America's electrical grid is in trouble. And more than any other single threat, the chance of sweeping and longterm blackouts should concern you most. Whether it's caused by storms, a hacking attack, or earthquake, a major power outage will affect every single element of your life. Forget water, sewage systems, and grocery deliveries.
In this section you'll find solutions to keep your house lit, at least partially powered, and heated. And, if you aren't able to stay in your house, we've got the supplies to allow you to go afield with light, power, and warmth, too.
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HOW TO KEEP THE LIGHTS ON... AND STAY WARM DOING IT
LIGHTS! PERSONAL & HOME EMERGENCY LIGHTING
That old flashlight you have somewhere in your junk drawer just isn't gonna cut it when the lights go out. And trust us: At some point, the lights WILL go out. Our lighting section is split into two sections. No 1. is the best personal lights, such as flashlights, headlamps, and lanterns. No. 2 are lighting solutions for houses and apartments, including solar opitons.
EMERGENCY LIGHTING FAQ
How much should I spend on a flashlight? Cheap lights will let you down. Expect to pay $20-$30 for good small lights; $90 for super-bright "tactical" lights.
Flashlight batteries, what kind are best? For emergency purposes, lithium are best. They have 15-year shelf lives & never leak. They also work in extreme cold.
So, solar lights?
A huge yes. They work great these days and will give you an ideal long-term solutions, esp. for interior lights.
THE VERY BEST LIGHTS FOR PERSONAL USE
Bottom line: You need lots of small, reliable flashlights — in the house, car, purse, and bags. This penlight has more than 100 lumens, needs only two AAA batteries, and is made of aluminum so will take a beating. See our full review of 5.11 flashlights.
Recommended for: Several for each shelter; home, go-bag, vehicle, and away shelters.
No. units recommended: Lots. You can't have too many good flashlights around.
You’ll also need: AAA batteries. We highly recommend using these lithium AAA for critical items.
Bottom line: A super-bright flashlight in a wieldy package. The one to use in a real emergency. See our full review of 5.11 flashlights.
Recommended for: Home.
You’ll also need: 3 D batteries.
Be aware: This thing is SUPER bright and mega reliable. ownside: We hate D batteries.
Bottom line: When the electricity is out, lights are crucial. So is the use of your hands. So, voila! A good headlamp is worth its weight in gold.
Recommended for: Shelters (home/away); go-bag, vehicle.
No. units recommended: 1 for every adult and ambulatory child. Having them in your go-bag is most crucial.
You’ll also need: AAA Batteries. In this case, we suggest these AAA lithium, which have an especially long shelf life.
Bottom line: A packable solar lantern than you can use indoors or out.
Recommended for: Home/away shelters, go-bag, vehicle.
Be aware: You can charge it up via a USB/wall unit, which we recommend. That way it will be ready to go when you need it. A fully depleted battery takes as many as 20 hours to fully charge. Goal Zero also sells separate solar panels, from small to quite large, which come in truly handy.
Reviews & field notes on the 5.11 PL 2AAA: Cheap flashlights are the WORST. We've bought those multi-packs from Costco and are endlessly frustrated when they don't work. They flicker, you shake them, and the light warbles on and off, and you can never be sure if it's the batteries or the flashlight itself. The California company 5.11 makes the best flashlights we've ever used — and police, the military and security forces tend to agree. See our full review of 5.11 flashlights. The brand new PL 2AAA penlight has more than 100 lumens, needs two AAA batteries, and will take a beating. Good for your purse, bag, nightstand, vehicle, etc.
However, we do recommend a separate, high-lumens, "tactical" light for deep-night navigating. Reviews & field notes on the 5.11 Station #D. So, do you really need an expensive flashlight? This one is hellaciously bright. Which you'll want when navigating down a dark trail or signaling for help. At 12 inches long and 32 ounces, and cast out of aluminum, it is rather wieldy, in a good way. You could whack someone with it if needed. For this reason, it is not the lightest thing to carry in your go bag. But man we like having one at the house.
