Winter Survival: Fire Starting, Part II

Winter Survival: Fire Starting, Part II

We have Ignition!

Fire with Steve Dundas

To continue from my post last week, (Read Part I here.) in the 44 years I’ve been associated with survival training and instructing, I have tested and used dozens of ignitors. Within the low tech category, none have surpassed one particular brand of storm proof matches.

I Recommend…

Of all the ignitors I’ve used, I have found UCO Stormproof Matches to be the best so far. They were specifically designed with survival in mind. If you have bought REI Stormproof Matches, they were actually produced and marketed by UCO (Utility, Comfort, Originality). It’s an outdoor equipment company in Seattle that developed the specialized matches. The REI brand name has been replaced with “UCO” so look for that when searching on line or at stores.

UCO matches are normally sold in single boxes, pairs of boxes, and screw top plastic containers. I found a couple listings on line for bags of 10 or more boxes if wanting to buy in bulk. Purchase prices vary considerably at store and online outlets so shop around. Each box contains 25 matches wrapped in an unsealed plastic pouch. Boxes have two outer striker pads with two more pads sealed in a plastic bag. Plastic containers, called “match kits,” also contain 25 matches, have an outer striker pad and two additional sealed striker pads inside. Empty match kits can be purchased separately. Wet striker pads don’t work well so if an outer box or match kit gets wet or muddy, you have a backup plan with the sealed strikers.

Each match is about 3 inches long with 1 ½ inches of combustible material that burns up to 15 seconds. They burn with a robust intensity and individual flames often “shoot out” from the match stick. That’s normal. Matches are waterproof coated and windproof. If you transfer boxed matches to a plastic container, put the sealed striker pads inside and a cotton ball over the match heads to prevent accidental ignition. They are not “strike anywhere” matches but it’s still a good safety precaution. Never store exposed striker pads with unprotected matches.

Best Practice

When striking, hold the match at the center or slightly toward the head to avoid breaking the wood shaft. After striking, the match will not go out in wind or rain. If a match is dropped in water, mud or snow before igniting you can dry it with a rag or roll lightly between your hands until dry. If dropped in water, mud or snow after igniting, pick it up immediately and hold horizontally. It will normally relight within seconds if there is unburned phosphorous on the shaft. To date I have never had a UCO storm proof match fail in extreme winter or wet environments when properly used. I consider them extremely reliable and they are a real confidence booster for starting an emergency fire.

Next week I will address the best accelerant I have found and what you may want to consider carrying with you at all times.

Stay dry!

Nick Weighton

Lieutenant Colonel, Special Forces, U.S. Army (retired)

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