When trying to make it in the outdoors, probably the one thing that can make a difference over all others is fire. Fire can be used for multiple purposes, but today we’re going to take a look at one way that Primus helps deliver that true necessity with their PowerLighter.
There’s a somewhat revealing scene in the movie Castaway when Tom Hanks’ character is at the buffet table where his friends have celebrated his return, and he picks up an ordinary lighter and seems fascinated with the ease with which he is able to produce a flame. This, of course, is after he spent years stranded on an island where he went through all sorts of trials and tribulations, especially when trying to generate a fire without such a tool on hand. Though we take items like a pocket knife or a lighter for granted, they can be true life savers for us if we ever get stuck out in the field. At the very least, they can make our lives a little more convenient. Such is the case of the Primus PowerLighter which I’ve been using the past couple of months. The PowerLighter is a relatively compact affair for what it is, and it’s very simple to use and maintain.
The PowerLighter has a flip top cap which helps keep out most dust and debris, though it is not completely sealed. To operate it, simply flip up the cap and then depress the piezo electric ignition switch. Once done, you’ll have a flame rated by Primus to be around 1300 degrees. By today’s standards, this is no real miracle, but I do like this type of butane flame as opposed to the flames from other lighters. Your standard lighter that you buy at the grocery store counter is cheap, lasts a long time, and is fairly reliable. However, when trying to light something at an awkward angle, you have to take care not to burn your fingers because the flame is always going to point up–no matter the angle. The nice thing about a lighter like the Primus iteration is that it has a nice little jet of flame that will point whichever direction you steer it. You don’t really have to be concerned about the flame licking at your fingertips. It’s a small thing I know, but it’s just one little thing to cross off the list.
Another advantage is the PowerLighter can be refilled, even while you’re on the trail. Besides the recommended premium butane canisters you buy at the store to fill the lighter, Primus also offers a filling adapter which can be attached to your common butane camp stove canister. This saves you having to carry separate canisters to fill the lighter and your stove. While it seems an obvious attachment to make, I had never even thought of one until I saw the Primus adapter. The instructions do recommend to use only premium butane fuel, but that’s no problem as it’s readily available. And, the small included manual recommends filling the tank until it’s about 3/4’s full to get the best results. I used to have a Zippo lighter in my earlier days, and while the attraction of the old fashioned light was nice, I didn’t like the maintenance of the Zippo. You had to make sure to add flints regularly and you also had to make sure not to overfill the Zippo, lest the fluid leak out in your pocket. I had that happen a time or two and got a nice burning sensation on my leg where the fuel had leaked. Maintenance of the PowerLighter is much easier and and makes little to no mess.
Once you’ve filled the PowerLighter, there is a knob at the bottom where you can dial in the right setting to get the desired flame and to ensure reliable ignition. I’m sure this has something to do with the amount of fuel you’ve got in the tank, but found that once I did have it dialed in, I didn’t have to mess with it after that, even after refilling it again. The one thing that I was a little disappointed in was that the PowerLighter didn’t show any real wind resistance. Even a puff of breath can extinguish the flame. But, it was only a small disappointment. Primus doesn’t bill it as a windproof lighter, and for the price of the PowerLighter, it would be asking too much to get that kind of top-tier performance. On the plus side, I was happy with the amount of life a full tank of butane had with the PowerLighter. I’ve tested a couple of other similar products, even more expensive models, and I felt like I got more burn time with the PowerLighter than the others. Granted, the fuel capacities were different, but close enough to give me a feel for their performance.
Unfortunately, I’m a smoker. But, being one did give me the chance to really run the PowerLighter through the paces. Aside from the just the outdoors activities that I used it for, I also used it throughout each day during the test period. I found the PowerLighter to be pretty reliable. There were a few times that the flame didn’t catch on the first click, but I attribute that to lower butane levels and pressing the switch too fast and not allowing the fuel to gather for a second before igniting it.
Recently, I took my new pup Jethro on his first woods outing, and he was ecstatic with the adventure. During the day, I fixed us some lunch, and used the PowerLighter to get things going. By taking a dead branch about 1/2 the width of my arm, I shaved off plenty of tinder to help start the fire. Based on my experience, these shaving alone probably wouldn’t have taken a spark from a flint and steel or othe similar method. But, getting the flame rolling with the PowerLighter was no issue. I pulled a pile of these wood shaving together and used the jet-like flame to quickly get the impromptu tinder burning. As I mentioned earlier, the flame is similar to what you would find in a torch and it makes it very easy to point the intense flame whichever direction you like and not worry about having having the flame just tilt up toward your fingers. This is especially helpful when you have limited room to maneuver like when you’re trying to fire up a camp stove that doesn’t have its own ignition system. The PowerLighter shines in this regard as well. A lot of camp stoves don’t have an ignition system because that’s typically where they have warranty problems. So, to offer a stronger warranty for the whole stove, they will sometimes forego the igniter and leave it to you to get the flame going with a match or something like the Power Lighter.
The Primus PowerLighter has a suggested price of $17.00, but being the thrifty shopper, I was able to locate several vendors where you could get one for between $12.00-$13.00. Considering the performance I experienced, I think that’s a real bargain. In all honesty, this was probably one of the most used products that I’ve reviewed thus far, and I was impressed by its overall performance. Its performance exceeds the price point, and you can’t ask much more than that!