7 Improvised Light Sources

December 20, 2013 by | Be the first to comment »

Darkness can be deadly, so the ability to create light is a vital survival skill. It helps you to look for things, avoid stumbling over logs, or even signal for help.

But you might not always have a flashlight handy, or your batteries may die, so it’s important that you know how to improvise a light source.

Whether at home without power, or trekking through the wild, you probably have many more resources available than you realize; you just need to know how to turn everyday materials into a light source. These techniques are simple, but I still advise practicing them before you need them.

Crisco candleCrisco candle

Nearly everyone has a can of shortening in the pantry, and with the addition of a wick, you can create a candle that will burn for up to 30 days. The only critical detail is that the wick must be a natural material, such as cotton, jute, cardboard, etc.


Making a torch is simple; wrap natural cloth, rope, or fibers around a long stick, soak the end in a fuel, such as kerosine, oil, or even animal fat, and light it. This low-tech light source is great for illuminating your path and keeping predators at bay.

TorchBeer can lantern

All you need to make this improvised lantern is a beer or soda can, a wick, and oil. Simply cut the can in half, fill the bottom with oil, soak the wick thoroughly, then feed it through the top and slide the two halves of the can together.

Solar Yard LightSolar yard light

If your yard is decorated with solar yard lights, then you have a simple, inexpensive way to keep your home lit when power is out—plus, you can recharge them by simply placing them back in the sun during the day.


Most people today have a smartphone and while the screen alone is bright enough to produce adequate illumination, most have a built in flashlight (provided by the camera flash) that can easily light up a dark room.

Crayon CandleCrayon candle

If you have kids, you have crayons. In an emergency, these make handy candles that will burn for about ten minutes each, and as a bonus, the kiddos will think it’s really cool, so they’re more likely to stick around and watch them flicker rather than run around in the dark and get hurt.

Headlamp LanternHeadlamp lantern

Headlamps are incredibly useful, but can be a pain in a group setting because people inevitably end up blinding each other with them. A better option is to turn it inward and wrap the strap around a gallon of water, which provides area, rather than point illumination.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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