We all take for granted that the lights will come on when we flip the light switch. I don’t know if it has ever happened to you but I recall the sinking feeling when I have gone into a dark house and flipped the light switch and, voila, nothing happened. You flip it several more times hoping and praying that the magic will happen and the light will come on but no luck. We are so dependent on electricity that when the lights fail to come on, we tend to panic. In 1979, I was living in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
By Chuck Savage, a contributing author
Hurricane Frederic hit the coast head on and my family was without power for over a week. I’ll never forget that feeling of despair and fear, but life goes on. Because we were prepared, we were able to have light at night and could cook our meals as needed. Alternative light sources are a must have in survival situations. Whether the Grid has gone down from solar flares, terrorist attacks, storms or it’s just worn out, will you have a way to provide light for you and your family?
Also Read: 10 Lessons From Hurricane Sandy
For the last two years, I have had to rely on other sources of light because my hunting camp has no electricity. For at least four months out of the year, I have to use alternate light sources Friday through Sunday nights. This has given me a lot of practice for conditions of a grid down situation. I also learned my lesson many years ago to check your pack or go bag for a working light while it’s still light out. I climbed out of my tree stand one evening and discovered that I forgot to check my pack for a flashlight. I had to walk out of the woods in total darkness using touch, sounds and memory of the trail to get out. I was very lucky to have made it back to camp safely.
So how do I cope with the lack of light? I personally have at least 4 sources of lighting always tested and ready to use. I always keep extra batteries on hand and I have found the less expensive ones are not going to last you as long as you need them to. Battery operated light sources now come with LED bulbs which give you more lumens (brightness) and last much longer than old flashlight bulbs. The run times on LEDs are also much longer because the bulbs use less energy from the batteries. I am also fortunate to have 12 volt lighting in my small teardrop camper. This is great but without a means to recharge the battery, this doesn’t last long. A small solar panel charger fits the bill and keeps the battery charged for use when needed. You can find solar chargers starting for around $35.00.
I have hand held flashlights and headlamps in my collection. Several of the hand held lights are considered tactical flashlights because of the intense light that they throw and they can be used to cause temporary blindness in an attacker. Headlamps are especially helpful because you can have your hands free to use for other purposes. Because lanterns are more stationary, head lamps are worn at night to cook and do camp chores with.
Also Read: Setting Up A Back Up Generator
Propane lanterns that work with disposable propane bottles are a must have. They burn clean and put off bright light that you can use for tasks or even reading. I have the two mantle style and the single mantle type. I also have a multi-fuel model that will burn white gas (Coleman fuel) or unleaded gasoline. Make sure that you stock up on extra mantles for these lanterns. I keep extra mantles in a water tight plastic box to make sure they are fresh and dry at all times. Also, if you are new to replacing mantles, you have to pre-burn the mantles before lighting them. Be very careful because they are super fragile!
Next, I have kerosene and oil lamps. These lamps are very reliable but do not give off a lot of light. On a recent hunting trip, we were short on propane so we started using the kerosene lantern that hangs in our shed. It will last for a long time but you sacrifice brightness. It was still better than going without additional light. Be sure to stock up on cotton wicks and kerosene or lamp oil. These will also give off some fumes so be sure if you use it indoors, to crack a window for ventilation. The scented lamp oils are nice if the smell bothers you.
Homemade oil lamps can be made by putting cooking oil, olive oil or even oil from canned fish in a bowl with a cotton wick. You can even make the wick from cotton rags. The last source of illumination is the age old candle. I ‘m not sure how many candles I have but it’s a bunch. I keep them stored in gallon zip lock bags to keep them organized and it helps them stay fresh. I have candle holders and a candle lantern that is a replica of candle lanterns during the early 18oo’s. My favorite candles are made of bee’s wax and I reserve them for my lantern.
Again, with all of these sources of light, don’t forget the fresh batteries. A suggestion would be to try and use the same type or size of batteries for all of your lights when possible. Most batteries have a little over a 5 year shelf life but that can vary so check the dates on the package. Look for batteries that are high drain. The tactical lights will most likely use lithium batteries. Also make sure you have plenty of sources of ignition for the propane, kerosene/oil lamps and candles. This can include matches, cigarette lighters, or grill lighters. Having a reliable source of light in any emergency situation is vital. Don’t be caught in the dark!