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Emergency Power: The Top Portable Solar Panel Chargers for Disasters

From seasonal storms and natural disasters to hacking attacks and terrorism, we face more threats on our power grid than ever before. With much of our electrical infrastructure still relying on antiquated equipment and technologies, our power grid has become extremely vulnerable to disruption.

Luckily advances in solar technology has made it possible for everyone to at least have a small emergency solar backup, even if it’s just something that can keep your small electronic devices up and running. These small portable devices are not only great for camping and hiking adventures, but when disaster strikes they can help keep devices like cell phones, small tablets, flashlights, emergency radios, ham radios, and GPS devices up and running.

As these technologies continue to improve and be adopted by the public, prices on emergency solar chargers have continued to drop, making them an affordable addition to anyone’s supply list. Here are some of our favorites.

The SunJack Portable Solar Charger

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The SunJack is something that I keep in all of my Bug Out Bags. It’s lightweight, provides enough power to keep my iPhone, handheld radios and backup batteries running indefinitely, and can provide power to anything that accepts a USB charger.

The SunJack 14W Solar Charger Panel can be picked up for about $80. Sunjack’s battery backup devices can be found for $40. Each battery backup takes about 5 hours to fully charge and holds enough power to charge an iPhone about 4 times.

GoalZero Nomad 7, Guide 10 Adventure Kit

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Goal Zero is known for making high-quality solar chargers. For the last couple of years I’ve been using the Goal Zero Guide 10 Adventure Kit as an emergency EDC. The kit includes a Nomad 7 Solar Panel and a Guide 10 Power Pack that can charge AA and AAA batteries.

It’s small enough to slip inside your vehicles glove box, and has an added pocket that allows you to pack it full of extra Every Day Carry (EDC) gear.

The unit retails for around $130.

The Solio Bolt

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If you’re looking for something that you can literally slip in your pocket, then you need to check out the Solio Bolt or the Solio Classic2 Solar Charger. Both of these chargers are small, can hold their charge for up to a year, and their battery packs can hold enough juice to power the average smart phone about 4 times.

The Solio Bolt sells for $70 and the Classic2, which has an extra panel, sells for $100.

The iLand Trek Solar Kit

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While this is the priciest unit on the list, it also packs the largest punch. The iLand Trek Solar Kit comes with a 10W panel and a heavy-duty battery with an operating voltage of 5V-12V. That means this unit can power things like Ham, Marine, and CB Radios; camp lighting and computers; and even things like water pumps and tools. Check it out in action, powering my Emergency Ham radio Setup.

The unit retails for around $700.

The WakaWaka Power+

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The WakaWaka Power+ is another small, easy-to-carry solar kit that can slip inside just about any bug out bag or EDC kit. It does take a bit longer to charge, which is to be expected with these smaller panel units, but once fully charged it holds enough power to charge a smartphone in about 2 hours. It also comes with built in LED lights (5 to 75 lumens) that provide up to 150 hours of emergency lighting on a single charge.

The WakaWake retails for around $75.

The Powermonkey Extreme

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The best thing about the Powermonkey Extreme is the massive amount of power the battery holds. It comes with a 9000mAh lithium polymer battery, and can power virtually any 5V or 12V devices including handheld radios, DSLR cameras and tablet computers. It’s great for camping, and something I like to take with on all long-distance road trips.

It retails fora little over $100.

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Saving Pets During Disasters

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Keeping your beloved pets safe is a real duty because they are members of your family. Your pets provide comfort and companionship and they shouldn’t be left behind when disaster strikes. Saving pets during disasters is not easy and you should be prepared for the worst.

Many of us have one or two pets that we love and cherish as if they are members of our families with equal rights. They provide unconditional love and we should protect and threat them with respect. A pet is not just a joy of the moment, is a companion you get for life.

Regardless of what disaster may strike the area I live in, I can’t think of living my dog behind and I can honestly say, I will do everything in my powers to keep it safe. A pet is an important emotional support (especially if you have kids) and it can make your life easier when things go south. Learning about how to save your pet during a disaster will provide some peace of mind and it will make sure your family is complete and ready to face whatever the future may bring.

