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The best extreme weather tech: Top gear for snowstorm power outages

ZDNET experts rounded up the best extreme weather tech to prepare for power outages.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Leatherman Free P4 | Best multitool
Leatherman Free P4
Leatherman Free P4
Best multitool
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Petzl Aria 1 | Best LED flashlight
Petzl Aria
Petzl Aria 1
Best LED flashlight
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Peli Storm Case | Best storm case for keeping things dry
Peli cases
Peli Storm Case
Best storm case for keeping things dry
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Quad Lock smartphone case | Best rugged smartphone case
Quad Lock
Quad Lock smartphone case
Best rugged smartphone case
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Jackery Explorer 240 | Best portable power station
Jackery Explorer 240
Jackery Explorer 240
Best portable power station
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Netgear Nighthawk M1 | Best mobile hotspot
Netgear Nighthawk M1
Netgear Nighthawk M1
Best mobile hotspot
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Midland ER310 | Best emergency AM/FM radio
Midland ER310
Midland ER310
Best emergency AM/FM radio
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Anker PowerHouse 100 | Best portable power pack
Anker Powerhouse 90
Anker PowerHouse 100
Best portable power pack
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Retevis RT29 Military Grade Walkie Talkies | Best two-way radios
Retevis RT29
Retevis RT29 Military Grade Walkie Talkies
Best two-way radios
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Cobra PRO 2500W | Best generator
Cobra PRO 2500W
Cobra PRO 2500W
Best generator
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Ortlieb Casual 21 liter dry bag | Best waterproof bags
Ortlieb Casual 21l
Ortlieb Casual 21 liter dry bag
Best waterproof bags
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Show more (6 items)

Winter is most definitely here, and with powerful winter storms wreaking havoc across the United States, authorities are warning people to prepare for power outages.

Having the right power outage gear can make a huge difference when facing extreme weather, such as snowstorms. They can help you stay safe, warm, and in touch with friends, family, or authorities, in case of any emergencies. 

Also: The brightest flashlights you can buy: Expert recommended

I test out gadgets and tech products for ZDNET, and these are my picks for the best extreme weather tech you should invest in this winter. (You can also check out our story on everything you need to prepare for hurricane season.) 

The best extreme weather tech of 2024

Why lug a toolbox around with you when you can get a toolbox that fits in your pocket or on a belt?

I'd never suggest that a multitool can take over the job of a proper toolkit, but a proper toolkit is only any good to you if you have it with you.

There are countless multitools on the market, ranging wildly in terms of price, quality, and features. Since I live by the adage of "buy cheap, buy twice," I prefer to pay a little more and get a quality item. This is why I always carry a Leatherman tool with me. The company offers over 30 to choose from. I like my multitool to have a pair of solid pliers, decent screwdrivers, and a pair of scissors.

My current favorite is the Leatherman Free P4. I've found all Leatherman tools to be tough, but the Free P4 takes this to a new level. This is a solid tool that has a multitude of uses.

Having the ability to throw some light on a situation always helps. And when you're constantly diving under desks or delving inside PCs, having a flashlight that fits into your pocket is very handy. I prefer to go with an LED flashlight these days because they last much longer than incandescent bulbs, and the batteries last a lot longer too.

There are plenty of LED flashlights to choose from, starting at the high end like Surefire, going all the way down to a cheap plastic thing you can pick up at a gas station for a dollar.

My go-to headlamp now is the Petzl Aria 1. It features multiple white and RGB LEDs, customizable brightness, and takes AAA or the Petzl Core rechargeable battery. And however you power it, it lasts for hours on the lowest setting.

Peli makes simply the best protective cases available. I became sold on them after a friend of mine filled one with Jelly Beans and then let a bear try to get inside it. Apart from a few awesome bite and claw marks, the case survived, and the bear didn't get his prize.

I've had a Peli Storm Case filled with delicate camera gear survive a massive car accident. It had to be cut free from the wreck because it had taken a direct hit from another vehicle, and the door panel had crumpled around it. I was convinced it was a goner, but it and all the stuff inside was intact. The case is still fully serviceable and still in regular use.

If you think you're going to be relying on your smartphone when things go bad, it makes sense to protect it from knocks, drops, and dunks into water.

I've been using cases from OtterboxRhinoshieldUAG, and Quad Lock for years now and find that they offer good protection without adding too much bulk. Over the past couple of years, I've moved to using Quad Lock when I need a high level of durability and compatibility with a wide range of mounting systems for the car or e-bike.

During storms, power can be very unreliable, so being able to have an off-grid power supply can be a lifesaver.

