Camping & Survival

Throwback Thursday—Surviving the Next Power Outage

A lantern is safer than candles and will put out more light.

September is National Preparedness Month. Be ready! Have a plan and make an emergency kit. The Shooter’s Log has all the information you need to prepare for disasters. #NatlPrep It’s not if, it’s when. Given the current state of affairs in the northeast, we thought we would recap a few simple tips and tricks to surviving without any electrical power should the need arise. Most Americans are so dependent on their neighborhood electrical grid that the absence of power would render them virtually helpless. It is a bit hard to believe that only 100 years ago most people didn’t have electricity in their homes.

Candles are a cheap and effective light source.
Candles are a cheap and effective light source.
It is important to remember to have a few simple items on hand when preparing for a power outage. First and foremost, if you can’t see what you are doing in the dark, you won’t do what you are doing very well. Having a flashlight is great, but can you find it in the dark? How many sets of batteries do you have readily available in case the power is out for a longer period of time? Candles are a good cheap source of light as well. Remember you will need at least three candles if you hope to read by candle light. Candles will flicker however, making detailed jobs in the dark difficult. For a steadier source of light, try an old Kerosene lamp, these can be expensive, but they do put out a fair amount of light.

If you have a fireplace, you are in luck. This will provide heat and light during a snowstorm. You can even use it to cook with, but more on that later. The best free source of heat when there is no power is a good quality blanket. That combined with a roaring fire will make for a relaxing evening to say the least. Just remember to not let that blanket get too close to the fire or it might get a lot warmer than you bargained for. Aside from a nice source of light and heat, you can also cook with an open fire. The best tool for this job is a large cast iron Dutch oven. The Dutch oven is arguably the most versatile cooking vessel in any chef’s arsenal. The thick cast iron material allows direct heat to spread evenly across the interior surface of the oven. Cooking soups, stews and even baking bread can all be done in one of the heavy pots, all with no power outside of a burning stack of wood.

Click here to read more about Dutch Ovens.

Dutch Oven
The most versatile piece of kitchen hardware: the Dutch oven.
Other than a fireplace, traditional forms of outdoor cooking work just as well. Grilling and barbecuing work just as well without power. Propane and butane camp stoves are inexpensive and heat food easily. Ready-made meals work well with no power too. Military MREs are easy and contain lots of much needed calories and nutrients. You can also heat a can of chili or beans over an open flame, just open the top first or you will have food on every surface of your home.

Aside from cooking, communication is key during a power outage. In a time of distress, keeping in contact with family and knowing about local and national situations is important to maintaining both continuity and confidence. In general, landline telephone systems are on a different system than the electrical power grid, and won’t be interrupted by a power outage. In most cases, cell phone service will be down, so it is important to have a communications back up plan in place.

Sometimes 'Old School' works better.
Sometimes ‘Old School’ works better.
With some simple supplies, you can make yourself quite comfortable in a power outage situation. Remembering to keep things like matches, fresh batteries, flashlights and radios handy can mean the difference between living somewhat normally and outright panic. Remember that being prepared ahead of time is always better than reacting when it is too late.

What do stockpile in preparation for a power outage? Tell us in the comment section.

For more resources on power outages, click here.

Surviving the Next Power Outage originally posted on November 3, 2011.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (32)

  1. Having a 20 kw natural gas fueled generator installed next week. It will power the whole house including AC for weeks – or as long as the natural gas supply remains intact.

    During a recent 36 hour outage, we wandered around with flashlights and candles. Fortunately, the weather was cool and we could get ice for our cooler, so AC and refrigeration were not problems then.

  2. One thing I fail to see……..solar powered lights. Even the cheap ones you put out by the walk!! Inside the house, at night, they provide plenty of light and work for hours. Most have a standard AA or AAA battery in them. I found them on sale this summer for $1/each. I bought a dozen. If nothing else, 12 rechargeable batteries are worth the price. Cheap, easy, convenient…….

    1. @ Dean.

      Have you considered Commercial-Grade Led Flat Lighting Panels, 12-inch by 12-inch x 1/4-inch. Thousand-Lumen Plus Output with Very-Low Power Consumption (www. elsledlights. com)…

  3. I haven’t gone back and read all the other comments yet, so my apologies for repeats of things others have said.

    We live in an area with a LOT of trees and frequent heavy winds that bring them down on power lines. There are also ice storms, and early season snow storms that hit while many trees still have leaves, that quickly become too heavy and bring branches or whole trees down. I have seen situations where neighborhoods are out of power for a week+ at a time. Here are our preparation advisories.

