One of the great things about living in the country is that I can see far more stars than were visible in the city, thanks to the lack of light pollution. There are nights when I can walk the dog and see just fine without the headlamp.
Then there are nights when the sky is so cloudy I can’t see anything when I turn off my headlamp. That’s one reason having an every-day carry flashlight is important. If my headlamp fails 200 yards away from the house, I don’t want to be fumbling along, counting on my cell phone light. I’m not afraid of what lurks in the dark; my fear is of tripping, falling, or twisting my foot in the dark, especially if the dog unexpectedly lunges.
I’m betting that few Americans know what it is to be in total darkness, and fewer still know what it is like to be alone in the dark. I’m talking underground-cavern darkness; no-stars-or-moon darkness. The kind of darkness where you can wave your hand in front of your face and not see it.
Oh So Dark
Many Americans live in cities where the light pollution makes its way through your window and around your shades when you turn your lights off at night. At our old house, our next-door neighbor had a streetlight shining over his backyard, but it sent a beam of light into our bedroom. We also had LEDs glowing everywhere. We had a TV and sound system in the bedroom, plugged into a power brick that included a surge protector. That combination accounted for three or four LEDs. The thermostat glowed and the alarm system had a bright green LED. Then there was the clock radio, which glowed all night with red digital numbers telling us the time.
Out here in the country, it’s darker. There is no light pollution from the neighbors. Because we have mountains all around us, the moon has to be pretty high for it to shine down on us. We have far fewer LEDs than we used to, although we are using the same clock radio. When I walk through the house in the dark, the only thing I can see upstairs is the dull glow of the clock on the microwave.
When the power goes out and the glow of the LEDs fades, I can understand how a single guttering candle provides a sense of comfort. We stock candles, but a candle is far from the ideal survivalist light source. That’s why I carry a flashlight as part of my EDC and have spares in my EDC bag, my car kit and my bug out bag. Besides flashlights, I also have gun-mounted lights because it’s important to be able to identify your target.
Fighting the Dark
Flashlights and rechargeable batteries should not only be part of your EDC, but a part of your survival stash. I like lights that have multiple settings. My EDC light has five brightness settings from less than a lumen to 1200 lumens. While it will only burn for a couple hours when set on high, it will run for more than a month at the lowest setting. In the darkest parts of the night, the lowest setting is plenty of light to see and move around with. It’s far better than a candle, and if you fall asleep with it on, you don’t have to worry about burning down the house.
Headlamps are also important because they allow us to work with both hands. We have six headlamps for the two of us. I have a dim one for reading and close-up work and bright models for outdoor work. The best ones are adjustable for brightness and also allow you to rotate the beam up and down.
I recommend you buy every member of your family and/or prepper group a tactical flashlight with multiple brightness levels and headlamps that all use the same battery. In our case, we’ve standardized on the 18650. (Buy a few spare batteries, too). Set up a way to charge the batteries in a grid down situation and you’ll have light any time you need it.
Early this week, 20 Tenergy 18650 batteries I bought for $2 each from jag35.com arrived. These were unused batteries pulled from new devices. When I received them, each battery charged at 3.9 to 4 volts. I tested four and while they are rated at 2,600 milliamp hours, they tested at 2,782 to 2,719 milliamp hours, well above their rating. After seeing those numbers, I didn’t bother testing the rest. I just started charging them.
The next time I head to the city, I am going to find a couple 50-caliber ammo cans, and turn them into EMP-proof containers. 10 batteries and a flashlight will go into each, along with a 2-bay 18650 charger. (Both these Tenergy batteries and the flashlights have microchips in them and could conceivably be zapped by an EMP.)
You can see Jehu’s video on these batteries below. He dissects one and shows you the chips. Be advised that they are sold out of this model but have other batteries available.
Lamps and Lanterns
As useful as they are, you need more than a flashlight. That’s why we have battery powered lamps and lanterns, two of which are rechargeable. In addition to electric lights, we have old fashioned kerosene lanterns that use a wick, multi-fuel lanterns than use a mantle, and old backpacking-style candle lanterns.
You can also light up a room using a string of low-voltage LEDs powered by a battery. Hang them along a light-colored wall, and they’ll provide a surprising amount of light.
Mounted Exterior Lights
I have continued to add solar-powered motion detecting lights to our home’s exterior. My latest one is mounted on a tree about 25 feet off the ground and covers the driveway entrance to our property. If asked, I will tell people I put this light there to illuminate the area where I walk the dog at night. That’s true, but it also lights up any late night-visitors during peaceful times and illuminates potential targets in less-than-peaceful times.
Some people plan to put solar lights outside during the day and move them indoors at night to provide lighting during in a grid down scenario. That’s not a bad plan, but I’m going to use our limited solar power to charge batteries instead.
There’s a Reason they Called them the Dark Ages
I’ve talked about the importance of flashlights and rechargeable batteries on multiple occasions. That should tell you how important I think they will be after the SHTF. Because of artificial light, we no longer have to go to bed when the sun sets. Battery-powered lights allow us to be productive well into the night.
In a post-SHTF scenario, a bright tactical flashlight may give you an advantage over an aggressor force that is trying to attack at night. It may also highlight your position, so use your lights carefully (they come with momentary switches for a reason!), and move after you turn one on.
The light bulb was a leap forward, but today’s LEDs are another paradigm shift. They are brighter while using less electricity and are far more durable than the incandescent lightbulbs they replaced. If you ever bought an old Maglite flashlight, you know what I mean. There was a reason they came with a spare bulb.
You can get inexpensive flashlights and headlamps with LEDs, or you can pay more and get tactical lights which are waterproof and shock resistant. You can get dim LEDs or shockingly bright LEDs, just expect the latter to consume more power. Just do yourself a favor and get them before disaster strikes.