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Old 01-03-2010, 05:41 PM
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Default Lighters in Cold Temperatures



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Thought I would pass along a lesson I learned yesterday.

New Years is my informal trigger for rummaging through my survival
supplies, inspecting gear, oiling knives, replacing water supplies, etc.

I pulled my get-home bags from our cars. Each one has an assortment
of disposable lighters stashed into every nook and cranny. It's been
pretty darn cold here in the midwest the last few weeks. However, the
cars are garaged. I figure the temperature is hovering somewhere in
the mid-thirties in the cars, so not exactly "brutally cold" conditions.

On a lark, I flicked one of the lighters. Nothing. I can see plenty of
fluid inside, and it's got a good strong spark -- but no flame. I try
another one. Nothing.

In total, there were five lighters -- two Bics, two Scriptos, and a higher
end "wind-proof" refillable butane lighter. Not a single one worked.

I brought the packs inside the house to rummage through the rest of the
gear. After an hour or so of warming up inside, all the lighters would
once again function. Great -- unless you happen to be stuck outside
in the cold and want to build a fire.

I figure the lighters were cold enough that the fuel wasn't properly
vaporizing, but I'm open to other explanations if someone wants to jump in.

Anyway, my get-home bags have alternate fire-making methods, including
a canister of strike-anywhere matches, and a fire steel. However, the
lighers would have been my first go-to approach.

I suppose, if I had thought of it (while I was outside freezing) the lighters
could be warmed up by placing them close to your body for a while (under
the arm for example).

Anyway, just passing this along FYI. Know the limitations of your equipment.
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Old 01-03-2010, 05:49 PM
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Rub them quickly between your palms. This can warm them enough that they will light.
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Old 01-03-2010, 07:02 PM
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Your assumption about the fuel is correct, butane does not vaporize below a certain temp.
Put the lighter under your clothes for a few minutes.
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Old 01-03-2010, 07:13 PM
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Buffy is correct. Rub them in your palms.
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Old 01-03-2010, 07:37 PM
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butane evaporates according to Wikipedia at -0.5 C, so its safe to assume below that point it wont vaporise properly. you could warm it back up by clenching the lighter in the palm of your hand for a little while though.
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Old 01-03-2010, 07:42 PM
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I learned a long time ago to keep butane lighters warm, Snowmobiling in Vermont and NY. Carry them in a pocket. I bought a butane lighter designed for cold weather. The best lighter to keep in a vehicle is a zippo. They are wind proof and won't freeze.
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Old 01-03-2010, 07:46 PM
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Great thread

I carry an army steel and cotton wool with vaseline as one of my options.
I left my BOB in my SUV for 2 days at -40 celcius to see what in my kit would or wouldnt work.
I built a fire and used 1 ball of cotton wool and vaseline , sparked my steel and 2 strikes later it burst into flames!!
So now Im 100% confident that in what ever temperature the vaseline will ignite.
Same problem with the lighters
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Old 01-03-2010, 08:17 PM
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Thanks for all the great responses and info.

When I first started putting prepping gear together I was always
wondering why everyone was recommending matches (which can
get wet), or fire steel (which seemed like a tough way of getting
a fire started -- until I bought some and started learning). Just
seemed like a disposable lighter was by far the best way to go.
Now I understand their limitations. Doesn't mean I won't keep an
assortment in my bags and supplies. They're cheap, light, and
don't take up a lot of space. But I'll never rely on just a lighter.
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Old 01-03-2010, 08:38 PM
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now heres something interesting, but off topic concerning butane lighters:

PV=NRT

From that formula, its apparent that as the temperature varies, either the volume or the pressure of the gas expand. So theoretically, if we filled a lighter to full at 25 Celsius, it would not be full at -10 Celsius. Likewise, if you fill a lighter outside for safeties sake, and then take it inside, the internal pressure will rise.

Now ive never heard of a lighter being filled outside and rupturing as it comes inside, but its something to look out for. Definitely worth keeping in mind.

Note that PV=NRT assumes T is in kelvins, not Celsius or Fahrenheit.
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