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Strike Anywhere: The Best Matches for Survival Situations

Keith McCafferty says strike anywhere matches are still the best for survival situations, despite the fact that they're not as good as they used to be.

My father could reach into the pocket of his wool pants and pull out a wooden match, already lit. His trick, magic to a small boy, remains one of the most indelible images I have of nights around the campfire. Today, match light has flickered out in favor of the soulless flame of the butane lighter, but a simple stick of wood with a certain mix of chemicals in the head remains one of the most practical tools for starting fire. Nothing else has saved as many lives of those who desperately needed a flame to fend off the cold.

Invented in England during the early 1800s, the first friction matches were aptly named Lucifers—they lit with a shower of sparks that could burn the muttonchops off a fellow smoker. Matches have been tamed down ever since, and today if you go looking for the perfect match, you’ll find two choices: the “safety” match and the “strike-anywhere” match.

Safe, but Sorry The combustible components in safety matches are split between the match head and the striking strip on the side of the box (or book). Safety matches do have an appeal—not so much the paper-matchbook kind that will wilt in your pocket on a damp day, but the waterproof-windproof varieties sold in sporting-goods stores that burn with a tall, long-lasting flame. However, these are not survival matches, despite the claims. Like all safety matches, their downfall is that they require the strip. Once that striking surface becomes torn or gummed up—which it will after even a few drops of rain—they’re essentially worthless.

Photo by Travis Rathbone

Strike (Almost) Anywhere By contrast, strike-anywhere matches combine all the combustible material within the head of the match. The moniker, though, is misleading—you can’t strike them on just any rough surface, and those offered today under the Diamond brand aren’t as easily sparked as matches sold by the same company a couple of decades ago. Nor can they begin to compare to the fire-sticks turned out through the 1980s by the now defunct Ohio Blue Tip Match Co. Theirs ignited if you so much as looked at them the wrong way. In the age of litigation, strike-­anywhere matches have become harder to find, especially in big cities. But they’re often sold in rural grocery and hardware stores and are easy to buy online.

In the interests of science (and because I’m a bit of a pyromaniac), I tested a number of different striking surfaces using a newly purchased box of strike-anywhere matches. The results, while heartening for a hypothermic hunter, weren’t entirely expected. For example, smooth hardwood was easier to strike against than rough bark. Technique was crucial. Some surfaces, such as the ribbed base of an antler, the buttons on my hunting pants, and the checkered bolt knob of my .350 magnum, needed a short jabbing stroke for ignition; whereas sandpaper and stone demanded a longer stroke. Flicking my thumbnail against the match head was most satisfying but also required a half-dozen tries. I had an easier time striking stones, smooth as well as rough, the gold nuggets on my wedding ring (which drew a furrowed brow from my wife), and against another match head. I also could spark fire using my pants—but only on the zipper. I had no luck at all scratching against the material, whether wool or denim.

Although today’s strike-anywhere matches may not be as flammable (and you probably won’t be able to pull a lighted one from your pocket), I still came away from the tests confident that I could find a surface in almost any environment to successfully spark fire. There remains a certain satisfaction in lighting a fire with a single match, well struck on the side of a cast-iron skillet or the bone handle of your belt knife. The flame it provides is just as hot as the one produced by a father’s bygone magic.

Comments (46)

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from mihunter wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

the strike anywhere matches are the only thing i use, and are the only kind of matches you will find at my hunting camp. dip them in some wax and you have waterproof strike anywhere matches.

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from WhitetailHunter706 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

i hav used strike anywhere matches all my life they are the only ones i use however recently i hav had alot of trouble finding them can anyone tell me where they are able to buy strike anywhere matches??? Thank you

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from jeffo52284 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I dont know where you are from whitetailhunter but here in Idaho you can find them at Cal Ranch or in the sporting goods section of a store like wal mart. If you dont have a Cal Ranch check at tractor supply or another ranch supply store. I use the wax dip trick as well, and it is also a good idea to carry some pencil shavings or something similar in your pack for kindling

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from mihunter wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

i find them at most ma and pop small town hardware stores...

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from bigjake wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Never was a fan of matches, always been a "souless" butane lighter guy.You hear lots of outdoor writers saying to pack flint and steel strikers and other sorts of fire starting gadgets, Why not just carry a few disposable Bick lighters instead?.I always have 3 of em on me or in my pack at anytime Im hunting or off the beaten path.I keep 2 in my pack, each one sealed in a ballon thats been tied off, the third lighter stays in a pouch around my neck.When an emergency situation arises why would you want to limit your self in the firemaking deptment? For roughly the same amount of space that 25 strike anywhere matches take up you can have a butane lighter that will provide 5000 flames over 25(at best ideal conditions) from the matches.
People worry that lighters will be empty when they need them,for an investment of $5 a year I replace my 3 lighters at the start of every season, this way I know that when I need them they will have a full charge and function properly.

