The humble match has been a staple fire starter for a couple of hundred years. Technology and manufacturing techniques have improved the match to the point that it is often considered the go-to item to start fires. But how should they be stored long-term so they will still work when you need them to?
The best way to store matches long-term is to keep them in a durable, airtight container with a screw-on cap. This will provide maximum protection from the elements. It is recommended that you get stormproof matches for an extra layer of durability. Also, don’t forget to put a striker inside the container.
After extensive searching, I found that this brand of match container is far superior to most of the other models out there. It can be picked up on Amazon.
Read on to learn about the best type of container to get as well as what matches to put inside.
Best Storage Container for Matches
There are numerous options out there. Before you buy, make sure the container has 3 key features:
- Durable construction- Don’t get cheap plastic that could easily crack, get jostled around, or stepped on. And it will eventually be tested. Go with an aluminum construction when possible.
- Screw on cap- This goes without saying. It’s the best protection against moisture getting in. There’s nothing worse than reaching in for your matches only to realize the cap came off, and they are scattered about.
- Ample space- Good quality stormproof matches can make the standard variety look like toothpicks. You also need room to throw in a striker (or 3).
It’s not as easy to find a good container. Trust me, I’ve looked and then looked around some more. I finally found this brand (click link for Amazon listing), which fits the bill perfectly. It’s big enough made from “overkill” materials that are way over the top for durability. AND IT’S MADE IN THE USA. Man, it’s hard to find good stuff nowadays. I was so glad to find this thing.
Ain’t it purty? It comes in 4 different colors. But please get orange. You want to be able to find the dang thing if it drops on the ground.
Remember to store a striker in the container with the matches. Since the matches are not “strike anywhere” matches, they will need a striker strip to ignite them. Luckily, my recommended brand has a striker tucked away in the cap. They also sell refills, as shown below.
Types Of Matches
The type of matches that you have will influence the best storage method and their expected shelf-life.
There are many different types of matches, but some are more suitable for storage, while others should be avoided altogether.
- Matchbooks– These are the matches that are given out at hotels, conference centers, and liquor stores. These matches are fragile and unreliable and not a good prospect for a survival kit.
- Standard matchbox matches– These are the everyday matches that you buy at the supermarket to go with your candles for a romantic dinner! They are certainly better than the matchbook type of matches but have limited reliability and resistance to weather conditions or dampness. The quality of manufacture of these matches is usually not great, and the match sticks can break, the heads degrade with time, or absorb humidity and crumble when struck. These are also called safety matches since you need to strike them on the box to ignite them.
- Strike anywhere matches– These matches are similar to safety matches, but their chemical composition will allow them to be struck on any suitable surface to ignite. These can be dangerous since they could ignite from the friction of being in your pocket! These matches have similar reliability problems and susceptibility to damp as safety matches do and are thus not suitable for long-term storage in their standard condition.
- Waterproof matches– These are traditional safety matches that have been given a coating that improves their resistance to humidity damage or even from getting wet. These are an excellent option to consider for a long-term storage match, but other options are better.
- Survival matches- Several “survival” matches have come on the market that combines technology from various matches and then incorporates other aspects, such as having a built-in tinder with a strikable head to ignite the tinder. While these products aren’t terrible, there are too many bells and whistles for my taste. The lack of availability and their cost, which is significantly more than the other versions, is a big turnoff.
- Storm Matches- Stormproof matches look a little different from a standard match in that the chemical compound on the match is more than a little dollop on the end of the match stick. These matches are better than waterproof matches because they will light in a strong wind, and some products in this range will continue to burn underwater. They also have a really long burn time, which is lacking in other kinds. I highly recommend that you choose this type.
Here are the best matches on the market that I have been able to find. They’re over 4 inches long and have been proven to burn for as long as 25 seconds. That’s about triple what you’d normally expect, but the best part is they will almost always light even after getting wet.
Matches Storage Guidelines
As we have discussed, the container that you store your matches in must always be waterproof. This will prevent your matches from getting wet in the event of an accidental spill or getting dunked in water.
The container will also protect the matches from degradation over time due to high humidity conditions. This will extend the life of the matches to make sure that they will last a long time.
The main obstacles to storing matches long-term are their susceptibility to humidity and moisture. If you can manage these two problems related to match storage, you could keep matches for years and have them functional when you need them.
You need to have some essentials in place to store your matches correctly and a few considerations when you choose the type of matches to be stored in your survival kit or long-term storage.
The best match to consider for your survival kit would be stormproof matches because of their superior durability and lighting ability. You can also use safety matches in a pinch, but they may require some “doctoring” to make them suitable for long-term storage, but we will get to that later.
How Long Can You Store Matches
Matches do not generally have an expiration date, but they definitely have a limited lifespan if they are not stored in a waterproof container. Unprotected matches that are simply stored in the matchbox they came in will not last for long.
The length of time they will remain viable will depend on your local weather conditions and the location you store them.
Safety matches stored in this way may be viable for 6 months to a year, but they would not be considered reliable after this time, but there are hacks that you can use to extend the life of these matches.
Storing safety matches in a waterproof container will extend their useable life to about 2 to 3 years.
Stormproof matches will last much longer than this if stored unprotected, more like 2 to 3 years, but if they are stored correctly in a waterproof container, they can last for decades.
If you are storing matches for survival purposes, it means that you will need these matches to work when you are in dire circumstances.
This is why it is not recommended that you store your matches for an indefinite period in a survival kit, bugout bag, or prepping stores.
You should rotate your stored matches out with fresh ones periodically. This will ensure that the matches in your survival kit are fresh and guaranteed to work when you need them in a tough spot!
If the matches that you have stored are stormproof matches and they are in a waterproof container, it is recommended that you rotate them out with fresh matches every 3 to 5 years. If your matches are standard safety matches, the recommendation would be to rotate them out every 1 to 2 years.
How To Make Your Matches Last Longer
There are a couple of survival and prepping hacks that you can try to make your regular safety matches last a bit longer and improve their resistance to moisture and humidity.
You can use hot wax from a candle to coat the head of the match and one-third of the matchstick below the head. This will provide a moisture barrier for the match head and extend the shelf-life of the matches.
Placing the matches in a vacuum seal bag or a small zip-lock bag will also help to preserve the matches and protect them from moisture and humidity.
If you have space in the container, you could also add a “sachet of desiccant” to absorb the moisture that is in the air in the container.
Here is a small one that should fit nicely in my recommended container.
While this may extend the life of your standard safety matches, it is still recommended that you cycle your matches appropriately to their expected shelf life.
No bugout bag, survival kit, preppers stockpile, or homesteaders storeroom would be complete without a supply of matches. Knowing how to take care of these essential items and how to store them properly is crucial so that they will be in usable condition when you pull them out of their container. Whether you are building a survival kit for home, camping, or prepping, you need to store your matches the right way.
Storing matches successfully long-term requires a combination of the right type of matches and the proper storage method, which I’ve hopefully highlighted sufficiently in this article.
And remember, a survival kit should not be packed and forgotten, but you should schedule a periodic check of everything in your bugout bag or survival kit, including the matches. Regular checks will allow you to know your gear’s condition so you can rely on it when you really need to.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget to throw a lighter in there as well for the sake of redundancy. Remember, two is on, and one is none.
Thanks for reading!
For more, check out 4 Steps to Building the Best Fire Pits in Survival Shelters.
Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!