You’ve seen the way things are going: disposable lighters have become more and more difficult to find. Sure, some stores carry them, but in the wake of the anti-smoking campaign it can often require psychic abilities to locate where a store keeps the plastic lighters. Butane for a gas lighter isn’t viewed in quite the same negative light so stores don’t hide it, but you can spend hours finding a place that carries it. Even trying to buy matches can make you feel like you’re on a scavenger hunt.
What’s a smoker (or for that matter, someone who loves burning candles or goes camping) to do? It may be time to think differently and spend a few extra bucks to get an electric lighter.
An electronic lighter may cost you three times the amount you’d pay for a small pack of disposable lighters, but you won’t be throwing the electric one out or losing it every three days. The price of a gas lighter will usually be in the same ballpark as an electric model, but who wants to waste time carefully loading a lighter with lighter fluid or butane – and then cleaning up the mess afterward?
It’s time to put a flameless lighter into your life.
Table of Contents
About Electric Lighters
We haven’t even mentioned the best thing about electronic lighters: they don’t produce a flame. That means there’s no issue lighting up in the wind or rain that smokers now regularly encounter, thanks to smoking bans.
Some people would say that there are really two types of electric lighters. That’s because they’re counting butane models that ignite gas with what’s called Piezo electricity. These lighters use a small, spring-loaded hammer to strike quartz or a similar material to create an electric spark to ignite gas inside the lighter. These Piezo lighters are somewhat more convenient to use than ones that create sparks with a flint, but they’re still a hassle because you still have to fill them. They also produce a flame that can be blown out by wind gusts.
What’s commonly referred today as an electronic lighter uses a different method to set smoking or other materials on fire. These modern units are often called plasma, arc or Tesla coil lighters, because the Tesla coil that’s inside uses electromagnetic induction to create and emit a high voltage (but low power) plasma arc. And that beam produces enough electricity to light a cigarette or small cigar, a candle, or the kindling for a fire.
You’ve surely noticed that we haven’t mentioned a flame in the description of an arc lighter – that’s because there isn’t one. That is why an electric lighter works perfectly in bad weather; the wind can blow out a flame, but it can’t blow out an arc of electricity.
Benefits of Electronic Lighters
We’ve already mentioned the most obvious benefit of a plasma lighter: it works in the elements without breaking a sweat. There are others, however.
An electric lighter is lighter than a traditional one, because there’s no gas or fuel stored inside. It’s powered by a very light, rechargeable battery. That also means you don’t have to keep buying gas or fluid or stock up regularly on disposables; once you’ve purchased an electronic lighter there’s no added expense, and all you have to do to charge your lighter is plug it into a USB port for a couple of hours.
More advantages? No lighter fluid or gas means there’s no mess or disgusting smell, no “cigarette lighter taste” after you light up, and you don’t have to worry about away from the kitchen cabinet where you store the fuel when your lighter dies. Most electric lighters have enough sparks to last for an entire day, so you just have to plug it in at night, and it’s ready to go the next day. An electronic lighter is also safer, because there’s no combustible material inside and no flame to accidentally set a fire. Most are also quite attractive.
To be fair, there are a couple of small disadvantages. The electric arc created by most plasma beam lighters can be too small to light a large cigar and isn’t suitable for lighting pipes. These lighters usually make a slight noise when lit (a whining sound is most common), and they are more expensive than disposables and low-level traditional gas or fluid lighters.
However, it’s hard to find someone who’s tried an electric lighter who doesn’t think it’s the most convenient way to light up.
Choosing an electronic lighter is pretty simple. Your big choice will be between lighters that create a single plasma arc and ones that generate dual arcs; the former are usually cheaper and may not be powerful enough to work well in extremely bad weather, while the dual arcs are a bit pricier and will work in any conditions. The two crossing electric arcs also look very cool.
You should also check the number of sparks a lighter can produce before needing to be recharged and the method that’s used for charging (usually a simple USB cord connected to a computer or device will do the job). And as with any accessory, the size and appearance of the electric lighter should also be a factor in your buying decision.
OK, you’re now an expert. Let’s take a look at the top five electric lighters.
Windvape Electric Lighter
The Windvape is a slick-looking electric lighter that’s a very good deal, smack-dab in the middle of the price range for electronic lighters. And it’s almost everything you’d want from one of these babies, with the only thing missing being a dual arc which would make the lighter a bit more reliable in extreme weather conditions.
