Monday, May 5, 2014

Batteries for SHTF

Hello Fernando.
What do you think about batteries? I've been using duracell for the
last years, but they have leaked out and ruined some equipment.
What do you think about lithium, rechargeable and alkaline batteries?
Saudações do Brasil,

Hello Eduardo,
Duracells are pretty good batteries but even those can fail so its best to remove batteries from electronics that wont be used for some time.
You know, I was just thinking about that the other day. Over here in Europe batteries cost very little and are of excellent quality. Ikea batteries are cheap and still pretty good. Usually that’s what I stock up on. That’s one of the big differences between developed and undeveloped countries.
In the 3rd world there’s little variety. Everything from food to clothes, cars, guns and knives, quality gear and supplies are rare and when you do come across them they cost a fortune. Buying on ebay and having them shipped from abroad was what I used to do, between the 50% fee, having to waste the entire day to pick the item at customs and the risk of having stuff stolen was bad enough, but now all purchases are banned other than a 25 USD limit purchase per year.
Back in Argentina I would buy Energizers or Duracells and they would cost a fortune. I had some rechargeable ones shipped from abroad and those I took good care of. With the amount of use given the frequent blackouts good batteries become pretty precious. When I first started carrying around a “tactical” flashlight on daily basis I got one that ran on CR123A batteries. A good friend from USA had sent me a box of Surefire batteries along with the Surefire G2 he had used over in Iraq. That flashlight served me well and that box of batteries kept my EDC light fed for years. I still have a couple of those red Surefires, about to expire by now but still very much usable. The power, reliability and long shelf life are one of the nicest things about lithium batteries like CR123As. 

Batteries for Urban Survival

If you are just getting started the best thing is to keep it simple and stick to AA batteries. These are the cheapest, most widely available type, followed by AAA.  Today you have some great options in AA, including 1xAA flashlight that have enough power to double as both utility and tactical use flashlights.
The Sunwayman Pocket LEDMulti-functional Flashlight C15A is a great choice, excellent quality and user interface, runs on both AA and 14500 (more on that later) It also happens to be on sale right now in Amazon for 40 dollars.
Also the Strearmlight Sidewinder Compact II. This has become one of my favorite flashlights since it devours almost anything you throw in it, runnning on AA, AAA and CR123As. The price is a bit more expensive but well worth it in my opinion.

Streamlight 14514 Sidewinder Compact II Military Model Angle Head Flashlight, Headstrap and Helmet Mount Kit

AAA are what you end up using most often for headlamps and keychain flashlights. While you can go that way, in an environment where variety is limited and AAA happen to be a bit more rare and expensive than AA, I’d just go along with a slightly larger 1xAA flashlight as my keychain light too and call it a day.
Of course, with often blackouts and power outages that last for days you go through batteries pretty fast. LEDs have helped a lot to save juice, but it is still a waste of money to run primaries (single use batteries) when rechargeables are available. It used to be that rechargables wouldn’t hold the charge and leaving you without batteries when they were needed the most but today you have low self-discharge (LSD) cells such as Eneloops.

These combined with a good charger will become invaluable when weekly power outages lasting several hours become a part of normal life. Keep it simple (sticking to AA electronics for more simple logistics) and invest in a quality charger.
Running CR123A becomes a bit of a luxury when living under such circumstances. These are both very expensive and hard to find. Li-ion rechargeables allow you to run these powerful flashlights without the extra cost and running at even higher voltages that normal lithiums. Although runtime is reduced and not all LED flashlights works well with them. I would stick to the manufacturers recommendation rather than risk ruining a flashlight. For years I used protected Ultrafire Li-ions along with a Nano charger. Here the single battery operated device is yet again an advantage, since it is safer to run Li-ions one at a time rather than risk mixing cells with different charges.
Another option is to run 14500 li-ions rechargeables. These are the same size as AA, so you can use AA as well in them, both rechargeables and primaries, and you can use the 14500 for added power and saving on batteries. The flashlight must be rated for 14500/AA.  Never use 14500 li-ion batteries on devices that are not rated for them. These are some good  flashlights that would run with either one.
Take care and good luck. Invest in some Eneloops + a good charger and keep it simple!


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