Illumination during a power outage

We were enjoying the wood stove and the warm glow of the Aladdin lamps last night, rather absorbed in talking about the lamps, when I suddenly realized I had no idea of the state of our preps for dispelling the darkness in an extended power outage.  I’m a kindergarten prepper compared to others on this list.  My goal is to prepare for three months of independence. So I’ve been trying to take stock all day of emergency light sources and things can be improved.

I learned that the Aladdin lamps are good for roughly 10 hours of lighting (probably on low) on a 1 quart fill of kerosene.  (I love these fussy little prima donnas!) It seems that my approximately five gallons of kerosene (all designated lamp fuel) would net about 50 days of light, burning four hours a day. Seems we need another five gallons to slightly exceed three months. (My primary concern is earthquakes.)

Battery powered lanterns:  We have assorted Coleman battery powered lanterns.  Each takes eight D-cells.  D-cells are over $2 each now.  I looked at the Amazon page for our newest LED lantern and was hurtfully misled by the main advertisement for run time.  Scrolling through the specs revealed the actual run time to be about 1/3 what they were claiming in the ad. I think it actually worked out to about $1 for every hour the lantern is used, compared to the Aladdin’s roughly $0.28/hour.

But, once you light an Aladdin, you don’t want to move it.  The lantern is good for going out to the barn.  D-cells are also necessary for flashlights.  I carry a heavy Maglite to the barn every morning and night, partly for illumination, partly because I’m skeered of mountain lions!  LOL!  Just in case I need to clock a mountain lion in the head (as if I’d get a chance!)

Candles:  Pfft. 

Solar:  I read and very much appreciate the recent review of several solar light sources.  Here in the maritime Pacific Northwest, it is estimated we get about 26% of available sunlight during the winter.  Hubby is extremely resistant to anything solar.  We just don’t get any sun.

Generator:  As long as the gas and/or propane last, it is possible to run some 120V lights in the house.  That would be kerosene-sparing, since a generator HAS to be run to access the deep well pump, and run the septic pump and freezers. The generator was actually the cheapest “lighting” source, but gasoline storage is a problem.

Since I’m the chief cook and bottle washer, I tend to focus on food supplies and redundant cooking resources. Warmth is stored in piles of cordwood. “Power” is stored to the extent possible in gas cans and propane tanks.  But plain old LIGHT.  Seems I’ve taken it a little less seriously than I should.


  • Comments (12)

    • 3

      Keep the kerosene lights and add LED lanterns powered by rechargeable batteries, especially lithium-ion.  there are many brands available, but choose carefully since capabilities vary greatly.

      In sunny SoCal, solar charging is quite feasible, as would charging off a vehicle battery.  I’ll bet you could charge in the PNW with a fairly large storage unit, charged off house current and kept in reserve, again, topped off by solar.

      Maglights have been surpassed by many LED flashlights nd headlamps;; they have always been lousy weapons. Get something more suitable.

      It pays to have alternative sources for electricity and lighting and other essentials, esp. cell phones…..

    • 2

      Since you have to run the generator for a few hours each day, I personally would stock more gasoline or propane.  Recharge your battery operated lights while the generator is running.  I assume you have a dual fuel model since you mention both.  Gasoline has a relatively short shelf life but propane doesn’t.  I keep 6 of the bigger 40lb tanks in stock.  Actually today, I fueled up all my 5 gallon containers so I now have 30 gallons of gasoline in the barn &  35 gallons of diesel.  This fuel can easily last thru the winter if not needed by the generator and will be used up by next spring.

      I like Goal Zero rechargeable lights.  I have multiple of these two.

    • 3

      Maglites have their place, it just depends on the problem you are trying to solve.

      I have half a dozen 3&4 D cell Maglites. The older metal ones. I swapped out the incandescent bulbs (and the LED in the newer ones) and dropped 1 watt LEDs in 3 of them for less light. These are used for indoor use during a power outage or when I walk the dog at night and want to scan the treeline for bear. I need a low power light to get these jobs done, not an aircraft landing light. The benefit is the batteries last forever so they are much more likely to work if I forget to change the batteries once per year. I keep these in vehicles but also a more powerful Maglite too.

      A large Maglite would also be more useful if a stray dog attacked me than a smaller flashlight. If a dog tried to bite me, I am more likely to hit his mouth or head with a large Maglite than I am a small tactical light. Either is no use against a bear. That requires bear spray or a sidearm. I have never been attacked by a bear but humans are in the black bear’s food chain but not other North American bears*.

      But I could have multiple power levels on a new tactical flashlight and not need 2 Maglites, right? Yes, but I also need a pocket full of batteries.

      When I worked in a hospital, I told all our team to have a flashlight in case of a power outage. I told them phone lights don’t count and neither do AAA or AA flashlights. I recommended 2D industrial flashlights because they are not super powerful and the batteries last a really long time.

      We have found candles useful in a few cases. We use them as ‘night lights’ in the kitchen before we go to bed and to get dressed in the early morning. We tape craft mirror paper on the glass to direct some of the light. I have bought 100 tea light candles for $10 at Walmart.

    • 2

      We just love Luminaid lights. Two options for recharging — solar or via usb port/ plug. If you run your generator, you can charge in an hour or so. For you, outside will maybe take 3 days for a full charge. Good news is that these lights last up to 24 hours on low setting. So, you can have three that you rotate between use and solar charging.

