Let There be Light!

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Published on The Doomstead Diner September 17, 2017

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The recent two major Hurricane events and the Power Outages which have followed led me to writing this Prep article on being prepared for such eventualities with good lighting gear.  On begining the article on Wednesday, there were still around 6.5M people without power in FL, and still 200K around Houston without power as well.  Hurricane Jose is now threatening to do a Strafing Run up the East Coast of the FSoA, although at the moment a landfall doesn't seem likely.

Until you are without it, you don't think much about the necessity of lighting in industrial civilization, but it is everywhere.  Many buildings have interior rooms with no windows.  After dark, city streets become unsafe without streetlights.  Cooking your dinner if you didn't get it done before Sunset requires lighting.

Fortunately these days, unlike A/C which requires GOBS of electric power to run, lighting only requires a tiny fraction of this and you can have enough power stored in batteries of various types to stay well lit for at least a few weeks without any power generating capacity at all.  If you have only a few portable solar panels to deploy, you can pretty much go indefinitely as far as lighting is concerned in a disaster zone.  Sadly of course, after a week or two, the lack of refrigeration, A/C, potable water and flushable toilets will probably become a bigger problem than a lack of lighting.  Nevertheless, lighting ranks very high up in the list of preps you need to make either for a localized disaster or even TEOTWAWKI.

Portable lighting has always been a passion of mine, since my youngest years living in Brazil in the 1960s, when we experienced Power Blackouts probably at least twice a month in those years.  They weren't even powering all that much really, even though we lived in an upscale Penthouse apartment right off Ipanema Beach we didn't have Air Conditioning, just ceiling fans and big windows that actually opened up.  All that was being powered were the Incandescent light bulbs, the B&W 18" TV and the Refrigerator inside the apartment and then the Elevator that got you up and down from the Penthouse to the Ground Floor where you walked outside and if you had to go somewhere the Driver picked you up to deliver your Rich Fuck Little Kid Ass to your friend's house to play Cowboys & Indians or something.  Which he did with a big smile all the time because he actually had a paying job and his girlfriend was the Cook and she scarfed up all the leftover food so they got fed for free too!  They all went back to the Favelas at night to sleep except for one live in maid we had a room for next to the pantry.  She was a teenage cousin of the cook as I recall.

http://ghk.h-cdn.co/assets/15/24/768x512/gallery-1433789009-power-outage-safety-2-de.jpg When the lights went out though, it was NASTY!  Not only was the TV off and you had to walk 12 flights of stairs to get in and out of your digs, there wasn't even any LIGHT to find your way from the bedroom to the bathroom to take a shit or to the kitchen to get something to eat out of the fridge before it went bad.  This was very stress inducing shit for a 7 year old boy brought up in industrial culture to have to endure!  It was at this point in my life Flashlights (Torches for you Brits out there) became what turned out to be a life long obsession.

Back in those days, neither the flashlights or the batteries were very good.  The flashlights were cheap plastic or real thin metal casings, the bulbs were incandescent and didn't put out much light and the batts weren't even Alkalines, they were crappy Ray-o-Vacs that gave you maybe 2-3 hours of juice before the light dimmed to imperceptible. Duracell Batts weren't even on the market in those years.  If you kept a spare set of Batts in the Kitchen Junk Drawer, after a couple of months you were lucky if they still worked.  There were no rechargeable batts or flashlights on the market at all in those years.

Returning back to the FSoA in the late 60s, at least at home having a good and working flashlight at the ready all the time became less necessary.  The grid in NY Shity was much more dependable than that in Rio de Janeiro, there were only a few occasions I recall where we experienced blackouts of any extended period.  The only one I remember was the Blackout of July 1977, when the juice went out for 2 days.  We had flashlights and we muddled through, although some food went bad.  We never lost water or sewage though, it wasn't a natural disaster; it was a power grid problem due to lightning (so they said).  Fortunately, I was not stuck in an elevator for that one.  That has to be a fucking nightmare.

Where Flashlights did become very important again was in my adventures at Summer Camp, both the primitive one and the plush one for rich kids.  In both cases, after dark set in if you didn't have a working flashlight you couldn't even walk the trails between the buildings in the plush camp to get from the Rec Hall where the dances were held back to your cabin, and you definitely could not go out on a 2 AM RAID on the Girls side of camp without a flashlight!

