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Just because I’m a prepper doesn’t mean that I don’t like comfort and convenience. Whether the electricity is off for five minutes, five days, or five weeks, I want to maintain as normal a lifestyle as I possibly can. So I’ve been looking into appliances that will work when the power goes down.

Don’t Curse the Darkness

As a baby step in that direction, I bought two hand-crank powered lanterns. The lanterns were cheap at less than $20 each (when I bought them in September 2012 — they’re almost $25 each now). I keep one on the first floor and the other one in my bedroom. They’re small and lightweight, making them easy to store, transport, and use.

I’ve had the opportunity to use the lanterns during a couple of short power outages we’ve had. In the past, I’ve scurried to find a flashlight and wondered if I’d be able to find one with batteries in it. If it had batteries, would they still work? Would they be corroded? Would the corrosion ruin the whole flashlight? If there were no batteries in it, would I be able to find enough of the right size to make this thing work?

When you’re stumbling around in the dark with no idea how long the power outage will last, you don’t need to be doing a Chinese fire drill just to find a flashlight that works. So in that sense, these little hand-crank lanterns have been a real joy. I know where they both are, I can find them in the dark, and I no longer have to be concerned about batteries for basic lighting.

That said, these little lanterns aren’t a substitute for a good flashlight. A better way to think of them is as a good substitute for a candle. They put out enough light to keep me from bumping into walls, but it’s not like I’m going to read the newspaper with one of them. Not enough lumens. I don’t know how much light they put out, but I know that it’s just enough to not be in the dark anymore. Like I said, this was a baby step for me — one that I’ve been very happy with and can recommend wholeheartedly to others, but don’t expect too much from them.

Tell Me the News

At the same time that I bought the lanterns I also purchased a hand-crank emergency radio. I haven’t had any real need for this device yet, but I’ve tested it and am very pleased to have it as a part of my emergency supplies.

The Ambient Weather model WR-111 Adventurer Emergency Radio has a name so grand that you’d think that it should come with a decoder ring. And it very nearly does! This little radio weighs just half a pound and is small at 5.5” x 2” x 3”, but it has a lot of useful capabilities. First of all, it can be powered in any of three ways: hand-crank, USB port (to power it from a charged laptop, recommended to fully charge the device before use), or its own built-in solar panel. I’ve tried the hand-crank and the solar panel, and both work like a charm.

The radio receives AM, FM, and NOAA weather alerts. Besides being a radio, it also has a built-in LED flashlight and can be used to charge your cell phone. I remember scenes on the news from a couple of the most recent severe hurricanes of seeing crowds of people huddled together around a multi-outlet power strip that was plugged into a generator, all waiting their turn to charge their cell phones. I don’t want to be one of them. Which is the whole point of being a prepper. I don’t wanna live like a refugee.

Getting Cranky in the Kitchen

Besides the lanterns and the radio, I have a couple of hand-crank kitchen appliances that I can recommend. One of them, a hand-powered grain mill for grinding wheat berries into flour, was purchased with preparedness in mind. Anyone who is thinking long-term survival should be storing large quantities of whole wheat. When you’ve invested in the wheat, you’ll want some means to grind it to make flour for your homemade bread and pasta. (Note to self: Add a really good manual pasta maker to my Amazon wish list.)

The other hand-crank kitchen appliance is one that I’ve had for years, long before I ever thought there was a need for prepping for anything. It’s a salsa maker.

If you don’t already have one of these, you need one. I have an expensive electric food processor that I rarely use, but I haul out the cheap hand-crank salsa maker frequently. (OK, not as frequently as Sandy would like me to.) Besides being great for making fresh salsa, it’s terrific for doing a multitude of food processing jobs. Anything that needs to be chopped, whipped, beaten, or stirred can be done in this manually operated machine.

Some people go off the grid because they like to rough it. Others, like me, do it kicking and screaming. I like convenience. I want to take as much of it with me as I can. These hand-crank devices help to maintain normalcy in a time of deprivation. Don’t go off the grid without them.

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