Forty-four useful tools, gadgets, and appliances that don’t require electricity. Use them when the power is out, to conserve energy, in an off-grid or homesteading situation.
Whenever I’m trying to figure out the best way to go about getting tasks done when the power is out, I refer to the past. I ask myself, “how did the American Colonists do it. Or, “how do the Amish do it now?”
In researching this article for my survival preparedness plan, I came across some interesting tools. Some items are obvious, and some aren’t. I hope this list is helpful as you plan your emergency preparedness.
Use a Hand mill to process hard and soft grains like wheat, corn, and barley.
- With special attachments, you can also grind nuts into nut butter.
- Some hand-cranked models can be converted between hand and electrical power.
- A Good handmill with process bulk grains like wheat in an off-grid or power out scenario
Old fashioned drippers, percolator, or french press
The powers out, but you can still brew coffee with an old fashioned drip, percolator, or french-press coffee maker.
Boil water on a grill, campfire, or camp-stove.
How To Use A French Press In 7 Steps
- Remove plunger
- Add 1 TBSP of coarse-grind-coffee per cup of water. Add More Coffee for a more potent brew.
- Pour hot water into the press
- Put the plunger back in the press-pot, and push down to just above the waterline
- Let sit 3 to 4 minutes
- Press plunger, slowly, to the bottom of the pot
- Pour and drink
Camp percolators. Be careful with your heat, and how much water you put in the pot, most containers have a fill-line inside. I didn’t pay attention, overfilled the pot, and had water and coffee bubbling all over the campfire.
How To Use A Camper’s Percolator In 7 Steps
- Fill the pot up to the fill-line, too much water, and it will boil all over.
- Add coarsely ground coffee to the percolator basket (paper filter or not)
- Place the lid on the percolator basket
- Place the assembly inside the pot
- Put the top on the pot and heat over medium heat on a grill or campfire grate
- Let the pot percolate for 10 or 15 minutes, depending on how strong you want the coffee.
Tip: (When the coffee is percolating, you can hear it bubbling.)
How To Make Cowboy Coffee In 9 Steps
- Bring water to a boil.
- Let the water stand for thirty seconds
- Place 1 to 2 Tablespoons of finely ground coffee per cup or 8 oz of water. For a more potent brew add more coffee
- Optional: Throw in some eggshells to neutralize acidity and create a more mellow brew and reduce bitterness
- Stir the grounds
- Let sit 2 minutes and stir again
- 2 more minutes and sprinkle with cold water
- Slowly pour coffee into your cup. Slow and easy so you don’t disturb the coffee grounds
Adding sprinkles of cold water forces coffee grounds to the bottom of the pot.
Hand Crank Coffee Mill
Adjust the grind to be coarse or fine, depending on how you are making coffee. Coffee mills come in all shapes and sizes, so there are many models to choose from.
A coffee grinder will also work on dried-herbs, nuts, and spices.
Mortar and Pestle
Used to grind or crush
- Spreads and sauces
- Crush Garlic
- Pound nuts into a fine powder
- Crush herbs to release flavor
- Make medicinal poultices
Hand Crank Food Mill
8 Things A Food Mill Is Used For
- Hot or cold Puree
- Processing sauces before canning
- Puree Fruits
- Puree Vegetables
- Remove seeds, skins, and stems
- Makes smooth preserves and jellies
- Make Apple sauce
- Make Tomato sauce
Hand Crank Blender
These manual blenders are as simple as they sound, clamp them to a table or the tailgate of your truck, fill with ingredients, and turn the handle.
Hand-crank blenders aren’t as efficient as an electric blender, but they are great for off-grid or power-out applications.
What You Can Do With a Hand-Crank Blender
- Crush ice
- Make smoothies and protein drinks
- Make smooth vegetable soups like butternut squash
- Use for car camping or tailgating to make mixed drinks
Tip: If you are using dry ingredients, add them a little bit at a time. If not, blending is more difficult.
Rotary Egg Beater
5 Things You Can Do With An Egg Beater
- Scrambled Eggs
- Make Cream
- Stir Salad dressing
- Make Sauces
- Whip up smooth batters
When making the batter, add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time for easy mixing.
Hand Crank Dough Mixer And Food Processor
Skip hand kneading your dough mix. Add dry and wet ingredients to your dough mixer to make: bread, pastries, pizza, and pretzel dough.
Depending on the brand, some mixers come with other attachments like food processor blades and different types of whisks.
There is an Amish mixer that is considered all-purpose.