A few years back, I lived off-grid in Scotland for a couple of months using a Jackery Portable Power Station and a couple of solar panels. Now, solar panels aren't going to be much use to you during a storm, but the power station will be, and the solar panels themselves can work at any point where the sun is in the sky, so they could be used in an emergency once the storm has passed. 

Information is power. While your main access to the web might be down, you might be able to connect using the 3G/LTE network using a dongle or hotspot device. These days they are more than good enough for you to stream your favorite movie from Netflix while also allowing you to get access to news, weather and other information.

You can pick these up either from phone stores or online. Personally, I think it's best to get an unlocked one so you can pick and choose the provider you go with based on price and service in your area.

My current favorite is the Netgear Nighthawk M1.

A radio might seem old-school, but there are times when it can be a lifesaver.

There are lots of radios to choose from, but the Midland ER310 ticks all the boxes. It's robust, receives AM/FM & weather band alerts, features multiple power options (batteries, rechargeable batteries, solar, and a hand crank), includes a flashlight, and can be used to charge a smartphone.

It's easy to forget how much we rely on power to keep our devices running. But what do you do when the lights go out?

This is where a portable power pack can come in handy. This can be used to keep your smartphone, and other gadgets charged up.

For extended periods without power, I use the Anker PowerHouse 100. Not only is it equipped with a huge 27,000mAh battery, a 45W USB-C port, 2 USB ports, and a 100W AC outlet, but it also features a handy LED light.

Want a way to stay in touch without having to rely on the cellular network? Then you want some two-way radios.

In my experience, the cheap consumer radios are junk and barely work when you can see the other person, but if you invest in something a little more professional, then you'll have a bit of kit that you can rely on when the going gets tough.

Motorola units get my vote every time, as they are durable, well made, and have a good transmit range.

If your power needs go beyond what a solar charger can offer, then you need to think bigger. If you have the space, then a gasoline generator is one idea, but you have to run this sort of thing outdoors because they are smelly and a fire hazard (I've seen one of these erupt into a giant fireball, and that's the sort of thing that can put a crimp in your day).

A safer and more flexible alternative is a 12V inverter that you can run from your car battery. One of the best inverters out there is the Cobra PRO 2500W, which can push out a whopping 2500W and is kitted out with a raft of safety features.

If you live somewhere that's prone to flooding, then having a waterproof bag for your gear is a good idea. If bad weather is on the way, pop your precious gear inside a dry bag for safety.

I've used Ortlieb dry bags to keep delicate electronics dry in some of the worst weather conditions, and they've never failed me.



There's no point having all these tools if you don't know how to use them.

I've seen people superglue their hand to their face, smash themselves in the teeth with a hammer while trying to put up storm shutters, struggle for over an hour trying to start a gasoline generator that didn't have any gas in it, turn an expensive tent into a fireball by attempting to fill a gasoline stove that was already lit, slice their hand open with a screwdriver, and settle down to read the instructions for some essential bit of kit as a storm approaches. Add stress and fear into the mix, and you have the potential for a lot of chaos.

Don't be one of those people! Learn to use your tool kit in comfort when the lights are on and you have a favorite beverage close at hand. That way, using your kit will become second nature, and you won't have to learn how to use it when you're cold, in the dark, or the floodwaters are rising.

Don't, whatever you do, just pack this stuff into a box or store it in the garage until the day you need it!

Use it! Practice your skills!

What skills do you need to learn to help you survive extreme weather?

Here are some skills that will be super useful for you and your family in the event of extreme weather or power outages: 

  • Use/test your kit: Test and learn to use everything in your kit, because you don't want to be trying to figure stuff out in the middle of an emergency.
  • First aid: A really good skill to have for all seasons and all weather.
  • Map reading: Being able to read maps, know where you are, and know how to navigate from one spot to another by road, public transport, bike, or foot is a very vital skill to have.

How did I choose the best extreme weather tech products on this list?

Everything on this list are products that that I've either tested, reviewed or used personally, and much of it forms part of my kit. 

I've chosen the best bang for the buck gear here, so that you're getting quality gear without having to overspend.

How else can you prepare for extreme weather or off-grid camping?

Here are my recommendations:

  • Get good clothing, and learn to use layers: Clothing is your first line of defense, and getting cold or wet -- or cold and wet -- is a fast track way to getting seriously compromised.
  • Get out into the cold and wet: Don't let an emergency or a big trip into the outdoors be your first exposure to extreme weather. Get outside, get a feel for using your kit and clothing, and build up your skill -- and tolerance to the weather -- slowly.
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