Picture yourself, The Middle Pleistocene era walking up to the cave, your fellow hominids are sitting around trying to rub some sticks together to get fire going. You reach into the medicine bag hanging around your neck. You grab something, reach down to the fire and push a button and PRESTO, Flames from the gods ignite the fire. The rest of your tribe gathers around you, making offerings of animal skins and baskets of fruit, and slabs of thick cut meat. Yes, Life is good. Fast forward 700,000 years, and you can do the same, but may or may not be given all the offerings.
Yes, this is a review of a simple lighter, and should probably be 3 paragraphs, but where would the fun be in that? So Today, I had a little more fun in writing a bit of a whopper of a review on such a simple item. Mostly just out of a sense of fun. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
The UST (Ultimate Survival Technologies) Wayfinder Butane Lighter with Compass
MSRP $14.99 Can be commonly found at Walmart for around $9.95.
Most comparable lighters online are in the $7:00 to $19.00 range. Some similar lighters can be found much lower. But I can’t judge quality of those in comparison having not used them. There are some nice high end lighters with certified waterproofing and easier to use controls. Look at the Delta Stormproof lighter for some of those higher end features in the $35+ range and you’ll see what I mean.
Before we get started, this question must be answered. “Why a lighter?”. You’re an outdoorsman, you can make fire with friction if you had to, matches are dirt cheap and easy to carry. Heck, even a Ferro rod can make fire so easy, why on earth bother with a lighter?
To answer this question, I always start with a classic survival question. You’re in a dire survival situation, sun is setting, temp is dropping rapidly, you have nothing on you but a ferro rod, a lighter, and the materials for a bow drill. Which one are you going to light the fire with to save your life? In a real survival situation, the lighter is the most immediate and effective means. Could be windy, could be wet or raining and the match or ferro become a little more difficult to use, requiring more effort as your body reaches hypothermia. You lose dexterity to operate some of these effectively. (I have had hypothermia up to the point where my mind was starting to say “Lets just go to sleep, you don’t care anymore”. Drown-proofing in a cold pool in October while in the Army. I could barely grab a ladder to climb out of the pool, needed help. Trust me, you lose dexterity in your fingers quickly and not long after that, you just don’t really care anymore).
Sure, out camping, just hanging out in the woods. Take your time, make a fire with a ferro rod, or take the time to build a bow drill and do some fire by friction practice. But even sitting around at work or at home, you need to melt some paracord ends? The lighter is the quick, practical way to do that. So, it just makes sense to keep a lighter on you.
I know some people are “Technology averse”, and may think technology is bad, and doesn’t belong in the field. But even many of them still carry a lighter or other technology with them. Mostly because it’s convenient and quick. It’s just simply useful, but in the same respect, a lighter IS technology. Just like a knife is “Technology” over a knapped piece of obsidian tied to a deer antler with some coyote tendons. Technology isn’t bad, it’s just another tool to be used. But like any tool, if you depend on it too much, if it breaks on you, your need to have the skills to use alternatives (like a ferro rod or a bow drill). Dependence is never a good thing. ANY piece of equipment can break or get lost (Even that $400 custom made specialty knife you love to death could accidentally be lost). So make sure you have your alternatives, and your skills. But don’t dismiss a tool because “Egads: Technology”. You’d still be carrying a knapped knife and wearing animal skins. 😊
There are a lot of lighters available for all walks of life. Some pretty high end super tough lighters on down to the cheap Bic knockoff lighters you can get at 50 cents each. I used to carry the little Bics because they were cheap and disposable and the small ones ride in your pocket very well. But they have the problem with the button being pushed while they are in your pocket and then the fuel leaks out and presto, you go to use it and it’s empty. I’ve had them go empty in my pocket in less than a week and I’ve had them last for a couple months, but it’s a crap shoot. Not something I feel confident enough in to trust my life to.
