Economic Multipliers (74)

Do you know what these are?

They help CREATE wealth in systems.

Camping skills (example 2) are an economic multiplier for any individual or community that loses power in cold weather.


I don’t own a hot water bottle but have warmed my hands on a cup of hot water, tea or coffee many times.

If I planned to stay in a cold house and didn’t know for sure when the power would come back on, I’d consider the ability to heat water and food to be a necessity (because it would also heat me).

Even without ‘power,’ I’ve never really lacked the ability to heat food and water: I have built solar cookers, own an inexpensive plastic Fresnel lens (concentrates sunlight like a magnifying glass), have access to dead wood (you don’t want to cut down live trees in an emergency unless you planned to cut them down anyway), have a few candles and own a high efficiency backpacking stove (which is amazing if you also have camping fuel (NOT gas)).

I’ve also studied the efficiency of different kinds of cooking vessels and have been reading ‘Cooking Green’ by Kate Heyhoe (a very good book if you want to learn some simple techniques for cooking food with a LOT less energy … the stove’s and yours).

If you have a fireplace, wood or gas stove (stoves with electronic ignition can usually be lit by hand) or any kind of grill along with adequate fuel, it’s easy to warm food and/or drinks.

I fired up my backpacking stove (a Svea 123 … initially selected years ago after a coworker lent me, taught me how to use and I got a chance to try out his) and was able to bring 2 cups of water to a rolling boil (212°F or 100°C … an unnecessarily high temperature for hot water which reflected wasted fuel) in about 11 minutes in damp 40°F (4°C) weather (the flame wasn’t optimal (old fuel and too hurried) so it may be possible to cut a few minutes off this time).

But what I wanted to know was what would happen if I tried to heat water with a little tea candle.

With a somewhat efficient homemade ‘stove’ design (see P.S.) and a 45°F (7°C) ambient temperature (I tested everything outside), in 2 hours, the unattended to but monitored candle raised the water temperature from 55°F (13°C) to 140°F (60°C), held steady and then lost some ground as the water temperature dropped to 136°F (58°C).

Then the candle went out even though there was plenty of wax left (possibly a problem with the wick or insufficient draft as the ‘pan’ got warmer) and since I seemed to have reached some sort of ‘steady state’ with that fuel source anyway, I bundled (with a rubber band at the bottom) 3 fast burning shortened (~3.5” long) thin (~0.5” dia.) candles which initially had their flame much closer to the bottom of the water container and raised the water temperature (which had already dropped to 115°F (46°C)) to 176°F (80°C) in 15 minutes. At this point, the bundled candles ran out of wick so they could no longer burn but not wax (the fuel).

Keep in mind that this was only 2 cups of water and if you are going to heat it for warmth, you’d want to use it or insulate it in something like a Thermos bottle immediately to conserve the warmth and your fuel.

A magic number for pasteurization, the process whereby heat is used to ensure that any ‘rogue bacteria’ is eliminated, is 161°F (72°C).

It’s nice to know that it’s possible raise small quantities of water to that temperature using candles, even if the process did take a couple hours.

And, if I had started with and used more bundled candles (think number of wicks consuming more wax/fuel), the process would have taken less time.

My backpacking stove raised the same quantity of water to that temperature (starting at 55°F (13°C)) in 8 minutes, which means that I could have easily justified saving 3 minutes of that 11 minutes worth of fuel.

A cold weather emergency is not mine to deal with today. But I know that it’s usually easier to explore possibilities when you’re NOT dealing with any emergency.


P.S. A few photos to help describe a fairly ‘efficient’ do it yourself with candles design (OPEN) … think safety first with fire and heat, thin silvery pans and covers, cooking surface stability, hotpads, hot and sometimes flowing wax, and a good draft (air/oxygen supply) for candle flames. Also note that predesigned designs like Sterno and Coleman cooking stoves and fuel will usually work a lot better than anything you’d ‘cobble together’ in an emergency (but in an emergency, many people have decorative candles lying around).