Survival Basics

Emergency Lighting when the Power is Out

Light is actually not considered a priority for survival. Even so, every bug out bag and survival kit I’ve ever seen includes emergency lighting, a light of some kind, usually a flashlight. That’s because we humans are geared for functioning in the daytime, but still have to do some things at night. Since our eyes are designed for the full light of day, we need some sort of light to be able to do much at night.

If the fire is going in the fireplace, we have light to use as well. It might not be as much light as we would have with electric lighting; but it would be enough to do a variety of things by hand, as well as reading and writing. 

But what if the fire isn’t going? We don’t usually need a fire to heat our home in the middle of summer heat. It would be a shame to have to waste the wood and generate the extra heat, if a fire in the fireplace was the only way we could light our homes during a time when the grid was down. We need other means of generating light; fortunately, they exist. 

Flashlights & Headlamps

The first thing any of us think of for light, when the power goes out, is grabbing a flashlight. Now, with LED tactical flashlights all but taking over the market, that’s an even better option. Not only do those LED tactical flashlights provide a lot of light, but they do so while making efficient use of battery power. The ones mounted on an elastic strap, to be used as a headlight, make it much easier to hold the light and still be able to work. 

Even so, these lights will go through batteries rather quickly. So, while it’s a good idea to have them, they shouldn’t be your only lighting source. Nor should you rely solely on alkaline or lithium batteries. Get rechargeable ones and enough solar charging capability to make sure that you will always have batteries available. 

Skylights and Sun Tunnels 

There’s always that part of the day when we’re needing artificial light not so much because the sun has gone down, but because the limited windows in our homes keep enough light from coming in. With that in mind, doesn’t it make sense to install means of getting light into our homes, even when the window shades are drawn?

Solar tunnels have an advantage in that they are reengineered to absorb sunlight and send it down the road, bringing it into your home. Even though they are smaller, they’ll bring in more light than skylights do. But being smaller, they are easier to install. 


The candle has been around for over two millennia. Back in the early days of colonizing America, pretty much every town and hamlet. Today, candles are mostly decorative, which makes them much more expensive. 

However, you can find a lot of decorative candles in garage sales, usually for about a quarter. They can then be melted down and made into new candles. I like using used spaghetti sauce jars for this. That also gives me the opportunity to add more wicks; typically four per candle. A four wick candle will produce four times as much light as a one wick candle will, but it will also burn through the wax four times as fast. 

When buying wicking, be sure to buy some that is wide, not narrow. The wider it is, the bigger the flame and the more light the candle will produce. 

Emergency Lighting when the Power is Out

Oil Lamps 

What first relegated candles to a secondary, decorative role was the oil-burning lamp. These are much more efficient than candles, not requiring all the work to make the candle. Pretty much any flammable liquid will work in a lamp, but you don’t want something that will burn too fast, like gasoline. 

It is easy to create makeshift oil lamps out of a variety of materials. As with a candle, a wick is needed; but the wicks used for oil lamps are usually much bigger in diameter. In a pinch, pretty much any cloth or even natural rope can be twisted into a wick. 

Gas Lantern 

The Coleman company still produces their old camping lantern that runs off of gas (or Coleman fuel, which is gas). This shouldn’t be confused with the ones they make which run off of propane. Those little propane tanks are going to be scarce in a post-disaster world, but gasoline is one of our most common fuels. While it may get hard to find, there will still be some around, even after people stop driving their cars. 

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