According to the ancient Greeks, Prometheus lay the foundation of civilization by stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mankind. The mythology of the ancient Greeks does not accurately represent the one true God, His holy character, or His plan of redemption. But the Greeks were remarkably perceptive regarding the role of fire as the foundation of civilization. Heat, light, protection from wild animals, food preparation, the forging of metal tools, and a host of other possibilities all lay hidden within the glow of a tiny flame.
Effective fire starting is so foundational to survival, that I try to take along at least three distinct methods of starting fires when venturing into the great outdoors.
My primary method of starting a fire utilizes a ferrocerium rod and a cotton ball with a daub of petroleum jelly on it. I have experimented with a number of different brands of ferrocerium rods, and have had good results with all of them.
My back up method of starting a fire utilizes waterproof matches stored in a waterproof case. Storing waterproof matches in a waterproof case may seem redundant. One somewhat damp and chilly canoe trip many years ago made me dedicated to the proposition that keeping matches dry is a lofty goal that is worthy of efforts that go far above and beyond the call of duty.
I have vacillated greatly regarding my tertiary method of fire starting. A butane lighter is inexpensive, light, and easy to carry, but does not always work reliably in cold weather. Naptha evaporates from Zippo style lighters within a week or so. Gasoline and especially kerosene evaporate more slowly from IMCO style lighters, but also do not ignite as well during cold weather. A flare generates a great deal of heat, but even a small flare is somewhat bulky and can only be used one time.
Eventually, I began to toy with the idea of trying a higher-tech solution. My wife has a couple of plasma candle lighters that seem to work well. I began to wonder what kind of field performance I could get from a waterproof plasma lighter.
On December 1, 2020, Mr. Rawles announced that I had received honorable mention in Round 91 of the SurvivalBlog writing contest. I received an Amazon gift card as the prize. I already had one item firmly on my wish list: Mr. Rawles’ newest book, The Ultimate Prepper’s Survival Guide. But I had more money on the gift card than I needed to buy the book. I decided to explore waterproof plasma lighter options.
One option that I ran across was the Morisk Waterproof Flashlight/Plasma Lighter. The idea of combining a plasma lighter with a flashlight was appealing to me. This would add the functionality of a lighter to a piece of equipment that I would likely be carrying anyway. So I decided to give it a try, and placed my order. Five days later, the shipment arrived.
Opening the Box
I must confess to being somewhat opinionated about boxes. If the box is too nice, I wonder why the manufacturer wasted so much money on the packaging. The resources could have been better invested in the product itself. If the box is too shoddy, I wonder if it can be counted on to provide adequate protection to the product during transit. With that in mind, I found the flashlight/lighter box to be just right. It was modest, but sufficient to the task.
The box contained the flashlight/lighter in a plastic bag lying in a molded plastic tray. It also contained a rudimentary direction card. One side of the card displayed a picture of the flashlight/lighter with major features and controls labeled. The other side contained a list of specs.
The specs indicated that the charge time for the unit is a handy 1.5 hours. Battery life for the flashlight on high power is rated at 2.5 hours. Light output on high power is rated at 100 lumens. The battery is rated at only 360 mAh, which seemed surprisingly weak. For comparison, a single standard AAA Eneloop rechargeable battery is rated at 800 mAh. Battery life is also rated at only 300+ charges. I was concerned about how these battery characteristics would impact long term performance.
The power switch is located in the middle of the unit. When the cap over the lighter is closed, the switch controls the flashlight. By turning the power switch on and off, the user can toggle between high power, low power, and strobe. The light produced by all of the settings is more of a spot than a flood, and projects well to surprisingly long distances.
When the cap over the lighter is opened, depressing the power switch causes a X-shaped plasma field to arc between the four nodes. I like the fact that the switch is a safe distance (two inches) from the plasma arcs. More than once, I have burned my thumb with a butane lighter because the flame is too close to the valve. I am especially prone to do this while holding the lighter on its side while trying to light tinder for a campfire. Since the switch on the plasma lighter is farther from the nodes, this problem should be less of an issue with this unit.
The through-hole for a lanyard is generously sized, and would easily allow for a loop of paracord to be substituted for the somewhat flimsy lanyard that is included with the unit. The safety latch for holding the cap of the lighter closed also appears to be somewhat flimsy.
When the safety latch is pulled back and the release button is pressed, the spring-loaded cap pops vigorously open. The USB port for charging the unit is located under the cap, which should give it some measure of protection from the elements. The cap appears to be plastic, and I wondered how long it would last when subjected to rugged field conditions. I also had some doubts about whether the cap fit snugly enough over the o-ring that encircles the base of the lighter. I suspected that it might be more accurate to class this unit as weather-resistant rather than waterproof.
