Tag Archives: Fire

Zippo lighters

Gear talk: Liquid fuel lighters- do they have a place on trail?

Three Points of the Compass has covered his quest for a decent lighter before. I mentioned then that I prefer a mini Bic or Torjet lighter for use with my stove set-up, be that meths or gas. However these lighters can struggle in colder and/or windier conditions. Usually this can be circumvented by keeping the gas lighter in a pocket until required if cold or sheltering if windy but there are occasions where one of the well-built, tried and tested liquid fuel lighters would be appreciated. If you have one at home anyway and are heading out for a day hike at altitude, or on a cold winters day, why not throw a liquid- fuelled lighter in to your pack? Two makes of lighter have proven especially useful in harsher conditions over the years.

IMCO lighters

The lightweight IMCO lighters make a good alternative to the more familiar Zippo lighters even if they lack that satisfying sound while being opened. The company began making buttons in Austria in 1907 but diversified following World War I. The 1918 design of their first lighters was based on used cartridge cases and that can be seen in their design. The most popular of IMCO designs was their Triplex Super, first developed in 1936, improved in the fifties and still made until the business closed in June 2012 (I won’t mention the copies produced subsequently). Many hikers would argue that the original IMCO lighters are a better option than rival Zippo for winter hiking; preserving their fuel more efficiently than Zippos though they are not quite as wind-resistant. Around seventy different designs were produced. It is a shame that original production has ceased but second hand examples can easily be found as they have a long life.

Nickel plated steel IMCO Triplex Junior 6600

Nickel plated steel IMCO Triplex Junior 6600

The IMCO 4700 Triplex lighter was first developed in 1937 and underwent a revamp of its internal workings in the 1960s, following which it was renamed the 6700 Triplex Super. One of the great features about many of the IMCO models is the ability to remove the fuel reservoir and use it as a candle. A handy little wheeze I picked up somewhere was to stuff a bit of cotton wool into the base of the fuel reservoir, this can then be extracted and used as a fire starter if required, lighting it with the sparker even if run out of fuel by putting it where the wick is exposed and opening and closing the lighter a few times. Operation of an IMCO lighter differs from the Zippo, It has a one move operation- opening the lid also strikes the wick. Flints can wear quite quickly but there is a built in well for a spare in the side of the lighter.

IMCO Triplex Junior 6600 in 'candle' mode

IMCO Triplex Junior 6600 in ‘candle’ mode

IMCO lighters have a lighter construction than Zippos, the latter are frequently solid brass whereas an IMCO can dent and ding with ease. There are more moving parts to an IMCO too, so a greater chance of something breaking or wearing. Certainly they will rust more easily if not cared for. As said, all of the originals are pretty old now but can still be picked up pretty easily as there is a ready collector market for them.

Base of Austrian made IMCO Triplex Junior 6600

Base of Austrian made IMCO Triplex Junior 6600

Probably the three best lighters made by IMCO for use backpacking and camping are the Junior 6600, 6700 and 6800 lighters. I have the Triplex Junior 6600 which is a tad smaller and lighter than the other two, but the 6700 does have some flame control. Beware of fakes!

 

 

Clink, clunk- Zippo lighters

Serving in the British Army, Three Points of the Compass purchased this Zippo in 1981. The squadron crest now worn, it is, nevertheless, a much loved memento of those years

Serving in the British Army, Three Points of the Compass purchased this Zippo in 1981. The squadron crest is now worn, it is, nevertheless, a treasured memento of those years

Inspired by the Austrian cigarette lighter made by IMCO, the Zippo manufacturing company was founded in 1932 by American George G Blaisdell and the first Zippo lighter produced the following year. Since those modest beginnings, over 500 million Zippos have been sold. Especially popular with servicemen, it is an icon of design, characterised by the clink sound it makes when opened, lit and closed- clunk. While the company has gone on to make butane lighters and inserts, the original metal cased lighter, where lighter fluid is fed by wick to a metal chimney and lit by sparking an enclosed flint, is a handy thing to have when struggling to light a fire in blustery conditions as the flame is highly resistant to being extinguished. While I have experimented a little with the pipe lighter variety of Zippo, I am not a great fan of these for backpacking as the flame drifts around too much. Also, if alight for any extended period, the metal case of a Zippo can get pretty hot.

Zippo released a slim version of its lighter in 1956. Originally aimed at the female market it proved just as popular with men and is still made today. Lighting a Zippo is a two-part operation, flip the lid and thumb the knurled wheel against the flint. Simple- but an operation that has led to probably thousands of tricks. Though if you want to avoid damaging the hinge it is probably best to stay clear of these.

