Posts Tagged ‘candle’

Imagine yourself where the snow is many feet deep, snow is falling, the wind is blowing and the temperature is dropping. This situation would be dire, but certainly one you could survive, especially if you had a little preplanning.

The first step would be to build a shelter. In the stated situation, Mother Nature has already supplied you with building supplies: The snow. Snow is a surprisingly good insulator.

Dig a hole into the snow, preferably on a slope. Basically, you are making a tunnel slightly larger in diameter than your body. If it is on a slope, you are burrowing slightly upward so that the snow and wind are less of a factor. When you’ve dug in between six and 10 feet, excavate a ‘room’ that is a little longer than you are when you recline and about triple your width.

Poke a hole from the side edge of the room to the surface at an angle. This is for ventilation and it should be just an inch or two in diameter. Without ventilation, the shelter can hold in the carbon dioxide that you exhale, until it reaches toxic levels.

The next step is to get tree boughs and pull them into the shelter, on the bottom, to keep you off of the snow. Otherwise, your body heat will start melting the snow, you’ll gradually get wet and when the water refreezes, you’ll be in trouble. Fir boughs are especially good for a bedding cushion. Even if it isn’t especially comfortable, at least it keeps you off the snow.

Okay, so what’s the bit about the candle, mentioned in the title? The candle serves a triple purpose. First, it supplies light. You wouldn’t believe how dark it gets when you are 10 feet inside a snow bank.

Second, it provides a huge amount of warmth. There is little worry that the snow will all melt, because the heat simply melts the facing edges. The snow that is behind it causes the thin layer of melted snow to freeze into a layer of ice. In turn, this reflects the heat back into your little room, making it even warmer. The ice also lends strength to the structure. You might note that neither the light nor the soot is usually visible from outside the snow cave.

The third purpose of the candle is that candle wax is both waterproof and flammable. Sooner or later, you are probably going to want to build a fire and the candle wax can be quite helpful is helping you get it started. It can generate enough heat that even damp twigs can dry out and burn. A tiny fire can be built inside of the snow cave, provided that the room is large enough, however even if a warming fire is built outside the cave at a later time, any candle drippings can be used to start it and they should be saved.

Though the building of snow caves is often part of winter survival training, this is something I’ve been doing since I was seven years old and living at Crater Lake National Park, where I grew up. The difference is that we did it for fun rather than survival. Our tunnels were also often much more elaborate than what I’ve just described, so there is room for the imagination.

Have you ever built or been inside a snow tunnel?


There are a number of things that most survivalists keep in their emergency kits. A lot of people who haven’t received any survival training are kind of surprised at one of the very handy tool’s though: A plumber’s candle.

As a nation, the United States just came through one of the most bitterly cold winters on record for at least the last 50 years. This would have been a perfect time for people to have kept a few plumber’s candles handy, and there really isn’t a bad time to have a few in the ekit (emergency kit).

These are the candles that are usually less than a half foot tall and a bit less than an inch in diameter, sometimes sold as ‘8-hour candles’. I’ve never seen one actually burn that long, but the point is that they produce a surprising amount of heat and light. It is important to note that we weren’t talking about the little decorative candles or those that will burn up fast. Here are just a couple scenarios where they could be life savers:

You and your family are home, temperatures are sub-zero outside and the power goes out. You get the family into the smallest room in the house, probably the bathroom, with blankets and such, knowing that it is easier to heat a small space than a big one. You open the window just a little, also knowing that venting is important to get rid of excess carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, then you light the candle. The candle provides heat and light, and can actually keep the room above freezing, despite the outside temperatures. (Body heat would also help.) This could keep everyone from freezing to death before help arrived.

Another scenario: You are driving along the highway with the family, on icy roads and with snow falling. The snowfall turns into a blizzard and unavoidably, you find yourself stuck in a snow bank with snow rapidly covering the car. Help will probably arrive, but it might take hours before it does. You know that running the car so you can use the heater is a bad idea. You’ll soon run out of gas, and in the process, the carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfate from the engine would reach toxic levels in less than a half hour.

So you roll down the window just a little, again for ventilation, turn off the engine, and pull out the handy candle. Burning the candle can keep the compartment warm. It can also be used to heat food, if there is any (a good emergency kit will have at least some food in it). It can also be used to dry out clothing, such as socks. It can even be used to melt some snow in order to have water to drink.

In both cases, you’ve turned a potentially deadly situation into merely an inconvenient and frustrating one. Your chances of survival increase many times.

All of this is possible because of including a candle in the emergency gear. A lot of people don’t think about including one. There are many other great ways that candles can keep you safe, too, and I’ll be writing about some of them.

The question is, do you have one or two 8-hour candles in your emergency gear for the home, office and car?