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  • Writer's pictureWeekend Warrior

Matches, Lighters, or Flint - Which tool is better?

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

One of the 10 Essentials to always have in your pack is fire and there are a few different tools that you can choose from. Here we will take a look at the distinct advantages and disadvantages of each tool so you can decide what works best for you.

Butane Lighters

One of the most convenient ways to make fire is using a butane lighter. You can get one almost anywhere and in various sizes. BIC offers a mini lighter that will give you 20 minutes of light (which is more than enough considering you light it for a few seconds at a time). This is a great option if you are not comfortable using flint.

Advantages: Quick to light, reusable, lightweight

Disadvantages: Can leak, break open, or malfunction. Must keep inventory of how much fluid is left in the container. Striker inside the casing is vulnerable to moisture. Will not light in temperatures below 31 degrees Fahrenheit.

Waterproof Matches

Many people think of matches when someone mentions fire. You can get them in windproof variety, as well as waterproof, and they will most likely come in a waterproof container. There isn’t a steep learning curve to lighting matches and most people know how to use them already.

Advantages: Easy to use, can drop match into the fire start

Disadvantages: Must keep dry when storing and using, not reusable, won’t stay lit as long as a lighter has the potential to.

Magnesium Flint

One of the most reliable ways to make fire is to use flint and a steel blade, however it takes some skill to use it. You first create a bed of tinder then shave off some flakes of magnesium from the block. Once you have a small pile, turn over the block to the flint side and strike the flint with a steel blade or knife. This creates sparks that will ignite the shavings and build a fire.

Advantages: Extremely reliable, can use in wet conditions, reusable

Disadvantages: Must be skilled in how to use it

Each tool has its advantages and disadvantages and it is up to you to determine what works best for you personally, and for the conditions you will be under for the hike. It is not uncommon to own all three tools and you pack a specific one depending on the trip. Practice using all of your tools at home and make practice fires so you know how and are comfortable doing so in an emergency on the trail.

And don’t forget a fire starter. It is easy to overlook this simple, yet critical component to the fire essential.

What is a fire starter?

This is a piece of flammable material that helps you start a fire. You will need this because it is extremely difficult light wood directly and you may not always be able to find small brush to light. You can buy commercial fire starters or make one from some of your household items like rolled up newspaper, dryer lint, birthday candles or Vaseline soaked cotton balls.

With the right tools, you will be prepared to make a fire if you need to on the trail.

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