If there is one thing that every prepper must be prepared to provide during an emergency or in any long-term survival situation it is light. We have so mastered the production of light via electricity that it is taken completely for granted and virtually every sector of society.
With the flick of a switch, anywhere, everywhere, we can banish the darkness. However, behind every wall and every switch is an incredibly complex system of wires, poles, and power generation technology required to make the lights come on.
It stands to reason that that complex and increasingly frail network that delivers electricity to our homes and businesses to say nothing about our society at large is very likely to fail during an event of any magnitude.
We must be prepared to provide light to navigate, work and live by during a survival situation. Flashlights might reign supreme, but one ancient and still entirely common solution is the humble candle.
Candles have many positive attributes to recommend them for this task, and today we can even make use of specialized survival candles for the purpose. We will share with you our top 10 picks in this article.
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Why Candles for Emergencies?
When you stop to consider just how many portable, battery-powered tools we have to take care of our personal and area lighting requirements, candles might seem a bit inefficient, even a bit quaint.
Fair enough, and you’ll get no argument from me about the efficacy and performance of LED flashlights and lanterns.
These modern marvels truly enjoy an unsurpassed combination of runtime, brightness, and safety. However, candles still have much to commend them and special attributes all their own that might make them superior to our typical electrical contrivances.
These are the top main reasons candles are excellent lighting choices:
The convenience of a candle for providing soft area lighting is virtually unmatched. A candle may be lit easily by any source of flame and then set around handily on any surface that is convenient where it will burn gently for hours on end.
The soft flicker of a candle’s flame furnishes a gentle orange glow that is eminently suited for human eyesight, especially compared to the harsh, blue-white glare of LEDs.
Candles are also simple. There isn’t really anything to break or go wrong assuming the candle is not squashed or broken. Even if it is, that wax and the wick that it surrounds can be melted and reformed until it is good as new, or nearly so.
There are no circuit boards to worry about, no batteries or battery compartments to furnish or fuss over, and no fretting over brightness settings or switching. A candle is lit, provides as much light and heat as it provides, and that’s all.
Candles have been and remain eminently adaptable. Multiple candles can be used at once to easily light up an average room.
One or two candles can be placed inside a lantern as a portable lighting option. Candles used in tandem can heat a small quantity of food, and will noticeably warm up a small space.
Candles can be had and used in virtually any shape and any size to serve any purpose, from a large, barrel-shaped candle functioning as a primary light source to a pocket-sized just-in-case candle that forms part of a survival kit.
Perhaps best of all, candles are extremely affordable, often providing Best in class return on investment against money spent versus hours of useful light produced.
When you consider the cost of disposable alkaline or lithium batteries against the run time of your favorite flashlight or lantern you might start to come away with a different point of view on their performance.
Though it is true many electric flashlights and lanterns have low beam or low output modes this light is rarely as useful as that produced by a trusty candle.
With that out of the way, let us get on to the list.
Top 10 Emergency Survival Candles
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These are probably the most quintessential survival candle on our list. These simple, three and a half inch white paraffin wax candles provide a whopping 9 hours of burn time, while the specialty formulation of the wax melts at a very high temperature only which helps to minimize drips and smoke.
The old cotton wick is optimally sized to maximize light output against burn time, and is easily trimmed with scissors, a wick trimmer, knife or any other sharp implement.
These candles are easy to use freestanding, placed into fixtures or inserted into UCO’s portable lantern designed for the purpose allowing you to easily and safely rely on your candles as a mobile light source for almost any application.
A large multi pack of these candles will not set you back very much money at all and will serve as an excellent primary or secondary emergency light source whenever the power is out, allowing you to save your flashlights and headlamps for more specialized applications.
While you might think this liquid fueled contraption is technically a torch, it is actually a type of candle. The SDS liquid oil survival candle is a tiny, but mighty, source of light in an emergency situation relying on efficient and inexpensive liquid paraffin for fuel.
When full, the SDS survival candle provides an incredible 115 hours of light in a gently burning, low smoking flame that won’t drip hot wax anywhere or create a mess.
Unlike competing products, the SDS survival candle is made of high impact plastic, including the wick holder, so if it is knocked over the chance of breakage or spillage and the attendant brew-up is greatly reduced.
Despite their oil burning nature, these are easily extinguished by simply blowing them out or snuffing the wick.
Compared to traditional wax candles, you’ll have to invest in fuel to keep these going, but even if you don’t, a multipack will provide you with many days of continuous light.