Saving pets during disasters – Rules to follow

Planning your evacuation

Every emergency evacuation needs a plan and every plan needs to include all your family members. Your pets should be taken into account when making your evacuation plan. You should plan the routes and the time when you will evacuate. You should have a bug out location and you should make sure it can accommodate your pets. If you plan to use shelters for humans, you must know that not all shelters will allow pets and honestly, if you go to such shelters, you are already doing something wrong. If you don’t have a bug out location of your own, it’s better to go to friends or relatives that live outside the evacuation area. These are safer possibilities and they will not say no when it comes to your pets.

Know the favorite locations of your pets

During a disaster, most pets will run and hide in their favorite “safe heaven”. Every pet has a favorite hiding place and you should know about it. If disaster strikes your area, you will know where to look for them and you will not lose precious time. Saving pets during disasters will become almost impossible if you don’t keep your pets inside and if you’re not aware where they might hide.

Bug out bag or gear to go

Most preppers owning a dog are preparing a bug out bag for their trusty companions as well. You have to make sure that you have adequate pet gear for all your pets. Proper gear that can be carried without struggling and without slowing you down. Just a few suggestions: A collar and a leash, a portable kennel, bowls and toys, first aid and waste cleaning supplies. The list may go on and it all depends on the type of pets you have. It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, your pet should have everything it needs for the road and all the supplies should be marked with your pet’s identification.

Food for the pets

Emergency preparedness requires for you to pack food and water for your family. Since your pets are also members of your family, you shouldn’t forget about them. You should pack a three-day to three-week supply of food and water for your pet and you should learn about their habits and behavioral issues. Writing down a brief explanation of your pet’s routine will help everyone, especially if your pet may receive care from someone who isn’t familiar with their behavior.

Pets healthcare

Every pet you own should have the vaccinations and veterinary records current, especially the most recent proof of rabies vaccinations. If your pet requires medications, you should keep a few days’ worth of in your bug out bag. Making sure your pet has a good health is vital during a disaster. The last thing you need is to deal with an ill pet when your family is going through some hard times and when morale is low.

Rescue teams

A disaster might strike when you’re far away from home and chances are you might not reach your home soon. Placing a pet rescue decal on your front door or window is indicated in this case and it will give your pets a chance for survival. Such decal will alert first responders to the possible presence of a pet in your house. Information about your pet’s behavior, medical needs and veterinarian’s contact information should be left as well for the rescue teams. You should also carry a picture of your pet in case you become separated for them in an emergency. It will help first responders recognize your pet and provide info about it.

ID tags are a must

Your pets should always wear the correct and most up-to-date identification. It can be a microchip or a collar identification tag. Anything that makes the connection between you and your pet will help reunite them with your family. Identification is important when saving pets during disasters.

Saving pets during disasters might seem useless for some and there are those who say it’s not worth it. However, if you’ve ever had a pet, you will agree that pets are just like family members and they worth all the trouble. Pets provide you with unconditional love, they protect you, they make you feel better when things are rough and they shouldn’t be left behind.

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You Should Be Worrying About This Invisible Natural Disaster

You Should Be Worrying About This Invisible Natural Disaster

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Solar storm? I can hear your skepticism from here, but these sun burps are no joke. Extreme space weather poses a major threat to modern society. We narrowly dodged a particularly strong solar storm a couple years ago and—had it hit Earth—we would have spent a decade recovering.

Unlike many natural disasters, solar storms are practically invisible. The sun releases a series of solar flares—or magnetized coronal mass ejections—from its surface and hurls them towards Earth. Though invisible, these high-speed gas clouds of charged particles have the power to take out our entire telecommunication grid—power lines, cell phones, radar, and GPS. Take a moment to consider everything else that would be impacted by this: airplane flights would get rerouted, oil drill heads would go haywire, and major energy transformers would be fried. Total chaos would ensue.

Solar storms attack our technological Achilles tendon, and that’s scary. Governments could collapse, economies plunge—we could be sent back into the Dark Ages. Yet, few people consider solar storms when preparing their families for natural disasters.

“It’s like with earthquakes—it is hard to impress upon people the importance of preparing unless you suffer a magnitude 9 earthquake,” Janet Luhmann, of the STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Observatory) team, told Forbes last year. And, though we have been in the sun’s line of fire a few times over the past century, none of the aforementioned events were powerful enough to cause major damage—a 9-hour blackout in eastern Canada, a short-circuited radio, and some GPS disruptions.

