When the Kickstarter campaign for the Exotac fireSLEEVE was announced, I knew I had to participate. A waterproof case for the ubiquitous Bic lighter seemed like a no brainer. The Bic is dependable and can be found nearly anywhere, but the striker needs to be protected from moisture if you want it to work. So I plunked down my pledge on day one of the campaign and have been waiting eagerly for them to be completed ever since.
I’ve carried an Exotac nanoSTRIKER on my keychain for years and it has been great so I had no qualms about backing the company. Now that the product has finally arrived it is time to verify just how waterproof these little buggers are.
But first, there is more to the fireSLEEVE than just a waterproof case. Among the list of advantages, the fireSLEEVE:
- Prevents the gas lever from being pressed in a pocket or bag, saving fuel.
- Is available in bright colors, and even glow-in-the-dark, for visibility.
- Provides some shock absorbtion.
- Has lanyard holes to enable neck carry or attachment to your gear.
- Has is a molded in “gas lock” that allows you to keep the flame going without holding down the gas lever manually – useful for keeping your fingers out of the way when lighting camp stoves or getting into the center of a fire lay.
- Provides more grip (rubberized) than the smooth plastic of the lighter.
- Floats in water.
All of this is great, but it doesn’t mean much unless the fireSLEEVE is truly waterproof. Exotac claims that the case works even when submerged to 1 meter for 30 minutes. They have also let me know that they have tested to depths up to 30 feet, but I sadly won’t be able to replicate that feat.
In order to verify the capabilities for myself I performed a two-part test. Simultaneously, I submerged one fireSLEEVE at the bottom of a full 5-gallon bucket, and ran the other through my washing machine with a load of clothing using cold water and extra spin.
The washer’s cycle runs for exactly 60 minutes, so that is how long I left the fireSLEEVE at the bottom of the bucket as well.
Dropping the lighter in the bucket confirmed that the fireSLEEVE will float. I used an old ice scraper to pin the device to the bottom of the bucket.
After the 60 minutes were up I pulled the lighter from the bucket, wiped off the outside and opened it up.
There seemed to be just a little moisture around the head of the lighter but it is unclear whether this seeped in or whether it came from my damp hands. Time for the test strike.
I removed the cap and flicked my Bic. The lighter fired up no problem!
The story was the same for the fireSLEEVE that went through the washer. Solid flame on the first try, and the detergent didn’t seem to have affected the color or integrity of the case.
I’d call that a pretty smashing success.
Next I tried removing the lighter from the case and this is actually somewhat difficult due to the tight fit of the case. It will take a little massaging but the only way I could manage it is by squeezing it up from the bottom. Upon removal I noticed the sides of both lighters were a little damp, and the one that ran through the washer was a little slick as well.
There is a small hole at the bottom of the fireSLEEVE that did allow a little moisture in. With the tight fit of the sleeve, this hole needs to be there in order to facilitate removal and installation of the Bic. The base of the lighter does receive some lubrication to help keep things sealed. Despite the moisture present (and some soap residue on the “washed” lighter) both lighters functioned without issue. The 60 minute interval in my test was not enough to compromise the device.
But, it is something to keep in mind if you’ve been through a downpour or a particularly wet expedition (white water rafting comes to mind). You may want to remove the lighter to give it the opportunity to air out in between trips.
In the end, I am completely satisfied with Exotac’s fireSLEEVE – I am thinking of getting a few more to stash in a couple of emergency kits. It is made in the USA and, like all of Exotac’s products, comes with a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects. In an emergency, the fireSLEEVE capably protects one of your most vital assets from the elements, and it looks great doing it.
If you missed the Kickstarter, the fireSLEEVE is available for pre-order on Exotac’s website.
Update 6/18/2015: Exotac contacted me to let me know that they lubricate the base of the lighter to aid with sealing and have also tested the fireSLEEVE at depths as far down as 30 feet. Info added in the appropriate sections.
Bonus Video: Check out the Exotac team having a little fun running over a fireSLEEVE with lighter inside. Yes, it still works afterwards.