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from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Sorry Sportsfans, matches belong in Camp!

I carry a small jar of Vaseline® Petroleum Jelly which is a mixture of mineral oils, paraffin and microcrystalline waxes. As some of you know Vaseline® has more uses that WD40. After cleaning the wound, use a small amount to coat the wound then cover the area. This keeps out and lets out the bad stuff also to keep the wound moist.

Vaseline® and magnesium stick is my primary fire starter rather than water proof matches. A 2x2 cotton patch saturated will burn 6 to 10 minutes.

In addition, extra batteries and ammo, GI compass and of course the Sharman’s!

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from BeardogRed wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I carry waterproofed matches both in and out of screw cap case, regular stick matches in case, a knife/shave striker magnesium starter, and finally a DJEEP lighter, when I can find one.
I know you can ask,"Why the redundancy"? I guess it is because I have gotten lost, in the past, in deep wilderness areas for long periods of time on three occasions. Although, not for 30 years now, but I still carry the full survival kit! I do go into the woods a lot by myself as not everyone can always have schedules that coincide.
Thanks for the article on the matches as they are lifesavers!

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from MT Flyfisher363 wrote 4 years 21 weeks ago

I carry waterproof matches in a small tin case that I "think" came from breathmints. The tin also has a small piece of striker I tore from a box of matches. I also carry a zip lock bag with newspaper taht has been generously rubbed with vasoline.....Tried lighting some in the sink and set off the smoke detector in the kitchen. So anybody that can't find strike anywhere matches let me know and I'll send you a box...cheers

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from pat-mc-hugh wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

The common perception for waterproofing common stick matches is to dip your “strike anywhere” match heads into wax as a preventative to water penetration. Though this may work it is very difficult to do successfully. First of all not many of us want to melt down a candle or a bar of wax for coating a few matches, secondly there is the chance that the wax may become too hot in its liquid stage and ignite the match. It also is extremely difficult to scrape away the wax in order to ignite the match in times of crisis.
The easier and more practical way to waterproof your “stick matches” is with an application of a heavy coating of clear nail polish over the match head and down the wood stick. Don’t forget to coat the bottom of the matchstick. Think of it as the same way you would waterproof your deck. Clear nail polish will seal the match head and coat the wood to prevent penetration of any moisture.

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from pat-mc-hugh wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

One of the critical elements to starting a fire in the wilderness is to get good tinder to ignite easily so you can build your fire on top of this initial ignition point. Most people rely on available pine needles, bird’s nest, dry grass, wood shavings, etc. as their primary source of tinder. Sometimes these critical elements are not readily available or in a crisis situation you don’t have time to look for them. Here is one you may not have thought of, Dryer Lint. It’s readily available, plentiful and the costs nothing. Considering that most of your clothes are polyester or cotton blends, the off flow lint is a good fire ignition source. You can get a large supply into a very small flat polyethylene bag or in a Skoal or mint tin. If you add a few strike-anywhere or waterproof matches you have a ready-made fire starting kit.

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from MLH wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

I must have checked every store in the area for strike anywhere matches. Finally found them at a hardware store. Came in a lot of three boxes - figure I now have enough to last for 20 years or so.

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from LarryPascoe wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

Another little known fact. If you only have safety matches available and your striker has been wet and ruined you can still light the match. Place a dollar bill tightly against your pant leg, push the match down hard against the bill and strok it fast.
The heat generated by the friction will light the match. If you have a very soft leg you may have to use another surface but, the system does work.

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from K.C. Hanson wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

I took a winter survival class my first year in college. I was just out of the Marine Corps and it sounded like an easy credit. What made it interesting, though, was the professor was a real fan of the scientific method, so what we spent most of our time doing was testing equipment. We took many, many varieties of fire starters and stoves and whatever, really, and submerged them in ice water (along with our hands -- they had to be freezing as well) for several minutes and then timed how long it took to get a flame, for instance, or the bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
I do not remember what stove won, but I do remember fire. Of the tests we did, which were extensive, the magnesium fire starter and knife won all but one. That one was won by a Bic lighter. The Bic took second place in all the rest of the trials. The secret was to run the striker down your pants rapidly a whole bunch of times before you tried to light it. The friction dries the flint.

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from Sourdough Dave wrote 4 years 17 weeks ago

The best match, yes. But, any match is not the best way to produce fire, Strike anywhere matches are in fact rather particular about where they are struck and when they blow out prior to igniting your tinder they do not re-light. Bic lighters or most butane lighters do not like cold. Magnesium firestarters have trouble getting a pile of magnesium flakes collected in a wind. If there is an ultimate fire starter my vote goes to the swedish fire steel and a petroleum jelly smeared cotton ball. But, with the single most critical survival necessity, fire, why rely on any one method. I carry in my pocket a match safe filled with strike anywhere matches and toothpick sized slivers of wood for tinder. I carry in my other pocket a zippo lighter. In my pack I carry a magnesium fire starter. And on a cord around my neck is a swedish fire steel, its striker, and a waterproof vile of petroleum jelly smeared cotton balls. All this comes from first hand experience from needing to make fire in adverse storm conditions in order to survive.

