Best Survival Matches [Hands-On]

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By Bryan Lynch •  24 min read

The ability to make fire on command is one of mankind’s oldest and most important skills. It literally lit the way for us to progress as human beings. By looking at the rules of three for survival, you get a glimpse as to the importance of what fire can do for us.

Best Survival Matches in the market
  1. Three hours without shelter. This is really referring to three hours of maintaining your core body temperature. Obviously, fire can help in warming you up in cold conditions.
  2. Three days without water. When drinking water from unknown sources, it is always best to filter and purify it before consumption. By using fire, water can be boiled which will greatly reduce your risk of becoming ill.
  3. Three weeks without food. The ability to cook food will again reduce the risk of becoming ill from any pathogens that are present. Cooked foods are also easier for the body to process, reducing the amount of energy used.

Given the importance of having fire in a survival situation, I have always carried multiple items with me in which to get a fire going. Personally I have a three-tiered system and matches fall into the middle category. They are one of the cheapest, fastest and easiest ways to get a flame. Matches in of themselves are quite simple but there have been modern innovations that have made them more effective, especially for outdoor use.

When selecting survival matches there are several factors that must be taken into consideration before clicking ‘add to cart’. At a quick glance, here are our top picks:

  • Easy to light.
  • Longer match body is easier to light even when wearing gloves.
  • Long burn time.
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No products found.
  • Can be picked up at most retail stores.
  • Can be used for light duty purposes.
  • Can be used indoor.
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  • Strike anywhere.
  • Affordable.
  • Compact size.
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What To Look For In Matches?

Paper matches/book matches

Paper matches are the smallest and the cheapest in terms of cost. They come in a booklet and the match body is made from paperboard. Because of the paperboard they are extremely vulnerable to moisture and are very flimsy to use. I would pass on these as survival matches.

Penny matches

These measure in at a little over one inch long. They come in a compact box that fits nicely in a pocket or pack. The body of the match is made from wood which can be used as additional tinder. With a low burn time coupled with a small wood body that tends to snap during striking, I wouldn’t consider these a good choice for survival uses.

Standard kitchen matches

These are basically the same as penny matches only longer, measuring in at a little over two inches. I carried these around for years in my pack or vehicle but again they have a low burn time and are susceptible to the elements  

Survival matches

Most matches that are labeled as survival matches measure in at four inches or longer. They are also advertised with some attributing quality such as being waterproof or stormproof. Survival matches tend to have a much longer burn time and when lit, almost look like small flares.

Long matches

The head on long matches resemble kitchen matches with the noticeable difference of the wood body being much longer. They can vary in size and thickness but the ones I had lying around the house measure in at eleven inches.

These are typically used for lighting stoves, fireplaces, grills and the like. I have never carried these on me and don’t really consider them when preparing for survival purposes.


There are basically two different kinds of wood matches. Ones that require a specific striking surface, like that found on the side of their box. These are referred to as safety matches. The other kind are strike anywhere matches. Strike anywhere matches have all of the components necessary for ignition located in the head of the match. This allows them to be ignited by using other surfaces for striking. This can be a great option if the provided striker surface has become unusable. However it is important to note that not every surface will ignite these. I have used strike anywhere matches a ton and have found many surfaces that will work. This includes the “thumbnail” trick, though this takes a bit of practice.

Burn time

Burn time is an important consideration, especially in a survival situation where supplies are limited. The longer the burn time the more likely it will be that you can get a fire going. There are many different brands out and depending on the design of the match, this can vary quite a bit.

Wet and cold

How the environment will affect the match, its performance and how the individual can use the match is something else that should be considered. Let’s take old fashioned paper matches for example. They are unusable when wet, they are not very wind resistant, and because of their small size I find them extremely difficult to use while wearing gloves or if my hands are cold.

Pros and Cons of Matches



Best Survival Matches: My Top 6 Picks

With all of that in mind, here is our list of the best survival matches to use in a survival situation. They are listed in no particular order.

1. Our Choice – UCO Stormproof Matches Review

UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case, 25 Stormproof Matches and 3...

