Building a good lights out kit is one of the first things that a new prepper should do. Many different types of emergencies can result in power outages, making a lights out kit useful in a wide range of circumstances.
A prepper lights out kit should include:
- LED Lanterns
- Flashlights and headlamps
- Open flame sources (candles, oil lamps)
- Communication equipment
- Cooking tools
- Climate control equipment
Having the items listed above will help you remain functional during a blackout. I’ll also share how to store these items so they are easy to find and safe. My family and I live in an area that is prone to power outages, so I hope that my experiences can help you out.
LED Lanterns: The Heart of a Lights Out Kit
The heart of a good lights-out kit is a good-quality light source. It should be battery-operated and energy-efficient. LED lanterns are my first choice when I need to illuminate a large area during a short power outage or prolonged blackout.
There are many reasons for this. The first is LED lanterns are very safe since there isn’t a flame to catch nearby items on fire. They also run cooler than other light sources which will prevent burns and keep homes cool during the spring and summer.
Small LED lanterns such as this one by Survival Frog do a very good job lighting up small rooms like bathrooms and closets. It has a small solar panel for recharging and can also be used as an alternative power source for cell phones.
Larger LED lanterns can illuminate living rooms and even outdoor spaces. Some come with built-in rechargeable batteries while others run on Alkaline batteries.
While I prefer to use lanterns with rechargeable batteries, every prepper’s lights out kit should include at least one lantern that uses regular Alkaline batteries. The reason for this is that you may not be able to recharge a built-in battery during a prolonged power outage.
A lantern that runs on Alkaline batteries will be good to go as long as you store plenty of batteries for it.
Power Tool Lights
One lighting option that many preppers overlook is job site lighting equipment manufactured by power tool companies. All of the main power tool companies (Milwaukee, Makita, Dewalt, etc.) produce several types of lights that are compatible with their power tool batteries.
These “power tool lights” are available in several different types, including lanterns. I have a lantern with a built-in USB charger and an area floodlight, both made by Milwaukee. They are both incredibly bright and easy to use.
Flashlights and Headlamps
LED lanterns allow you to larger areas, however, they don’t do a good job providing concentrated light to small areas. Flashlights and headlamps give you portable light sources that you can use when on the go, making repairs, or securing your home.
Flashlights and headlamps vary widely in quality, however, I recommend having at least one high-quality light for each adult member of your family. This can include responsible teenagers as well.
Some of the best flashlights are produced by Surefire and Maglite. I have a Maglite XL-50 that has been a good flashlight. Olight, Fenix, and Streamlight produce good lights as well. Here are some recommendations:
Cheaper flashlights and headlamps are good options for younger kids who tend to lose things or drop them. Have one of these for each younger member of your family that is old enough to not eat small parts.
My favorite cheap flashlights are the “blue lights” from Harbor Freight. I probably have over a dozen of them around the house and in the cars. They are bright, feature a hanging hook and magnet, and come with batteries. I got most of mine for free with a coupon. They are great to keep in drawers and on the fridge.
You can find headlamps that will wrap around your head or clip onto a hat. Standalone headlamps are good options if you are going to spend a lot of time outdoors. They can be extremely bright and throw light a long way. You can find a headlamp similar to the one I use by clicking here.
A clip-on headlamp is a good choice if you are going to use it for making small repairs and need hands-free lighting. You can also place it in your pocket when not in use to prevent it from getting lost.
Cooking Tools to Include in a Lights Out Kit
Most people do a good job keeping at least some sort of battery-operated light in their home for power outages. However, few think about how they will prepare food when their electric stove and microwave are unavailable.
Grills are a good option if you own a home or live in an apartment complex that allows them. My go-to option for cooking during a power outage is the Coleman Fold-N-Go Camp Stove. It runs on standard 1-pound propane bottles.
Regardless of which method or methods you choose to use, make sure that you have plenty of fuel. Storing charcoal, propane tanks, and 1-pound propane bottles is essential.
If you live in a wooded area, a homemade rocket stove or fire pit is a good option as well. You can use natural materials as fuel and cook over the flame.
Cast-iron cookware is incredibly versatile. You can use it to cook pretty much anywhere, whether it is on an electric stovetop or on an open flame. A good dutch oven can even bake bread.
A manual can opener is a must-have for a lights-out cooking kit. Many prefer to use a crank-style can opener, however, I have found that the Swiss Army knife can openers work extremely well after a little practice.
It is also a good idea to keep a couple of grill lighters on hand. These are the “multi-purpose” lighters that feature a long wand. If possible, choose one with an adjustable flame. A torch mounted on a 1-pound propane bottle will make lighting charcoal much easier.
A prepper should also consider communication when developing their lights out kit. A power outage could be the result of a serious emergency, and staying in the loop can help you stay safe.
Cell phones are vital tools. They allow us to make calls, check the weather, and many other things. However, they are are useless without power. Storing several battery banks and having additional ways to charge your phone can make this possible.
You can learn more about how to charge your cell phone during a short-term power outage or long-term blackout by clicking here.
Having an emergency radio will allow you to tune into radio broadcasts when the power is out. Emergency radios run on a battery and can include hand-crank and/or solar chargers as well. Make sure to get one that can pick up NOAA frequencies.
While more and more electronics feature rechargeable batteries, many still run on traditional AA’s, AAA’s, D-cells, and other replaceable batteries. Take a look at the devices you plan to use and figure out what sizes of batteries you will need.
