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Building A Blackout Kit

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Thinking about building a blackout kit? In this article, I’ll go over some of the preps we have in place to make life a little more bearable when the power inevitably goes out.

This is the second and final post in the two-part series of – Building A Blackout Kit. See part one here: An Emergency Generator.

I believe all of us have had the power go out where we live. Even a completely self-sufficient person living off the grid (Which I am not) will likely face a power failure at some point. Part of being prepared includes being ready for the juice to stop.

Building A Blackout Kit Takes Planning

We need a plan to follow when working on improving our preps and building a blackout kit is no exception. Whether you’re the type of person that needs a detailed spreadsheet or you jot things on a Post-it® note, I’m going to help you build that kit.

Keep It Simple

Remember, we’re building a blackout kit, not going off-grid. Going off-grid is a noble goal but an entirely different discussion.

If you’re just getting started, think flashlights and batteries, not solar panels and windmill.

I also want to mention that I’ve been doing this for years so if you’re new, please don’t get discouraged if it seems like I have a lot of stuff. My hope is to encourage others but I also understand that my tendency to go overboard can overwhelm some people.

Quality Counts

Okay, I’m speaking from painful experience here so trust me when I say, quality counts. Avoid buying that $7 gadget you see on Facebook and research anything you’re going to count on in an emergency.

Flashlights – Speaking Of Quality

Junk flashlights
A drawer of junk flashlights I own.

I have a drawer full of junk flashlights I’ve wasted my money on. I’m sure there are even more that have been thrown out. Now when I buy a flashlight, I want a quality tool that is dependable and will last.

Quality Flashlights
Some quality flashlights I own. There are more packed in bags and vehicles but these are part of our blackout kit.

I’m not saying spend a hundred dollars or more on a flashlight, which you can easily do, but I do recommend buying a tool that won’t fail you when you need it the most. The same goes for batteries, by the way.

Does your blackout kit need to stay in just one location?

Something to keep in mind when building a blackout kit, everything doesn’t have to stay inside an actual kit, bag, or bin. You just need to know exactly where it is and have immediate access to it.

For example…

The tiny Olight on the far right is attached to the bin we use as our blackout kit. The third from the right is my EDC flashlight. The Bolder flashlight clips onto my bedside gun safe.

I do recommend you keep an inventory sheet, including locations of items not inside the actual blackout kit itself.

Lanterns – Battery Operated Lanterns

Battery-Operated Lanterns

Tip: Prepare your most common rooms for hanging battery-operated lanterns.

Strategically place these hooks in logical yet inconspicuous areas on the ceilings of common rooms in your home. Don’t forget the bathroom/s.

Instagram post.

Battery Operated Radio

Emergency Radios
Don’t forget battery-operated radios when building a blackout kit.

Information is critical in every SHTF situation. We’re already being left in the dark during a power outage, we don’t want to be left in the dark when it comes to information.

Small radios are great for tossing into a bugout bag or backpack but if you can get your hands on an older battery-operated radio with shortwave you should have more options as to information sources. Keep an eye out the next time you find yourself at a yard sale or flea market.

Don’t forget, if you own a car, it probably has a radio.

Don’t Forget Candles When Building A Blackout Kit

Emergency Candles
Emergency candles I included when I was building my blackout kit.

Finally, something inexpensive. When you just start building a blackout kit. I purchased a case of plain white, odor-free candles for $12/case from Dollar Tree. I ordered them online and picked them up in town to avoid shipping costs. If you don’t have a Dollar Tree in your area, I bet you have something similar.

Building A Blackout Kit? Don’t Forget Your Phones & Devices

Phone Chargers

We need a way to charge our devices, right? Ways to charge our phones are a must when building a blackout kit. Our phones can do anything from finding critical information to being a flashlight. Most of all, you can call someone, like the police or fire department, if you still have cell service.

  • Every charger I have in that photo is outdated. Research newer options.

Advanced – Building A Blackout Kit 2.0

The following almost became part three but I want to keep everything together. I’ll be as brief as I can. These are important but not required steps in building your blackout kit, in my opinion.

