This guest post by Marti and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.
Let me preface this article by saying that I am by no means a Techie, actually I am technologically challenged. A few weeks ago I decided to focus on my preparedness regarding some everyday items that while in plain sight, often go unnoticed. There are four I would like to discuss: Flashlights, thermometers, can openers, and clocks/watches.
Flashlights. Boy was I in for a surprise! Who would have thought that such a simple item could prove so complicated? So as not to bore you I will hit the high points. I googled for a quality flashlight and to my surprise, most policemen no longer carry the big Maglite style flashlights. The ones advertised were all compact, high beam, far distance, long life, and LED. After much reading, I was thoroughly confused and decided to ask base Security (I’m military) what brand they used. Just before I got the opportunity to do this I went to a gun show.
One of the vendors was a flashlight salesman. I asked him to give me an overview of the brands he carried and to make recommendations. Many that I had researched were in the $100+ range. As we were talking another service member came up and said he was looking for a good flashlight as when he is deployed, he needs one to inspect equipment. As I picked his brain he told me the LED styled one he had died so he needed a new one. According to the vendor, these LED flashlights have a 100,000 hour life and the one he said was pretty good cost about $140.
Being old school, I asked him how does one replace the lamp (bulb). To my amazement he said LED’s don’t have replacement bulbs, you just pitch the flashlight in the trash once they die. I cannot see pitching $140 in the trash. Also, I am skeptical of the 100,000 hour life as the Marne previously mentioned used his on deployment – deployments generally are under one year. These high tech LED flashlights are marketed at 100,000 hours, or an 11 year 4 month life span. My biggest concern was that if LEDs have any type of circuitry, will it survive an EMP – worst case scenario?
With this in mind, I began to look for MagLite brand flashlights. Where I’m from, MagLites are the Cadillac of flashlights. I had picked up quite a few around Christmas at Wally World. When I went back and reviewed my inventory, I was surprised to see that most of them were LED. After doing further research I have discovered that the flashlight industry is basically getting away from incandescent or conventional bulbs and moving (very rapidly) towards LED. With permission I offer the following quote from http://flashlightsunlimited.com/magbulbs.htm “An Important Message Regarding MagLite C-Cell And D-Cell Flashlight Bulbs Note that MagLite is currently releasing new Magnum Star II xenon bulbs.
This new high-performance xenon bulb type is now available for all two-cell through six-cell C- or D-battery incandescent MagLite flashlights. The production of all original White Star and Magnum Star bulb types has been discontinued by the factory, so as remaining inventories of those obsolete types are depleted, only the newer Magnum Star II types will be available for purchase. The transitional period is expected to be one year or less.” (I spoke with the owner of Flashlights Unlimited; his name is Floyd and told him I was going to be submitting an article for the blog so he gave me a more thorough schooling.)
In other words, the makers have gone from the old incandescent bulb which most of us probably still have (these bulbs are considered more easily breakable); to krypton, which is a gas inside an incandescent bulb (this bulb is considered brighter but has “hot spots” and streaks); to Xenon –again a gas inside an incandescent bulb. Xenon bulbs are considered more shock tolerant than the original incandescents and are a bit more expensive as well. While the LED bulbs are the relatively new kid on the block, they are NOT incandescent. They reportedly last longer, have better throw characteristics, are more shock resistant, and you get about 3x the battery life. The downside from a prepper’s perspective is that they do degrade over time, usually after about 10,000 hours, and are not as shelf stable as the old incandescents ,(as all types of the incandescent bulb – including xenon and krypton have an indefinite shelf life).
