I’m always looking for new and more effective hiking stuff. I have the basics pretty well down, but there’s always a way to improve things here and there.
For example, on my first Foothills Trail hike, everything was damp by the end. It didn’t really rain much, until the end of the last day, but by then everything was just damp. I think it was just March down by the Chatooga River, in what is classified as a “temperate rain forest” (yes, South Carolina has a rain forest). So, by the morning of day three (before the rain) I’m sitting down to breakfast trying to light my matches and they are damp, and about as excited to light as a mushy piece of paper ever was.
I have to break out my “emergency” matches in their little plastic container and use one. I usually keep one set of those little paper matches in a book inside my food bag, so I don’t have to make eight trips to get everything. In my orange “emergency bag”, which I have labeled appropriately; “Bugs, Drugs, and Fuckups” I keep my bug spray, medications and emergency supplies, such as a little plastic tube of wooden matches with a paper striker folded up.
So when I had to break out my orange matches, I considered – what if the weather was even worse? After all, these are regular “strike on the box” matches, just in a plastic tube to keep them reasonably dry.
As an aside – check those when you buy them. I bought a second one when I lost my first tube. They have a little flint striker glued to the bottom. It comes in handy for lighting your alcohol stove with flint sparks, and subsequently knocking the stove over and throwing burning alcohol everywhere. The striker generally works well, unless the 11 year old Chinese kid packing the things for WalMart gets over-zealous with the glue. My second tube had so much glue on the striker, that no knife would make sparks on it. It was encased in the glue, protected forever.
Back at WalMart looking for other stuff, I stumbled on a pack of real, serious, man-sized “emergency matches”. Now these things had heft to them. They look less like a little red wooden pin of a match, and more like a miniature corn dog on a stick. The head is this huge black thing, and the body of the match is almost completely covered in this brownish-orange stuff. The match is also about twice as long as your regular kitchen match. Way too big to fit in the orange tube.
So I buy them and take them home, intent on including them in my BD&FU bag for seriously wet occasions. Of course, first, I have to try one, to put this miracle of modern science to the test. I take the little striker out of the bag, and a match, and put the two together. at first, there’s nothing, a little pop, then a sizzle, and then, WHOOSH! The thing is ablaze. And not just a feeble pop, fizzle, and out. Seriously ablaze. The brown material behind the head is sparking and fizzling and sending off curls of smoke, a virtual sparkler in my kitchen. So I dunk the thing in a pot of water, putting it out, I think. Its bubbling. Under The Water. So I take it out, and it RELIGHTS itself, not unlike those trick party candles that assholes like to put on birthday cakes to make children cry. Thankfully after the water dunking, there were only a few more seconds of brown sparkler material left, and it died the slow death of most matches.
So, if you want a really impressive way to light some candles and set off the smoke alarm, I encourage you to get down to your local walmart. You won’t be disappointed.