Zippo Fire-Starting Gear Goes Beyond The Traditional Lighter
Zippo makes lots of great fire-starting gear that would be of interest to anyone who likes to roam the wild places outdoors. Yes, anyone who’s seen a movie can recognize a Zippo lighter. But the company has other products that are perfect for tucking into a survival kit, daypack or bugout bag.
Why Am I Obsessed With Fire-Starting Gear?
This is the first of my three-part series on fire-starting gear. Why am I seemingly obsessed with fire? I spend lots of time roaming remote areas, mostly alone. Yes, I always let someone know my travel plans. Still, I know I’m just one sprained ankle away from having to spend a night in the woods unexpectedly.
I’ve spent nights in the woods with minimal gear. It’s usually not like staying in a ritzy hotel. There’s no room service. I can do without luxuries. But I won’t do without fire. Fighting off hypothermia, boiling water to purify it, drying soaked clothes, using smoke to keep mosquitos away are just some reasons I need fire.
Being able to make fire gives you confidence in roaming wild places. You know you can take care of yourself. And when things go bump in the night, even without the hot dogs and smores, a fire can be very comforting.
I usually carry several ways to make fire on any hike or hunt. So, what Zippo products are among them?
Zippo Lighters: A Fire-Starting Legend
Hollywood is responsible for some of the Zippo lighter’s popularity. For one thing, in order to make characters believably human they have to have foibles. An easy way to do that is to give characters an obnoxious addiction. Everyone in the movies smokes. To make them look less offensive, Hollywood gives them a touch of cool by having them flick open Zippos to light their cigarettes. The sound of flicking open a Zippo is almost as cool as the sound of racking the action on a pump shotgun.
In action movies, Zippo lighters have been practically a necessity. Until cell phone apps came along, no one in the movies carried a small flashlight. Flashlights were not believable. But because everyone in the movies smokes, it’s logical they’d have a Zippo they can use to light the way in the dark.
A great feature with a Zippo is that its flame stays lit without holding down a fuel valve. That makes the lighter perfect for tossing onto a pool of leaking gasoline to serve justice to movie bad guys. More good Zippos get destroyed by movie heroes blowing up bad guys.
A Must-Have Piece Of Fire-Starting Gear
I usually carry a traditional Zippo fluid lighter as one of my ways to start fires. Generations of outdoor travelers have done the same. They start at a suggested $18.45 and will last several lifetimes if you don’t abuse them. I probably have a dozen.
They fit in a pocket well and can start more fires reliably than a much larger box of matches. Keep a couple of spare flints inside it and you’re good to go. They’re available in dozens of styles. Choose one with the artwork that suits you. Fill it with fluid, keep a couple of spare flints inside it and you’re good to go.
No, the Zippo isn’t perfect. Their one weakness is that the liquid lighter fluid evaporates. That’s why such a lighter is never my only way to make fire. I have to admit, though, that usually one filling of fuel in my Zippo will be enough for most trips I take.
If I’m nervous my Zippo might run dry, I carry one of the Zippo leak-proof fuel canisters that holds one extra filling of fuel. I’ve heard of some people using a piece of bicycle innertube to stretch over a Zippo like a big rubber band to slow evaporation.
While I usually have a Zippo in my pocket, for long-term storage in a survival kit, I opt for other fire-starting gear. Enter the new Zippo butane and electric inserts.
Butane, Electric Inserts For Fire-Starting
New this year from Zippo are their butane and electric inserts. You take any of the standard size Zippo cases, remove the fluid lighter and put one of these in its place.
There are inserts to turn your Zippo into either a single- or double-flame refillable butane lighter. The rechargeable electric insert uses dual electrical arcs for fire-starting.
I’ve been testing both the single-flame butane and electric inserts for a few months now. They’re well made and reliable. They allow you to use you favorite Zippo case without a concern about evaporating fluid.
The electric lighter is especially effective when wind conditions make it difficult to keep other lighters lit. The single-torch butane insert is $14.95. The double-torch model is $16.95. The electric arc insert sells for a suggested $21.95.
Zippo Mag Strike Ferro Rod
The Zippo Mag Strike is a great piece of fire-starting gear. It’s an ferrocerium rod, 5/16-inches thick that comes with a snap-on cover that also houses metal striker. The whole unit is triangular in shape, which provides an excellent gripping surface, especially when your hands are cold or you’re wearing gloves.
