Flashlight, river, night
Photo by Andreas Dress

Mankind has sort of an innate fear of the dark.  This likely stems from back in the day when any number of predators may have been lurking just beyond the light of the fire, just waiting for one of the cavemen to walk one step too far and become dinner.  Today, the threats are more often on two legs than on four.  A flashlight and a few other types of portable sources of illumination are great additions to the preparedness kit.

While there is some overlap with many products, there are three basic categories to portable emergency lights.


It wasn’t all that long ago when the venerable and formidable Maglite was the epitome of the tactical flashlight.  It was heavy enough and durable enough to clobber the bad guy once you spotted him.  And I’m just old school enough to agree that the Maglite might still have a place in the portable light arena.

However, technology has advanced quite a bit in the last decade or so.  Lights have gotten smaller just as they’ve gotten brighter.  Brightness is measured in lumens.  This is the measurement of total light from the source.  Simply put, the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light.

For most day to day chores, a small light that puts out 50-75 lumens will be sufficient.  This is plenty of light for things like searching under furniture for the remote and checking the oil in the car.  When you get up to about 200 lumens, that should cover just about anything you can imagine around the house.

Searching out the back door late at night to determine what caused a ruckus might warrant a bit more, perhaps about 500 lumens or so.  The thing to remember, though, is that these flashlights can get pretty warm fairly quickly when you get into the several hundred lumen range.  They can also go through batteries pretty fast when you’re using high levels of illumination.  But, most of these handheld flashlights have different settings so you can use a lower level of light for daily chores, then ramp it up as needed to see if that truly was a raccoon or something more alarming outside the back of the garage.


Headlamp can be a great solution for someone who wants a portable and directional light source like a flashlight but needs a hands free option.  The headlamps on the market today are so much better than they were a decade or two ago.  These are lighter, brighter, and far more comfortable than the old models.

While there are large models with several LED lamps, the smaller models will suffice for most applications.  Some are equipped with a red LED light as well, which is good for saving your night vision, should the need arise.


When it comes to lighting up a room, lanterns are the way to go.  While many of us still have plenty of oil lamps sitting around, along with fuel and extra wicks, a battery powered lantern can be a great option as well.  When you’re dealing with young children or rambunctious pets, any sort of an open flame light source can be a risky proposition.  A flashlight could be stood on end on a table but lanterns are far more stable in that regard.

Look for a lantern that can be hung from a hook as well as placed on a flat surface, just to give you more options for placement.  Some lanterns also have a movable shade so the light isn’t shining into your eyes when you’re using it, which is a nice feature.  Basically, it is a plastic piece that swivels around the lantern, creating sort of a blind spot wherever you need it.  If you’re carrying the lantern around to check on things in the house, you’ll appreciate this feature.

We use different tools for different needs.  While a flashlight will do the job when working on a car, a headlamp is far more convenient.  By the same token, a headlamp isn’t great when you need to light up a room or check out a strange noise outside.  Invest in the right tools as your budget allows.

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