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The news of potential blackouts this winter, as announced by the National Grid, is a cause for concern for many households, already anxious about energy prices and the cost of living crisis.
The National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) has said that power plants in certain parts of the country may not be able to source enough gas to operate at full power throughout the winter months, leading to three-hour planned blackouts in some areas of the country.
We’ve all experienced the discombobulation of a power outage, and those of us that have been through one in the winter knows they’re doubly inconvenient, at a time when it is dark and cold.
But forewarned is forearmed, so we’ve put together an essentials kitlist to make sure your house is ready to withstanding any prolonged periods of darkness and cold. Even if the National Grid’s predictions don’t come to pass (crossed fingers) these are useful tools to keep your household humming in case of emergency.
We’d recommend having plenty of tinned or non-perishable food - whatever you enjoy - in your store cupboard, as well, ideally ones that don’t require cooking - unless you purchase a camping oven, as recommended below.
Us? We keep a store of chocolate - you can’t go wrong.
Top of the list, and although it may seem an obvious selection, a torch will ensure you can find your way around the house easily. And while you may think a torch is a torch, some will serve you better than others.
The Anker Bolder LC40 Flashlight, for example, has a bright beam and shines for up to 20 hours. It is waterproof and can withstand freezing temperatures, so it’s an ideal investment as we find ourselves facing winter power outages.
Make sure everyone in your household knows where the torches are and stock up on multiples - one for each person in the house.
A head torch can work as a brilliant way of navigating the house for when you need your handsfree, especially if you plan on venturing around your house or outside at night. We have an article on the best, but for simplicity, we recommend the Petzl Tikka Head Torch.
Petzl Tikka Head Torch
Key Specs: Lumens: 300, Weight: 82g, Tilt Positions: 4, Lighting Modes: 3, Battery: 3 x AAA Batteries
One of the simplest head torches on the market from Petzl, but still one of the best value for money examples, with a clear wide beam angle for good proximity lighting, a long battery life, a comfortable adjustable elastic fit and a clever phosphorescent reflector which means it can be found in the dark.
Ease is the name of the game - with single button functionality and a lightweight design, you won’t go far wrong with the Tikka.
We have more head torches reviewed here.
We won’t insist this is an essential, but if you can stretch to it’s (not inconsiderable) price tag, a solar generator can be a god-send for power outsages.
Depending on the energy output, solar generators can help keep the power on for devices around 240V. The means lights, electric heaters, ovens - what you need to keep your family life happily running during an extended power outage.
But you do need to keep the solar generator topped up to ensure the run time and energy is consistent during a blackout - so keep the solar panels in direct sunlight to capture energy.
We love the Yeti 1500X Goal Zero
The Yeti 1500X, although expensive, is one of the best on the market at the moment for this purpose - a charge controller means you’re getting efficient solar power, which can also be topped up at the mains if you need, and the unit can happily offer power for tools and home equipment - including a full-size refrigerator if you need.
There are more solar generators reviewed here.
How much water you’ll have access to in a power outage depends on where your house is located and how water is transfered to your house -by gravity or water pump. For many, if there’s a power outage, it pays to limit your water useage.
Make sure you have plenty stored for drinking. We stock up on 1.5L bottles - easier to use that a massive water bottle, but plentiful.
If you’ve reason to believe the outages are going to last for a while, a large, heavy-duty cool box can keep your perishables fresh and your water cold, even if the fridge is on the blink. We adore Yeti coolers - and the Yeti 22l Water Cooler is a fabulous option.
Yeti products are created with rugged expeditions in mind.
It’s high-performance credentials extend it’s dryhide material and welded seams also work to keep wetness out so you can be sure that no matter what you throw at it, or submerge it in, what’s in the box will stay cool, dry and ready to consume whenever you need it.
If it’s just water you’re after, there’s a handy tap at the bottom, which is a nice touch.
While you’re readying your household for potential power outages, don’t forget every safe home needs a stocked First Aid Kit. This one has everything you’ll need in case of emergency, including extra strong metal medical scissors, instant cold pack and an emergency foil blanket with a range of plasters.
In order to keep comms up and running, a portable phone charger or power bank will help your devices remain juiced up when the mains are off.
Our reviewer was impressed with the Anker PowerCore 2010:
“In terms of the amount of charges you can get out of one cycle, this Anker offering is hard to beat.
It claims to be able to charge your mobile phone as many as eight times before running out of juice, which would certainly keep you going.
High powered charging is also delivered quickly - it’s a speedy as well as a lightweight option - at only 350g we wouldn’t hesitate to pop this in a going away bag.”
More reviews of power banks are here.
Don’t rely on tea lights and candles - a battery-operated lantern can help keep a consistent level of lighting, allowing you and your family to read and enjoy board games or similar.
We’re impressed with the Coleman Lantern - it offers 14 hours of consistent light, its beam stretching for up to 50 feet. Just don’t forget to stock up on AA batteries, which it runs on.
If the heating is going to go down, a winter sleeping bag or heavy blankets can help you keep cosy in the evenings. We like Sleeping Bags because they offer dual purpose - obviously you can take them out on camping trips, as well as for hunkering down in the dark of a blackout.
Our favourite for winter?
OEX Leviathan EV 900 Sleeping Bag
Key specs – Comfort temperature: -9°C; Weight: 1,370g; Colour: Yellow
A reliable four-season, down-filled sleeping bag for an affordable price? You can with the OEX Leviathan.
We tested the OEX Leviathan from Decathlon for three months in the cold hills of the Himalayas, and felt grateful for it each and every night.
This unisex sleeping bag is extremely comfortable, as it’s stuffed with plentiful animal down, and is a delight to slide into on a cold night, trapping in warmth in seconds.
Despite not being as lightweight as some dedicated ultralight sleeping bags, it ticks a lot of other boxes, with a comfort limit of a respectable -9C, which is warm and cosy even in the snow.
Great bang for your buck
In case there are water supply shortages, in which case you may need it to help flush the toilet or to bathe. Trust us, it’s handy.
In case all else forms of illumination fails, a good store of emergency candles will see you through. Find ones with long-burn times, and stay away from scented candles - they may become oppressive in an emergency. This unscented white candle has a burn time of 65 hours - ideal.
Stock up on matches or firelighters, too.
Even disregarding the potential blackouts - most households don’t have enough batteries. For our money there are no more reliable than Duracell plus, and it’s always AA’s that you need for household bits and peices.
This is a bit of a luxury if you can stretch to it, but if you can, it will mean you can enjoy hot cuppas and warm food even during a power outage.
We have reviews of the best camping stoves here, but we’d recommended the fab Jetboil Zip for your home emergencies.
Mountaineers, orienteers, wilderness campers, touring cyclists and backpackers need a light, compact cooking system that doesn’t take up valuable space, is practical, efficient, light and, above all, easy to use.
The all-in-one Jetboil Zip’s single-serve 0.8-litre cooking pot also serves as a container for the burner, stand and propane canister so everything is nicely contained in one tidy package.
But it’s the speed and efficiency of the Zip’s unique burner that impresses most. Like an industrial blow-torch, this thing boils water in less than two minutes, and in temperatures as low as -6˚C.
And when you’re done cooking, simply eat the contents straight out of the neoprene-coated pot – without burning your hands.
Another power station - this one is a similarly excellent option to the Yeti mentioned above. It’s biggest selling point? If you pair the Delta mini with a solar panel it can soak up 300W from solar panels for a full recharge in 3 to 6 hours. It can also go from 0-100% in 1.6 hours when charging from the wall.
The output? It can power outlets up to 2200W - up to 9 devices at a time -keeping your house