Fire is an integral part of being human, it warms you up, it cooks your food and provides safety and comfort. When hiking and backpacking it is essential to carry with you. Here are the best lighters.
Like a lot of gear items in hiking you can buy lighters for any purpose. Fancy Zippo lighters that appeal to the bushcraft community or the mini BIC lighters that are for the UltraLight hiking community. All lighters have a primary function. Being able to create fire.
Some fire lighters are better than others in that regard. And offer different kinds of waterproof levels, resistance to the elements plus many other factors.
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Here is a top list of my favorite lighters to use when backpacking and hiking.
Number 1, the humble mini BIC lighter.
My number 1 favorite lighter to take with me on hiking trips is the humble mini BIC lighter. Can strike for many times and always ready when you need it. BIC lighters are popular for a reason.
For a few bucks you can pick up the mini BIC lighters and are pretty much available in every gas station. In a lot of grocery stores you can find them as well. They are often on the counter at the service desk or in the candle and cleaning supply section. Or if you want to save yourself some cost you can get them on Amazon in a three pack.
|Easy to find||Not very windproof|
|Lasts for a long time|
I always carry two mini BIC lighters with me out on trail. One in my backpack and one in my pocket. To go along with the two is one, one is none saying. Often I will carry two different ways of lighting a fire, the main one is my mini BIC lighter and the second one is a Ferro rod.
Are BIC lighters waterproof?
Stay away from electric BIC lighters as they can fail you when they get wet and are harder to light than their striker cousins. The normal BIC lighters with a magnesium firestriker are waterproof and can handle getting soaked without that much of an issue. This makes them a great option for hiking in all sorts of weather. Their electronic striker cousins I have seen time and time again out on the trail. And out on a canoe trip. While my BIC mini lighter kept on trucking.
Another option you can go for is the Classic BIC lighter which is a size up from the mini BIC. They can last for a good long time and will run out of fuel before running out of flint.
Number 2, the ever reliable Ferro Rod.
Ferro rods have different names and come in different styles, they are also known as magnesium rods or fire strikers. The way they are used to create fire are a bit different than the other lighters on this list as all they do is create sparks. On most occasions that is enough for hiking needs as the most you do is lighting your backpacking stove.
Making a full on fire with a Ferro rod requires a bit more time and skill than other lighters in this article. But they can withstand everything and more you can throw at it. Dunk it in water and it will still throw sparks even when soaking wet.
|Windproof||Requires skill to master|
|Pretty lightweight||Takes longer than a lighter|
|Lasts for a long time|
The most important thing to carry with you in a ZipLoc bag is tinder material. Tinder comes in a whole lot of forms but most common are strips of birch bark, cotton pads soaked in lip balm or dryer lint. Tinder will capture the spark and ideally light up and burn for a few minutes. This will give you the time to keep adding small fuel to eventually a big fire.
If you want to carry around a Ferro rod as a backup way of making fire don’t just throw it in your backpack. Be sure to practice with it and try out different tinder materials. Over time this will give you the confidence with the tool to light a fire under any circumstance.
Number 3, Old school cool Zippo Lighters
Popularized by Hollywood and conflict is the Zippo Lighter, carried by soldiers, heavy smokers and MadMen. The Zippo lighter is an icon for many years and will be for a great deal of time.
Is it the best option for hiking? No it is not.
But is it still a sexy option to carry with you? Of course.
There is something about lighting a Zippo that is immensely satisfying and any other lighter on this list will not come close to it. If you want to enjoy your cigar at the end of your hike, lighting up around a campfire or just want to light a stove. A Zippo will give you the feeling you need.
So from an emotional standpoint the Zippo lighter trumps all the other lighters. However it has quite a few downsides.
|Windproof||Heavier than others|
|Easy to fill up||Loss of fuel|
|Reliable||Regular fill ups needed|
|Easy to find fuel||Requires maintenance|
|Can be very expensive|
What is a big upside for the Zippo is that you can pretty much put every gas fuel in there and it will still burn. You hear stories and read about GI’s dunking their Zippo’s in gas tanks from cars and tanks to light up. This shows the versatility of the Zippo lighter fuel types.
You can buy specific lighter fluid fuel or the Coleman fuel used in gas stoves for it. Where the lighter fluid can also be bought from Zippo itself. A filling of your Zippo lighter will typically last for 1 week. After that the Fuel will either run out or evaporate through the cracks of the lighter.
So for most backpacking trips it makes sense to carry extra fuel for your lighter, or if you use a white gas stove to share the fuel between them.
Number 4, Jet or Butane lighters for starting fires in tornado’s
Jet or butane lighters are known for working in some pretty awful weather. Windproof and waterproof they can be excellent for hiking and a good option to carry in an emergency.
With their signature jet flame you have a butane torch in your hand that can light up pretty much anything. From your stove to creating a fire without tinder.
|Works in any weather||Heavy|
|Very powerful flame||Bulkier than others on this list|
|Refillable||Can be difficult to find fuel|
In the 4 lighters on this list I tend to not carry the Butane lighters that much. Since a mini BIC is cheaper and less of a weight in your pocket. And for me the lighters are not that more useful than the others. However if you want a surefire way to lite a fire or stove. Than the Butane lighters are a very good option for you.
Why do you need fire lighting tools when out hiking?
Asides from the obvious use of lighting your backpacking stove with it, lighters have a million uses. Burning some nylon cord that has been bugging you because it wont stop fraying. Lighting up a campfire or smoke after a long day of hiking. Or even signaling in a dire situation.
A lighter is important to have with you on backpacking and hiking trips. And you should know the basics of lighting a campfire. You can have a 10 lighters on you but if you do not know how to light a campfire they wont help you that much. In my learning skills for hiking article I go into more skills you should pick up before heading out on a trail.
What is your favorite lighter for on trail use or day to day life? Let me know down in the comments.
Happy hiking and hike for purpose!