My Charging Station

My DIY Charging Station

I know I just covered charging your devices for building a blackout kit above but I just have to mention this.

Okay, I made this device charging station for our convenience, not in building a blackout kit. During the little three-day power outage we just had this charging station turned into one of the most popular areas in the house.

All I did was unplug the single 120-volt input into an extension cord and the generator took care of the rest. This is something that I could have just as easily attached to my car inverter or bench batteries (below).

The charging station keeps our phones, tablets, headsets, earbuds, radios, GPS, flashlights and spare batteries charged up. It even charges the Olight I have fixed to my Hellcat.

Batteries and Battery Charger when building a blackout kit.

I’ve mentioned batteries a little but having fully charged rechargeable batteries make sense as well. At least for your most used batteries.

Some of the less used batteries may not seem as important but I recommend having a backup or two of everything you rely on. Use a CPAP machine? If they use batteries (I have no idea if they do), you’d want spare batteries to run it. Need to check your blood sugar? Batteries. Electronic thermometer? Batteries.

Misc Charging Devices
Once upon a time, I did Uber and Lyft. These devices that I kept for my riders are now part of my blackout kit.

Indoor LED Lamps

The LED Indoor Lamps I Have

This was another upgrade completely unrelated to building our blackout kit but they came in tremendously handy. They use just a little electricity, light up a room, and can be moved where it is needed.

Off-Grid Ways To Cook – Yes, This Is Part Of Building A Blackout Kit

We’ll need a way to cook if the power outage takes out your primary method. I wish I had a wood-burning stove with cooktop but at the moment our indoor stove operates on electricity.

Not a problem, I have alternatives. Keep in mind, there are other alternative methods of cooking. These are just what I have.

Gas (Propane) and charcoal grills, Propane griddle (I LOVE my Blackstone), electric smoker (Needs the generator), and a dual gas (propane) stove.

Kitchen tools when building a blackout kit.

Don’t forget things like a hand-operated can opener, a french press or percolator for coffee. Maybe a hand mixer, grinder, or tea infuser. I won’t go into garage tools, we’ll be here all day long.

Inverters – Electricity From Your Car

800 Watt Inverter
An 800 Watt Inverter we use in our blackout kit.

A quality inverter may be an option if a generator is simply out of reach for you right now, whether it cost, availability or location (Renting a room or small apartment, for example). While a car inverter is not an ideal replacement, it can keep your food from going bad short term, as long as you understand what you’re doing and have the right equipment.

I have both generators and inverters for backup power and I’ll be working toward solar power in the next year or two. This might be a little overkill depending on your situation and priorities.

I cannot go in-depth here so do your research but I do want to talk a little more about refrigerators and inverters.

First, refrigerators and freezers draw a lot of electricity and need about three times the wattage to start them. You know when you’re sitting there and everything is quiet and you here your fridge kick on? That drew up to three times the wattage that it takes to keep it running. It is only drawing that load for a second but you must have the proper size invertor in your blackout kit to handle that peak draw to save your food.

Second, too big of an inverter and your passenger car (including pickups and SUVs) will quickly die from a dead battery. The smaller your car battery and alternator, the faster you drain everything.

Third, you obviously need a vehicle to run your inverter and the engine MUST be running.

Personally, the cost of a small generator doesn’t seem that much more than a decent inverter and it does so much more without the risk of killing your car battery. For that reason, I keep an inverter as a backup to a backup and not as my primary backup power plan.

Portable battery booster for charging devices
This battery booster has failed me twice and I do not recommend it. I keep it as a device charger. If you need a device charger, check out something like those above. You can get more for the same money if you buy an actual phone charger.

While it’s not an invertor, I also have, in my car kit, a small portable car battery booster. It does have a couple of USB ports on it, which is why I’m including it, but it has failed to start a car for me two out of three times. For that reason, I’m not recommending or linking to this device.

Bench Batteries For Recharging Devices

As you can see, I also don’t throw out batteries we’ve replaced if there’s any life left in them. I keep them maintained and charged. They may come in handy should we begin running out of ways to charge our devices.

