That first news report is like the starting gun at the beginning of a race. One natural disaster or another makes the news and spreads rapidly, and then everyone in town makes a beeline for the grocery stores, home improvement stores, and gas stations. You might’ve even run one of these Disaster 5Ks once or twice in your life. The problem is that there’s never enough of anything once everybody in town wants the same things. Demand overruns stock in a capitalist’s nightmare, and most people leave empty handed, without enough flashlights, batteries, or cookware to ride out the approaching hurricane, blizzard, or wildfire. It’s better to stock up in advance and avoid the battle royale. We’ve rounded up all the essentials for your emergency kit.
Updated October 2022: We added a section on tools to keep around the home, as well as suggestions on ways to entertain your household during power outages.
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The Fenix E20 V2 ($45) is my top pick for an affordable emergency flashlight, but the ThruNite Archer 2A V3 ($30) is another solid choice. At 350 and 500 lumens, respectively, they’re bright enough while remaining compact, and they last long on lower-light settings—200 hours at 5 lumens for the Fenix and 51 hours at 17 lumens for the ThruNite. Both use two AA batteries, and in an emergency your main concern is to have a good supply of replacement batteries.
If you’re using alkaline batteries, remove them from the flashlight if it’s going to sit unused for a long time, otherwise they’ll leak and cause problems. Store them near the flashlight so you can easily find them. Try taping the batteries to the flashlight barrel.
Pro tip: The best-performing flashlights are built specifically to use lithium-ion batteries or have nonremovable rechargeable batteries, which won’t do you any good if the power is out for a long time. Rechargeable nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) AA batteries maintain their performance better over the lifetime of the battery, whereas alkalines’ performance drops off more as they deplete, so buy some Panasonic Eneloops ($40). They’re better for the environment, but if they run out of charge you can still use regular alkaline AAs.
You can leave the batteries in this one, even if you’re using alkalines. When not using the Divide+, you can rotate the battery compartment to separate the batteries from the contact terminals so they won’t corrode in storage. There’s also a foldaway wire handle so you can hang it on a carabiner or a hook.
If you want to save batteries or just prefer hanging out by gentle flickering candlelight, keep a spare emergency candle or two. The Coghlan’s 36-Hour Survival Candle ($10) has three wicks that’ll last for 12 hours each. Keep a lighter or some matches nearby.
Most of the time, your water supply will work even when the power goes out. But major natural disasters can knock it out or damage it, and you might get dirty water. The <a data-offer-url=":4gKgcErvvpkwWft3fSWg7c2niGQB