These past few years, facing the ongoing pandemic, a return of urban firestorms, and now “atmospheric rivers,” many have found their emergency-preparedness stashes insufficient (after Hurricane Ida hit New York, for example, Google searches for sump pumps spiked 600 percent). As things don’t exactly look like they’ll be improving, we conferred with cleanup professionals, survivalists, and emergency experts to identify the best versions of products in seven categories you may want to keep on hand, including a wet/dry vac capable of sucking up 16 gallons of water. There is a lot of stuff out there for the particularly paranoid among us (flares, ammunition, gold and silver if currency becomes worthless), but here the focus is on the slightly less theoretical emergencies, including flooding, power outages, and water shutoffs.
It’s important to consider a flashlight’s entire slate of features: its brightness (though keep in mind that the more lumens it has, the faster its power drains), how it charges, and whether it is water-resistant.
Best Overall Flashlight
All six experts we spoke to recommend Olight flashlights for their combination of high power, light weight, and ergonomic design. This particular model has 350 lumens and can cast light up to 64 meters (210 feet).
A light source that can charge in multiple ways is particularly useful. Retired U.S. Army special-operations captain Mykel Hawke recommends this one that has a solar panel. It’s water-resistant, puts out 400 lumens, and has regular and micro USB ports to charge your other devices.
You may need more than one flashlight. “Even a small one for your key chain will do,” says Hawke. The Maglite Solitaire puts out just 47 lumens, but it is waterproof and has an adjustable beam.
First Aid Kits
Traditionally, commercial first aid kits have lacked what Hawke calls “dressings for real trauma.” But lately, more worthy options have emerged.
Most of the Basics
Thomas Coyne, owner of Thomas Coyne Survival Schools, says Adventure makes “the best first aid kits on the market — definitely the closest to what I would customize for myself.” This one has plenty of wound-care items and bandages, plus aspirin, ibuprofen, antihistamines, duct tape, and forceps for splinters.
John Ramey of prepper website the Prepared considers most kits to be “garbage,” but he approves of this one, which includes burn gel, alcohol pads, and triple-antibiotic cream in a clear crushproof case that will fit in a back pocket.
Especially Comprehensive Set
It would be hard to find a better kit than this, says Lisa Bedford, a.k.a. the Survival Mom. It’s on the larger side but contains niche yet important items, such as blood-clot packs and a tourniquet.
Stand-alone power banks can charge via several sources and output power to multiple devices at once, so you’re not reliant on one person’s cell phone in an emergency situation.
“Afrovivalist” Sharon Ross says this Jackery power station has all the features you might need in a portable power bank: dual USB ports, an AC outlet, and a car port. The company also sells a foldable solar panel you can use to charge the power station outdoors.
Unlike the vacuum you already own, a wet/dry vac can quickly guzzle liquids and large pieces of debris, making it essential for those with basements (or first-floor apartments) at risk of flooding. It’s also handy for clearing drains, rain gutters, and dust.
DeWalt’s wet/dry vacs come highly recommended by three experts we spoke to. Brent Calvin of Disaster Kleenup Specialists says the five-gallon model is a great choice for the average homeowner. It’s light (under 16 pounds), and its 4.0-peak-horsepower engine is more than capable; it also has a blowing function.
Especially Strong (and Widely Recommended)
Like the DeWalt, this larger option from Ridgid (a brand also recommended to us by three experts) has a blowing feature and even stronger horsepower (at a 5.0 peak), with a design that locks all of the in-use components together.
For Extra-Large Homes
This one, which holds 16 gallons of water, is especially well suited for those with larger homes. Prepper Potpourri says it’s ideal for a variety of situations — “pipes breaking in the basement, a faulty sump pump, and a water-heater leak” among them.
According to emergency-preparedness expert Aton Edwards, “Any kind of emergency where you have to evacuate would likely classify as something that would disrupt water treatment” — meaning it’s important to have tabs or filters on hand to treat that bathtub water.
According to Edwards, the Sawyer is a “really good” filter and especially easy to use. It works like a straw; you gather water in its included pouch or bottle, attach the Sawyer to the opening, and drink through the filter.
Purifying Chlorine Tabs
An easy way to get clean water is by using purification tablets. Coyne likes these cheap ones from Aquatabs. Their salt-based chlorine kills any waterborne microorganisms.
These are especially useful in inclement weather. In a situation with no Wi-Fi or power, they can be used to get updates and potentially lifesaving information from sources such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 24-hour station.
Shortwave- and Bluetooth-Compatible
In addition to receiving AM, FM, and NOAA weather radio, this has shortwave to pick up broadcasts from around the world. “In an extreme global situation,” says Coyne, “an entire country may be off-grid, but someone, somewhere, will be broadcasting.”
The Red Cross’s Pick
Fox recommends this radio from Etón, which the Red Cross also sells directly. The FRX3+ weather-alert radio receives AM and FM and all seven NOAA and Canadian emergency weather channels. You can hand-crank it, power it in the sun, and charge your phone with the USB port. It also has a signal beacon.
You can do a lot with a multi-tool, but there are plenty of reasons to have a plain old pocketknife. Prepper Potpourri says it’s useful in a survival situation for things like “cutting cordage and making tinder for a fire.”
Prepper and homesteader Morgan Rogue of Rogue Preparedness says the unique cleaver-shaped locking blade on her Gerber is great for slicing and close-up, detailed work like whittling. The thumbhole in the blade makes it quick and easy to open and close.
Especially Sharp Option
Hawke likes this fixed-blade knife (he calls White River a “solid brand”) that is better suited for serious outdoor use and hunting since the blade doesn’t fold away for safe storage. In general, fixed blades tend to be sharper and more efficient.
Long-Lasting Pocket Blade
This is a favorite knife of Strategist contributor Steven John, an experienced camper, hiker, and mountaineer. He says both the straight and serrated parts of the blade are “damn sharp” and have stayed that way over years of use.
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