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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.
****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.
****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.