What to Do When Your Lighter Dies on a Camping Trip

hand holding a lighter to check it doesn't die on a camping trip

Fire is an essential part of every adventure. It keeps you warm, lets you purify water, and cook food. There is just no way you can have a good camping trip without it. No matter whether you use a campfire, a camp stove, or a butane one you’ll need a way to light it. The most common method for lighting a fire in the wild is the lighter. But, what can you do when your lighter dies, breaks down, or runs out of fluid?

If your lighter dies on a camping trip, it doesn’t have to be the end of your adventure! There are a lot of ways you can ensure that you always have a method for lighting a fire and staying warm. You can bring a secondary lighter, carry matches, or employ one of the alternative fire starting methods.

Table of Contents

Ensure Your Lighter Doesn’t Die on a Camping Trip

The lighter is the easiest way to start a fire, both in civilization and in the wild. However, it has a finite amount of fuel and it breaks down when it gets wet. If you want to get the most out of your lighter, you should take good care of it. There are a lot of ways you can ensure your lighter serves you well during the trip, or that you have a backup in case your lighter breaks down.

Check Your Gear Before You Go on a Trip

Wherever you go and whatever you do in the wild, you should always know what condition your gear is in. This doesn’t mean that you should obsess about your gear all the time. But, you should always be aware of where your equipment is, and whether there’s something wrong with it.

If you want to ensure your lighter is functional and doesn’t die on a camping trip, you’ll want to check it before you leave for your adventure. Make sure there’s enough fuel in it and that all the parts are working properly.

Keep Your Lighter Secure During Your Camping Trip

Another way you can ensure your lighter doesn’t die during the trip is to take good care of it. Certain conditions will damage your lighter and prevent it from working even if it has a lot of fuel.

  • Humidity – wet conditions can prevent your lighter from working.
  • Physical damage – lighters consist of parts, if any of them gets broken or damaged the lighter will not work.
  • Dirt – mud, sand, and dirt can also ensure your lighter can’t make a spark.

As long as you keep your lighter away from these conditions, it should be fine. Thus, if you want to save your lighter, you should

  • Keep it in a waterproof case.
  • Pad the case so your lighter doesn’t bounce around inside the case.
  • Do not drop your lighter.
  • Do not leave your lighter on the forest floor.
  • Avoid exposing your lighter to rain or show.

Carry Two Lighters on a Camping Trip

If you don’t like babysitting your gear and prefer to spend time hiking and exploring, there’s still a way you can ensure it doesn’t die on your camping trip. You can simply carry a backup lighter! You won’t have to get a special case for your fire starting kit and you’ll still have a reliable fire-making tool.

The problem with carrying two lighters is that you can still lose or damage them both. This is especially true if you keep them in the same place. So, if you’re carrying a backup lighter, you’ll want to keep it away from your primary one.

Finally, you might think it’s a good idea to bring more than two lighters to ensure you always have a source of flame. We wouldn’t recommend this because at some point the weight and the extra equipment will have a negative effect on your trip. While redundancy can save your life in the wild, it becomes cumbersome and difficult to manage at some point. In this case, at three lighters.

Bring a Refillable Lighter

A good way to ensure your lighter doesn’t die during your camping trip is to bring a lighter that can’t die. There are a lot of lighters that are made from sturdier materials. These lighters can withstand a lot more wear and tear. For example, Zippo lighters are notoriously durable and tough to break. As long as you keep them filled with lighter fluid, you should be alright. So, make sure you bring something to refill your lighter. But, pay attention! Lighter fluid isn’t the same as camp fuel and using it to light a campfire can result in uncontrolled flames and forest fires.

A refillable lighter is a good answer to what to do when your lighter dies on a camping trip

Alternative Ways of Making Fire

Even if you’re prepared and have a spare lighter, it still might die from a number of sources. This is why you should have a few alternative fire-starting methods up your sleeve. Knowing how to make a fire in various conditions will ensure you can tackle any unforeseen challenges and have a good time on your trip.

Some of these methods are easy to find and use. Others, though, require skill and practice. So, if you want to count on the more difficult ones, you should practice them before you go on your trip. There is one thing they all have in common, though. They all highly depend on the type of tinder you use with them. Getting good tinder such as char cloth or cotton balls will immensely improve the efficiency of these methods.

Matches Are a Good Alternative When Your Lighter Dies

The most basic and easiest alternative method to starting a fire without a lighter must be matches. People have been using them long before even the first lighter was invented. And they still remain the best solution for lighting a fire in the wild, in the opinion of many outdoor enthusiasts.

Unfortunately, regular matches suffer from the same conditions as lighters. You can’t get them wet, they can break, and getting them dirty usually means that they won’t work. However, a lot of campers and hikers rely on waterproof matches. They can strike a spark when wet, and they can even burn underwater for a period of time.

People call them different names in different parts of the world. They are storm matches, water-resistant matches, or simply mini flares. But, whatever you call them, we strongly suggest that you find a spot for them in your gear. Even if you primarily rely on a lighter to make a fire in the wild, you should still have at least two other methods. One of them should be matches.

Fire Steel and Striker

What is probably the most ancient method of lighting a fire is still in use today. Luckily, nowadays we don’t have to use flint and steel to strike a spark onto tinder. These days we use the fire steel and a striker, or a knife, or whatever piece of metal you might bring, as long as it has a sharp 90-degree edge.

Also called the ferrocerium rod, fire steel is the most reliable method of making a fire. It will take some time to get used to this method of fire-starting. But once you get a hang of it, it becomes the most valuable tool in your pack. It is resistant to water, immune to physical damage, and dirt can’t affect it.

The only downside this method has is that you need fine and dry tinder to make it work. This type of tinder is usually difficult to source in humid or cold conditions. However, you can overcome this challenge by bringing your own tinder. A bundle of wood shavings in your pack won’t affect the weight a lot, but it will give you a reliable fire-starting solution. Also, char cloth or birch shavings do wonders as tinder, especially since char cloth can’t go bad and lose its flammable properties.

Fresnel Lens

Have you ever used a magnifier glass to burn your friend’s hand as a kid? Well, the Fresnel lens is basically that – a portable flat magnifying glass. Carrying one with you provides a good way to light a fire. It will only work on sunny days, though. If you are camping in overcast weather or in the winter, the chances are you’re not going to get a chance to make a fire this way.

This is a fun way to experiment with starting a fire. Just make sure you aim the beam at tinder that you specially prepared and moved away from the forest floor. You don’t want to start a forest fire or set fire to your blanket.

Fire Piston as a Lighter Alternative

Fire pistons allow you to use the power of compressed air to set fire to your selected tinder. It works similarly to a diesel engine, compressing air with such a force it ultimately ignites. You can find fire pistons in your local survival store or online. Their price range varies a lot and you can get good ones for about $50. All in all, the efficiency of a fire piston will depend on how much effort you put into compressing the two parts, as well as the type of tinder you have chosen.

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