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from Egic Wet wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I have had problems with the strike anywhere match dipped in wax because the wax seems to soften the head over time, where clear fingernail polish does not. Nice to have but I'd rather carry a flint rod / swedish firesteel. Work with cold hands but be sure to practice, practice, practice so you can use them like an old friend.

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from Flintlock wrote 4 years 13 weeks ago

I keep a flint shard, steel striker, char cloth, and jute rope handy when I'm out. Its proven itself over the last couple hundred years and with a little practice you can have a fire in almost any condition in no time.

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from quinnm107 wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

I carry a Tom Brown Tracker, with Hedgehog Leather works sheath, fire starter (Ferro Rod), twin for tinder, and in my pack cotton balls with petroleum jelly.

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from crm3006 wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

I carry a waterproof match safe, filled with FRESH matches. Inside the cap is a piece of cut sand paper for a striker. Underneath the match safe is a glued on long flint. I also carry a vacuum sealed bag or two with fresh matches and some chunks (about 1" x 1") of commercial fire starter. For redundancy, I have a Brunton butane lighter that has a locking cover cap. (Hint- if the lighter will not light in a cabin, open windows. Fire and lanterns have depleted the oxygen in the room.) After reading Clay Cooper, I will probably add a magnesium gadget and some 2 x 2s soaked with Vaseline.
MLH- Don't take for granted that you have a supply of matches. Due to lowered standards of manufacturing, humidity, etc. I find that older matches fail to light after six months or so. Check before you go!

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from autoloader wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I always carry waterproofed strike anywhere matches. Dip them in wax about half way up the stick. The wax strips off as you strike it. I also carry a couple of Bic lighters, petroleum jelly infused cotton balls, a fire stick and dryer lint. This way I'm sure to have multiple ways to start a fire, and a couple of different types of tinder. Put everything in a plastic baggie, then put the baggie in an old medicine bottle.

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from backcountrybeagle wrote 4 years 7 weeks ago

I buy mine from ranger surplus

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from bigfootlover35 wrote 4 years 7 weeks ago

Very useful and informative article. I buy mine from online suppliers for cheap and get a large amount

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from bigfootlover35 wrote 4 years 7 weeks ago

Very useful and informative article. I buy mine from online suppliers for cheap and get a large amount

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from jscottevans wrote 4 years 5 weeks ago

I keep Strike-Anywhere matches in an old prescription pill bottle with a swatch of 60 grit newer synthetic sand paper cut just long enough to wrap around the inside one time. This works perfect for starting fires at camp every time. But my survival matches are the R.E.I. weatherproof matches. They are bigger and easier to handle if your hands are shaking, plus they are designed to burn slower and longer. I've practiced with them and they are head and shoulders above the strike anywhere, but they are too expensive for everyday use.

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from jscottevans wrote 4 years 5 weeks ago

I also have a Swiss style fire striker for back-up. And the Vaseline cotton balls are remarkable.

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from jscottevans wrote 4 years 5 weeks ago

Now I'm just posting for the points

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from jmeerpohl wrote 4 years 4 weeks ago

Dryer lint balled up and coated liberally with vasiline makes grea tinder. Light, can double as a swab to treat a cut, and will burn for several minutes. I also have used the REI Stormproof matches. I really like the idea of making the strike any where waterproof with my wifes clear nail polish. I use her remover to clean scope ring screws to make them remain tight in the application and then coatthe heads of screws with polish to keep them clean and tight on the go forward.

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from jasonmarinvet wrote 4 years 3 weeks ago

I learned that cotton balls dipped in paraffin wax/vasiline makes good tinder too. I kept some with me everywhere I went on patrol in the Marines. Just put 5-6 in a film case. It was lite, and waterproof. I also liked the Dryer lint style, as well as the steel wool style.

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from woodsmanj35 wrote 3 years 47 weeks ago

I dip the heads in candle wax and put them in a 16ga shot shell and then use a 12ga shot shell for a lid

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from tarditi wrote 3 years 44 weeks ago

REI has matches that are like the trick birthday candles - they must burn out, can't be extinguished.

I'm a HUGE fan of firesteels, though - ferrocium rods are great - some kits pair them up with a magnesium rod and/or a dedicated striker.

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from Redbone wrote 3 years 41 weeks ago

There what I carry. Along with flint and steel a bic lighter and some cotton balls soaked in oil.