I was introduced to these stormproof matches years ago and they have been my go-to match ever since. They are a wood match but with notable features. A longer wood body provides for more burn time as well as extra safety by keeping your fingers away from the flame. The matches come wrapped in plastic inside a cardboard box with a striker on the side. Additional strikers are included. Most notable about these is that they are completely stormproof. Once ignited, they will keep burning no matter the windspeed or how much it is raining. They will even burn underwater!



UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case, 25 Stormproof Matches and 3...
  • Includes 25 windproof and waterproof matches, 3 strikers and match case that can hold up to 40...
  • Matches are easy to light, will burn up to 15 seconds each and will relight after being submerged in...

Last update on 2024-06-18 at 22:33 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2. Best Budget Survival Matches – No products found. Review

No products found.

Right off the bat, these are not specifically advertised for survival use. But because they are strike anywhere matches and incredibly cheap vs the amount you get, I have carried these around in packs for years. They are an average sized wood match with a striking head. One problem I have run into with these is that not all of the match heads are equally coated. In fact, some of them don’t have a match head at all. The matches that are not properly coated are still perfectly usable against the striking surface of the box but they don’t fall into the category of strike anywhere.



3. Ultra Compact – UCO Strike Anywhere Matches Review

UCO Strike Anywhere Matches Review

These strike anywhere penny matches are different from the Diamond brand listed above as they come in a more compact, pocket sized box. Featuring a wood body these matches are advertised to be able to be struck on different surfaces other than the match box. Roughly 32 matches per box.



UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case, 25 Stormproof Matches and 3...
  • Includes 25 windproof and waterproof matches, 3 strikers and match case that can hold up to 40...
  • Matches are easy to light, will burn up to 15 seconds each and will relight after being submerged in...

Last update on 2024-06-18 at 18:52 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4. Runner Up – Zippo Typhoon Matches Review

Zippo Typhoon Matches and Match Kit

Features a larger, bolder design than most matches. These matches can stand up to almost anything that is thrown at them. Once lit they are windproof, and water won’t even put them out. With an extended overall length of four inches this match provides for a longer burn time of almost thirty seconds.



Last update on 2024-06-18 at 22:33 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

5. Good Choice – No products found. Review

No products found.

Coming in at 4.125 inches long, a Titan match certainly stands up its name. Probably one of the largest survival matches available, these matches are not only wind and water proof but boast a long twenty-five second burn time.



6. Good for Camping – UCO Long-Burn Matches

I know at the beginning of the article I said that I didn’t really consider the longer matches for survival prep. But I can see these being carried by many outdoorspeople as they are not as long as regular fireplace matches. I wanted to add them to the list because in my opinion UCO makes a darn good match. These matches measure in at 3.75 inches and are advertised as having a sixty second burn time. That being attributed to the burning of the entire length of the wood body and not the match head. Although this burn time doesn’t seem to be equal among users.



How To Make Survival Matches

Seeing that fire is one of the end all be all skills to know in the outdoors and survival situations, having the means to create it is paramount. 

The matches listed in the above article are great products. However, some gear might not always be within a person’s budget and then there are times when products are back-ordered or unavailable. 

In either case, matches are one of the top items a person should have in their gear and thankfully, there are several ways that survival matches can be made at home

The best part of this project is the materials that are used are common and can be picked up at most grocery or hardware stores. Heck, you may even already have the materials in your home. 

After reading through the following projects, you may notice I left one waterproofing method out that has been around for quite a while. And that is to cover a match with clear nail polish.

Using clear nail polish does develop a waterproof layer over the match but I have had mixed results especially if the match is unused for some time. After a while, the nail polish dries out and becomes hard and brittle. When this happens, the coating will flake off and become less effective. 

With all that in mind, let’s get right into it so you can start making your very own survival matches! 

Making Survival Matches

There are two main characteristics of survival matches that make them what they are. They are resistant to the elements, meaning they are water or windproof, they provide a longer burn time or a combination of the two. 

For reference, a regular kitchen match has a burn time of around fifteen seconds with stormproof matches being about the same. The difference with stormproof matches is that they are wind and waterproof, are difficult to extinguish, and produce a larger flame.  

Cardboard Match  

Burn time: 1 minute 

What you will need:

This is a very basic survival match to make that uses cardboard as a tinder to help prolong the initial burn time of a match. 

Take a piece of corrugated cardboard and cut it into strips that are roughly the size of the kitchen match. 

