Best Piece of Backpacking Gear. Ever.

I often read gear reviews that are really just initial impressions. Some folks use gear for a year or two and call it a long term review. I think if gear is used for 10 or more years, it qualifies as a long term review. This way we can answer the question, “Does it stand the test of time?”

For the past 40 plus years there has been only one piece of gear I have taken on every backpacking trip. It has also accompanied me on most day hikes and camping trips too.

Bic Classic
BIC Classic model. Too heavy for backpacking. But sometimes the smaller Mini is not available at 7-11, where I often buy my last minute food and a lighter if needed.

Yes, it is the BIC lighter. Oh, I haven’t taken the same one.  They do run out of fuel. But I always take a BIC lighter. Nowadays, on most trips, I just take one mini BIC. I take no other fire starting tools. No cotton balls soaked in Vaseline; no lint from the clothes dryer at home; no emergency matches; no fire steel. Nada. Nothing else.

In foul winter weather, I sometimes take a back-up BIC.

I don’t always take a compass. Sometimes I don’t take a map. But I always take a BIC.

(Left to Right) BIC Classic, Mini, Mini Electronic
(Left to Right) BIC Classic, Mini, Mini Electronic

The BIC lighter was introduced in 1973. Unlike the BIC’s of today, it had an adjustable flame and lacked a child-proof mechanism. The BIC Mini was launched in 1985. 1993 saw the child-proof mechanism appeared to meet federal law. In 1998 the BIC Electronic came to market.

So why the big hoopala about a lighter – or the BIC lighter to be exact? Simple. It’s incredibly light and  reliable.



Many people whine about the child guard, saying it is hard to light. Poppycock. It works. But if you somehow struggle with it, you can do a Google search for instructions on how to remove it, but really a competent hiker won’t have a problem with it. If the flint gets wet, it won’t light – for a while – until it dries. Then it will work. Even if you leave it in a pants pocket and run it through a washing machine, it will light after the flint dries out. You do want to be careful with wet hands. Wet hands can get moisture on the flint, temporarily making it inoperable. Normally this isn’t a problem. In winter I often bring a backup BIC Mini, as the inability to start a fire could be life threatening or worse. The past 3 years or so I have been taking a BIC Mini Electronic on snow trips. The piezo has worked fine at high altitude up to around 12,000 feet. Beyond that it doesn’t work.


Stove 16

Heavier than the regular BIC (also available in the classic size), it has two advantages. It is easier to light and if it gets wet, it only takes a couple minutes or less to start working again. Sometimes I take a Mini Electronic when I will be using Esbit fuel as the fuel sometimes requires the flame to be applied to the Esbit cube for a few seconds. It is easy to light the BIC Mini Electronic with a forefinger instead of a thumb, which makes it easier to hold it to the Esbit cube. This would be helpful if you are a chimpanzee.

Down side is it is heavier than the flint models and contains less fuel. So it usually stays at home.

I have only used the Mini Electronic for 3 or so years, so I cannot recommend it. It will take another 37 years to match my experience with the flint models, and it is highly unlikely I will live another 37 years. These days I am thrilled when I realize I have awaken above ground.


Always use a bright colored BIC. It is harder to lose it.

If you want to know how much fuel is left, hold a bright light to the lighter body — you can see how much fuel is remaining.

More information than you probably want to know:

bic specs


Disclaimers and Other Foolishness

Okay, I often read disclaimers in gear reviews by people who review gear on their blogs. Seems there might be some Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Regulation regarding gear reviews of products that are furnished by the manufacturer or manufacturer’s representative to the person reviewing the product, or if the reviewer receives any compensation. For the record: I hate the FTC and I hate regulations.

I have no financial interest in BIC. I bought all of these lighters with my own money. All pictures in the post were taken by me, using my own BIC lighters with my own camera. I have no affliliation with BIC; I am not a BIC gear ambassador or have any professional or amatuer relationship with BIC. Hell, I don’t even know what BIC stands for. I think it is a French company. I generally dislike the French and cannot speak their language. However, I do enjoy French Fries, especially those sold by McDonalds. If you dip your French Fries in mayonnaise or mustard you are weird. Catsup is marginally acceptable.

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