One choice is the chemical ‘Light Stick’. Light Sticks are not going to provide a blinding light like a gas or propane camping lantern but it will provide a soft glow that will let you see what you need to.
Depending on the size, color and brand the common 6 inch white, green or yellow light stick will provide continuous light for 8 hours.
Light Sticks are safe, can’t start on fire, non-toxic and generate no heat. You can hang them from trees, tent poles, inside campers or cars, stand them on end on a table or shelf, wear them around your neck or hold in your hand while walking. They come in a variety of colors with white, pale Green and yellow being the most common.
Lightsticks in Cold or Hot Temperatures
Simply put: the colder the temperature the dimmer and the hotter temperature the brighter.
All sticks are tested at a temperature of 72 degrees F (22 degrees C) to determine the illumination duration.
Each 10-degree C (50-degree F) increase or decrease in temperature doubles or halves the reaction rate, and therefore the brightness and duration.
For example, the same light stick that emits approximately 30 lux (a unit that describes how much light is visible over a square meter) at 15 minutes after activation at 24 degrees C (75 degrees F) will be half as bright but glow twice as long at 14 degrees C (57 degrees F).
At 34 degrees C (93 degrees F), the same light stick would be twice as bright, but glow half as long. Storage at elevated temperatures (above 120 degrees F or 49 degrees C) will decrease shelf life and start to soften the plastic tube, and increase the risk of a leak.
Exposure to cold temperatures will not affect the light sticks if they are warmed above 40 degrees F (4.5 degrees C) before activation, unless they are frozen (which occurs at -15 to -20 degrees F, or -26 to -29 degrees C). Once light sticks have been frozen, they will still produce some light, but performance will not be as reliable.
Humidity and atmospheric conditions do not affect the light sticks.
This is something I never paid attention to because I thought these chemicals would last forever. Well they don’t! Depending on the manufacturer the shelf life will be between 2-5 years. If you have a choice, avoid the 2 year brands and just buy the 5 year ones.
Expired Lightstick Test
I decided to test two I had in old stock only to find they expired in 2006. The result was one didn’t work at all, Zero light! The second one was about ¼ the brightness of a new one. In the photo below are one of the expired lightsticks on the right and a fresh one on the left. Expired stock may very well leave you in the dark when you need light the most.
Don’t Buy Military Grade Lightsticks
The Cyalume SnapLight "Industrial" Grade Chemical Light Sticks lights are chemically very similar to the "Military Grade", but have a longer shelf-life. The "military grade" lights are formulated per DoD specification and as such cannot take advantage of newer formulations. In short: if you are buying the "Military Grade" lights because you think they are better somehow, they are not. They are the same brightness. As a matter of fact, according to Cyalume the military versions have one year less shelf life (4 versus 5 years for the industrial series). The higher price reflects the custom (older) formulation that the DoD specifies.
Made in the USA
I try to support companies based in the USA. During my research I discovered only one company in the USA that manufactures light sticks and that is Cyalume. All the others are from China. Cyalume also meets rigid military specifications. The company employs 120 people dedicated to enhanced customer service at its corporate headquarters in West Springfield, Massachusetts. SnapLight lightsticks are sold nationally in Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Lightsticks do have a place in emergency preparedness.
Lightsticks do have a shelf life.
Know what you have in your storage and the expiration dates.
Be sure to replace with fresh ones before the expiration date.
Look for the package expiration date or if ordering online ask what it is before you buy. You want only 5 year expiration dates.
Always keep them sealed in the wrapper until ready to use. My testing proved that when exposed to sunlight the chemicals degrade to the point they will not produce any light.
Keep a few lightsticks in each of your vehicles, in your camping gear, hunting gear, kitchen drawer and especially the bug out bag.
Photo’s of the new Cyalume lightsticks I just purchased:
An online source for Cyalume, Made in the USA, Lightsticks: