The smokers and back garden barbecue chefs among us are well acquainted with that pesky moment when the wind is so strong that it keeps blowing out the flame on a lighter. Worse, there’s the situation where the gas runs out and no amount of trying produces a flame. These inconveniences are now a thing of the past that we can now safely move to the back of our minds thanks to another marvel of modern technology, the plasma lighter.
In this guide, we have scoured the market to hand-pick the ultimate plasma lighters. Our choices are based on quality, value and reliability. As with any new product, it can be challenging to know what defines quality and we hope to shed some light on this with a few helpful suggestions.
So, what exactly is a plasma lighter we hear you ask? The simple answer is an electronic lighter that uses a high voltage current run between two or more ceramic electrodes to create a small plasma arc. This arc is sufficiently hot to ignite a cigarette, piece of paper and other combustible surfaces.
They are butane free, and are generally charged via a USB cable, in the same way you would a mobile phone or tablet. For this reason, they are deemed environmentally friendly compared to traditional butane lighters.
The idea of the plasma lighter is to provide a reliable heat source that can handle the unpredictability of weather and other environmental factors such as humidity. With no open flame or spark, a plasma lighter can produce a sustained amount of heat that often surpasses that created by a traditional lighter.
There is also the argument that the plasma is far more efficient in the sense that it’s a one of purchase should last for years rather than the couple of weeks, or less, of lifespan associated with disposable lighters. In theory, this creates less stress on limited deposits of natural gas and less waste in terms of plastic casings.
Plasma lighters are also considered safer given the absence of a flammable component, completely removing the risk of fires, leaks and even, the more common that you would expect, in-pocket explosions. Furthermore, unlike traditional lighters they never get too hot due to the absence of a naked flame. Certain models are even approved for air travel because of how safe they are.
The only real downside to plasma lighters is the need for electricity to recharge them, specifically a USB port, though in this day and age the ubiquity of these ports on computers, chargers and even in cars, makes charging a lighter rather straightforward.
In certain situations like on a hiking adventure or foray through an isolated forest, the plasma lighter shows its weakness, though these situations always involve a quick return to civilization and a chance to recharge so represent only a temporary inconvenience.
In addition, with the better plasma lighters out there you can expect somewhere up to three hundred ‘clicks’ or lights per charge. A very reasonable amount that should last a while.
The same can’t be said for dire circumstances where a source of electricity cannot be guaranteed. In these cases, take multiple fully charged plasma lighters and a couple disposable lighters as a precautionary measure. Though these scenarios remain rare, you can’t forfeit the possibility of a zombie invasion or a complete shutdown of the electrical grid. If these happen, nothing beats a classic box of waterproof matches.
There are not too many differentiating factors to plasma lighters given their relevant infancy and the simplicity of the technology used. Here is a short list of the different features on offer.
The number of arcs is possibly the most important variant found in plasma lighters. You can get either a single arc or double arc lighter. The difference is in the name; single arcs only offer a single current between two electrodes, while a double arc has two bolts that often criss-cross between four electrodes to offer ignition of a larger surface area. In general, double arcs are reserved for cigars and larger flammable items and singles are for cigarettes and candles.
With the classic shape of the lighter in mind, most plasma lighters retain the elongated rectangular shape usually associated with lighters. Certain manufacturers have explored alternatives, notably for the non-smoker and bowl smoking markets who require a plasma to reach more awkward locations. These tend to be longer and thinner to cater for this requirement and resemble elongated hand held fire starters.
Plasma lighters are also available with an array of cosmetic features that include different colours, materials and stylistic choices to cater for all tastes.
This comes down to the size of the battery inside the lighter. The larger its capacity the more lights, and vice versa. In general, entry-level devices offer in the region of one hundred and the more expensive alternatives, up to three hundred. The size of the lighter is often indicative of the charge capacity so expect to carry around a slightly larger device if you need the extra clicks.
Best Budget Plasma Lighter
Here we have the Bolt USB Lighter, a low cost option that packs a punch. It is a single arc plasma lighter with an attractive silver finish with two vertical black lines along the sides, and an attractive embossed pattern running down the middle. The arc is aligned across the top creating a reasonable lighting surface, perfect for cigarettes
Included is a mini USB to USB charger that will provide battery for up to three hundred clicks or approximately three hours of use. A good length of time that should only require one charge a week at moderate use. The charge indicator lights is also useful to have and lets you know when the lighter is fully charged. It also ships with a practical drawstring storage bag.
