[Dino] Brings the Waterproof Fire


For many of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, the things we consider hacking, making, and doing weren’t just for fun. They were important skills that could help one survive. This week [Dino] shows us something his dad taught him: waterproof fire starters. The trick is paraffin wax. [Dino] starts by melting down some wax in a pot. He then dips strips of newspaper in the liquid wax. Several strike anywhere matches also get the wax treatment, are then placed on the newspaper. The newspaper and matches are rolled up into a tight bundle, which is itself dipped in wax several times.

The resulting small bundle of waxed newspaper and matches is safe and easy to carry in pocket or backpack. It also becomes the perfect wet fire starter. The “newspaper shell” is torn off into strips of waxed paper, which burns slowly and allows the tinder and wood to catch. [Dino] demonstrates his pioneering skills by starting a fire at the end of the video. When the inevitable zombie apocalypse hits, we definitely want [Dino] at the Hackaday compound.


  1. We learned to make these in Boy Scouts when I was a kid. The bigger surprise to me is that he has strike anywhere matches. I thought they quit making these after 9/11. I can’t find them anywhere.

  2. the gambler says:

    Thanks for the link always nice to know other methods of fire starting. I know I will get criticized for this but I like to have a few rocks of calcium carbide in case of wetness as well.

  3. matt says:

    I would assume anyone who goes camping already knows about this. And is this really a hack? Mkaing waterproof matches the same way companies do? And whats next, a article on buying a block of magnesium, and some flint and steel?

  4. captnmike says:

    If he is really dipping strips of newspapers in the wax, the rolling up the strips and dipping them again he is really working too hard – just roll up some newspaper into about 1 inch dia. roll – then tie the roll about every two inches with cotton string. Cut the rolled up newspaper between the strings. Dip each smaller roll in the wax, wait until the bubbles stop coming out then hang to cool. Quicker and easier. Light the string when you need fire.. If you are really having a hard day, cut the short roll a bit with a knife length ways to give some smaller corners for the flame.

  5. Bruce says:

    Cotton balls rubbed in petroleum jelly have always worked well for me. Easy to stuff a few of them into an old pill bottle, or film canister. Easy to light, burns for a while, small to store.

    • rentzk says:

      Another way is to place the cotton ball into a plastic straw and seal the ends of the straw using a candle and pliers. To use it, simply cut a slit in the straw, pull out some cotton and light. A couple of these takes up even less room than a pill bottle.

  6. eas says:

    We didn’t havethis backpacking, sowe found pine sap. Worked great.

  7. medix says:

    Paper egg carton filled with sawdust – then fill each cup with wax until the sawdust is saturated. Works MUCH better than newspaper, and burns longer. You’ll want to use sawdust that’s coarse (i.e. not the fine powdery stuff) for this to be effective.

  8. sneakypoo says:

    You better have your emergency situation somewhere reasonably warm if you want to be able to use those… If you’ve never had your hands be really really cold, trust me, they’re next to useless. Trying to peel a package like that apart with cold fingers would be pretty much impossible.

  9. QcGuyTech says:

    00 steel wool and an electric source, 3v is enough. Even in heavy rain this will light like a brushfire.

  10. Joe Bonasses says:

    Zombie apocalypse? That’s just silly. I think you meant to refer to the collapse of Chinese shadow banking, and the collapse of the $600 trillion global derivatives market.

    • Pulsa Denura says:

      It’s the same thing. When the global banking system crashes everybody will soon be broke and needing food, and begin walking around like zombies. Hence, the Zombie Apocalypse.

  11. fartface says:

    Waterproof fire starter. 000 steel wool and a 9V battery. cotton balls with petrolium jelly rubbed in them and a flinter, etc… Honestly it is really easy to make waterproof fire starters.

  12. There are some great alternatives offered up in the comments here. :)

  13. Michael says:

    Does anyone else see a problem with bundling up a bunch of Strike anywhere matches together inside a tinder bundle…….?

    seems to me like you are one good knock away from potentially lighting your entire backpack on fire.

    • John says:

      While watching the video, i thought that was the way he intended to light it.
      Give it a knock with a rock or firewood, and it will selfignite.
      As a kid, i did ths all the time with “normal matches” (the ones that require striking against the “box” to ignite).

  14. jumbo welsh says:

    On a rainy hike I just stuff a bunch of tinder in my waistband to dry about two miles from the camp site and use the oil, can, and paper wrapping from a tin of sardines to get things going.

  15. supershwa says:

    I have to admit, I was fooled by the title. I was thinking “Greek Fire”. Man, that would have been cool! :D

  16. Joseph says:

    One of my favorite Survivorman episodes was devoted to different ways of creating fire. Many of the techniques are mentioned here in the comments (e.g., steel woll and a 9V battery) but the most important thing I got from it was, if you’re going to be in a situation where this sort of thing may be necessary, prepare ahead of time.

  17. vonskippy says:

    Most of the finer hotels will send someone up to adjust the thermostat for you. I’ve never had to start a fire in a 5-star hotel to keep warm, but I’d imagine the all cotton wash clothes would make sufficient tinder.

  18. I read about how to do this in a book I read when I was a kid. I don’t remember what book it was, but it was a pretty amazing tidbit for a kid’s book.

  19. Colin says:

    The Buddy Burner is a similar idea. Fill an empty tuna can with a coil of corrugated cardboard cut to the same height as the can, then pour in melted paraffin wax. Leave a wick of upturned cardboard in the centre, and you can light it for emergency heat.


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