Sunday, December 11, 2011



The Zippo Survival Lighter is not a new product from Zippo rather a notation that the Zippo is without a doubt the best long term survival lighter in world.

Unless you just arrived here from Mars, you have undoubtedly handled a Zippo lighter at some point even if you are non-smoker.  Zippos were invented in 1933 and the design has been continuously tested and refined over almost 80 years.  The operation is infallibly simple and the design is elegantly bulletproof.  Even flint, wick, and the cotton batting is easily replicable. With a near unlimited selection of case motifs, you will certainly find one that fits your personality and Zippo even has a few various case size styles as well.  As the saying goes if it isn’t broke don’t fix it.

The movie, Book of Eli, set in the post apocalyptic future gave me reason to pause about what survival would be like 20+ years after “it hit the fan”. Little small details cause my eye in the movie such as the Zippo lighter had became a valuable negotiable trade item. I would image Zippos would be highly valued for a number of reasons.

The 100% USA made Zippo will really be the only lighter which will work after all the pressurized or disposable butane lighters are broken or empty assuming you have enough flint.  But flints from disposable lighters can be harvested, and wicks and cotton packing material can be made.  The Zippos is the only lighter which can run on almost any flammable fuel which will ignite when a spark is applied to it.  Even if you don’t have fuel or a wick, the cotton stuffing can be removed and used as tinder with the striker to still make fire. Yes indeed this old 1933 design does sound like the survival tool that could continue to put a spark in your fire well into an uncertain future.

Another benefit of the Zippo is that the wick can be adjusted for different heights for a little or a lot of fire depending on the need.  Thumb free, it can provides a small sustainable no-hands fire where other methods would be impractical or inconvenient and when placed on a fireproof surface it can burn from full to empty... a feat no other commercial lighter can do.  This key hands free, self standing features means that you can heat a cup of water, which I have done, or use it as a simple heat source for everything from melting paracord to taking a little chill out of your one man tent.

I have several Zippo lighters, however my newest acquisition is the mirror polished version which now provides me with all the benefits of the Zippo plus a very effective personal and signal mirror which combines two common survival devices into one handy package.


The quality of Zippo has gone through a number of updates and today’s model is without a doubt a much more refined and higher quality lighter than the previous versions.  Despite the refinements to improve fit and finish and literally limitless style options, Zippo has continued that original design and the classic Zippo open, strike and close sound distinctive only to Zippo.

The Zippo lighter has some unique benefits as a survival tool such as a near indestructible case, function unaffected by altitude, easy maintenance and repair, no-hands burning, signaling/mirror if you have a polished model, and simple functioning. You should however know what preferred Zippo supplies to have on hand to support your Zippo long term. In an article on the Survival & Self Reliance website SSRSI.ORG, the author compiled 448 days of Zippo use data lighting approximately 3 cigarettes a day which provided interesting information such as, flints lasted an average of 44 day, refills lasted on average 12 days, and wicks average life span was 111 days.  Based on the compiled data from the SSRSI.ORG site a Zippo user would need 12oz of Zippo lighter fluid, two packages of flints, and two wicks per year to run in factory spec state.  It is common practice to stash a couple wicks and extra flints under the felt and 6 month supply of one wick and six flints can easily fit under the felt and batting for the time you need it. All handy information to know.

Where almost every other lighter requires a special fuel, in a survival situation the Zippo can operate on almost any fuel which will ignite when exposed to a flame. Although not recommended by Zippo, the SSRSI.ORG author also went on to test various alternative Zippo lighter fuels and listed the quoted text below as tested alternative fuels to be used in a survival situation.
  • “All wick lighter fuels (Zippo, Ronsonol, etc.) - BEST
  • Camp Fuel (naphtha) – NEXT BEST
  • Some Paint Thinners (naphtha) – ALSO GOOD
  • Rubbing Alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) – GOOD ALTERNATIVE
  • Everclear / Grain Alcohol (ethyl alcohol aka "moonshine") – GOOD ALTERNATIVE
  • Kerosene – WORKS
  • Cologne – WORKS
  • Diesel Fuel – WORKS
  • Jet Propellant (JP – 4) – WORKS
  • Gasoline (dangerous but does work) – POTENTIALLY EXPLOSIVE”
One of the most significant notes of his testing was validation that Camp Fuel, which many of us have already tested in Zippos, works as well as wick lighter fluids.  I have noticed camp fuel typically does have a smellier burn than some of the more refined wick lighter fuels. From a disaster preparedness perspective you should have a low tech manual pressurized camp stove and at least a gallon of camp fuel on hand anyway, however it is good to know that one gallon of fuel could also be used as a nearly indefinite supply of Zippo lighter refills as well.

I always carry a couple disposable butane lighters in all my purpose build Bug Out Bags with ferrocerium rods. High end windproof micro-torches are without a doubt the fastest firemaking tools available, however they go through fuel quickly... then what. In a very long term survival situation, the problem occurs when a refill is needed and this is where the Zippo becomes the preferable lighter fire making tool.

Ferro rods are an indiipensible back up option, however a lighter will always be quicker and simpler fire making option. If catastrophic event occurs, the Zippo becomes a barter-able item.  Until then you can slip a one of the most well recognized and coolest fire making tools in your pocket all for about $20, for the just in case we hope will never happen.


Zippo Lighters