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matches vs. lighter

Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
1,864
Pretty simple question, so lets throw a curve ball in there...

In a wilderness survival situation, would you rather have matches, a bic-type butane lighter, a refillable windproof butane lighter, or a zippo-type lighter?

Assume equal space requirements for all options (ie: 1 lighter or 2 packs of matches).




I'll start off: I would most prefere as many bic lighters (non-adjustable) as I can bring. And none of the cheap bic ripoffs. The are far more reliable than matches and you'll get many times the lights off a bic than you ever will from even ten packs of matches. Plus, water only temporarily puts a bic out of action.
 
Read Jack London's "To Start A Fire" and you'll never trust just matches again!

Dang thing made me cold just read it.

I always have some wood matches in my gear, but a Bic lighter is there for backup.
 
My freind's refillable wiz bangy lighters always seem to fail (some are very expensive ones too).
In non arctic conditions the answer is definitely the Bic lighter. The 2 packs of (paper) matches contains .. what? about 40 fires. The zippo can be expected to last about a week on a fill (estimated, I haven't used one for years but a week, as I recall, was about all I used to get between fills with a tight zippo, in daily use).
In arctic or very wet conditions the Bic has problems.
In very wet conditions regular matches have problems.

I carry a fire steel (with mag block) as back up to a new Bic (Old Bics can have problems with corrosion between the wheel and flint).
Enjoy!

P.S. Dont build your final fire under a snow laden tree!
 
To Build a Fire is a Jack London short story, and yes, he wrote White Fang and Call of the Wild.

Being down to one match would be tough.

A butane lighter must be kept above 32 F to operate.
 
More people know how to use a Bic lighter than matches. If you have others in your group, I would carry a Bic.

Amazes me how many folks can't reliably use matches nowadays.
 
A butane lighter must be kept above 32 F to operate.

Well let me just say I spent two years working outdoors in all types of conditions, including winter. And I smoke a good pack a day... If, and thats a big if, the bic is too cold to light simply place in armpit or rub in hands for a minute or two and it'll be fine. I don't recall ever having a problem with a (non-empty) bic not lighting for me. Even when I was soaked through my carharts and my wallet was dripping.
 
Carrying the Bic in an inside pocket is usually enough. But I have seen guys trying to make them work -- that's trying -- who did not understand why they produced no flame. If you know that butane won't vaporize below freezing, you know what to do.

Carharts? The typical cotton Carharts? I suppose that which does not kill you makes you stronger. :D
 
butane lighter and if its to cold to operate it wont be after it sits in my hand for a while.
 
Bic Mini. I usually have a full size Bic on me but keep a bright colored back-up in my "Urban Kit".

Living in Michigan, it gets cold enough to stop a Bic from lighting. Like mentioned. rubbed in the hands it doesn't take long to warm one up.
 
ALL my kits have a mini-bic in them (with a tie-wrap round the top to stop the push-buton from depressing)
That said, Firestarting IMHO is the main area where you MUST think redundancy (Im sure Im preaching to the choir, here!) as I also carry:- ordinary matches, lifeboat matches, sparklite or firesteel, fresnel lens, vulcanizing fluid, ranger band/innertube, maya dust, vaseline/cotton balls & some steel wool. Oh, yeah, got some potassium permanganate in there too.
Mountain or Moor Survival (Cold, Wet, Injured, Lost) is my most likely Survival scenario so I concentrate on Shelter, Fire & Signalling in my kits!
 
Isn't jack london the guy who wrote white fang and call of the wild?

Yep, I even have a DVD movie adapted from the short story "To Build A Fire" narrated by Orson Wells.

But London's vivd description of freezing to death in the book are almost unnerving.
 
Bics are the obvious choice, but, I will say, the windproof lighters are very nice. As to the failure of those types, you MUST use premium butane.
None of that cheap Ronson stuff, as it will clog a refillable lighter.
I would suspect that is what is going on with the aforementioned.
Also, the windproof lighter has a nearly invisible flame, I have seen people swear it's not lit, then proceeed to burn their hands checking.

The Bic has a lot going for it, over plain matches. It can be dried easily.
It can be lit one handed, using the other hand to hold tinder or cupped around it t block wind.
The price of a Bic can't be argued either.
 
Yep, I even have a DVD movie adapted from the short story "To Build A Fire" narrated by Orson Wells.

But London's vivd description of freezing to death in the book are almost unnerving.


Interesting that you bring up the book To Build a Fire. I had been thinking about that story for about a week. So yesterday, I drug it out and re-read it.
It really makes one think--how would I survive in that situation 50 to 60 below zero and wet!
If anyone wants to read it and some 26 other short stories London wrote there is a paperback out by Bantam Classic ( if they still exist).
Selected Klondike Stories.

A cold weather trick when trying to light a fire in an emergency when it is wet and snowy is to carry a bottle of ISOPROPLY ALCHOHOL fuel system conditioner & antifreeze 10oz bottle .99 cents. Get your sticks ready and pour it over them, makes wet wood light much easier.
 
in the cold i just carry some fatwood sticks. i shave a small pile of dust with my striker for the steel, or i just use a touch of a match flame. actually, i always have some fatwood. i even carry some small peices in my matchbox.

another plus for the lighters are that they still throw sparks when they are empty, though it can be tricky to use them in this condition.
 
I cast my vote for a bic or a mini bic The origional, these are tough as nails and light reliably in almost any conditions. plus as mentioned earlier they can be used as a spark device if out of fluid. I have at least a mini with me at all times and a large bic Modified Ala tiros in my psk.
 
"Plus, water only temporarily puts a bic out of action.




I think of a Bic as one of those magical, great things, that is cheap nd dependable, and replaces everything that went before.

I think of Bics in multiples, when I go to the outdoors I want to always have one fresh one in my pocket, with several extras scattered though my pockets and gear.
 
Hey Guys...

In my fire kit,, which is Very extensive I carry many different methods of fire lighting..The only thing I don't have in it is matches..
The kit includes several spark based methods, a Swedish Firesteel, a Boy Scout, Hot Spark firesteel, actual Flint and steel, char cloth, fat wood, homemade Maya dust( Wood rasp taken to a pice of fat wood), magnifying glass, a Bic lighter a magnesium bar, magnesium rod,steel wood and brass wire(for use with a battery) dryer lint and vasiline soaked cotton balls..

Yes it's alot,, but I also teach out of this kit and yet another that contains Potasium Permagenate as well as everything above...
I like to have an example of each different method when I teach..

The only thing I don't have yet is a working fire bow and hand drill.. I would love for someone to teach me these methods, as I have had little success with either of them...

ttyle

Eric
O/ST
 
Hey Guys...

The only thing I don't have yet is a working fire bow and hand drill.. I would love for someone to teach me these methods, as I have had little success with either of them...


O/ST

You and me both brotha. I've tried a couple and have created smoke but no embers yet.

Keep at it. one of these days we'll be passing along the skills needed.

Chris
 
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