There is one emergency situation that everyday incidents and massive disasters alike have in common, and that is a loss of power.
Power outage, blackout, brownout or any other sort of mishap involving our electrical grid means the lights we all take for granted will no longer come on at the flip of a switch. When that happens, preppers and average Joe’s alike will turn to flashlights, lanterns and anything else to keep the darkness at bay.
This is all well and good, but batteries are expensive and neither a flashlight nor a lantern is the best use of resources for hours long, round the clock area lighting. There is one other source of light that is often neglected by preppers in this day and age, and that is the simple candle.
Candles have been used by humans for millennia, for all sorts of purposes, and we can still make use of them today for emergency lighting.
Even better, we have access today to special survival candles, candles which have been optimized for low smoke, clean and long burning characteristics.
As a part of your at home survival stash or your bug-out bag loadout candles can definitely do the job and often do it better than a flashlight or electric lantern in certain circumstances.
This article will tell you what you need to know and also give you a list of 10 excellent options worthy of your hard-earned dollars.
Advantages of Survival Candles
Why should anyone go with candles over modern, electric powered flashlights, lanterns and other illumination tools?
I’m glad you asked, because as it turns out context is everything and when the context is providing soft, usable area lighting and doing it cheaply when the power grid is down and you cannot supply enough electricity on your own to run typical light fixtures, candles can handle the duty.
The way I see it, candles of all kinds have three standout characteristics that make for the perfect contingency lighting solution:
Candles are Cheap
If you are a prepper, you are probably already well used to breaking down everything you buy into a cost per unit, whatever the item in question is.
Food stores are broken down into cost per calorie, or cost per block of calories. Ammunition is purchased on a cost per round basis. Vehicle efficiencies measured and mileage and the fuel that provides that mileage has a cost. It is no different with lighting.
Modern LED flashlights and lanterns have a lot going for them, namely extreme brightness and ultra reliability, but these power hungry gadgets typically use expensive batteries, increasingly of the lithium variety. That makes light pretty daggone expensive on an hourly basis.
Many flashlights will burn through a $6 pair of lithium batteries in less than an hour. Now compare that with a quality survival candle that can burn for eight, nine or 10 hours, perhaps even longer, and do so for as little as 80 cents.
The cost savings on that unit of light is drastically different, yes? Considering all the equipment and capability you will need to furnish as a prepper watching your dollars is a prerogative.
Candles are Convenient
When it comes to lighting up your home and hours of darkness, there is hardly anything more convenient than a candle.
All you’ll need to do is flick your lighter or strike a match and you’ll have steady, reliable light for hours. Before the candle melts away completely, pull out another one, touch its wick to the one currently burning and set it next to its neighbor. Done deal.
Flashlights, lanterns and other electric lighting tools require batteries, oftentimes differing types of batteries, and that means you’ll need to keep track of them, keep them rotated and actually locate them or have them set handily about when it is time to replace them.
Not the hardest thing in the world, sure, but especially in an emergent event it is likely easier chasing away the shadows with candles then flashlights.
Also the per-unit cost of flashlights and lanterns ratchets up quickly if you are using them for area lighting. You can light up every single room in your house, functionally, using a few dollars in candles or over a hundred bucks with even cheap flashlights and lanterns.
Candles are Easy to Use
Compared to electric light sources, candles are simple and easy to use. There are no parts to maintain, no wiring that can break or short, no bulbs that need replacement and no circuit boards to fail. They are lit or they are not, and that’s it.
If you need more light or more heat from candles all you need to do is light more of them.
Ratcheting through the various modes present on a flashlight or lantern can be aggravating, and it seems like every make and every model has its own special code to accomplish the task of going from high to low or changing from one color to another.
The Top 10 Best Emergency Candles
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UCO is a big name in the emergency candle sector, and they are rightly renowned for making affordable, high performance candles that offer an ideal combination of runtime, brightness, and low soot production.
This is their flagship product, designed for use in a matching candle lantern, but working just as well as a standalone candle on any heat resistant surface.
Made from high quality wax with a pure cotton wick, these marvelous little 5-in candles will burn for at least 9 hours.