If we were to get hit with flares like the 1859 Carrington Event—the biggest solar superstorm on record—it would be lights out. Literally. A recent study predicted that such an event would cost the world $2.6 trillion to recover from, which is 20 times more than the costs of Hurricane Katrina.

We might have an estimated dollar value for the damages, but it’s difficult to say how a solar superstorm would impact the day-to-day life of western civilization. Like a bad snow day, workplaces, schools, and services would cease to operate, but we can’t predict for how long and to what degree. You can be sure that there will be a bunker-down period—are you ready to hole up in your house for a week?

To avoid lengthy food lineups and crowded, cash-only grocery stores, you should have one week’s worth of food and water for your entire family.

MREs (or Meals, Ready to Eat) are the perfect emergency food because they store easily and have a five-year shelf life. Even though MREs are pre-cooked, each meal contains a flameless ration heater that activates with 30mL of any type of water. You can have a hot meal any time, any where, without using up valuable resources like fuel to boil water.

We recommend the consumption of two MREs per adult per day, or roughly 2,400 calories. A family of four would have more than enough food for a week with five cases of three-course MREs and 30 gallons of water.

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Is your vehicle ready for a disaster?

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According to the US Dept. of Transportation, there were over 253,000 cars registered in the US in 2012. Chances are, you probably own at least one of those vehicles. And if you are like many Americans, you probably commute to and from work, use your vehicle to run errands, and take road trips and vacations with it. This means you spend a lot of time in your car.

But what happens if disaster strikes when you are in your vehicle? What if you need your vehicle to get home DURING a disaster, or OUT of a disaster area? Is it prepared and able to help you? If you aren’t sure, then read on to learn how you can prepare your vehicle for a crisis situation!

Start with a Plan

If you have been following this blog, you know that I advocate beginning anything with a plan. All the gear in the world won’t be of much value without a plan or the knowledge of how it works and in what situations to use it.I would first sit down and determine not the worst case scenario, but the most likely scenarios. The chances of you having a flat tire or being caught in a massive traffic jam are MUCH more probable than an EMP attack.

My friend Graywolf wrote a great article on the dangers of prepping for only worst case scenarios. If you have not read it, I would encourage you to do so.

Once you have your bases covered on the most likely events, then start looking at worse case possibilities.

Do you live in an area that experiences hurricanes? Tornado’s? Is there a chance that you might need to “bug out” to get out of harm’s way? If so, you need to have an evacuation route (and at least one backup route) planned. I’d also have some possible contingency plans in place as well for unforeseen events.

To help you draw up some evacuation plans, I thought I’d give you some pointers and things to consider when drawing up your plans:

  • Have a final destination already planned out. Simply bugging out into the unknown should be the LAST thing you want to do
  • If you have multiple members of your group/family, the chances of you all being together at the time disaster strikes is slim and none. Make sure everyone in your group knows the plans and the final location.
  • I would have pre-determined rally point along the way to meet at if your final location is a long way off. You might also devise a means of communicating with them should the rally point become unsafe
  • Know the routes AND the area in general ahead of time. Where are the gas stations? Is there a grocery store nearby? A hospital? What other points of interest are along your intended route?
  • How many different ways do you have of getting to your destination? Your primary route may suddenly no longer be accessible.
  • Have contingency plans in place for different routes to take or even different means of getting to your final location
  • Do you have not only the gear you need, but a way of safely and securely transporting it?
  • Identify areas that you could potentially cache supplies. Are there friendly areas (a friend’s house for example) that you could make a pit stop if needed?
  • Identify areas that could potentially be choke points or trouble spots, and ways to avoid them

The better you know your routes and surrounding area, the easier it will be to plan for the unexpected. It will also prevent you from becoming lost or disoriented. Landmarks can be a wonderful thing. But what happens if you are bugging out at night? Or if the landmarks are suddenly gone? That old blue water tower where you turn right has been there for decades, but now it has vanished!

I would make a dry run several times in different conditions. Do it noon, then again later during rush hour traffic. Try again later on at night, and in conditions such as rain. Make your run via your backup area as well.

I would also make the run from time to time to see if things have changed. It would really suck to have a gas station or bridge you had counted on in your plans to be closed down when it really counted.

For extended routes, I would certainly document your route. This will help you to develop your bug out plans.

Bug Out Vehicles

“Bug Out Vehicles” (BOV) are a popular topic and great to have in a pinch. To be honest, I personally don’t really have a big need for one based upon my situation. The vehicles I do have should be suitable for most emergencies, although I have contingency plans in place if I have to go via other means.