I insist on having a ferro rod in my kit. The Zippo Mag Strike is a good one. Ferro rods can snap and I’ve had some exposed ferro rods corrode over time. Having a cover on it is a smart idea.
If you’re not familiar with ferro rods, basically you scrape the rod with an included metal scraper or back side of a knife blade to shower hot sparks onto your tinder.
Ferro rods usually come with a protective black coating. The rods work better as that coating is eventually scraped away.
Wipe off a ferro rod after it gets soaked and it will still work. You can light hundreds if not thousands of fires with a good ferro rod if you’re using proper, fine tinder.
Cotton lint from your clothes dryer works pretty good. The Zippo Mag Strike has an MSRP of $16.95.
Zippo Emergency Fire Kit Is Excellent
The Zippo Emergency Fire Kit is an excellent piece of fire-starting gear. A flick of its flint spark wheel generates enough sparks to light good tinder. This type of fire-starter can be used one-handed. It uses a standard Zippo flint, which is replaceable. A screw-on protective cap keeps the flint wheel dry.
Below the spark wheel is a water-resistant storage compartment with O-ring for tinder or other small items. The five included Easy Spark Tinder rolls that are included fit perfectly inside.
I like to use tinder I gather along the way and keep these as backup for extreme conditions. The Easy Spark Tinder looks like miniature rolls of toilet paper and they work very well. They’re made of compressed cotton coated with paraffin wax. They burn for about five minutes each, usually long enough to get your fire going well.
The fire kit floats too. It sells for a suggested $12.95 and it’s well worth it. Extra 10-packs of the Easy Spark Tinder is available too for $5.95.
SureFire Multi-Tool Designed For Fire-Starting
New this year is the Zippo Sure-Fire Multi-tool. It’s an interesting idea for fire-starting gear. It has a flint spark wheel that swings out like a knife blade.
There are two slots on it to store extra flints. There’s a grater too that works well to create a pile of wood shavings to use as tinder. The multi-tool also has a knife blade, saw blade and a bottle opener with flathead screwdriver. There’s a lanyard ring at one end and it comes with a length of fire paracord attached. That paracord has an inner strand of wax coated material that can be used as tinder.
I found the spark wheel and grater to be particularly useful. Given that Zippo is part of the same corporation that owns Case Knives, I would have hoped for a better quality knife blade. However, you might suspect that I would probably have several other knives with me anyway. The SureFire Multi-Tool has a suggested price of $19.95.
Zippo Flex-Neck Utility Lighter
For use around camp, I have a Zippo Flex-Neck Utility Lighter. It’s a refillable butane model that provides extra reach that’s especially handy for lighting camp stoves and lanterns, candles and grills. This lighter has a dual flame that resists the wind well. It has a child-proof safety switch that can be operated one-handed even by adult like me. It has a suggested retail price of $21.95 and I don’t go on family camping trips without it.
Zippo Match Safe With Typhoon Matches
Matches still have their uses. One nice thing is that you can light a match and place it right into your fire lay and then back off without the need to hold a lighter in place.
The Zippo Typhoon Match Kit comes with a water-resistant match safe with O-ring seal and screw-on cap. It holds 15 Typhoon matches that are included. These matches are coated to be water resistant and each burns for about 30 seconds. Matches are useless without a good striking surface. This kit comes with three round strike pads. They attach to the bottom of the match safe and are protected from the elements by a snap-on cover. These matches work great. The kit sells for $12.95. A replacement pack of 30 Typhoon matches sells for $9.95.
Zippo Tinder Shreds For Dependable Tinder
The key to starting a fire lies with the tinder. Zippo Tinder Shreds are made of shredded pine coated in paraffin.
Each resealable pack comes with 15 two-inch shredded curls that burn about eight minutes each. A pack of Tinder Shreds has a suggested price of $5.95 and their good to have in your kit when other natural tinder is hard to find.
Steven Paul Barlow is a retired sergeant/station commander and former firearms instructor with the New York State Police. He is an avid hunter, fisherman, and enthusiast with all things related to firearms, knives, and survival. He has been writing on outdoor topics for more than 35 years. His collections of outdoor humor stories are available at www.BriarHillBooks.com.