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DIY guide for the tough times.. or a holiday gift ideas list for a home tinkerer person!

Dogs love DIY (and being warm)
There are situations in life when a list of easy-to-follow instructions and simple tools can be literal life-savers: blackouts, heating interruptions, natural disasters and unforeseen mishaps. Both underestimating and overestimating the danger can be a bad thing - here's a no-nonsense manual to keeping calm during a bad situation, including instructions for stocking up before disasters and not overspending on useless but flashy "prepper gear".

The list features thermometers, heating devices, and many, many useful tips for avoiding overspending when buying useful DIY and home tool supplies and equipment, among other things.

Keep this list handy for future reference:

  • A service interruption or a fuel crisis that takes your cooktop out of service for a week or two is the other hardship perhaps worth worrying about. It's not just about eating well: in an emergency, the ability to boil water is one of the best methods of making it safe to drink. While the owners of rural homes with 500 gallon propane tanks may have little to worry about, the rest of us would not be having fun. For those who cook using municipal natural gas, a simple backup is a small, countertop electric burner, costing about $15. Conversely, for people with electric ranges, a portable camping stove ($13) and a handful of dirt-cheap 1 lb propane tanks ($4 at any hardware store) can be a safe, no-hassle choice. A pound of propane can boil around 12 gallons of water; the entire setup is also very easy to put in a backpack if you ever need to leave - so it's basically worth getting either way.

  • A small space heater and a fan. Sometimes useful for coping with temperature extremes. Decide for yourself if you need it. If yes, pretty much any make and model will do.

  • A large pen drive. Computer hardware failures are far more common than space zombies or mutant superbugs. Because of this, one of your best investments can be a decent 128 GB pen drive ($30) with a copy of all your important files; in case of bank mix-ups, throw in copies of recent account statements, too. And hey, if want to feel like a cyber-ninja - you can always grab a copy of Wikipedia. It will undoubtedly come handy for rebuilding the civilization, and it's just 12 GB.

  • Flashlights. Unless you are living in a rural area, you don't need an eye-searing torch that chews through ten boxes of batteries in a day. Get two small, high-quality AA flashlights that give you at least 20 hours on low power; keep one near your bed, and another in your car or in an emergency stash. For a low-cost option, try Fenix E12 ($25). If you want 100+ hours of battery life and don't mind the price tag, check out Fenix LD22 ($55).

  • A lantern. Not essential, but useful for preparing food, dining, reading, and other fun blackout activities where a narrow beam would be less comfortable than omnidirectional light. I like this device ($35) - it's small, fairly inexpensive, and very robust.

  • An old-fashioned radio receiver. A battery-operated AM/FM radio will be a good way to stay in the loop if cell networks and the Internet are down, and the civilization is temporarily banished back to the dark ages (aka the 90s). A cheap, brand-name model, such as Sony ICFP26 ($18), will do just fine.

  • Handheld FRS/GMRS radios. Many preppers obsess about long-distance communications, but in a typical emergency, chatting with people 100 miles away is not a priority. In contrast, a hand-held two-way radio can be very useful for keeping in touch with your friends and family during any prolonged outage. Whenever possible, pick a device that accepts the kind of batteries you can stockpile cheaply. Expect a range of 2-3 miles in rural regions, less than a mile in highly urbanized areas, and maybe 2-3 blocks in high-rise environments - no matter what the manufacturer claim. With all that in mind, Olympia R500 ($55) is one of many good choices.

  • A thermometer that won't run out of juice. Responding to serious emergencies can be stressful and physically taxing, making it easy to catch nasty infections along the way. To know how bad things have gotten, it's good to have a reliable way to take body temperature; keep in mind that many low-cost axillary thermometers use LR41 batteries, and that you probably don't have any spares lying around. One good choice is this ($35). A traditional glass thermometer will also work, but is more fragile.

    More featured topics: Fuel and electricity: flashlights, gas heaters, powerbanks, batteries, chargers
    Health & hygiene topic #5: Dental emergencies

Recommendations written by @lcamtuf Photo via Found Animals Foundation / Flickr

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Fuelwonk recommends comparing local vendor propane and heating oil prices before you make the decision to fill up your home tank - use our online comparison tool to find the best offers in your area.