By Ken Bobo
Years ago I put together a kit like the one I’m going to lay out in this book. I kept it in an old toolbox which resided in the living room end table/cabinet. This kit wasn’t my only strategy for blackouts as I had small flashlights stashed in night stands, kitchen drawers, and medicine cabinets. Actually, I don’t think you would be more than 6 feet away from a flashlight anywhere you stand in my home. I’ve been through many a blackout in my life and have refined my Blackout Kit many times and it changed very little. It’s no longer in the toolbox and I now have a boating dry box for all the gear.
At the time I put together my kit, there was very little out there as far as information is concerned, so I used common sense to stock the kit and kept it simple. But once the internet came of age, I searched far and wide on the subject, and what I found is that too many people out there tried to make this kit more than it needed to be. For example, one forum article suggested keeping food, water, and first aid supplies in it.
My question is…WHY? This is a blackout kit is for power outages and not a general survival kit for major or minor emergencies. Use the K.I.S.S. method for preps, it just makes it easier. If you need an expanded kit, like a generator kit, common sense will tell you to have extension cords, suicide cable, and power strips. All that makes sense, but I would also be inclined to toss a flashlight or a headlamp in the top of that kit so you‘ll have a way to see what you‘re hooking up! Let me show you what I have done here as an example and use it for ideas in making your own Blackout Kit.
The first item you’ll need to put in this kit is a large flashlight. You need a good one like the classic Maglite. Don’t get the cheap plastic flashlights out there, DON’T DO IT! They don’t work well and they do break easily. Get a good 2 cell “D” or “C” cell Maglite. That will set you back $20 to $30 and a big 4 cell is around $35. They are built like a tank, a very durable flashlight. Maglite also makes a damned fine LED D cell light. The simple 2 D cell standard Maglite is on the top tray of my kit. You should have at least one large flashlight in the kit.
Now you may want to add some smaller flashlights like the Defiant 4 pack at Home Depot for $12 or the Ozark Trail 10 pack for $14 both of which include the batteries. Even Harbor Freight has a 2-pack of LED lights with batteries for $3 so spring for a couple packages of these and there will be no dark corners in your home.
You can’t beat that deal with any stick, it would cost more for to replace the batteries alone. You can pick up these right after hurricane season is over or during the after Christmas sales.
Next item in the box is spare batteries, your brand – your choice….but its “copper-tops” for me. They’ve given me the best service life and rarely any leakage. Be sure to watch for coupons. In making your kit, keep in mind all the battery sizes you’ll need based on the things you put in the kit…”AAA, AA, C’s and D’s”
I recommend you add a headlamp to your kit, for me, it is a must have so I have 2 of them in the top tray. There will be a time you will need to work hands-free in the dark like when refueling a generator or hanging plastic over a broken window. There are many on the market, I’ve gone with this model from Energizer. (I have one in my First Aid Kit too). Depending on the type they are
$10 to $25. Just get one! Even better get two!
Glows sticks would be a good addition to the kit. Their soft glow is easy on the eyes and helps with your night vision. I use them to mark places like the at the top of my stairwell so nobody will accidentally fall if they find themselves without a flashlight. I also use them to mark hallways, bathrooms, and electrical panels. They come in multiple colors, mix or match to your own liking and at $4 a 2 pack. I am sure someone already knows where a better deal is. Please keep in mind that these items do have a relatively short shelf life and will need to be replaced every year or so.
As an optional item, I put a couple Ziploc bags full of tea light candles with a box matches in the bottom of my box along with a few votive candle holders. Please be careful if you choose to use candles as they could pose a fire hazard. This one is at your own risk. Fire is not a toy, but to be fully respected.
Let’s take a minute to discuss emergency communications or comms for short. In any Blackout, a good quality radio will keep you informed of news and weather. Most radios come with AM and FM bands while a few others will include some shortwave bands like this Grundig radio I show below. I found it on eBay for $20!
You may want to get a dedicated countertop weather radio for the home like a Midland WR120. These are normally quiet unless there is an alert, but there is also a manual mode so you can listen to the local weather report loop for your area.
An optional item I’ve included in my kit is set of GMRS/FRS radios with weather bands. These cost about $50. You can use these to talk to each other when walking outside the house to investigate the power outage or other storm damage. The GMRS frequencies do require an FCC license, FRS channels do not.
To finish off your Black-Out kit, you’re going to need a box to put all this stuff in. For me, I purchased a large Flambeau Dry Box for my Blackout kit from Walmart.com for $25. It will hold a lot of gear and keep it organized.
They sell smaller ones for around $5 at Harbor Freight which is a good starter size but you may want to expand your kit later. You can use an old toolbox or even a 5-gallon bucket!
Altogether, I’ve spent around $130 for my kit and I’m always looking for a way to upgrade or improve it. Don’t forget to mark your calendar to remind you to perform regular maintenance on your kit, that way you can make sure it is always ready for use. I service my kit every 3 months.
Now that I’ve shown you my Black Out Kit, its time to build yours. You can duplicate mine or you can change it up to make it your own. Whatever you do, just make a Black-Out kit, because sooner or later, you are gonna need it.