Tag: solar charger

10 Solar Tools for Preppers

Sun going down at campground. It will be dark soon.
“It will be dark soon . . .!”

As we head into summer, our thoughts just naturally turn to outdoors activities – camping, hiking, picnics, travel in an RV.

If any of these is on YOUR list, even if it may have to be postponed, you’ll enjoy this week’s Advisory because it highlights some of the handiest, smartest and most useful tools you can find for outdoor, off-the-grid activities.

In summer, we can also expect power to be out because of storms, fires, etc. So solar tools and equipment are popular with preppers because they all operate at home when there’s a power outage!

Solar tools give you twice the value!

Joe and I have used versions of nearly every one of these items. Like everything else, there’s a new model nearly every time you turn around. And, like everything else that’s based on technology, prices keep coming down.

So let’s take another look at 10 of our favorite small solar tools and accessories, starting with items that everyone should own.

1 – Solar Powered Emergency Radio

Because we believe every household needs at least one emergency AM/FM radio, radios land at the top of our list. Once again, I have reviewed our own collection, and taken another look at our Emergency Radio Reviews page, and I come back to this radio as being one of our favorites.

Why? Briefly, it operates with power from AA batteries, a rechargeable battery, AC current (the cord is extra), DC current (plug into the car), hand-crank and solar! So, you can use it for music at your picnic, or as a light source in the campground, or to check in with the weather report.

Note that this radio isn’t tiny. It’s about 9 inches tall by 5 high by 2 wide. Check out all the features by clicking on the image or link below, which will take you directly to Amazon. Again, shop carefully to be sure you are getting what you really want. If necessary, take another browse through our Radio Review page to see all the features of emergency radios that you might want to consider.

2 – If a solar-powered radio is first on our list, then a solar-powered lantern or other light source will have to be second.

And here’s something new! You’ve seen before, perhaps, that we have really fallen in love with the expandable battery-operated emergency lamps made by VONT. Now here’s a very similar product that adds SOLAR as a way to keep the lantern charged and functional for longer.  

3 – Solar Powered Flashlight

We review flashlights practically once a month! (We buy them, too, because new models keep adding more features.) Check these out for yourself, your car, your kids. Our motto is a flashlight in every room or in every hand when camping.

This flashlight is rechargeable, waterproof and, you guessed it, powered by solar. (I really like the bright color, too.)

Hybridlight Journey 300 Solar/Rechargeable 300 Lumen LED Waterproof Flashlight. High/Low Beam, USB Cell Phone Charger, Built In Solar Panel Charges Indoors or Out, USB Quick Charge Cable Included

4 – And another new Solar Powered Flashlight with multiple accessories

Otdair LED Flashlight Solar Power Tactical Flashlight,Ultra Bright Flashlight,Safety Hammer,High Lumens Tactical,USB Rechargeable,5 Modes for Outdoor,Camping,Hiking

5 – Solar battery charger for all your devices

We’ve used and reviewed these regularly. They get better and better and cheaper. Here’s a new one. The charger itself gets charged up from the sun or from the wall plug using an adapter (not included), can serve as a lantern at night, and then can charge 3 of your devices at the same time, with 25,000 mWh! No reason for you not to know what’s going on!

6- This simple and lightweight solar lantern can charge your devices, too.

Hybridlight Solar Rechargeable Lantern/Cell Phone Charger. 150 Lm. Built in Solar Panel, Hi-Vis Yellow

7 – Solar security lights for home or for camping

When the power really goes out, not only do you lose your house lights but streetlights are out, too. And when you’re camping in the wild, you KNOW it will be totally dark!

Without any light , you’re going to feel – and be — a lot less secure.

Of course, you can carry a lantern or flashlight with you wherever you go, inside or out. But there’s a certain sense of relief to know that if someone or something approaches your campsite or home, they’ll be visible.

We use permanently mounted security lights in a couple of places at our home: in the car port, and also at the front steps. This solar-operated light is PORTABLE so you can hang it over a simple screw or nail at home or when you’re camping.

You’ll want to set the appropriate mode: turns on when motion activated, always on, or “smart” mode (dim gets bright when activated).