Next, insert the match into the middle of the cardboard so that the match is sandwiched in between two layers of cardboard.

When you are ready to start a fire, light the match and hold it at a slight downward angle to help ignite the cardboard. Then place the entire cardboard match in or next to a tinder bundle. 


This match is super cheap to make and performs well. The addition of a two to a three-inch piece of cardboard allows the match to burn four times longer. 

Duct Tape Match  

Burn time: 2 ½ minutes 

What you will need:

Duct tape is not highly flammable in that if it is exposed to a spark it will not burst into flames. But when exposed to a flame, it will catch and burn slowly which makes it good to use as a fire tinder. 

Place a match on a table to be used as a measuring device against the duct tape. 

Next, use the scissors to cut strips of duct tape that will be wrapped mainly around the wood portion of the match. 

I like to cover the bottom half of the match head with duct tape because the initial flare-up after striking will help to ignite the tape.


When you are ready to light this match, it helps to pull the tape away from the match head. This exposes more surface area and the tape is less likely to suffocate the flame before the tape ignites. 

After lighting, keep the match angled slightly downward to keep the tape burning. 

Wax Match  

Burn time: 5 ½ minutes 

What you will need:

The first step is to layout some matches on a plate. I recommend only doing a few at a time because wax can cool quickly, and you will want to make sure each match is properly coated. 

The second step is to place a bit of wax into a container that can be heated. 

Paraffin wax is flammable so I like to melt the wax using a double boiler method. This means I will place wax shavings into a small glass jar which I will then place into a small pot of boiling water. 

This can be done on a stove or camp stove. It can also be done over an open fire like a campfire but I would recommend only doing so over hot embers and not a flame source that cannot be controlled. Remember, the wax is flammable! 

From here, there are two ways to make a waterproof match. The first option is the simplest, but option number two is much more effective.  

Option #1

Simply dip the match head into the melted wax and allow it to cool and harden. This coating will waterproof the striking head and can be peeled off later before using the match.

The match can be dipped into the melted wax several times depending on how thick of wax layer is desired on the match. 

Option #2

The second option is to cover the entire match with wax. This not only waterproofs the entire match but will provide a much longer burn time. 

Once the wax is melted, slowly pour it over the entire match.

Use the tweezers to slide the matches away from the main pool of melted wax and allow them to cool and harden. This should only take a few minutes. 

If the container that the wax is being melted in is larger enough the entire match can be dipped directly into the melt. This can be easier and does not make as much of a mess. 

After cooling, inspect the match to ensure the whole thing is covered in wax. If some spots were missed simply repeat the above process.


When you are ready to light a fire, scrape the wax away from the head of the match and strike it. The wax will begin to melt and burn which will result in a larger flame and a longer burn time. 

Once the wax begins to burn, the match can be placed into a tinder bundle. Additionally, it helps if the melted wax can be contained in a small pool. As long as the wax stays hot and melted, the burned wood match will act as a wick and continue to burn for some time. 

Lastly, I like to store these matches in a hard container to help protect the wax from being knocked off. Two containers that work well are an Altoids tin or an empty pill bottle. 

Match bundle 

Burn time: 3 minutes 

What you will need:

This method is pretty straight forward and takes very little time to complete. 

Several matches will be bundled together that when lit will provide a larger flame and longer burn time. 

You can use as many matches as you want in the bundle but if you use too many it becomes a bit of a waste. I have found using five to ten matches works well. For my test, I used six matches. 

Take all the matches and hold them together.

Next, wrap duct tape around the wood section of the match to secure them all into a bundle. I recommend using duct tape because it acts as a source of tinder that will burn.


After igniting the match, slightly angle the bundle downwards to catch the tape on fire. 

This is basically a larger version of the previous duct tape match method, but it does provide a slightly longer burn time of three minutes. 

Large Stormproof Match and the Super Match 

The last two survival matches I wanted to try out I thought were quite interesting and they are from two different YouTube channels.  

The first project is DIY Stormproof Matches- “Tip Of The Week” from the channel IntenseAngler.

The second project is Survival Hack: How to Make the Super Match from the channel The Gray Bearded Green Beret.

Homemade Stormproof Match 

Burn time: 10 seconds (based on video)

What you will need:

I saw this video years ago on how to make stormproof matches and thought I would give it try. 

