Saturday, June 7, 2014

Choosing A Flashlight For Your Emergency Kits

My sister spent years in the Peace Corps, travelling the world and usually living out of a tent with no power. So she has taught me a few things based on her experience, and one thing she usually harps on about is the importance of having good emergency kits, and a "go bag" aka "bug out bag" aka "72 hour bag". I just call it a disaster bag since that is the first thing we will grab in an emergency. We also have lots of smaller emergency kits (made by my sister) for the glove boxes of our vehicles and a larger one for my truck.

Every one of our emergency kits has at least one flashlight. And because I'm a "flashaholic" I've upgraded these kits based on my experience owning and handling so many different kinds of flashlights for my blog. I've spent quite a bit of time pondering the best flashlights to put in my kits, and I've come up with some criteria, which others might find helpful.

Common Form Factor


My emergency kits must have at least one common form factor such as AA or AAA. Whether it's the Zombie apocalypse or Hurricane Whatshername, these types of batteries will be easy to find, whether it's from random remotes and gadgets around your house, to your neighbors and the local market. And there are very good rechargeable like Eneloop or Eneloop Pro, which can be charged with any number of solar charger setups.

From Left: Jetbeam BA10, Thrunite T10S, Spark SF5 NW, EagleTac D25A Ti, Olight S15 Ti, Fenix E12, L3 L10, Thrunite T10, Eneloop Pro AA
From Left: Jetbeam BA10, Thrunite T10S, Spark SF5 NW, EagleTac D25A Ti, Olight S15 Ti, Fenix E12, L3 L10, Thrunite T10, Eneloop Pro AA


Lithium Primary Batteries


Must be able to use lithium primary batteries with a 10 year shelf life. Never use alkaline batteries in any emergency kit or long term in any device, period. Any good swings in temperature will cause them to leak and destroy your devices virtually 100% of the time.

The solution is lithium primary batteries, which not only have a super long shelf life, they are much better working at low or high temperatures and they are safe to store in the device which uses them.

Lithium primary batteries come in most of the common form factors: AA, AAA, and CR123A

Lightweight


Having spent the first years of my career travelling the country on business, I've always packed a little heavy, but I've always tried to pack smart. Packing for an unknown emergency for me is no different; I'm going to travel a little heavy. But that doesn't mean I want to be wasteful either, so bulky lights or lights made of steel or other heavy alloys are out of the question. Most of the time this means an aluminum twisty rather than a bulkier, heavier model.

Efficient Circuitry


Not all flashlight drivers are created equal. Some manufacturers use technologies like PWM which can drastically reduce the run time of the flashlight at lower modes. They often to do that to improve the tint, but in an emergency you would much rather have run time rather than tint.

Every light in my emergency kit is either a one-mode with no driver or multi-mode with a constant current driver.

This Orange L10 has the latest Cree XP-G2 emitter and is compact, efficient and powerful

Multiple Modes


It's nice to have a flashlight the size of my index finger light up the entire forest. But a light that size can only do that output for an hour, if that. The same tiny flashlight can 5 or 6 hours on medium or the same number of weeks on the so called 'moonlight' modes. So if a single AA on moonlight mode lets me walk around in the dark for a few hundred hours, and I have 4 lithium AA cells packed with it, that means I could travel around in a cave for months with just that one flashlight.

In an emergency, you want the ability to manage the output of light versus how many batteries you have and what your need is. It's nice having the flexibility to light up the forest if I hear a noise in the bushes, and put the light back to low to finish setting up my tent, which is also in my bag.

Solar Charging


It's nice knowing that my 10 year batteries will power my flashlights in an emergency. But these days it's an emergency being without a mobile phone or tablet, so I made sure that everything I wanted to charge would adapt to a USB charger, and I went out and got a couple solar USB chargers like the Levin and the Waka Waka. The solar charger coupled with a few USB battery packs lets me store up extra capacity if I need it. And then I found a USB AA/AAA charger which rounded off my setup. Now I can charge AA and AAA batteries as well as a mobile phone, tablet, whatever charges from USB. It's a beautiful setup, and it even allows me to charge something in the dark using the 10k and 20k mAh battery packs I can charge from the solar chargers.

The solar chargers allow me to power all my electronic devices in an emergency, including flashlights. It's also really nice for tent camping. I keep 4 Eneloop Pro AA batteries inside my Sunwayman D40A strapped to the outside of the bag as well as the Eneloop in my L10, clipped to the shoulder strap.

The Levin Sol-Wing above, directly charging a cell phone from the sun

Above the Levin Sol-Wing is attached to my SwissGear Ibex laptop bag, charging a battery pack in its zippered cubby

The good thing about the Waka Waka above is that it has an internal battery

Above the Waka Waka is charging itself attached to my SwissGear Ibex laptop bag

Above the Waka Waka solar charger is charging a cell phone from its internal 2000 mAh battery

AAA batteries being charged by USB battery pack above

What's in My Go Bag


Flashlights:

1. L3 Illuminations L10 (1xAA)
2. Crelant CH10 Headlamp* (2xCR123A)
3. Sunwayman D40A (4xAA)

*There's no USA seller for my headlamp that I'm aware of.

Batteries:

4xAA Lithium Primaries (10 year shelf life)
8xCR123A Lithium Primaries (10 year shelf life)
4x Eneloop Pro (inside D40A)
1xEneloop (inside L10)
2x CR123A Lithium Primaries (inside Headlamp)

Chargers / Power Packs:

Levin Sol-Wing 13W ultralight solar panel with 5V USB output
WakaWaka Power solar lantern with 2000 mAh  power pack and USB output
AA/AAA USB charger
Cheap USB power pack and charger



Charging the wife's Kindle from the battery pack, which itself can be charged from the solar panel



2 comments:

  1. Nice article! Its better to prepare oneself for an emergency. I always carry my Zitrades Mini Cree LED Flashlight with him. These are quite helpful during night time.

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