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.