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Waterproof matches have been on the market for a long time. They have some advantages but I will tell you right now that my opinion is that they are a good backup for a lighter but not a replacement. For many situations, a good lighter is just not something to pass over for easy and reliable firestarting. Personally I think that a person should have multiple ways to start a fire no matter what.
I did some research to find what is out there in terms of waterproof matches.
Advantages of Waterproof Matches
- Contains some wood so flame has a chance
- Are often stored in a small container that will allow extra room for some tinder
- No fuel required and no fear of fuel leakage over time.
Advantages of Lighters
More waterproof than a waterproof match in my opinion. I can wash a BIC lighter and it will still work just fine. Waterproof matches are not going to hold up as well as a lighter if exposed to moisture.
- Inexpensive for the number of lights you get
- Very reliable
- Easy to use even with the more modern childproof features
The right type of case makes a huge difference
There are so many cool little cases out there to keep waterproof matches in. Here is an example of a small metal one I bought for $4 at our local prepping supply store. It holds a few matches and offers a very tight seal. You could also just put a few matches in there and add a little bit of tinder to facilitate an easier fire starting experience. Plastic cases are also very common. Most of the good cases feature a rubber gasket seal to keep out water even if the case is submerged.
Would I trust old waterproof matches?
I think that any prep that you have put back for a long time should probably be inspected sometimes. Strike a match occasionally to see if things are still good to go, especially if the storage conditions have been questionable.
Pre-SHTF I will always say a Bic is best.
I realize that circumstances can change but during even mediocre times, a good old fashioned BIC lighter is going to serve you well. Have some waterproof matches, a ferro rod, and other things in your kit so you can get a fire going no matter what but save yourself a lot of hassle by having some inexpensive BIC lighters put back in your preps.
I realize during a long emergency, the supply of BIC will eventually run out but if you put back a lot of lighters now, it will be a long time before you have to worry about all that.
Any fire starting supplies will be good trading material in a post-collapse world. Be smart and have a lot of different methods on hand and the knowledge to use them. It may look easy starting fires on a Youtube video but the reality is that any method requires some level of practice to master. You need to be able to start a fire during a time when you may be weak or shaky. This means knowing how to do it well when you are at your prime. It is entirely unreasonable to expect yourself or anyone in your group to perform well under stressful circumstances any skill that they failed to do during good times.
Waterproof matches are great for stashing
Since matches are pretty inexpensive and easy to use, they have potential for stashing at various locations and for utilizing in a lot of different firestarting kits.
Remember to use matches wisely.
I have no problem raising my hand when it comes to admitting that at times I have used a lot more matches than I should have getting a fire going. When you are using waterproof matches during an emergency you will need to be more careful and less wasteful. Make sure you have a lot of good tinder and small fuel to aid in getting your fire going. All too often while you are trying to find these items, your fire will go out. If you have others with you and help gathering tinder then it may not be too much of a problem.
Zippo Typhoon Waterproof Matches
This waterproof case includes 15 matches that measure 4 inches long and they are rated to burn for up to 30 seconds. For somone that just wants some heavy-duty waterproof matches and case to throw back, Zippo is going to be hard to beat in terms of quality. The case features a sealed strike pad. Each match is made to stay lit as long as there is phosphorous still present. These are very heavy duty matches for extreme situations.
Uco Stormproof Matches
This is a good deal for those that want to just buy a lot of waterproof matches to distribute in different kits and spaces. You get a total of 50 matches so you could put 5 matches at 10 different stash points.
Coghlans Waterproof Matches
This 10 pk of 45 matches will stock you up on waterproof matches. I think 450 waterproof matches is a bit of a stash for anyone even if the matches maybe a little smaller than some waterproof matches out there.
Put these in a waterproof case and you have an inexpensive and reliable fire starting solution that you can stash anywhere you need to.