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81G9WnPZ8sL._SX355_.jpg At the primitive skills camp, a flashlight was also a necessary item.  Sometimes we would not make good time and get caught out on the trail after dark and had to hike the last mile or two to the planned campsite in the dark.  Or we might JUST MAKE IT by dusk, but setting up the tents and cooking dinner all had to be done by flashlight.  Needless to say, every summer I burned through dozens of these disposable one-time use batteries from Ray-o-Vac and Eveready.  This was very distressing to me, since I had to buy the batts from the camp "canteen" out of money my mom deposited to my account for the summer which also had to go to buy Cokes and Almond Joy bars, which were my favorite candy snack of the era.  The more money I spent on Batts, the less I had for Cokes and Almond Joy Bars.  Fortunately when I ran out of money mom would usually replenish the account with another $20, but I usually had 2 or 3 days to wait before said money would appear in the account.

At about this time the first RECHARGEABLE flashlights came out, and I coveted one of these but never got one during the camping years.  They were rather large and clunky things at the time, and the batts were permanently installed, not replaceable.  There was no place to buy such batts in that era even if you could replace them when they wore out from too many cycles.  I think the technology on them was Ni-Cad, but not sure on that.

Flashlights gradually improved over the next 20 years or so and so did the Batts, but it was still Incandescent Light technology for the Torches, and still mainly disposable Alkaline Batts to power them although Ni-Cad rechargeables became more available in the AAA, AA, C & D sizes these lights take.  I started buying rechargeables and a charger for them at this point for my flashlights.

The real REVOLUTION in personal, portable lighting though came just in the last decade or so, combining two relatively new technologies, Diode Lights and Li-I rechargeable batts.  The current crop of lights now available is far more powerful than the old stuff, and they are being manufactured in far higher quality than the old El Cheapo Flashlights as well.  There is a big market for them amongst the Survivalist/Doomer/Prepper crowd, and some of them come in at some fantastically high prices also, you can spend over $200 for a Flashlight!  I recently spent that much for a pair of Sunglasses though, so I can't really be holier-than-thou with anyone who chooses to spend that much for a flashlight. I have managed to keep it down to under $35 for any flashlight so far in self-defense against charges of excessive spending on preps.

https://images.askmen.com/1080x540/2017/04/27-045527-best_tactical_flashlights.jpg What you get for your money here are extremely bright lights, measured in "lumens" these days.  In selling their lights, manufacturers used to boast about "candlepower" not "lumens", and you can't really do a direct conversion because they measure different things.  I have both a 1,000,000 Candle Power Spotlight and a 1000 Lumen Flashlight though, and eyeballing it the spotlight appears about twice as bright as the flashlight, although it is more of a focused beam so it is hard to tell.  Both are REALLY bright though! 🙂

The Spotlight was my first super bright light I purchased as I got into Doom and Prepping around a decade ago.  It's rechargeable and I have hardly used it but kept the charge on it by keeping it plugged in all the time, so it still works fine.  Not sure though how long it would work for if it wasn't being charged all the time.  This brings up an issue with all the rechargeable batts, is they really don't last forever and they degrade over time in their ability to hold a charge.

I have had numerous issues with devices other than flashlights as far as rechargeables are concerned, particularly those which are sealed inside devices and can't be replaced, at least by you the Konsumer.  It is another form of Planned Obsolescence.  The batts installed on many of these devices, from wireless headphones to cell phones usually wear out from charge cycles after around 2-4 years, depending on how much you use the device and how assiduous you are about keeping it charged up.  This really pissed me off with some Wireless Headphones/Mics I used for numerous of my Collapse Cafe Doomer Discussion forums you can find on the Diner You Tube Channel, including such Collapse Luminaries as Gail Tverberg, Ugo Bardi, Steve Ludlum, Tom Lewis, Paul Chefurka and others.  6 months after purchasing one of these to get rid of the wire hanging off my head in the videos, it stopped taking a charge.  No way to put a new rechargeable batt in it either!  I gambled and figured maybe I got a Lemon and bought another one.  Same thing happened to that one 6 months later too.  I got soured on devices with rechargeable batts because of this.  I still will buy them because some devices you just can't get in any other configuration, and on the sealed ones the manufacturers now have "licensed contractors" who you can bring your device to who will change the batt for you and "properly dispose" of the old one.  For a fee of course.

