Torch lighters at altitude?

1:03 p.m. on May 9, 2002 (EDT)
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How well do torchlighters do at altitude? I'm looking to use one on the JMT (4,000-14,500 ft). Anyone have any experience?

Also, how well do plastic versions hold up? I'd baby it (wouldn't keep it on my keychain)

Thanks!

Steve

12:44 a.m. on May 11, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

What's the JMT ?

I know that no ligher (torch or cheap plastics) I've used has never had a problem at any altitude (up to camp at 16,500 ft).

I always bring a box of weather proof matches for safety(stashed in my first aid kit and zip-locked in a plastic bag), no mechanical parts, no issues with "Is it still full?", they always work, wind, rain or numb fingers.

F

Quote:

How well do torchlighters do at altitude? I'm looking to use one on the JMT (4,000-14,500 ft). Anyone have any experience?
Also, how well do plastic versions hold up? I'd baby it (wouldn't keep it on my keychain)
Thanks!
Steve

5:34 p.m. on May 12, 2002 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
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5,362 forum posts

Quote:

What's the JMT ?

John Muir Trail (AT = Appalachian Trail, PCT = Pacific Crest Trail, etc etc etc)

Quote:

I know that no ligher (torch or cheap plastics) I've used has never had a problem at any altitude (up to camp at 16,500 ft).

Interesting. However, I quote from the latest REI catalog I got in the mail for a $100 "Xtreme" torch lighter (p.36) - "Designed for peak performance in extreme conditions. Works up to 15,000 ft." I have several, some received as gifts, one I bought at retail (before getting the gift ones), and a couple I got at Wilderness Exchange, when they had a basket full for $5 each. The $5 ones actually work better than the fanciest of the gift ones. I have never gotten them to work very well above 12,000 (work, yes, but not well), even with a lot of fiddling with the flame adjustment. I had a long discussion with a factory rep who happened to be at Redwood Trading Post trying to get RTP to carry a line of a half dozen different models (one shoots out a 2 inch flame, and I swear you could substitute it for an acetylene welding torch). Anyway, his comments on altitude were that they are designed for "normal" altitudes. His idea of "normal" was where people camp in the lower 48, so below 10k or so. He seemed a bit surprised when I told him that lots of us in Calif, Colorado, and other western states (still part of the lower 48 last time I checked) frequent campsites at 12k and higher. The problem is designing the fuel regulator to match the outside air pressure. It works for Bic, because they only look for a flame, not a windproof torch. In getting the pressure up enough to work in the wind at "normal" altitudes, the torch flame apparently gets blown out at the altitudes us mountain hikers like.

So Steve is probably ok on the JMT, but might have difficulty lighting the stove for a spot of tea at the finish (or start, depending on which way he is going) on the summit of Mt. Whitney. I suggest you take a box of waterproof/windproof matches, Steve. Many outdoor stores carry them. However, the most readily available (Coughlan's) are the "strike on the box" kind, not strike anywhere. I do know from experience that the cheap little Bics work up to 17,200 on Denali, as long as you shield them from the winds. But then, it's no fun trying to cook in a 50 knot wind, so you usually do it behind a wind wall, and you're ok there.

12:05 a.m. on May 13, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

".... I do know from experience that the cheap little Bics work up to 17,200 on Denali, as long as you shield them from the winds. "

I discovered the same thing. I used to carry a couple of Zippo lighters for emergencies, trusting them, until I tried to light them at about 12,000'. Then I experimented quite a bit with different lighters up to 14,400' or so (OK, it's not Denali, but it's within driving distance and my capabilities), and the only ones that I found that consistently worked at altitude were the cheap Bics.

The Bics suffer from cold more than from altitude, but keeping one in my pants pocket has always kept it warm enough to light first time every time at 14,000 or so.

11:59 a.m. on May 23, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

I have experimented with those "crack lighters" you can pick up at gas stations/truck stops -- the refillable kind with a huge flame meant for who knows what. I like the huge flame because you can get a light even in high winds, and because everyone is always impressed. The butane fuel is great because it handles low temps and high altitude so well. But there are drawbacks: if you accidentally unscrew the O-ring seal on the durn thing, it will never pressurize the butane right again. And its hard to refill this type of lighter too -- they take so little fuel and are so heavy that you can't tell if its full. To avoid that problem, you might get one that has a see-through reservoir ... but then its easier to break.

Quote:

".... I do know from experience that the cheap little Bics work up to 17,200 on Denali, as long as you shield them from the winds. "

I discovered the same thing. I used to carry a couple of Zippo lighters for emergencies, trusting them, until I tried to light them at about 12,000'. Then I experimented quite a bit with different lighters up to 14,400' or so (OK, it's not Denali, but it's within driving distance and my capabilities), and the only ones that I found that consistently worked at altitude were the cheap Bics.

The Bics suffer from cold more than from altitude, but keeping one in my pants pocket has always kept it warm enough to light first time every time at 14,000 or so.

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