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from grassbass11 wrote 3 years 40 weeks ago

Very usefull i used to care a mix of both types but after reading this im now careing just strike anyweres in my pack

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from troutslayer1983 wrote 3 years 40 weeks ago

I took an old Bag Balm can and in it I keep a piece of horsehair rope, some char cloth, a flint/steel striker, a few cotton balls, and a small jar of vaseline.But I keep a small vaccum packed bag of strike anywheres in my fishing and hunting vests.

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from dasmith wrote 3 years 39 weeks ago

Bought 3 boxes at a gunshow for $5.00 before the big survival prep. hit. I have found matches in paper covers help start fires if you light the whole package, even if its windy. Army surplus plastic match carriers work good and have a striker on the bottom & are waterproof. The metal carriers such as Boyscout type will destroy the matches after long storage. A small piece of candle works good to keep a flame while the fire gets started.

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from furbuster wrote 3 years 35 weeks ago

When I'm out Hunting I carry a survival knife with strike anywhere matches & striker in the handle that has a waterproof o-ring in it. Also carry toiletpaper in a zipp bag for multiple reasons. Usually a butane lighter also. I like the idea of carrying a candle, going to have to try that.

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from LostButMakingGo... wrote 3 years 33 weeks ago

One of the lessons that has been lost with the fading away of strike-anywhere matches, is what happens from time to time when you try the one-handed, light it with your thumbnail trick. The match WILL light, and so will the little glob of white phosphorus that gets stuck under your thumbnail. This is usually the last time you demonstrate this particular method.

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from timhansford wrote 3 years 27 weeks ago

These are the kind of articles that are a joy to read, real things that we would like to know about but wouldn't take the time to experiment with, thanks.

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from geoffbeneze wrote 3 years 24 weeks ago

Coming late to the conversation, most of the tips have been well covered.

However, aside from my pyromaniacal passion for flame I also believe in multiple redundancy overkill. (G)

In teaching our kids outdoors fieldcraft, we have accumulated goodies that we store in a 4x7" heavy duty ziplock bag. The bag fits easily in a pocket of your jacket or any small nook in your pack or bag. The "kit" contains the follow

1. Match Safe: paraffin coated Strike Anywhere matches.
2. butane lighter" clear housing, adjustable flame, no "child safeties."
3. 2x3.5" flat fresnel magnifier (one in wallet as well)
4. FireSteel w. magnesium rod & striker on lanyard
5. Spark-Lite "kit" w. "Quik-Tinder" starters (even the kids can handle these)
6. Vaseline impregnated cotton balls in pill bottle (8)

The kids (and I) have played/practiced with each tool, starting individual fires that were brought to "full burn". These training sessions took place here in the city, and at the ranch under a variety of conditions. We've even used the fire drill and fire bow.

While it's been mostly adventure play, I carry the "fire bag" while hunting, while hiking, in the truck when in the boonies, in short, everywhere but in the city.

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from hankster64 wrote 3 years 19 weeks ago

Besides bic lighters and matches, I carry a couple of candle stubs in my pack. Candles can provide light and are useful in starting a fire by holding it under the tinder. If you are in a wet situation some times a steady flame helps dry out a damp tinder. Of course wind is an enemy of a candle or any fire device. I have never had to use it, but I feel a candle is just another ace up my sleeve to play.

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from hankster64 wrote 3 years 19 weeks ago

Besides bic lighters and matches, I carry a couple of candle stubs in my pack. Candles can provide light and are useful in starting a fire by holding it under the tinder. If you are in a wet situation some times a steady flame helps dry out a damp tinder. Of course wind is an enemy of a candle or any fire device. I have never had to use it, but I feel a candle is just another ace up my sleeve to play.

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from coydogger wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

Candles are the ultimate. I am an oldtimer and they were the standard fire starter back in the day, they have never failed me. I carry 2 or 3 pieces of standard, not birthday candles, about 3" long, with exposed wick at both ends. I cut one in half, lay it on its side or prop it up, and place available kindling over it. It is easy to shield from the wind using a rock, log, your pack or hat. It will burn for a long time to get even wet material started. No container required, no mess, just stick em in your pack or pocket. The spare/s can be used for light or subsequent fires.

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from kamikaze45 wrote 3 years 8 weeks ago

the only problem with dryer lint as I see it is the smell of laundry detergent reeks in the woods ,If you are hunting.So I use some saw dust from my compound miter saw mixed with some preshaved magnesium scrapings and blended with vasaline...What a concoction....One spark and you can just about do a little welding while your waiting for your fire to gather steam as you build it for warmth,cooking or just that warm fuzzy feeling Men get huddled securely around a blazing fire

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from kamikaze45 wrote 3 years 8 weeks ago

Another one that I was taught in Boy Scouts was to roll up a length of approx 10-12 sheets of newspaper and tie it off with cotton or waxed string every 2" .Then cut between the strings and dip them in liquid parrafin {Readily available in arts and crafts stores} heated in a pot with water with an empty soup or bean can for the wax/parrafin. Set theses aside on the laid out section of remaining Newsprint and let cool 15 -20 minutes ...All one needs to do is light the end of the string which will have some wax on it and stand back they will burn for 10 to 15 mins. and even if you place damp kindling/tinder on or above it You will have a blazing fire in no time ...If it's really windy/cold use two or more ..I find that a dozen or so of these take up very little room in a backpack or one in each pocket in case you lose your pack falling in a river and become separated .The fact that they are soaked/impregnated with wax makes them totally waterproof...In 44 years they have never let me down.