Just about any good quality lighter fluid can be used in liquid fuel lighters

Just about any good quality lighter fluid can be used in liquid fuel lighters

Lighter fluid  (naphtha) is used as fuel, other fuels can be used but invariably either struggle to light or will emit foul smell or smoke. Even naphtha itself is a broad term for a range of petroleum distillates and it is best to simply use dedicated lighter fuel. There is no need to keep to the Zippo brand. The main problem with these lighters is that over time the fuel evaporates. So unlike a Bic which will retain its fuel for years, within a couple of weeks an originally full Zippo will not light, even if hasn’t been opened and used in that time. They need to be refilled about once a week.

Genuine Zippo spares are easily available

Zippos enjoy a great repair warranty and all the genuine spares you would want are easily available- flints and wicks are cheap enough to keep a couple in a drawer around the house

There are different hacks to slow evaporation, such as sliding a section of cycle inner tube over the body of the lighter. This will also stop water ingress to a degree. A rubber gasket such as this also has the benefit of doubling up as an emergency fire starter. Or you could just encapsulate the entire lighter. Flints do wear, but it is a simple task to tuck a spare or two under the felt flap in the base. Be aware that the flint from an expired Bic is perfectly suitable for use in a Zippo.

Solid brass slim Zippo and the full size well tarnished version that Three Points of the Compass inherited from his father

Solid brass slim Zippo and the full size well tarnished version that Three Points of the Compass inherited from his father

Both Zippo and IMCO are old school lighters from an age when lighters sat in most pockets, were used daily in all weathers and had to work, every time. Because of this reliability they remain a viable option for outdoors folks to consider. These are by no means lightweight options. Bone dry, my old Zippo from army days weighs 59g, both my brass and stainless slim Zippo’s 41g each and the lighter construction IMCO 6600 32g. Charging them with fuel adds considerably. So not lightweight by any means, and the faff of having to ensure they are fuelled up can be a pain to those used to hassle free Bics.

Three Points of the Compass used to be a smoker. I gave that up following the birth of my daughter over twenty years ago. However a number of Zippos still sit around my house, if infrequently pulled out to do duty these days. Next time I am out hiking in below zero conditions on a short day or weekend hike and am expecting to have to battle wind while lighting a stove, I may very well be slipping one of my old liquid fuel lighters into my pack.

most zippos can be dated by deciphering the code stamped on the case

most zippos can be dated by deciphering the code stamped on the case

Dating your Zippo

The year, and often the month, of manufacture of a Zippo lighter can frequently be determined from a code stamped on the base. I have included a guide to these below.

Zippo lighter identification codes- found on the bottom of lighter

Dot and slash method replaced in 1986 with year and month code (A=January to– L=December)

Year

Left Right Year Left

Right

1933

Patent Pending

1990 A to L

VI

1937-c1950

Patent 2032695

1991 A to L

VII

1942-1946

Black Crackle, Patent 203695

1992 A to L

VIII

c1950-c1957

Patent 2517191 with patent pending

1993 A to L

IX

c1950-c1957

Patent 2517191

1994 A to L

X

1958

Patent Pending

1995 A to L XI

….

….

1996 A to L

XII

1959

…. 1997 A to L XIII

1960

1998 A to L

XIV

1961

.. 1999 A to L

XV

1962

.. .. 2000 A to L

XVI

1963

.. . 2001 A to L

01

1964

. . 2002 A to L

02

1965

.   2003 A to L

03

1966

IIII IIII 2004 A to L

04

1967

IIII III 2005 A to L

05

1968

III III 2006 A to L

06

1969

III II 2007 A to L

07

1970

II II 2008 A to L

08

1971

II I 2009 A to L

09

1972

I I 2010 A to L

10

1973

I   2011 A to L

11

1974

//// //// 2012 A to L

12

1975

//// /// 2013 A to L

13

1976

/// /// 2014 A to L

14

1977

/// // 2015 A to L

15

1978

// // 2016 A to L

16

1979

/ // 2017 A to L

17

1979

// / 2018 A to L

18

1980

/ / 2019 A to L

19

1981

/   2020 A to L

20

1982

\\\\

\\\\

Slim lighters

1983

\\\\ \\\ 1957 …. ….

1984

\\\ \\\ 1958 ….

….

1985

\\\ \\ ….