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/94/a6/57/94a6570acab098c91ae0adeffffb41e8--led-lantern-august-.jpg Current Flashlights however are not this way for the most part, although some older ones like my Black & Decker Spotlight have an embedded rechargeable batt you can't easily change.  Recent models have come out though which will take either 3 Typical AAA, C, or D Alkaline one-time use batts, or a similar Ni-Cad or Li-I Bat of the same dimensions.  The difference between using these different types of batts has blurred now as well, because the Alkalines have improved a LOT since my years in Summer Camp, and boast a shelf life of 10 years!  In use, they tend to last longer than the rechargeables do, so if you don't have a source of electricity to do a recharge (like say in the aftermath of a hurricane) they will do better than rechargeables, especially if you have a few spares.  You can buy them in large packs of 20 batts in some cases, and store them in a cool dry spot in the basement (don't leave them there if you expect flooding!).

So I have both Single Use Alkalines which in my 500 Lumen flashlight will supposedly give 5-6 hours of run time, as well as rechargeables which I know through testing give about 3 hours of run time.  That is leaving the light on all the time until the light starts noticeably dimming.  You're also kind of insane if you use more than 500 lumens for practically any situation you can dream up, I do have a 1000 Lumen one but you never need that much light!  There are 10,000 Lumen ones out there too if you want to buy one!  Some of the Survival Websites advertise super high lumen lights that will supposedly Blind a Bear and provide Bear Protection, I am not sure if I believe that shit or not.  Other than that though, WTF do you need such a bright light for?  You do not need to light up the whole neighborhood, just maybe the 50' in front of you!  500 Lumens does that EZ.

The thing besides this is, even in a disaster situation you don't leave the light on full time, you switch it on and off for a few seconds or most minutes at a time when you need some bright light.  I have other more low-tech sources of low light like Candles and Kerosene Lanterns that provide enough light to move around my digs quite well without needing to turn on a high power flashlight, and really these sources of light serve most of your needs in a disaster situation, except perhaps for the initial phases when you are getting set up or dangerous times like high winds outside when you don't want to have anything burning.  In the days (weeks?) following the disaster though, candles and kero lanterns will provide most of the light you need after dark.

"After Dark" is another important consideration, because for the most part the only thing you should be doing after dark is SLEEPING!  You don't need lights when you are asleep, in fact it's easier to do when it's dark.  Here in Alaska in the summertime, sleeping can be a tough thing for many people, requiring stuff like Blackout Shades on the windows and Sleep Masks.  I am usually OK just pulling the cover over my head, but it can be annoying.  Back in the Good Old Daze before we had any sort of electric lighting, people just went to sleep after dark, because even burning Candles was relatively expensive for them.  On the other hand of course in Alaska, in the Winter you will need to use some lighting method unless you completely hibernate and sleep 20 hours a day. lol.

http://www.nationinstitute.org/images/managed/stock-footage-young-man-in-front-of-computer-screen-dark-night-room.jpg Besides that, in the current Hi-Tech era, you have other sources of light that you run which put a glow on your digs.  As long as I have my computer monitor turned on keyboarding out the DOOM over the internet, it basically lights up the whole room, which is my main living space including the Kitchen area.  I can walk around without a Flashlight without tripping over anything quite easily, although fixing dinner by this amount of light isn't really possible except for simple things like microwaving a Potato Skin or boiling up some Ramen Noodles.  My computer is kept going in a disaster situation by a HUGE 120AH Deep Cycle Marine Batt which will drive it for quite a few days non-stop, but again I wouldn't run it non-stop during an emergency, only maybe an hour or two each evening to check up on how the repair work on the grid was going and to make some posts to the Diner to pass on my experiences during the disaster, whatever it was.

Besides the full computer screen being up and running for lighting, I also have my Smart Phone.  That usually rests next to my Pillow. and when I need to answer the Call of Nature in the middle of the night and take a trip from my bed to the Throne in the the bathroom, I just flick on the phone and that provides plenty of light to negotiate my way to the Porcelain God without tripping over anything or having to turn the lights on anywhere on the route.  Then once resting comfortably on the Throne I can surf the web with no other lights on, since the Smart Phone is providing its own light to the backlit screen. 🙂

So for me, the typical Flashlights are just a small part of the arsenal of tools of prepping that keep your lighting situation within reason, and the Flashlights themselves don't get used that much.  I turn them on and off a few seconds or minutes at a time to do specific tasks I need a lot of light for.  The way I use a flashlight, a typical alkaline battset, non-rechargeable would last several weeks, probably months without a recharge necessary.  This would not be true if you use a flashlight all the time to maneuver about something like a Cave of course.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81ZtQc-hqlL._SL1500_.jpg What is a bit more interesting to me these days in the department of Portable Lighting is not the luminosity or source of power, but rather the various configurations they now come in besides just your typical Handheld Flashlight.  You can get ones with Clamps that will clip onto things, Magnets that will stick them to Refrigerators, Tower Style with lots of Diodes to function as lanterns, etc.  My particular favorite though are the Headlamps.

