The 8 best light sticks. Photo of glow sticks in bottles during blackout.

No emergency pack, disaster preparedness kit, or recreation pack is complete without safe, economical, and long-lasting light sources. That's why we've reviewed the eight best light sticks.

Light sticks?

When going through your checklist, these may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But when disaster strikes, you'll be glad you packed them. They're much safer than candles, so you can place them around your home or campsite for ambient light. 

Light sticks vs Flashlights

Flashlights may work great for providing beams of light, but they're a poor choice for steady low-lighting.  Unlike flashlights, light sticks tolerate extreme temperatures and don't require batteries that may leak or corrode over time. Meanwhile, candles are neither windproof nor waterproof, can melt, and can also pose a fire risk.

Light sticks provide great ambient light and can even serve as signal lights when needed. You can also store them in car or with camping gear without fear that they'll leak or melt. ​

Now, you may want to just grab some of those cheap glowing batons and bracelets from a party website. But we advise you spend just a little more and opt for the serious  camping and emergency gear. After all, glow sticks can last 8-12 hours and can be purchased in several different colors.

How We Chose Our Ratings

When choosing the best light sticks for emergency and recreational use, it’s important to know that the product is reliable and delivers what it promises in real-world situations. We gathered feedback from a variety of sources to ensure that we had the best information on hand.

We also considered the reputation of the brand and their level of customer service. Product quality and features also contribute to our ratings, as does the feedback of everyday users in different situations.

Best Light Sticks Comparison Table

Top 8 Best Light Sticks

The best light sticks are durable, well packaged, and able to emit a reasonable amount of light for 8 hours or more. Although some of the options on our list are pricey, as glow lights go, we also offer some more economical options.

beige circle

1

Cyalume Green Glow Light Stick

These commercial-grade light sticks from Cyalume offer the same 12-hour light output and quality of elite brands. Yet they come at a lower price that makes them a no-brainer for recreation as well as emergency kits and disaster prepping.

Cyalume can light the way during  blackouts. Yet they're also great for water sports such as fishing, and other activities like hunting, hiking, and camping. They even come in the same larger pack sizes as their industrial counterparts. You can buy them in packages of 10, 20, or 30.

The Green Glow light sticks also come with the Cyalume five-year warranty and are made in the USA. In addition, they're the official chemical light used by the US Military. Yet the reasonable price makes them an excellent and durable option no matter what you  use them for.

PROS

  •   Intense light output for up to 12 hours
  • Official chemical light of the U.S Military
  •  Water-proof, non-flammable, non-toxic, means ChemLight light sticks are as safe as they are durable

CONS

  • Colors other than the green and blue may not be bright enough.

QUALITY

PRICE

OUR RATING

Good Deal

beige circle

2

Northern Lights Brand Emergency Light Stick

These six-inch light sticks by Northern Lights are another economical choice for those looking to add light sticks to their emergency pack or recreational activities. Each individually wrapped stick will glow for up to 12 hours and contain non-toxic luminescent material.

These light sticks also come with the conventional lanyard hole and hook on top so that they can hang where they are needed. Each stick has a diameter of approximately 15 mm. While some customers report quality control issues, others have found these light sticks to be reliable and very much available.

Numerous customers report being able to find this particular brand of light sticks at recreational stores, department stores, and even their local dollar store.

PROS

  • Completely safe & non toxic
  • 12+ hours of long bright glow

CONS

  • Although the product is popular, not many reviews are out. One of the reviews was highly negative, saying the glow lights didn't work.

QUALITY

PRICE

OUR RATING

Good Deal

beige circle

3

Cyalume Emergency Light Stick

Unlike other light stick options on our list, this one is a single unit of industrial grade quality explicitly designed for use in an emergency situation. The Cyalume Emergency light stick provides up to 30 minutes of incredibly bright light and also features a stand.

This light stick is different from the other options as it functions more like a flare. Unlike a pyrotechnic flare though, this light stick uses a safer glowing material that is non-flammable and doesn’t generate heat.

The malleable wire stand helps to prop up the light stick to maximize visibility, and the design meets the standards set by the Department of Transportation (DOT). This flare style light stick is therefore safe for vehicle fleets, and transit organizations without needing a permit to store it.

These light sticks are made in the USA and have a guaranteed shelf life of 2 years. Although each unit is pricey, they are a much more reliable and safe option than conventional flares and can operate in inclement weather or any brutal conditions.

PROS

  • Top of the line chem-sticks
  • Bright, long lasting and sturdy.
  • check
    Great in power outages, safe for kids

CONS

  • An excellent product but for a limited and specific use.

QUALITY

PRICE

OUR RATING

Good Deal

beige circle

4

Recon Medical Ultra Bright Light Sticks

Recon Medical produces high-quality light sticks that have a shelf life of two years and are individually wrapped to prevent damage. The luminescent filling is Phthalate-free and eco-friendly which makes them the perfect addition to your camp pack, or hiking kit.

One stick will glow for up to 12 hours, and customer reviews praise these lights for their ultra-bright glow, small size, and reliability. They are only 6 inches long, but many users report them to be brighter than light sticks that are much larger.

Recon Medical light sticks are waterproof and will work in extreme weather conditions or underwater. The hook and lanyard hole at the top of the light stick allows you to hang it from a tree, pack, or tent.

The most notable thing about Recon Medical is their 24-month guarantee and their 24/7 Support Team. Not only can you get your light sticks replaced for free without getting asked a lot of questions, but their customer service is also reported to be very helpful.

PROS

  • BreakLights work under water and in extreme weather conditions
  • durable, compact and easy to carry.

CONS

  • They start to fade noticeably when you hit the 8 hour mark, but last 10 hours decently. 