Choosing your own case
You can definitely use your own case to store waterproof matches in but you need to consider just how waterproof your choice really is. The specially designed waterproof match containers always have O-ring seals and similar to keep out even slight water intrusion. It doesn’t take much water to ruin any matches. Choose containers that can be sealed very well. You can buy cases too and distribute out matches and tinder as desired.
Military Grade Metal Accessory Cases
These screw-on metal cases could be useful for a lot of things, including stashing waterproof matches. The screw-on cap and O-ring ensures that water is not going to be a problem.
Some people make fire starting kits in Altoids tins. I would advise at least taping around the tin as an extra waterproofing measure.
SE CCH6-1GN 3-IN-1 Green Waterproof Match Storage Box
Some storage boxes have more than a single function. This box is a signaling mirror and has a firestarter flint built-in. I would add waterproof matches and some fine tinder to the mix for a more well rounded compact fire starting kit.
Stansport Survival Whistle
This waterproof match container is also a survival whistle and a compass. This is a good survival tool to throw in a gift bag for someone or to stash in a get home bag. The bright color makes it easy to see when out in the bush. This is a fun little piece of survival gear for kids too. They can stash things in the waterproof compartment, practice with the compass, and use the whistle to make a racket.
Matches are just part of the equation.
Before you ever strike a match, you should have a decent pile of tinder and small debris to fuel your fire. Don’t waste your time until you have what you need to keep it rolling. Even if you are really cold, take the time to do your fire right because the last thing you want is for it to go out fast.
Waterproof matches are a lot more expensive than regular matches. They are not something that you want to use regularly. They are an emergency tool.
To make waterproof matches at home you will need a box of strike-anywhere matches and some paraffin or beeswax. Melt the wax and dip the ends of matches in the wax briefly. This will waterproof the end. You will have to scrape the wax off to use but it will make the matches waterproof.
The best thing you can do is have a bunch of different fire starting methods available to you. Some methods are fun to practice but would be scary to try to achieve in a life or death situation when minutes make all the difference. Put back a lot of quality disposable lighters but have a kit with a ferro rod, some waterproof matches, and any other favored fire starting method.
Just make sure that if you are putting back something, that you know how to use it. A ferro rod is great for starting a fire if you have practiced and can reliably get a spark. Take the time to know your preps. It will be fun and you can have the peace of mind of knowing you can do what is needed.
SURVIVE Permanent Match
I am including these “permanent matches” because they are an interesting concept. Basically they are a wick that is kept soaked in lighter fluid. You strike it on the side of the container to get a strong flame. I would be curious to try this out. It is a bit of a hybrid between a match and a lighter. It does require lighter fluid though so that is something to consider.
For reliability and expense, it is hard to beat a Bic. On the other hand you may like a classic Zippo lighter. I personally do not have enough experience with USB lighters to make a judgment call as to how well they work but I suspect they have their limitations. Many people are going to want various types of lighters stashed at some point.
I throw a 5 pack of these in the cart whenever I see a good deal. The two packs are sometimes a good buy but it is usually the larger packs that offer the best savings. You can buy a 50 pk display like those you see at gas stations but I don’t care for the packaging myself. It is more convenient to have smaller packs of 2-5 lighters. For trading purposed during a SHTF situation or long emergency, having a few of the sealed singles or 2 pks may be a good idea. Items in wrappers will be valued because it is a sign that something has not been tampered with.
I was not familiar with this brand until I started writing a lot of preparedness posts. They are marketed as being very inexpensive refillable plastic lighters. Even if they are only good for a few refills they would be worth it to consider stashing back. Have you refilled a single Clipper lighter multiple times? Please share your experience in the comments so we can learn together!
For those that want a strong refillable, you can get a plain Zippo lighter for around $10. The price goes up a lot if you want any fancy decoration but for most of us, the plain classic silver or brass color is just fine. Just make sure to put back a reasonable amount of fluid and some flints. I would not just rely on a Zippo either. Lighters break and malfunction. Always have a few different lighter options on hand even if you have a favorite.
Don’t even bother putting back super cheap and junky lighters!
