Wilderness Survival Kits, Tips & Training About A.Ranger Rick 173rd ABN/SETAF Bardolino / Rentals Useful Links Wilderness Survival Skills Wilderness Survival Tips Wilderness Survival Training


SOS Survival Kits


Before I talk about Zippos and Spark-Lites, let me show you what my German buddy [Friedrich W. Eickelen] sent me. Check it out!

Pencil Sharpener

Yep, that's right it's a pencil sharpener. And you know what you can use it for? To make fine paper sheets of tinder for starting fires. Pretty good idea, huh? And it doesn't matter if the piece of wood is wet or dry, as long as it fits inside the hole of the pencil sharpener it will produce these fine paper sheets of tinder and weighs almost nothing. And you know what else you can use this pencil sharpener for? To make sharp arrow points and some deadly animal traps too, is this a great idea or what? Thanks Friedrich for your tip! Moving on...

Spark Lite Kit
Ok, now allow me to start off by saying I don't usually go around looking for trouble, but sometimes trouble seems to find me. For example, many years ago I was minding my own business making and selling my Four-Finger-Fire-Starters on my website when all of a sudden I receive an email from some bozo yapping about some patent to something called a "Spark-Lite." And so I read and re-read this message several times, shrugged my shoulders and deleted it without replying back. Then a few days later I again received another email from this same bozo and attached to his message was a copy of this Spark-Lite's patent. And so I said to myself, "Hmmm, looks like someone is trying to tell me something."

To be honest with ya, until this bozo brought this to my attention, I never heard of his Spark-Lite and so I didn't know what in the heck he was trying to tell me. He couldn't be accusing me of violating his Spark-Lite patent because all my four-finger-fire starters are are nothing more but cut up mini BIC lighters. And the only reason why I call 'em four-finger-fire-starters is because you need two fingers to hold it and another two fingers to hold onto the tinder or cotton ball, thus is how I came up with the name four-finger-fire-starter.

Rotating Striker
And so after reviewing this bozo's patent a bit more closely, particular the "highlighted paragraph" describing the same components that my four-finger-fire-starters are made of, a rotating striker wheel and a spring loaded flint compartment. Yep, it certainly looks like this bozo was trying to tell me I was violating this patent. And so I fired an email back at him saying, "Yo? What's up dude? I am in receipt of your two email messages and this here patent. And so if you are trying to tell me that I am infringing on it, you're gonna have to take that up with the BIC company because that's where I get my four-finger-fire-starters." Well, we exchanged a few more back-and-forth emails and I gotta admit, I was rude and a bit sarcastic. But only because it certainly appeared this bozo wanted me to stop making and selling my four-finger-fire-starters. I guess I was taking away some of his business, and so I said to myself "screw you buddy" and I didn't stop making and selling 'em.

Well several years passed and I was chatting on a survival forum (ETS) and I just so happen to mention this incident on this forum, but not in detail like here, just briefly. And then the next thing I know, the next day I receive an email from the website owner (Mr. Doug Ritter) telling me I violated one of his forum rules - "There will be no personal attacks or abusive comments made towards another forum member."

Now according to his website, the definition of a personal attack or abusive comment is; Any post that includes a direct or indirect reference to any member or member's company or organization that impugns their honor or reputation without an objective and readily independently confirmable source. An objective review of a product is not a personal attack. A subjective statement about a company's or person's products may be a personal attack, depending on the context. The determination of the forum administrators and moderators in such cases is theirs alone and is final.

So in other words, I guess this means a forum member is not allowed to make any constructive criticism nor state any true facts in what happened between two competitive sellers. And I guess too [but I am not certain] that just because this other fella is a regular forum contributor either through financial donations, free samples and or whatever other business arrangements he or she has with Mr. Ritter. He gave me a choice of either removing my [so called] abusive comments and posting an apology on his forum for all his forum members to see or he would suspend and bar me from his forum. And when I read this, I said to myself, "What the f..?"

