I have a possibility to buy a box of 50 Bic lighters on a discount and with free shipping. Since I don't smoke, I'd use them only for building fires in travels. For how long could those lighters lie on a shelf before the gas evaporates (if it does)?.. Of course I might wrap them tightly in plastic foil, but I'm guessing it won't help much.

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    There are much more versatile and less wasteful ways to start fires in travels, with practically infinite durability. Just saying; I can't answer the actual question, unfortunately, altough the same for matches would be equally interesting. Jul 28, 2020 at 13:52
  • +1 for "less wasteful". However, Bic lighters are very reliable, inexpensive and light, so I can take five of them for backup. I simply can't imagine trying to prime a wood-burning stove (or even a multifuel one) with a flint steel on a windy mountain in snow... :)
    – Alexander
    Jul 28, 2020 at 14:02
  • Not an unreasonable preference. The problem I have with butane lighters is that they are prown to be blown out by wind, even when you know what you're doing, and get hot if you're igniting and holding the flame several in a row. For flint steels, I always use them in combination with tinder I bring (fatwood, or my favourite: tampons). OTOH, one fluid-based refillabel ligher could suit your need without the disadvantages of butane lighers, except if you forget to refill it. Jul 28, 2020 at 14:15
  • @phipsgabler More details about your favorite tinder, please. Plastic or cardboard applicator? If cardboard, where do you find them (plastic is much more common). What size (light/medium/heavy/super)? How many does it take to make a tinder bundle, and how do you prep them? Just remove from the applicator and unfold, or do you cut/shred them?
    – csk
    Jul 28, 2020 at 16:44
  • @csk I like them because they're compactly and somewhat water-resistantly stored and recycled by me. First, applicators are completely uncommon where I live (as far as I know), so there's none. Other than that, I take whatever I can get from girls that don't use them anymore, and don't care about the kind (I don't menstruate myself). Jul 28, 2020 at 20:10

1 Answer 1


Assume that the gas won't evaporate in your lifetime. Those things are tightly sealed and last essentially forever. I've found half-used BIC lighters washed up on riverbanks that still worked. Of course you may find that some in the pack are defective, not full sealed, or with crooked nozzles so the flame burns your fingers every time, etc.

Single-use lighters have a much longer shelf life than the fluid in a pre-filled refillable lighter. Exactly because they aren't refillable, they don't have openings for the lighter fluid to evaporate. I have a lovely refillable engraved Zippo, but every time I go to use it the fluid has evaporated, so I end up using a cheap disposable lighter.

So, while I hear everyone who commented that disposable lighters are wasteful, what about all the lighter fluid that evaporates from an infrequently used refillable lighter, if you're refilling it every time you use it? IMO, for infrequent use, a disposable lighter is the best balance of price and reliability, and not substantially worse for the environment. That said, you don't need a 50 pack unless you're prepping for the apocalypse. I've been using the same three disposable lighters I bought 5+ years ago. I keep two or three in my camping gear, and they work every time. They are cheap and ubiquitous; you can buy multiple for a few dollars at the checkout counter of any gas station, grocery store, convenience store, drug store, what have you.

Edit: Chris H's comment reminded me that I actually have a different refillable lighter that holds its fuel reliably well. So I guess the real moral of the story is if you get a refillable lighter, get a brand that's not known for leaking.

  • Yes, the liquid fuel evaporates extremely quickly, my sentiments exactly! That's why I've been thinking about Bics :)
    – Alexander
    Jul 29, 2020 at 6:27
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    Many butane lighters are refillable, and hold their gas just as well as the disposable ones. They'd be a good compromise, perhaps in the form of a smaller pack
    – Chris H
    Jul 29, 2020 at 7:02
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    I have a batch of disposable lighters that I bought 25 years ago and they're still going strong (when I can find one, they're usually somewhere with my camping kit).
    – Separatrix
    Jul 29, 2020 at 20:18

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