But if you have the need and/or the means to acquire a BOV, there are a few things I would look for in a Bug out vehicle:

  • 4 wheel drive or all wheel drive. (I would avoid rear wheel drive as those vehicles do not do well off road)
  • A good set of all terrain tires
  • A good size gas tank or the fuel range to get you to your destination
  • I would probably look at an SUV over a truck if you can. SUVs typically have more passenger room, and internally stored gear is not as susceptible to the elements/theft like it would be in the bed of a truck
  • Ability to add a safari style cargo rack to the roof
  • A vehicle that blends in. No reason to draw unnecessary attention to yourself. See below

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VS

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If you are trying to maintain OPSEC and simply slip out of a SHTF area unnoticed, which one of these vehicles is likely to not draw a second glance? Which one screams “I’m a Prepper and most likely have a crap ton of stuff you DON’T have but now want really badly?” I’m here to tell you from personal experience, OPSEC can save you A LOT of time and heartache!

Yep….a solar storm will NOT take out your vehicles. And as for a nuclear E1 pulse, we do not have enough data to know one way or the other what the effect on vehicles would be. This includes older vehicles! So in reality, it seems somewhat silly to me to spend a huge amount of money on a vehicle for only one specific event that may or may not even adversely affect the vehicle!! But hey, it’s your money. If it gives you peace of mind, more power to you.

What happens if you don’t have vast sums of money to allocate to a vehicle whose sole purpose is a BOV? Sure, a 4 wheel, all-terrain, “tacticool” SUV or truck with oversized tires, a lift kit, and EMP proof wiring might be nice. But for many people, it isn’t realistic or affordable. This means that whatever you currently drive will have to your means of getting you and your family out of harm’s way.

That does NOT have to be a set back. If you plan ahead, and prep your vehicle correctly, you will find that you can most likely not only survive, but THRIVE with what you have. And really, isn’t that the whole point of this?

Have the right gear

I have a Get Home Bag (GHB) that I keep in my vehicle at all times. I also have an EDC/work (Every Day Carry) bag I usually carry. The EDC bag contains a lot of work related equipment. So I don’t always carry that when I am off duty. Between the two bags, I have a majority of what I need for a disaster if I am in my vehicle.

If you are brand new to prepping, or have not really put any sort of bag together, here are just some items I would consider keeping on you/in your vehicle and could come in handy in a disaster:

  • Small durable knife or other cutting tool
  •  Small Flashlight
  • Extra clothing to help protect from the elements, i.e. a hat, gloves, and comfortable walking shoes. Click the link to read my article on clothing preparedness
  • Extra food/water
  • Means of communication and a way to keep it powered
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Fire source – a butane lighter or matches
  • Map of the area
  • First Aid Kit
  • Extra cash
  • Warm blanket or sleeping bag

At one time or another, I have used most of the above items in various emergency situations. But this list is by no means complete. You should feel free to change-up and add items you feel are necessary depending upon your circumstances.

To give you some ideas on creating your own bag, here is an article I wrote on making a “Go Bag” for a non-prepper. I explain in detail the items I added, and the reasoning behind them. (The bag has already been used in an emergency situation.)

Vehicle Equipment

Now I am not a huge fan of having multiple “emergency” bags. I fully believe in redundancy, but there is no need to go overboard. If you prep correctly, one or two overall bags should usually be more than adequate to see you through an emergency. My GHB serves that purpose.

But I realized there were some items that I would need specifically for my vehicles and only need for the vehicles. There would be no reason to carry them around if I wasn’t in my vehicle. So I decided to make an emergency VEHICLE bag that I could keep in the vehicle. If the situation dictated, I could simply leave the bag with the vehicle should I have to abandon my vehicle for any reason.

I used an old duffel bag that was just sitting in my closet. (You could use a vehicle storage bag. They are less than $20.) I decided that would be my “Vehicle kit” bag. In it, I placed the following items:

  • Jumper cables
  • Reflective cones
  • Extra quart of oil – (find out which type of oil your car or truck needs)
  • Some antifreeze/engine coolant
  • Tow chain or Rope
  • Small bag of kitty litter in the winter time (tire traction if I get stuck)
  • Small tool kit to include screw drivers and socket set and/or wrenches
  • Small box of various fuses
  • Small towel
  • Ice scraper in winter

Feel free to add/delete items to this list. For example, you might also want to include extra belts and hoses, or maybe even an extra air filter or two. Or, if you live in a place like south Texas or Arizona, you might not need a ice scraper. Let your location and your situation help determine what you need.