A multipack can give you several functional days’ worth of light during times of darkness, or in windowless building exteriors. No fragrance, low smoke and affordable, what’s not to like?
it should be noted that these candles do not feature any sort of metal cap or holder, and it allowed to burn all the way down will singe whatever surface they are resting upon, so make sure you place them upon a glass, earthware or metal holder to prevent the inadvertent damage of your countertop or furniture.
The last UCO entry on our list can be thought of as an upgrade over their standard survival lantern sized candle. This 12 hour candle is made from pure, all natural beeswax with the same cotton wick as the other offerings. They command a premium price, but the value is definitely there.
Why? Simply put, beeswax is a better fuel than paraffin wax, palm wax or soy wax.
Beeswax burns even cleaner with basically no smoke and it also burns longer, meaning you get an extra 3 hours out of the same 5 inch lantern candle format we have discussed previously.
Not for nothing, beeswax candles also have a pleasant, natural aroma while burning, and that might be just the ticket to reduce a little stress without clogging up your home with fake fragrances.
If you want to maximize your light output in the same amount of space and for the same weight, these natural beeswax candles are a logical and perfect upgrade for the task.
Coghlan’s is another long-standing maker of outdoor gear, camping products, and survival supplies, including emergency candles, though they are not quite as prolific as UCO.
Their flagship emergency candle product is a two pack of white, high quality paraffin emergency candles that will burn for 8 hours each, providing you with plenty of light for short-term survival situations.
Even better, these emergency candles feature metal stem bases to help better protect surfaces from accidental burning or the starting of accidental fires. The wicks are 100% pure cotton, and optimized to reduce smoke and soot as much as possible.
These are an excellent value and worthy of inclusion in any bug out bag, though you might need a larger supply for long-term, bug in scenarios.
For my money, either keep these in their box to provide them a little bit of protection while in your pack or drop them in small, cut down sections of PVC pipe to protect them before use.
Another Coghlan’s product, this one is another example of the classic survival tin type emergency candle.
A low, broad aluminum 10 with a separate aluminum lid, this candle features the same high quality wax found in their standalone candles along with a pack of all weather matches ready for inclusion in any survival stash or backpack.
This product is rated to burn for 36 hours, but that is not the nominal run time with all wicks burning. Instead, each week is spaced and the wax to burn for 12 hours on its own, meaning you can burn the wicks one after another to get maximum light over time, or burn multiples to increase heat and light. Either way, this is a versatile and adaptable survival candle.
Like other candles of this type, the tin helps to prevent accidental fires and scorching of delicate surfaces, no care should be taken if you are burning it on any sort of fabric like the floor of a tent, for instance.
Also, don’t throw away the tin when it is empty if you are in a survival situation since you can use it for all sorts of other tasks.
The SE survivor series 36-hour 3-week candle is another example of the candle in tin setup we have covered previously, only this one is distinguished by its tall, narrow form factor that provides better standoff from the burning wick and the metal bottom of the tin itself.
It is a small change, but definitely a welcome one if you’re going to be burning this inside your tent or other shelter and went to minimize the risk of the aluminum exterior heating up to the point where it could melt or ignite other materials.
Aside from form factor changes, the SE survivor series candle utilizes high quality soy wax and an equally high quality wick for a long, steady burning flame with minimal emission of smoke.
Sometimes, quantity has a quality all its own, and that is definitely the case with Stonebriar’s 8-hour extended burn time tea lights.
It also just so happens the product is high quality, too! Although not specifically marketed as a survival item, these have a cult following as an excellent survival product.
Unlike most tea lights that will burn for a few hours before fizzling out completely, Stonebriar’s tea lights, the same form factor as all the others on the market, have an amazing 8-hour burn time.
They also happen to be highly affordable and this can provide a clever prepper significant flexibility in a survival situation.
You could use multiple tea lights burning all at once to brightly light a room or help heat up a smaller space.
They are so affordable it wouldn’t cost very much at all to light up your entire house! If you like the idea of having more candles going at once for any number of purposes, these are a great value.