My observations have been that Mag Lite flashlights are sold at Lowes, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, K-Mart, and a lot of other places, but you cannot buy the bulbs at all of these places. Matter of fact, employees in these stores are unaware that the Mag Lite stock of bulbs and non LED flashlights they have on hand will likely be their last of these older model bulbs and flashlights. If you go to Mag Lite’s website you can find locations near you that carry their various products. Floyd informed me that he does business with a guy who is currently commissioned to remove all of the previous versions of the incandescent bulbs from factory produced Mag Lites so that the flashlight can be recycled. Floyd in turn purchases these unused factory bulbs and offers them to the public for resale. (This is not black market). For those who currently have a Mag Lite, if it has the old bulbs, a new bulb is now on the market. This is the MagLite Mag Num Star II Xenon for flashlights using C and D sized batteries. These bulbs will not be sold as individual bulbs but as a kit that has a combination of metal and plastic “retrofit” components along with a bulb to replace the current bulb. The down side to this is the individual bulb is cheaper but now you have to buy it with the kit which cost just under $5.
As for flashlights, the handwriting is on the wall for me, the above mentioned stores are selling out of the non LED flashlights. Flashlights Unlimited does sell the old style bulbs (both Krypton and Xenon) in bulk and individually. For my type of flashlight they did have the Krypton bulbs in stock for $19.95 for 24. Personally I like the fact that Mag Lites have a spare bulb in the tail of the flashlight, and I want to have a non LED option. I do not get any reimbursement for mentioning Flashlights Unlimited. Their prices were the best I could find for Mag Lite products and the owner is very willing to speak with you. His hours are 12 Noon to Midnight 7 days a week. The xenon and krypton bulbs are specifically designed size specific. Do not use a bulb designed for a 2 cell (battery) flashlight in a 4 cell one and vice versa. This could cause a fire hazard and there is a warning on the bulb package to that extent. Given a SHTF scenario, since I will have to be my own fire department and doctor, I prefer to follow directions on this one.
The next three items I will discuss more succinctly:
Thermometers – while the majority of thermometers today are digital, that also means a small circuit board inside. There are some non-digital mercury free thermometers still out there. In a grid down or battery dead situation, a good back up would be such an instrument. The most popular one is made by a German company called Geratherm. They sell two types, one in regular sized print and the other called MegaTherm which is encased in a magnifying tube so the numbers are easier to read. The price range on these are $7.50 – $9, and can be ordered on the internet, or purchased at Wal-Mart, Walgrens,and http://www.drugstore.com . I have tried the regular sized one. The biggest complaint I have read about these thermometers is the shape. You definitely have to keep the lips shut when using as it is not a small tipped round thermometer. As with all standard thermometers, it takes about 3 minutes to get an oral reading, but I had no problems shaking it down and really liked the protective case they come in.
Manual Can Openers – many are flimsy and I have a bunch of them. I did discover a great one made in the USA. It is by a company called EZ-DUZ-IT. The founder, John Steuby was the designer of the popular Swing A Way wall mounted can opener but the Swing A Way company went to China – need I say more? Mr. Steuby came out with the EZ-DUZ-IT after Swing A Way defected and owns EDI. There are a few varieties on the market of the EZ-DUZ-IT, but the most highly rated one is the one for $13.19, with black handles that you can get via Amazon. You can also google Mr. Steuby directly, he does respond to e-mails.
Clocks/Watches – most are battery powered, however there are still some wind-up clocks out there. I’ve had success finding clocks in working conditions for as little as 50 cents. I’ve seen a few watches on the internet but cannot attest to their reliability at this point. Still on my list to research.
Hope these observations have been of some benefit to the reader. Can you think of other items we take for granted that need to be considered in our preps?
This contest will end on February 16 2013 – prizes include:
- First Place winner will receive Two cases of MRE’s courtesy of Camping Survival, A Wonder Junior Deluxe hand-mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads, $150 gift certificate for Fiocchi Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo, A Big Berkey Water Filter System courtesy of TruPrep Emergency Preparedness and a one year subscription to Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable.
- Second Place: A $200 gift certificate for any order from their store courtesy of Shepherd Survival and A Doom and Bloom Mini Trauma Bag courtesy of LPC Survival.
- Third Place: A Bar-ricade door bar courtesy of My Locksmith, Inc.