A good lighter is one of the most helpful tools a survivalist can have on them at any given time. Being able to start a fire allows you to stay warm, cook food, purify water, scare predators, and light your camp. The smoke will keep away insects and act as a disinfectant. The soot can be used as toothpaste or to camouflage your skin. Unfortunately, getting the fire started can sometimes be difficult.
Your ability to start a fire really comes down to the quality of the tinder you can find, and the methods with which you can start the fire. When tinder is wet or comprised of thicker material, starting your fire by friction or with a ferro rod can be difficult. Lighters give you the ability to start a fire quickly, even when your tinder is not ideal.
Types of Lighters
When most people think of lighters, they think of the disposable Bic style lighters we see at gas stations. These are fairly reliable, but they are not good in wind, require the use of one hand, and have a finite amount of fuel. Zippo style lighters are windproof and can be hands free once lit. They also can be refilled with any flammable liquid. However, you still need to refill it with fuel eventually.
Electric or Arc lighters are the newest option. They require no fuel and may be your best option of all.
What is an Arc Lighter?
An arc lighter is sometimes called a plasma lighter and eliminates the need for fuel. It was first invented in 2015 as a larger candle lighter. This device produces a high-intensity electric arc that will light most materials. There is zero charring, so there is no black residue left behind on candle holders. It was then modified into a smaller pocket lighter.
Arc lighters have become popular because of their ability to light from any direction without the use of any fuel. You just need to charge your lighter periodically. In these lighters, a high-voltage current jumps between two nodes creating an arc of highly charged plasma. This process builds heat which lights the tinder on fire.
It works in a similar way to how lightning is created. Electrical charges build up either in the clouds or in the nodes until there is enough charge for it to travel through the air. When the charge makes that jump, it creates heat, light, and sound. The arc lighter just found a way to put that power in your pocket.
How Does It Work?
The average arc lighter is designed to create an arc with temperatures at around 2000F. This is an ideal temperature to light a fire without creating unneeded heat. You can light anything with an arc lighter that you could light with a Bic style or Zippo style lighter. This includes candles, paper, cigarettes, incense, bbq grills, fireworks, and gas stoves. You can melt the ends of paracord or fishing line. You simply put the flammable material in between the two nodes and hold down the button. The arc will light anything that is within those two nodes.
There are several safety features built into most electric lighters. The business end of the lighter is designed to stay cool, whereas other lighters will get hot over time. The distance between the two nodes is designed to prevent objects from accidently entering the danger zone. If a person was to get zapped, the result would be a similar sensation to touching any small flame except that it will affect a smaller surface area. You can also lock these lighters, and many of them have delays built in to prevent accidental lighting.
The only downside to an electric arc lighter is keeping it charged. There are times when electricity is not available in emergency scenarios. If you carry one of these lighters, I suggest you keep it fully charged at all times. It takes about two hours to charge the lighter, and it will last about 90 lighter strikes when fully charged. If you are anything like me, you generally have a charged battery pack close by to recharge your phone. Your battery packs can work to keep these lighters charged as well.
So lets look at our lighter options and compare. We have our disposable lighter that is not windproof, requires one hand to hold the gas, cannot be refilled, and costs less than $1. We have our Zippo style lighters that are windproof, hands free, can be refilled with any flammable liquid, and costs about $20 on average. Finally, we have the arc lighter that is windproof, requires one hand to operate, requires no fuel, must be charged, and costs about $30 on average (for a good one).
I personally own several of each of these options and keep them on me at all times. If I was forced to choose, I would have to pick the arc lighter. When I think about being in a survival scenario, I think a zippo would run out of fuel before an arc lighter would run out of juice. I also think about hunting for fuel versus finding electricity. Between my battery packs and my generator, power would be slightly easier to find than fuel. I like both options, but I lean slightly towards the arc lighter.
In the end, the choice is yours. Do some research and find one with the features you need. Try it out and keep the receipt. If it doesn’t do everything that you want it to, send it back. Your choice of lighter is really a personal preference. Just be sure you have plenty of practice with whichever option you choose.
If you want your own proven and trusted electric arc lighter, get one here.