So, I have tried a couple of options. In the Army I carried a Zippo, But soon discovered I didn’t care for them. They tended to leak and dry out quickly. And messing with transporting and carrying liquid fuel is a pain. Sure, they looked cool, and it was fun to pull it out and snap my fingers and pop it open, but after a while I stopped carrying them. I tried a peanut lighter and a forever match and a larger version, but would hate to try to use one if I was hypothermic, and both still leaked and aren’t as convenient as a thumb operated lighter. After that I used Bic’s. Then high pressure butane lighters started getting popular. I have purchased a couple from gas stations in the $5.99 range on up to the $17.00 Spark Multi-tool butane lighter (Which turned out to be a total piece of junk, don’t ever waste your money on it). Most just don’t stand up to pocket carry well.
My last butane lasted about 3 months before the cap broke off. So, I have been in the market a for a replacement, but didn’t want any of the same old versions I see everywhere. I was at Walmart and I’ve had mixed feelings about UST gear. Some UST gear is a great value, the Spark Force Ferro’s are great, I LOVE the Polymer resin carabiners, lightweight, nonmetallic, tough enough and work great. The small tarps are decent, (I don’t care for most of the cutlery as previous evaluations have shown).
The Wayfinder Lighter from UST was hanging in the camping section at Walmart. I decided to give it a try. I didn’t expect much. Cheap plastic shell, button compass on the side. But figured, it had to be better than the spark that had failed horribly. Got it home and opened it up and was surprised. It’s much more solid than I expected. I popped the lid open and first impression was “No rubber O ring so not waterproof. Which turned out to be my mistake. (Hey, I’m human, I make plenty of mistakes). The lighter housing is chrome and there is a rubber gasket, but it’s so small and so close to the edge it’s lost in the reflection of the metal.
Once I figure out there was a gasket, I had to do some water testing. This lighter is not billed as waterproof, it doesn’t say waterproof in the specs or on the packaging. But I did 2 water tests. I put it in a glass of water (This does not float, they do have some available that do but I don’t care for the more squared designs, I like rounded edges for pocket carry). I did the first test for 5 minutes. I was not surprised to see a lot of bubbles coming up. Figured it was leaking. But Pulled it out and low and behold, the chamber was dry. (Turned out the water was going into the tiny chamber where the rocker arm is that houses the cap release, so the water didn’t enter the lighter at all. After 30 minutes in water, it was still bone dry and worked fine. There is a screw on the base that allows you to remove the lighter from the housing also.
The lighter works well, it does come empty so buy yourself a bottle of butane to fill it. If you use butane lighters, you probably already have a bottle at home. 😊
The compass, It’s a standard button compass. It works as well as any button compass. Much like anything else, it doesn’t need to be there, but why not, doesn’t hurt anything and it’s still a compass and still works.
It has a great latch system. Easy to operate 1 handed, and the flip up wire lock keeps the cap secured very well.
The flame is adjustable via a small turn screw on the bottom around the fill port. This does require something akin to a knife or strong fingernail to turn. Depending on the altitude you’re at it may need adjusting.
All in all, it’s a decent lighter at a reasonable price. There are probably better buys out there, higher quality, lower price, so find something you like or that fits you, but for the price, this is a decent little lighter and everyone should have a lighter in their pocket anyway. Now, I’ve only had it for a week, so only time will tell if it’s tough enough to stand up to my pocket carry. (I’m going to keep an eye on the rocker pins which I think are its weakest point). I have high hopes and reasonable expectation. LOL I’ll come back again in a couple months and let you know how it’s fairing.
- Tough plastic shell (I did more than 20 drop and toss tests with it and it’s still running just fine)
- Adjustable flame
- Cap is spring loaded and stays out of the way.
- Solid latch to keep the lid closed and waterproof
- Compass, (Why not? LOL)
- Lanyard hole to add a lanyard if you like. (Could attached it to a pack if you wish.
- Cap opens past 90 Degrees (many capped butane lighters do not, so they can be tough to get into tight spaces)
- Bright Orange. (I like bright colors for pocket carry stuff, easier to spot in the grass when you drop it).
- No rubber grip. (This is more of a personal preference, it does have a good texture cutouts, but I like a non-slip rubbery grips)
- No shock absorber built in like more expensive versions. (Not sure how useful that really is, as I have done dozens of 5 to 8 foot drop tests and a couple of 20 foot “Toss” onto concrete tests and it’s fared well.
- Flame doesn’t get as high as some other lighters.