Some ingenious and handy types have made their fire pistons.
  • Tinder. Even if you just have some oil and cotton balls, that is something! Dry tinder allows for easier use of alternative fire starting supplies like Ferro rods and USB lighters.


Do you have a favorite lighter? This post was a bit challenging because there are so many poor quality lighters out there trying to compete for a slice of the market. I tried to find a variety of choices to get you thinking about lighters, but there is nothing like sharing knowledge with one another! 




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6 Responses to “Beyond Bic: Lighter Choices For Survival and SHTF”

  1. Zippo is a classic for sure. Really only drawback to them is the fuel will evaporate within a few days. An inner tube from a bike or ranger band around the body will help reduce this and there’s even a case that costs as much as the lighter to seal it. But they’re reliable, will run on almost anything flammable and plenty of spares around. Note you’ll get much better results with good quality flints and fuel. Bic is great for disposable, just not as good in extreme cold. (like any liquified gas fueled item). The mini-bic is great for your pocket or tin kit. A couple of other options- a couple companies including zippo make butane inserts for zippos now. so now you have the best of both worlds. I have a couple and they work fine. Again avoid the cheapies and use good butane to avoid clogging the tiny valve. Another liquid fuel option is the “”peanut” from maratac. Its similar to a zippo in cylindrical form, but with an o-ring screw top so the fuel evaporation issue is much less of a problem. They even make a “mini” version, I have one clipped to my hiking pack as an extra backup.

  2. The BEST tinder is STILL cotton balls and Vaseline
    Stored in a screw-top bottle or an old 35 mm film canister
    With this and a Bic I can start a fire anywhere!

  3. i’m not sure there’s much advantage in buying and storing packs of lighters as opposed to individual ones, unless you plan to leave the pack sealed inside your survival kit. i wouldn’t advise doing that–bic lighters are pretty reliable, but if you have two duds in a pack of three it could be a problem. i have quite a few regular size and mini bics and i check them on a regular schedule to make sure they still have fuel in them and they light. i guess if i had plenty of space in my kits i might just throw in several packs of lighters, but i don’t.

  4. I became a ‘prepper’ just prior to Y2K. I’ve also done my own research on disposable lighters. I’ve gone far beyond the occasional run through the washer. I’ve tossed the electronic models into coolers of ice and water and left them for DAYS. Once dried out, they work fine.
    As a result, I’ve become a HUGE fan of Scripto dispiable lighters, especially the electronic ones.

  5. as far as I am concerned, there are only 2 lighters suitable for survial use…the Bic & the Zippo…1. Bic’s last a long time so 2 4 packs should loast a whole year or a bit longer. 2. the Zippo flint & lighter fluid is in my mind the very best…when I was a 2 pack a day smoker( have quit) a 12oz can of fluid lasted me a good 12 months( even used on camping trips to start fires) used about 8-10 flints a year on avg….always kept a spare can of fluid in my can & spare flints under the wadding…much easier to refuel then a butane( & cheaper) & never have to worry about a battery going dead….I say Zippo is King

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