But in an emergency situation, the power may be out, you may not be comfortably inside your home, but you still need to function and to function, you need light. So what is the best way to illuminate your surroundings when the night is dark and you need to get things done? Let’s take a look at a few options:
Light Sticks-I see these in a lot of pre-made 72 hour kits, and I honestly don’t know why. They are useful for entertaining children, but as a real light source to read and work, they don’t put out enough light. Plus they are one use and done.
Flashlights-For illuminating a specific spot, these are the tried and true method. Compact and everyone knows how to use one. Modern LED flashlights last several times longer than older incandescent ones, and you no longer worry about packing spare bulbs. You do have to ensure that the batteries stay fresh and do not corrode or leak. Changing them out every year or two should eliminate that worry. Hand crank flashlights bypass the battery requirement, but even with LED lights, the electricity generated by cranking is much less than what is contained in a battery. And don’t forget my current favorite:
Headlamps-All the good things I said about a flashlight, and add the ability to use both hands, and you have my choice today, and what I have populating my gear bag-a headlamp. If you have ever tried to erect a tent with one hand, or fix dinner with a flashlight stuck in your teeth, you will know what I’m talking about. The other category that deserves a look is…
Lanterns-You won’t see a lantern in a true bugout bag, but if you have time to put a better collection of gear into your evacuation vehicle, a lantern illuminates a larger area, often with a brighter light. And solar becomes a viable option, provided you keep the lanterns solar panels out in the sun for most or all of the day. The appeal is lessened or eliminated in overcast weather. Electric lanterns are simple enough, basically a flashlight turned on its side. Battery life should be scrupulously ascertained. For those of us old school types, gas lanterns are not a bad way to go. Propane is the popular choice these days, since buying a canister or hooking up to a large cylinder is pretty easy and generally trouble free. For true curmudgeons, white gas lanterns still exist. Advantages of gas lanterns include that they generally provide the most light per ounce of fuel, though LED lanterns give them a run for their money, as previously noted, they are brighter than a flashlight, give off a small amount of warmth, dimmed down to night-light status, which can come in handy if there is a risk of family members large or small might need to navigate a way to the outhouse in the dead of night. (if you do this, make sure the tent is large and ventilated, doing this in a small buttoned up tent, you may run into carbon monoxide issues.) Also, be sure to pack some backup mantles if using gas lanterns.
There are lots of good choices for lighting your emergency camp, so place your bets and take your chances. My bet is on an LED headlamp in the bugout bag or backpacking, but a gas lantern packed for recreational family camping and if I had time before an evacuation as well.
As always, we would love to know what you folks think.