Reviews & field notes on the Black Diamond Storm Headlamp: When there are no lights, you'll want lots of lighting options. A headlamp is the most crucial when you are on the move, either evacuating or transiting, or doing anything critical in your shelter at night. Black Diamond makes great headlamps, and they are cost efficient. The Storm has 8 separate settings, including one that's appropriate for close-up reading, like a book or instructions. (Too-bright headlamps wash out print.) We use ours all the time. Camping, hiking, and just banging around outside in the evening. No sense in saving these headlamps for emergencies.
Flashlights and headlamps are fine when you're trying to get a specific task done, but for a more comforting source of light, you can't beat a lantern. Reviews & field notes on the Goal Zero Crush Light Solar Powered Lantern: The Crush light is well named: It compacts to a thin, half-inch-thick wafer when not in use, taking up very little space in your pack. (The shade is made of silicone.) This also makes it ideal for storing in small apartments. It's sturdy, and has enough light to last all night on a dim setting, including a flickering "candle mode." Good stuff. Convenience exemplified.
THE VERY BEST LIGHTS FOR APARTMENTS & HOUSES
Importance: Crucial. Makes a vital long-term item as well.
Bottom line: Buy this lantern. When the lights go out at home, you'll be glad to have it (or, better, them).
Recommended for: All shelters (home/away).
No. units recommended: 2 to 3 in each shelter — a primary source of light.
You’ll also need: A small solar panel is attached, but a separate, larger solar panels are available from Goal Zero. Recharging made easier.
Bottom line: Great little lights to string up anywhere you might need them. Attaches to a rechargeable battery.
Recommended for: Apartments, shelters.
Bottom line: Long-lasting light from a non-battery source. Each burns 100 hours.
Recommended for: All shelters.
No. units recommended: A dozen candles.
You’ll also need: A dependable lighter.
Be aware: These are filled with parafin, and can leak. Try to keep upright.
Bottom line: Great alternative light source, especially in road-side or storm emergencies. Excellent way to mark a location in the dark.
Recommended for: Vehicle, all shelters.
Be aware: Lasts about 12 hours; but loses strength over time. The glow sticks are only six-inches long.
When it comes to lighting large outside spaces, or the inside of your house or apartment for long periods of time, you'll want a lantern. They will allow you a sense of normalcy if the lights are out for days or weeks. And you don't want to be blowing through all your battery supplies. So the answer are solar lanterns, whenever possible. While solar-powered lights sound a bit counter-intuitive, they are in fact brilliant (in both senses). There's no better renewable source of energy than the sun, after all. Review & field notes of the Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern: The Lighthouse 400 is our highest-rated lantern and all-around recommended home light source. The 400 Lantern is small, solar powered, and bright enough to light sizable patches of the outside. It also acts as a power port to recharge cell phones, and there’s even a hand crank to get things going if the batteries are dead. The stand folds inside the body, too. This is one of the items that is useful in all kinds of situations, and always leaves you wishing you had one ore two more around. In a weeklong electrical outage, we left one on low in the bathroom every night.
Review & field notes of the Goal Zero Light-A-Life Mini USB: We also like to have overhead lights which we can string from ceilings or non-functioning overhead lights. The Goal Zero Light-A-Life Mini USB are "chainable lights" which allow you to combine any number of them in tandem. However, they must be tethered to a separate energy source, such as cell phone recharger or one of the Goal Zero's power packs (which can themselves be recharged via solar). There is no internal battery.
Meanwhile, you don't want to solely rely on battery-powered lights, solar or not, so you'll want back-up candles. After all, there's a good reason they've always been with us. Each of the Candlelife Emergency Survival Candles burns more than 100 hours, and they are smoke and incense free. Simple and necessary. The Cyalume Green Glow Sticks are ideal for marking your location in the dark. A great way to draw attention in an emergency, or mark a dangerous location in the dark. Examples range from marking an occupied house in a storm: When used on the roof they can be seen aerially. Or place at the bottom/top of stairs in an electrical outage. They are waterproof, non-incendiary, and cheap.
