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 because 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 outside to see rising water in a storm, or searching for a lost pet.
I've owned and used MAGLITE® flashlights for nearly 22 years, beginning with the 3D cell version. I still own that light, and after banging around in the trunk of my car or back of the SUV, it looks a bit worse for the wear but it's still rock-solid performer! As long as I've done my part and kept it loaded with fresh batteries, it has always been there for me when I hit the switch.
Over the years, MAGLITE has expanded their selection considerably to cover not only conventional D-cell flashlights, but also pocket lights for everyday carry, compact work lights that fit conveniently on a work belt, tactical lights for emergency responders, and rugged rechargeable lights built to withstand repeated heavy use.
Flashlights serve two main purposes in an emergency situation: To see, and to be seen. When you mention a flashlight, most people think of an illumination tool used to light up a workspace, a path, a distance object, or to provide illumination in the absence of sufficient ambient light. However, being able to be seen--especially in adverse weather, from a distance, or both--may be just as important. For example, during Hurricane Katrina, many people were trapped on rooftops awaiting rescue by boat or helicopter. In times such as these, the money spent on a rugged, reliable, long-running light may be the best investment a person could ever make. On a personal note, I've lost track of how many times I've used my MAGLITE to warn oncoming traffic of an accident or stall, make roadside repairs, or to help rescue victims of an automobile accident.
One of the latest offerings from MAGLITE is the ML300L 4D LED Long-Running flashlight. This light, powered by four readily-available D-cells, is built to the same rugged MAGLITE standard employeed over the last 40 years. Having tested hundreds of flashlights since 1999 for emergency preparedness, I believe this may be the very best light of its kind ever built. On high intensity, it produces 1002 lumens and casts a beam 511 yards! On medium, it will run continuously for 97 hours. And in ECO mode, will run for 434 hours. Yes, that's over 18 days of continuous light! Or in practical terms, if used only six hours a day, which is reasonable in a prolonged power outage, that's over two months of light on one set of batteries. Furthermore, they're built 100% in the USA--the only D-cell flashlight that can make that claim.
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 ML300L 4D LED Long-Running flashlight!
MAGLITE® ML300L 4D LED Long-Running 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, you will probably need a pocket light for performing tasks or navigating through a dark residence or business. An ideal pocket light needs to have multiple levels of light output to save your night vision while also having sufficient light to see objects at a medium distance or to illuminate an area where you are working. The best light in this category I've found is the MAGLITE XL50 Pocket Light. On high, the light produces 200 lumens with a runtime of 6 hours, 45 minutes. On low, the light is reduced to quarter-power output with a runtime of 25 hours. There's even a tactical defense strobe mode available with just three quick clicks of the button. All this on just three readily-available AAA-cell batteries.
The XL-50 also features a removable pocket clip, and is available in red, blue, silver, black, grey or gold.
MAGLITE XL50 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