How Do Waterproof Matches Work?

Waterproof matches are a must for any camping trip or outdoor adventure where you could need to start a fire. When you’re out in the wilderness, you’re completely vulnerable to a ton of things – hypothermia, starvation, even being attacked by wild animals. We’re not saying that that’s what will happen in camping. However, it’s always great to stay prepared.

You can take the easy way out and settle on a regular packet of matches for your fun-filled journey exploring the woods. Or, you could make the smarter choice by getting waterproof matches. These versions can withstand being underwater, snow, high winds, and downpours. Since mother nature is somewhat unpredictable, it’s always great to take extra precautions.

Waterproof matches give you an edge outdoors over traditional matches

What are Waterproof Matches Made Of?

Regular matches are made of a thin, stout stick of wood with a white phosphorus head (occasionally, it may also be phosphorus sesquisulfide paired up with a binding agent). When the head is struck with enough friction, the phosphorus causes it to spark and makes the entire matchstick light up. Few matches need just this, but the more common matches nowadays – safety matches – need a particular red phosphorus surface to create said spark.

To make waterproof resilient to, well, water, the matches are lightly coated in a layer of wax. This protects the wood underneath. When the match is lit, the wood starts to burn and the wax exterior starts to melt away. Even if the flame exhausts for some reason, the matchstick stays smoldering under the coat. The wax coating, which isn’t in contact with the heat source anymore, will stop melting.

Once the situation is better, adequate oxygen will light up the matchstick once more. If you check out videos on the internet, you might think this is some fancy magic trick, but in reality, it’s just science.
As long as there is the protective coating of wax, the match will keep on burning, no matter how many times it goes out. This ensures that you’ll be able to light a fire whenever and wherever you want to, and that means that it doesn’t need to be in the best weather conditions.

What happens when you submerge a waterproof match underwater?

Waterproof matches will reignite in many circumstances, like a complete dunk in water, burial in sand, dirt, or snow. This means that even if you mistakenly drop the matchbox in water, it can be salvaged and used to ignite a fire just like it would have if it had been dry.

Alongside that, the matches are generally sand- and dirt-proof. This is the best for camping trips as you run the risk of ruining your box during hiking or exploration – when those are the last things on your mind, so they somehow drop out. Plus, being able to build a fire is the first thing you need to know when you want to camp. With these matches, you can be sure that you’ll be covered.

Another impressive fact is that if you managed to drop your lit matches in the snow, or even submerged it, it will reignite. Camping in snowy areas is fun but equally risky, so fires play a big role in keeping you warm and cozy – mainly protecting you from the life-threatening cold. Make sure that you’re never caught in the snow without waterproof matches.

Are Waterproof Matches Weatherproof?

This is definitely the best feature of waterproof matches. No matter where you’re headed to and what you’re going through – storms, rain, or snow – the last thing you need to be worried about is sparking a fire when you reach your destination.

Alternatives like torches, regular matches, butane lighters, flint, and steel will be ineffective during heavy winds, rain, or a raging storm. Waterproof matches will give you a fire in the most violent weather conditions, making sure that your camping experience isn’t scarred.

How are waterproof matches windproof?

Even if you’re under cover or have some sort of protection, powerful gusts of winds have the ability to render your regular matchsticks useless. Waterproof matches can restart the flame even if the wind kills it.
While the traditional tools don’t hold up well against wind, waterproof matches are guarded by their coating, and that makes them much more resilient to the weather and more reliable.

On occasions, you’ll find yourself camping in a really windy valley where you would almost want to celebrate if you somehow managed to ignite a fire. The moment the strong blows of wind take it out, the camping experience is likely to be ruined. Under these circumstances, it’s rather safe to say that camping matches are important.

Why Carry Waterproof matches on Camping Trips

If you’re an experienced camper, you know how the remote wilderness calls for the ability to make a flame every time you pay it a visit. It’s a wise decision to bring along multiple methods of igniting a fire on every camping trip. Even if you’re on the amateur camper side, you should know that a fire is one of the most important things that you can concern yourself with while you’re discovering nature.

Regular matches are harder to light, exhaust quicker, and are very weak to rain, wind, snow, or water. If you drop the match in some dirt, it’ll lose functionality and become useless.

Infamously fickle, butane lighters won’t light if it gets too windy. If they drop into water, they need to be dried out quickly, or their lighting capabilities are as good as gone. On top of that, it can be hard to operate this tool with gloves on or if your hands are frozen in a chilly climate.
Stone and flint are the old-school camper’s choice – for those who want the security that they’ll be able to spark a flame. However, if it’s snowing or raining, the sparks might not last long enough for you to start a full-fledged fire.

Waterproof matches are the safest and the most foolproof way to make a fire. Some waterproof matches have shown to remain lit for up to 45 seconds post friction, which means that you’ll have an adequate amount of time to build an actual flame. They’re significantly easier to light even if the conditions are not ideal.

As a camper, your motive is to enjoy your time away from the chaos of the cities and take in nature. You shouldn’t be stressing about protecting a box of matches by wrapping them in plastic. Smart campers have made the switch as they’re obviously the better way to go.


Fires help keep away insects and cook food – not to mention the cozy hands of warmth that wraps around us. Waterproof matches are undoubtedly one of the better ways to start a fire even in some rather violent conditions. Drowned, dirty, or soaked in water, these matches are super heavy-duty and will take care of you while you’re busy making the most out of your camping trip. Start fires on a windy valley, between snowy mountains, or bunched up under a shade away from the pouring shower with these camping matches.

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Daniel has experience camping across California in a variety of environments and parks. His interests in technology lead him to focus on writing about camping innovations.

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