D*LIght products: When the sun shines bright in Northern California, rising at around 5:30 a.m. and not getting dark until after 9:00 p.m., there is little need for using electricity for lights. I mostly use regular bright lighting first thing in the morning when I am working. However, breaking the habit of flipping a switch every time I walk in a room is easy in the evening when I have solar lamp lighting. I am extremely happy with D*Light products. These lamps charge quickly, even in overcast light, and I cannot believe their power - stay on all night, still on in the morning! I enjoy the camping feel, so these are perfect for nights when we are watching movies or using our e-readers, when the room does not need to be brightly lit. I keep one in my travel trailer too. Sure, I can afford the PG&E bill to charge my cell phone off a plug, but why give my money away to them?! Every dollar I save on my electric bill is more $ for my fuel tank and RV park fees for traveling. I have used 3 of their solar lamps for 4 years now, and they are all still going strong. Plus, I like the orange detailing. Scroll down and click on my Amazon affiliate link below to learn more.
Anker products: On November 8, 2018, the Camp Fire in Northern California burned my home town to the ground. Currently living in a nearby mountain community, we were without power for several days. I had recommended to friends repeatedly that they have a solar panel and battery on hand in case of disaster, but many weren't concerned because they don't mind running their generators all day for every little thing. However, generators need gas, and what many don't realize, is that gas goes fast during a disaster. As people evacuated from Paradise and Magalia through our small town, people were in a panic about running out of gas and our gas station attendant limited each car to 5 gallons because he knew he was going to run out. I was so happy I was prepared with my solar gear, including a foldable solar panel that charges a battery, and from that battery I can recharge my cell phone, laptop, or cameras. This little solar panel works incredibly well, charging the battery (must purchase battery separately) quickly even on overcast days. I have had to evacuate three times: once for flood when I lived near a levee, and twice due to fire, This foldable solar panel is perfect for putting on the dash board of your vehicle, or strapping to the back of an RV. Even when we have power, I prefer to live independently and save $ by utilizing solar energy. Why give your money to those rich corporate dudes who don't care about us, when we can live independently - especially during the summer months? Scroll down and click on my affiliate links below to learn more about specific products.
iBeck products: This flashlight is so bright it took me by surprise! This is an all-in-one unit, the battery being part of the unit. It has USB outputs AND a 5v 2 amp output. The flashlight stays on constant, and there is also a blinking option for emergencies.
I like the size and weight of this unit; it's small but sturdy. It features a carabiner strap so you can hang the light. The design is nice, and once again has that orange detailing I like.
It might be a good idea to have one of these for each person in your home and to establish the habit of everyone putting theirs in the right windowsill for charging, so they have their own recharging station ready when they come home after school or work. Great way to teach teenagers to use solar energy so your PG&E bill isn't so high.
This unit is the perfect size for tossing in your backpack or camera bag for field trips, hiking, ATV romps or boating excursions.
Scroll down and click on my affiliate link to learn more about this product and consider purchasing for home and vehicles.
Off-Grid equipment MUST Have! Emergency radio with battery or wind-up function, weather channel, and a light, I live in an area where the power goes out for a variety of reasons in all seasons. Another issue can be our landline phone service going out when the power is out (we don't have cell phone service in this area). I think everyone should have a reliable emergency radio, but if you live where there are power outages, I think this is a must-have item! During high level storms and disasters, my emergency radio has been my main method for hearing local news and having knowledge of how storms are impacting the surrounding communities. During one crazy wind storm a few years ago, I was able to know power poles were down all over Chico, street lights out, some roads flooding, etc. This was also how I listened to nightly reports from the Sheriff after the Camp Fire, since our power was out for several days. Again, many people use gas so they can run their generators for TV, but I don't have cable TV for local news, so the radio is my main source of local information, even when the power is on. One aspect of having a radio I enjoy, is how they take us back to the days before TV: when the power is out in the winter, and we've been working the snow for most of the day, it's great to come in for hot food and listen to radio shows. During storms it's good to be able to listen to the weather channel. Here's a tip I learned from two different sales people: don't pay for an emergency radio with a little solar energy panel in the handle because they don't work very well. Until the technology improves, I recommend you get the radio listed in my affiliate link below - it's a good one for the price. The right accessories & equipment make life so much easier when the power is out.