The extremely short charging cord and flimsy lanyard are packed under the molded plastic tray in the box. I planned to use the much longer cord on my cell phone charger rather than depending on the impractically short cord supplied with the unit.
The Dog Walk Test
I decided to begin my testing by utilizing the flashlight portion of the unit under field conditions. The best way to do this was to press it into duty as my dog walking light. During the winter, almost every morning before sunup and almost every evening after sundown finds me out walking the dog. These daily events take place in driving rain, blowing snow, and a host of other weather conditions. Those conditions make these daily events a great venue for flashlight field testing.
I had become accustomed to using a headlamp on these excursions, so the first order of business was to rig the Morisk light as a headlamp. I did this by fastening the light to a medium binder clip with two bands cut from a bicycle inner tube.
When I first fastened the binder clip to the brim of my jeep cap, I found that it hung a little low in front of my eyes, and that the beam also projected a little lower than I would have preferred. By tipping the cap back on my head, I was able to solve both problems. The only drawback with this solution was that it rendered the brim ineffective at protecting my glasses from the elements.
I found the light to be more than sufficiently bright even on its low setting. The switch is a little small, and was somewhat difficult to manipulate with gloves on. The beam is like a spot surrounded by a flood-like aura. I found this to be an effective combination.
The Endurance Test
After ten days of use while walking the dog, I had not noticed any dimming of the light. The batteries still had plenty of power to make the plasma lighter arc nicely. I had no trouble at all igniting a piece of paper.
I then removed the rubber bands and clip in preparation for endurance testing. I plugged the unit into a USB charger to top off the battery. After an hour and a half of charging, I turned the light on low power, and went to bed. The light was still shining brightly when I made a late-night pit stop several hours later. It was out by the time I got up in the morning. So the initial round of testing gave a battery life on low power of more than three hours, but less than eight hours.
I recharged the battery, and commenced round two of endurance testing. The light was still shining brightly four hours and nineteen minutes later. When I checked again five hours and forty-three minutes after the start of the test, the light was out. I was hoping for a minimum endurance of eight hours on low power, so I found the actual battery life to be somewhat disappointing.
After the light turned itself off, it could be turned on again for brief periods of time. However, the battery no longer retained enough charge to produce a plasma arc between the nodes of the lighter.
The Barn Test
My barn is unheated, so it became the venue for testing the lighter under prevailing outdoor temperature conditions. I experimented with igniting a variety of items like twine, cattail fluff, and birch bark. The plasma arc was hot enough to light even larger tinder that would be too coarse for effective use with a ferrocerium rod.
On the fourth day of testing in the barn, the outside temperature fell to 22 degrees. When I attempted to use the lighter that day, the battery was too weak to sustain a plasma arc. A fire starting method should function reliably even in cold weather (indeed, especially in cold weather). So I concluded that the lighter had failed the barn test.
Second Thoughts on a Pocket Test
I usually carry a Maglite Solitare LED flashlight in my pocket along with a Victoronix Minichamp knife. Both items receive quite a bit of battering there. I considered temporarily carrying the Morisk unit in my pocket in place of the Solitaire. This would be a good test of the unit’s durability.
Upon further reflection, I decided not to carry out this test for three reasons:
- The Morisk unit is just a little too large to carry comfortably in my pocket for an extended period of time.
- I did not think the unit would survive the test, and did not want to destroy it unnecessarily. As mentioned above, the cap over the plasma nodes appears to be plastic. I did not think it could stand up to the stresses of everyday pocket carry.
- Pocket carry of this unit involved an element of personal risk. If the cap broke off the unit and the power button was depressed in my pocket, the unit would set my pocket on fire. I believe in making some sacrifices in the interest of advancing human knowledge. But as a general principle, I try to avoid setting my pants on fire while I am wearing them unless there is some sort of extremely pressing reason.
If any SurvivalBlog reader decides to carry out the pocket test, I hope that he will share the results of his testing with the rest of us.
I cannot recommend the Morisk flashlight/lighter for field use. The lighter portion cannot be depended upon to operate reliably under low-temperature conditions, and I believe it to be too fragile to stand up to rigorous use.
It may be that some other plasma lighter has a more robust battery that allows it to operate reliably under low-temperature conditions. The other lighters that I was able to find specs for online seemed to have even weaker batteries than the Morisk unit.
It is also possible that there are other lighters that are more solidly constructed of more durable materials.
It is even possible that a plasma lighter exists that is manufactured in the United States, or at least by one of our allies.
If any SurvivalBlog reader has any information about any of these possibilities, I would greatly appreciate you sharing that information in the comments section.
I did not receive any financial or any other inducement to mention any vendor, product, or service in this article.