The SE survivor series 3-wick candle is a traditionalist survival candle packed in an aluminum tin. Composed of low smoking soy wax and efficient palm wax, this candle is ready to unpack and burn pretty much anywhere, and is a great inclusion a bug-in kit or bug-out pack.
The best attribute of this candle is its adaptability, and you can burn one, two or all three wicks depending on how much light or heat is required. When you are done, it is easily snuffed with the included aluminum lid.
Durable and safe enough to go anywhere, this is one candle that will survive rough handling and the rigors of staying packed in a survival kit.
Even better, the 10 is useful even after the candle is completely expended, and can be used to hold and boil water, food or any other small pieces of gear or other components after being wiped clean.
UCO natural beeswax lantern and survival candles are the exact same size and overall format as they’re excellent candles featured near the top of this list, only they are made from 100% natural, long burning, efficient beeswax.
Compared to other natural plant or petroleum derived waxes, beeswax is more expensive but has several advantages over its competitors.
Not for nothing, it smells very pleasant while burning but it is also a longer burning wax, packing more light and heat into the same size candle compared to the others. It also produces even less smoke than the already low smoke candles UCO is rightly famous for.
If you want to maximize the up time of your candles while saving the most room possible, or provide the best efficiency for a portable candle lantern, these are worth the extra expense.
Another classic format survival candle, this three wick aluminum housed survival candle is good for up to 36 hours of light and heat depending on how many wicks are lit at once.
If you need to crank up the heat or provide maximum light, you can burn all three for around 12 hours which is still a substantial amount for a candle that is scarcely the size of a hockey puck.
as with other candles in this category, the sturdy aluminum tan and included lid provided structure and durability in storage and in use, and help keep this candle safe on surfaces that should not be exposed to hot wax or open flames. Combination of paraffin wax content provides a hot, clean and steady burn.
Hopefully, this survival candle also includes matches that can be stowed with it, so you’re ready to pull the candle out of your pack or your survival kit and light it without rummaging around for a lighter, fire starter or any other piece of gear.
Sometimes the best survival candles aren’t survival candles at all, as exemplified by these simple, high quality tea light candles made by Stonebriar. Unlike typical tea lights, these use remarkably high quality palm wax that provides an amazing six to seven hour burn time per candle.
If you get a large box of these, say perhaps a 100 pack, that is an incredible amount of light and heat on demand, and though the output of each tea light is relatively small, they are easily combined for whatever purpose you might require, and you’ll have enough of them that you can truly light up your entire house if you want to.
Despite their small size and typically cheap format, these Stonebriar tea lights also use high quality, 100% cotton wicks to provide an even burn with minimal, if any, smoke. A great addition to any prepper survival kit!
Sometimes the old ways are best, and these long, slender white candles are an elegant solution to a very modern problem.
Designed for use in traditional candelabras, single candle holders, chandeliers and other similar fixtures, these candles provide over 6 hours of light in a traditional 7-in format, giving you just about an hour of light per inch and making estimation of your remaining fuel easy.
These candles are designed to prevent dripping and last longer than tapering candles of this type and that gives them an edge for our purposes.
Cutting down on the mess and accidents associated with hot, dripping wax is a good thing as you’ll have plenty else on your plate in the middle of a post disaster situation.
Note that these candles must be inserted into some type of holder to be used, so make sure you get properly sized candle holders, lanterns or other gear to make use of them, as you cannot reliably stand these things up and leave them alone otherwise.
Popping up with yet another entry on our list, UTO’s standard sized lantern candle is also available in a long-burning, bug-repelling citronella format, helpfully colored blue so you don’t get it mixed up with their standard white survival candles.
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time outdoors, or bugging out on foot is central to your survival plans, you might be glad to have these if you live in mosquito country.
While it is probably true that nobody has died of a mosquito or gnat bites, why take the chance, and why put yourself through the misery of enduring that itchy hell?
Now, you won’t have to and you’ll still be able to light your way or your campsite with these convenient and pleasantly scented citronella candles.
The best glide ASE adventurer pocket survival candle might have a mouthful of a name, but you definitely can’t fault its capability. this all-natural, pure beeswax and 100% cotton wick candle is scarcely larger than an Altoids tin, but provides 18 hours of light and heat when burning all three of its wicks simultaneously.
If a longer run time is required, you may burn only one or two at a time to extend your fuel.
Weighing next to nothing and having an incredibly tiny footprint means this is a worthy inclusion in a cargo pocket survival kit or an ultra minimalist camping backpack. Hot burning, bright, and nearly smokeless this is a candle that is suitable for use inside most shelters with a little bit of caution.