Well again, I can only guess and assume this Spark-Lite fella didn't like what I said about his product. And so he contacted the website forum owner (Mr.Ritter) and asked him to do something about it, and yep he sure did. And so I [regrettably] complied with his demands and removed my [so called] abusive comments and posted my apology. But as soon as I posted it, it wasn't even an hour later that I started to receive a whole bunch of emails from both, registered and unregistered ETS forum members saying "Hey Rick, why did you apologize? For what, for exercising your First Amendment rights - Freedom of Speech?"

And you know what? They're were right, and so now I wish I didn't post that apology, but it was too late. Then several months later after this incident, which I hadn't been back on that forum since posting my apology, I tried to log on one day to say "Hi everybody" but I couldn't log on. And so I kept trying and trying and thought it was my computer or the net that was not allowing me to log on. And then I found out why, Mr.Ritter or his side-kick forum moderator "Chris" still barred and blocked me from logging onto their forum. Because according to their website forum pop-up warning, it stated (Quote) "Abusive comments about other forum members" and so my user name and password was denied.

Well ain't that nice! First Mr. Ritter accuses me of making a personal attack on someone in his forum when all I did was state what happened between me and that Spark-lite person or rep, which I didn't think was no big deal. Then he gives me a choice of either removing my comments and posting an apology or I would be barred from his forum. Which I complied but... I was still booted off his forum and without no follow up reason given, just one day after not logging on for many months.. BAM! I'm barred.

Well it looks like someone likes to run his forum "dictatorship" or "mafia" style, don't it? No problem, I didn't lose any sleep over it but now I wish I hadn't donated any of my money to Mr. Ritter's organization. And so should he ever offer my money back I sure won't turn it down. But I would like to get all my SOS Survival Kits back that I sent him and that he agreed to test out, which was SEVERAL FREAKIN YEARS AGO! And he has yet to test'em except one, nor has he returned them back to me. Nice guy, huh? If anybody knows Mr. Ritter and you are a registered member of his forum, I'd appreciate you posting my comments.

And since this is my website, I can say whatever I want about the Spark-Lite and Mr. Ritter too.

Hear ye, hear ye, now listen up ya'all!

First of all to Mr.D. Ritter @ ETS... Sir, I recently purchased one of your survival pak kits, tested it and the results are now posted here on my website under my "Survival Kit" page. To save you the hassel of jumping over to that page to read it (if you haven't already) your kit is "less than mediocre" and so you will need to improve it if you want me to upgrade it. Fair enough?

Second, in regards to the Spark-Lite Fire Starter... to be honest folks, it ain't a bad fire starter. Really! I just think it's over-rated, over-priced and too few Tinder-Quiks come with it. Only eight? And $10 for a bag of 50? That's quite a bit of money, don't ya think? Well my advise to all of you who are thinking about buying a Spark-lite...SAVE YOUR MONEY! Because I'll show you how to make something similar to it and it will only cost you about $ .50 cents. Here's how to make one, the same way I use to make my four-finger-fire starters, see the photos below.

WARNING: Before doing anything you must first drain all the butane liquid gas from the BIC lighter or KABOOM! And the safest way to do it is to tie down the gas button and place it outdoors for an entire day. BUT BE CAREFUL! Failure to drain all the butane liquid gas from the BIC lighter could result in bodily harm. And once you drained all the gas out, if you cut just the lower portion of the lighter you can use that portion to about 8 tightly packed vaseline coated cotton balls inside of it.

Note: Once you have drained all the gas out of the lighter and you cut just the lower bottom portion you can place about 8 tightly packed vaseline coated cotton balls inside of it.
Striker Wheel
IMPORTANT: Be careful when removing the metal components, it's best to use a "needle nose plier" to remove them while at the same time holding the "striker wheel" securely in place with two fingers. Because should you fail to hold the striker wheel securely in place while you are removing all the other components and the striker wheel pops off... you'll have to start all over again with another BIC lighter. Why? Because once the striker wheel comes off the flint & spring underneath it will come flying out and you'll either lose some of the pieces or you won't be able to put it back together again. But once you have successfully removed all the components except the striker wheel, take some thin wire and wrap it securely around the plastic arms that's holding the striker wheel so it won't pop off when you go to use it to creat some sparks for a fire.
Fire Starters

Now for about a $1.00 or $2.00, if you go to my "Fire Making" page there I will show you how to make your own Tinder-Quiks. And not just 8 or 50, but 100's! And they will burn for about the same amount of time too, about 2-3 minutes. Check it out.