One safety feature we were particularly impressed with was the flip top that ensures the lighter does work if it is closed, even if you accidentally press the button. The ignite button is placed near the top of the lighter for ease of access. This position is fairly standard among plasma lighters and worked every time the button was pressed during use.
The Bolt is safe and reliable. When we used it performed consistently well and was able to light cigarettes in high wind situations without any problems. Overall, a great product for the price and a catching look to boot. The no questions asked one year warranty provides peace of mind when buying the Bolt as well.
Best Affordable Plasma Lighter
Among the slightly more expensive models, we were drawn to the Tesla Coil USB Lighter. A single arc lighter with a double black block design on the front and back, as well as a darkened silver finish on the rest of the lighter that looks classy, yet subtle. The design feels solid and the presence of the Tesla Coil logo on the bottom left is subdued enough not to stand out too much. The single arc is sufficiently large to easily light cigarettes.
It ships with the usual mini USB to USB cable and a simple fabric carrying pouch to keep it safe. Fully charged it can handle close to three hundred clicks quite easily. The flip top works well and ensures the lighter only functions if it is completely open, even if the light button, placed at a central point towards the top of the front panel, is pressed. We also liked that the Tesla Coil emitted only a very slight humming sound when activated.
The Tesla Coil is available in a selection of colors to suit your own personal style. When we used it, it was reliable and simply felt solid in our hands. Every button press provided a strong heat source and cigarettes we’re lit also immediately. Overall, the top affordable plasma lighter by a country mile.
Best High End Plasma Lighter
Among the high end plasma lighters on the market, we inevitably found ourselves gravitating back to the Ralix Electronic Lighter time and time again. Others seem to agree and it is one of the most popular lighters out there.
Made with zinc alloy, this single arc Ralix sports a minimal matte black finish that betrays its efficiency and the robustness of the design. It’s ideal for cigarettes and larger combustible given the arc surface is slightly larger than usual for a single arc.
It is USB powered and shipped with the appropriate cable for charging. You can expect upwards of three hundred sparks with one full charge. In an effort to conserve the battery, there is an indicator LED that lights up when the battery is fully charged, meaning you won’t leave it plugged in for too long and affect its lifespan.
The spark button is located in a similar location to other models in our guide, below the flip top. When the lid is closed, the lighter won’t work ensuring it can travel safely in your pocket or backpack.
Overall, we were taken by the simple, yet elegant feel of the Ralix and the slightly higher cost reflects this. It even ships with a classy gift box that adds to its allure and makes it a perfect present.
Best Dual Arc Plasma Lighter
Our top pick from the dual arc category is the Eternity Lighter. The overall look is one of sophistication thanks to the all black matte finish. There are other colors available for those wanting a more daring look, though each model retains a sleek, classy look. The double arcs criss-cross one another to create a reasonably sized heat source surface area that can easily handle cigarettes, candles, stoves and even campfires.
It ships with an assortment of accessories including a USB charger, a handy brush for cleaning, a drawstring fabric carry bag, and a well-designed gift box with slots for each item. Fully charged in just under two hours, you can use the Eternity Lighter from one hundred to three hundred times depending on how long the spark is lit. A charging light indicates when it is taking in power and switches off when fully charged, ensuring the battery isn’t damaged.
As opposed to other models, the button to activate the plasma is located on the side of the lighter just below the arcs, very near to where switches are located on traditional lighters. This is handy for those who are transferring over and want something that won’t force them to veer too far away from established habits. The Eternity is safe thanks to an inbuilt cut-off mechanism, which won’t allow the arcs to work unless the flip top is fully opened.
For a dual arc, the Eternity remains very affordable and this is one of its most attractive features, coupled with the nice extras, sleek design and reliability. A lifetime warranty rounds the package off nicely and shows just how much confidence the manufacturers have in their product.
Best Plasma Lighter For Cigars
When it comes to lighting cigars, a large flame is required and there are a number of traditional lighter models that cater for this need. In the world of plasma lighters the task is often complicated because the distance between two electrodes can only extend so far before the current is no longer able to circulate correctly. This means that surface area is sometimes an issue. Fortunately, we’ve found a model that works well with cigars, the Saberlight Sparq Plasma Lighter.