Even better, it is completely non-toxic and non-allergenic, so if you are an allergy sufferer you can probably miss some stuffiness that you would normally experience with a paraffin, palm or soy based candle.
These basic, 5-in emergency candles are a fundamental addition to any survival kit, bug out bag, campers pack or anything else where you might have calls to furnish emergency lighting. High quality paraffin wax and all cotton wick means you’ll have anywhere between 8 and 10 hours of light per candle.
Helpfully included in the pack are two metallic candle holders that will allow you to better control and safely handle the candles while they are burning.
The manufacturer, Coghlan’s, has been around since 1959, and many of its outdoor and survival products have earned a reputation for quality and simplicity.
Quality and simplicity are exactly what you need when considering any emergency lighting solution, and these candles fit the bill.
Another UCO offering, the 48-hour paraffin emergency candle is designed to be a durable, go-anywhere, all-purpose light and heat solution for emergencies. Is made with pure paraffin wax and has a 100% cotton wick for reliability and a longer burn time.
Like other candles of this type, the great thing is the adaptability and you can burn one wick to get an immense 48-hour burn time or burn all three at once for a lot more heat and light and still enjoy a respectable 16 hours.
Who reported heat output from the manufacturer is about 80 BTUs per wick, meaning you can genuinely warm up a small space with this candle. Also, the tin is reusable after all the wax is spent and you can reload it yourself with more wax and wicks for a DIY replacement, or repurpose it for carrying other stuff in your gear.
Designed to provide a lot of light and heat in a small and relatively quick burning package, this tinned 3-wick survival candle boasts a 16-hour burn time if only one week is used or 2 hours if all three wicks are ignited at once. As with most backpacker-type emergency candles, this one comes in a durable, reusable aluminum tin.
Better yet, it is fueled by high-quality wax; specifically all-natural, aromatic, and hot-burning beeswax for maximum heat output and efficiency when heating water.
The manufacturer claims you can use this candle to boil 8 ounces of water in just 18 minutes when all three wicks are burning. That might not seem like a great use of fuel, but minutes matter when lives are on the line and you just need to get dinner going, purify water for drinking, or use it for sterilizing tools or surgical implements.
A budget-priced entry in the tinned survival candle sector, this 3-wick clarified beeswax candle can be carried a field easily in a pack, used at the campsite, or in your own home when the power is out.
The wax contains no fragrances, dyes, or other additives for a clean, bright, and hot burn with minimal soot. Clarified beeswax is especially clean burning and this makes this one uniquely suited for indoor use when air quality matters.
It boasts a 36-hour burn time using just one wick, 24 hours if using two wicks and 12 hours if using all three wicks. It is a bit larger and heavier compared to similar models, but I think at this price point the well-rounded performance more than makes up for it, and beeswax candles of this type are getting harder and harder to come by.
Sterno is a name that is so associated with portable alcohol fuel that it has become synonymous with those little tins of invisible heat. That’s why you often hear folks refer to it as carrying a can of “sterno” for everything from camping to an outdoor buffet!
But the company makes many more heat-producing products than that, like this unscented, white emergency candle. While it measures only a relatively diminutive six inches high and weighs a little more than a pound, it can burn up to an amazing 55 hours.
With a fiber wick for maximum reliability and consistency, this candle is suitable for all kinds of emergency use, including in the home or in the vehicle in case you get stuck.
It’s a good idea to put it in a protective case if you’re going to have it in a bag, it’s still just wax after all, but this is among the longest-lasting candles of its type on the market.
Expensive, yes, but look at it in terms of burn time and you’ll find it is competitive with anything else from other makers.
Always Use Caution with Any Open Flame
Candles are definitely great in survival situations, but there must be additional care used whenever you are burning them.
Compared to simply switching on a flashlight or a lantern, the open flame of a candle is a definite safety hazard if you’re careless or ignorant of the danger.
Fire is always a valuable servant, but a fickle and capricious one, and if a candle is knocked over or burned too near combustible materials, an accidental but incredibly destructive fire may result.
Take pains to keep candles away from drapes, wallpaper, children, pets, and anything else that might knock them over. If at all possible, burn your candles in a safe enclosure like a lantern and try to make sure they are safely anchored. Never allow candles to continue burning when you’re not around to notice a developing emergency and intervene.
Candles are an invaluable source of light and even heat in an emergency. Simple, adaptable, affordable, and undeniably effective, candles have been with us for thousands of years and are likely to be with us for thousands more.
Choosing a quality survival candle can give you the most light for the least space and at very little upfront cost. So long as you pay a little attention to safety concerns as you would with any open flame your candles will serve you well after the lights go out.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.