POWER! JUICE FOR YOUR STUFF
Our lives run on power. Can you think of a single thing around you these days that isn't powered by electricity or gasoline? We'd love to tell you that there is an easy or cost efficient method to restoring all that endless juice in a power outage, but no such luck. While the power solutions tend to the rather old-school (batteries) or new-world (solar panels and power packs), neither are likely to power your refrigerator unless you've gone whole-hog and wired a major generator or solar system into your house. You're more likely to be in the realm of camping (or maybe glamping), rather than a Four Season's experience. As such, we recommend that you lean towards the sustainable (ie, solar), while still stocking up on more traditional things like batteries. (Even the old AA and AAA options have improved, with the latest lithium batteries.) And even if you install a generator, it's worth remembering that in the long term, you may not be able to just go out and buy more gas, diesel, or propane.
POWER STORAGE FAQ
Flashlight batteries, what kind is best? For emergency purposes, lithium are best. They have 15-year shelf lives & never leak. They also work in extreme cold.
What's up with power packs? You can recharge them via wall charger or solar, then plug household stuff into them. But output is usually limited.
Should I invest in
They have a place, esp. in some parts of the country, but they need constant fuel, so aren't ultimately sustainable
THE SIMPLE STUFF TO KEEP YOUR GEAR POWERED UP
Importance: Crucial. You need these in your flashlights.
Bottom line: The hardiest AA battery you can buy. Endures extreme cold and lasts 12 years in storage, too. AAA can be found here.
No. units recommended: You can't have too many.
Be aware: Lithium batteries have a stronger charge than many traditional batteries, and can actually damage some equipment. Check info from manufacturers to see compatibility, especially headlamps.
Bottom line: This will give you juice to recharge your cell or other small electronic items. You can also connect available lights.
Recommended for: Home/away shelter.
No. units recommended: 1-2.
You’ll also need: Goal Zero solar panels are highly recommended, like the Boulder.
Be aware: This won't run items that need a lot of juice. This 100-watt unit would run a device that uses 100 watts for 1 hour.
Bottom line: Batteries that you can... well, recharge.
Recommended for: Home/away shelters.
No. units recommended: 1-2 recharge units, and lots of actual rechargeable batteries!
You’ll also need: Energizer Rechargeable AA Batteries, NiMH, 2000 mAh, Pre-Charged, 8 count (Recharge Universal). $20 for 4.
Be aware: Pre-charged (hybrid) batteries are the best buy. The charge lasts longer than other rechargeable batteries.
Bottom line: This backup power pack won't run your full-size fridge but it will give enough energy to recharge computers or run small appliances for a short while.
Recommended for: Apartment friendly, home shelter.
You’ll also need: We recommend a separate solar panel to recharge it, like the Boulder 100 Solar Panel.
Be aware: Takes around 8 hours to fully charge by a wall plug, and should be full rehcarged every 3 or 6 months.
Bottom line: If you've got one solar panel and one power pack, you can recharge small electronics and re-chargeable batteries indefinitely.
Recommended for: Home/away shelters.
You'll also need: Goal Zero power packs like the Go Zero Yeti 150 power pack. You need the power pack to actually run most items. Get the power pack, otherwise the solar panel isn't of much use. Also, a compatible extension cord.
Be aware: It could take more than 24 hours to fully recharge a power pack like the Yeti 150. Best used to top off electronics or power packs.
Review & field notes of the Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA Batteries, 12 Count. So, regular old batteries are still very necessary for flashlights and headlamps and the like. We try to recommend gear that mostly uses AA or AAA so you don't have to stock up on other random sizes. The new lithium batteries are your best single-use type: They work in extreme cold, will last up to 20 years just sitting around, and won't leak. We use these Energizer Lithium in our flashlights and many of our problems with flickering lights and dead flashlights have disappeared. Some headlamps can't take lithium's extra voltage, so check with manuf. before using in them. As far as Energizer itself; we long have believed you get what you pay for. Value or bulk battery brands like Costco and Amazon have not lasted as long in our devices.
