Lighters For Prepping and Survival
Lighters are an excellent item to have on hand. Matt and I are fans of keeping a bunch of Bic lighters on hand. If we are at the checkout at the store and they have a good deal on a pack of 5 Bics, we throw one in the cart. While we don’t do it every single time, just doing it occasionally ensures that we always have some reliable and inexpensive lighters on hand.
This post covers disposable and refillable lighters along with a few useful parts and supplies. You may find that you want to have a variety of lighters put back. This is not to say it is not a good idea to have other methods on hand for getting a fire going, but I do think for convenience and reliability, everyone should have at least a few inexpensive lighters put back for hard times or so that you don’t ever run out around your place. At the end of this post, I list a few other fire-starting items you should have because having more than one way to start a fire is a prepping basic.
Bic is the only disposable lighter we ever buy. There have been too many times when I have been disappointed with off brands. Consider buying Bics in plastic packs that are sealed. This usually is a 2 or 5 pack. If the lighter is sealed in a pouch from the factory, then people know they are getting a fresh lighter and not something filled with water. Signs of authenticity matter a lot during trade and Bic is the most recognized brand of lighter out there.
I was not aware of Clipper lighters until about a year ago. While these are in the same price range as a Bic, they are refillable. No, you should not expect to get as much use out of them as a refillable metal lighter, but at this price point, it is nice even to have the option to get more than one use out of them. Unlike a lot of cheap disposables, these produce a flame without wearing out your thumb. I hate cheap lighters that you have to strike five times to get a small flame. They are simply not worth it. If you want quality and affordability, buy Bic or Clipper. Smoke shops sell Clipper a lot, but they are not always available at grocery or convenience stores, where Bic is still the lighter of choice.
This style of lighter is nice to have and creates a strong and slightly roaring flame. My Dad has a similar lighter that was bought for an affordable price 20 years ago, and it works like new. This lighter is refillable with regular butane or Zippo fluid.
This affordable Ronson is a good alternative to a Zippo and features a very basic and classic design. If Silver is not your color, then you can choose between colors like green and black for $1 more per lighter.
No, I did not put duct tape on this lighter. Strangely enough, one of this lighter’s claims to fame is that it has duct tape on it that is intended for you to use in an emergency. Honestly, it seems like you would wear through the duct tape covering with regular use so after a point it would just be something you want to pull off. On the other hand, underneath is a great lighter that is designed to help you start a fire under tough conditions that other lighters may not be able to handle. I like that it is waterproof, so you don’t have trouble getting a great strike the first time.
This is a higher end lighter with a lifetime warranty. The flame is easy to adjust and described as being natural. This is not a torch lighter that produces an intense flame.
Smaller fuel canisters can be good trade items and are easy to manage. Zippo is, of course, a trusted name brand, so it has that appeal. Any lighter fluid is good to have though.
The Classic Zippo is an affordable refillable lighter. There is also something to be said for having a few for trade items since they are at a trusted and well-known brand. This adds to the trade value more than you might think. At $10 the Classic is a good deal. People tend to think a Zippo is going to be more expensive because they are used to seeing the collectible ones that have a lot of decoration or licensed logos on them. The Classic does the job just fine.
This is a very interesting lighter designed to be put on a key chain. The lighter is made of solid brass which can be a nice change if you are just used to using plastic lighters all the time. This lighter package includes replacement wicks and flints, but you will need to buy your own fuel. This is pretty discreet due to its tiny size and plain design. Size and affordability make this a lighter you may want to have more than one of so you can put them in your bug out or get home bag.
This is an interesting design. The one-step button ignition and the resulting flip up motion creates a strong flame with ease, and it has more of a built-in windbreak than some other lighters. If you want an easy to use lighter, then this is worth considering. You can refill it with any standard lighter fluid.
This design from the early 1900s is nice to look at but very functional as well. Consider that these were used in the terrible trench conditions that soldiers faced in WWI and WWII. If you are tired of typical lighters and want something is rugged and functional, then this lighter might be worth trying out. I think it would make a good gift for someone, especially if they are a history aficionado.
The first trench lighter was made from a spent bullet casing and a few pieces of metal that were scavenged. The lighter is made to be used under heavy wind, which could be a major advantage in any survival situation.
This is one of those lighters that are expensive, but they are made to last. My husband has his Uncle’s Ronson that he carried in WWII and it looks great and works. There are not many lighters that can make it through 80 years and look like they will be good for another 80! I know this is not a lighter for those that lose them a lot, but for a special lighter or gift for someone that uses a lighter a lot, this level of Ronson is top notch.
This is a modern electronic USB lighter. This type of lighter has its limitations, but it will last for 100-300 uses or a week on a single charge. If you have a small power center or similar you could keep a few of these lighters going. This is one way to avoid using butane or other fuels that can be limited in supply. To start a fire, you would need to stick a small piece of paper or tinder within the electrical arc. If there is no contact with the arc, then it cannot light anything.
So how many lighters should I put back?
Some preppers tell me that they have as many as a 1,000 lighters put back! I have to wonder how they have the space to dedicate so much to a single prep. Keep in mind these are individuals that are not planning on a group in a lot of cases. The reason they put back so many is that they feel they will be able to trade them. While lighters are a good trade item, I doubt you are going to be trading at a level where having a 1,000 put back is the best use of money and space.
Fifty disposables put back is a more reasonable amount. That is just 10 of the five packs in the blister carton at the supermarket checkout. If you have the space and want some for trade then maybe 100-200 but beyond that seems more like plain hoarding unless you have a really big group to plan for.
Don’t forget other fire-starting methods
It is not a good idea to just rely on one method for starting fires. Regardless of how many lighters you have, consider putting back the following in your “fire kit”.
- Firesteel/ Ferro Rods and Strikers
- 2- boxes of 50 books of matches
- Strike anywhere matches (these can be hard to find)
- A few waterproof containers for storing fire supplies in
- Make some tinder and have a little stored in case you need to start a fire fast
Some fire starters require more practice and skill to use than others. Fire pistons are popular among some people, but they require some practice as does any Ferro rod style fire starter. Be realistic about what you can do even with practice. If you have arthritis or other issues with your hands, some methods may not be the best choice for you. When it comes to prepping, it is all about your unique situation, not me or the prepper buddy down the road.
What lighters do you like the most? Have you had a positive or negative experience with any of the lighters on this list?