Build a Blackout Survival Kit: 9 Must-Have Items and How To

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By Bryan Lynch •  10 min read

One of the largest blackouts in history occurred in 2003. It took place in the northeast region of the United States and Canada. It affected 50 million people who were without electrical power for several days. 

blackout survival kit

Blackouts happen every year and can affect anyone throughout the world who is dependent on an electrical power grid. But what causes blackouts? To better understand that there a few definitions that would be useful to know. 

Brown Out

This is when there is a reduction in power in the electrical system. This can be done intentionally by a power company to reduce the load on the system during disasters or the cause of heavier than normal power usage. 

Blackout (Power Outage) 

A blackout, or power outage, is a complete loss of electrical power that can affect a small area or an entire region. These occur when there is physical damage to the electrical grid that prevents power from arriving at its destination. For example, a severe storm that destroys power lines and poles would result in a blackout.

Rolling Blackout

A rolling blackout is similar to a regular blackout in that there is no power being delivered to a destination. However, these are typically carried out by the power company to prevent damage to the electrical system, which would result in a longer lasting blackout. 

The Dangers of a Blackout

Now that we have a better understanding of what a blackout is, the next step is to look at some of the dangers associated with this situation as well as some of the items needed to deal with these hazards.

No Lights (Inside)

No lights, no big deal right? Having no source of light in a home will create a dangerous situation. The likelihood of trips, falls, damaging items, and grabbing the wrong bottle of something (like a medication bottle) will increase dramatically. Avoid the darkness and its hazards by having some alternative lighting available.

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No Lights (Outside)

With power, most homeowners turn their inside lights off at night. But this still leaves outside lights, streetlamps, and businesses. If you have never experienced a large scale blackout at night you don’t realize how dark it can get in a town or city. This makes it much more dangerous to travel at night. If there is no need for travel it may be safer not to. 

But if you have to go somewhere keep a few things in mind. 

Blackout Survival Kit: What Items To Include?


When the power goes out, there still may be pressure in water lines to deliver water to your taps. However, one thing to keep in mind is that if a water treatment plant does not have electricity, the processes by which they clean that water may not be operational. 

Water is one of the most critical resources to our survival and due to that, we always require a clean supply of it. Other than knowing the skills of how to find and clean water, there are two things you should be doing when it comes to water. 

The first is to have a stockpile of emergency water. I am not going to suggest to you how much water should be stockpiled as that is dependent on available storage space and how long the blackout lasts.

I have always gone by the guideline of one gallon of water per person per day. But that is just for drinking under nonstrenuous conditions. Since water is essential and you never know how long an emergency will last, my suggestion would be to store as much as you can. 

The second thing you should be doing is making sure you have ways of filtering and cleaning water. This is in case you do not have any emergency water or it runs out. Items to consider having are:


No power also means the possibility of not being able to cook. The microwave and electric stoves will certainly be out of order and if the power is out for more than a day, many of the items in a freezer and refrigerator will spoil. Because of this here are some items to consider as it pertains to cooking. 

Here are some food items to have on hand. 

Here are some other resources on our site that you can take a look at:

First Aid

It should go without saying that every emergency kit should have first aid supplies in it. As with most emergencies, there is a higher risk for injuries which you will want to be able to treat yourself if possible.

Even though most hospitals are required to and do have backup generators, those may not last. Additionally, the patient count may be higher which means that not everyone will be seen promptly.

A general all-purpose first aid kit should suffice although it would be wise to bulk it up with as many supplies as you can. First aid is one area that most people are lacking in, supplies and knowledge. You can never have enough of either.

Check out our guide on the best first aid kits.

Sanitation and Hygiene 

Depending on what is affected by the blackout you may or may not have running water. Some people use water on their property but most of those depend on pumps to move the water. The same can be said for municipal water sources that depend on pumps for delivering water to its residents.

This means you cannot wash your hands, flush the toilet, take a shower, brush your teeth, wash dishes, do laundry. Some items to consider are:

Power Generation

At minimal you are going to need a way of recharging a phone seeing that everyone has one and it is arguably the most important piece of communication gear you have. If the blackout is not widespread a smartphone can offer many different avenues of communication such as calling, texting, email, apps, and social media. 

For the above purpose, small scale power generation will work best such as:

If you have the means and space available, consider a small or large generator. 

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Climate Control

Regulating our body temperature is something that we take for granted given that most people operate in climate-controlled environments. If we get hot we turn on the air conditioner, if we get cold we turn on the heat. But during a blackout that will not be an option.

What would you do if the power went out in the middle of winter? Or during a dangerous heatwave? These extreme temperatures have become more common in our world.

We can die faster from exposure to the elements than we will from the lack of water. This is why being able to regulate your body temperature is one of the most important survival skills to know. To help out with cold temperatures, consider the following items. 

Here are some items to consider for keeping cool. 

Must-Haves in Your Blackout Survival Kit: Overview

Wrap Up

All of us use power every day and take it completely for granted. No matter how you look at it, going with it for any amount of time disrupts our lives and can be dangerous.

But if you take a few steps today to create an emergency kit, it will allow you to be more comfortable and could even save your life for when the power does go out. 

I would like to note that this article does not list everything this type of emergency kit should have.

It should be used as a baseline for creating a kit that suits your needs and requirements. Thank you for reading and stay prepared!


Earlier this week (at the time this article was written August 2020) a large and powerful storm system moved across the Midwest of the United States. This storm delivered heavy rains, hail, and wind gusts over 100 mph.

It left almost one million people without power and created a huge path of destruction. As of this morning four days later some are still without power. I would like to give a shout out to all of the emergency workers, volunteers and lineman who work tirelessly around the clock to restore power and help those in need. Thank you for all that you do!

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.