Colibri is by far the industry leader in lighter technology. They are also the leaders in high altitude lighters. I had an opportunity to interview Les Mann, Executive Vice President of Colibri about their lighters and you will be surprised as what I found out.
A Little Corporate History
Colibri actually specializes in all types of men’s accessories. The company was established over 80 years ago, and although traditionally known as a lighter manufacturer, they have developed products including lighters, jewelry, smoking accessories, small leather goods and writing instruments.
The company was founded in 1928 by Julius Lowenthal. His main goal was to re-invent the lighter. The result of his work was the worlds first semi-automatic lighter. In 1935, Lowenthal successfully invented a fully automatic lighter called the ‘Monopol’ which employed a Swiss engineered acceleration system. Not to bore you with the entire history of the company, let’s just say that innovation was their mainstay. Supposedly, Colibri was even used in the James Bond film ‘Man with the Golden Gun’. Bond’s gun was made from parts of a Colibri lighter and matching pen. In February 2009, Colibri changed ownership but they still kept ahead of the industry launching new products and ideas.
Where is Colibri Technology Today?
The company currently has over 100 styles of lighters that will work above 5000 feet. Back in 2002, they introduced the ‘Summit’ a lighter that worked at 6000 feet. That was not enough for the engineers at Colibri, and the goal was to introduce more high altitude lighters than any other company. They quality control group started testing every lighter they made at various altitudes to see what the upper limits were. According to Les Mann, Executive VP of Colibri, "Prior to this introduction (the Firebird), we have been the market leader of providing high altitude lighters to the marketplace beginning in 1995. Since 1995, Colibri has introduced at least 93 lighters that work at altitudes of 6,000 feet above sea level."
How High Can You go?
There are several companies producing high altitude lighters. A previous article I wrote mentioned them, but that article did not give this level of detail below. No other lighter company has this level of commitment. Another quote from Les, "We have a field tester who literally drives up to the highest peaks in the country, in fact we do this around the world as well for our international customers, and manually test all of our lighters, and records the data with an altitude measuring instrument to give us exact information."
Colibri High Altitude Lighters and Test Results
(the why behind the data)
Jet flame and windproof (with re-ignition coil) lighter systems are much more sensitive to high altitude than soft flame lighter systems. The reason for this is that the jet flame and windproof burners mix the butane and the oxygen from the atmosphere before the point of ignition. High altitude creates an oxygen-weak mixture that richens the fuel flow and makes it more difficult to ignite. Colibri engineers, through initial product design and development, have prefected their all high altitude lighters to make sure the product delivers at high altitude.
Again, Les Mann, "For our tobacconists in high altitude regions, we offer a pre-determined lighter assortment which only has lighters with a minimum altitude check of 6,000 feet above sea level up to a maximum altitude of 12,000 feet above sea level. This way our tobacconists are assured that these lighters will work for their consumers." Wow, a company that is really watching out for the consumer."
What Lighters Do I Have Now?
I personally tested two ‘Providence’ triple jet lighters, one which I bought at a local shop and the other sent to me by Colibri. My home is at 7,000 feet above sea level, and they both have worked perfectly. Aside from being the only triple jet lighter to work at high altitudes, another unique feature is a special fiber optic window in the face of the lighter that changes color when fuel is in the lighter. This easily allows you to see when you are low on butane. I also tested a ‘Firebird’ lighter which has written on the face “High Altitude”. This is a very rugged, light weight, high impact polymer single jet lighter that also features a see-through fuel level window, small lanyard, and a wind-proof heating element. Again, this lighter tested flawless. These lighters were tested by Colibi and will work at 12,000 feet. The best part about the ‘Firebird’ lighter is that it’s MSRP is only $20.
This winds up my feature article on Colibri lighters. Keep in mind when you read this that the information presented here on the lighters and what altitude they have been tested at is perhaps data that even your tobacconist may not have. So if you are really looking for a lighter that will work between 6,000 and 12,000 feet above sea level, you really need to look at Colibri first.