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The over use of lighters
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Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
Re: Bics on 06/07/2011 10:22:56 MDT Print View

Certainly everyone has their own experiences and opinions--informed by those same personal experiences--and I guess I'm just lucky I've not had any of these problems, (save, perhaps, the $1 store junkers).

When I was a rebellious teen-aged smoker and BIC introduced the flint-wheel cover thing, I'd simply rip it off - they all still worked fine, but it was the principle of the matter! It was some of the other cheap plastic lighters with terrible child proof switches and buttons that seemed to fail on me if I removed them. When the BICs went through the wash--and perhaps the dryer without blowing up--they still worked fine.

These days, while hiking, I keep my mini BIC in my kitchen (cook pot setup) where it is safe from crushing. Operating anything small that requires finite dexterity with cold hands can be tricky. I work a lot with my hands so I've fairly tough skin, which probably helps save the inside of my thumb. I don't find the wheel cover problematic and if it's that cold the BIC goes into the pocket for a minute while I setup my drink, food, or a traditional fire. I've matches kept safe and dry in my first aid kit - packed appropriately. A fire steel of some sort is about the only way we can 'not' worry about mechanical or structural failure, but unless we're starting liquid/vapor fuel, proper kindling is required for that fire steel to start a traditional fire (which we are aware of when we decide to pack the 'steel).

It's interesting how we pick and choose gear based on our experiences, opinions, and needs....right down to the basics.

Edited by AaronMB on 06/07/2011 10:27:04 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Bics on 06/07/2011 11:00:02 MDT Print View

I use a Bic as my everyday fire/stove starter, with a waterproof match case and a firesteel for backup. The firesteel is in my pocket all the time. I don't carry much redundant gear, but fire starting stuff is number one for survival/safety in my climate.

There was a recent incident where a Washington State Patrol officer and ex Special Forces member was lost while snowshoeing. He forgot his tent and was lost, cold and wet for several days. My first question is why he didn't have a fire.

You can add an o-ring safety to a Bic, so that it goes under the fuel lever to prevent draining the fuel accidentally. I take one to my local auto parts store where they have a selection of o-rings. It needs to be the proper thickness as well as diameter.

Brian Dickens
(briand) - F

Locale: Colorado
The over use of lighters on 06/07/2011 11:53:40 MDT Print View


Smooth on the thumb and easy to light if your hands are cold.

I agree about the torch comments though.

Hamish McHamish
(El_Canyon) - M

Locale: USA
lighters on 06/07/2011 12:29:28 MDT Print View

- If the Bic gets wet it will work again once it's dried.

- The childproof tab is easily removed in seconds with needlenose pliers. Mike Clelland illustrates this in his new book.

- The Bic can be made offgas-proof by seating a close fitting O-ring just underneath the gas switch. See the details here:

chris kersten
(xanadu) - F

Locale: here
realiable on 06/07/2011 14:23:23 MDT Print View

Two wet sticks are also unrealiable. Nothing is 100% if you study it long enough. Except America winning the World Series. Oops, Toronto won two, so that's not even 100%. I'll take the mini bic any day. Never failed yet. If you find a bunch on the trail, the lighter is not the problem. Some idiot tossed them on the ground. Lighters have been invented so I use them just like I use cuben fiber and titanium. Most of the times that I have seen a lighter next to a fire ring, there is also beer bottles or cans.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: realiable on 06/07/2011 16:36:59 MDT Print View

"Most of the times that I have seen a lighter next to a fire ring, there is also beer bottles or cans."

And roaches. ;=)

Patrick S
(xpatrickxad) - F

Locale: Upper East TN
Re: Re: realiable on 06/07/2011 16:55:40 MDT Print View

I use lighters because they're free. I've never once payed for a lighter you just find them everywhere whether its parking lots, sidewalks or wherever. Plus they last me forever.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: torch lighters on 06/07/2011 17:25:24 MDT Print View

honestly i don't know why more people don't use torch lighters. they cost less than 3 bucks, are much easier to light things hard to reach, work better in wind, refillable with butane, and last for years. if my alcohol stove needs more priming, i just torch the side of the can for a bit. i have a mini bic and mini firesteel as backup but have never used them.
The problem with most torch type lighters is that they have piezo electric ignition systems which usually tend to fail somewhere around 7,000 to 8,000 feet in elevation. I've had a piezo electric ignition work on a torch lighter as high as 10,000 feet, but I really had to futz with it.

people still use matches? =)
For cold weather, yes.


Kurt Suttell
(krshome) - F
Bics on 06/07/2011 18:19:41 MDT Print View

I smoked for years and the only lighter that I would use was a Bic. I always could get it to light as long as it had fuel and one would last me 6-7 months easy. I would light up every time snowboarding at A-Basin at 13000 feet on the lift in the wind and snow you just got to watch a smoker and learn.

Art Sandt
(artsandt) - F
Re: Re: torch lighters on 06/07/2011 19:30:10 MDT Print View

I think that's a little low. I lived in Flagstaff for years (7000') and owned a torch lighter during that time which never performed any worse than at lower elevation.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: The over use of lighters on 06/08/2011 04:03:45 MDT Print View

> seen enough of these disgarded by campfire rings
I suggest you replace 'discarded' with 'lost'. Careless teens I imagine.

> I have seen the bic ruined by water on the spark wheel.
Dry it out and it will likely work again. Let it rust - yeah, well...

> I've seen them crushed or vented by items in the pack.
That is horribly bad packing, most likely by a complete novice. Experienced walkers pack them away carefully.

One Bic lighter has lasted me for over 6 years now. Mind you, I think I found it somewhere ...


Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: The over use of lighters on 06/09/2011 10:03:15 MDT Print View

Hmmm... During the 24 years I've been backpacking I've never had any of the problems the OP describes. Idiot hooligans are those who leave trash wherever they go... rarely will you find trash at a deep backcountry site IME.

I've never had a lighter ruined by water, nor crushed or broken in any way. Whereas matches prove to be inconsistent and sometimes unreliable, a lighter basically always works.

On the way to the trailhead one trip I stopped at a grocery store and picked up a 3-pack of generic lighters at the checkout. Got on the trail, none of them worked... didn't even have fuel in them! Bic, on the other hand, has never failed me. Even after abusing them popping caps off beer bottles!

Given that this is a UL site, & the mini Bic is half the weight of the regular, makes sense that's the one so many here carry.

I used to carry two or three lighters, a couple plastic bottles of matches, & a flint. Then I realized that my lighter always works, so I didn't need more than one. If I really needed a back-up fire source, matches invariable seem to get wet or blow out. So now I just carry the flint/steel as backup to my lighter. Totally reliable system.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: The over use of lighters on 06/09/2011 11:12:21 MDT Print View

BIC failures I've experienced have mostly been jammed spark wheels and magical disappearance of the flint. I don't know how the second occurs and the first seems to happen because either the casing got bent removing the metal kid-resistant hoop or the newer variety spiral-type sparker starts unraveling.

Old BICs--ones with the adjustable flame--are clearly better made. I still have one or two with fuel remaining. While I've looked for better solutions, both cheap and expen$ive, I seem to always return to tbe now-more-humble BIC, but make a point of always having a second in response to their enhanced cheesiness. Mind, with a piezo stove I can go an entire trip without once using a lighter.



Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: The over use of lighters on 06/09/2011 11:58:56 MDT Print View

One advantage of lighters over matches is that they can be used one handed, which may be an issue if you're injured...

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Buying in bulk... on 11/25/2011 21:05:28 MST Print View

If I bought 10-15 lighters, would you expect the fuel to evaporate over time or is it sealed in there some how for the long haul? Thx.