Solar Lights Outdoor, 3 Optional Modes Wireless Motion Sensor Solar Light, IP 65 Waterproof, Security Lights for Front Door, Yard, Garage, Deck, 1 Pack

8 – Solar powered pool pump

Don’t have a pool?

In an upcoming Solar Advisory we’re going to cover “bigger” systems, and that will include a roof-mounted solar system big enough to power your pool pump. Watch for that Advisory.

In the meanwhile, smaller water features also are quickly compromised when their pumps fail. I’m thinking about garden fountains, greenhouses, animal watering troughs, hydroponic gardens, etc. If your emergency preparations include a “survival garden,” you surely wouldn’t want to lose it just because the power goes off!

Therefore, time to consider a solar pool pump. This one might be the starter equipment you need.

Solariver Solar Water Pump Kit – 360+GPH Submersible Pump with Adjustable Flow, 20 Watt Solar Panel for Sun Powered Fountain, Pond Aeration, Hydroponics, Aquaculture (No Battery Backup)

9 – Solar oven for the adventurous!

I have to admit this is one tool I have never used. I have seen them being used (and smelled the delicious odors) at fairs, by Girl Scouts, at energy efficiency demos — and I have been threatening for years to get one for myself as a present! If kids can use ‘em, then so can I!

I find this model the most intriguing. It’s lightweight, folds up, comes with trivet and pot. Keeps the food protected as it cooks, has a thermometer so you know what’s happening. (Heats up to max 285 degrees.)

This is the mini-version, probably best for small groups of diners.  There’s also a larger one from this same company that comes complete with pots, pans and dehydrating racks. 

Sunflair Mini Portable Solar Oven

10 – End the day with a warm shower!

Looks like a UFO, doesn’t it? But no, it’s a warm shower, perfect for your campground or as adjunct to your RV or, in an emergency, when you have no other way to get hot water to get clean!

This shower holds 2.5 gallons. (You’ll have to act faster than usual, perhaps, to get all the soap off. ) The company also makes larger versions, but I know how much 2.5 gallons weighs and that’s just about as much as I want to struggle with.

I liked this brand for one particular reason: it has a temperature gauge!

Advanced Elements 2.5 Gallon Summer Shower / Solar Shower

Well, that is quite a list of solar tools! I hope you’ve found some ideas for gifts. Maybe your gift could start a conversation about renewable energy!

Again, we’ll be addressing larger solar systems in a coming Advisory. In the meanwhile, let’s look forward to some sunny summer days!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. If you have favorite solar tools or gadgets, let us know about them in the comments!

Emergency Communications Revisited


Cell phone no signal

Hard to imagine: “Puerto Rico residents still without communications, now into third week . . .”

But it was hard to imagine that the U.S. would be hit by back-to-back-to-back hurricanes and flooding, too.

Emergencies happen. Overnight they can turn into disastersAnd if you’re caught in the middle, you want to know what’s happening and be able to reach out to let others know what’s happening.

It’s time to take another look at personal emergency communications.

What you’ll grab first – your cell phone!

Since most people have their phone within reach 24/7, it’s likely to be your first choice in an emergency. Phones can connect with family, receive electronic alerts, and come up with what to do in case of disease, traffic jams, etc.

Cell phone tip: Pre-program your cellphone with important emergency numbers (police, fire, utilities) and create a “group” with family members so you can reach them all quickly.

Your cell phone is an important tool, as long as it’s working.

Three reasons why your cell phone may not work in an emergency:

  1. Cell phone towers are pretty sturdy, but can be damaged and even knocked down by big winds or a big earthquake. Result: no service at all.
  2. Service can be overwhelmed by too many people trying to use it at once – ex., the Boston Marathon. Result: busy signal.
  3. Your phone may, and eventually will, run out of battery unless you have made provisions to keep it charged.

Three ways to have a better chance of getting through. 

