The Zippo lighter is a storied piece of American EDC culture. From low-key smoking den hangs to the gnarliest combat service ever, Zippo lighters have been in our collective pocket. American GIs first carried the now-iconic black crackle Zippo into battle in 1941. The rest of the Zippo legend is history — a kind of coolness arc that started at James Dean, then somehow doubled back on itself by the time it hit Don Draper.
In between, Zippo got popular all over the world and came to symbolize a rebel ideology. Bikers, hippies, hipsters, and everyone from conscientious objectors to oo-rah soldiers have carried them.
How, then, to find the coolest Zippo lighters? That’s where we came in. Tasked with finding the coolest of the cool, I went on my own rebellious search for Zippo lighters and brought back the results to share here. Enjoy this read with the smoke of your choice, while you contemplate the true nature of coolness.
The Best Zippo Lighter
Zippo Cthulhu “Monster” Lighter
Somewhere in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, a sunken city slumbers. If you were to somehow encounter it, you would be horror-struck. Its alien origin is obvious in its incomprehensible shapes, physically impossible geometry, and uncanny energy. Suddenly, from deep within the maze-like structure, something awakens. Do you run for your life or creep inextricably closer?
That’s the question I asked myself every time I flicked open my Zippo Cthulhu lighter to take a big inhale of whatever I had in front of me. Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft’s squid-bat-alien priest of an ancient alien god lineage, constantly threatened me with the unknown from his laser-engraved image on my lighter.
Part of its “Nautical” lighters line, Zippo calls the Call of Cthulhu-based lighter the “Monster.” Whether or not Cthulhu is a monster or a god, you’ll definitely turn some heads when you whip this baby out to light a smoke. The matte black finish made the gold art stand out strongly, and the effect paired well with noir and neat whiskey.
Complete your alien-god-worship merchandise collection with the Zippo Cthulhu “Monster” lighter.
Laser-engraved alien god priest artwork
Matte black finish
Cthulhu Mythos inspiration
Colors: Matte black, gold
Inspiration: 1920’s sci-fi
Zippo Matte Lighter
Zippo aficionados favor matte Zippos for their discreet finish and wide range of color choices. We especially like the black with the red border stripe, which matches the flame in the Zippo logo. The matte lighter’s surface won’t announce your position or — ahem — activities the way flashy or high-polish Zippo entries will. Some of the textures are pretty mesmerizing (see especially the Mercury Glass).
Zippo Matte Lighters fly under the radar by minimizing glare but stand out with their bright colors and patterns. The matte finish won’t get confused for bling or attract unwanted attention (such as from the fuzz). The result is a probable EDC advantage, where discreet operations are the name of the game. Plus, with so many color choices, you’ve got options to match your existing EDC kit.
Multiple colors available
Matte finish is low-key and discreet
Various textures available
Inspiration: Coordinating colors; discreet smoking
Zippo Colored Lighter
The concept for Zippo’s colored lighter is simple: make Zippos in different colors. Rose gold, metallic red, teal: many choices register high on the flare meter. Some iridescent finishes seem to recall the ‘90s when slap bracelets, lava lamps, and psychedelic-adjacent apparel— Peace Frogs? Does anyone remember Peace Frogs? — were king. Dapper blacks and browns are also available, for any squares or people forced to dress business casual. Check out the “Black Ice Boxed Lines” colorway if it’s available. Look at the evidently arbitrary geometric design for too long and it feels like it starts taking away pieces of your soul, the way some PowerPoint presentations do.
Still, the multicolored entries are among the most popular Zippo lighters. They come with or without the “Zippo” logo and many choices are also available in “slim” style. Feel the freedom of expressing your true self with your chosen color from among the top Zippo lighters.
Many colors available
Can feature “Zippo” branding
Also comes in Slim style
Inspiration: The rich world of visible light
Zippo American Flag Lighter
Nothin’ says “Zippo” like America — or nothin’ says “America” like Zippo? Either way, make your patriot status clear with a Zippo American Flag Lighter.
With a wide range of flag lighters available, you can also display your particular feelings about the world’s biggest free-market capitalist country. Are you a free spirit who loves surfing as much, or almost as much, as America? Then pick up a charming entry with surfboards for stripes and a barreling wave for a starfield. Are you a little more conservative? Simply enjoy the star-spangled banner as it is? In that case, pick up the “Made in the USA” design with a photo of the furling flag in the background.
Perhaps you believe in fair and equal representation regardless of color or creed. If that’s the case, sound off loud and proud with the “VOTE” Zippo.
Zippo American Flag lighters put your patriotism right where it belongs — in your hands. Feel the pride every time you light up.
Various flag artwork and designs
Displays American patriotism
Colors: Red, white, and blue
Inspiration: Freedom for all
Zippo Pipe Lighter
In fact, the Zippo Pipe Lighter is an insert compatible with any Zippo case! The insert is distinct from the classic Zippo in that it has two big holes in the chimney, rather than the usual multiple small holes. The design helps pipe smokers direct the flame downward.