Two more things.


1.) At one time the Spark-Lite sellers use to claim " ..the smallest fire starter on the market. " Yep, it sure was, that is until my Four-Finger-Fire-Starter came along which is "half the size" and so they stopped advertising it as the smallest fire starter.

2.) Only recently did I stop selling my Four-Finger-Fire-Starters because I can no longer acquire the mini-BIC lighters here in Italy where I am retired and live. And to order them from the US, it would be a bit too costly. Besides this, I just don't have the time anymore to make'em, which is why I am showing ya'all here how to make'em yourselves. In other words, don't buy a $park-Lite!


Zippo Lighters: To no surprise, I received an email from someone who disagreed with what I wrote about them, and so he sent me an email saying this; (Quote):

"..I beg to politely differ with your inference of Zippo lighters and the individual who praised it being an "idiot". Not only are you calling many combat veterans idiots, but you are also directly contradicting the data I have personally collected. I am an advid backpacker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and backpack in the winter and during all sorts of conditions. The Zippo is what I use! Attached is data I have personaly collected and mass mailed, until you have collected data or can present some, I politely disagree with your assumptions."

First of all, I was really pissed when I this fellas email, not because he disagreed with what I wrote about the Zippo lighter but because he said (Quote) ". calling many combat veterans idiots." (Unquote)

And so I fired back this message to him:

"Normally I wouldn't respond to emails like yours, but when you said I am calling my fellow military veterans idiots just because of what I wrote about zippo lighters...You're a freaken idiot! You pissed me off Mr.XXXX. Didn't you see and read on my website that I'm a freaken 20 year retired US Army Ranger vet? If you did, then you absolutely have no idea how close we military vets and retirees are. We make up less than 1% of the US population who volunteered to serve in our US Armed Forces. Are you one of us XXXX? The less than 1%? The nerve of you to translate and twist what I wrote in saying I am calling my fellow military vets idiots. Take a freakin hike Mr. XXXX, deep, deep, deep in the woods with your freaken zippo lighters too."

And this is what he also enclosed with his email message... It was a long list of personally data showing how many times he used his Zippo lighter, replaced the flint, refilled it, etc. And so I won't bother wasting your time in posting everything he wrote but instead I will post his Zippo facts along with my comments too.

He wrote : Zippo lighters are reusable while matches and disposable lighters are not.
My comments : But disposable butane lighters and other fire starters last longer and you don't have to refill'em and pack & carry extra fuel with you.

He wrote : Zippo lighters prevail in strong winds while matches and magnesium fire starters do not.
My comments : It doesn't do any good to have a fire starter that prevails in strong winds if the tinder & fire wood is in the strong wind too. It's not the fire starter alone that needs to be out of the wind but the stuff you're trying to ignite too.

He wrote : Lighters and matches provide instant flame while primitive skills do not.
My comments : And what are you gonna do when you're outta lighter fluid and you don't have anymore matches? That's why you gotta learn some primitive skills just in case.

He wrote : Zippo lighters carry a lifetime warranty as an added advantage during poor economic times.
My comments : What does economic have to do with starting fires? Once you buy and own a Zippo you're gonna have to keep spending money on lighter fluid to keep it working.

He wrote : Zippo lighters are field proven by combat veterans and many newer devices are not.
My comments : It's obvious this person doesn't know anything about today's combat soldier. During WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam there was only one type of mechanical cigarette lighter - the Zippo and that's why they selected and used it. But today's combat soldiers can't or shouldn't carry Zippos in their pockets because they are too shiny, release a smell and are made of metal. All the ingredients that could possibly get you spotted, smelled, heard and killed in combat. Duh?

He wrote : Traditional Zippo lighters will not explode in extreme heat like most butane igniters.
My comments : And in extreme heat the fluid in side Zippo lighters could evaporate or lose their potency.