LED lights tend to use less power than those that use filament-style bulbs. Devices such as fans and electric heaters are energy hogs, meaning you will want to store plenty of batteries for them.
I prefer rechargeable batteries in most circumstances. Those made by Eneloop are good quality and can be reused several times. I use them constantly in my Maglite and my baby’s toys.
If possible, get a supply of rechargeable batteries for daily use and keep some disposable batteries in your lights out kit. This will help you save money in the long run but still have a supply of batteries for emergencies. Inspect your disposable batteries every few months to make sure they haven’t corroded.
Open Flame Lighting and Heat
I prefer LED lighting over open flames most of the time. However, candles, oil lamps, and lanterns are still good additions to a prepper’s lights out kit.
Candles, oil lamps, and lanterns are all relatively cheap. They can also be stored (in the right conditions) for long periods of time. The big issue with them is that they can present a fire hazard.
Many people don’t normally use these types of items, which means they are more likely to make mistakes when they do. Keeping them at least a foot away from other objects can prevent fires. Placing them on metal cookie sheets can also prevent damage if they are knocked over.
If you plan to use candles, oil lamps, or lanterns make sure that you have operational fire extinguishers and fresh batteries in your smoke alarm. You can also keep a box of baking soda in each room, since the powder can suffocate a fire. Doing these things will allow you to act quickly if there is an accident.
Lights Out Kit Climate Control
Being able to stay warm or cool during a blackout is more than a matter of convenience. Summer blackouts can cause heatstroke, especially among the elderly and other vulnerable populations. Winter blackouts can cause people to suffer hypothermia in very cold areas.
It is probably much easier to stay warm in a power outage than it is to stay cool. Fireplaces, propane heaters, oil lamps, candles, and other items can generate enough heat to help you stay warm.
Staying cool will require you to get a little creative. My wife and I use Milwaukee’s M18 Jobsite Fan and a tent fan to stay cool during short-term power outages.
The M18 Fan can last all night with a 9.0ah battery and can push a ton of air. I installed wall anchors in the wall next to our bed so that I can hang the fan from the wall and point it at us while we are sleeping.
While tent fans are designed to be hanged from the top of a dome tent, you can turn them into a miniature ceiling fan. All you need is a little parachute cord, a drywall anchor, and a hook.
Insert the drywall anchor into the ceiling above the center of the bed. You want it to be above where your head sticks out from the covers. Screw a hook into the drywall anchor. Then use parachute cord to hang the tent fan from the hook so that you get the most air possible.
You can also find other types of battery-operated fans that you can set up to cool living areas and other rooms during waking hours. You can learn more about how to stay cool during a power outage by clicking here.
Generators are excellent additions to a lights-out kit if you can afford them. The main types of generators are gas, solar, and standby.
Gas generators are the most common type and are found almost everywhere. Preppers, campers, construction workers, and even food trucks all use them. They are a great choice for short-term power generation.
They can power most electronic devices, including power tools and freezers. Of course, this depends on how powerful the generator is. Larger generators will be able to run more power-hungry equipment.
The main downsides to gas generators are they are loud and guzzle gas. Having a loud generator running during a prolonged emergency could make you a target. It may also be a challenge to store enough gas to keep them running long-term.
Solar generators are excellent options for running lights and recharging small electronics. Most of them should be able to run devices such as laptops and mini coolers. However, you will need something larger for devices such as power tools and CPAP machines.
A general rule for solar generators is that they cost more than a gas generator with similar capabilities. You will also probably need to purchase solar panels separately, which adds to the cost.
Although solar generators are expensive they shine in two areas, quietness and renewability. They don’t make any noise, which could help you and your loved ones safe during a prolonged blackout. Being powered by solar energy means that you don’t have to store fuel or you will be able to ration the use of your gas generator for when you need it most.
Gas and solar generators are portable pieces of equipment that you can use pretty much anywhere. A standby generator is much larger and is connected directly to your home’s wiring. It can keep your entire house running during a power outage.
Standby generators run on your home’s natural gas or liquid propane utilities. They turn on when sensors detect a power outage and turn off when they detect power has returned. Generators such as this are excellent choices for short-term power outages. However, they may not be viable during a long-term disaster due to their reliance on gas utilities.
If you purchase a standby generator for your home, I highly recommend that you hire a professional to install it for you. It will need to be tied into both your home’s wiring and gas utilities. Improper installation will be hazardous to you and others.
How to Store a Lights Out Kit
You should store most of the pieces of your lights out kit together. Plastic totes are excellent options for this. Keep the following items in the primary kit:
- LED Lanterns
- Backup Flashlights (Those that aren’t part of your EDC)
- Camp Stove
- Manual Can Opener
- Grill Lighters
- Emergency Radio
- Battery Backups
- Battery-Operated Fans
Items such as oil lamps and fuel sources should be stored a little differently. Oil lamps can be stored indoors but should be set aside so they don’t get knocked over or used. Solar generators should also be stored inside the home so that heat and other environmental conditions don’t mess up the built-in batteries.
Propane bottles (1-pound), charcoal, and gas generators can be stored in your garage. Gasoline, on the other hand, is best stored in a detached garage or a well-ventilated shed.
Some items, such as rechargeable batteries and power tool batteries won’t be kept in the main part of the kit. If you are anything like me you will use them too frequently for this to be practical. However, be sure to charge them if you know a storm is on the way so you can get the most out of them.