Uniden products: I grew up in a house of CB's, walkie-talkies, and scanners. When we moved to the mountains, both my dad and brother recommended we get a scanner immediately. I started out with a nice unit that stayed plugged in all the time. The issue was reception: sometimes I could hear communications between emergency teams in the area, but most of the time I was frustrated by the reception, especially considering how much we paid for that unit. My next move was to download the scanner app on my cell phone. As long as the power is on and my wifi is working, I can hear what is happening from the local fire and PD dispatch. This turned out to be critical on the morning of The Camp Fire in Paradise, CA: the power was out, but my emergency back up battery for my computer system kept my wifi going and when I heard Feather River Hospital was on fire, I realized the unbelievable gravity of the situation and was able to facebook message a dear friend that her mother had to get out of Paradise IMMEDIATELY! We were able to exchange messages for about 15 minutes while I relayed what I was hearing on the scanner app, and then the battery was out and I focused on packing my Jeep because the fire was heading our way. Cell phone communication went out that day, as did the power, and I realized I needed a rechargeable hand held scanner so that if I evacuated, I could still here what was happening during disasters. This type of information could potentially save your life in an evacuation situation, and help you make wise decisions in the aftermath of the immediate situation. I have been told that Uniden is the best way to go for scanners, so that's what I do. Click on the affiliate link below to see the unit I have. Fantastic!
Cobra products: Yes, there are still places on this planet that don't have cell phone service, and we live in one of them! When we moved to this rural area near the Lassen National Forest, the volunteer Fire Department Captain told us we needed to get a marine band radio immediately, because that was the main way everyone stays in touch when the power and phones are out. That first year we got 15 feet of snow! The power went out frequently, and at one point, it was out for two weeks. It was a comfort to hear neighbors touching base in the morning, checking in to make sure everyone was doing okay. Snow and trees impact reception, so if one person can't be heard directly, call outs are relayed up the road to the desired person. It's a good system! I have a marine band radio on my boat, but I didn't realize how important they are for rural communities and when on off-road adventures to ensure everyone is safe and in the right place at the right time.
Click on the affiliate link below to see the unit I have. What I like about it: I can keep it plugged in all the time and use it as a base station (though I discharge the battery every couple of weeks to take care of it), AND I can take it with me anywhere with two power options: rechargeable batter, or AAs.
Mr. Beams products: I move around in my yard a lot, all times of day, and all seasons. Having motion sensor lights to light my way, even when the power is out, is important to me. We also want to see what is happening if animals or people make their way onto our property. These battery operated motion sensor lights have proven to be of high quality and the batteries last for months. We liked the first ones so much, we purchased two more. It's practical and smart to have these lights even when the power is on, because it's less PG&E cost. We put one in our car port, by the front door, and at each door of our outbuildings. We also put one in our pump house. We have security cameras, but another bonus of this light design is it potentially looks like a security camera from a distance.
Scroll down and click on my affiliate link to purchase one or more sets - you'll be glad you did. You can also use these inside your home so you have automatic lights when the power is out.
Of course, the power most frequently goes out during storms, and seems to go out most frequently after dark. Once I started using a headlamp, I wondered how I ever lived without one. Having both hands free in the wood shed, at the PG&E breaker box, or when rummaging around in my pump house looking for something is very helpful. The headlamp is also required equipment when working on vehicles. The more LEDs, the better, and I especially like this water proof design.
Scroll down and click on my affiliate link to learn more about the head lamp I currently recommend.
Zodi products: During our first winter in the mountains, we experienced record-breaking snow levels and at one point the power was out for two weeks. Every day we came home from work hoping to see lights in town, and by week two of no power, I started to get weary. I'll admit, one night at dinner I started to get teary-eyed over feeling physically and emotionally tired due to the situation. We knew it would snow when we moved here, but we had no idea how much it could snow - which is why we didn't prioritize getting a generator that first winter.
I'm a girl who needs hot showers and baths without waiting 20 minutes to heat water on the wood stove or propane stove top. The Zodi Camp Stove came to my rescue! It uses a propane tank just like the green ones used for camp stoves and lanterns. Be careful - the water gets hot! I sometimes need to experiment with the shower hose to use gravity to feed the hot water through, but once I get it going, it has decent water flow. If you have super thick, long hair, you will need to use a minimum of shampoo so you can get it rinsed out properly.
Even though we have a generator now, I still sometimes use this camp shower so we don't have to run the generator (we have a well, so electricity is needed to pump water to the house). We also take it with us in our travel trailer when we camp somewhere without hookups. I strongly prefer using this camp shower to our outdoor shower bag that heats in the sun.
I've had this camp shower for years and it still works good. Scroll down and click on my affiliate link - be sure to also purchase 4 D cell batteries for the pump unit.