1986

\\ \\ 1959

1986

G to L II 1960

..

1987

A to L III 1961 ..

..

1988

A to L IV 1962 .. .
1989 A to L V 1963 .

.

  1964 .

 

1965  

 

Stove making

Gear talk: making a stove on trail

Like everyone else, Three Points of the Compass is currently social distancing while staying at home on Government advice during the current Coronavirus pandemic. My plans on completing two longer trails this summer lie in tatters. My consolation is that with good fortune I can enjoy them both next year, they will still be there.

I am very pleased that I managed my coastal walk on the North Kent Marshes to Faversham a few days ago as that form of extended exercise is very much frowned upon by the authorities today. Who knows when I, and all of us, will be able to get back out on the trails again. Amongst other things, not least attempting to share the house PC with Mrs Three Points of the Compass while the two of us struggle to fit in enough hours working from home, there is a degree of sorting out of backpacking gear taking place. For a change from that I thought I would practice my stove-making skills.

There are hundreds of YouTube exponents detailing how to make various forms of pop-can/alcohol/meths/penny stoves. I don’t tend to use any of these on trail as I find the well made commercial stoves robust, light and invariably efficient. Admittedly the traditional and bomb proof Trangia, which was my route in to meths stoves decades ago, isn’t the lightest of options however my Evernew Alcohol stove is a truly cracking piece of kit and only weighs some 36g. Three Points of the Compass did spend some time producing a home-made version of screw-top burner with insulating felt inner (Part 1, Part 2) and this has worked well on a couple of trails. But with a couple of hours to spare at the weekend and a break from work, I thought I would indulge myself with a bit of experimentation and see what home-made stove I could produce, with the tools I typically carry with me on trail. It is easy for anyone to knock something out with sharpie pens, robust scissors, dremel, steel rulers, felt wadding, grit paper and work gloves etc. however I wanted to see if I could make a workable option, that I could knock up in the event of unexpected loss or breakage of my stove while actually on trail.

Look in any hedgerow or bin and you will invariably find an empty can of coke, energy drink or similar. My choice for constructing my DIY stove was a single 250ml drinks tin. I have written before on my favourite knife for taking on trail. While I do occasionally switch things around just for variety, nine out of ten times I am carrying the excellent Leatherman Squirt S4. This provides five things for my task- Scissors, knife blade, ruler, a ‘punch’ (in this case, the thin eyeglass screwdriver) and a straight edge.

Everything required to make my 'basic, on trail, pop-can meths stove

Everything required to make my basic on-trail, drinks-can meths stove, with two completed examples

I only required the ruler to identify another item from my regular kit that I required for the job- ‘something’ that was 1.5 inches long. Five years ago I wrote about the small nail brush I carry in my ditty bag. I still include the 7g brush in my kit list. It has often been useful for a bit of clothes washing on grottier trails, even for its intended use of cleaning my nails of trail grit and grime. It has been changed over the years, but I bought a handful of the cheap brushes at the time so have enough spares in a drawer somewhere for another few years yet. It could have been something else from my various bits of kit carried, but this measures 1.5 inches, so made the ideal second tool for my task. And that was it- a 1.5 inch measuring block, my Leatherman and the donor drinks tin.

Resting my knife blade on my one and half inch block, the drinks can is rotated against the edge to produce a scored line

Resting my knife blade on my one and half inch block, the drinks can is rotated against the edge to produce a scored line

Inverting the can and placing my plastic block on it's long edge, another line is scored

Inverting the can and placing my plastic block on it’s long edge, another line is scored

Ends are cut off with the Leatherman scissors, final neat trimming will follow

Ends are cut off with the Leatherman scissors, final neat trimming will follow

Slowly, with care, the two straight edges are tidied up and cut

Slowly, with care, the two straight edges are tidied up and cut

The cut tube, one neat edge, one rough edge, is inverted so that the tidied neat edge is flat against the worktop, then again rotated, holding the tube against the 1.5

The cut tube, with one neat edge and one rough edge, is inverted so that the tidied neat edge is flat against the worktop, then again rotated, holding the tube against the 1.5″ measuring block and knife edge, producing a final scored line

With care the final rough cut edge is tidied up with the Leatherman scissors

With care the final rough cut edge is tidied up with the Leatherman scissors

The metal tube is then rotated in the hands, and folded against my straight edge, producing a ring of creased folds around its circumference

The metal tube is then rotated in the hands, and folded against my straight edge, producing a series of creased folds around its circumference