Wrapping Up Building A Blackout Kit

I have more to cover but I don’t want to make building a blackout kit seem any more complicated than I already have.

Go slow, take your time, and start simple. There’s no reason to spend tons of money on your power outage preps and please don’t go into debt buying anything linked to or recommended on this website.

Thank you,
Stay safe, aware and prepared,
Hawkins Out.

Brian Hawkins

Father, grandfather, Veteran, animal lover, law-abiding taxpayer, homeowner, trucker, and a United States Citizen. Oh, and I'm also a prepper, survivalist, responsible gun owner, and hiker.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Mic Roland

    Hehe. Brian, you’ve got a lot of stuff. 🙂

    It is a good first step (at a minimum) for folks to get a flashlight for just about every room so they’re never more than a couple of steps from some light. Most phones have a flashlight feature, but we don’t want to rely on that. Phone battery is a valuable commodity.

    Battery lights for general room illumination are a good second step. It gets tedious walking around in a little circle of light all the time. Even if they’re not bright enough to read by, at least you’re not bumping into stuff.

    You’re right that fridges are power hogs. My 20-year-old one is rated for 1000w. Momentary draw hasn’t been too bad for the generator to keep up with but yes, such an initial surge is rough on inverters. Even past the surge, though, 1000w is a lot for batteries to supply.

    You mentioned no-grid cooking options, which is important. The family’s got to eat. A grill is an easy prep in that you can use it for summer outdoor meals most of the time. (keeping a spare gas cylinder full at all times.)

    You did not mention water. Folks on municipal water are likely to still have pressure. (but for how long?) Folks with deep wells have a problem. Well pumps are even hungrier than fridges and usually 220v. Good to have a plan for supplying water without the grid.

    Take care,

    — Mic

    1. Brian Hawkins

      Hi Mic, great point about flashlights. Definitely a great first step. I have so many that I’ve run across two more since I took the picture. I also think everyone should always carry a flashlight as an EDC item. If I’m not in bed or in the shower, I’m carrying one. Even in bed, I have one within reach.

      I’m going to test my 800-watt inverter on my new refrigerator. I think it will be fine for the invertor but I don’t know how long my alternator will supply enough juice to the battery to keep the car running. Even if that’s not a problem, running a car three or four hours a day would cost way more than running a generator.

      A well pump! I can’t believe I didn’t think to include that. A well pump could be the most important prep for a blackout kit. I’ve never had one and I had no idea that most were 220v. That takes it beyond most solar setups I imagine.

      Thanks Mic, enjoy the rest of the week.

  2. Mic Roland

    Yes, to flashlights as EDC. Got a mini-one on the keychain, one by the bed (actually, both sides of the bed) The one in the kitchen gets used almost daily for peering deep into bottom cupboards.
    For the alternator, most of them produce tons more amps than the battery needs. Something like 65 to120 amps. At 12v, that’s like 700-1500 watts. It’s actually the alternator that’s powering the inverter, more than the battery. Car batteries don’t have a lot of stamina. They’re more like a relief pitcher: good for an inning.
    Solar can run 220. There are inverters that convert to 120 and/or 220. It’s still a matter of providing the watts. Most are in the refrigerator-range of 1000-1500w. Unlike a fridge, you’d only need to run your pump for 10 minutes or so to get a day’s worth of water. Still, got to make sure you have the right equipment (and plans) for the task beforehand.
    Enjoy your weekend!

  3. Jeff B

    Brian, Mic,
    I have LED lights in every room- bathroom included. Flashlights and headlamps in bedrooms. I keep lanterns in larger areas. I have a battery set up and have strings of LED modules run that I can move to anywhere and cover a pretty good area. Each battery will power the 22 modules I have set up for 15 days nonstop before they are too dim to see.
    How do you like your Blackstone griddle? Im thinking of getting one.

    1. Brian Hawkins

      Hi Jeff, I’m officially a griddle addict. I’ve been wanting one for years but it’s hard to justify spending that much on a seasonal item. Although, it is on my covered porch and I can use it whenever I want. I use my Weber grill all year long, I just dress for the cold.

