Ask a prepper "how many flashlights do you own?" It will probably be a dozen or more. Like knives, it's really
hard to limit yourself to just a few lights. LEDs have revolutionized lighting, both portable and domestic. They
use less power for the same lumens (amount of light, brightness, like candlepower) than other technologies, last
for thousands of hours and are tiny. Some suggestions:
1. LED headlamp (light with elastic headband) keeps both hands free to do other things (needs at least one hand
to put on and turn on). My two Princeton Tec EOS headlamps work great, three brightness levels, high is really
bright, low is perfect for reading. The elastic bands (on all gear) tend to stretch, the rubber degrades, and
eventually need to be replaced. Update: Both Princeton Tec headlamps have stopped working, so I am trying out
others. They worked for maybe five years, but I prefer things that last longer.
2. LED crank flashlight. Noisy to crank but they work. Mine is from Wal-Mart, Energizer with a spring clip
(caribiner), on a belt loop. Just reach down and press the button for light. For a BOB and a short bug out, that
might be enough. But to be honest, I have other lights: my keychain has a thin two-button-battery LED and my
crank-solar radio has an LED, oh, and my medical kit has a AAA penlight. There, I've confessed. Update: One of the
Energizer crank LED lights 'locked up' recently. I was cranking rather enthusiastically for maybe ten minutes, and
that appears to be too long. The crank pivots in a plastic-on-plastic 'bearing' and has no apparent lubrication. I
cranked so long that it melted the two plastics together and locked up the crank solid. I took out the screws that
hold the sides together and pried the crank out, then scraped off the melted parts. I lubricated it with petroleum
jelley and it's been fine since. I will lube the others before it happens to them.
3. Photovoltaic panel, for recharging nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries and others. If you carry gear like
walkie-talkies, night vision devices (NVD), camera, MP3 player, flashlights, lanterns and others that can run on
rechargeable batteries, a folding PV panel might be useful and keep you powered long after one-use batteries have
died. I carry a 26W Brunton folding panel and LaCrosse model 700 battery (AA and AAA) charger, plus some AA and AAA
This is a serious piece of gear (and expensive at about $350), and would only go with me if I was doing a
'serious' bugout and wanted to have all of my battery-operated gear functional for a long time. The ability to
charge batteries while bugged out should be gven careful consideration. The battery-powered gear mentioned in the
above paragraph could make the difference between comms and no comms, seeing in the dark and not seeing anything.
For this reason, I have been moving away from gear that has batteries other than AA and AAA sizes - the most common
rechargeables. Canon makes some decent digital cameras that run on two AAs, and I intend to add one to my gear,
even though I already own half a dozen cameras running on proprietary batteries. Update: Found a Canon 12MP camera
on eBay like new for I think $60. Let you know how it fares.
One solution I have for proprietary batteries in cameras is to get the very-cheap, made-in-China chargers for
the batteries on eBay. The charging cradles appear to be standard parts with different 'trays' to hold the
batteries and different contact points. What is common to all of these chargers is that they use a 12V transformer
that plugs into the charging cradle. So they can run on car voltage. I have successfully charged batteries with the
solar panel by using it in place of the AC-to-DC transformer.
La Crosse Technology makes the AA/AAA battery charger that charges just about any kind of battery, including
NiMH, NiCad, Alkaline (yup) and will do different kinds and sizes at the same time. Got mine on Amazon. Very cool
and will run on the solar panel via a voltage reduction to 3V (available as cig lighter adapter for cars and
switches between 3, 4.5, 6, 9 and 12 Volts). Did I say it's cool? It is.