Lighters vs Matches? Which is Better in a Survival Situation?

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By Bryan Lynch •  6 min read

Ah, the age-old debate of which piece of gear is better. When it comes to making a fire, I have heard many arguments break out over lighters vs matches and which one is better. Each has its perks and pitfalls but when it comes to a survival situation, which one should you carry?

Lighters or Matches

For this article I will be breaking down these two survival items, their pros, their cons and I will wrap it up with my opinion of which one is better. So strap in and let’s discuss lighters vs matches!


For this section, I need to break down the four main types of survival lighters, I consider putting in a survival pack.

Bic Lighters 

This is the gold standard of lighters due to their price, quality, and ease of use. It is a lighter with a self-contained fuel (butane) source. Rolling the striker wheel will produce a spark that lights the fuel almost every single time 



Zippo Lighters 

This is an iconic lighter and that I still use to this day. Flip the top (I love the clicking sound it makes) to expose a wick, striker wheel, flint, and a windproof casing. Pulling this top section out exposes the fuel area that is easily refillable and where the flint and wicks can be replaced. 



Check out my hands-on review of the Zippo fire kit

Electric Lighters 

I am fairly new to using electric lighters, but I must say that so far I am a fan of them. They do not create a flame as traditional lighters do. Instead, they use electricity to create “arcs of plasma” that can instantly ignite many different types of materials. Instead of using traditional fuel, these lighters are recharged via a power source to “fill them up.”  



My favorite electric lighter is the Tesla Survival lighter. Check out my detailed hands-on review or check out the product below:

Tesla Lighter
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Long Neck Lighters

Otherwise known as BBQ lighters. These are the long-necked lighters used most commonly to ignite outdoor grills, pilot lights, and candles. 

Most people do not consider these in their survival kits but I do think they are a good option. They are affordable, easy to use and their design provides extra length for hard to reach places while keeping your finger away from the flame. 




Just like the lighters, I will be breaking down this section into the four different types of survival matches I would consider packing into my kits. 

Paper Matches 

These are going to be the absolute cheapest type of matches that you can get. Some places even offer them for free with the purchase of certain products. 



Kitchen Matches 

This style of matches is what most people think of for matches. A wood body frame that is slightly over two inches long, with a red, blue, or green striking head. 



Waterproof Matches 

This option is almost identical to kitchen matches except they are coated with a waterproofing layer, typically some type of wax. The only real difference between these and kitchen matches is that they are not as susceptible to moisture and water. 

Stormproof Matches 

These are the big brother to kitchen matches and are the next generation of matches. They are windproof, waterproof, and once they are ignited they are almost impossible to extinguish. A lit match dropped into a puddle of water will still keep burning!



The Verdict: Lighters vs Matches?

You may not like my initial answer because its that you should carry both a lighter and matches.

The ability to create fire easily and quickly, is so important why would you want to limit yourself to just one tool for that task? When you have the option, my recommendation would be to carry a Bic Lighter and stormproof matches.

But I will play the game that if I was backed into a corner of choosing only one type of lighter or one type of match then what would I choose? A Bic lighter wins every time. It is incredibly affordable, easy to use, durable, quality built, long-lasting fuel and flint, provides an instant flame, not dependent on a secondary striker surface, water-resistant, and can be purchased almost anywhere.

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.