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 ?

5 Answers 5


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.

  • 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. Jan 26, 2012 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. Sep 25, 2014 at 13:41

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.

  • 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, 2014 at 14:17

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


  • 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).


  • 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.


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


  • ~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.


I personally have backups for my backup. My survival pack includes Zippo w/ Fuel and extra flints, Magnesium/Flint w/ Striker, Fire Piston w/ Tinder, Hurricane Matches, Disposable Bic, Magnifying Lense, with extra flint and strikers incorporated within several items. Ultimately it's best to be prepared. And the weight isn't a problem, for me anyway. Also prep yourself in old school friction fire building, seeing as one could lose their pack in any number of ways. My favorite is the Bow Drill as it tends to be the most effective, though there are a few different old school methods.

I'll stick to fire building tools and refrain from delving into other tools need along with.

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