You know the drill. Maybe you’ve even participated in it once or twice. As a natural disaster looms, everyone in town makes a mad dash for the grocery stores, home improvement stores, and gas stations. 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 June 2022: We added the Coway Airmega 200M air purifier, Garage Boss 5-gallon gas can, N95 and KN95 face masks for wildfires, Mountain House Adventure Dehydrated Meal Kit, and Petzl Actik headlamp.
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The Fenix E20 V2 ($45) is my top pick for an affordable emergency flashlight, but the ThruNite Archer 2A V3 ($25) 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 may prefer to keep a headlamp handy. The Petzl Actik ($50) is my favorite model and has never let me down, from snowy mountains to dusty deserts. It runs on three easily found AAA batteries and has three brightness settings, the brightest of which is more than powerful enough for emergencies around the home.
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 ($16) does a very good job of it. It’s smaller than the typical Coleman lantern, which is nice, because it’ll likely spend most of its life in storage. There are two settings: 425 lumens on high for 40 hours of run time and 50 lumens on low for 330 hours of run time. 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.