      I bought it for my Father’s day present (Yes, I bought myself a couple of things LOL) and it’s everything I thought it was. I have the 36″ and I can put a ton of food on it using the four heating sections. I almost feels like cooking on a restaurant grill.

      I’ve been replacing all of our lights in the house with LEDs as well. Last month I replaced one of our bathroom vanity lights with LEDs and the lighting is almost blinding while using a fraction of the wattage. Our dining room and master bedroom light fixtures are LEDs as well. You never have to replace a bulb because it’s sealed inside the fixture.

      I’ve also replaced most of the fluorescent and CFL bulbs in my garage with these crazy bright LED garage lights. Wow, what a difference. I have enough light in my garage to where I rarely reach for my trouble light anymore.

      With the way I’m running extension fords from a generator (For the moment), I think LED lamps are very nice to have. They’re easy to hook up, move around, and will light up a room.

      BTW, we also have two functional kerosene lanterns on our fireplace mantel but I didn’t think to mention that in the blog post. I haven’t lit them in years so I imagine the kerosene needs to be replaced.

      Thanks for the input, stay safe, and prepared.

  4. Chip

    Great article Brian. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    1. Brian Hawkins

      Thanks Chip, I actually have a couple of updates I need to add since I wrote the post. I upgraded my charging power banks and added a small inverter generator to my preps.

  5. Fred Pakulski

    Hello, I want to put together a portable set up with solar panel(s), charge controller, inverter and batteries. I have two lead acid group 31 deep cycle batteries currently. I’m thinking a 4000 watt inverter; is pure sine wave the way to go or can I get by with modified wave? Not sure how much A.C, I’d be using. I do have a 6.5K generator if needed. Don’t know if 200 watt solar panel would be sufficient. Appreciate if you could lead me in the right direction.
    Thx; Fred

    1. Mic Roland

      Hi Fred.
      Since you’ve got your batteries, we can work the numbers from there to see how much power you’ve got for running things.

      I assume your Group 31 batteries are rated at 105 Amp Hours (each). What you’ll do is hook them up — positive to positive, negative to negative — making, in essence, one big battery with 210 Amp Hours, total. Now, the rule of thumb is to only drain your battery down to half power and then charge it up. Deep cycles can go lower, but it still does subtle damage, reducing the service life of the battery. So, if we take 50% of 210, you’ve actually got 105 Amp-hours to power things with. To convert that number into watt-hours, we multiply amps times volts. 105A x 12v = 1260 watt-hours. This is how much power you have to spend before recharging.

      That’s probably not as much as you might imagine. 1260 watt-hours means you could run a 1200-watt microwave for about an hour. Or, a 600-watt freezer for two hours, or 120-watts of lights, phone chargers, etc. for ten hours. You get the idea.

      What you probably don’t need is a 4000-watt inverter. If you were trying to run 4000-watts of something (like an air conditioner), your batteries could run it for about 18 minutes. (4000 / 1260 = 0.31 watt-hours). Do an assessment of the things you absolutely must power (as opposed to mere want or comfort) and total up the watts. Also figure out how long you’d run them to come up with a total of watt-hours. For instance, you could run a 1200-watt microwave for 10 minutes (total) and use 200 watt-hours, etc. etc.

      As you can see, batteries won’t replace the grid easily. We’ve grown accustomed to kilowatt-hours of power for mere pennies.

      But to your solar question, with your batteries drained to half power, you need to make 1260 watts-hours from your solar panels. 200-watt solar panels could produce 1200 watts in 6 hours (under ideal conditions). That’s do-able but kind of pushing it. Solar panels won’t make full rated power unless they’re aimed directly at the sun (no clouds, no shadows). Early morning sun and late afternoon sun don’t have the oomph it takes. That realistically leaves about 4-6 hours a day of peak sun. You can probably expect some non-peak days too.

      So, given your two batteries, I’d down-size the inverter to fit what you absolutely need to run. (I got a 1000w inverter to run my old 800 watt fridge, for instance). You might consider more solar panels. 400 watts of solar panels could generate 1200 watts in three ideal hours.

      Sorry for the length. Hope this helps.

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