What is the self life of lightsticks?

I watched that underwater cave movie last week and the part where the main character is out of batteries for their flashlights and grabs a bunch of lightsticks.

Then I thought: forget about flashlights for home emergencies. Each time I grab one the batteries are long dead. I could use lightsticks instead.

But the question is how long can you store lightsticks? I googled and the lightstick mfgs. say they are good for up to 4 years under ideal storage conditions.

But what is the real shelf life, ie. has anybody used a really old lightstick and what were the results?

I recently found a light-stick from my childhood. It must have been at least twenty years old, if not older. It light up just fine.

Psst … you might get better answers if someone changes the thread title to “Shelf life of lightsticks”

[Sorry I don’t have any answers, other than giving my rule of thumb for something like this, where I’m looking for reasonable home use shelf life rather than mission-critical guaranteed-to-work shelf life, is to take the manufacturer’s suggestion and multiply by 1.5 - 3 or so. ]

If you only want to avoid the (recurring) problem of batteries stored for months/ years in emergency flashlights draining, you can use either a flashlight powered by a dynamo (you pump it) or one of the new shake flashlights (you shake a metal stick through a magnet field to produce electricity).*

  • I have no association with either company; the links are intended as examples of type.

Here is a PDFin English about shake flashlights.

Light sticks have expiration dates. They will still work after that date, but you will see a degradation of illumination. For run-of-the-mill sticks, if they are more than 2 years past the “Best By” date, chuck them and get new ones. They’ll last longer than batteries, but not forever.

I had one in my backpack for maybe 8 yrs. I wondered if it still worked, as I’m sure it got bumped around a bit. I tried it and it worked, not sure if it worked at 100%, but it did glow.

There are other issues as it’s not a beam of light and not really that bright, it’s enough to get by, and I did use it for hiking, but the headlamp was far better.

Might be better to get a LED flashlight that takes AA’s or AAA’s and get the lithium batteries which have something like 10 yr shelf life.

Alkaline cells have a shelf life of 7-10 years and there are other battery options too.

Yeah, I was wondering about that part of the OP as well. Alkaline batteries will easily last 7-10 years unused. The problem is that people use up the batteries in the flashlights and then put them back in the drawer without ever changing the batteries.

Or just get a trickle charge flashlight and leave it plugged in.

IME, batteries will happily last many years in the Maglite brand flashlights, not so with other brands. I assume that the cheaper brands ‘leak’ electricity over time. The only problem I’ve had with Maglites is that sometimes the batteries stay in them so long, they can corrode inside it.

The shelf life of both lightsticks and batteries will be extended if kept cold. I keep mine in a box in my refrigerator.

It’s sensible to assume that batteries will promptly go flat when needed most. A spare set of fresh batteries deals with this well-known phenomenon.

At normal room temperature, alkaline batteries lose about 2% of their charge per year. Over the life of a battery storing them in a fridge will give you minimal benefit. If your house is much hotter than that you will lose charge much quicker, up to 25% per year, so storing in a fridge would make sense.

Really? I’ve always found that batteries drain faster in the cold. When shooting in winter I keep my spare camera battery in an inside pocket close to my body to counteract this.

Just an FYI - the shake flashlights suck. 30 seconds of shaking for 5-8 minutes of light? Try reversing that. The dynamo/crank ones work fine though.

Storing them in the cold makes them last longer. You should use them at normal temperatures.

You can also get a flashlight that charges by plugging it into the wall. We have one that functions as a night light in the hallway. When the power goes out, it comes on and it’s always at 100% charge. Here’s one example.

Exactly. Batteries operating temperature and storage temperature are different for a reason. When storing batteries you want to minimize the chemical activity, so lowering the temp helps (but as mentioned above if you are already at 65 degrees lowering any more barely helps you). When using a battery you want the proper amount of chemical activity or you get no juice.

If the battery is too cold (shooting in winter is the classic example) they will register as dead very quickly. In fact, there is plenty of juice in the battery, you just can’t active it. I sometimes swap out two sets of batteries, always keeping one warm. As you rewarm a very cold battery that read “empty” it will come back to life.

In very cold temps (-10 F or lower) lithiums work much better than alkaline or NiMH batteries.

You may also want to consider candles or liquid paraphen (liquid candle wax) lamps. The lamps last for years unattended ready to go and produce a good amount of light, are adjustable (dimable), fairly cheap, last long time on the fuel (efficient), and perhaps just a bit fun to use, sort of a novelity effect.

Funny timing, I just lit a lightstick I had since 1999 and it worked fine and lasted the recommend time

We had a bunch, and the problem we had wasn’t how long they stayed shining, but the fact that they give off hardly any light. They really do suck.