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My backpack of course has a rechargeable gas lighter. I am considering buying a good Zippo, as I feel it more resistant, and it does not need to be kept with your hands to stay on. Would you suggest this move, or should I keep the gas lighter? I am also thinking about the potential additional use of the fuel (gasoline can be used also for other things, while propane is limited to the lighter).

To conclude, would you think a Zippo is a good tool for camping/backpacking/survival, or is it prone to disadvantages ?

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4 Answers 4

As others pointed out zippos might leak fuel, make a good choice and use a reliable one. I would prefer zippos over disposable things simply because it is greener, not producing garbage, and also it is cooler.

But a few important thing:

  • you should have alternatives, even which don't depend on fuel: flint should be ok with iron. Remember, the fuel might get low, or accidently you can lose the lighter.
  • if you expect rain, keep a small bunch of well cut wood dry, and take it with yourself if possible. It shouldn't weight more than a few 100 gramms extra, but if the rain catches you, it will save you a lot of time. You can add some dry grass or

I would say an ideal pack for making fire would look like:

  • 2 pieces of zippos (one might be exchanged for a disposable, it surely doesn't leak)
  • 1 flint with iron

optional:

  • ~100-200 grams of fire starter wood in a waterproof protective small bag, which shouldn't be a lot bigger than a regular lunch box. You can fill up the bag's open space with dried straw/grass if available.

And of course never forget a decent knife if you want to cut even smaller pieces of wooden sticks for starting the fire.

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Back when I smoked, I preferred a zippo lighter to a disposable.

Advantages:

  • effectively windproof. You can't light up in a hurricane, but then again, you can't use a disposable in more than a gentle breeze without trying to shield it from the wind.
  • Coolness. that clink-snik sound is just plain old cool (and something I miss now that I quit the bad habit).

Disadvantages:

  • disposable lighters have tons more fuel than a zippo does. My zippo tended to need filling somewhere around 3 times a week (smoking a pack a day). Sure, it could survive the wind better, but the more flame it made to compensate for wind, the more fuel it would burn. Before I used a zippo, I had disposables last me almost a year (I more often replaced them because I lost them than they actually died on me).
  • weight. Zippos are made of metal, disposables are plastic except for the part that creates/holds the flame

For camping, I would recommend a disposable, stored in some sort of secure container that will protect it from random stuff pushing on the gas lever. I typically have a second one in a waterproof container, similarly protected from random stuff from letting all the gas leak out.

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I prefer multiple gas lighters. They're light, they don't leak (and even if they do they don't make a mess), and they're cheap. If you buy one for a safety back up and leave it in the cellophane, you'll always have a dry one if you need it.

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Gas torches are even better. There are micro ones made mostly from plastic. They cost just few $, refillable and amazing to start fires! –  Val Sep 25 at 14:17

The problem with the rechargeable lighters like Zippos is they tend to evaporate their fuel quite quickly. They can make starting fires very easy, but always take a backup (or two, or three :D) method of starting a fire. They make some excellent waterproof / windproof matches these days. Combine that with a fire steel and your choice of mechanical & fuel lighter and you should be good.

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Indeed I have four backups: lighter, flint, a lens and windproof matches. And of course, standard wood plow. fire and lamps is something I always have multiple backups of. –  Stefano Borini Jan 26 '12 at 0:50
    
Agreed, one or two small backup is a "better to have", not just for the case of failing (running out of fuel), but losing too. I prefer Zippo + Flint combo but ultimately I have lens in my glasses for the daylight. –  CsBalazsHungary Sep 25 at 13:41

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