A few years back when a big rain and wind storm took out power in the valley for a few days, a few people died due to misuse of propane products and generators. Instead of using solar lanterns as I suggested earlier on this web page, they used propane and kerosene lanterns indoors. They placed their generators in locations that sucked fumes into the house through vents, or sadly - someone set up their generator in the garage. :( THIS LITTLE HEATER I AM POSTING IS RATED FOR INDOOR USE!
We've used this heater to supplement heat from our fire place (before we got a wood stove). For example, I use it in the bathroom furthest away from the fireplace. This keeps the room warm, and also prevents the pipes from freezing. When we converted our stable into a bunk house, we use this heater to warm things up before our guests go to bed. You can also use this in your RV if you don't have hook-ups - which my Aunt did after The Camp Fire during her stay at the fair grounds. This is another good item to have on hand "just in case".
I have also taken this heater to the lake and beach (more and more camp grounds in California don't allow camp fires due to fire danger).
Scroll down and click on my affiliate link to see more product details. Purchase BEFORE you need it! This is one of the items that can run out after a disaster.
We lasted two winters before I insisted on spending the money on a good generator. I am happy getting by off-grid when I don't have to go to work, but on work days I want the house warm in the morning, I want to take a long, hot shower, and, VERY IMPORTANT - I want to blow dry my hair!
I created a chart with the various watts used by different appliances, pump house, heating system, etc. in our cabin. I laminated the chart. The chart makes it easy to determine how many breakers I should have on at one time while using the generator.
We purchased a generator with enough power to run the pump house, central heat, hot water heater, and refrigerator without stressing the load. You might not need a generator as powerful as the one I've listed, but when it comes to this type of item, I'd rather have too much power than not enough.
We had the generator wired directly into the box on our PG&E pole. We DIDN'T set it up to automatically kick on when the power goes off because we don't need to run it very often due to our system based on the other products I've listed for you on this page. CAUTION! Your main power breaker MUST be turned off when you run the generator, so you don't cause injury to workers when the power comes back on, or cause damage.
If you want a generator that automatically kicks on when the power goes off, then you should look at a propane generator, not one that runs on gas like the one I've listed.
Scroll down and click on my affiliate link to see details and compare and contrast options based on your needs now and in the future.
This suggestion will not apply to everyone. Only get this if your computer(s), router, printer, speakers, etc., are very important to you, as mine are to me. I earn a living with this computer and don't want any of my equipment damaged as the power cuts out and comes back on. The battery and charger for my drill got fried one time over a power issue, so I now have it plugged into this same battery back up.
This battery has several plug-in ports (think about how many items you want to keep safe by plugging in). If the power starts to surge in and out, or goes out completely, the battery beeps to alert you, and you have time to shut everything down, and unplug the battery unit from the wall so it won't take a big electrical hit if the power comes back on.
If you aren't home to shut down and unplug, the battery (not your computer) takes the hit. I know from experience because during one outage my battery fried and kept all the plugged in tech safe.
If you don't have several tech items or battery charges to plug in, you can get by with a smaller unit without so many plug-in ports, but don't make the mistake of thinking one of those drug store power surge extension cords is going to protect your valuable equipment like one of these units will.
Scroll down and click on my affiliate link to see a good back up battery unit with enough plug-in ports to keep several tech items safe.
Some of my favorite family times when young included our annual camping trips to Antelope Lake every summer. That propane sound of camp stoves and lanterns inspire fond memories of laughter and lots of fun. Even when the power is on, I set up my summer kitchen on the deck and mostly cook on camp stove or BBQ. Coleman is my preferred brand.
Electric stove or propane: either way, if you shut down the kitchen stove and use it only for baking, it will save $ for you. Even if you only have a small balcony or patio area, getting in the habit of cooking outside will keep your home cooler in the summer and ensure you have more time out of the house.
If you establish this habit, it won't feel so disruptive when the power goes out or if you are forced to evacuate for some reason. When the residents of Oroville, CA had to evacuate due to the possible failure of Oroville Dam, the Walmart parking lot was packed with families tail gating it, cooking on a variety of camp stoves and BBQs.
During disasters, generators and camp stoves are in short supply, so this is another product I recommend you get now and use as a matter of savings so you will be ready if you need it for other reasons. Click on the affiliate link below for the basic model that will serve you for decades.
When the power is out due to a storm and we've been working the snow for several hours a day, it's really nice to relax after dinner with a movie - without the sound of the generator blaring in the background. I feel a bit wimpy running the generator just to watch a show, so a rechargeable, portable DVD player is the ticket for us.
