The big storm last week that hammered the North East here in the USA left us without power for almost three days.  Here’s a few tips on how to continue living the nerd life without power.

Bottled water, batteries, canned food, keeping frozen and refrigerated stuff outside, using your gas stovetop burners for heat…these are some of the common ways that people deal with a power outage during a big storm.  However, as a nerd, they do little to allow us to continue living our customary lifestyle when there’s no juice flowing to power outlets.  Here’s some tips on how to stay entertained through the darkness.

Keeping your gadgets charged

Nowadays, handheld gaming systems, smartphones, and e-readers all have something in common: they are your primary forms of entertainment during a power outage, and they all require minimal power to keep charged.  You could leech off whatever battery your laptop has left in it, but there is a much better solution that should last you the duration of all but the longest outages: a UPS, more commonly used to power a computer for a short period of time so it can be shut down properly.  Gone are the days where units were bulky and highly expensive…$40 or $50 can now buy you a 200-300 watt UPS, which is enough power to recharge your small electronics many times over.  Make sure you unplug ALL chargers when you aren’t using the UPS, and also make sure you turn it off once you’re done charging your various devices to make it last as long as possible (unfortunately, this means you can’t leave your gadgets plugged in overnight.)  I recommend going with something from APC, as they’ve been at the forefront of UPS setups for years.  Something like this guy will serve you well without breaking the bank, and should grant you double-digit numbers of recharges for your phone/mp3 player/e-reader/handheld gaming systems.

Keeping your gadgets operational between charges

If you have a smartphone, turning off the 3G connection can extend the life of your battery by hours.  In my own experience, turning off the 3G connection on my Droid Eris running NonSensikal 15.2 allowed it to last nearly five hours longer on a single charge, a number which raised significantly if I only used it for communication and kept my gaming to my DS/PSP.  Keep in mind that you can still make and receive phone calls, as well as send and receive text messages with the 3G connection off.  As for portable gaming systems, if you’re going to be using one extensively, keep the sound off and keep the brightness setting as low as it will go.  Also, try to play less intensive games, such as turn-based strategy games or turn-based RPGs.  Obviously, with the UPS suggestion above, battery life won’t matter nearly as much since you’ll be able to charge your gadget, but you never know how long a power outage will last.  It’s better to err on the side of caution than to be draining and recharging your gadgets willy nilly.

Keeping the lights on

Board games, card games, and pen & paper RPGs are an excellent choice for entertainment if you’re snowed-in with neighbors or friends.  Things like Arkham Horror, Munchkin, or plain ol’ DnD all help pass the time quickly, but you obviously need to be able to see to play them!  As far as flashlights are concerned, I highly recommend sticking with those that use LEDs, as they tend to be much easier on battery life than the standard flashlight.  You could potentially spend upwards of $100 on a high-quality LED flashlight, but frankly, a little $4 jobber like this guy will suffice.  When the power is out due to a storm, we leave one in every room, as well as one in each person’s pocket.  If you plan on playing board games or card games, or plan on cooking with a gas stove top (Never use a propane stove indoors unless it is explicitly rated for indoor use! If you have a natural gas stove top, you have heat/a way to cook, but if you don’t have a gas stove top, I repeat: make absolutely sure any propane stove you buy is rated for indoor use) you should look into getting a hand-crank camping lantern, such as these. They provide a decent amount of light, and not having to worry about batteries is a definite plus.  You can also find some that have built-in radio’s, such as this one.  Book lights such as this one are not only useful for non-backlit e-readers/dead tree books, but since they can be clipped onto various surfaces, they can also help in hands-free targeted lighting.

Conclusion

I hope you found at least one tip in here that helps you out in preparation for your next power outage.  Granted, all of these are simple solutions (and you most likely knew them already), but hey…if my suggestions help even just one person get through a power outage more comfortably, then I’m happy :)