High Altitude Lighters???

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    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    I read in the Reader's Reviews that Brunton and other butane lighters just will not work above 10,000 ft. BOY! I'm glad I happened on this review thread.

    I'm climbing Mt. Charleston this weekend (11,990+ ft.) and camping at 10,000 ft. I'll be sure to carry a Zippo lighter that I KNOW will work above 10,000 ft. Sometimes old tech ain't all that bad.


    stefan hoffman


    Locale: between trees

    A Bic with a full tank has worked fine for me several times at 13 or 14k, as long as there is a place to hide from the wind. However, I've never tried a Bic below freezing at high altitude.

    Charles Grier
    BPL Member


    Locale: Desert Southwest

    I have used Bic lighters with no problems at all to well over 14,000 ft elevation. I am sure that there are lots of others out there that share my experience. Some friends of mine used theirs routinely on a long ascent of Denali. Like any other lighter, they are wind sensitive. Keep them in your pocket to keep them warmish and you should have no problems.

    Rick Dreher
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northernish California

    Yup, the Bruntons, Windmills, etc. I've carried don't want to work at altitude, while flint-fired BICs seem to work fine. I suspect it's partly the piezo igniters, as the same thing happens with a lot of self-sparking stoves, and partly that little catalytic coil gizmo.



    Franco Darioli


    Locale: Gauche, CU.

    As a reminder…
    In a previous thread it emerged that Bic and "Bic like" (plastic butane lighters with a flint) lighters do not perform alike.
    In other words , look for the Bic branded type.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Hi Eric

    In general it is not the flint which gives a problem at altitude. The friction is enough to create a spark. What often stops a lighter from working is getting the fuel to come out the jet. Most 'Bic-style' lighters use butane as a fuel, and this stops working at 0 C (32 F). Yep, if the lighter is colder than that it won't work.

    So … we keep the lighter in an inside pocket for a while before we want to use it. Or we warm it up in our hands first. I do this all the time when ski-touring.

    If you can get a Zippo to work you *can* get a Bic to work. After all, the fuel in the Zippo is (overall) less volatile than the butane.

    I have read that the Ronson lighters use iso-butane instead: this works to -12 C. But I have not confirmed this.



    I don't know about Brunton butane lighters, but BIC's work just fine. Piezo lighters are another story, however.

    Chris Townsend
    BPL Member


    Locale: Cairngorms National Park

    At 10,000 feet butane boils at 12F so it has to be very cold to affect a lighter. I've had lighters work fine above that altitude and fail at sea level. I'd never rely on just a lighter (or piezo ignition either – which fails frequently in my experience). Matches or a fire steel are good backups.

    Rick Dreher
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northernish California

    The cautions about butane in the cold are well advised; luckily it takes all of a minute in a pocket to get them nicely warmed up. It's also handy to disable any kid-proofing on the lighter. Those can be maddening with cold, gloved hands. (Don't know if you non-Stateside folks have to deal with them.)

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Yes, we do sometimes get this utterly stupid so-called kid-proofing covers on Bic lighters.

    For a start, kids these days are more inclined to throw the whole thing in the fire than try to do anything sophisticated with them. And if parents are stupid enough to let their kids play with lighters … Darwin.

    But more importantly, for a walker those kid-proof covers are a really serious safety hazard. Try to operate a lighter with the cover in place when your hands are cold and wet and you are desperate to get your stove going. Very hard. Of course, fuel may be going everywhere while you struggle to get a flame – in which case …


    Rog Tallbloke
    BPL Member


    Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!

    I carry several methods of lighting fire, and disregard the weight penalty. Some things are too important to pare grams from.

    Nice avatar Roger C, very seasonal, for Aussies. ;-)

    carlos fernandez rivas
    BPL Member


    Locale: Galicia -Spain

    I been using bic lighters without problems in altitude (french and swiss alps, mt elbrus in russia, atlas mountains in morocco or several nepal mountaineering trips )

    I usually carry two or bics mini size, and sometimes (only if expect really cold conditions) one firelite mini as a back up. But i never use it


    Mike Clelland


    Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)

    I lit the stove at 17,000 feet with a mini-bic on denali.
    No problem.

    Raymond Estrella


    Locale: Northern Minnesota

    I was on a quest about 6 years ago to find a reliable high altitude lighter. I ordered them from Europe (a Swiss Army model said to be used by their troops, $65.00) and lots here including two (mistake) $80.00 models made for high altitude, they even had an adjustment for the mountains. Every one worked great to about 8,000 ft. Above that I found the problem was the piezoelectric ignition. (I can’t get it to work with stoves either.) I now carry a rugged wind-proof butane model that uses a flint and I have never had a problem with it.

    This reminds me of a funny lighter story. I was on a trip with a Boy Scout group that I volunteer as an extra adult hiker when they don’t have enough dads along. I watched one of the boys trying to get his new backpacking lighter from Sport Chalet to fire up so as to light his stove. He was determined to use his new toy. He finally had another boy use a match to light his lighter which he then lit his stove with.

    Daniel Fosse


    Locale: Southwest Ohio

    I don't do any high altitude walking but I do know my lighters. First of all make sure you use a real Bic and not one of those cheep-o clear box shaped lighters. The cheep ones will likely fail.

    leak fule
    dry out
    are not water proof, submerge them and they are done

    Refillable Butane lighters
    Usually heavier than a Bic
    Seem to have a lower fule capacity
    High failure rate

    mini Bic
    Very lightweight (carry 2 if you like)
    If wet, blow the water off the top and it will work just fine, in other words, water proof. I have been swimming with a Bic many times and had no problems with it working again.
    I've never had a Bic mechanically fail

    Andrew King


    Locale: Arizona

    Bic has never ever let me down. I've even started getting complacent about bringing along matches for a backup. Gotta stop that!

    Tohru Ohnuki


    Locale: S. California

    You can get the child proofing clip off a Bic by prying it out with a small screwdriver. Just be careful as it likes to spring out at high speed.

    Raymond Estrella


    Locale: Northern Minnesota

    Oh cool, just pry here and

    Ow,ow ow my eye…

    Art Sandt


    A needle-nose pliers helps removing the child proofing…

    If you're just using the lighter to light a camping stove, though, don't forget that the stove will light with a spark too.

    Gary Rath


    Locale: PNW

    Old topic but there is an advantage to a Zippo.. They work with White gas so if you get it wet, dry it out and fill it with your stove fuel.

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