In any survival pack, or just out in the wilderness, having light is essential. Though, so is having food. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to have both, in one place? Welcome to the true survival candle. It can be burned for light, or, in emergencies, eaten for sustenance.
The true survival candle uses tallow (beef fat simplified down) as a burning fuel, and thus makes it 99% edible (don't eat the wick). You can use any fat though, I also have made them from bacon fat (added benefit, the candle smell awesome).
It is relatively simple to make and besides a lower melting point than normal wax candles, is much more useful than a standard tea light. Also, depending on how you package your candle, it can be more efficient in packing space and come with additional advantages (I wrap mine in tinfoil, which gives the added benefit of a small piece of tinfoil that can be utilized as well).
You Will Need:
1) Fat/tallow Source (beef fat from butcher or a pack of bacon from the store)
2) Candle wick (I got mine here: http://rusticescentuals.com/Wick-Chart.html#RRDSeries and ended up going with the thicker wick in my candles -- RRD Wicks are the recommended wick of choice for more viscous candle waxes: http://www.peakcandle.com/category/Wicks/RRD-Wicks.aspx).
3) Containers for your candles (I used children's juice boxes).
4) A nail (or anything to cleaning poke a hole in your container).
5) Glass jar & heat source.
6) Coffee filters.
Let's jump into it! [Also, if you like this Instructable, please vote for it!]
Step 1: Purify the Tallow
For beef tallow: follow the same picture steps as shown here with the bacon, but get beef fat from your butcher (they'll sell it to you cheap ... it is just the excess fat), and render it down a couple of times to make it as pure as you can get (pure white as possible).
1) Acquire your fatty substance (bacon or beef tallow)
2) Put it in a frying pan on low and melt the fat into liquid form.
3) Remove the meat parts (in the beef tallow there will be some meat that has found its way in)
i.) The best way to remove unwanted particles is to pour the hot tallow/fat through a coffee filter. This will take a number of filters, but gets it pure on the first go round.
4) Pour the tallow in a jar (you can pour through the coffee filter into the jar or through the filter into an easier bowl and then pour into a jar).
5) Let the jar sit out and cool slightly for an hour or two, then place the jar in the fridge.* You can just leave it out to cool, the fridge just speeds up the process.
*If there are any impurities in the tallow, they will separate out, and the fridge cooling will solidify the tallow mixture and you can then spoon off either the imperfections or spoon off the purified tallow once it is solid.
Step 2: Prepare the Container
Choose your container. A rectangular solid (or a box, as it were) will form the most efficient container for packing candles into a pack. Rounded corners (in the typical candle shape) have potential to be squished and would created wasted space.
I found some nice children's juice boxes at the grocery store and proceeded to:
1) Drink all the juice;
2) Cut 3 sides of the top to open up a lid;
3) Poked a hole in the bottom of each box with a nail;
4) Threaded the wick through the bottom, knotted it, and up through the top straw hole. [NB: If your container does not have a straw hole, the wick can be tied to a nail placed within the top of the container, as pictured, instead.]
Step 3: Heat, Pour, and Cool
1) Take the jar of tallow out of the fridge and place it in a pot of water over the stove. Like a double boiler, melt the tallow in the jar. Do not let the water boil (it is just better that way). A double boiler method will ensure the tallow does not burn or become impure in the heating process.
NB: Remember to scoop off any impurities first (or if the pure tallow has separated to the top, scoop that into a separate jar for the heating). OR, you will have done a great job from the start and the jar will contain only pure tallow anyway.
2) Using a funnel, carefully pour the melted tallow into your containers.
NB: It can be useful to put tinfoil below the containers to start, or to be aware that a little outflow will occur.
3) Stick your containers with wick and tallow in the fridge and let cool.
Once cool, the candles can be wrapped in tinfoil and packed in your bug out bag. Remember though, if it gets really warm, the candle will melt, so try not to store your pack next to a heater or out in the hot sun.