The Best Emergency Candles for Prepping and Survival

Years ago Romans began using candles to light their homes, travel during the night, and for religious ceremonies. Fast forward 5,000 years and emergency candles are still a staple for survival kits because they are so darn simple.

You can’t go wrong with a candle. They are easy to use, ridiculously cheap, and rely only on basic chemistry to work. Despite their age, more candles are sold more than ever before, but more for ‘setting the mood’ rather than everyday living. Here, we’re focused on no-frills survival candles. There are several types and brands to pick from, so you have several options when you have decided to add them to your survival kit. This is where we come in. We’ve researched all of the survival candles, tested them in the elements, and have selected the overall best, the best tea candle, and a paraffin oil option. If you need candles that won’t let you down in an emergency, one of our suggestions will be the perfect fit.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


UCO Emergency Candles

The Best Emergency Candles

UCO Emergency Candles

Great Value, Long Burning, and High Quality

The best value over every candle we compared and tested- engineered for emergencies.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

UCO Emergency Candles are large, basic emergency candles- which is everything and all you need in an emergency. These big boys are 1 1/4″ wide and 3 1/2″ tall, giving them a great 9 hour burn time . The high-melt paraffin wax reduces soot and dripping, and the cotton wick is the perfect size to provide a bright flame for all 9 hours, unlike tea lights.

They sell these candles in a few varieties and in different quantities. The citronella and beeswax options are good for specific uses, but the added cost doesn’t make sense if you plan on using the candles for emergencies. UCO also makes a candle lantern to hold these candles, making these mobile and even more versatile.


Stonebriar Tea Candles

The Best Tea Candles

Stonebriar Tea Candles

Cheap, Lightweight, and Effective

The best tea candles for any situation are extremely cheap and effective for a wide range of scenarios.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

The Stonebriar Tea Candles may not necessarily be designed for emergencies, but they are more than capable in this capacity. Stonebriar makes quality candles using European palm wax and a cotton wick. The tiny size may not put out as much light as a hurricane candle or survival candle, but they are easy to scatter around an area and still have a whopping 6 hour burn time.

These things are perfectly versatile due to their size. They travel well packed in a kit and are easy to set up anywhere you need quick, cheap light. They may not put out a ton of lumens, but that’s fine if you need to limit light pollution. They are bright enough to be able to see small areas or read maps on their own. If you need to brighten an area up more, just set up more tea candles.


SDS Oil Survival Candles

The Best Oil Candles

SDS Oil Survival Candles

Refillable, Long Burning, and Versatile

The clear leader when it comes to oil survival candles, with refillable liquid paraffin versatility.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

The SDS Emergency Candle is a good option if you are looking for a refillable solution. It uses liquid paraffin as fuel, and packs a huge burn time for a small package. A single candle will burn for 115 hours! It uses a plastic case and lid (rather than glass) so it is more durable and less likely to break.

We had a different brand’s liquid paraffin leak in one of our bug out bags, and it is not a fun thing to deal with. The bug out bag still smells faintly of oil. If you want to go the compact emergency candle route, make sure you go with a great brand like SDS- where they engineer it to be used in survival situations.


Everything We Recommend

UCO Emergency Candles

UCO Emergency Candles

The best value over every candle we compared and tested- engineered for emergencies.

Where to Buy

$5* (3 pack) at Amazon

$8* (3 pack) at Walmart

*at time of reviewing

Stonebriar Tea Candles

Stonebriar Tea Candles

The best tea candles for any situation are extremely cheap and effective for a wide range of scenarios.

Where to Buy

$14* (100 pack) at Amazon

$9* (50 pack) at Walmart

*at time of reviewing

SDS Oil Survival Candles

SDS Oil Survival Candles

The clear leader when it comes to oil survival candles, with refillable liquid paraffin versatility.

Where to Buy

$19* (3 pack) at Amazon

$19* (3 pack) at eBay

*at time of reviewing


The Candles We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several candles and candle brands that we tested: SDS, Stonebriar, UCO, Candlelife, SE Survivor, Bolsius, and more. This helped us eliminate some of the candles that just weren’t a good value.

There is a huge number of brands that make dinner candles, with most of them not having a very good burn time. A lot of these brands are imported and are usually pretty cheap, but are also easily disrupted by supply chain issues.

We also steered clear of any fragranced candles or decorative candles, because they are not optimized for emergencies or survival. Of course, if you happen to have those during an emergency, they are better than nothing.


What to Look For

The best candle have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Burn Time
  3. Wax Type
  4. Wick Type
  5. Versatility

When you get the right blend of these, you can find solid survival candles that will easily get you through emergencies and disasters. Below, we break down what each of these features mean for a great emergency candle.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

As we mentioned earlier, there are a ton of cheap candles out there. Especially decorative and scented candles. If you happen to have a lot of candles on hand, even if they are not ideal- you could still use them in emergencies. Otherwise, you’ll want to stash some candles in your emergency kit and find the vest value for your buck.

