At the recent IPCPR in 2011 in Las Vegas, there were several companies boasting about their cigar lighters that work at ‘high altitudes’. Those words are ambiguous – high altitude. What is the exact altitude that you want? 5000 feet above sea level? 7000 feet? 10,000 feet or higher perhaps? If you live in Denver, Albuquerque or Flafstaff, then something that works between 5K and 7K would be enough. What about the days that you want to go hiking up in the mountains, or take a drive up the back of a peak, or that chair lift or gondola to the ski areas? Suddenly your lighter just stops working. Well, some of the manufacturers are making it easy for us to decide on a high altitude lighter, some you have to make an inquiry and others are just being mysterious.
I met and spoke to representatives of Xikar, Colibri, Dupont and Vector. They demonstrated their lighters to me, showed me their test data (if they had it), and all said that they now have lifetime warranties. Hmmmm, is that your life or the life of the lighter. I could not get an answer to that question except from Xikar. Xikar said that they don’t care how you got your lighter or how old it was, if it is broke, they will fix it or give you a new one. If you remember from a previous article of mine, I got a Xikar lighter, bullet punch and cutter for Father’s Day. Well, the lighter fell apart within only one week of use. I sent it back to them, and I just received a replacement, a new one. I was told by one of the representatives from Xikar that they send the refurbished ones to the troops overseas. That is really nice, and I know our deployed troops appreciate the support. Bottom line – you will get a new lighter.
Colibri is also now offering the same deal as Xikar. If it is broken, they would like you to take it back to your retailer, but you can send it directly to them. I spoke to a retailer this week who told me an interesting story. Colibri will take it back and fix it, but there is a problem. The shop owner told me that when the lighters come back from the service center, about half of them still don’t work. Is it the altitude here in Albuquerque or just the lighters? The Colibri representative told me that they used to have only one official high altitude lighter called the Summit, which sold for around $80. Now they test all of their lighters and on request, they will tell you what altitude your lighter is rated at.
I went around to several shops myself and asked if I could test out their lighters, and was allowed to at every place I visited. The second shop had the same problems as the shop above, but not with Colibri - they seemed have excellent luck with those. All of their problems are with Vector lighters, however, they no longer carry Vector in their shop and perhaps are not aware of their new lines and new test data. I met with a Vector factory representative at the IPCPR, and he actually gave me a sheet listing all of his lighters and the attitudes they are rated at. Vector offers 40 lighters, and one is rated at 5500 feet above sea level, 4 are rated at 6500 feet, 6 are rated at 8000 feet, 26 are rated at 10,000 feet, and two are even rated for over 12,000 feet. The 12,000 foot rated Vector lighters are the Insert R and PL for their Thunderbird line. Only one lighter had not yet been tested. I have attached their statistics to this article.
Xikar has only one official high altitude lighter called the Stratosphere, and retails for around $30. The Xikar has a heating element in it, and is a single flame torch lighter. This lighter is rated to 12,000 feet above sea level, which, along with two Vectors, are the highest altitude that any of the lighter companies are reporting. Xikar also offers a non-torch version with a wind-proof element, the EXII. This lighter does not have a rating at any specific altitude. I have owned the Xikar in the past (and have one now) and it worked for me at 8,000 to 10,000 feet while I was deployed in Afghanistan. The one I own now works at 7,000 feet where I live.
What about Dupont? They were more mysterious with their answer, and when I spoke to them they simply said that their lighters will work at any altitude. The cheapest Dupont lighter I saw retails for around $230, so I guess at that price it had better work.
All of the shops I visited in Albuquerque were between 5200 and 5600 feet above sea level. All of the lighters I tried worked, eventually. The ones with heating elements worked the first time and every time. It was hit and miss with the others. So what have I learned from my research? The most reliable lighter that will work at any altitude should have a wind-proof heating element to assure that it will light. There are several options, and as you have read, several manufacturers with a very wide range of prices. On the other hand, matches work too. What is my lighter of choice? The Xikar EXII that my family got me for Father’s Day. Although with the Xikar Stratosphere, only costing $30, I may get one as my back-up lighter.