    1. A propane generator with a few hundred pounds of bottled propane which never goes bad like gasoline does. It can be connected directly to the household breakers to run things like the refrigerator, well pump, sewage pumps, sump pump in the basement and a few lights around the house. We don’t run it continuously, but just enough to keep things functioning. This allows us to use toilets, fill water containers, keep food preserved and prevent the basement from flooding in prolonged storms.
    2. Those battery powered closet lights you can buy at Wal Mart for a few bucks already fastened to the walls all through our house. That way you can just click them on as you pass through the house, use stairs, use the bathroom, etc.
    3. Several propane and Coleman gas lanterns with plenty of fuel.
    4. Lot’s of candles, matches and lighters.
    5. Several types of cooking stoves such as propane, Coleman fuel, and multi-fuel stoves that can burn just about anything.
    6. Dutch ovens (we have plenty of firewood).
    7. Army surplus tent stoves with portable pipes that can burn just about anything.
    8. LOT’s of stored water and food.
    9. Solar chargers for cell phones and small items like tablets.
    10. Dynamo powered radios for news and weather.
    11. Lots of different sized tarps with ropes, plywood, 2X4s and other supplies to temporarily repair broken windows and damaged roofs.
    12. LOT’s of batteries of all sizes. Check out places like http://www.batterybob.com.
    13. Headlamps, flashlights and rechargeable hand held spots around the house. We also have dynamo and solar rechargeable flashlights if it ever gets that bad, although they are useful even under ‘normal’ circumstances.
    14. Plenty of sleeping bags and blankets.
    15. Tools and implements for hand washing clothes, if need be, like wash tubs and old fashioned washing plungers that really work pretty good for washing clothes in a tub and are a lot less work than a washboard,
    16. Cash. You have to have some cash if there is prolonged power failure that prevents the use of credit/debit cards or ATMs.

    And God help the poor fool who tries to take any of it away from us by force!

    1. @ Mikial.

      “Propane” is a Hydrocarbon just like Gasoline, but in Propane’s case the Hydrocarbons will stay Stat Stable for at Least 35-Years, before Breaking-Down. When it does Break Down, it Breaks Down Exponentially of 100% value. Like 50%, 25%, 12.5%, 6.25%, and so one until it becomes Useless. By the way Aluminium/Steel Propane Storage Containers, will Break-Down First, because of the Hydrocarbons Highly Corrosive by Nature. So even if the Propane stay’s Stable for ~35-years, the Aluminium/Steel Storage Container’s WON’T. And as far as I Know, the DON’T have Glass Storage Containers, YET. Glass with stay STABLE for at least ~1-Million Years…

  4. There is a Chinese Company called Montek, that make Portable Solar Stirling Steam Generators. Ranging from 150-Watts to !0-kWatts of power, the 150-Watt units weigh’s ~18.7-pounds with internal Lithium-Ion Battery Pack and Cost’s ~$300.00 USD. and is available through AliExpress.com. I just place an order for Three of the Portable 150-Watt units. Also, something to consider in “Asteroid Impact Survival Mode”…

  5. Great article. There is just one problem, I know picky, picky, the pot in the photo isn’t a Dutch Oven, but a bean pot. Dutch Ovens have flat lids with a rim, about 1in high around them, to hold hot coals and keep out ashes when you open the pot to stir or such. On the pot you show, ashes would spill into your food. Don’t mean to be ‘nit-picky’, but people looking to by a Dutch Oven, might not get what they want. I know overtime, the two have been confused and a bean pot even labeled as a Dutch Oven even by manufactures.And yes, I have used both. Plus a good cast iron skillet can be used for cooking and baking also.

    1. @ Monica.

      Instead of using “Bare Cast Iron”, try “La Creuset” Cooking Ware. Ceramic Lined and Easier to Clean. I prefer the Sous Vide Supreme Water Oven method of Cooking…

    2. As with any iron cooking vessel, get it hot till the oils / food starts to smoke then douse it with just enough water to cover the bottom and the stuck on food will come right off as the water boils but don’t wait for the water to completely boil off before dumping it out. You may have to repeat the above a second time.

      After you’re done “cleaning”, put back on the fire to drive off all the water. Again, wait for it to start smoking then remove from fire and very lightly coat the inside with olive or coconut oil or animal lard preferably from the beef or bacon you just cooked (do not use vegetable oil as it will go rancid).

      If you’re worried about bacteria, don’t be. Bacteria starts to die at 145°F and temperatures will get much higher that this.

      Rarely do I ever wash my iron skillets with mild soap an water but when I do I make sure to drive off all the water then oil.

      My mom did the same thing with her iron skillet for 30+ years and it was well seasoned by then.

  6. Before electricity real people survived. I appears that this new generation has gotten so lax that they cant do without all the modern day Tech. goodies. I wonder what happened to good ole hard Corps men.

    1. I saw an article that said the vast majority of Millennial s would call a plumber rather that try to unclog a drain on their own. They grew up in the world where everybody got a trophy just for being there, rather than trying to excel.