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from kamikaze45 wrote 3 years 8 weeks ago

Oh yeah one other variation is to take the empty cardboard egg containers and partially fill them with sawdust and pour the remaining parrafin you have left and fill the individual cups with wax.Then just simply break them apart to use as needed,just light the edge of the cardboard roughly torn edge and voila...FIRE

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from jrok6661 wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

I like the strike anywhere matches. I have had a hard time finding them any more. Many matches are strike on the box, but not many are strike anywhere. I think it has to do with that they might light in your pocket.

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from ducks wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

you can also make them by dipping them in wax

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from Topher Vann wrote 36 weeks 3 days ago

I purchased some strike anywhere matches (diamond green) Strike anywhere is right. I wish they still made the "light" anywhere... There's hardly any chemicals on the matchsticks. Most will NOT light on my garage floor (simulated rock). I wanted to wrap some matchsticks with some toilet paper & dip in wax. (looked good on instenseangler) Just wished I could find some decent matches... Looks like the vaseline/cottonball sealed in a straw & a sparker are a better bet.

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from bigjake wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Never was a fan of matches, always been a "souless" butane lighter guy.You hear lots of outdoor writers saying to pack flint and steel strikers and other sorts of fire starting gadgets, Why not just carry a few disposable Bick lighters instead?.I always have 3 of em on me or in my pack at anytime Im hunting or off the beaten path.I keep 2 in my pack, each one sealed in a ballon thats been tied off, the third lighter stays in a pouch around my neck.When an emergency situation arises why would you want to limit your self in the firemaking deptment? For roughly the same amount of space that 25 strike anywhere matches take up you can have a butane lighter that will provide 5000 flames over 25(at best ideal conditions) from the matches.
People worry that lighters will be empty when they need them,for an investment of $5 a year I replace my 3 lighters at the start of every season, this way I know that when I need them they will have a full charge and function properly.

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from pat-mc-hugh wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

The common perception for waterproofing common stick matches is to dip your “strike anywhere” match heads into wax as a preventative to water penetration. Though this may work it is very difficult to do successfully. First of all not many of us want to melt down a candle or a bar of wax for coating a few matches, secondly there is the chance that the wax may become too hot in its liquid stage and ignite the match. It also is extremely difficult to scrape away the wax in order to ignite the match in times of crisis.
The easier and more practical way to waterproof your “stick matches” is with an application of a heavy coating of clear nail polish over the match head and down the wood stick. Don’t forget to coat the bottom of the matchstick. Think of it as the same way you would waterproof your deck. Clear nail polish will seal the match head and coat the wood to prevent penetration of any moisture.

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from mihunter wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

the strike anywhere matches are the only thing i use, and are the only kind of matches you will find at my hunting camp. dip them in some wax and you have waterproof strike anywhere matches.

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from WhitetailHunter706 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

i hav used strike anywhere matches all my life they are the only ones i use however recently i hav had alot of trouble finding them can anyone tell me where they are able to buy strike anywhere matches??? Thank you

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from BeardogRed wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I carry waterproofed matches both in and out of screw cap case, regular stick matches in case, a knife/shave striker magnesium starter, and finally a DJEEP lighter, when I can find one.
I know you can ask,"Why the redundancy"? I guess it is because I have gotten lost, in the past, in deep wilderness areas for long periods of time on three occasions. Although, not for 30 years now, but I still carry the full survival kit! I do go into the woods a lot by myself as not everyone can always have schedules that coincide.
Thanks for the article on the matches as they are lifesavers!

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from mihunter wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

i find them at most ma and pop small town hardware stores...

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from jeffo52284 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I dont know where you are from whitetailhunter but here in Idaho you can find them at Cal Ranch or in the sporting goods section of a store like wal mart. If you dont have a Cal Ranch check at tractor supply or another ranch supply store. I use the wax dip trick as well, and it is also a good idea to carry some pencil shavings or something similar in your pack for kindling

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from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Sorry Sportsfans, matches belong in Camp!

I carry a small jar of Vaseline® Petroleum Jelly which is a mixture of mineral oils, paraffin and microcrystalline waxes. As some of you know Vaseline® has more uses that WD40. After cleaning the wound, use a small amount to coat the wound then cover the area. This keeps out and lets out the bad stuff also to keep the wound moist.

