5 Essential Pieces of Gear to Get You Comfortably through a Winter Power Outage

One week without power

What preps will you rely on when the power goes out?

Around 3 years ago here in New England we had a pretty serious winter ice storm that knocked my power out for around a week and in many close-by areas they were without power for 2 weeks.

From that experience I realized I was woefully unprepared for winter.

Sure, I had plenty of food and water storage, and I had a wealth of wilderness survival experience to draw on if I needed. I would simply have to make a winter shelter for my wife and 2 year old…yeah right.

My wife packed up the kid and went to her mother’s.

I on the other hand, decided to “man it” at home to ensure that the house was taken care of (drain pipes, clear fallen limbs and debris etc).

At night I would sleep in my sleeping bag and during the day I’d start a fire in my fireplace (which is inadequate for warming up an entire house).

Eventually I had to pack it up and head to my Dad’s where he had the internet so I could get some work done (as well as a warm shower).

Experience breeds wisdom

What did I learn from that? Well, it was time for some new preps.

Sure, if needed we could have survived. I could have blocked off the room where the fireplace is, set up any number of improvised mattress shelters (which are killer indoor shelters btw), and with plenty of food and water and a place to cook and heat it we would have been fine.

But, it’s not just about surviving, but thriving in tough times remember? (see tag-line)

Now fast-forward three years to the present day and we get hit with a good-sized winter storm (we got 15 inches where I live) that knocks out our power again.

Did that past experience breed some present-day wisdom? Absolutely. Here are some new preps that made all the difference (and kept my wife and kids at home with me :)):

5 essential pieces of gear that got us comfortably through a winter power outage

Generator (Energy)

For energy production I now have a generator.

The one I ended up buying is a Yamaha EF2000is. I actually had it custom built by www.propane-generators.com to allow it to run off of 3 different types of fuels: Propane, Gasoline, and Natural Gas.

This is perfect since I have around five 25lb propane bottles that will get me through at least 1 1/2 weeks of power loss and I plan on purchasing more.

As a side note, propane is a great fuel source since unlike gasoline it won’t go stale, and it can be stored practically forever.

Also during a major power outage, I always see the gas stations teeming with people around the clock filling up their gas cans whereas I hardly see anyone at the propane refilling stations.

In other words, if resupply were down for a short while, gasoline would be the first to go.

The generator will run my fridge, tv, some lights and my pellet stove without issue — all my family needs for a comfortable time through the coldest of nights.

And given that it is an inverter-type generator it will power my computer without harming any sensitive electrical components (it produces a pure sine wave much like the grid’s electricity).

If I needed more power, it also has the ability to be run in parallel with another matching EF2000is for 3600 running watts (4000 max) of power. Plenty enough for most any application.

One of the other things that really attracted me to it, is how quiet it is. With a range of 51 – 60 dB of sound (depending on load) it’s one of the quietest generators on the market (comparible to Honda’s EU2000i) — an ideal feature during a SHTF situation if discreetness were to become a priority.

Oil Lamps (Lighting)

My favorite types of lighting during a power outage are oil lamps. These can be found in most of your big-name hardware stores for under $10.

Not only do they burn paraffin oil (what is typically sold with it) but it will burn any of your cooking oils you may have as well (olive, vegetable, etc). They are bright, effective and the oil will last a long time.

In a pinch, remember that you can easily make your own homemade lamps from everyday objects.

Pellet Stove & Big Buddy Heater (Heating)

For heating, I primarily use my pellet stove. It doesn’t draw much power (starting watts is 400 running is just around 200) so it’s perfect in conjunction with a generator.

At night, when we’re all tucked away upstairs, I use the Big Buddy Heater. This also runs on propane and on medium it kicks out enough heat to warm up my upstairs without an issue.

If long-term heating were required I do have a wood-burning stove given to me by a good friend of mine. However, I don’t have the proper piping at this time to vent it through my chimney – so that is still on the list to get done.

Rocket Stove (Cooking)

For cooking I primarily use my rocket stoves (see the reviews for the Stovetec and EcoZoom here).

Since I have a fireplace, it allows me to easily cook inside. Here’s a pic of me cooking up some breakfast during the power outage (btw cast-iron pans are perfect for rocketstoves):

For fuel, while I do have stored/seasoned wood, there is so much of it on my property in the form of dead trees and branches that it would take a lifetime to deplete it since the rocket stoves are so efficient.

As another redundancy, I also have a propane camp stove, however I like to save the propane for heat and energy production since there is so much wood for cooking.

Conclusion

So if you’re not yet prepared for a power outage, where do you start?

Since most grid-down situations are usually resolved in under 2 weeks, I would first start by getting yourself prepared for at least a 2-week power outage. You’ll want to cover each of the four areas that our grid provides: energy, heating, lighting, and cooking (if cooling is a major worry instead of cold winters, just replace heating for cooling).

Once your 2-weeks are secure, start considering what you’d do in longer-term power outages. As you do so, keep in mind what would be most beneficial for your location/environment and living area.

Also consider what natural resources you may have available since these will be what will carry you through long-term emergencies.

For example, you may be in an area that gets a lot of sun or perhaps wind. If that’s the case solar or wind power might be an option for you.

Or if you, like me, have lots of wood or bio-waste then gassification is a definite consideration. Or any combination of those may be good for you.

So what type of setups do you guys have? Any particular preparations you have that get you through power outages? I’d love to hear from your experiences so we can all benefit, so please comment.

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