Choosing the best lighter for hiking and backpacking is pretty easy to overlook.
After all, it’s just a lighter, right?
Well, when we head out into the backcountry there are dozens of items that get tossed into the backpack and — as a gram-weenie (lightweight hiker) myself — I can tell you that every item counts! I analyze the content of my pack for weight, size, multipurpose function, etc. If we don’t take the time to turn a critical gaze upon the contents of our pack, we’ll end up taking everything but the sink – like Bill Bryson’s friend in A Walk in the Woods.
There are several important categories to analyze in any backpack item and we’ll talk about them as well as the different types of lighters that we can choose from to take hiking with us. Finally, we’ll compare each lighter against the most critical criteria of deciding what goes and what stays in order to recommend the best lighters for backpacking.
Choosing a Backpacking Lighter
Weight and Size
We have to carry our lighter with us in all situations on the trail. For that reason, it may pay dividends in the long run to select a lighter that’s reasonable small and light. Many modern lighters are becoming increasingly large and heavy to accommodate refillable butane canisters and electric ignitions. We will give the highest considerations to lightweight and compact lighters.
Complexity and Reliability
Gadgets are fun and always have their place. However, on a backpacking trip, running out of fuel in your refillable lighter or having a malfunction in an electronic ignition lighter will leave you in trouble. For this reason, simple and reliable are better in the backcountry. We’ll give priority to lighters with a simple design, easy maintenance, and proven reliability.
Refillable or Disposable
Because we don’t have the luxury of reasonably carrying refillable lighter fuel on a backpacking trip, refillable lighters won’t make the cut on our list. We can carry many disposable Bic lighters for the same weight as one refillable butane lighter and they’ll last comparably much longer. This makes refillable lighters a poor choice for most backpacking considerations.
Best Backpacking Lighters
Now that we’ve established the criteria we’ll be using to evaluate backpacking lighters, let’s dive into what’s out there today for making fire on the trail.
Mini Bic Lighter – Best Overall Backpacking Lighter
This is the overall winner of “best backpacking lighter” for several key reasons. It weighs in at a feather light 0.4 ounces (measured by me, personally) and can be lit nearly endlessly – even after the fuel is gone. There’s enough fuel in each mini-bic to last, when used conservatively for lighting stoves once a day, a month-long backpacking trip.
On top of all that, everyone knows how to use a Bic and even when they get wet, you can simply puff and blow on the lighter mechanism for a while until it drys out – ready to use again! I’ve been using them for years and use them exclusively on all of my personal trips.
- Tiny – can be stored inside your cooking kit with ease
- Easily replacable on any trip
Everstryke Match Pro Lighter – Best Reusable Backpacking Lighter
Capsule lighters are relatively unknown but popular in the survival community. One of the great things about these lighters is that you can pick up a couple and keep one on your key chain! Here’s why I love these lighters:
- Easy to keep track of
Now they’re being made with replaceable wicks and flints. Probably unnecessary, however, because there’s a good chance you’ll either lose this tiny little guy before you wear out the flint with a rating of 15,000 strikes. Who lights a lighter that many times? Not me.
If you’ve ever used a refillable lighter, you’ll know the fluid has a tendency to evaporate. That’s why the waterproof o-ring is double useful – it keeps the fuel in and the water out! The Everstryke Match Pro Lighter is a great choice for someone looking to fill all the needs of a backpacking lighter in a reusable form!
UCO Stormproof Torch – Technologically Advanced Lighter
This lighter is encased in a bomb-proof shell of ABS plastic with waterproof housing and a carabiner attachment for security. This is definitely a lighter for the survivalists among us. It’s made our list of best backpacking lighters because I know some of you like back-ups for your back-ups and this one’s pretty much guaranteed to light your fuel in any weather.
- Bulkier than other choices
- Requires refilling
- Relatively complex operation may be sensitive to field abuse
Personally, I would rather just carry 2-3 mini-Bics dispersed among my gear for backup and redundancy than a larger and more complex butane torch. Of course, there’s something to be said for having a fool-proof way of being able to light your fuel in practically any weather. And that’s where the UCO Stormproof Torch really comes in handy.
Magnesium Ferro Rod – Best Reliable Fire Source
While not necessarily a “lighter” by the modern definition, this magnesium fire starter is a proven way to get a fire going in any weather. One of the best parts? It’s insanely simple, has no moving parts, and works when wet. There’s no fuel to run out of, it will throw sparks practically forever, and it’s lightweight and bomb-proof. Go ahead, sit on it, step on it, you won’t hurt it.
- Simple and effective
- Highly durable
- Can be difficult to master starting a fire with
- Not the best choice for lighting fuel stoves
If you take the time to master fire starting using this magnesium fire rod, you’ll be able to get a fire going anywhere, any time. There’s enough fuel to last practically forever and the striker will throw sparks over and over again. There’s very little chance of destroying this lighter!
Depending on what your needs are, you’ll probably want to carry at least two lighters into the backcountry on your next backpacking trip. There’s always a chance of losing or breaking one, and that’s why I always carry at least two mini Bic lighters in my ultralight backpacking kit.
Of all our choices today, the mini Bic lighter still wins for ease of use, simplicity, and overall effectiveness.
However, when I need a fire source that I know won’t let me down in any weather at any time – I opt for a magnesium fire starting rod. I know I can count on the super hot flame to ignite my fuel in any weather and the dead-simple design and concept are always a reliable fallback for any situation. If I had to suggest an all-around optimal combination, I’d carry a mini Bic and a magnesium fire starting brick.