I first became enthused on the prepper level with Headlamps when I ran into the posting of Ferfal, who chronicled the Collapse of the Argentinian Economy in 2001-2003 or so.  Headlamps provide the obvious advantage of leaving both your hands free to do other tasks, while at the same time the light from the headlamp is always directed at exactly where you are looking.

There are many El Cheapo versions of Diode Headlamps now available on the market in any Walmart Camping section, down as cheap as around $5, and I have experimented with a few of them.  They work OK for most tasks you would use a headlamp like this for, say fixing dinner or cleaning your Gun in preparation for the Invasion of the Zombies the following morning.  However, there are now better ones on the market than this, and I picked up one that has not one but THREE lights on it and claims 1000 lumens (I don't think quite that, it's a little dimmer than my 1000 lumen flashlight), has rechargeable batts which are REPLACEABLE by the Konsumer as well!  In terms of continuos run-time, I have tested this one as well, it gives 3 hours of continuous light from a full charge, but much like a handheld, I can see few circumstances I would run it continuously for so long.  In terms of price, it came in quite cheap at $25, which is comparable to the price I paid for my 1000 Lumen Aircraft Aluminum heavyweight light running on 3 D size batts, which actually came in a set of 3 for $50 including a smaller version at 500 Lumens running on C cells and a Pocket version running on 3 AAA cells as well.  All 3 are real solidly built and appear as though they will last quite a while.  The fail point on these lights is the On-Off switch, which if/when it fails is hard to replace or fix.  Over a long enough duration of time this WILL occur, so the light won't work forever, even if you can get batts for it.  All I hope for though is about 10 years of service.  I won't be above ground longer than that, if I make it that long it will be miraculous, not to mention an excruciatingly long time to die given my current condition.

Overall, Lighting is a SOLUBLE problem as we move forward in collapse, it doesn't take much JUICE to get a diode light glowing, and the diodes can still be produced quite cheaply.  A few now pretty cheap solar PV panels can keep them charged up, or if you have a generator and a little gas it won't take long to get them topped off and ready for another couple of days of service as you slog your way through the disaster of the day in your neighborhood.  Compared to the more major problems of the loss of A/C in hot climates, the loss of refrigeration of food, or the loss in sewage treatment and water pumping for the neighborhood as a whole, this one is soluble quite easily for you individually.  It is however a problem that the majority of the population ignores, evidenced easily by the fact that as soon as a disaster oncoming is announced by the MSM, all the dopey lemmings run out to buy Bottled Water and Batteries and empty the shelves of them.  This scene replays itself with every fucking hurricane, every fucking flood in advance and every fucking earthquake in the aftermath.  "OH! Shit!  I need batteries! What? Walmart is OUT?"  The deep level of stupidity in the population remains astounding to me.  You can't drop a few of these things in the closet BEFORE the MSM tells you it will arrive tomorrow?  WTF?

Don't be a complete idiot. You don't have to go completely over-the-top with prepping like me, but JEEZUS, at least have some working flashlights and extra batts around you don't have go shop for at the last minute!  It won't help you with the A/C problem in the hot climates, but at least you will be able to see where you are going as you bake to death!

2 Responses to Let There be Light!

  • Mike says:

    Absolutely spot on.  We call these headlamps "geeklights" because reasons.  Used a lot of the time by us for setting up tents and camp cooking after dark.  My favourite one comes on full blast but when you press the button again it halves the number of leds, press again and half again, press one more time and only a single LED.  That single LED is suitable for most things and extends the run time enormously.

  • lamovr says:

    If you like LED flashlights, you need to check out Deal Extreme (dx.com). The selection is amazing. Any combination of battery sizes and lumens you can imagine. I got my trusty rechargeable zooming and dimming headlamp there. 

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