Most people don’t use their electric lighter in extreme conditions, though, and the Windvape will function perfectly in the wind or rain that always seems to hit just when you reach the outdoor smoking section (which they seemingly keep moving further away from the building). It will also work just right to ignite kindling for your campfire, with the plasma arc springing to life immediately when you push the activation button. There’s a great extra on this electronic lighter, too: a backlit digital panel with a bar indicator for the percentage of battery power remaining before a recharge is necessary, and a digital readout of the number of times you’ve flicked the lighter. You’ll get about 100 lights per charge (a little low compared to some other products, but more than enough) and charging is easy with the included USB cable.
The Windvape looks a little different than most electric lighters, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Instead of a cap that flips back like on a Zippo, there’s a small top that opens to expose the arc. That adds to the classy, slim appearance of this black and gold model – which is moderately priced when you’re buying it, but will save you a ton on the butane fuel, lighter fluid or disposable lighters you’ll no longer have to purchase regularly.
Dual X Electric Windproof Lighter
Everyone has a different definition for “attractive.” The Windvape is attractive in a sophisticated way, but the Dual X is attractive in a “very cool” way. This is a dual arc model that’s the most expensive in these rankings (but only by a few bucks), and at first glance you’d think it’s a Zippo. It’s the same size and shape and the top flips back the same way, and it comes in three eye-catching colors: bright blue, purple with a blue border, and metallic gold. But when you flip the top, the arc mechanism with crossing purple streams tells people that your lighter is much more than a Zippo. At about three ounces it weighs less than a Zippo, too.
As with most electronic lighters the space between the arcs is rather narrow, so you won’t be able to use the Dual X to light a large cigar. The Tesla coil technology is rock-solid, however, and you’ll be able to light up, start campfire kindling or sear the end of a paracord in any conditions imaginable, with no flame that can be blown out. You should get between 100-200 lights from the Dual X electric lighter, and recharging will take just a few hours with the included USB cord that can be plugged into your computer or any other device with a USB port.
When you pull out a Zippo there’s a definite cool factor. The Windvape kicks it up another notch.
Useful Thingy Dual Arc Electronic Lighter Two-Pack
Here’s a deal you won’t find from many manufacturers: two electric, dual arc lighters for the price most companies charge for just one. These lighters aren’t as elegant as the Windvape or as cool-looking as the Dual X, though. They’re taller than a Zippo, silver with a blue activation button), one has a blue paisley-style pattern – and they each have a “Useful Thingy” logo printed on their face, which you have to admit isn’t the most impressive signature to put on a lighter.
Those who are more concerned with lighting a cigarette than making an appearance, however, will find that these electronic lighters work well. The purple dual arcs won’t go out in the wind or rain, a charge will last for as many as 300 flicks before a two-hour USB recharge is needed (two cables are included), and there’s an indicator light to tell you when the charging is done.
The one real negative is that the arcs will ignite whenever the button is pushed, even if the top is flipped shut. It’s difficult to hit the button by accident, but if you happen to do it while one of the Useful Thingys is in your pocket it could drain the battery. As long as you’re careful, this is a great deal for two very functional and decent-looking electronic lighters.
Tesla Coil Lighters Windproof Arc Lighter
What better way to brand an electric lighter than naming it after the famed Tesla coil that’s the source of the lighter’s power (or a name that might make people think that it’s been manufactured by Elon Musk’s company)? The brand name might make this product seem like the “official” electronic lighter; it’s not, but it’s still a very good model for a moderate price. It’s only a single arc lighter, so it isn’t as powerful or dependable in the middle of a hurricane. Under ordinary high-wind or rainy conditions, though, it works perfectly.
The Tesla lighter is tall and slim with a Zippo-style design and a silver activation button in the middle of its black-and-silver case – not gorgeous, but stylish and well-built with some heft even though it only weighs a few pounds. You should get about 200 lights from each charge and the usual USB cable is included.
It’s Lit Electric Dual Arc Plasma Lighter
There’s one unusual feature to the It’s Lit electric lighter (manufacturers must be running out of catchy names for their lighter companies): you don’t push a button to activate the plasma beams. Instead, a laser sensor detects when you’ve flipped the top and a cigarette or other item is placed between the posts. Only then will the electronic arcs turn on to give you a light. It seems like a safer approach although it does create one more “moving part” that could break down over time, and there’s no way to manually trigger the beams.
Over the short term, though, the glossy black “It’s Lit” works perfectly. The dual arcs give it power and won’t blow out if the wind kicks up, making this a good choice at a low price. The micro-USB charging cable is included, and you’ll get 100-150 lights from this electronic lighter between charges which should be more than enough for anyone. The lighter comes with a carrying pouch as well as a gift box.