How many of us have bought the cheap lighters that are plastic, brightly colored, and less than half the cost of a Bic? Well, I am guilty of it too but it has been many years. They are not a good deal because you never get all your use out of them. Chances are they will break while you still have half of your lighter fluid to go.
Don’t waste time putting back garbage. Get decent lighters even if you have to pay a $1 each or more. A tool is only good if it actually works when you need it to. $20 for a 100 lighters is a terrible deal if they are garbage.
Do you have waterproof matches put back for emergencies? Have you ever been in a situation where you had to use them to start a fire? Any tips for getting the most out of this type of match?
7 Responses to “Waterproof Matches Vs A Lighter”
I don’t even think I own any waterproof matches. I have lighters and steels so I don’t have much use for them. The alternative to those is fresnal lens so that I’m not using up a resource when I light a fire.
I carry a exotac self contained steel and a metal pill container with a rubber o ring that contains charcloth and dryer lint. I’ve zero issue starting a fire with that.
I found out while serving in the US Army that the flints in Zippo lighters will crumble when exposed/immersed to salt water for a short time, like a swim. I would think other lighter’s flint would be just as vulnerable. I never had that happen in fresh water. Waterproof storage, especially in a marine environment should be considered a requirement.
Good article Samantha! Permanent matches are great to have ,make sure you dab some Veseline around the “O” ring to waterproof it.Always have tinder in a waterproof bag.
Windproof lighters in a waterproof container are the best as you can use them Single Handed ,an important point; as you cannot strike a match or use a ferro rod if you have a hand injury or broken arm.Check out the US Military Issue Fire starter as it can be used one handed AND HAS TINDER !!! Ferro rods MUST have a top quality tinder or you’re going to get cold. Waterproof strike anywhere matches with varnish,
I’ve tried to make home made water proof matches a couple of times but have never been able to get the wax off good enough for the match to light. What am I doing wrong?
I carry a Zippo lighter all the time. I refill it weekly. I also have a fire-starting kit in my BOB that contains a BIC lighter, a ferro rod, fatwood, and fatwood shavings. BIC lighters are great, except when it gets really cold out. They are also prone to losing the butane unless you have something like a zip tie under the tab that will prevent the loss.
Why not store your plain old strike anywhere matches in a waterproof container and save your more expensive waterproof matches in another container?
If you use an o-ring sealed container, lightly coat the o-ring with dielectric grease to form a better seal.
Baby food jars make excellent match and tinder containers even if they are made of glass. They seal VERY tightly and will float.
Being a lantern collector, I never use matches or a BIC lighter. Instead, I light my various lanterns and stoves with the lighters sold at Dollar Tree
Inexpensive, reliable, and have a 2” reach.
Thanks for the article. I just wanted to say a few things about some of the items you listed. I have Uco matches in their large match container. It’s much larger than the usual matchsafes and could hold the matches, tinder and ferro rod; a mini Bic will also fit. I have borrowed the idea of inserting Uco matches into tampons and dipping them in paraffin to make fire starters. I have timed them at burning for eight mins or so. I use Clipper lighters and have refilled them. I prefer them to Bics for that reason. but the shape of Clippers (round) makes it difficult to put them Altoids tins if that is your choice of kit containers. I love Zippos and have a few of them. They’re reliable and fairly windproof but a pain to keep filled because the lighter fluid evaporates over a short time. However, there are butane inserts made for Zippos. I have ordered one but don’t know how well they perform. I also have a few different plasma/USB lighters. I’m not a fan. Being dependent on USB charging doesn’t make much sense to me. While the arc is quite hot and windproof, the design of the lighter makes it difficult to light anything other than a piece of paper or a cigarette in my opinion. I tried lighting a campfire with one and it was very difficult. They are also a bit bigger and heavier than most lighters. One last method is the magnesium block with a ferro sparker attached. They take a little bit of practice to master but I have used them with some success.
Thank you for your article and take good care.