Vaseline® and magnesium stick is my primary fire starter rather than water proof matches. A 2x2 cotton patch saturated will burn 6 to 10 minutes.

In addition, extra batteries and ammo, GI compass and of course the Sharman’s!

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from MT Flyfisher363 wrote 4 years 21 weeks ago

I carry waterproof matches in a small tin case that I "think" came from breathmints. The tin also has a small piece of striker I tore from a box of matches. I also carry a zip lock bag with newspaper taht has been generously rubbed with vasoline.....Tried lighting some in the sink and set off the smoke detector in the kitchen. So anybody that can't find strike anywhere matches let me know and I'll send you a box...cheers

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from pat-mc-hugh wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

One of the critical elements to starting a fire in the wilderness is to get good tinder to ignite easily so you can build your fire on top of this initial ignition point. Most people rely on available pine needles, bird’s nest, dry grass, wood shavings, etc. as their primary source of tinder. Sometimes these critical elements are not readily available or in a crisis situation you don’t have time to look for them. Here is one you may not have thought of, Dryer Lint. It’s readily available, plentiful and the costs nothing. Considering that most of your clothes are polyester or cotton blends, the off flow lint is a good fire ignition source. You can get a large supply into a very small flat polyethylene bag or in a Skoal or mint tin. If you add a few strike-anywhere or waterproof matches you have a ready-made fire starting kit.

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from MLH wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

I must have checked every store in the area for strike anywhere matches. Finally found them at a hardware store. Came in a lot of three boxes - figure I now have enough to last for 20 years or so.

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from K.C. Hanson wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

I took a winter survival class my first year in college. I was just out of the Marine Corps and it sounded like an easy credit. What made it interesting, though, was the professor was a real fan of the scientific method, so what we spent most of our time doing was testing equipment. We took many, many varieties of fire starters and stoves and whatever, really, and submerged them in ice water (along with our hands -- they had to be freezing as well) for several minutes and then timed how long it took to get a flame, for instance, or the bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
I do not remember what stove won, but I do remember fire. Of the tests we did, which were extensive, the magnesium fire starter and knife won all but one. That one was won by a Bic lighter. The Bic took second place in all the rest of the trials. The secret was to run the striker down your pants rapidly a whole bunch of times before you tried to light it. The friction dries the flint.

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from jscottevans wrote 4 years 5 weeks ago

I keep Strike-Anywhere matches in an old prescription pill bottle with a swatch of 60 grit newer synthetic sand paper cut just long enough to wrap around the inside one time. This works perfect for starting fires at camp every time. But my survival matches are the R.E.I. weatherproof matches. They are bigger and easier to handle if your hands are shaking, plus they are designed to burn slower and longer. I've practiced with them and they are head and shoulders above the strike anywhere, but they are too expensive for everyday use.

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from jscottevans wrote 4 years 5 weeks ago

I also have a Swiss style fire striker for back-up. And the Vaseline cotton balls are remarkable.

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from jscottevans wrote 4 years 5 weeks ago

Now I'm just posting for the points

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from jmeerpohl wrote 4 years 4 weeks ago

Dryer lint balled up and coated liberally with vasiline makes grea tinder. Light, can double as a swab to treat a cut, and will burn for several minutes. I also have used the REI Stormproof matches. I really like the idea of making the strike any where waterproof with my wifes clear nail polish. I use her remover to clean scope ring screws to make them remain tight in the application and then coatthe heads of screws with polish to keep them clean and tight on the go forward.

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from jasonmarinvet wrote 4 years 3 weeks ago

I learned that cotton balls dipped in paraffin wax/vasiline makes good tinder too. I kept some with me everywhere I went on patrol in the Marines. Just put 5-6 in a film case. It was lite, and waterproof. I also liked the Dryer lint style, as well as the steel wool style.

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from woodsmanj35 wrote 3 years 47 weeks ago

I dip the heads in candle wax and put them in a 16ga shot shell and then use a 12ga shot shell for a lid

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from geoffbeneze wrote 3 years 24 weeks ago

Coming late to the conversation, most of the tips have been well covered.

However, aside from my pyromaniacal passion for flame I also believe in multiple redundancy overkill. (G)

In teaching our kids outdoors fieldcraft, we have accumulated goodies that we store in a 4x7" heavy duty ziplock bag. The bag fits easily in a pocket of your jacket or any small nook in your pack or bag. The "kit" contains the follow

1. Match Safe: paraffin coated Strike Anywhere matches.
2. butane lighter" clear housing, adjustable flame, no "child safeties."
3. 2x3.5" flat fresnel magnifier (one in wallet as well)
4. FireSteel w. magnesium rod & striker on lanyard
5. Spark-Lite "kit" w. "Quik-Tinder" starters (even the kids can handle these)
6. Vaseline impregnated cotton balls in pill bottle (8)

The kids (and I) have played/practiced with each tool, starting individual fires that were brought to "full burn". These training sessions took place here in the city, and at the ranch under a variety of conditions. We've even used the fire drill and fire bow.

