The Bison Airlighter is a tad pricey for something you use to set fires, but if you BBQ with wood or charcoal frequently, or you love to hike and camp this is a handy device that's probably worth the investment.
I don’t generally consider a lighter to be all that high-tech. It’s more of a commodity that you forget about until you seeing them hanging up next to the cash register when you’re checking out so you pick one up so you can light birthday candles, or maybe a candle if the power goes out. A lighter is more of a simple necessity than a high-tech gadget. The Bison Airlighter, however, is a little bit more than just a lighter.
By lighter standards the Bison Airlighter is massive. This isn’t a Zippo you can put in your pocket or even a BIC lighter stick you use around the house.
The Bison Airlighter weighs about 1.7 pounds and is just over 20 inches long when completely straight (more on that under Function). It is thinner at the grip and barrel, but the middle portion that houses the motor and fan is about 3 inches wide and 3.5 inches tall.
There is a red switch on top of the grip just below a child safety button. On the left side there’s a gray button you can use to lock the red switch in place so you don’t have to hold it the whole time. On top of the central housing there’s a gray button that enables the grip to adjust to a 45 or 90 degree angle. The bottom left of the central housing has a button for the flashlight, and the bottom right has a USB port for recharging the battery. On the very bottom of the central housing the Bison Airlighter has a bottle opener.
It lights fires. At least that’s its primary function. Slide the child safety button to the right while simultaneously pushing the ignition switch forward to ignite a 4-inch flame. It’s not a flickering flame like you get from a common household lighter—it’s more like a butane torch you would use to caramelize sugar on a crème brûlée.
Once your wood or charcoal is lit—which Bison claims should take about 20 seconds—you can switch to fan mode to accelerate the fire. You simply pull the ignition switch back toward you (the child safety button is not required for the fan) and the Bison Airlighter becomes essentially a cordless hair dryer. You can push the gray button on the side of the grip to lock the ignition switch in place so it can blow on the fire without you holding it there. I wouldn’t recommend locking the ignition switch when using the torch.
Butane fuel is added through a valve at the end of the handle. You simply insert the nozzle of the butane canister (sold separately, but included with the review unit) and push down. It only takes 5 or 10 seconds to fill it up. Bison states that a full tank of butane is good for about 15 minutes of burn time. Based on the estimate of 20 seconds to light a fire you can light 25 to 40 fires before it will be time to refill the butane fuel.
The cordless gadget has a battery that can be recharged from any USB power source. Bison estimates that it takes about 6 hours to fully charge a dead Airlighter. A fully-charged Airlighter can run in fan mode for 30 to 35 minutes. Your mileage between recharging will vary depending on how long you choose to use the fan for each fire.
There is a powerful LED flashlight at the front of the central housing beneath the barrel. It comes in handy for seeing what you’re doing when trying to light a fire in the dark or low light conditions. There’s nothing fancy or tricky about the bottle opener on the bottom. It’s just a bottle opener. If you ever go camping and forget to bring your Swiss Army knife, though, you’ll appreciate the added touch from Bison.
It seems a bit much around the house—even for a BBQ. The grills I have owned over the last decade have almost all been gas grills anyway so I wouldn’t have any need for such a gadget. However, by coincidence I happen to have a charcoal grill right now.
The Bison Airlighter flame is more direct and powerful than my standard lighter stick so it ignites the charcoal faster. The fan helps speed up the process so the briquettes are ready to cook in about 5 minutes instead of 20 or 30.
My wife and I went camping and took the Bison Airlighter along for the ride. It’s a bit large to carry around on a hike, but the value it provides might be worth it. We weren’t hiking, though—we just carried it from the car to the campsite.
It worked as advertised for starting and accelerating our campfire. It definitely came in handy because I only barely got the food cooked before a thunderstorm rolled in. I didn’t get a chance to test out the bottle opener, but once the rain started coming down we learned the hard way that the tent canopy isn’t as waterproof as one might expect so we had to abort the camping mission. The flashlight helped us gather up our things in the dark so we could move to somewhere dry to sleep.
The Bison Airlighter is solidly constructed and works well for its intended purpose(s). At $80 it’s certainly pricey for a lighter and probably not an investment you’d make unless you BBQ with wood or charcoal briquettes or go camping frequently.
If that describes you, though, you should consider it. It lets you light a fire faster and more safely than traditional methods. You don’t need to use lighter fluid so you can enjoy the smell of the charcoal or wood instead. The fact that it also includes a powerful flashlight and the bottle opener is just a bonus.