By keeping these items all in a bag, I can easily move the items between my different personal vehicles and my work vehicles. And all of these items would be handy regardless of what vehicle I am in.

Most of the items should be self-explanatory. But there might be a few items you are wondering if you really need. For example, if you are driving a small or compact car and think to yourself, “I don’t need a tow rope. My car is too small to tow anything” I would urge you to consider what would happen if YOUR car was the one needing to be pulled out or towed? “Good Samaritans” are much more likely to help you if you already have the needed equipment and gear to use.

Handy to have in an emergency at night!

The reflective cones come in handy if you are stranded at night and your car has absolutely no power. Your hazard lights may not always work. And even if they do, the more early warning other drivers have about your vehicle being stranded, the less likely they are to not see your vehicle and hit it! They also make good signaling devices if you become stranded and need to be rescued.

And if you have ever been stuck in the ice and snow, you will understand the value of a bag of kitty litter!

The beauty of these items are that none are terribly expensive, all of them could help me in a vehicle emergency, and yet all could simply be left behind in a true SHTF disaster if I were forced abandon my vehicle.

I guess you could take your vehicle kit with you if you had to leave your vehicle. But if you want to carry a 5 lb. bag of kitty litter and a quart of oil with you while escaping the Zombie Apocalypse, well then…more power to you!

What about the car itself

Vehicle preparedness should start with the vehicle itself! It won’t do you much good to have your vehicle stocked with gear and then the car/truck not run. So simple vehicle maintenance is an absolute must!

But what about your other fluids?

I check my oil every month. (Do you know how to check your oil?) I usually check it at the first gas fill up of the month. And at 5000 miles, I change the oil.

Typically I pay to have it done because of time constraints. But doing it yourself is not a bad idea. Here is a video showing you how it is done if you do not know.

And I also check the other fluids regularly. Brake fluid, transmission fluid, fluids in my radiator, etc. Even window wash fluid. All of these help to keep your vehicle running and in good shape.

How often do you check your tire pressure? Keeping your tires inflated at the proper levels ensures better gas mileage and longer tread life for your tires. A flat tire when trying to get home to your family in a disaster is NO BUENOS!

Having a spare tire, jack, etc. would be a huge life saver down the road. But don’t wait until the unfortunate happens to try and figure out where your car jack is and how it works. These are things you should know ahead of time.

I would also learn now how to make simple repairs to your vehicle. In a true SHTF disaster, you might not have AAA to come out and change your tire. Things such as tire changes, replacing spark plugs, etc can be learned. Some of it by simply watching YouTube videos and then trying it yourself. The more you learn now, the less headache you will have later on.

Your vehicle in a SHTF disaster

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If things go REALLY bad, there may be a time that you have to use your vehicle as a means to survive. You might have to strip some car parts to use in an extreme survival situation. And while you might not like the idea of tearing your car apart to help you live, just remember that your car is replaceable. You are NOT!

For example, your rearview mirror is most likely held to your windshield with an epoxy glue or screw, and will come off when you apply some force to it. This makes a great signal mirror, and can be used to start a fire. If you break the mirror (or the side mirrors) you now have a cutting edge.

Don’t forget about your head lights and tail lights. The covers can be used as a cutting edge as well. Or remove them whole if you can to use as a container for food, water, etc. I’d try to keep all the windows intact if possible, as the car itself can act as a barrier to the outside elements.

Does your car battery still work? Using wires attached to the positive and negative posts and then touching them together can create a spark. A spark can start a fire. And a fire that is burning a car tire creates smoke that can be seen for miles!

A word of caution….I would NOT try to use gas from the tank to help with a fire. Puncturing the gas tank could also cause a spark, possibly causing the tank to explode. That too can be seen for miles, but you won’t be around to be rescued!

Fan belts, wiring, and/or seat belts make a decent substitute for rope in a pinch.

Many car seats have foam upholstery in them, which you could use to help insulate your clothing in the cold. Maybe use the floor mats as well.

If you find yourself having to use your car parts to survive, you should smack yourself in the head for not following this advice and having a Go bag!

Stay safe out there!