  7. One good thing to have is a propane latern and a few propane cylinders. They throw a lot of light and will run a long time on a cylinder. I also have a couple Honda 2000 watt potable generators. Although you can’t run your whole house on them, they will run a refrigerator or furnace and will run a long time on a tank of gas plus they are quiet. I heat my house with a pellet stove that can run on a 12 volt battery but the generator will also run it plus it also provides light.

  8. I’ve been through this 3 times in the last 4 years. Hurricane Irene in August of 2011; out for 5 days. Surprise snowstorm Alfred in October 2011 just 3 months later (leaves were still on the trees that took down EVERYTHING!); out for 10 days. Then Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012 knocked us out for 8 1/2 days. I have a Generac 7550 EXL gas generator that runs my whole house. I keep 40 gallons of fresh gas on hand at all times, with some other spare cans I can fill. I also keep all my vehicle tanks full. I have a well, full tank of fuel oil, propane grill, propane campstove, plenty of spare propane, and a satellite dish for TV. We do fine as long as it is a weather related event. If it turns into a SHTF event, then the major difference is we arm up to protect what we have.

    1. Maybe they’re looking into using me to work for them on an operation. Or because I so want to move to Texas, they want to ensure I am the good guy I say I am. It certainly has nothing to do with narcotics! Most likely they think I am someone else. BTW, I haven’t been to Ft. Worth since 2004. He can feel free to email me by way of galaxie_manatyah00dotc0m

      I would expect a federal alphabet agency to be more interested in me than a LE division from a city in TX. (LOL)

  9. I have a wood stove and a well. As long as I keep a good supply of firewood, candles, canned foods, a .22 rifle and shells, a cross-cut saw,axe, and a hand operated water pump I can survive for months, even years without electricity-no need for a generator. After all, our ancestors did it all their lives. I live in a rural area. I pity those folks who made the decision to live in a city/ or in all electric homes. Our survival all comes down to the choices we make.

    1. I agree with Richard, add a Colman stove/oven combo and you are all set
      Tent heaters work well during cool/cold weather. Always keep cars full of gas..we have big suv’s plenty warm with motor running, and nice bed make exhaust is point up wind? So fumes will blow away
      OR call family and friends and see who has power and tell them you’ll be over in a few minutes LOL Love shooters log……I hadn’t fired gun since Feb 68..TET in Nam until last fall..got CC as at 73 I thought I could use some back up

    2. Hey Chris! Just checking the program. It appears that a reply does not get checked like the initial blogs.

  10. Honda, makes a Home-Power Generation/Heating system. Called the FreeWatt, that can actually be used inside the house. Add a couple of Telsa Motors Lithium-Iron or Lithium-Zinc Battery Packs, and your Good-To-Go. Or consider a AIP (Air-Independent Power) Hydrogen Fuel-Cells, that will supply up to 45-Days of Power, Breathable-Air, and Water. As a By-Product of the System…

  11. While I agree a generator is a must have, I must also remind you to have enough propane to run the unit for at least two weeks and longer if possible. I have a 16kw, whole house unit and they CLAIM? it runs on 5 gal of fuel per hour. I am prepaired to shut the generator down alternating every six hours to concerve fuel. But still, a 500 gal tank, for an example would last only about 6 days @ 12 hours per day. If you also, use gas to heat, cook or for hot water, you’ll run out much sooner than just using it for a generator. Remember, the length your generator will last depends on how full your tank is when you lose the power.

  12. It is very possible than an EMP- Solar flare could knockout a substantial part of the electric grid, for weeks, months and even a few years, as the ramp-up time to replace major Transformers is sometimes a year lag time just to build a replacement. Thus having said, I have at least 5 different ways to cook food, gas grill, several portable gas camp stoves, charcoal stove and a few homemade wood fire grills using cement blocks and a grill platform. For Long term, Why fight the dark, and just go with the flow. People will need to adjust their lives in a way, that you are up at first daylight, and to bed when the sun sets. Use daylight for gathering wood chopping, splitting and resource building. I rarely use my refrigerators any more at all. I only buy canned foods, fresh, freeze dried, and have been canning my own foods now for 5 months, and the stock pile is building. Invest in renewable energy, mini solar panels to run radios, battery recharging and cell phones if they are still working and get into Short Wave Radio for real news. Also consider installing a wood burning stove in your house as a backup in the colder climates. Do This NOW, and stockpile split hardwoods. Build up a pile of what you think you will need, then double that. Trust me on that. A wood stove can also double as a cooking appliance, and boiling/ purifying water which also humidifies your home. A humidified home is healthier and easier to heat than all dry heat. Also include a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors for safety. I would also suggest if the grid is down to have your sanitary back-up plan. Get a mini 5 gallon bucket toilet loo with a seat. You can use grocery plastic bags that fit perfect on a 5 gallon bucket. With the electric grid down, municipal water pump stations may also be down. You can also Prepare now and collect rain water to use as drinking water by filtering it, and also a use to flush your toilet waste. just keep a 5 gallon bucket of water by your toilet. Long term do NOT use the toilet, as it will eventually get backed up. Stockpile a year of toilet paper at least. Disposing of garbage will be another challenge. Look to pick up a mini barrel with a screen to burn garbage. Get into composting, food waste, as it will also help fertilize your garden. Got that seed bank set up yet? Your greatest assets, besides non-powered hand tools like an Axe, hand saw, hammer, nails, pry bar, tarps, window screen, to keep your shelter solid and secure is your knowledge and skills. Practice with your tools, cooking utensils, camping gear, firearms, so that you work out all the kinks now. Its OK to make the mistakes during practice, not during a real crisis as your stress level will already be elevated. You can buy today on Amazon a 100 cigarette lighters for about $20 bucks. They will also make for great barter items. Prepare to survive and thrive, and see you at the finish line.

