An overview of the types of lighting you may need in an emergency
One of the things you can almost be sure of is that if a hurricane hits your area, the commercial power grid is going to fail. Depending on where you live and how bad the infrastructure is damaged by the storm, it may be days, weeks or months before power is restored. Even one night in total darkness can be scary, or even very dangerous. There are several lighting options to choose from as you prepare your emergency kit.
You will notice that none of the lights I have listed on my web site include those with an open flame. This includes candles, "hurricane lamps", and gas or kerosene lanterns. There is just too great of a potential for fire with these illumination sources. Obviously, if you set your house on fire in the middle of a hurricane, you've now got a very serious problem! So my advice is to avoid open flame light sources for emergency lighting.
High Intensity Flashlights
Lights that focus their rays into a narrow beam are called spotlights, and most conventional flashlights fit this category. These lights are especially suited for emergency work for numerous reasons. First, they tend to cast their beam a relatively long distance. This is useful when trying to see objects far away, such when inspecting the roof of your residence for storm damage, looking out to see rising water, or searching for a lost pet.
Like most things, you tend to get the quality you pay for, and flashlights are certainly no exception. One of my favorite flashlights is the MAGLITE® brand. For the money, MAGLITE makes some of the best emergency lighting solutions available. I paid about $16 for my MAGLITE, which was a significant amount of money when I purchased it over 21 years ago. However, after many years of use (and a fair amount of abuse), it's still in great shape and can be counted on in an emergency.
The "D" cell Maglites are available with either a conventional light bulb or a high intensity LED. The LED-style flashlights have an almost unlimited bulb life and are immune to the shock and impact that you would subject them to under normal use. This makes them especially suitable for emergency use because the odds are much lower that you'll ever experience a bulb failure. Additionally, LED light sources tend to be much more efficient, which means the batteries should last longer. Though the LED version of this light is roughly twice as expensive as the conventional bulb version, it may be a good long term investment for your emergency supply kit.
Finally, it's worth noting that the Maglite flashlights are widely used by police, fire and EMS responders nationwide. This is further testimony to their ruggedness and reliability. If I could only have one flashlight for emergency use, it would be a three "D" cell Maglite.
3 "D" Cell MAGLITE® Flashlight
I've tried quite a few area lights and the best I've found is the "The Siege" by Streamlight®. There are two basic models (with a few variants in each size); one that uses three "AA" and one that uses three "D" batteries. All of the Streamlight lanterns I've tested are well constructed and provides a significant amount of light for the size. These lights can be highly beneficial in a power outage because they illuminate such a large area. This can not only provide adequate lighting for home repairs, preparing meals, and reading, but also provides a psychological boost by allowing activities that give some semblance of normalcy. It's also worth nothing that these lanterns, which use LEDs, are about five times more energy efficient than their fluorescent counterparts that produce similar levels of light.
The larger of these two lights is great for illuminating relatively large areas of the home or business so that you can carry on with normal activities during a power outage. They provide enough illumination to light up the kitchen so you can prepare meals, then you can move the light to the dining area to eat with the family. They're also great for reading, playing games together, or working on repairs or projects in the home.
The three "AA" cell version of the lantern is great for use around the home where you need to just light up a limited area or require a nightlight. I've used them during power outages to light up a stairwell, toilet area, or even in the shower (they're waterproof to down one meter of submersion). We even take one with us on vacation to use as a nightlight in our hotel room or cabin.
Both versions of these lanterns provide low, medium, and high levels of white lighting, as well as a low level of red light for night lighting, and a flashing S-O-S flashing red light for summonsing help. They also feature a built-in hook on the bottom of the light that allows you to remove the diffuser and hang the light upside-down for a more focused, bright beam over a specific area.
The Siege LED® Lantern by Streamlight
During a power outage after a hurricane, you may wish to only light select areas of the house in order to conserve your batteries. In that case, you'll need a small pocket light to use as you go to unlighted areas of the home. There are a variety of great lights on the market for this purpose. But one of the best ones I've found for the money is the 100 lumen flashlights made by Defiant. They are available at Home Depot in a package of three for about 15 dollars. They run for several hours on just three AA batteries, and produce a brilliant light over a relatively long range.
Defiant 3-AAA Battery Pocket Light
For those times when you need a light, but require both hands free, a headlight can prove extremely useful. Headlights run the full range of prices from just over $10 for an economy model to over $200 for a professional light with Bluetooth remote capability.
I've found it's a good idea to get a light that can be switched from a spotlight (for performing up-close repair work) to a floodlight (for illuminating a path and seeing at a distance). Also, having a light with variable intensity is useful for not only conserving battery life, but to help prevent blinding those around you since your light is essentially at eye-level to others.
I prefer the Black Diamond series of headlights, and the Storm375 seems to fit my needs quite well. However, even the low-end lights aren't bad, and can be very useful in performing a wide range of tasks.
Black Diamond Storm375 Headlight