I recently bought three brands of matches for our side-by-side tests to find the best strike anywhere matches available today.
Two of those brands (Penley and Diamond Greenlight) I bought online.
Although the boxes of Penley Strike Anywhere Matches arrived just fine…
…the boxes of Diamond Greenlight Strike Anywhere Matches were a different story.
The Story of What Happened When I Bought Strike Anywhere Matches Online
Let me explain:
I ordered some strike anywhere matches online and waited for them to arrive. Things were normal.
Instead of receiving my package in the mail, though, I got a pick-up slip saying I had to go to the post office to get it. The slip also had a handwritten note: “See Postmaster.” I thought I had just missed the postman, but I would soon find out the real reason they didn’t deliver the package to my door.
The next day I went to the post office, waited in line (as you do), and eventually got to the counter and handed the lady my pick-up slip. She took a look at it and screwed up her face in confusion.
“Why do you need to see the postmaster?” She asked. “What did you ship?”
I replied with a shrug, but my face flushed. It wasn’t until that moment that I first wondered if I somehow made a mistake by ordering matches online. The lady then went to the back and out came the postmaster, who was carrying my package.
The package looked and smelled burnt. The postmaster plopped it on the counter. Then she chewed me out.
A few minutes later, I walked out of the post office and got in my car. I immediately opened the package. The burnt smell hit me even stronger. The package contained three boxes of Diamond Greenlight Strike Anywhere Matches. On the sides of the matchboxes were smoky streaks.
I opened up the box with the largest burn marks and saw the reason for the damage.
During transit, half the matches in the box — by my count over 150 — had lit.
You see, strike anywhere matches, unlike safety matches, have all the necessary chemicals for ignition on the match head alone. No special striking surface is required to light strike anywhere matches. They will light when struck against most hard, dry, and rough surfaces.
During transportation, somehow or another, one match head had ignited inside my package. Maybe by rubbing against another match head or the inside of the matchbox itself. I can only speculate. However, what is clear is that, after the first match ignited, it started a chain reaction that ignited half of the other matches in the box.
This means that, just by being shipped, the box of strike anywhere matches I ordered caught fire.
Luckily that is all that happened. Whether due to lack of oxygen or sheer luck, the fire didn’t spread beyond the first box. However, the opposite could have been true. The postmaster, after I told her that my package contained matches, told me, “if this catches fire in a plane, then we’ve just downed a plane.” A sobering, if extreme, possibility.
After seeing firsthand the dangers of buying strike anywhere matches online, I went home and researched the topic. I learned there are certain precautions that need to be taken when shipping these kinds of matches to ensure that they don’t ignite during transit, as mine did.
The Challenges of Shipping Strike Anywhere Matches in the US and Why They Incentivize Sellers to Cut Corners
Shipping strike anywhere matches in the US is kinda tricky.
First off, USPS flat-out prohibits their shipment. Also, the UN has them listed on their list of dangerous goods (UN 1331).
This means, in the US, the available options for shipping strike anywhere matches are UPS and FedEx. However, UPS and FedEx both consider strike anywhere matches to be hazardous material and have specific instructions and fees associated with shipping them.
According to Industrial Revolution, maker of the now-discontinued UCO Strike Anywhere Matches, UPS charged them $35 per box:
I bought my Diamond Greenlight Strike Anywhere Matches online for much less than that. And this price wasn’t abnormal.
Even though the shipping fee likely varies by weight or another metric, it is still hard to imagine an online seller of strike anywhere matches making a profit without the price per box being higher. Because these boxes are sold online for cheap, it leads me to believe that online sellers are cutting corners and shipping them illegally in the US — either via USPS or without declaring them as hazardous material and paying the necessary shipping fees.
(In fact, I know that some of them are shipping them illegally because I received my box via USPS which flatly prohibits shipping them.)
Since I can’t trust the seller I’m buying them from to properly package the matches or declare them as hazardous material, I will never buy strike anywhere matches online again.
I honestly don’t put too much blame on the sellers who are shipping them illegally. I suspect many of them don’t even know they’re doing so. I myself purchased strike anywhere matches online without the faintest idea of the shipping regulations surrounding them.
Now that I know them, though, I believe that many sellers are not shipping strike anywhere matches properly. I’ve seen the consequences of what that looks like, too, and it has turned me off from every buying them online again.
So… Where Can I Buy Strike Anywhere Matches if Not Online?
Let me give it to you straight:
Strike anywhere matches are hard to find nowadays. Many are discontinued. Don’t expect it to be easy to find them.
Yet, if you are still set on strike anywhere matches, here is my advice. First, visit your local Academy or Cabela’s. According to Industrial Revolution, “You may still be able to find some [UCO Strike Anywhere Matches] at Cabela’s or Academy sports.” Academy, in fact, is where I bought the UCO matches that I used in our side-by-side tests.
If you can’t find the UCO matches, you’ll have to look for Diamond Greenlight Strike Anywhere Matches. I emailed Jarden Home Brands, the maker of Diamond Greenlights, where one could find some of their strike anywhere matches. This was their response:
If you strike out again, you’ll have to consider a different type of match or lighter entirely. This isn’t such bad news, though, since there are plenty of decent alternatives. There are good stormproof matches and waterproof matches available. Or, you can consider a good backpacking lighter or fire starter.
June 13, 2022
This was very interesting, and saved me some grief. Thank you for sharing.