Our top pick focuses on value first and foremost, but the alternate picks of tea candles and liquid paraffin are the best values for their respective functions.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially candles. Using your money to get the most functionality and versatility out of your survival kit is the smart way to go. There is a sweet spot where you get high value out of the best functionality with not-to-high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.

Burn Time

Rather than worrying about scents (pumpkin spice!) or how the candle holder looks, we’re concentrated on the candle’s burn time as one of our main focuses. Candles that burn for just a few hours just won’t cut it. We can’t spend all of our time during an emergency swapping out candles constantly, so we’re looking for candles that will last at least most of the night.

“Fire and Forget” candles are nice as well- candles that hit the sweet spot burn time of 6-10 hours, since you can light it for the night and forget them. Candles that run under this time may need to be replaced, and candles that run over will need to be tamped when you are done using them to preserve them for later.

Wax Type

There are plenty of different types of waxes (and fuels) used in candles. We tested palm wax, paraffin (solid and liquid), beeswax candles and more as we went through the different brands. Paraffin is a great value, because it comes from a byproduct of the meat industry. Beeswax candles typically cost twice as much, but had about a 50% better burn time than paraffin counterparts. Palm wax performed similarly to paraffin, and can be economical based on where it is sourced. Each wax type has benefits and trade-offs, so this was not heavily weighted into our decisions.

Wick Type

Cotton with various wick cores are the most popular wick types. Zinc core, paper core, and coreless cotton wicks can be found in many candles. Some of the wicks (like our top pick) are treated with high-melting point wax to reduce soot and mushrooming.

You may also see some wooden wicked candles, but these are usually not practical for emergencies unless you just happen to have them around. They are meant to provide some ‘crackle’ sound and are used in fragrant candles.

Versatility

Some candles come in containers, like the tea lights or the liquid paraffin survival candles. This makes them more durable and less likely to break apart (in most cases). Our top pick as a candle lantern designed to be used with it, making them work well on-the-go too.

Refillable options add some versatility, but those are mostly limited to liquid fuel candles, unless you plan on drawing your own wicks and wax dipping your own candles. That’s not really refilling but just creating more solid wax candles- but it can be an option if you have the resources.

There are lots of ways to use candles, which makes them versatile.


How to Use an Emergency Candle

Candles are simple to use, but they are also surprisingly versatile. Set the candle where it is out of the way but can shine light on work areas, traffic areas, or living spaces during emergencies. Brighter burning candles (like our top pick) are better for rooms, while tea lights are good for just having visibility in the dark.

Light the candle with whatever matches you have on hand. We can suggest the best stormproof matches, but if you are setting up candles indoors you can just use the matches or lighters you have on hand.

Make sure drapes, paper, maps, or any other combustible furnishings or supplies are close to the candles, and that the candles are set up on a sturdy surface were they are not likely to be knocked over or disturbed.


Who Needs Emergency Candles?

Candles are such a versatile lighting tool that they are found in most survival kits. They are cheap, easy to use, and work in conditions when power and electronics do not.

Emergency candles are an integral and essential part of these kits:

Candles are a suggested addition for these kits:

No matter what threats could come your way, a candle is one of the simplest light solutions you can have for a survival situation.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

An objective look at the best candle is useless without sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our practical military experience and prepping acumen.

National Candle Association. (2021). Early Origins and Early Wicked Candles. candles.org. (Source).

Fine, P. & Cass, G. (1999). Characterization of Fine Particle Emissions from Burning Church Candles. Environmental Science & Technology. 33, 14. 2352-2362. (Source).

Kitahata, H., Taguchi, J., Nagayama, M., Sakurai, T., Ikura, Y., Osa, A., Sumino, Y., Tanaka, M., Yokoyama, E., & Miike, H. (2009). Oscillation and Synchronization in the Combustion of Candles. The Journal of Physical Chemistry. 113, 29. 8164-8168. (Source).


The Final Word

A candle may seem like a small and insignificant light source, but they are easy to set up and use, and have been around for people during emergencies for thousands of years. Being able to see in the dark and at night is very important for survival and emergencies.

Besides candles, there are a few other light sources you can consider for survival:

Plus, you could always make a fire to generate light or to light your candle:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found that UCO Emergency Candles are the best option given the value, burn time, and versatility. Candles are easy and simple to use, but it doesn’t hurt to try them out every once in a while if you plan on relying on them in an emergency. Don’t let them sit in your bag or kit indefinitely- get them out and get familiar with them by using them.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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The Best Emergency Candles

Rusty

I am an engineer by day, but a prepper 24/7. I am an Air Force veteran that developed emergency and disaster plans as an emergency manager and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters worldwide. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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