Look over the boxes in the supermarkets now and you'll find that the matches are made in any of a handful of foreign countries, although they might be packed locally. Most survival manuals will tell you how to waterproof matches with candle wax or nail varnish, but too many of the matches you can buy now are hardly worth the trouble.
Yes, the good old once-common match has been superseded by mechanical matches, Swedish survival strikers, magnesium blocks, synthetic flint sticks and of course the plastic throw-away lighter. Compared to matches and their capacity to fail in damp weather, these latest innovations are streets ahead for the survivalist. They work in terrible conditions, will even light damp tinder and in the worst case at night will provide a very bright flash of light to guide the rescue helicopter.
What possible disadvantages could these technological wonders have? As far as their effectiveness goes, none, but price-wise they can be surprising. Of course you have to balance out the number of lights they will provide against their price tags. For a few dollars a throw-away lighter is supposed to give several thousand lights. The other items can produce far more fires than this.
A minor drawback is that their weight and size is many times that of a dozen matches and a bit of striker board dipped in candle wax and wrapped together in plastic film. One way to overcome this is to carry the striker taped to the outside of your survival kit. As they are very robust items there is little chance they will be damaged if carried in this fashion. They certainly do not need the extra protection available to items carried inside the kit itself.
Most of them come with their own striking device - usually attached by a short length of cord or fine metal chain. Despite the fact that they look as though they are made of soft materials, they will seriously dull the blade of your knife if you use it to strike sparks. If your choice of item does not come with a striker, add a short length of hacksaw blade and tie it securely to the flint. I like to make this cord long enough to allow sparks to be made without separating the two items. The longer cord allows me to bind the flint securely to my survival kit tin and tuck the striker into the wrapped cord, keeping everything together.
One other tip for using these modern devices is not to strike down the flint with the hacksaw blade, but to hold it steady and really close to the prepared pile of tinder. Press the flint against the blade and then rapidly pull it away, holding the blade relatively motionless. This method produces a shower of sparks that all land on the tinder rather than being scattered about by the follow-through of the striker blade, and avoids the even worse scenario of the tinder pile being destroyed by a blow from a too vigorous follow-through stroke with the striker. Happy flashing!
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