The thing about emergency gear is that once you need it, you won’t be able to get it. Even if you resign yourself to a soul-sucking panic run to Walmart with the rest of the hordes, you’ll be in stiff competition for the limited remaining stock. So plan ahead so you have everything on hand in advance. We’ve rounded up a few essentials for your emergency kit.
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The Fenix E20 V2 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 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 steady 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. Still, 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 non-removable rechargeable batteries, which won’t do you any good if your power is out for a long time. Rechargeable NiMH (nickel metal hydride) 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 ($39). They’re better for the environment, but if they run out of a charge you can still use regular alkaline AAs.
Flashlights do a poor job when you need to light up a whole room or if you need your hands free for a task. Diffused light is what you want, and the Coleman Divide+ Push Lantern does a very good job of it. It’s smaller than the typical Coleman lantern, which is nice as it’ll likely spend most of its life in storage. There are two settings: 425 lumens on high for 40 hours of runtime, and 50 lumens on low for 330 hours of runtime. It uses three D-cell batteries, which sounds like a lot, but next to other full-size battery-powered lanterns, such as the Coleman Twin LED lantern that uses eight D-cells, it’s economical.