This method creates a match that closely resembles a stormproof match but only in size. 

The first step is to use a knife to carve a stick or piece of fatwood down into the size of a large matchstick. 

The second step is to take your kitchen match and knife and scrape all the matches off and into a bowl. 

The third step is to use a pestle to grind the contents of the bowl into a powder. 

The fourth step is to add just enough water into the bowl so that the powder has the consistency of a thick paste. Stir the powder as you add the water in so as not to oversaturate it. 

Lastly, dip the homemade matchstick into the paste and cover one end of the stick with as much paste as possible. The match now needs to be set off to the side and allowed to completely dry for about 24-48 hours. 


I attempted to make this match but did not have the best of luck. 

The video suggested using between fifteen to twenty match heads but that did not prove to be enough, so I doubled it to forty match heads and that still did not seem like enough. After watching the video again, it appeared that he used a lot more than fifteen matches. 

I went ahead and ground the forty match heads into a powder, added a little bit of water, and mixed. After applying what I could to several bare wooden match sticks, I was left with an unimpressive glob that did not want to stick together well. I ended up not testing this match because it was just not working for me. 

I could very well have done something wrong so if you are interested in this match, I encourage you to check out the video to try it for yourself as I think it is an interesting DIY project. Hopefully, you will have better luck than I did. 

Super Match 

Burn time: 8 minutes 10 seconds

What you will need:

The super match is going to take the most materials and time to make but believe me when I say the result is more than worth it!

Now, the Gray Bearded Green Beret uses Titan matches because at the time of his video those were the largest ones on the market. Zippo has since come out with the typhoon match which I believe is larger. 

For this article and the provided pictures, I will be swapping out the Titan matches for regular stormproof matches because I did not have any Titan matches on hand but had a lot of stormproof matches. 

The first thing I did was to start my heat source and get the water boiling. There only needs to be a few inches of water in the pot. 

Next, I filled a small glass jar with wax shavings. Shavings will melt quicker than a hunk of wax put into the jar. 

While the wax is melting you can move on to preparing the matches. 

Lay two cotton squares out and place four matches onto the cotton and wrap the cotton around the matches. 

The next step is creating what the Gray Bearded Green Beret says is a buddy tab. Using some masking tape, wrap a length around the top of the matches, leaving a tab that is folded back on itself. Then use a little more tape to cover the top of the match heads. This protects the striking surface of the match head from being covered in wax.

I did not plan well for this project because I did not have any masking tape. Instead, I decided to use electrical tape which I do not recommend. The tape still worked but it was more difficult to remove when I was ready to use the match. 

Once the wax is melted, dip one end of the matches into liquid and hold it for five to ten seconds. This gives the cotton enough time to become saturated with wax. Repeat this step for the opposite end of the matches. 

After the matches are covered in wax, lay it on a piece of plastic wrap and roll it all up. Allow it time to cool and harden. Wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have any plastic wrap either, so I used a plastic shopping bag which worked just fine.  

Once the wax has cooled and hardened, the super match can be used! If you want, you can allow the match to cool overnight. However, I made this match outside on a cool day so after about twenty minutes it was good to go.  

Pull the buddy tab away from the match head and ignite it on a striker surface.


As I stated at the beginning of this project, I swapped out the Titan Matches for UCO Stormproof Matches which did not make this match as super as it could be.

However, it still had an impressive burn time. 

After tearing off the buddy tab, I ignited the match and placed it in an aluminum pan. It burned for a little over eight minutes! 

As mentioned in the wax match project, the burn time will be prolonged if the melted wax can be somehow contained.  

Wrap Up 

While all the methods listed above make decent survival matches, the wax match is going to provide the most bang for the buck. The reason for this is twofold.

First, most people already have matches in their home and paraffin wax is cheap. Secondly, the process not only creates a completely waterproof match but creates a burn time of several minutes. 

But if you are looking for a match that acts more like a flare, I definitely recommend the super match!

However, no matter which option you choose almost all the above projects will produce a match that is superior to a plain old kitchen match and is better suited for several situations.  

Thanks for reading and stay prepared!

Have you ever made outdoor or survival matches like those listed above? If so, sound off in the comment section below and let us know about it! 

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.