Two small holes are punched just below the top rim of the tube, these reduce pressure in the stove when burning

Two small holes are punched just below the top rim of the tube, these reduce pressure in the stove when burning

Time for burn tests. 25-30g of fuel. I tried the stove both au naturel and with a 7g titanium trivet that raised the pot

The crimped tube is inserted inside the bottom section of the can and pushed firmly down. That is it, the finished stove. Having made a few more to see if I could do a neater job, it was time for burn tests. 25g-30g of fuel. I tried the stove both au naturel and with a 7g titanium trivet that raised the pot

Pots were a 1lt MSR Titan, and a 900ml Evernew pan, each holding 600ml of water. Stoves were stable and rigid with no evidence of buckling. The trivet raising the Titan pot enabled the meths to boil and burn faster from the centre as well as the jets. The Evernew resting directly on the stove dramatically reduced the burn, producing a far slower and controlled burn

Pots were a 1lt MSR Titan, and a 900ml Evernew pan, each holding 600ml of water. Stoves were stable and rigid with no evidence of buckling. The trivet raising the Titan pot enabled the meths to boil and burn faster from the centre as well as the jets. The Evernew resting directly on the stove dramatically reduced the burn, producing a far slower and controlled burn

With pan resting directly on the home made stove the burn is steady, controlled and slow. The water boiled eventually but takes three times longer than when raised

With pan resting directly on the home made stove the burn is steady, controlled and slow. The water boiled eventually but takes three times longer than when the pan is raised

Cheap and cheerful pop-can stove works. Not a refined tool at all, but it works

Cheap and cheerful pop-can stove. Not a particularly refined stove at all, but it works

So, lessons learnt…

This would be a very easy stove to construct on trail provided I can find a donor can. I am almost always carrying the only two other items required to make it. So, if I ever do lose my meths/alcohol stove and have to make one, this will do the job.

While I do occasionally pack along the little 7g titanium trivet, this isn’t always the case. Using the trivet speeds up a boil time considerably however. But the water will boil given time and I am never one to look for the fastest possible burn. This actually gives the opportunity to simmer as well. I never bothered with recording times as that is largely irrelevant. This project was indoors, with no wind and a stable warm temperature. No doubt a windscreen would aid use greatly if outdoors. But it shows the principle is sound. One final point of note- over sixty minutes I knocked up six of these stoves, their weights were between 5.1g and 5.5g, so truly a lightweight option. A couple of hours well spent while on lock-down.

The Firefly can be ordered in different pack configurations, I ordered two Firefly and two Firefly Mini. Toothpicks can be stored in the pack when swapped with the firesteel

Gear talk: Firefly- a simple addition to your kit

I recently received a sweet little package through the post. I ordered the Firefly firesteel when I came across it on Kickstarter. It is one of those simple ideas that you wonder why no-one had produced before. A very small, very slim ferrocerium rod that takes the place of the toothpick in a Swiss Army Knife.

Large and small Firefly inserted into the slots provided for toothpicks on my Victorinox Spartan and Classic SD Swiss Army Knives

Large and small Firefly inserted into the slots provided for toothpicks on my Victorinox Spartan and Classic SD Swiss Army Knives

One of these fire steels is not going to last any great length of time. Instead, they work well as an emergency carry, for those times where you get caught out for some reason, wet matches, ineffective lighter etc.

A good edge is required to raise a spark so not every tool in a Swiss Army Knife is effective. You will see me use the back edge of a saw in a Wenger Swiss Army Knife in the film below. But scissors, awl and fish scaler are effective too. The suppliers of the Firefly, Tortoise Gear, say that a can opener or file tool could also be used, however I have had less success with these. The knife can also be used but I’m not wrecking my blades attempting to do so. The back of a tool in a Swiss Army Knife can also be filed to give a good ninety degree angle for striking a steel, but likewise, I’m not butchering the tools on my knives.

There is an additional technique required when using these mini firesteels, you have to support the steel with a finger to stop it being broken. Also, strike along the thin edge rather than the wide edge, this stops it being worn away during use and no longer fitting tightly into the slot in the scales of your Swiss Army Knife.

Should you be interested, the larger 52mm Firefly weighs 1.7g , and the smaller 44mm Firefly Mini weighs a paltry 1.2g. So if you carry a Victorinox with you on trail or as an EDC, you may like to consider these. Alternatively, simply slip one into your ditty bag along with a small striker. One word of warning though, if living in the UK, watch out for those customs fees!