Review & field notes of Rechargeable AA and AAA Battery Charger and Energizer pre-charged NiMH AA/AAA batteries. The beauty of rechargeable batteries are obvious, but even more so if you run a solar- and power-pack setup. You can use them for years, though the batteries themselves WILL start taking less of a charge over time, and eventually wear out. Which is one reason we like Energizer's hybrid/pre-charged NiMH batteries: The company promises up to 500 charges. We strongly urge you to seek out these pre-charged types, whatever the brand. You can pop them right into devices, and they only lose 25 percent of the full charge over six months. A standard rechargeable battery will lose 1 percent of a charge per day, and be fully empty in as few as two months.
Review & field notes of the Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium Portable Power Station, Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station, and Goal Zero Nomad 20 Solar Panel. These products all work part and parcel, so we're going to look at them together. The long and the short of it is this: Invest in a solar panel and a power pack, and you will be able to keep small devices running indefinitely. That includes solar-powered lanterns and re-chargeable batteries. We've chosen Goal Zero products because we've used their power packs and lights since the Utah-based outfit started out a decade ago. We're still using many of those products we bought 8 years ago. So we trust them.
First, you need a power pack. Basically these packs either a traditional or lithium-ion battery which can be charged up via an AC wall outlet or by solar panel. You can then plug devices via USB or wall-style plug into the pack to power or recharge the device. If you can afford it, go bigger and choose a lithium-ion battery, similar to what you find in a laptop or even a Tesla vehicle. The Yeti 400 Lithium Portable Power Station is a good start, though not cheap at $600. The Yeti 400 puts out 300 watts, has two AC plugs, which we like, in addition to the USB ports, and we got a little under 2 hours running a dorm-style fridge on it. (Not its best use, actually.) Better used to recharge smaller power packs which go to lights, or even recharge your laptop computer around 4 or 5 times. It took us around 8 hours to fully recharge when we plugged it into the wall. The Yeti 150 is a lead acid battery that provides up to 80 watts of continuous power. Think of this as a travel charger on steroids. It is best for recharging electronics such as cell phones. You could recharge an iPhone up to15 times. Goal Zero offers smaller units, and lithium packs with up to 1500-watts of continuous power (the Yeti 3000, for $3,000).
No matter the size, you'll also want a solar panel to go with it. Again, Goal Zero offers tiny, super transportable ones like the Nomad 7 for $100, to the Boulder 200 for $500 (a good buy, actually). For a small-medium panel that you can take with you, we like the Goal Zero Nomad 20 Solar Panel. This solar panel is a good way to directly power gear that usually connects to USB ports or 12-volt charging. It is also good for powering up Goal Zero's bespoke power-packs. Bonus: It folds up and only weighs 2.5 pounds. You can even attach it to a backpack and recharge on the go.
WARMTH! KEEPING TOASTY INSIDE AND OUT(SIDE)
So you live in Phoenix? You can skip this section. But... not really. It's cold in the desert at night. Keeping warm is essential, of course, and can be truly tricky depending on the time of year and your climate. The good news is that if you live in Minnesota and the like, you're already probably well equipped already. Parkas are your friend. You probably already have one you love. So in this section we are not trying to be exhaustive. Instead we're pinpointing a few essentials (fire-starters that work every time); and a few "luxury" items like propane-fueled house heaters that you might not normally consider. Because, you know, electricity.
For sleeping bags, head to our Go-bag & Evacuation section.
KEEPING WARM FAQ
Can I trust my cheap Bic lighter?
They're nice to have around, actually. But invest in 2 or more wind-proof, refillable lighters.
Do I need all-new winter gear?
The stuff you use every winter and trust is the same stuff you want in an emergency. Go with what you know.
So these propane stoves...
We know people who keep warm all winter using them. But caution is paramount. Follow ALL manuf. instructions.
ESSENTIAL STUFF TO KEEP YOU WARM
Bottom line: A lighter that works every time.
Recommended for: All shelters (home/away), go-bag.
You’ll also need: High-quality butane fuel. Good for all kinds of stuff, not so incidentally.
Be aware: It ships without the fuel, so arrives empty.