  1. Text or tweet instead of calling. These messages need far less bandwidth and can be “stored” in the system until they’re deliverable.
  2. Send your message or call your out-of-town family contact instead of local friends or family members. Naturally, this arrangement has to be set up in advance.
  3. Carry a battery back-up for your phone – one of the power banks or a solar charger – to give yourself a better chance of eventually getting through. Some emergency radios can charge a phone, too. (Want more on batteries, power banks or solar chargers? Here’s an Advisory covering these devices.)

 No cell phone? Don’t forget to try a land-line.

When a power outage has crippled communications, a simple phone attached to a landline may still have a dial tone. Of course, you have to know whatever number it is you want to call!  (That’s why you have memorized a few numbers, right?)

And as we’ve said many times, the operator answering your cell phone 911 call only knows approximately where you are, particularly if you are in a high-rise building. A landline pinpoints your location.

Facing a longer term outage?

Puerto Rico has been cut off for weeks. But not EVERYONE there is cut off!

Three kinds of emergency communications are being used there by people who were prepared in advance of the storm.

  1. Short-reach walkie-talkies. Depending on the quality of the instrument, the weather and the terrain, battery-operated walkie-talkies can connect people across the street or across town.We recommend that all families and neighborhood emergency response groups consider getting their members walkie-talkies (with extra batteries). Even small children can master their use easily. See a couple of examples below, and take another look at our updated Walkie-Talkies Reviews to see if you are considering adding walkie-talkies to your emergency supplies: https://emergencyplanguide.org/reviews/Best Walkie-Talkies/ 
  2. Wider-reach HAM radios. This is the one option mentioned more than any other by the professionals in my LinkedIn group. Over 3,000 ham radio operators have been active in Puerto Rico since the hurricane hit. They have been assisting the American Red Cross to gather records about survivors, transmit personal messages to families, and help dispatch power authority crews. (Article: Amateur Radio Volunteers Aiding Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands)You can get started with a HAM radio for less than $100, but realistically you’ll probably want a better device and additional equipment (power supply, antenna, etc.) so budget for more. Joe is a licensed HAM operator and wrote more about the radios and training, here: https://emergencyplanguide.org/getting-serious-about-emergency-radio-operations/
  3. Satellite phones for world-wide connection. As the name suggests, these phones use satellites to carry their calls. When cell towers are down or you are so far from civilization that there are no towers (mid-ocean? Antarctica?), this might be your best bet for staying in communication.As you might imagine, it costs a lot more to own and use these phones. Prices for most devices themselves (some rather like a clunky cell phone, others more complex, like a computer with handset) range from $500 to $1500 or more. Prices for actually using the phones start at around $40/month at the low end, or you can buy by the minute. More details here. https://emergencyplanguide.org/ultimate-emergency-communications-device/

Examples of hand-held emergency radios

Most emergency radios are compact, though they are heavier than a regular cell phone. And, they will require practice before you can tune them successfully. Don’t think they are terribly expensive.  Most of them cost less than the latest Apple iPhone.  Some examples are below. Click on the image to go directly to Amazon for full details and current pricing. (We are Amazon affiliates. I’m happy to refer you there because items are almost always available and prices are often better than anywhere else.)

Baofeng -- Basic 2-way dual band HAM radio; VHF and UHF; costs around $70-80. Yaesu -- Mid-range quad band HAM radio. Submersible. Yaesu makes several; this one costs around $500. Irridium Satellite Radio. Click on image and go to Amazon where you should read the reviews, particularly the one about Alaska. Cost around $1,000.

And here are a couple of examples of walkie-talkies. We own and have used both models; the Uniden is what the members of our Neighborhood Emergency Response Team use and practice with every month. Click on the image to get details at Amazon.

Good basic walkie-talkies. Great for local group, family or workplace. Easiest-to-manage buttons. Cost around $40 a pair.I like these because they're yellow and not so hard to locate in an emergency! Alkaline or rechargeable batteries; NOAA weather channels. Cost around $70 a pair.

If a radio and/or battery charging device sounds as though it makes sense to you, get started on your purchase now. It’d be hard to find someone selling one during a disaster.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. An upcoming Advisory will be on serious solar panels designed to drive all these communications devices.  If you haven’t signed up to get ALL the Advisories, do so now! (Fill out the form below!)