In the event of a long-term power outage, the obvious inconveniences will unfold such as a lack of heat or air-conditioning, television, microwave, and video games.  However, many folks dangerously underestimate their need for appropriate lighting.  You may be unaware that insufficient lighting will not only be incredibly inconvenient, but dangerous on so many levels and can also quickly lead to depression.

Indeed, the lighting that surrounds you directly affects your mood.  And believe me, while candlelight is great for a brief romantic evening, you’ll soon tire and even be annoyed by it in a long-term emergency situation.

If you’re going to spend the money on lighting preparations, be sure you take the time to test it…long term, in the dark, not just turning it on in the store and feeling like it’s sufficient.  Many folks have “candles stored by the dozens” without ever testing the lighting they have on hand to ensure it’s suitable.  As I always say, never have equipment on hand that you haven’t used and become familiar with.  Let’s explore some of your lighting options.

Lantern Reflector photo c/o

Lantern Reflector photo c/o

Battery operated lanterns can be quite convenient, complete with a remote control.  However, in the event of a power outage due to a large solar flare or an EMP attack, your lantern will most likely become useless.  Be sure that you have a mix of lighting options.  Don’t rely solely on one fuel, one type of candle, or just battery operated equipment for your lighting.  Each lighting solution you elect to use is preferred if you can magnify it with a bulb like you see on a lantern, or a reflector like the ones from colonial days—a silver plate behind the candle in order to project the light.  Placing candles in front of a mirror is a great way to reflect the light as well.  You can usually get by with purchasing cheaper candles if you’re able to use this method.  This is in part why we have stored many square mirror tiles, which are great to use for signaling as well.

Next, your lighting must be portable.  While some stationary lighting in your shelter is fine, be prepared to have dependable and effective lighting for travel, even if your travel is simply to the backyard “outhouse.”

Candles for lighting are affordable, but you will find they put out very little usable light.  Lanterns, whether oil or battery powered, will usually give you more light.  However, you will need several light sources to give your family the kind of light that you will need to function.

There are several reliable solar powered lighting options.  I’ve tried and used many of the solar powered head lamps, flashlights, and such.  Try some for yourself and don’t be afraid to send them back or return them when they just don’t cut it.  You want a piece of equipment that holds its charge for several hours, not just 30 minutes.  Make sure the light puts out sufficient power in order for you to function.

Lanterns that use white gas and propane get very hot and have an intense smell.  Use extreme caution using either of these for indoor lighting.

Many candles are poorly constructed as they allow the light to tunnel into the wax as it burns down.  Thus, the more it burns, the more the light is hidden.  Be sure that your candles continue to convey their light at the top of the candle.

Hurricane Oil Lamp photo c/o

Hurricane Oil Lamp photo c/o

Small oil lamps are surprisingly effective in putting out light.  Care and caution must be used when using them inside your shelter of course, and around children.  This is why my one of my preferred type of lighting is oil lamps like the ones you see in antique stores.  I really like the hurricane version which runs on oil, but are also protected with a bit of metal décor around the edges, making them sturdier.  Plus, they are attractive enough to have on display everyday in my home.

  • In a pinch you can place some canola oil in an empty tuna fish or other like shallow can, with the lid mostly attached.
  • Press down the lid to create a slope from the side of the can in which the lid is still connected.
  • Pour a little bit of canola oil in the can.
  • Tightly wad a thin wick of paper towel or newspaper, and place it in the oil, on its side running up the slope of the lid.
  • Just a small portion of the wick should be pointed up out of the can.
  • You can also take a jar, put some sand in the bottom and then place a small votive candle on top of the sand.  The candle inside the jar will aid in providing stronger reflection.

If you’ve invested in those otherwise useless florescent glow-sticks, you’ll soon realize that they won’t give you much operable light.  However, if you heat them in a pan on low heat for a minute or two, it will dramatically enhance their lighting power.  Of course they won’t last as long this way, but they are mostly useless otherwise.  I suppose you could also string several of them up around your shelter, but it will take a lot of them to provide sufficient lighting.

