The problem for the likes of us with finding a good lighter is, as none smokers, we are not important. If you spend more on your cigar than on your stove, then your needs are addressed Consider yourself lucky that many cigar smokers have been forced outside at high elevation ski resorts, and have to light their stogies in the wind. With that in mind, we set off to see if we could winnow out a few suitable lighters for us non smokers. Spend enough time reading through the smoker's blogs about these things, and you'll be grateful the hobby that has brought you to this website has not been depriving your lungs and brain of oxygen.
It's surprising that although the humble lighter is probably the most ubiquitous piece of kit in everyone's pack, it is the piece that most give the least amount of thought to. Yet it is also one of the most important pieces. If there's a BIC sitting in your pack, then this probably describes you. If I come across someone in the backcountry and I see them lighting a fire with a BIC, I know they are a weekend warrior unless perhaps they live S of the 10th parallel. If you see them using a Clipper lighter, you know they have attained bushman level skills.
Don't get me wrong, the BIC is a step in the right direction. Why? Because it at least uses flint ignition and not piezo. Why has the Clipper long been to preferred alternative among bushmen? Because not only does it use flint ignition and is refillable, it does not use n-butane. Instead it uses isobutane, so you can also refuel it with a fuel that is more sensible for those of us that leave home when it is below freezing. (For more information on why this fuel is what you need, see our stoves page.)
So here's a few quick seat of the pants rules of thumb regarding using lighters for most purposes except smoking:
• The most reliable ignition system is flint, followed by battery powered ignition.
• The most common fuel types are naptha, n-butane (good to 0C), and isobutane (good to -12C, and perhaps butane/propane winter mix if you do your own winter mix blends, good to lower temps than isobutane).
• There are a few types of flame, the most common for our purposes are 'soft' and 'turbo'.
• Soft flames are easier on gas consumption, do not burn as hot as a turbo flame, and therefore more suitable for igniting hand warmer catalysts, candles, etc.
• Turbo flames burn much hotter (and therefore more windproof and use more fuel), are more directional for hitting a pinpoint target area (less likely to burn your fingers when pointing downward), and better for burning rope, igniting stoves, and fires.
• If your lighter does not have a flame lock (like a BIC), especially if it has a flint wheel, and is a soft flame, you are more likely to burn your fingers when lighting a variety of items when you need to hold the lighter inverted.
• Piezo are unreliable, can be damaged by moisture, and do not work at altitude. They are convenient in that they require little maintenance (because you cannot repair them anyway), and best used for day trips at elevations below 8,000'. If you are using a Piezo lighter, don't even give it away to a non-smoker. Purge the gas from it, wrap it, and them dispose of it responsibly.
• The best wind proofing is provided by lighters that employ a catalyzer coil. These are sometimes called 'Jet Turbo Lighters'. Longevity of a jet turbo lighter depends heavily on how clean the lighter is kept.
At the moment, my favorite EDC lighter is a turbo flame, battery operated ignition style:
I recently was on a 10 day backcountry horse trip for work. Each day I would have to use this lighter for a variety of purposes from burning rope, lighting propane lanterns and stoves, lighting wood fires, and priming hand warmers. I was impressed with the reliability of the ignition (it never failed once), and the fuel reservoir lasted for the whole ten days. If I had needed to refuel it I could have done so from my stove canister, and if the watch style lithium button battery had failed and I really needed to light it, I could use my backup flint striker that I always carry. It's clean form factor meant it slides easily in and out of the pocket, and it works well inverted due to the remote trigger switch and flame lock (meaning no singed fingers). And while this is my EDC, I probably would choose another one for a multi day backcountry trip, and that choice would further be determined by the time of year.