Best Survival Candles

Updated May 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

40 Models Considered
10 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
187 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best survival candles

Electric lighting is always there to keep the night at bay… until it isn’t. We take light for granted in our homes, but sometimes storms, falling limbs, and other emergencies steal our power — and lights — for an extended period of time. There are a number of ways you can light your home in the event of a power failure, and one of the most affordable and reliable is the survival candle.

Survival candles, sometimes referred to as emergency candles, can also prove handy in the event of vehicle breakdown and during recreational pursuits such as hiking and camping. You can buy them in a variety of shapes and sizes. In this guide, we illuminate the basics you need to know, from burn times to wax types to cost.

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There are some situations where candles may not be the best emergency light choice, such as after an earthquake or in other circumstances where gas leaks may occur.

Key considerations

Solid vs. liquid

While the majority of emergency candles are solid wax candles, some of them are liquid-based, making them similar to oil lamps. Differences exist between the two that you might wish to consider before purchasing a survival candle.

Solid wax candles: These candles can be a more stable option than liquid. Because there is no danger of spillage, they are also more portable.

Liquid-based candles: Liquid-based candles may be refillable, and the wicks can often be adjusted to change the level of light produced. Because they are liquid, these candles are more susceptible to spills. Notably, liquid candles are often made from petroleum-based liquid paraffin, which releases toxins when burned.

Quantity

Survival candles are often sold singly, one candle per order. Sometimes you can buy them in bulk, receiving 20 candles or more at a time. Buying in bulk generally costs less per piece, and it can be helpful if you wish to light several rooms at once.

Burn time

Survival candles usually have a much longer burn time than regular candles, and this is a big selling point. Burn time is essentially how long a candle will produce light, from when you first light the wick to when it sputters out. Some survival candles will burn for less than 10 hours, but the majority produce light for much longer. In fact, the burn time for some survival candles is over 100 hours.

Portability

Long a staple in “bug out” kits, some survival candles are made to travel. A survival candle that is lightweight, compact, and sold in a container with a lid is much more portable than other candles.

Indoor/outdoor use

While some survival candles can be used both indoors and outdoors, others are recommended for outdoor use only. These candles contain chemicals such as citronella that can produce toxins when burned. For similar reasons, paraffin wax should be avoided for extended indoor use.

Note the manufacturer's recommendation when buying a survival candle, and if you notice a strong odor when burning it, consider using it only outdoors, as this is usually a sign of chemical additives.

Stability

A candle that tips over is a huge fire hazard. Hence, a wider candle — or one that is encased in a non-flammable container — is often preferable. If you are using thin, tapered candles, be sure to use them only with a sturdy candle holder. This goes for all taper candles, not just the survival type.

Candles can start a fire. They can also burn paws and little fingers easily. If you have pets or children, be sure to place candles out of their reach.

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Features

Wax type

Survival candles may be made from several different wax types. Three of the most common types are paraffin, soy, and beeswax.

Paraffin: Paraffin is one of the least-expensive wax types. It is derived from petroleum and, as such, can release a slew of toxins when burned. It is recommended that these candles only be used outside. When burning, paraffin tends to create more smoke than other waxes.

Soy: Made from soybeans, soy wax is all-natural and burns cleaner than paraffin. It is also more expensive.

Beeswax: Also pricier than paraffin, beeswax is another all-natural option. Beeswax produces a mild scent that some might find objectionable if burned over a long period. Note that beeswax is made by bees and is therefore incompatible with a vegan lifestyle.

Candle containers

While some candles are freestanding and made with molds, others are poured and ship with their own container. As mentioned, these are excellent in terms of portability. A candle in a container is also safer and less messy when used at home.

Common container materials include metal, which is durable and long-lasting; glass, which is attractive but breakable; and plastic, which is lightweight but flammable and also prone to breakage over time.

Number of wicks

Some survival candles have only one wick, whereas others have multiple wicks (usually three). More wicks produce more light, but they also lessen the burn time of the candle. A big plus with multiple wicks is that you can use your candle like a “three-way” light bulb, adjusting the light level by simply lighting or extinguishing individual wicks.

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DID YOU KNOW?
U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics show that the average American consumer will experience two power outages per year.
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Survival candle prices

Inexpensive: Survival candles start at $10 or less. In this price range, you can expect to see many single candles, usually made from paraffin wax, with shorter burn times of 36 hours or fewer.

Mid-range: The price tag on the average survival candle is $10 to $20. These candles may be made of paraffin, soy, or beeswax. A considerable range in burn times is available, from 36 hours to 100+ hours. You will also find candle bundles (usually up to three candles) in this price range.

Expensive: If your goal is to maximize burn time, survival candles over $20 are for you. In this range, you will find the longest burn times, with some high-end liquid candle sets capable of burning for several hundred hours.

Some survival candles contain citronella, which releases toxins when burned. These candles should only be used outdoors.

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Tips

  • To get more burn time from multi-wick candles, light only one wick at a time. Rotate the wick in use every couple of hours so the candle burns evenly.
  • To determine the number of emergency candles you’d need in a power outage, buy an inexpensive set of tea candles, and run an “outage test” some night. To do this, turn off all your lights and light a few of the candles. Spend 15 to 20 minutes adding more candles or blowing out lit ones to determine how much light – and how many candles – you would be comfortable with in the absence of electricity.
  • Survival candles are not the only item you should have in your safety kit. Experts recommend that in addition to candles, you also stock up on flashlights, batteries, headlamps, and other lighting options to be prepared for any emergency.
  • To increase the illumination from your survival candle, place it in front of a mirror. While this won’t double the amount of light from the candle, it will increase the light by scattering it throughout the room.
  • If you’re considering a multi-wick candle, research the actual burn time first. Some manufacturers of multiple-wick candles list a burn time based on one-wick use (for example, 36 hours). If the candle has three wicks and you light them simultaneously, the actual burn time may only be a third of the stated burn time (in this scenario, 12 hours).
  • While beeswax costs more, it has a higher melting point than paraffin and soy wax and therefore burns brighter. Add to this the slight honey scent that it produces, and beeswax becomes one of the more comforting options for an emergency candle.
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Even candles in containers can spill wax. Place all lit candles on a plate or other non-flammable surface to protect tables and shelving from wax damage.

FAQ

Q. Is a survival candle an effective heat source?

A. Not really. While the minimal amount of heat produced could be used to warm your hands in an emergency, relying on survival candles for heat is not recommended. And while you could raise the temperature of the room with enough candles, this would quickly turn into a fire hazard. Instead, think of adding a portable indoor heater to your emergency supply closet.

Q. Are emergency candles scented?

A. While a scented candle is fine for occasional ambiance, it really has no place in an emergency supply kit. Emergency candles are typically burned for longer periods of time than traditional candles. If they were scented, that could lead to headaches or allergic reactions as the scent builds up over time.

Q. How many emergency candles do I need?

A. The number of emergency candles you should stockpile depends on a number of factors. If you will be using them for camping or hiking, you obviously won’t want to carry a large quantity and will only need enough to last your trip.

If you’re buying for an emergency kit, however, consider how often power outages tend to occur in your area. How severe are the outages? If they last an hour, you will need fewer candles than if they last a day or more. Also, consider the number of rooms you’d want to illuminate and how much light you’d need in each room.

The good news is, survival candles are not outrageously expensive. You’d probably be better off buying more candles that you think you’d need, just to be on the safe side.

 

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