Since the invention of electricity, people have become fascinated with and reliant on its existence to provide light once the sun goes down. At one time, humans used to huddle around a central fire for warmth and protection.
Later, we learned to make candles and lived by their light during the night time darkness for centuries.But once Thomas Edison popularized indoor electricity, it all went downhill from there.
Now whenever the power goes out, too many people are left without anyway to light their homes—and even those that do have backup lighting usually cannot sustain it for any length of time. That is where survival candles come in.
Qualities of a Survival Candle
When choosing the best emergency candles there are a few things you have to take into consideration.
Basically, what is the candle made out of? The obvious answer is wax, but that is just a “duh.” Many candles that everyone is already familiar with are made from wax, but even within that broad category you have to ask “what kind of wax?” This is where things get a bit trickier.
Most of the decorative candles or the ones that you might find in most people’s homes that do not really burn for all that long are actually made from a paraffin wax blend. These may look and smell nice, but they are garbage for survival situations.
They also produce soot and other potential toxins or allergens depending on the blend, which is bad news bears if you are in a small enclosed space.
Instead, it is better to find candles that are made from either Beeswax, Soy Wax, or even Palm wax if you can. These three are much longer burning than paraffin and generally do not give off any toxins, allergens, or soot unless they are impure or blended with some other kind of wax or additive—this is especially a concern for Soy wax which is often sold as a blend.
If you have never really paid much attention to your candles, then you probably do not know there even are different kinds of wicks. However, among candle makers, it is relatively well-accepted that the candle’s burn qualities are more generally determined by the wick, not the wax.
The variety of things used as candle wicks is too long to list, but today most candle wicks you find will be made of cotton. The main reason for this is that cotton more effectively absorbs the wax to allow to provide a much longer burn and to the prevent the wick from just burning.
Of course, nothing simple is ever good enough, so someone had to try to “improve” on what already works.
For example, wicks that have a zinc center are better a standing upright and will not bend or droop into the candle, but they are often used for waxes that do not burn as cleanly or as well. Paper core wicks burn very bright and hot. This is a wick which will give you an excellent amount of light, but like the zinc core wick, will not last as long.
So if you want to make a big show of how short you will survive, these are for you.
But the most effective wick, and the wick that is the favorite of many seasoned candle makers, is a braided wick of cotton and a special paper filament. These wicks provide the longest and most controlled burn. They also trim the wick as it burns so it will not slip into the wax. Or you can just try to be “different,” and we will see where that gets you.
As mentioned before, veteran candle makers put more value in the wick as a means of controlling the candle than the wax.
Aside from what the wick is made out of, the way the wick is constructed will also greatly affect the how the candle burns. There are generally four types of candle wick constructions.
These are the most common types of wick found in numerous types of candles. They are generally made from three different bundles of cotton fibers and woven together.
They are flat-plaited or knitted together which allows the wick to curl into the flame and trim themselves—though, depending on the wick composition, this can cause them to droop into the wax before they have burned down. This construction is often found in pillar or taper candles.
This is a popular wick for garbage candles that are awful in survival situations. Think twice if you see your “survival” candle with one of these.
These would be like the zinc or paper cored wicks mentioned in composition. These wicks will vary more depending on what they are made out of, but they are usually braided.
Remember, a paper cored wick will burn bright and hot, but not for very long. A zinc cored wick would be preferable to a paper cored for a long lasting burn. Cored wicks will not bend or droop into the wax, but they also do not necessarily trim themselves either.
This is essentially a bit fancy and serves no real added benefit for survival. If you are Snotty McMoneybags, then you may want your wick to have an unnecessary core.
Square wicks are the best construction for the longest burn. If you are looking to survive, then this is the only choice for you.
These are a braided wick that are similar to the flat wick, but are thicker than flat wicks which allows them to absorb more of the wax and burn for longer periods. The square wick design is also rounded a bit and curls into the flame.
These wicks are also a favorite for beeswax candles because they can help prevent the wick from clogging. Unless you are looking to become meat, stick with this wick.