If we receive storm warnings, or alerts that PG&E might turn off the power due to fire danger, then I make sure the DVD player is charged up. The smaller style I've listed for you works fine for us because there's just two of us, but you can get larger screen options if more people live in your house.
Tip: I have an older laptop with a DVD drive in it, and I make sure that's charged too. Remember, no streaming Netflix if wifi is out (since we don't have cell service).
If the power stays out for several days, we've been known to swap movies with our neighbors. During disaster situations, if you are at a shelter without hookups or "camping out" in a parking lot for a time, remember the Good Will and Salvation Army usually have DVDs. Stressful situations can be exhausting, so you might be happy to have some passive entertainment.
Many of you probably stream entertainment on your cell phone. If cell service is out or overloaded during a disaster or crazy storm, you might be glad you have one of these players. Click on the link below to see a basic player you can purchase for a very reasonable price.
I like to watch YouTube videos by people who are living completely off the grid year-round. A tip I got from one of them is to hang string solar lights in your windows so you automatically have light when it gets dark. This is another way to help you break the habit of flipping a switch every time you walk in a room.
I got some star string lights for my dining room window and immediately got compliments about how cute they are and what a good idea it is. During the summer months, they stay on for hours. During the winter months, they stay of for a short time.
Tip: last winter the snow broke the pole on the little solar panel, so when I replace these string lights, I will reinforce the post.
I think this is a fun idea for rooms where kids stay or visit, serving as a big 'ol night light.
Another tip: these are kind of expensive through Plow and Hearth, scroll down and click on the affiliate link I provided for a much better deal.
This item is such a necessity in my opinion, I should have listed it in the first section. During an evacuation, you don't have time to grab much - this is a "must grab" piece of clothing because it will service in a variety of situations and not take up very much space. When my aunt evacuated out of the Paradise area after The Camp Fire, her first stop was our house and I was happy to have extra jackets to give to her and eventually, my brother, when I caught up with him. People I didn't know ended up here too, and the wind was freezing cold. People had to leave so fast, many of them didn't have enough clothes or blankets.
If you have the advantage of any type of warning, you might want to pack this jacket in your vehicle ahead of time.
When the power is out, I've used all three options in my jacket depending on the type of storm we are facing. We like to snow shoe, and the 3-in-1 jacket is perfect! We usually start out with all three layers on, and by the time we return after a picnic lunch, two layers are in the back pack, one layer on.
Scroll down and click on the link for the women's jacket. I am at the limit for links I can add on this page, but you can find the men's jacket by the same company.
For people who own a pickup truck: a refueling tank is like having your own gas station in the bed of your pickup!
I didn't know about refueling tanks until I did some work for Transfer Flow. Their factory is in Chico, CA.
I have a Dodge Dakota, and the 40 gallon refueling tank is perfect for us. If we know a big storm is coming, or if we plan a trip with the travel trailer, we fill up the refueler and we are set: I can fill my pickup tank on trips and when the power is out, I use it to fill my generator and other vehicles. If you have an ATV or boat, this is a great product for you. If you have a full-sized pickup, you can purchase a larger tank, and even get a tool box tank option.
You can go to my YouTube channel to see my video about fixing up my truck (it's a 1999 and people think it's new), including having the refueler installed.
Go to transferflow.com to learn more about their line of aftermarket fuel tanks. I am a big fan of refuelers.
Worth every cent: when family evacuated to my place after The Camp Fire, I was able to put gas in their tank for them. With one of these tanks, you can help yourself and help others too.
When we built our cabin, I insisted on having a fire place because it's romantic. That turned out to be a stupid move. I had no idea how often the power goes out in the mountains, and how often we would be dependent on heat from the fire place unless we wanted to run the generator constantly to run the central heat.
One day my dad called me from Paradise Wood, Heat, and Spa, telling me he thought they had the perfect wood stove for me. They did. Our cabin is 1,000 square feet, and this little Hamilton wood stove keeps it so warm, I sometimes have to crack a window. Incredibly efficient, it's usually still warm in the morning.
They did a great custom installation job for me, fabricating a panel to cover the fire place opening, and matching the paint to the wood stove. They routed an air vent to the outside of the cabin, and changed out the chimney topper.
The wood stove has made my life so much easier, I can't tell you what a relief it is to have it. It's got a glass door, so I can still enjoy seeing the fire - still got my romantic ambiance!
Tip: installation quality is critical!!! If you go to a big box store to purchase a wood stove, I encourage you to ask for references regarding the install team. Might be better to pay a bit more and buy from local vendor.