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Bic or Zippo: Which Lighter is Best for Survival?

Fire is an important consideration for anyone who is a prepper, survivalist, or homesteader, and carrying the right fire starting tools in your gear is of critical importance. The lighter is a convenient and easy fire starter to carry with you as part of your survival gear, but choosing the right one for the job is where some people have questions.

The most well knows lighters are the BIC and the Zippo lighters, and they are the two lighter models that most people consider to include as part of their gear. The conundrum comes in when trying to determine the best lighter for survival between the two.

As is the norm when comparing gear for the outdoors, we need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of both items, and we will do this with both lighters. We can then find out which one ticks the most boxes from a survival point of view and maybe consider other types of lighters that may even outshine these two brands.

When considering whether the BIC or Zippo lighter is best for survival, you need to consider the survival conditions you are most likely to encounter and pack the lighter that best fits your circumstance. Or, if you are a true survivalist, pack one of each in your gear!

Neither of these two lighters was designed with survival in the wilderness in mind but were intended to be cigarette lighters when they were first produced. Their usefulness has evolved beyond this function over the years, and they have been embraced by the survival and prepping community as an indispensable part of their gear.

Let’s take a look at how the features of each of these lighter compare and how they stack up to the rigors our outdoor use.

BIC Lighter Pros And Cons For Survival

The BIC lighter is by no means a newcomer and has been a household name since its invention and launch in 1973. The BIC lighter was made to be durable, reliable, and disposable. The lighter uses a liquefied petroleum-based gas called butane.

Its durability and reliability have made it a firm favorite for prepping and survival purposes. Its cheap cost makes it possible for you to stock your EDC bag and bug-out-bag with enough BIC lighters to keep making survival fires for a long time!

Some pros that make the BIC lighter a good choice as a survival lighter include the following.

  • It is cheap. Due to it being disposable, the BIClighter is priced very cheaply, making it easy to buy multiple of these lighters and keep them in various locations and, therefore, available when you need it.
  • Reliability. The BIC lighter, due to its striking mechanism and pressurized butane container, is reliable and easy to light.
  • Gas does not evaporate. The gas is pressurized to liquid form and is in a sealed receptacle, which prevents evaporation of the fluid or gas.
  • Availability. They are easily available worldwide.
  • Lasts longer. The gas supply on a Bic lighter lasts a long time.
  • Lightweight. The BIC lighter is barely noticeable in the pocket due to its mostly all-plastic construction.
  • Waterproof. A BIC lighter can be immersed in water, and after a few shakes to get the water out; it will light up without a problem.

Some cons for the BIC lighter that you may want to consider before you commit to their use are as follows.

  • Temperature. If the temperature is below 31 F (-0.5C), the butane in the lighter will not vaporize, and therefore the lighter will not be able to ignite until it warms up above this temperature. This fact alone may make the BIC unsuitable for survival in colder regions.
  • No refill. A BIC lighter cannot be refilled, so you will need multiple lighters as opposed to carrying a refill can.
  • Go hands-free. A BIC lighter needs one hand to hold down the valve to release the fuel continually. If your release the valve lever or put the lighter down, the flame goes out.

Zippo Lighter Pros And Cons For Survival

The Zippo lighter is a cultural icon, particularly in the USA, which has been around since 1933. The Zippo is not a sealed unit lighter, but has a reservoir that needs to be filled with While there is no argument that it has much history, how well does it do as a survival lighter.

Some pros for the Zippo as a survival lighter are as follows.

  • Windproof. Zippos can light and stay lit in windy conditions.
  • Hands-free. A Zippo lighter once lit will stay lit until the lid is closed, allowing the lighter to be set down and both hands used to get a fire established.
  • Temperature. The Zippo will operate in colder conditions than the Bic as the fuel remains in liquid form.
  • Indestructible. The robust metal construction of the Zippo lighter makes it rugged and long-lasting.
  • Multiple fuel types. The Zippo can take many different types of flammable liquid fuel.

The following are the major cons for using a Zippo as a survival lighter, which may make you rethink using them for this purpose.

  • Fuel leak. The fuel can leak out and burn your skin if you keep the lighter in your pocket.
  • Fuel evaporation. The fuel evaporates over a few days requiring the lighter to be continuously topped up with lighter fluid. You cannot toss a Zippo into a bug-out-bag and expect it to work a month later unless you have a tin of lighter fluid in your pack.
  • Bulky refill tin. You will have to carry a bulky refill tin in your pack in order to keep the lighter primed with fuel for when you need it.
  • Price. Zippos are substantially more expensive than BIC lighters. You can get a fistful of BIC lighters for the price of one Zippo.
  • Spare Parts. You will need to carry spare wicks and flints for your Zippo lighter as these items are considered consumables for the Zippo.

The manufacturers of Zippo have realized that the original design has some limitations for the survival market and has responded by creating a butane insert for the Zippo lighter. In this way, you can retain the sentimental or pop culture value of the Zippo and combine it with the reliability of the butane cartridge.

This butane cartridge is also refillable, which will allow you to refill your favorite lighter and have it ready for all your survival needs.

BIC vs Zippo Summary

Zippo lighters have become very popular, to the point that they almost have a cult following globally. While these lighter may be popular, they may not be as practical as the BIC lighter for survival purposes.

Practicality aside, many people love to carry Zippo lighters, simply because they like them, or they have a sentimental value to the person. However, I would not like to carry something for sentimental reasons and then have to stake my life on them working when I need it most.

For this reason, many people who carry Zippos will also have a BIC lighter or two, accessible as a backup to the Zippo.

From a pure practicality point of view, in my opinion, the BIC lighter comes out on top as the one I would prefer to have with me in a survival situation over the Zippo lighter.

Other Survival Lighters

There is another lighter on the market that is not as well-known as the BIC or the zippo but has some good qualities that could make it a contender for a spot in your EDC bag or bug-out-bag.

  • The Clipper lighter is similar to the BIC lighter in that it is a pressurized fuel container lighter, but it uses iso-butane as fuel, which will ignite down to a temperature of 11F (-11 degrees Celcius) which makes it great for colder climates. It is also refillable, which extends its life and usefulness.

What About Plasma Lighters?

Plasma lighters are a recent addition on the lighter market, and these lighters use a small arc of plasma electricity to ignite your tinder material.

Plasma lighters are not suitable for survival purposes as their charge does not last long, and you will need access to electricity to recharge them with a mini-USB port.

Conclusion

From a personal perspective, I like both lighters and have a version of a zippo which I use at home, but for survival purposes, I like the practicality and reliability of the BIC. However, I also have a Clipper, which I like for its ability to be refilled.

As a true survivalist, my gear bag does not only have lighters, since technology can always let you down. In my gear, you will also find flint and steel, a knife and Ferro rod, matches, a magnifying glass, and various kinds of tinder.

Knowledge of how to start a survival fire with no modern tools other than a knife are invaluable skills to learn, and you should be practicing these methods as part of honing your bushcraft skills.

With a knife, you can use natural materials around you to create a bow-drill set, or a hand drill set to be able to make fire by hand, but this takes practice.

Whatever your lighter preference, it should be but one of the methods available to you to start a fire in a survival situation. So go ahead and carry your favorite brand of lighter, but don’t make it your only option for fire making!

Frank Pearmain

As a homesteader, survivalist, and previously a safari guide in Africa, I have extensive bush and wilderness experience. I am passionate about living a self-sufficient, off-grid lifestyle and continuously learn and strive toward that goal!

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