How to modify a Bic lighter for bushcraft and survival use.
I enjoy playing around with the flint and steel and various methods of friction fire, but the Bic lighter provides instant flame. (Most times, so also have back up fire lighting tools.) While it can be susceptible to the cold and wet, it is a handy survival device, but it can be improved somewhat. Here is how to modify a Bic lighter for bushcraft and survival use.
While an instant flame is generally better than just a spark in a survival situation, it is no good if you have no tinder, or the tinder is soaking wet. This is where these lighter mods or hacks come into play. By taping or wrapping some tinder or fire extender on the lighter, it can help get a fire going quickly.
Here is a simple step by step way to modify the Bic.
- Remove the child safety band.
- Prepare a lanyard loop. – Optional
- Tape over jute, Fire Strip Roll or similar.
- Wrap with extra FireCord, Para Tinder or ranger bands. – Optional
- Wrap rubber bands around the ignition button.
Here are the steps in more detail and some tips for the Bic lighter hack.
- Remove the child safety band.
The child safety band makes it harder to use when your hands are cold. Use a screwdriver, needle nose pliers or Leatherman tool to prop it out. I just use my pocket Swiss Army Knife can opener. (See my article on the Walker Swiss Army Knife Review.)
For the lighters or mini Bic lighters that I put in my pocket, or on my car keys, I leave the child safety band on. While it would be unlikely to spark, it might be worth leaving the band on.
For the lighter I might carry in my backpack, or fire tinder pouch, Pathfinder water bottle bag and belt pouch, I will normally remove the safety band.
(I have heard of the safety band used for an improvised fish hook. I haven’t tested it out myself though.)
- Optional – Prepare a lanyard loop.
If you want a lanyard loop, tie some mariner’s bank line, Nano cord or hootchie cord in a loop and tape it on the bottom of the lighter.
A loop to connect a lanyard is handy on the lighter. (In the above photo, the lanyard loop is on the bottom of the lighter. The top loop is for securing around the ignition button.)
I sometimes attach a small carabiner on the loop as well. When I go into the bush, I will put the lanyard through my belt and clip the lighter and car keys to the lanyard.
On my Mil Spec backpack, I have an inner drawstring around the pack opening. I attach a small carabiner on the drawstring to hold some cordage, micro torch and small thermometer. Also ideal for attaching a lighter to it. Because it is inside and at the top of my backpack, the items are easy to find and access. The loop and carabiner makes the lighter easy to attach and unclip from the pack.
For the Bic lighter loop, another option is to use tie wire. Thread it through the vent slot / holes slot on the metal lighter head. (Or use bread tie wire or packaging wire. Like the wire on children’s toy packaging.)
- Tape over jute, Fire Strip Roll or similar.
Place some Fire Strip Roll, jute, Sure Strips Spartan Fire, or similar along the adhesive side of the tape. Leave the ends and sides free on the tape, so it can stick. Wrap the tape around the body of the lighter.
If you are short of tinder. The tape can be simple unwound and the jute or Fire Strip Roll can be ignited.
As well as the jute or Fire Strip Roll for fire lighting, the tape can also be used for a flame extender. Tape like Gorilla tape, or duct tape can hold a flame and help light marginal or wet tinder.
A small amount of cotton ball material can also be used. Flatten the cotton out and place on the tape.
Depending on the thickness of the lighter you want, the tape length might be 20 cm (Under 8 inches.) If you don’t mind the lighter being bulkier, wrap it with plenty of tape. (This also provides some extra tape for your survival kit and insulates the lighter a little bit.)
A secondary lighter in your pack might also be used as a spool or dowel to store ample tape on it. (Normally the spindle roll is hollow, so you are making the most out of the space. Or if just using the roll of tape, simply squash the tape roll down to save space.)
- Optional – Wrap with FireCord, Para Tinder or ranger bands.
If you want to put an extra layer of potential tinder or flame extender, you could place ranger bands over the tape on the body of the lighter. Or wrap orange FireCord or Para Tinder on top over the tape.
- Wrap rubber bands, around the ignition button.
So the ignition button doesn’t get accidentally pressed and all the gas leaks out, use a ranger band or rubber band to wrap around the ignition button.
The rubber band can also be used to light.
Another option is to tie a slip knot around the button. You can use Nano cord, micro cord, or hootchie cord, mariner’s bank line, etc., for the slip knot. (Jute twine will fray using it to tighten and undo all the time.)
Bushcraft Bic lighter tips.
Leave a bit of the bottom of the lighter free from tape, so you can see how much fluid is in it. Shine a torch to the side of it, or underneath on the bottom of the lighter to see how much fuel is left. Some colors work better than others.
It is not super clear, but you might be able to see the butane fuel levels in the above image.
If the lighter is out of fuel, it can still start a fire with the sparks. This is where jute twine comes into play. (Cotton balls are even better.) Tease the ends of the twine and hold or insert close to the sparks. It may take a few goes to ignite it.
While these hacks are multipurpose, unfortunately they don’t make the lighter waterproof. An Exotac FireSleeve might be worth looking at to keep the lighter waterproof. You can wrap the Gorilla tape around the FireSleeve for some fire extender as well.
However the FireSleeve can be a bit pricey, so two waterproof snap lock bags might suffice. (Below left. Place a few cotton balls in two snap lock bags with the lighter. Secure ranger bands around the bags. Exotac FireSleeve to the right.)
A pop top tab taped on the body of the lighter can work for a lanyard ring as well.
Matt Mercer from Black Hat Bushcraft has a good YouTube video on Bic Lighter Tips & Tricks, Hacks to Make a Great Lighter Better.
Just so we don’t get too reliant on one way to light a fire, Lonnie from Far North Far North Bushcraft and Survival, also has a good video on the Bic Lighter May Be Bad Survival Choice.
(Both Matt and Lonnie have excellent YouTube videos by the way and worth checking out.)
For the tape, bright florescent orange, white (Except in snow.) or yellow tape, stands out more if you accidentally drop the lighter. Reflective tape could also be used.
In the above image are some modifications of the lighters. From left to right:
1. Red mini Bic lighter, with just a rubber band around ignition button.
2. Mini Bic with wire loop and band around the ignition button.
3. Jute twine wrapped in fluro orange tape. Ranger band on top of the tape.
4. Fire Strip Roll wrapped in tape. Cordage used for lanyard loop and slip knot for around ignition button.
5. Jute twine wrapped in orange tape. Attached is a small carabiner and hootchie cord used for the slip knot for around ignition button.
Summary – How to modify a Bic lighter for bushcraft and survival use.
The good thing about these lighter hacks are that they are simple and cheap to do.
These mods can easily add extra options like; tinder or a fire extender, helping prevent fuel loss, higher visibility and connection options for the lighter. The modified Bic lighter is an ideal extra layer of fire lighting redundancy for your bushcraft and survival kit.
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