Survival Alternatives to Candles

When things go sideways and life changes in unexpected ways, resulting in a lack of power for an extended period of time, one of the things people need is a source of light. Candles, which are consumable, can be that source for a while, but at some point, they are likely to be gone. When that happens, it can be helpful to know what alternatives to candles for light are available.

There are several differentways to light a space without commercial emergency candles. Most people have some of the materials available in the home already. Many things around the house can be reused or repurposed. Sometimes the best candles for lighting a room are the ones you make yourself.

Homemade Candles

While these are still candles, they are renewable to some degree, as more can be made as long as one still has the materials.

  • Wicks can be made from all sorts of things, from cotton cloth, a shoelace, a piece from a rope mop, a bit of paracord, or other similar things. Bits of twigs or even wooden toothpicks might be possibilities. These should be dipped in the oil or wax that will be used to prime them.
  • Containers for homemade candles can be anything that can hold the fuel (oil or wax). These can be glass jars, empty cans, tins from breath mints, teacups or mugs, aluminum foil, even bark from a birch tree. Half an orange, with the center bit of pith left in, can be filled with fuel; the pith works as a wick to make the whole thing an oil lamp.
  • Fuel can be wax or pretty much any kind (check ingredients if it is not straight paraffin wax to be sure there is no lead or other contaminants) or oil of most types (including cooking oil). Vegetable shortening burns well; a can of it can have a wick inserted and burn for up to a month, 8 hours daily! The same could be done with leftover bacon grease and lard. Cans of fish packed in oil are also good fuel – the fish can be eaten before or after burning off the oil or the oil can be drained into a different container. Even a stick of butter can be used as a candle by simply adding a wick. Wax from cheese can be formed into a candle. Petroleum jelly, which can be added to cotton for a Firestarter, can also be used as a survival candle. Lip balm is another alternate fuel for handy survival candles.

Crayons can be set up on end and lit and will burn about a half an hour or so. Surrounding a wick with three crayons can make it burn longer.


Flashlights are the usual alternative. Because these are easy to get and easy to use, as well as being generally brighter than candles, people often have these in their survival kits. Whether handheld or headlamp style, these are usually battery powered, but can also be powered by stored solar power or with a wind-up mechanism.

Along with the standard flashlights used as expected, there are ways that smaller lights can be diffused or amplified. Mirrors can be used to help increase light. Water bottles or jugs can have a light attached to it – pointing inside – to light a larger area.

Kerosene Lamps

Old fashioned kerosene lamps are still available and are still a great option for lighting a home in the case of electricity loss.

Propane Lamps

Camping style propane lamps are very bright, but they also become quite hot and use a lot of oxygen. These must be used only where there is plenty of ventilation.

Solar Lights

These are good for lining a driveway but can also be used inside in a pinch. Charge them in a sunny window and they will provide light for 4-8 hours; more if they are motion sensing lights.

Power Failure Lights

Some lights are made to store electricity while it is available and immediately illuminate when power is lost. These can often last as much as two days without recharging.

Glow Sticks

Glowsticks are not very bright, usually, but can still help to move around without tripping in a case when power is limited, and light is low.

Natural Light

When possible, using natural light by opening window coverings and doors can help to illuminate an indoor space.


Where to Buy
SDS Liquid Oil Candles Votive Candle Fuel Survival Candles Long Burning Candles for Emergency Candle 115 Hours
LED Tactical Flashlight Rechargeable (Battery Included), IPX6 Waterproof Flashlight, 1200lm, Super Bright LED, Zoomable, Pocket-size Small LED Flashlight for Hiking, Camping, Emergency
GearLight LED Headlamp Flashlight S500 [2 PACK] - Running, Camping, and Outdoor Headlamps - Best Head Lamp with Red Safety Light for Adults and Kids
Vermont Lanterns Brass Mini 7
Stansport Compact Single Mantle Propane Lantern
Aootek New solar lights 120 Leds upgraded with lights reflector,270° Wide Angle, IP65 Waterproof, Easy-to-Install Security Lights for Front Door, Yard, Garage, Deck(4pack)
ENERGIZER Compact Rechargeable Emergency LED Flashlight, Plug-in Power Outage Light, Portable Rechargeable Power Failure Flashlights, Great For Hurricane Supplies, Survival Kits, Emergencies
32 Ultra Bright 6 Inch Large Glow Sticks - Chem Light Sticks with 12 Hour Duration - Camping Glow Sticks - Glowsticks for Parties and Kids (Colorful)


1. Long Burning Survival Candles

Liquid paraffinwax with a wick will burn for up to 115 hours and can be reused (but not refilled) by closing the lid in between burn time.

2. Tactical Flashlight

This LED flashlightis super bright and waterproof, but small enough to conveniently carry. Multiple light modes make it versatile and its included rechargeable battery can be recharged via USB with the included cable.

3. Headlamp

A shock and water-resistant light is affixed to an adjustable headband to be used in any conditions. The light is adjustable so it can point where the light is needed. Its 7 modes make it usable for a variety of purposes. It uses a AAA battery to provide the super bright light.

4. Kerosene Lamp

This small lamp can be filled with kerosene or other oil. It is small enough to be easy to carry if needed. Its light is adjustable from dim to bright, depending on the level of the wick, which is also replaceable. A full tank of oil will burn for up to 8 hours.

5. Propane Lamp

Simply add the propane cylinder between the stand and the light, turn on the gas and light the mantle to brighten any area. The regulator control allows users to set their preferred light level. The glass globe protects the mantle, which becomes brittle after burning, but can be relit with care.

6. Solar Light

Wide angle LED lights are powered by the sun. Waterproof and heatproof lights have three modes, one of which is motion sensor on/off.

7. Power Failure Light

This light sits neatly in a wall outlet and saves up power until needed. When power goes out, the light comes on and shines for up to 3.5 hours. It can be used as a flashlight, as well.

8. Glow Stick

These colorful extra-bright glow sticks add a bit of fun in a situation that may not have much otherwise. Non-toxic, waterproof sticks offer light for up to 12 hours.