Sometimes it is best to go with a classic. These elegant, slender white candles are about 7 in. long and must be paired with a candelabra, candle holder, suitable lantern or some other device designed for holding 1-in diameter candles.
They don’t stand up on their own, but they also don’t drip wax all over the place and provide you with about an hour of light per inch of candle.
If you are the kind of person that likes candlelit ambience in your house you could do a lot worse than stocking up on these high quality candles since you can always bust them out in an emergency. Speaking of, that is a great way to justify getting them in the first place!
UCO 9 Hour Lantern Candles
The next offering on our list from UCO are their 9 hour lantern candles.
These candles have all the same great features of the previous entry on this list, but are now made with pure citronella oil, great for repelling all sorts of insects including ones that would love nothing more than to bite you and drain your blood.
Sure, citronella candles are typically thought of in a recreational context, for making your outdoor cookouts and evening round of cocktails on the patio more pleasurable by keeping the biting bloodsuckers at bay, but that is not all they are good for.
If you are camping or in the middle of a hair-raising bug out situation on foot, you might be glad to have a package of these with you so that you can get more meaningful rest and reduce stress in the middle of the wild.
Happily, these compact candles will work in a lantern all the same, if you choose to use them for that purpose, but regardless they will still burn for at least 9 hours, providing light and a shield against insects in equal proportion.
Best Glide ASE Adventurer Pocket Survival Candle
The flagship product from Best Glide ASE, the adventurer pocket survival candle is only a smidge bigger than an Altoids tin, but features three wicks that can give you up to 36 hours of burn time.
Probably the best part of this candle is its ease of use and its adaptability, making it a perfect inclusion for even the smallest survival kit or ultra minimalist lightweight hiking rig.
All you need to do is swing open the attached lid and then light one or more wicks. More wicks means more light and more heat, but less burn time, while fewer wicks means just the opposite.
This allows you to easily tailor your usage to the task at hand, from heating up a cup or mug of liquid to providing ample and soothing light at your campsite to help you get through a stressful night.
The metal tin the candle is poured into helps prevent accidental fires when the wick burns down low, and it can additionally be repurposed for other survival tasks when it is empty.
Take Care when Burning Candles
Candles are great, and they have a lot going for them but they also have major flaw compared to electric flashlights and lanterns. Candles, obviously, provide light by openly burning, and any open flame is a potential source of disaster if it is set up carelessly near combustible materials or knocked over by accident.
Candles left on attended or haphazardly placed around a home can easily start a devastating house fire that can make an already bad situation exponentially worse.
You must take care when lighting and placing candles to keep them away from especially flammable materials in the home, things like drapes, blankets and comforters, carpet, books, and so forth.
Also ensure that you corral kids and pets so they cannot deliberately or accidentally knock over a burning candle.
With that warning out of the way, let’s get on to our list of emergency candles that warrant inclusion in your survival stash.
SDS Liquid Oil 115 Hour Survival Candle
The only non-wax burning candle on our list, the SDS liquid oil survival candle is instead a liquid paraffin fuel candle that has more in common with a votive torch than the other entries on this list. Nonetheless, it is marketed and sold as a candle and so warrants inclusion.
The standout feature of this candle is its amazing 115 hour burn time on a full load of fuel. Considering the compact size of this candle that is a remarkable amount of light and heat.
Unlike other competitors’ products, the SDS survival candle is made from plastic in its entirety, except for metal components in the wick housing. That means the risk of shattering it when it is dropped or jarred is far, far less than glass alternatives.
This is a tremendous upgrade from a safety perspective, because a shattered liquid-fueled candle goes up like an incendiary grenade, and can quickly turn into a raging fire you have no hope of extinguishing before it gets completely out of control.
With just a little bit of caution, this is a superb option for a bug in scenario.
Despite having unparalleled access to incredibly efficient and long-lasting electric flashlights and lanterns candles still have a place in the modern prepper’s survival repertoire.
Candles are simplicity in itself, and can provide usable light far cheaper than most portable electric sources. So long as you are able to prevent accidents and provide a surface suitable for the burning of a candle they make a great option for lighting anytime the power goes out.