QUALITY

PRICE

OUR RATING

Priced competitively

beige circle

5

Coghlan’s Light Sticks

Coghlan's Light Sticks are 9 inches in length and made from a non-toxic agent that is luminescent. This agent is contained within a plastic housing and is capable of glowing for 12 hours.

These light sticks do not warm up when activated and are perfect for emergency packs, and for use during power outages. These light sticks are also suitable to leave in your car and other environments which are not climate controlled.

The top of the light stick features a hook so that they can be suspended with thin cord or string where they are needed. Each light stick is individually packaged to ensure sticks are not damaged while stored, and they are available in several different colors.

PROS

  • Durable plastic construction
  • Durable, Compact And Easy To Carry.

CONS

  • Although the light lasts over 12 hours, they get much dimmer towards the end.

QUALITY

PRICE

OUR RATING

Good Deal

beige circle

6

Cyalume SnapLight Yellow Glow Sticks

The Cyalume SnapLight Yellow Glow Sticks are the same ones used by soldiers and made in the US. You can get them in larger packs such as 10, 20, or 30 light sticks, and the patented formula claims to maintain a high amount of light output for a full 12 hours.

These light sticks are guaranteed for five years, and each one comes individually wrapped. They are industrial grade and boast a level of quality they claim can't be found in their competitors' products. Customer reviews rate these light sticks very highly, and even praise the price which is just over $1 per light stick.

Cyalume has provided light sticks to the US Military and other agencies for over 40 years according to their site, and they maintain strict quality guidelines to ensure that their light sticks work. These light sticks are good underwater use and for use in confined spaces.

PROS

  • Great in power outages, safe for kids
  • Bright emergency chemical light good for about 12 hours.

CONS

  • Green, yellows, and blues burn brightest, the other colors get dim more quickly.

QUALITY

PRICE

OUR RATING

Well-priced

beige circle

7

Be Ready Yellow Glow Sticks

The Be Ready light sticks have an ideal operating temperature between 40 and 80 degrees which makes them an excellent choice for camping and general emergency use, but not great for inclement weather or harsh conditions. Each light stick has a hook and lanyard hole at the top, and each rod comes with a lanyard cord.

The light sticks are waterproof and industrial grade. Each one is filled with non-toxic luminescent fluid and can last several hours. Users debate the 12-hour glow time, stating that some of the light diminishes after the 8-hour mark.

Be Ready recommends their light sticks for activities such as hiking, biking, boating, and scuba diving. Beware that different colors have different amounts of time that they glow. Given that they are relatively inexpensive they are a favorite for campers.

PROS

  •  Super bright
  • Use these on camping. They works great.

CONS

  • Not many reviews to go by

QUALITY

PRICE

OUR RATING

Good Deal

beige circle

8

Windy City Novelties Emergency Light Stick

The Windy City Light Stick is a 3-in-1 design that functions as a glow stick, whistle, and flashlight in emergency situations. Its 8 inches long and includes a lanyard so that it can be attached to your pack, pants, or shelter.

The lightweight design is ideal as part of your everyday emergency pack as it is compact and thin compared to other similar products. The battery that powers the flashlight is chemical free which means that it shouldn’t leak into your pack like other batteries will over time.

Customers commonly report using these in their emergency packs, for international hiking and trekking, and for trips into lesser developed locations where light may not be guaranteed. The Windy City light stick retails for around $5.99.

PROS

  • ideal as part of your everyday emergency pack
  •  emergency packs, for international hiking and trekking, and for trips into lesser developed locations

CONS

  • Not many reviews are out.

QUALITY

PRICE

OUR RATING

Good Deal

Buyer’s Guide

Real light sticks will sometimes be referred to as chem lights, but manufacturer packaging is still inconsistent with the naming of these products, so it's important to read the details. Most light sticks will glow for at least 8 hours, with many of them glowing for 12 or more.

The color, shelf life, and durability of the light stick that you choose for your emergency kit can make a big difference in how they perform when you need them. While all companies may have bouts of quality control, many manufacturers have produced consistently high-quality light sticks for years.


Color

Color can be an essential factor when choosing the best light stick for your needs. While common colors include yellow, orange, and green, they can also be found in white, blue, and even red. Pick a color that makes the most sense for the application you are most likely to use it in and consider different color options as the need arises.

Yellow and green are highly visible options that are perfect for emergency situations. Red can warn people of danger, and white can be an excellent choice if you need emergency light for reading or other activities.

If you think your activities will demand a mix of colors, there are multi-color packs available so that you can experiment and find the best hue for the task at hand. Disaster preppers will commonly choose a variety of colors for signaling purposes and marking.


Shelf Life

The shelf life of the light stick that you choose will dictate how often you will need to rotate them out of your kits and replace them with fresh ones. While the standard for modern light sticks seems to be two years, many companies are now offering longer 5-year shelf lives for their products.

Longer shelf life is generally a good thing to look for when choosing a light stick, as this will increase the likelihood that it will work when you need it and decrease the frequency that you’ll need to replace your stash.

Light sticks with both 2-yearand 5-year shelf lives frequently feature similar luminescent material, however, the packaging may vary, and shelf life may also change based on the color selected. It's a good idea to opt for a longer shelf life when possible unless you don't plan to use the light sticks for anything other than recreational fun.


Glow Time

Glow time is a standard marker for a light stick's quality, and many customers report that their light sticks continue to glow longer than the number of hours specified. While this is likely true, it's also important to remember that the amount of light the light stick emits will diminish over time.

If you need truly bright light, you should plan on having more light sticks ready than you think you might need. Plan for each stick to last 8 hours if it specifies it lasts for 12, and then you can be sure not to run out of light.

Featured Image: CC 0 Public Domain US Air Force Airman 1st Class Sean Campbell via Fairchild AIr Force Base.