Lighters are commonly used in a multitude of situations spanning from lighting a simple cigarette to starting a fire in the backcountry. There are different types of lighters, but most of them have a common downside: they run out of fuel.
Plasma lighters are a reusable option that is rechargeable via USB. This makes them an efficient tool for simple tasks since they can be “refilled” using a battery pack or solar panel.
But how do they work, exactly?
Plasma lighters use electricity to create a connection between two nodes or electrodes. This connection is called plasma, and it burns hotter than butane fuel. They’re wind resistant and can be held upside down to light things like candles.
If you’re interested in getting your first plasma lighter then keep reading to learn why they are so popular and why it might be a good purchase for your kit.
What is a Plasma Lighter?
The future is here with plasma lighters! Imagine a fuelless source of combustion that can light anything a conventional lighter can in a fraction of the time.
The hype around plasma lighters is not only rooted in the “coolness” factor of the technology, but in the sense that as a primary or secondary combustion option, it works well in most situations.
Simply put, the lighter pushes a high voltage current between two ceramic nodes that create a really hot arc of electricity.
This is what is known as plasma, and is the least known type of matter. What we do know is that it burns very hot and it is now rechargeable via USB cable.
The electrical arc that is generated is then used to heat up the material you want to ignite, be it smoke, a piece of paper, or a tinder.
Think of it as a portable lightning generator as the concepts are similar. An electrical charge is built up within the clouds, which then arcs onto other clouds or right down to the ground.
The Pros and Cons of Using a Plasma Lighter
As you can probably already tell, there are a number of benefits to using a plasma lighter over a traditional butane lighter. Of course, there are downsides to using them, but the key is to find a good balance.
Reuse and Reduce – One of the bigger advantages that come to mind is that a plasma lighter is rechargeable. This reduces the amount of plastic waste and butane consumption by a significant amount.
Less of a fire hazard – Butane lighters such as a Bic have more of a chance to catch something on fire as they are a loose flame. Additionally, the amount of times I have burned my thumb while I’m turning a lighter upside down has permanently altered my fingerprint.
Doesn’t add that butane taste – For everyone who smokes out there, I have often heard that a butane lighter will alter the taste of a cigarette. Since plasma is effectively electrical energy, there is no way it could alter any taste.
Can require some “priming” – Since you are arcing lightning that can get up to 5500 degrees Fahrenheit (3037 Celsius) the coils may need to keep being heated in order to support that temperature.
USB Rechargeable – I put this here because this can also be a con if you’re out in the backcountry or don’t have access to electricity to recharge the lighter.
Can be tricky to use – Since this is a flameless lighter some people might be thrown off on how to use it to light things. The arc is very hot and if you’re not careful it can incinerate whatever it is you’re trying to simply ignite.
Why Do You Need a Plasma Lighter?
A plasma lighter is considered a specialty tool in that it works well in most situations but sometimes a conventional butane lighter will do the trick better. Here are some of the reasons you should get a plasma lighter.
- You need a lighter around the house that can light candles, incense, gas stoves, or cigarettes.
- You are environmentally conscious and would rather have a product that will last you for a long time.
- There is always a battery pack around if you need to recharge something.
- You are trying to use a lighter in windy conditions. Interestingly enough, the wind doesn’t affect these lighters since there is no flame being produced.
- You need a tool that can pretty much incinerate anything that it can light.
While the tech may be cool the device is incredibly dangerous. Before using a plasma lighter there are some safety precautions you should be aware of.
- As with all lighters, don’t use a plasma lighter anywhere near flammable gasses or liquids.
- Do not point the tip of the lighter towards yourself.
- Keep loose sleeves and hair away from the lighter when in use.
- Lithium-ion batteries inside the lighter can explode if stored in extreme temperatures.
- Never attempt to hot weld with a plasma lighter.
A plasma lighter offers excellent igniting capabilities in a small package that is environmentally friendly and useful in high winds.
Additionally, the iconic “click, click, click” of a plasma lighter really gives you the sense that you’re holding a small taser.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most asked questions by people looking to buy a plasma lighter. As always if you have any other questions feel free to leave them in the comments below!
The best thing you can do is to clean the electrodes. Often corrosion will oxidize the electrodes and prevent a spark.
This is easily done with rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab. Ensure the electrodes can make contact as well since that can stop a spark.
It really depends on the battery that is in the lighter. A typical lighter will go through 100-200 lights before needing to be charged up again.
You can expect a plasma lighter to produce up to 5 volts depending on the number of nodes and the power being generated.
While they are not illegal to have in the United States of America you will have to leave them behind as they are not allowed on planes.
Plasma lighters do not shut off automatically; they propose an ignition risk and are prohibited. This is not the case for trains and you can keep yours on you during a train ride.
Perrin is an adventure guide and naturalist currently living a nomadic life in the Canadian wilderness. His education and expertise is in wilderness survival and wildlife tracking. He enjoys teaching people about the outdoors and has managed large groups on expeditions.
With several accredited certifications, including being a wilderness first responder and a leave no trace expert, Perrin believes it is important for all of us to reconnect with the natural world.