This particular Zippo pipe lighter features a quaint silhouette of a Dickensian pipe-smoking figure with a tall top hat and a deep Sherlock pipe. If that’s the way you like to smoke your pipe, we’re all about it. The text says “GENTLEMEN PREFER” but it’s 2021, man — whoever you are, whatever you prefer, that’s cool.
Zippo offers various other classy styles in its pipe lighter collection.
What’s important is that you can slide a Zippo pipe insert into any conventional Zippo case. At the time of writing, Zippo was for some reason not selling pipe inserts by themselves. But the innovation only makes sense, and the interchangeability factor is definitely cool.
Includes Zippo pipe insert
Helps pipe smokers direct flame downward
Pipe insert fits in any standard Zippo case
Inspiration: Lighting a fine bowl loaded with your favorite leaves
Zippo Spiritual Lighter
I don’t know about you, but my favorite way to interact with my spirituality is through lighters. Whether you’re an old-fashioned crucifix person, Buddhist, secular/spiritual, or worship the Illuminati, Zippo makes a talisman for you. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but Zippo puts many of the spiritual inclinations that may be considered more “far out” by the western world on multi-colored iridescent cases.
The Zippo spiritual lighters are not only cool for religious folks. They’re also interesting to anyone who’s a religion nerd/enthusiast. There’s religious symbolism here that I’m unfamiliar with — for instance, what does the key with inset jewel mean? If you know, hit us up on social media! Some are recognizable but bizarre — I’d rock the monolithic carved cross with the Elvis-style silver embellishments.
For the religious or religion-curious person in your life, a Zippo Spiritual Lighter could be a very cool gift. In my opinion, these are some of the best Zippo designs. They’re novel to the point of experimental, and they represent a broad range of spiritual inclinations.
Many religious faiths represented
Secular spirituality also represented
Access to the Beyond not included
Colors Available: Various
Inspiration: The Almighty
Zippo Skull Lighter
Zippo skull lighters are the clear choice for bikers and badasses. If you EDC one of these, you might have tattoos, whiskey breath, and a yearning for the occult.
There’s the antique brass entry with the engraved pile of skulls and “freedom” banner. Death is, after all, the release from pain — how metal is that? Or check out the trippy, portal-like “gold dust” entry with the skull on the other side of the keyhole. The skull with the clock is also sick; it looks like the skull is somewhat integral to the clock’s movement. Buy it to be reminded that the clock’s always ticking toward your final destination.
It’s hard to go wrong with Zippo Skull Lighter, and there’s a skull for every lover of the macabre. Candy skulls, cartoon skulls, and even a lumbersexual skull with a groomed mustache and hatchets for crossbones (search criteria: “Zippo outdoor skull lighter”). Whichever Zippo skull lighter you choose, it will always be there to remind you that we’ve all got a one-way ticket to the same place.
Artwork features skulls
A macabre accessory for the artistically inclined
Reminder of mortality
Colors Available: Various
Inspiration: The ultimate outcome of all life
Zippo Jack Daniel’s Lighter
For a minute there, I didn’t think we would ever get to the booze. Now that we’re here, it’s only appropriate that the best Zippo alcohol-themed lighters are Jack Daniel’s entries. You can’t get drunk in a much more American fashion than by swilling from a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. When you whip out your Zippo to light up, it only makes sense that it, too, pledges your allegiance to Jack.
The brass Zippo with the embossed Jack Daniel’s logo just like the one on the bottle is probably the coolest. Though personally, I heavily favor the brushed chrome entry with the man (JD himself?) surveying a babbling brook. Note well that Zippo does not offer this design on its website, meaning it’s probably a fake or perhaps doesn’t exist at all — order at your own risk! Or drink some more Jack and stop worrying about it.
I’ll admit that there are some pretty wretched designs, too. If you really disrespect aesthetics, taste, or whoever you’re shopping for, go with the awkward vertically oriented chrome stud-patterned banner. It even has one of those annoying text panels that use random fonts on various x/y axis orientations and clip edges at random. This appears to be another Zippo imitator or after-market product; because by and large, the genuine Zippo designs are in much better taste.
If you’re like most of the people I’ve met who love drinking Jack Daniel’s, you’re pretty blatant about it. Find yet another way to display that preference to the world with one of these awesome JD branded Zippo lighters!
Legendary American alcohol branding
Pairs well with whiskey
Doesn’t work if you prefer Canadian whiskey
Colors Available: 10 official, multiple aftermarkets
Inspiration: Tennessee Whiskey
Zippo Lighter Buying Guide & FAQ
Features to Look for in Zippo Lighters
Size and Portability
Zippo lighters come in four size variations and are generally slimmer than most other lighter brands.
If you’re looking for the smallest lighters possible, the Zippo slim lighters are a great choice. They come in at 1.13 inches by 0.38 inches by 2.38 inches and weigh 1.5 ounces, making them perfectly pocket-sized and portable.
The other three lighter size variations all weigh 2 ounces and have a half-inch width — they provide slight variations in the length and height. The classic Zippo features a 1.5-inch length and 2.25-inch height. The 1935 replica lighter, which resembles vintage Zippo lighters, measures 1.44 inches in length and 2.06 inches in height. Lastly, the vintage-style lighter also measures 1.44 inches in length but is slightly larger than the 1935 replica at 2.38 inches in height.
