Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Light During Emergencies and Survival Situations

During a crisis situation there is many situations when different sources of light can become important tools to help you survive. This can be the case during shorter black outs or longer black outs caused by natural disasters such as storms or earthquakes. After a natural disasters or accidents there can also be a need for lights in order to perform search and rescue work, another important function for light is the ability to signal for help and attract attention. The development with LED light has greatly increased both the light output and energy efficiency of headlamps and flashlights increasing both the battery time and light output. They also have a very long life span and are much more resistant to shocks and hits. The introduction of digital regulators enables modern light to have functions such as different light outputs and functions like strobe and SOS signaling.

Different kinds of Flashlights are one of the best sources of lights you can find. Fenix and 4Sevens are two of the most successful new companies that manufactures flashlight and headlamps, Fenix has different flashlights that use different kinds of batteries like the 123A, AA, AAA and D-Cell. The main advantage with an AA or AAA battery flashlight is that batteries are both cheap easily accessible. The C123 batteries has a higher voltage than the AA and AAA batteries so they can often give a higher light output, the main disadvantage is that they are much more expensive than the AA batteries and harder to come by. The lights are also waterproof and come with spare parts.

Some interesting models are the small LD-10 that uses a single AA battery, the Fenix L0D / LD01 / EO1 that uses a single AAA battery and the TK-41 that uses 8 AA batteries and have an output of 800 lumens. Fenix also makes some models that can use the 18650 rechargeable li-ion battery like the TK-11, TK-15, TK-30 and TK-35. The TK70, TK60 and TK50 are three models that use D-Cell batteries and resemble the D-Cell flashlights from Mag-Lite in form but have a significantly higher light output. These lights are relatively heavy but can be excellent as light for your Home or as a light in Vehicle.

4SevensThe company 4Sevens also makes some high quality LED flashlights similar to the models produced by Fenix like the Quark AA2, the Quark MiNi AA, Preon 1 and the Preon 2 pen light.

Surefire is an American company that for a long time was one of the leading brands in flashlights using CR123 batteries and xenon lights that outperformed most other brands on the market. These lights had an outstanding light output compared to many other brands with the disadvantage that they had short battery time and that the lights became very warm when activated. Like other companies Surefire has started to phase out their models with normal light bulbs and starting to replace them with newer models using LED technology. The main disadvantage with the light from Surefire is that most models use the rather uncommon and expensive 123A batteries. The 6PX Pro and G2X Pro are among the best models.

Maglite is another American flashlight manufacturer that produces some relatively cheap flashlight with a high quality. The larger D-cell Maglite flashlights have a quite large size compared to many other brands but this enables the flashlights to be used as a very effective self defense weapon. I suggest that you don’t buy the older models with normal light bulbs and instead go with newer models that used LED:s. Maglite also have two new models: the XL100 that uses three AA batteries and the XL50 that use three AAA batteries.

Other Companies
There are also other interesting companies that make high quality flashlights like Sunwayman, iTP Light, Olight and NiteCore

Some flashlights are designed so that the reflector on the flashlight has an angle of around 90 degree from the main body of the flashlight. This makes the flashlights particular good for attaching on a molle vest or the shoulder straps on a backpack. Streamlight has a model called Sidewinder that has a main LED diod and some smaller diods with red light, blue light and infra red light that uses two conventional AA batteries. This light also has Strobe function. The Sidewinder also come in a more compact version: The Sidewinder Compact that use a single 123A battery, this light can be used as a headlamp or be mounted on a helmet. Fenix has the model called MC-10 that uses a single AA battery, various light output and a strobe function. The Texas based company ZebraLight makes a number of compact angle lights that uses a single AA battery. These lights are very compact and excellent for Every Day Carry. They also come with headbands so that they can be used as headlamps and clips so that they can be attached to vests or backpacks.
Shake Lights and Dynamo Lights
Shake Lights and Dynamo Lights are flashlight that has built in rechargeable batteries that can be charged by either shaking the light or turning a dynamo handle. These lights often have a limited power out, short battery time and low quality. However they have the advantage that you never risk running out of batteries and often a rather low price.


Headlamps have the main advantage that they can be used without the use of your hands allowing you to perform other tasks like repairs, giving first aid or starting a fire in darkness without having to hold a flashlight in a hand. For some regular flashlight there are headbands that fill the same function. One very good headlamp is the Silva L1 that uses either 4 AA batteries, but it can also use 4 C-cell batteries in a belt pack. The Petzl E+ Lite is a very light headlamp that takes up very little space in a pack or in a survival kit. This headlamp has three small diod and one red diod, variable light output, a signaling mode and a small hard plastic cover. The TACTIKKA XP is another excellent Headlamp from Petzl that use three AAA batteries and comes with a number of different colored lenses.  

There are also more powerful headlamps with rechargeable battery packs that is very good for more professional users or night time orienteering. The Petzl Ultra series and Silva Alpha series are two examples. Some other interesting models to check out are the Fenix HP-20 and Fenix HL-21.

