Fire Tubes - Original and New Compartment Design




About: I am a Biologist by training, a zombie prepper in my spare time. Plus, I like to be outdoors.

Fire Tubes, my straw survival hack is back by popular demand with upgrades. Yes, compartments! After rigorous testing and many cold beers I have a solution for those wanting compartments. These little plastic guys will keep your tinder (and anything else that will fit) dry when you are outdoors.

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Step 1: Begin

I will take you through the build, which is the original Fire Tube I posted here. And then where I added the compartment steps.

Step 2: Items Needed


-Straws (Not all straws are created equal)*


-Needle pliers



-Petroleum Jelly

-Cotton balls

-Poking stick (skewer that fits inside straw)

If not matches, just what ever you want to put in there.

*A Word About Straws

Not all straws work for this hack. I prefer clear straws so that I can easily see what is inside. But many clear straws are small in diameter and thin plastic. I have had better luck with thicker, opaque straws. One of my favorite is the McStraw from that place with a big yellow M. Its thick and seals very well.

Step 3: Sealing the Ends

1. With your pliers hold the end of the straw where you will create your first seal.

Leave a little straw hanging out so you have enough plastic to melt. As heat is applied, the overhanging straw will melt back to the pliers where it will stop.

2. Allow to cool. This end should now be sealed. You can check your seal by placing the sealed end into a glass of water and blowing into the open end.

Step 4: Making and Adding Tinder

I like to use cotton balls with a light coat of petroleum jelly. But there are other options, just use a cotton ball, or even dryer lint. Both are great tinder.

1. Coat the cotton ball lightly with petroleum jelly, you don't want to glob this on.

2. Then use your poking stick to push the cotton ball to the sealed end of the straw

Step 5: Add Matches and Final Seal

I like to use strike anywhere matches. Sometimes I will add sandpaper strips or small slivers of the striking pad from matchbooks. That's your call.

1. Add matches, heads away from cotton ball. *If using strike anywhere matches, you can alternate matches heads to that they don't rub together. I have not had them ignite, but it is possible. (See Step 9: User Comment and Design Suggestions)

Note: Many comments on the Fire Tube was concerning the petroleum jelly soaking the matches. I have not had this problem. Even if it did slightly absorb into the matchstick, the head would light and still burn the stick. However, there is a solution.

2. If you want to make a compartment, move on to the next step. Otherwise....

3. Cut the straw to length, and repeat the sealing technique as before on the open end.

Step 6: Compartment #1

For this compartment, you will be melting a seam between your two items.

1. Using your lighter, heat up your pliers. I find that 20s is pretty good, depends on your tool.

Caution: Too hot and you can cause the plastic to melt too much creating tiny holes in your compartments.

2. Simply crimp the straw where you want the compartment, hold let the plastic melt and then cool before releasing. I find pliers with teeth are best because is creates a better seal due to the teeth creating grooves.

3. Add matches and seal other end as previously stated.

*Note: I have not been able to create an air-tight seal between each compartment, but it works to keep most things separated.

Step 7: Compartment #2

For this compartment, I'm not concerned about waterproofing each compartment from each other, but simply to separate.

1. Before your final seal, simply place another wad of cotton to create a separator. Don't allow the cotton separator to touch the petroleum cotton ball. This will prevent any moisture to transfer.

Note: A cotton ball separator is quite effective. I previously worked in a lab where we would half fill test tubes with water and cap off with a cotton ball. We would lay them on their side, and to my surprise, it didn't leak. The compacted cotton ball keep the water from leaking out.

2. Add your matches and seal open end as stated before.

Step 8: And There You Have It!

Now if you want to separate many items go for!

Use these for everything. Pictured I have:

-Tabasco sauce




-Fire tube with compartment

Hope you enjoyed, and get outdoors!

Step 9: User Comments and Design Suggestions

First, thanks for the support and comments. You are what makes this community great!

Ok, so with so many comments I am adding this so that I can answer and address many questions at once.

Folding to make compartment:

Thanks to users: hnaraghi and WiliiamB14

Yes you can simply fold the straw, or put two equal lengths together and melt to make compartments. This design though may cause the straws to be compressed, as you can see from the images. Maybe this would work better with a different straw. Great suggestions. My personal preference is separates.

Strike anywhere matches ignition:

Thanks to users: ElectroFrank, Algag, J3DImindTRIP, anode505, mgalyean, and wobbler

The concern was placing the head of two strike anywhere matches together. In my personal experience with this method, I have had no problem. However, being a scientist, I had to test it.

