Looftlighter vs Bison Airlighter

The above video is our side-by-side comparison of the Looftlighter and Bison Airlighter and the elapsed times provided represent the results of our field trial. The times given in the post below reflect the manufacturers claims. Although our times differ from the stated times, there are many variables that can cause lighting times to fluctuate, including brand of charcoal and whether it's lump or briquette.

By this point in our history, lighting a fire should be easy. It is, after all, a primal task we’ve been doing for millenniums. Yet despite thousands of years of experience, we’re still searching for a better way to start fires. The Looftlighter and Bison Airlighter make it quick and easy.

2 Charcoal Starters That are Fast and Easy

There’s no denying the advantage of cooking with charcoal, beginning with one-of-a-kind flavor propane just can’t match. However, there are drawbacks, such as the extra time and effort—it can take 20 minutes or more to light a charcoal grill, compared to the few seconds it takes to start a gas grill. That’s a problem on those days when time is short and you need to get cooking fast. A problem for which even the most ardent charcoal enthusiast would welcome a speedier solution.

The Looftlighter and Bison Airlighter are that solution. Two of the most popular grilling accessories to hit the market in recent years, both can light a fire in as little as 1 minute, and without the use of chemicals or accelerants that can taint the flavor of food. A must-have for charcoal grilling, they also come in handy for campfires and fireplaces.

Without playing favorites, we’ve attempted a side-by-side comparison of the Looftlighter and Bison Airlighter. Both perform similar functions and cost the same. However, there are significant differences between the two that could make one a better option for you than the other.

The Looftlighter

Invented by Richard Looft, the Looftlighter started off as a prototype that consisted of a toaster and a vacuum cleaner with the airflow reversed. While the Looftlighter has since been refined, the basic principle hasn’t. The combination of a heating element and increased airflow help start the fire fast and grow it quickly.

Operating a Looftlighter is simple. Just touch the tip against the charcoal and pull the trigger. In seconds, the heating element will ignite the coals. Once sparks appear or the coals begin to glow, you pull the Looftlighter back slightly, keeping it aimed at the coals. An airstream will stoke the fire and, after about a minute, the coals should be ready. You can then allow the fire to grow on its own to the desired temperature or continue to stoke the coals for another minute to get them white-hot.

Aside from ease-of-use, the Looftlighter’s best feature may be what’s missing: There’s no open flame. That, paired with an aluminum heat shield that helps cool the Looftlighter quickly, makes it surprisingly safe for such a powerful tool. Because it’s electric, the Looftlighter requires 110v AC power, which could be problematic if you don’t have access to an outlet in the backyard or if you want to take it camping in the woods.

Looftlighter Pros:
  • Quick, easy and reliable
  • No flame, relatively safe to use
  • Aluminum heat shield cools quickly
  • Integrated bottle opener
Looftlighter Cons:
  • Requires electricity, making it it less mobile
  • May be hard to use in the dark

The Bison Airlighter

In purpose and practice, the Bison Airlighter is very similar to the Looftlighter—with the touch of a button, you can light a fire in about 1 minute. And in about 5 minutes, you can go from cold coals to cooking. However, there are two distinct ways in which the two differ.

First, unlike the Looftlighter, the Bison Airlighter is cordless and can be charged via any USB port. Second, it utilizes a four-inch super-heated flame. While batteries power the Bison Airlighter and its internal fan, butane fuels the flame. Fully charged and fueled, the Airlighter will light 25-40 fires.

Just like the Looftlighter, the Bison Airlighter is easy to use. Just hold the tip 2 inches from the coals and push the control switch forward to ignite the flame. Touch the flame to the coals for 10-20 seconds until they begin to glow, then pull the switch back to kill the flame and initiate the fan. After about 30-60 seconds of stoking the coals, the fire should be ready.

Aside from performance, mobility is the Bison Airlighter’s best asset, making it allowing you to easily use it while camping or tailgating. On the other hand, the fact that it runs on butane means you have to keep buying Bison’s special refills after the initial purchase, an added cost you don’t have with the electric Looftlighter.

Bison Airlighter Pros:
  • Very mobile, can be taken almost anywhere.
  • Integrated flashlight for safe use at night.
  • Adjustable handle
  • Includes hanging hook/bottle opener
Bison Airlighter Cons:
  • Large 4-inch flame can be dangerous
  • Special butane that you must continue to purchase