Lanterns and Oil Lamps
Lanterns and Oil Lamps is excellent sources of light during an emergency situation. Most models can be used with different forms of fuel like kerosene, lamp oil or even lighter fluid. If you’re going to use the lantern indoors I recommend special lamp oil that has a weaker fragrance then regular kerosene. There are also different types of lanterns that use gas containers for fuel. I personally prefer kerosene and oil lamps. I would suggest that you use the same kind of fuel that you need for your stove. For example if you have a Jetboil stove that uses gas then you should go for a gas powered lantern, if you use a multi fuel stove then it’s better to go with a lantern that uses kerosene or lamp oil. The main disadvantage with these kinds of light sources is the risk of accidently starting a fire and the risk of CO poisoning if you use them in enclosed spaces. Make sure that you don’t place them in areas where they can fall to the ground and break, and safe away from children. A fire alarm, fire extinguisher and fire proof blanket are important items if you have these kinds of lights. If you have an oil lamp, make sure you use them in your everyday life and not only during emergencies or blackouts. If you’re using an oil lamp or kerosene lamp store both fuel and extra wicks.

Candles are an excellent source of light that have much less fragrance than kerosene and oil lanterns. There are different kinds of special long burning candles that have a burn time of several hours. UCO makes a number of special candle lanterns that’s excellent for camping and emergency situations. The original model uses candles that have a burn time of 9 hours and there is also an additional kerosene/lamp oil conversion piece that can be inserted so the lantern that use both emergency candles and lamp oil. Candles just like kerosene lamps present the risk of fire so it is important that you only place candles at safe places and that you use some kind of fire resistant holders. Fire resistant holder can be improvised from tin cans, glass jars and other items.

Chemical Light Sticks
Chemical lights sticks is plastic cylinders filled with chemical that mixes when they are broken and then generate light without creating heat. They are also waterproof and relatively cheap to buy. These items are valuable to have in your home, vehicle, first aid kit both for signaling and for light. The main disadvantage is that if they are sensitive to shocks and must be securely packed so that they don’t break. They don’t have the same light intensity as emergency flares but don’t have the same danger of accidently starting fires, most of the produce light somewhere between 6 and 12 hours after they have been activated.

Emergency Flares
Handheld emergency flares burns and creates strong light that is very useful for signaling for help in a survival situation. The main disadvantage is the risk of accidently starting a fire when using the flare and the risk of burns. But on the other hand the flare can also be useful to start a fire during an emergency as well as for signaling. Aerial flares can be particular useful on marine vessels for signaling.

I suggest that you try to go get equipment that uses the same kind of batteries, so that you can use the same batteries for you flashlights, headlamps, GPS, emergency radio etc. What kind of batteries you should choose depends on your budget and situation. Lithium batteries have a very high capacity and performs better in cold weather than normal batteries but are much more expensive. Rechargeable batteries in general have a smaller capacity than high performance batteries but can be recharged many times; there are solar chargers for rechargeable batteries that can be useful duuring longer hiking and hunting trips or during long term emergencies.

Key Chain Lights
Today small led lights that’s fits perfect on a keychain can be bought for a low price. These models may not have a very powerful light output but have a rather good battery life and have the main advantage that they take up very little space and that you always can carry one with you, making them perfect for Every Day Carry or as component in a Pocket Survival Kit. More high quality key chain light can be bought such as the rechargeable model Skylight from Exped that uses solar panels to recharge, the Nano Light and Key-Mate from Streamlight and the Photon Micro Light, Photon Micro-Light II, Photon ReX Rechargeable and the rechargeable Skylight LED lamp with solarpanels from Exped.

Light Discipline
For the most times lights is a useful thing during survival and emergency situations both to provide the possibility to see during nights and the ability to signal for help. However there are situations when lights can attract unwanted attention; however this is mostly a problem in high risk areas or conflict zones. If you’re reading a map during the night you can use a poncho, jacket or tarp to cover the map while reading it. Red filters give flashlights a softer light that don’t attract as much attention and help to preserve the night vision. Night visions goggles are very good items that allows you see in low light settings without producing light that can give your positions away, the main disadvantage with these items is that they are very expensive.

Other sources of light during a survival situation can be regular lighters, matches, fire, a cell phone display or a campfire. A generator can provide power for your regular lights, freezer, radio etc during a black out. How many lights you should get and what type depends on your personal situation. In general I would advice that you have at least two different forms of emergency light sources in your home and a flashlight or headlamp in your car. Go with items that fit your budget, if you’re running during the nights get a headlamp instead of a flashlight and use the oil lamps and candles in your normal life, the items should fill a function not only for emergencies but also for everyday life.


  1. Thanks for sharing this informative article.I like this way.

  2. Nowadays there are a lot of flashlights which impress with their quality and performance. Many companies produce various LED flashlight and sometimes we think what light is better or even the best. Recently I have had an experience with Armytek company and its products. I purchased Armytek Predator 670 lumens and happy that this light met all my needs. I can recoommend this company: well made flashligths and good service.

  3. For batteries, I like AA's. CR123A are way overpriced IMO and you can get AA flashlights that are just as bright nowadays thanks to the improvements in LED technology.

  4. Resourceful content. Thanks for the share.