While it's been mostly adventure play, I carry the "fire bag" while hunting, while hiking, in the truck when in the boonies, in short, everywhere but in the city.

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from LarryPascoe wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

Another little known fact. If you only have safety matches available and your striker has been wet and ruined you can still light the match. Place a dollar bill tightly against your pant leg, push the match down hard against the bill and strok it fast.
The heat generated by the friction will light the match. If you have a very soft leg you may have to use another surface but, the system does work.

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from Sourdough Dave wrote 4 years 17 weeks ago

The best match, yes. But, any match is not the best way to produce fire, Strike anywhere matches are in fact rather particular about where they are struck and when they blow out prior to igniting your tinder they do not re-light. Bic lighters or most butane lighters do not like cold. Magnesium firestarters have trouble getting a pile of magnesium flakes collected in a wind. If there is an ultimate fire starter my vote goes to the swedish fire steel and a petroleum jelly smeared cotton ball. But, with the single most critical survival necessity, fire, why rely on any one method. I carry in my pocket a match safe filled with strike anywhere matches and toothpick sized slivers of wood for tinder. I carry in my other pocket a zippo lighter. In my pack I carry a magnesium fire starter. And on a cord around my neck is a swedish fire steel, its striker, and a waterproof vile of petroleum jelly smeared cotton balls. All this comes from first hand experience from needing to make fire in adverse storm conditions in order to survive.

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from Flintlock wrote 4 years 13 weeks ago

I keep a flint shard, steel striker, char cloth, and jute rope handy when I'm out. Its proven itself over the last couple hundred years and with a little practice you can have a fire in almost any condition in no time.

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from quinnm107 wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

I carry a Tom Brown Tracker, with Hedgehog Leather works sheath, fire starter (Ferro Rod), twin for tinder, and in my pack cotton balls with petroleum jelly.

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from crm3006 wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

I carry a waterproof match safe, filled with FRESH matches. Inside the cap is a piece of cut sand paper for a striker. Underneath the match safe is a glued on long flint. I also carry a vacuum sealed bag or two with fresh matches and some chunks (about 1" x 1") of commercial fire starter. For redundancy, I have a Brunton butane lighter that has a locking cover cap. (Hint- if the lighter will not light in a cabin, open windows. Fire and lanterns have depleted the oxygen in the room.) After reading Clay Cooper, I will probably add a magnesium gadget and some 2 x 2s soaked with Vaseline.
MLH- Don't take for granted that you have a supply of matches. Due to lowered standards of manufacturing, humidity, etc. I find that older matches fail to light after six months or so. Check before you go!

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from autoloader wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I always carry waterproofed strike anywhere matches. Dip them in wax about half way up the stick. The wax strips off as you strike it. I also carry a couple of Bic lighters, petroleum jelly infused cotton balls, a fire stick and dryer lint. This way I'm sure to have multiple ways to start a fire, and a couple of different types of tinder. Put everything in a plastic baggie, then put the baggie in an old medicine bottle.

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from backcountrybeagle wrote 4 years 7 weeks ago

I buy mine from ranger surplus

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from bigfootlover35 wrote 4 years 7 weeks ago

Very useful and informative article. I buy mine from online suppliers for cheap and get a large amount

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from bigfootlover35 wrote 4 years 7 weeks ago

Very useful and informative article. I buy mine from online suppliers for cheap and get a large amount

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from tarditi wrote 3 years 44 weeks ago

REI has matches that are like the trick birthday candles - they must burn out, can't be extinguished.

I'm a HUGE fan of firesteels, though - ferrocium rods are great - some kits pair them up with a magnesium rod and/or a dedicated striker.

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from Redbone wrote 3 years 41 weeks ago

There what I carry. Along with flint and steel a bic lighter and some cotton balls soaked in oil.

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from grassbass11 wrote 3 years 40 weeks ago

Very usefull i used to care a mix of both types but after reading this im now careing just strike anyweres in my pack

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from troutslayer1983 wrote 3 years 40 weeks ago

I took an old Bag Balm can and in it I keep a piece of horsehair rope, some char cloth, a flint/steel striker, a few cotton balls, and a small jar of vaseline.But I keep a small vaccum packed bag of strike anywheres in my fishing and hunting vests.

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from dasmith wrote 3 years 39 weeks ago

Bought 3 boxes at a gunshow for $5.00 before the big survival prep. hit. I have found matches in paper covers help start fires if you light the whole package, even if its windy. Army surplus plastic match carriers work good and have a striker on the bottom & are waterproof. The metal carriers such as Boyscout type will destroy the matches after long storage. A small piece of candle works good to keep a flame while the fire gets started.

