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Survival Gear: Waterproof Matches, Make Them Or Buy Them?

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August 23, 2011
Survival Gear: Waterproof Matches, Make Them Or Buy Them? - 4

While a butane lighter is my number-one choice for a quick, easy flame to start a campfire, you shouldn’t ignore matches as a back-up fire source. And if you’re going to carry matches, they might as well be waterproof.

Make Them

You can waterproof your own wooden matches with either melted wax or nail polish. 

To use wax for waterproofing matches, melt a few ounces of candle wax in a disposable container (like a tuna can) near a fire or on a low stove setting. Quickly dip the head and a half-inch of the stick into and out of the wax. As soon as you pull the match out of the wax, blow on it to cool the wax so that it does not soak into the match head, thereby ruining it. To use the wax-coated matches, you’ll need to scrape off the wax down to the match’s chemical head, on the side that you are going to strike.

To make your own waterproof matches with quick-dry nail polish, paint one side of the head and a half-inch of the stick. Blow on the fresh paint to dry it. Then paint a neighboring stripe and blow to dry.  Repeat this until the entire match head is encased in quick-dry nail polish. If you don’t blow-dry the polish, it will soak into the match head and ruin it. To use a polish-coated match, use your knife or something rough to scratch off some of the polish on the side that you will be striking.

The problem with making your own waterproof matches is that you don’t know if a given match is ruined until you try to strike it. Sure, you can strike some test matches in each batch that you waterproof, but you can’t test them all. 

Buy Them

To remove the possibility of ruined match heads, I recommend that you simply buy waterproof matches.  Coleman’s have performed better for me than Coghlan’s, but both are available at most places that sell camping gear. Also look for “lifeboat” matches, which have extended chemical heads and are excellent for wet-weather fire making.

Comments (4)

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from bberg7794 wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I made some waterproof matches quite a few years ago using both melted candlewax and mom's nail polish. Both methods worked. The nail polish held up better to abrasion and also heat(if you carry your waterproof case in your pocket or leave it on the dash) than the melted wax. The strike anywhere matches of 30 years ago also had a hotter ignition tip than they do now. I haven't tried making any with the newer matches. I buy the waterproof/windproof ones now. Thanks for bringing back this old outdoor tip.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from OutdoorEnvy wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Buying the water proof matches is just easier. Plus you won't find out the hard way you messed up trying to waterproof regular matches. I carry a bic lighter and striker/rod.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 25-06 guy wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I carry 3 ways to start a fire water proof matches a lighter and a sparking fire starter. Its also a good idea to take along some sort of fire starer like cotton balls covered in vaseline or a bought starter.

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from Bob Hansen wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I carry four means of making a fire. The matches are waterproof, or waterproof/windproof (much better, but a bit costlier). Water/wind proof is the way to go.

Bic lighter. Make SURE you don't carry one of those cheap lighters with a see-through fuel compartment...I've had them fail in as few as six and twelve turns of the striker wheel...!!

The third type is a striker and rod. Generates enough spark to light your tinder, or your dryer lint lightly coated with vaseline.

The fourth method I use is when all else will fail. This doesn't, and it's my little secret...!! Sorry.

Bob Hansen/Pathfinder1

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Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

from bberg7794 wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I made some waterproof matches quite a few years ago using both melted candlewax and mom's nail polish. Both methods worked. The nail polish held up better to abrasion and also heat(if you carry your waterproof case in your pocket or leave it on the dash) than the melted wax. The strike anywhere matches of 30 years ago also had a hotter ignition tip than they do now. I haven't tried making any with the newer matches. I buy the waterproof/windproof ones now. Thanks for bringing back this old outdoor tip.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bob Hansen wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I carry four means of making a fire. The matches are waterproof, or waterproof/windproof (much better, but a bit costlier). Water/wind proof is the way to go.

Bic lighter. Make SURE you don't carry one of those cheap lighters with a see-through fuel compartment...I've had them fail in as few as six and twelve turns of the striker wheel...!!

The third type is a striker and rod. Generates enough spark to light your tinder, or your dryer lint lightly coated with vaseline.

The fourth method I use is when all else will fail. This doesn't, and it's my little secret...!! Sorry.

Bob Hansen/Pathfinder1

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 25-06 guy wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I carry 3 ways to start a fire water proof matches a lighter and a sparking fire starter. Its also a good idea to take along some sort of fire starer like cotton balls covered in vaseline or a bought starter.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from OutdoorEnvy wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Buying the water proof matches is just easier. Plus you won't find out the hard way you messed up trying to waterproof regular matches. I carry a bic lighter and striker/rod.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

bmxbiz