A city with no electricity.
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Nothing makes you realize how dependent we are on electricity like it suddenly going away when you least expect it. Plenty of great gadgets can help make a blackout easier to get through, but we think a few are essential.

Power Banks

An Anker Power Bank

A power bank is a device that stores electricity in a large battery (usually lithium) and then charges your devices through USB when you need it. Some power banks offer power output through connections other than USB, but for the most part, USB is what you’ll get.

We recommend buying the largest power bank you can afford for a blackout emergency kit. Airlines generally have a 100Wh limit on batteries you can take on a plane, but since that’s not relevant here, you can happily exceed that.

If possible, choose a power bank that supports fast charging itself and the devices you plug into. USB-C with Power Delivery (PD) is another worthy feature. Some power banks have “pass-through” technology, which allows them to charge devices even when they are being charged.

Anker PowerCore+ 26800

The PowerCore+ 26800 is just short of most maximum airline limits, and is packed with fast-charging technology. A USB-C PD version is also available, but this Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 version works with a wide variety of gadgets.

Portable Solar Chargers

FlexSolar 30W Solar Panel

If you’ve neglected to keep your power bank charged, or the blackout has gone on so long that you’re going to deplete it, portable solar chargers are a great investment. These foldable portable solar panels can directly charge USB devices, although it makes the most sense to charge a power bank rather than a phone or tablet. This is because the current can fluctuate with the strength of the sunlight, and some phones will stop charging if the amperage drops below a certain point.

On the other hand, a power bank will usually keep charging even with some fluctuation and is a good buffer between the panel and your other devices. Not to mention that, unlike a smartphone, your power bank doesn’t need to be on you. You can leave it to charge (outside of direct sunlight!) while you go about your business. These panels usually have long cables that allow the panel to be in sunlight, while the device is safely in the shade.

FlexSolar 30W Portable Solar Charger

The FlexSolar offers a great balance between cost and performance, and is the perfect companion to a powerbank.

USB Headlamps

A Foxelli USB headlamp

Headlamps are essential for blackouts since they leave your hands free to do other things. However, headlamps with disposable batteries are likely to be dead or ruined through battery leakage when you finally try to use them after leaving them in storage for too long.

USB headlamps let you recharge them using your power bank or car USB, and in general a fully-charged lithium battery will retain most of its charge over long periods of time, although you should still check on the charge level every two to three months. A fully discharged lithium battery can become permanently damaged.

Foxelli LED Rechargeable Headlamp

The Foxelli is an affordable USB rechargeable headlamp that means you won’t have to search for disposable batteries if you run out of light in the middle of a blackout.

Electric Lighters (Plus Matches!)

SUPRUS Rechargeable Electric Arc Lighter

Known as electric, arc, or plasma lighters, these devices use electrical energy to create a super-hot arc of plasma that will ignite just about anything that comes in contact with it. Besides being more eco-friendly than disposable, the best thing about these lighters is that you can charge them!

This means that your other blackout gadgets, such as power banks or solar panel chargers, can also keep your lighter topped up, giving you access to fire. Whether you need to light a gas cooking range or get your fireplace going, an electric lighter means you won’t be caught out or run out of life-giving fire. At the same time, it’s cheap and easy to throw a box of matches into the same kit, just in case your high-tech lighter fails!

SUPRUS Rechargeable Electric Arc Lighter

With a gooseneck to reach whatever you want to ignite, the Supris arc lighter is affordable, effective, and means never running out of fire because of an empty lighter.

Car Inverters

A BMK-branded Car Inverter

An inverter converts DC battery power to AC power that appliances that plug into the wall expect. Small car inverters (usually with peak power limits of 200W or less) can connect to your car’s 12V DC power outlet socket and let you charge devices like laptops that don’t have the ability to charge via USB-C.

Larger car inverters connect to your car battery and can run larger appliances. With these larger devices, you’ll want to run the car’s engine to avoid draining the battery. That’s true for the smaller models as well if you want to use a significant amount of power to charge up several devices.

Most car inverters are “modified sine wave” inverters that aren’t suitable for running anything with an AC electric motor, at least not over the long term. You’ll need a more expensive “pure sine” inverter if you need to keep a fridge or other crucial piece of equipment running with an AC motor.

Car inverters are great for an infrequent emergency blackout kit because they don’t take up much space or contain a battery. Consider investing in a portable power station if you need a long-term solution to power AC devices during frequent blackouts.

BMK 200W Car Power Inverter

The BMK offers up to 200W of AC power from a 12V car power outlet socket. Best of all, if you don't need AC power, you can turn off the inversion, and still use one of several fast-charging USB ports!

Profile Photo for Sydney Butler Sydney Butler
Sydney Butler has over 20 years of experience as a freelance PC technician and system builder. He's worked for more than a decade in user education and spends his time explaining technology to professional, educational, and mainstream audiences. His interests include VR, PC, Mac, gaming, 3D printing, consumer electronics, the web, and privacy. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Research Psychology with a focus on Cyberpsychology in particular.
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