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Backpacker Magazine – 2010 Editors' Choice/Gear Guide

Editors' Choice 2010: Soto Pocket Torch

Turn a disposable lighter into a weatherproof flamethrower.

by: BACKPACKER Editors

Soto Pocket Torch (Broudy/Donahue Photography)
Soto Pocket Torch (Broudy/Donahue Photography)

Give us gale-force winds. Give us torrential rain. And we’ll give you a flame for your stove or campfire, guaranteed. Just put a 50-cent lighter into this little widget, and you get a mini blowtorch that produces a searing-hot blue flame.

We’ve used it to spark fires and stoves in the worst weather, from wet Wales to the windy Alps. “I love the convenience factor,” says one editor. “No messing with butane refills—just pop in a fresh disposable.” Note: The Torch works with squarish disposables commonly found around the world, but not Bics. $20; 2.3 oz. (including lighter);

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Reader Rating: -


Jim in California
May 30, 2012

You mentioned the Soto lighter as having won the 2010 Editor's Choice Award.

That award was poorly given.

This is my experience with the Soto.

As I write this, REI, no longer carries this item.

At sea level, the Soto operated perfectly. But up at 10,000 feet, no way. What was most surprising, is that when needing this during a heavy rain storm, we tried to light the Soto with the flame from another lighter....and I am reporting that the Soto WOULD NOT LIGHT!

When we came down from altitude, to Mammoth Lakes, elevation @8000, the Soto still would not light. Taking off the cap, and activating the plunger, there was no spark.

Getting back home to Anaheim, elevation @140, the Soto lit properly. Taking off the cap, and activating the plunger revealed a very feeble spark.

Attempting to light the Soto with the flame from another lighter (140' altitude), I am reporting that the Soto, again, WOULD NOT LIGHT.

The problem is obviously with the piezo electric system. Perhaps if the Soto would use a flint based lighting system, it might work.

The Soto is too unreliable, as for me, most of my backpacking is in the High Sierras.

The Soto will be returned to REI.

Dec 08, 2011

I quit using mine after finding it really wouldn't light above 6-7,000 feet. Tried everything but no go. I continue living happily with a bic, and a flint striker for backup. Oh well.

Mar 25, 2011

Get it at REI

Mar 12, 2011

"Where can I purchase this pocket torch in Orlando, FL? I've looked at Bass Pro Shop and Gander Mountain with no luck.
Posted: Feb 10, 2011 Jen"

Try Travel Country.

Feb 10, 2011

Where can I purchase this pocket torch in Orlando, FL? I've looked at Bass Pro Shop and Gander Mountain with no luck.

Jan 17, 2011

Definite recommend. Works well for my uses. Lighting backyard campfires in the wind, and also handy in my workshop. I was impressed with how long each lighter has lasted. I found an 8-pack of Scripto lighters at Wally's for $1.97.

Dave B
Nov 20, 2010

Saw many comments about how hard it is to find a lighter that fits. I found something at Lowe's that works perfectly. Solder-It CF30 Refillable Fuel Cells come in a 2-pack and can be refilled from a butane canister. It looks like a lighter but without the thumbwheel/flint. Not an issue since it's used in a device with an igniter.

They cost about $4 for the pair (way more than a disposable lighter but cheaper than the 3 lighters I bought trying to find one that fit).

The Solder-It part # is CF-30C and the UPC is 8 13354 00030 1. Hope this helps!

Oct 03, 2010

I bought two of these i liked them so much. Sad to say they both failed and stopped working all together after about one month of use each. save your 20$ you can buy a lot of matches and flint sticks

Rob B
Sep 30, 2010

Zippo's light well at elevation and travel easy too

Aug 09, 2010

This little pocket torch seems like a pretty handy tool to have. I usually have to bring a lighter to light my stove, and a little torch would probably come in handy for a lot of camp jobs.

Jul 24, 2010

I got one and it wouldn't light at 9000+ feet... figured out the standard lighter was not tight to the recptor for the butane. I added a small scrap of paper to the bottom of the lighter holder to snug it up and it worked fine at 10000+ feet.

Jun 12, 2010

I would work in different ways to reduce plastic use, such as switching over to non-petroleum based synthetics. I just find it funny that people want to reduce plastic use when every stitch of outdoor rated clothing (nylon, acrylic, polyester, etc.) is made of some sort of plastic. Add to that our reliance on synthetics for tent materials, boots, sleeping bags, etc.

It is much easier to look through your gear and try to find anything that is actually made of non-plastic materials. Cotton underwear and wool socks is about all I can think of.

May 13, 2010

I bought one without noticing the warning about use above 5000 feet. Couldn't get it to light at 7500 feet - used proper type of lighter, made sure the lighter worked, etc. but no go. Weather was clear and warm, so I'd hate to have this as my only source of fire in my pack if the weather turned nasty. Maybe this is better suited for the east coast? Think I'll just stick to waterproof matches...

May 10, 2010

I agree with Scott (4/27). These items have been around for a long time. Even Sears has variants. I recently bought a Primus OmniFuel, which has small slats in the bottom for lighting, but which appear too small for your typical stick matches. I wanted a "windproof" type lighter for this. Then I read the article on the Soto and bought one. I liked the idea of the angled flame head. A potential problem I see with the Soto, is the exposed flame head. The attachment point is roughly a 1/16" tube, this reduction point, is just behind the 1/8" bronze tube you see behind the flame head in the photo. If the lighter falls on the head, I would expect it to bend, and become worthless. A windproof cigarette lighter, will always have the protective cap, but I understand that they may not work well sideways or upside down. I have not yet tested the Soto. So I am giving you my initial visual assessment.

Cheryl M
May 05, 2010

I just used this for the first time up at 9200 ft elevation and temps around 25 F. I worked for me just fine. It takes about 4 or 5 clicks to get it to light but it did.

Matt D.
May 04, 2010

I just picked one of these up, but was surprised to see the warning that it is not for use above 5,000 ft. I assume BP did, but can anyone confirm that it works well in elevation?

May 04, 2010

I've found the best thing to spark stoves is the simple magnesium block/hotspark, usually available for less than 6 bucks. I've never used the magnesium, but the sparking device gets used several times a day. You can light the stove from a further distance than with a lighter, match or torch. But who doesn't want "a mini blowtorch that produces a searing-hot blue flame"? That's just James Bond cool!

May 04, 2010

Melinda- I can think of a few times when it makes sense not to be "messing around with butane". You can't fly with a canister of butane, so if you buy one and use some of it on your trip, what do you do with the rest? You end up wasting it, and it's not an easy thing to safely dispose of. When it's the end of a long day and you're trying get a fire going in wet & windy weather to fend off hypothermia, you don't want to be "messing around with butane" to refill a torch- that's when you just want to pop in a fresh disposable lighter- that you were able to bring on the plane.

May 04, 2010

I hate using anything disposable. Would "messing around with butane" be such a bad thing to reduce our use of plastic?

Apr 27, 2010

These are quite handy but have been on the market for many years - you can get them in many tool stores for about $12 - 15.


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