I rubbed the matches inside the tube twisting the base. I forced the match heads together in quick twists. Nothing. I did this for about 3 minutes. But I kept going. I noticed that the heads were wearing and created a fine powder from all the friction. After about 1 minute of this power forming, the matches ignited. (See photo) They did not burn but simple ignited and went out. I suspect the power was the key here.

So is it possible they can ignite? YES! However, Is it probable? I'm going to say no. The amount of friction and twisting to get that was kinda crazy. If that was happening in your pocket, you just went through the worst ride of your life and are probably dead. However, let it be known, use at your own risk.

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103 Discussions


4 years ago

those 3ft long pixie stick straw would be sweet.
maybe a spot of hot glue for a seal. Unless it's too hot for the plastic. If you put a plug in one end you could make a gun that used them as cartridges.

1 reply

4 years ago

Try using char cloth instead of cotton soaked in petroleum jelly. char cloth sprayed with melted candle wax is best. It catches fire extremely easily, and with a little bit extra air, it bursts into flames.

Char cloth: DIY Emergency Fire Starter (Char Cloth):


3 years ago

Great and simple idea. Thanks.


3 years ago

Awesome, I'm going to do that!


3 years ago

This looks like a great way to store items for travel. Thanks for sharing.


3 years ago

As a retired RN and someone who takes a few daily meds--go ahead and
seal the pills or capsules in a short piece of straw and return to a
labeled medicine bottle and cap it -- then you might possibly lose the
bottle but the contents will stay safe and dry--you might also might
find a Pharmacist who would make small labels with all the required info and include something like shape or color and you could put 2 or 3 meds in the same bottle and maybe 2 or 3 in the same straw if they are usually taken at the same time.


3 years ago

If there is such a concern with the igniting of the matches why don't you simple make a seperation useing some of the plastic between the matches before sealing.

Street-Wise Irish

3 years ago

If you fold one end of the straw over the rest then fold it down the middle, and snip a piece of the straw and slip it over the bent section, you will have sort of a little sleeve that you can take on and off. It makes it easier to access things like salt and pepper.


3 years ago

I have worked with boy and girl scouts, & rescue dive. This is my 2 cents.

"In an emergency" medicine that is not in it's original container can be overlooked, misidentified, or mixed up. For all we know you are carrying tic tacs.

A person in the field does not have the ability to identify every pill that is found. IF there is a container with the medicine name, your name and drug identification. The emergency person can relay that information to dispatch, inform them what is written on the container and describe the tablet to the dispatch where they have resources to verify container contents. The bottle has your medical team's name and pharmacy location where emergency information that can be retrieved.

Test your medicine bottle. Most are water proof. If not talk to your pharmacy and they will help you get something.

Sorry that was 4 cents.

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago

yes on a scout trip all medicine must be correctly labeled. Not in these straw tubes.


3 years ago

why complicate things? seal the straw at any location along the length just use the seal only function on a vac seal machine .it will be airtight... also if you use the supplied sealer bags you can make tubes/packs to fit anything. a vac sealed handgun stays dry and safe on a canoe trip


3 years ago

For a survival kit for the average citizen this is not a bad idea. As a Scoutmaster, I would never allow that much disposable material be brought on a camping trip.

Dryer lint stuffed inside of an empty toilet paper tube and soaked in paraffin will light the wettest wood. Not as compact, but much more effective.

Still a good instructable to stuff in an Altoids tin.


3 years ago

For traveling put liquid makeup/hand cream/ moisturiser in using a syringe even a tightly rolled face wilpe (filled round a toothpick x

1 reply

4 years ago on Introduction

Just a thought: Your match experiment leads on my train of thought - suppose everything is very wet - are there any two chemicals that could be sealed in, and would ignite when mixed together to provide fire, in the manner of a glow stick ?

Or maybe that's a bit too dangerous ?

3 replies

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Potassium Manganese (? - purple cyrstals) & Glycerin does this if I'm not mistaken

Problem being if youre trying to put this in a "compartment" tube, the join would need to be sufficient to prevent any leakage between them, even under pressure (like if you sat on it, or it got crushed in your backpack) or protected from shock some other way as to prevent accidental ignition.


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

The chemical is Potassium Permanganate. You can mix this with Glycerine or automotive antifreeze (glycol based) and get a hot flame within seconds.


Reply 3 years ago

you could always make them in seperate tubes, simply mix for fire...