The oil that you store for your lamps actually has a very long shelf life.  You can even use cooking oil that has gone rancid in some cases.  Of course olive oil is an ideal fuel because of its medicinal and cooking uses as well as its extensive shelf life.

In closing, I want to extend a Two-Day Light Challenge.  Try living solely off of your emergency lighting for two whole days.  Go ahead and live with your other luxuries during those two days.  But for two days use JUST the lighting that you have planned on using in an emergency.  See how ready you really are.  Are you game?

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A tuna fish can candle! That is so ingenious!!


yeah, but be sure the clean it well. :-) By the way, you saw the article before the challenge was put at the end: In closing, I want to extend a Two-Day Light Challenge. Try living solely off of your emergency lighting for 2 whole days. Go ahead and live with your other luxuries during those two days. But go two days using JUST the lighting that you have planned on using in an emergency. See how ready you really are. Are you game?

If I had to, I would use the Nu-wick, but I can think of numerous better options for cooking with ie: Joy Cook stove,. For real lighting I also prefer a lantern of some sort.

As you mentioned, the glowsticks are not much good for actual light to do anything by--I have them stocked for comfort light for the kiddos. Safe enough for them to go to sleep with (unlike anything with a flame).

We camp most years at a 9 day event where we only use candle/oil lamps (except for emergency runs to the outhouse in the middle of the night, then we use a flashlight). I'll have to take up the light challenge here at the house sometime. Sounds fun! :)

Kellene, are you familiar with Nu-Wick candles? What do you think of them as an emergency cooking source?

When without power after hurricanes and storms we manage OK using my solar garden lights, which I leave out during the day and bring in and set up around the house at night. I also have a wind-up lantern and a few battery powered table lanterns. While the battery life is pretty good in the table lanterns, this would not be a long-term solution.

This is so old I am sure every hunter knows it. I take Tuna or cat food containers(washed and cleaned) pack corregated box strips in a tight circle with the middle extended up, the fill with "Parafeine" which is very combustive...I have carried these self made little gems as a good and quick way to start an outdoor cooking not use inside ...too dangerous. I was fortunate enough to work for a box company so I could get them for nothing as they were wast...other than that a box cutter works well.

I was just looking at the 100 hour emergency parrafin candles from Emergency Essentials. Smokeless odorless.. only $4.95. Has anyone had any luck with these, is there a lantern they could be placed in for safty? Hmm.. One child, One Cat, and two dogs... Looking for something with good light and safe for my home.. :)

So many great minds on this site!

Yes, they were useless and provided VERY little light.

I'm reading older posts, since I only discovered your site a month ago. I was going to mention the glow sticks for kids. The kids love them and they also help you keep track of them in the dark. Our family collects oil lamps, there pretty and useful. Also along the track of preparedness and kids I don't home school my kids but I do make sure we have math, reading books, etc. This is great to have on hand all the time, but if we were stuck inside for any length of time I would certainly have them doing "school work" daily for routine and my own sanity. How about a challenge on no TV, electronic forms of entertainment for a week. We do this when we go camping, but maybe a little practice in the house would be good.

As I'm adding to my non-food prep storage, I was thinking today about lighting. I've purchased one of the Olive Oil lamps from Lehman's which we've used a few times in the past during power outages. It was about $15, uses olive oil which I always have on hand, and the oil will not catch fire if accidentally spilled. This is crucial to me as we have two cats. I'm going to order at least two more of these this month.

They have several styles, but the one I prefer is a pint jar with a handle and comes complete with a lid. When the power comes back on, I just let it cool, replace the lid, and store it until next time.

I'm hoping those solar path lights will go on sale at the end of the summer, the brightest ones are more expensive but should work great to put a light in a child's room with zero danger.


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