There are several unique features of Zippo lighters. Firstly, Zippo lighters are windproof, which is one of their most remarkable qualities.
Additionally, Zippo lighters have a wick, which is another unique feature that is uncommon in most modern lighters.
The four main features to look for on a Zippo lighter are the ‘One Box’ packaging, the bottom stamp, the insert, and the casing.
The case features a design that can be applied in six different ways. These methods include stamping — which creates a 3D effect, laser etching, or auto engraving.
The last three methods include 360-degree, multi-cut — which uses a laser engraving process and emblem to die-strike an image onto the metal, and fusion — a combination of color palettes and chrome breaks for a metallic look.
Ease of Use
In general, Zippo lighters are relatively easy to use. Open the top, spin the wheel and you get a flame. To extinguish, close the lid.
There are some additional maintenance considerations to make sure your Zippo lasts you a long time. These include wick and flint maintenance as well as refilling lighter fluid.
We’ve covered some of this care below, but you should also use the Zippo website as a guide on how to care for and maintain your Zippo, so it lasts you a lifetime.
World-famous Zippo lighters are well known for their durability. Some users have reported swimming with them, dropping them on concrete, and lots of other wear and tear in daily life.
All Zippo cases are made of durable metals. If you manage to damage your Zippo lighter, you can send it to Zippo, and they will fix it as part of their lifetime warranty.
Zippo started making lighters in the 1930s with the intention of them being windproof and easy to use with a single hand.
To this day, all Zippo lighters remain windproof due to their unique chimney structure. The outer casing protects the inner insert from the elements, but Zippo’s focus on weather resistance is wind.
Zippo Lighter FAQ
Are all Zippos the same quality?
In general, all Zippo lighters are well-constructed and share the same high quality that Zippo is known for. All Zippos come with a lifetime warranty, which means Zippo stands behind every lighter they produce. Specialty designs or features cause price differences.
How do I refill my Zippo Lighter?
The Zippo lighter refilling process is relatively simple, but it has a few nuances:
- To begin, remove the inside unit from the outer Zippo lighter case.
- Next, turn it over and lift the felt pad to reveal the inner packing material; if the felt pad is difficult to remove, you can utilize a paper clip or other small tool to help lift it.
- Slowly begin to saturate the packing material, stop filling when the fluid reaches the top of the packing material or changes color. If you overfill your lighter, your lighter will leak fuel. Avoid getting the fluid on your skin as it is a skin irritant.
- Reassemble your lighter and make sure there’s no lighter fluid nearby; if there is, wipe it off or wait for it to evaporate.
- Lastly, spin the flint in a downward motion to create a spark; you may have to repeat this multiple times.
Once you have a flame and you’ve finished using your lighter, go ahead and close the lid, and you’re all done!
How should I take care of my Zippo lighter?
For most Zippo lighters, general care is the same. For specific finishes, the cleaning may vary. With all Zippo lighters, be sure to clean off any lighter fluid from the case and try to avoid overuse or misuse of the lid as the hinge can become damaged.
Additional care includes wick and flint maintenance. Different cases require different cleaning materials and techniques, for a full list, head on over to the Zippo website.
All wicks will start white and will darken to black over time, which can reduce performance. To trim your wick, use tweezers or needle-nose pliers to pull the wick’s base until the new wick appears, then trim off the darkened parts of the wick. Each wick should have two to three trimmings before replacement.
Replacing the flint on your Zippo needs to happen every few weeks for the average Zippo user. To begin, remove the inside unit from the case. Next, unscrew the flint spring using a coin or screwdriver. Use caution in this process as the spring is under tension and could fly away. Turn the unit right-side-up again and remove the remaining bits of flint. Insert the new flint into the brass flint tube and reassemble your lighter.
To learn more about caring for your cool Zippo lighter, head on over to the Zippo website for extensive care guides.
Can I carry a Zippo lighter on a plane?
If you plan on carrying your unique Zippo lighter on a plane, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. If your lighter is in your carry-on bag, you’re good to go, even if it has a bit of fuel in it. Lighters with fuel in them are not allowed in checked baggage. If you plan to check your Zippo on your next trip, make sure it has no fuel in it before packing it in your luggage.
Can a Zippo explode?
After some research, it appears the answer is no. Some traditional disposable lighters can explode under extreme heat because the inner contents are under pressure. But in a Zippo lighter, this is not the case, and initial searches left us without much proof that Zippos are capable of exploding when cared for correctly and when the correct fuel is used.
How can you tell if a Zippo is real?
The first step to obtaining a genuine Zippo lighter would be to buy one straight from Zippo or an authorized retailer.
To make sure you’ve got a genuine Zippo, flip it over, and you should see the Zippo stamp on the bottom. When you remove the inner unit, you should see the Zippo trademark there too. If your lighter is missing one or both insignias, it ain’t a real Zippo, and you should contact the seller or check these things before you buy in the first place.