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from furbuster wrote 3 years 35 weeks ago

When I'm out Hunting I carry a survival knife with strike anywhere matches & striker in the handle that has a waterproof o-ring in it. Also carry toiletpaper in a zipp bag for multiple reasons. Usually a butane lighter also. I like the idea of carrying a candle, going to have to try that.

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from LostButMakingGo... wrote 3 years 33 weeks ago

One of the lessons that has been lost with the fading away of strike-anywhere matches, is what happens from time to time when you try the one-handed, light it with your thumbnail trick. The match WILL light, and so will the little glob of white phosphorus that gets stuck under your thumbnail. This is usually the last time you demonstrate this particular method.

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from timhansford wrote 3 years 27 weeks ago

These are the kind of articles that are a joy to read, real things that we would like to know about but wouldn't take the time to experiment with, thanks.

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from hankster64 wrote 3 years 19 weeks ago

Besides bic lighters and matches, I carry a couple of candle stubs in my pack. Candles can provide light and are useful in starting a fire by holding it under the tinder. If you are in a wet situation some times a steady flame helps dry out a damp tinder. Of course wind is an enemy of a candle or any fire device. I have never had to use it, but I feel a candle is just another ace up my sleeve to play.

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from hankster64 wrote 3 years 19 weeks ago

Besides bic lighters and matches, I carry a couple of candle stubs in my pack. Candles can provide light and are useful in starting a fire by holding it under the tinder. If you are in a wet situation some times a steady flame helps dry out a damp tinder. Of course wind is an enemy of a candle or any fire device. I have never had to use it, but I feel a candle is just another ace up my sleeve to play.

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from coydogger wrote 3 years 13 weeks ago

Candles are the ultimate. I am an oldtimer and they were the standard fire starter back in the day, they have never failed me. I carry 2 or 3 pieces of standard, not birthday candles, about 3" long, with exposed wick at both ends. I cut one in half, lay it on its side or prop it up, and place available kindling over it. It is easy to shield from the wind using a rock, log, your pack or hat. It will burn for a long time to get even wet material started. No container required, no mess, just stick em in your pack or pocket. The spare/s can be used for light or subsequent fires.

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from kamikaze45 wrote 3 years 8 weeks ago

the only problem with dryer lint as I see it is the smell of laundry detergent reeks in the woods ,If you are hunting.So I use some saw dust from my compound miter saw mixed with some preshaved magnesium scrapings and blended with vasaline...What a concoction....One spark and you can just about do a little welding while your waiting for your fire to gather steam as you build it for warmth,cooking or just that warm fuzzy feeling Men get huddled securely around a blazing fire

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from kamikaze45 wrote 3 years 8 weeks ago

Another one that I was taught in Boy Scouts was to roll up a length of approx 10-12 sheets of newspaper and tie it off with cotton or waxed string every 2" .Then cut between the strings and dip them in liquid parrafin {Readily available in arts and crafts stores} heated in a pot with water with an empty soup or bean can for the wax/parrafin. Set theses aside on the laid out section of remaining Newsprint and let cool 15 -20 minutes ...All one needs to do is light the end of the string which will have some wax on it and stand back they will burn for 10 to 15 mins. and even if you place damp kindling/tinder on or above it You will have a blazing fire in no time ...If it's really windy/cold use two or more ..I find that a dozen or so of these take up very little room in a backpack or one in each pocket in case you lose your pack falling in a river and become separated .The fact that they are soaked/impregnated with wax makes them totally waterproof...In 44 years they have never let me down.

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from kamikaze45 wrote 3 years 8 weeks ago

Oh yeah one other variation is to take the empty cardboard egg containers and partially fill them with sawdust and pour the remaining parrafin you have left and fill the individual cups with wax.Then just simply break them apart to use as needed,just light the edge of the cardboard roughly torn edge and voila...FIRE

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from jrok6661 wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

I like the strike anywhere matches. I have had a hard time finding them any more. Many matches are strike on the box, but not many are strike anywhere. I think it has to do with that they might light in your pocket.

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from ducks wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

you can also make them by dipping them in wax

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from Topher Vann wrote 36 weeks 3 days ago

I purchased some strike anywhere matches (diamond green) Strike anywhere is right. I wish they still made the "light" anywhere... There's hardly any chemicals on the matchsticks. Most will NOT light on my garage floor (simulated rock). I wanted to wrap some matchsticks with some toilet paper & dip in wax. (looked good on instenseangler) Just wished I could find some decent matches... Looks like the vaseline/cottonball sealed in a straw & a sparker are a better bet.

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from Egic Wet wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I have had problems with the strike anywhere match dipped in wax because the wax seems to soften the head over time, where clear fingernail polish does not. Nice to have but I'd rather carry a flint rod / swedish firesteel. Work with cold hands but be sure to practice, practice, practice so you can use them like an old friend.

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