Which is more of a catch-all term for the other types of wicks that do not fit into any of the other categories mentioned above.
The wicks of oil lamps fit into this category as do the wicks bug repellant candles.
You do not need to bother yourself with this wick since it will not help you survive, unless you just want to get cute and try to add a bug repellent to your survival candle. But if you are worried about bugs, chances are you are not going to survive.
Our Top 3 Choices
In a hurry? Here's a snapshot of what's below:
Review of the Best Emergency Candles
Now that we've covered a bit of background info, let's get into the nitty-gritty. Below is our review of the best emergency candles of the year.
Zombie Tinder - Extreme Survival Candle
You would think with a name like Zombie Tinder, this would be a bad product made by silly people. However, this candle is serious business. Zombie Tinder also offers a number of products for starting or maintaining fires including flint and steel strikers for those of you who are looking to go at it old school style.
However, for a company that seems focused on providing outdoor oriented fire products, it is a bit surprising that the Zombie Tinder Survival Candle only provide a maximum of 12 hours of flame. That is not even a full day.
First, it comes in a tin like the others, but the top screws to maintain a tight grip even under duress.Also, while it does not boast the palm wax of the SE candle, it does do better than the Coghlans paraffin by using 100 percent beeswax.
Finally, it does not come with matches, but the Zombie Tinder candle does come with a ginned cotton swab to make lighting it easier. Simply mold the cotton swab around the wick and any reasonable spark will light the candle.
Coghlans 36 Hour Survival Candle
Coghlans is a company that specializes in outdoor equipment and outdoor accessories. If you are going on a camping trip or just out hiking for the day, they produce a wide range of products which may be of use to you.
Since Mother Nature generally does not come with electricity, except during a rainstorm—and you do not want any of that—they also provide candles that can be used for different purposes.This survival candle is a solid entry for a bug bag.
It comes in an aluminum tin which makes setting it up and keeping the candle’s flame under control easy. Also, when you want or need to snuff the flame, all you have to do is put the lid on top of the candle. This candle boasts a solid 36 hours of total burn time.
However, it also comes with 3 wicks, so depending on how you set it up, you may only get 12 hours of burn time. It states that it weighs 6 ounces, but with the tin added, it is over 7. One nice little bonus is that this candle comes with its own pack of matches that fit nicely between the three wicks which are located at the edge of the tin.
SE is not a company like Coghlans that specializes in outdoor equipment, though they do offer a wide variety of those products as well.
However, within the SE product catalog you will find a wide variety of products that have nothing to do with outdoorsman activities. For instance, SE makes a 26’ dog leash. Though, other SE products are distinctly not meant for outdoor use, like a dapping block for jewelers.
Of course, SE also provides a survival candle. This candle has some of the same benefits as the Coghlans. It comes in an aluminum tin which makes controlling the flame easier. The tin also prevents the wax from spilling and even adds a built in flame snuffer with the lid. However, the SE candle does not come with matches, so you will need to start the flame some other way.
Also similar to the Coghlans, the SE comes with three wicks which allows you to determine how much light or heat you get at any given time with a maximum of 36 hours or a minimum of 12.
The SE candle’s tin is taller and has a smaller diameter than the Coghlans, but both weigh about 7 ounces. Once difference is that the SE candle is made from a blend of palm and soy wax. The primary wax constituent is palm with a soy top.
Each of these candles has their benefits and disadvantages. Being able to get the candle started easily is a big advantage. The matches of the Coghlans and the ginned cotton swab of the Zombie Tinder do that each in their own way.
However, any survivalist worth his weight in gear will already have something to start the fire.In this case, it is almost impossible to discount the 36-hour burn time provided by both the Coghlans and the SE. Of course, if you are looking for a good clean burn that will not aggravate someone who has allergies or is potentially sensitive to paraffin, The Zombie Tinder and SE candle edge out.
Still, when all things are considered, the superior wax of the SE Survival candle with its potential to provide more burn time than either of the others has to ultimately take the prize for one of the best emergency candles. Because when it is do or die, every extra second of light or heat can be the difference between going home or going into the ground.