  13. One last comment.. another a major advantage of having a automatic generator. Say that you live in an [all] electric home.. and your are away from home– at work miles away when a major power failure occurs during extremely cold weather. Your unable to get home to dig out the portable generator, run all the needed electic cords to appliances / heaters and then fuel / start the portable generator… a automatic whole house generator will come-on and provide electricity / heat for your wife & kids while your gone. They are great for older parents too, as it might mean the difference from them being able to stay at home versus their having to go to a shelter during a major power failure.

  14. If you can afford to get one.. get yourself a Generac Natural gas / Propane fueled whole house generator- you will never ever be sorry. You install it about like a outside air unit.. hooking it to a natural gas line and your electric meter box.. and then it sits there ready to go in any power failure. It comes on and goes off automatically! With just tne flick of a switch you can change between using natural gas or propane to run the generator. No going down and standing in long lines for fuel. You don’t have to store large amounts of gasoline that can go bad over time.

    During the Ice Storm of ’09, we were without power for 7 days.. I was well prepared with a propane camp cooking stove, several lanterns & gallons fuel, candles, canned food, extra Bar-b-que propane bottles, lots of batteries, a power inverter to run off my car, radios and a police scanner. I also had a blue flame heater to hook to my fireplace’s gas log insert– that heated most of the house. The supplies cost me about $1,000. It was still a miserable week. I use a oxygen concentrator & a bi-pap machine.. they don’t work without elelctricity

    Now I have a 20KW Generac generator [$5,000- including the automatic switcher– plus instalation] that will power the whole house– including all outside security lights and the furnace / air conditioner. The second the power goes out.. the generator automatically comes on and 12 seconds after that.. I’ve got full power back to the house again. Once the power grid comes back on line.. the generator automatically dis-engages.. but keeps running for a minite or two to make sure the power is going to stay on.. then shuts itself down. It comes on by itself once a week and circulates the oil while doing a self diagnostic check. If anything is wrong.. it prints it out on the control panel’s screen.

    You can get smaller versions starting about $2,500… but I strongly suggest getting the 20KW [20,000 watt] version. The automatic switcher means the generator will come on automatically so you don’t have to get out in the bad weather or if your away from home.. your fish aquarium air pumps, food freezers, refrigerator, furnace, electric hot water heaters and other items will keep running. But you can also just use a manual switcher.. but for a few hundred dollars more get the auto switcher if you can. For brown outs during the summer heat and Ice / weather related outages.. you will never be sorry for this investment. I’ve enjoyed my generator many times since it was installed… from 20 minute outages to several hour outages.

  15. I have a solar/dynamo powered mini-lantern and a solar/dynamo radio……I need to get a couple of flashlights,food,and…..nobody ever talks about protection….I am trying to stockpile ammo,so much so,that,I haven’t been to the shooting range in a good long while….Stay safe and protect yourselves!!!!!

  16. i keep lots of flashlights in the house safer around kids and as far as batteries i keep a couple of solar charged flashlights handy found them at our local napa they are from nebo

  17. Never under estimate keeping a stock of batteries. I needed to get D Cells when Irene rolled in and could not locate them anywhere!! Thankfully led’s go easier on batteries as the flashlights sure were needed and I squeaked by on what we had. Won’t make that mistake again.
    Another tip, buy a portable generator. The snow ripped through here last weekend and the power went on cue. A few extension cords later and the heat was back on, a few lights were placed here and there and the fridge/freezer got plugged in to avoid lost food.

  18. I am one of the strange people who carry a flashlight at all times. My current favorite is the Fenix PD30 although I will sometimes have a AA Magled on me. I don’t like candles for light due to the potential for starting fires and because they blow out easily. Besides, when you are moving around taking care of chores and other stuff related to the power outage, who wants to tend a flickering candle?

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