      These guys are BRIGHT, too.  We now have about 20 or so of Luminaid lights, in various forms. We love how they fold down flat for storage, too.  Here’s a photo of our tent lit by 4 of the “Firefly” ones. They are 75 lumens and a warm light, but for maximum light, I’d go with their Nova or up.  Some of them can even charge your phone.




      • 3

        We have focused on flashlights, but my preference is for a suitable headlamp, far superior for many tasks -it keeps your hands free.

        Especially when hiking at night, I choose a lower light level so as to keep some night vision capability.  Variable powered lights  are now common and are very versatile., specially when powered by 18650 lithium ion  batteries, actually cheaper to operate than D cells.

        Even a “tactical’ light is a poor substitute for an actual weapon.  Bear spray has proven to be at least as effective as a firearm when dealing with bears – works against humans too..

      • 1

        I recently reviewed a Luminaid lantern and it is one of my favorites now. They really do put out a ton of light, the built in solar panel actually works, and you can charge your phone off it.

    • 3

      Thank you for the brilliant conversation so far (pun intended)!  We’ve got a few things going on simultaneously that can make smaller matters take on too much significance.  Sometimes it feels overwhelming. But lighting, not just emergency power in general, really does seem to be a big deal at the apparent beginning of winter weather here in the PNW!

      I’m not really taken with rechargeable stuff for the most part.  Rechargeable lanterns I’ve looked at mostly have long recharge times for short run times.  Looking out the window at 10am, at light equal to about 4:30pm on a sunny day, gives me no confidence in lower cost solar options at all.  We have two 12V “house batteries” on the charger at all times, one is a general purpose deep cycle marine battery and quality inverter, for charging small items, and a small 12V that is dedicated to a nifty DIY emergency shower. We would recharge these while generating power for other purposes.

      We learned in an ice storm a couple years ago that we don’t need a lot of generator run time to power critical stuff – we wouldn’t be running a generator long enough typically, to charge some of the rechargeable gear we’ve looked at, that runs for less time than it takes to charge it. We don’t need whole-house power 24/7.

      Right now, for lighting, I see five more gallons of kerosene meeting my three month goal for the lamps.  Stocking an unspecified number of D-cells will also help.

      I agree, I don’t see what the argument is against Maglites.  My “barn flashlight” will illuminate the neighbor’s fence 600+ feet away, and will turn off the photosensitive path lights from 100 feet away.  I can find a black horse at night, 200 feet away.  The Maglite I carry is an older, hefty 4 cell, retrofit with an LED bulb.  I find it a suitable companion for my short treks to the barn in the dark. I’m sure the horses would be raising seven kinds of hell if a cougar was in the yard.

      In the meantime, pretty sure there’s enough gas and propane on hand (two gas and one D/F generators) for rationed use during a long winter.

      • 3

        With rechargeables, there is variation in quality.  I have found it better to spend a bit more for better service life.  Also capacities vary -more capacity, more cost.  Be sure t buy li-ions with protected circuits – also more costly.  The extra cost is recovered in cheaper operating and longer life.

        Maglites were the first truly dependable lights I ever found and I used them for years, but they are now outmoded by brighter and lighter lights, especially headlamps, which in general are more versatile nd useful than flashlights

        Whatever you choose, alternatives are good.  Keep your eggs in different baskets…..

      • 1


        What general purpose headlamps do you recommend? Which are the most durable?

      • 1

        I’m not hikermor, but here is The Prepared’s article on headlamps. I also saw some interesting ones on Olight’s site today. I love Olight’s flashlights and bet their headlamps are just as good.

      • 3

        Hard to  say which brand or model is most durable,  In general, build quality is vastly better than just a decade ago.  My best headlamp is a ZebraLight, a brand popular among cavers, for whom light is critical. A standard with cavers is “carry three independent light sources” – a pretty good rule for anyone dealing with the dark.

        One brand that I like is Knog, an Australian firm.  I read regularly in bed at night using their “Bilby” model and I like it a lot.  All of their lights can be recharged using only a USB port.

        There are many quality brands – Black Diamond, Olight, Fenix, Petzl and I have little experience with them, but they have good reps…..

        I avoid AAA powered lights, preferring AA and 18650 lithium-ion batteries.  lumens are emphasized in ads, but run time  at lower light levels is probably at least as significant.

        Lots f new technology coming to market these days – stay tuned!

    • 2

      I absolutely love my mPowered Base Light.  50 hours on a single charge!  It does take a LONG TIME to charge with solar only, but they charge quickly via an outlet and are supposed to hold the charge for three years (I haven’t had the opportunity to test that).  The fact that they can power a cell phone or other USB device is a bonus (and gets you cool points with friends on camping trips).  They’re on a 40% off sale now and if you pay attention to their website or sign up for their emails they go on 40% off several times a year.  

      I sometimes use one indoors as my regular light even when I don’t need to and it brightens up the room just like a regular light.  My friends who have seen them all went out and bought them, too.  I bought about ten of them (during a fabulous sale) and I figure 10 X 50 = 500 hours of run time and surely I can get enough solar recharge, even with minimal sunlight, to stretch that out.  I obsessed over all of their light types and went with the Base Light. I keep one in my car, too – it has a flashing mode that could be good in emergencies and I like knowing I have a bright light source in case I break down at night, plus a way to charge my phone.  Pretty sure they’d be useless against mountain lions though.