He wrote : Lighters enable the user to control the flame while matches & magnesium devices do not.
My comments : If you're trying to start a fire it's easier to ignite your tinder or wood with magnesium or matches than a Zippo Lighters.

He wrote : Flame lighters provide emergency lighting while flameless lighters, magnesium fire
starters and matches either can not or are extremely limited in duration.

My comments : If you want light at night then you should carry [with your fire starter] a flashlight or mini LED light.

He wrote : Flame lighters offer more advantages and uses than disadvantages.
My comments : It does??? If you believe this then you need to re-read "my comments" above & below.

He wrote : Fire starting devices are more easily passed on and traded than primitive skills.
My comments : The same with primitive survival skills too.

He wrote : Most individuals already have a knowledge of primitive fire making, yet most do not possess the knowledge required to build a lighter or make fuel (backwards?)
My comment : People who own a car have no knowledge of how they're made nor how to make gasoline or diesel, what's your point?

He wrote : Traditional Zippo lighters have metal cases which do not melt or puncture.
My comments ; The same with a lot of survival kit containers too.

He wrote : Traditional Zippo lighters do not provide Child Proofing (advantage or disadvantage?)
My comments : So what?

He wrote : Refillable lighters require carrying, acquiring, or manufacturing lighter fuel.
My comments : Sounds like a Zippo disadvantage to me.

He wrote : Flame lighters increase the risk of accidental fire.
My comments : Everything that produces a flame increase the risk of accidental fire, including your home hot water heater and stove.

He wrote : Zippo products are Made in the U.S.A. (est. 1932)
My comments : "Buy American" is good motto but if you can't afford to "Made in China or Tawain" is the next best thing.

He wrote : In the late 1950's, it was reported a Zippo was found in the belly of a fish and it lite the first time.
My comments : It also was reported they found a Timex wrist watch inside a fish too. I don't remember what year they said it was but they said it lived up to the company's motto: Keeps on ticking.

He wrote : Fuels that can be used in a traditional Zippo lighter include:

All wick lighter fuels (Zippo, Ronsonol, etc.) - Best
Camp Fuel (naphtha) - Next Best
Some Paint Thinners (naphtha) - Also Good
Rubbing Alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) - Good Alternative
Everclear / Grain Alcohol (ethyl alcohol aka "moonshine") - Good Alternative
Kerosene - Works
Cologne - Works
Diesel Fuel - Works
Jet Propellant (JP - 4) - Works
Lamp Oil - Works, but harmful to lighter's function
Gasoline (dangerous but does work) - Potentially Explosive

My comments : Survival kits, big, small, pocket or whatever should not contain any liquid fuels inside of them whatsoever for obvious reasons, they could leak and ruin the other items.

He wrote : In closing, it should be noted that the Zippo lighter is the most time-tested lighter and was praised for its construction, durability, and diversity by combat veterans throughout its history. For all its many advantages and legendary functionality the average price of a traditional Zippo lighter is about $10.

My comments : And in my closing, it should be noted a Zippo lighter may be a nice thing to have and own if you're a smoker, but not if you're a camper, hiker, survivalist nor a soldier in today's military. Legends die and fade away and so will the Zippo lighter. It doesn't matter what you paid for it or if got it free, because like a car it runs on fuel and therefore it's gonna cost you money to keep it running.

The bottom line and in my opinion... the Zippo lighter should not be packed & carried in a survival kit because it contains and needs fuel. But if you're hard-headed and disagree, then here's a tip for all you Zippo Lighter freaks and screwballs.


Remove the fiber material from inside the Zippo and replace it with cotton. Why? When, and not if the fuel runs out you can remove some of the cotton from the Zippo place it near the flint wheel and presto! You got yourself a backup fire starter!

By the way, I, too, own a Zippo lighter but it was given to me as a gift. And the only time I carry and use it is when I'm well dressed and bar hopping downtown. And if I see a lovely lady needing a lite, I politely offer her my Zippo. Works for me, need I say more?



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