Survival Must-Have: Solar-Powered LED Lantern


Survival Must-Have: Solar-Powered LED Lantern

This NatGeo article describes how solar-powered LED lights are transforming rural India, where impoverished people who used to spend much of their lives in the dark now have much better prospects because they’re able to keep working after sundown.

Mandal, whose home sits illegally on public land at the edge of a tiger reserve, is just a tiny cog in a surging new economic machine, one that involves hundreds of companies working aggressively to sell small solar-powered units to off-grid customers in developing nations to help fill their growing energy needs. Roughly 1.1 billion people in the world live without access to electricity, and close to a quarter of them are in India, where people like Mandal have been forced to rely on noxious kerosene and bulky, acid-leaking batteries.

Mandal’s solar unit, which powers two LED lights and a fan, is energized by a 40-watt solar panel. Sun beats down on the panel, charging a small, orange power station for roughly ten hours at a time. Mandal leases the kit from SimpaNetworks. A for-profit company with a name derived from the notion of “simple payments,” Simpa offers subscription plans structured to fit the budgets of low-income consumers. Even so, the equivalent of roughly 35 cents a day is a massive expenditure for Mandal, who supports his family on a razor-thin budget of less than two dollars a day. Food costs money, as do schoolbooks, medicine, and tea. His middle son, who’s 15, fell ill late last year, and the hospital bill plunged the family into debt exceeding $4,000.

If ever someone was living in a SHTF situation, it’s these guys. We take lighting for granted, but reading something like this gives you a healthy dose of perspective. If the lights to out, the darkness is more than just an inconvenience. Anyone who can reliably function after sundown with minimal effort (i.e. no gathering firewood), whether it’s to work, fight, or travel, will have a massive edge over everyone else.

The white LED is fairly recent, but it’s pretty much one of the best preps you could possibly buy. These lights just don’t burn out, so if you couple that with a reliable recharging tech then you’ve (at least theoretically) got light for a lifetime. The one question I’d have is whether an LED would survive an EMP–I guess you could always keep spares in a Faraday cage.

I took a minute to explore solar-powered LED lantern options online, and I came across this great-looking lantern that runs on solar or a hand crank. I went ahead and picked one up, and if it works out I’ll buy more.

Another option would be to just spring for a high-quality LED lantern and bring your own solar panels and rechargeable batteries. TheSweetHome likes the UST 30-day, and I have to say it looks like an amazingly good prep.

Post your recommendations in the comments, if you have them.

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billj is currently a writer for AllOutdoor who has chosen not to write a short bio at this time.

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