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What are Waterproof Matches?

By Kerrie Main
Updated Feb 03, 2024
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Matches are small, durable sticks coated with material that ignites from friction. They are one of the most convenient and dependable methods for starting a fire and are included in most survival kits used by hikers, hunters, campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Regular matches often are susceptible to humidity and moisture and might lose their ability to ignite. To avoid having humidity or moisture ruin their matches, many people use waterproof matches, which basically are regular matches with wax-coated heads, or ignition tips. This type of water-resistant matches can be purchased or made at home from regular matches.

Survival supply stores and hardware stores usually carry waterproof matches, but they often are significantly more expensive than regular matches. Regular match sticks typically are constructed of paper or wood, but the majority of waterproof matches have wooden sticks. They often are sold in waterproof storage containers. Most basic survival kits include waterproof matches along with other fire-starting tools such as waterproof lighters and firesteel.

Sometimes water-resistant matches are unavailable or the prospective customer does not want to pay the higher price for them. In these circumstances, there are several ways to make waterproof matches. One way is simply to dip regular matches in melted paraffin wax and let them dry. Another way is to coat the entire matchstick in nail polish. Both methods require coating the entire surface of the match, not just the tips.

The paraffin wax or nail polish protects the match from moisture to ensure that it will ignite, even if it is dropped in water. Also, wax-dipped matches tend to burn for longer periods and at higher temperatures. Homemade waterproof matches should be stored in an airtight waterproof container, such as an empty 35-millimeter film case or pharmacy pill container. Many people glue a small piece of sandpaper to the inside of the film canister lid to create a surface where the match can be struck in order to light it.

All waterproof matches should be tested before the prospective user heads out into the wilderness. They might be faulty or might just need another coat of wax. Also, all matches have a shelf life, which means they degrade over time. Most homemade waterproof matches are good for only a short time, and new batches should be created a few days before an outdoor expedition. Many survival experts recommend bringing at least three fire-starting tools into the wilderness, just in case one of them fails for any reason.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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