The Sparq is an elongated cylindrical lighter that sports two arcs that cross one another at the top of the lighter giving it a larger reach compared to other models. The flip top also retracts fully to below the arc area in order to improve the reach even more.
The design is very different from other plasma lighters that tend to use a much narrower coil setup with a flip top that often causes a hindrance when lighting larger flatter surfaces like pipes, cigars and bowls. The all round gray metallic finish is sturdy and looks the part. We also like the blue ringed ignite button for its futuristic aesthetic and convenient position.
The Sparq ships with a USB charging cable that fills the battery to capacity with energy in about an hour. You can expect up to three hundred sparks per charge. The blue power light indicates when it is charging as well. It also ships with a gift box.
The manufacturer claims it is not only windproof, but also waterproof. Our quick tests seem to suggests this is indeed the case with the lighter working perfectly even after being splashed with liquid. Thanks to its TSA approved status, it is airline ready and won’t be confiscated at security like combustible lighters. It also comes with a lifetime warranty.
Best Plasma Lighter For The Outdoors
Here we have a plasma lighter designed for the challenges of the outdoors, the RUIMX Tactical Flashlight With Arc Lighter. Not only is it a plasma lighter, but also a flashlight making it an ideal tool for any extreme or life-threatening situation.
Its military grade aluminum alloy casing is waterproof and designed to tackle anything the outdoors can throw your way. The black finish speaks volumes as to the efficiency of the product and not only looks good, it also includes rust-proofing and an anti-slip handle. The manufacturer claims it can withstand the stress of a car running over it and still function perfectly. It your hand, it feels well-balanced and reassuringly strong.
The LED flashlight offers 1200 lumens of light and has three operation modes including strobe, high and low brightness with a rotating focus zoom feature to home in on particular targets in the dark. There’s also a spotlight setting. It even includes an indented head for self-defence.
The lighter is a single arc and is safely stowed away under a screwable cap at the bottom of the device. Though not the strongest plasma, it does the job well and is a real boon in any dire outdoor situation.
Both flashlight and lighter features run off a rechargeable AA lithium battery. The RUIMX comes with a normal wall socket charger, the battery and a convenient flashlight holder to mount it on a bike handle. The flashlight button is located close to the LED for ease of access and pointing, while the arc ignition button is hidden by the cap when not in use and conveniently located near the arc itself.
Best Plasma Lighter For Fireplaces and Barbecues
Lighting fireplaces and barbecues requires more than a traditional small lighter. It is generally accepted that extended wand multi-purpose lighters are the way to go for the added safety and ability to reach surfaces further away. Among plasma lighters, we found the Saberlight Extended Arc Lighter to be the most apt for fireplaces, grills and barbecues.
The Extended Arc is a single arc plasma lighter with a narrow and long neck as well as a sleek black and silver finish. It is ideal for lighting surfaces while keeping your hand safely at a distance. End to end it measures around nine inches.
The ignition switch is located just below the middle of the lighter and includes a safety lock so it won’t spark up unexpectedly. It comes with a charging USB cord that fully charges the lighter in under two hours and runs for up to three hours of use, or around three hundred sparks.
Waterproof and windproof, it is also TSA approved and is ideal not just for fireplaces and barbecues, but also candles stove tops and grills.
Best Plasma Lighter For Cigarettes
Ideally suited for cigarette lighting is the Novelty Wares Plasma Dual Arc lighter. Its small size and smooth metal corrosion resistant black matte finish make it a worthy replacement for your outdated disposable lighter. The vertically crossed dual arcs afford a good surface area for lighting cigarettes and other small surfaces like incense. It is also available in a generous selection of colors to suit your style.
It charges via an included USB cable with a two hour charge time for up to three hours of use. The indicator light comes on when charging and also when the ignition button, positioned to the side in a location similar to that of a traditional lighter, is pressed down. Included is also a gift box. Safety wise, it incorporates the lid down no ignition design even if the button is accidentally pressed.
The only negative we could find was the rather jarring high pitched sound it makes when the arcs are activated. It is louder than other models and we see how it could become annoying for everyday smokers. Occasional users should not be affected though. That being said the quality of the lighter far outweighs this small inconvenience when you consider the entire package on offer here.
Overall, it is smaller than competitor models and fits well in your pocket. The design is simply, yet reliable and the power of the dual arcs lights up cigarettes very quickly in even the harshest of winds.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.