Waffle Pie Iron
A mini-cast-iron-pan, on a stick. Used on an open campfire, or an outdoor grill to create delicious mini-waffles.
There is a learning curve with pie irons, keep at it, and you’ll be the most popular person in camp.
Tips For Using Your Pie Iron
- Season your waffle Iron before you use it (A gas grill is an excellent way to season)
- Oil the iron on both sides before putting the batter in
- Let your iron cool and clean it with a clean rag, don’t immerse it in the water when the iron is hot; you may crack the metal.
*Use caution pie irons get hot and stay hot for quite a while.
Campfire Pie Irons
It’s hard to say when or where campfire-pie-irons originated. Similar cooking implements have been around since the 9th century.
In modern times these little campfire irons, on a stick, are also known as a pudgy pie iron, sandwich toaster, snackwicher, jaffle iron, or toastie iron, and are available in various shapes for hotdogs, brats, burgers, pies, pizzas and hobo sandwiches.
The square version makes the famous “pudgy pie,” which consists of one or two pieces of bread or dough and just about any tasty filling you can think of.
- Season your waffle Iron before you use it (A gas grill is an excellent way to season) (link to seasoning?)
- The downside of the pie iron is the small servings
- Make Meat or vegetable pockets, fruit-pies, s’ mores, breakfast sandwiches, dough filled with apples, sugar, and cinnamon, or plain grilled cheese
- Coat inside with oil or use bacon strips on the outside of any sandwich you make (love this idea)
- Cook with low to medium heat
- Let your iron cool and then clean it with a clean rag, don’t immerse in water when hot, you could crack the metal.
Learn more about pie irons in Ready Squirrel’s comprehensive article, What Is A Pie Iron?
*Use caution pie irons get hot and stay hot for quite a while.
Cast Iron Tea Kettle
Take care of your cast iron teapot, and it will boil water for generations.
Rusty cast iron won’t hurt your tea, Japanese tea connoisseurs prefer it.
Boil water on your campfire or woodstove for:
- Hot cereals
- Instant soups
- To humidify the air
Cast Iron Tripod And Chain
Cook like a chuck-wagon on the prairie.
A campfire tripod is a three-legged cook-stand that sits directly over a campfire. Suspend a cook-pot, such as a dutch oven, from a chain hooked to the center of the tripod.
The chain can be moved up and down to increase or decrease the pot’s distance from the heat of the fire, which allows you to control cooking temperatures.
A tripod and a couple of excellent cast iron pans is a great way to provide an outdoor cooking station where the family can congregate.
Round Tripod Grill
A tripod grill is hooked underneath a cooking tripod and suspended over the fire—a convenient addition to a “no electricity” outdoor kitchen.
4 Uses For A Tripod Grill
- Cook directly on the grill or use tinfoil
- Heat water in a pan or coffee pot
- Put your cast iron pan or flat-grill down and use it as a stovetop.
- Raise and lower the grill to control heat.
Tip: You can make a tripod from small saplings
Camp Dutch Oven
A dutch oven is a heavy cast iron pot with a solid lid, legs, and a bail-wire handle.
Dutch ovens are incredibly versatile; you can bake, boil, stir-fry or stew just about any food.
Cook directly on coals or hang from a tripod and use it as a cauldron.
If I could only afford one piece of cast iron cookware, it would be a 5 quart, Dutch Oven, because it is versatile.
Tip: Turn the lid over and use it as a frying pan
Flat Kebab Skewers
Flat kebabs skewers are for fast-food campfire cookery.
Push skewers through meat, vegetables, or dough and cook directly on a grill or from the radiant heat of a campfire.
- Limited preparation required
- Easy cleanup
- Customizable-pick and choose what you put on each skewer
Tip: Say No To Round Skewers-food likes to fall off or spin around, which makes it harder to get foods evenly cooked.
Cast Iron Skillet
Cook directly on campfire coals or an outdoor grill.
I use a cast-iron skillet for cooking steak. I apply high-heat on the stovetop to crisp the outside of the flank steak, add chopped onions, and then throw it into the oven to finish. Make some Chimichurri sauce, and you’re eating Brazilian steak.
5 Things You Can Do With A Cast Iron Skillet
- If you hate cast iron, it might be because you haven’t learned to season or clean your pans.
- If you put a hot cast iron pan in cold water, it may crack.
Seed Sprouting Kit
Seed sprouting is the hidden gem of food prepping. You can sprout seeds with: a ball jar, a piece of cheesecloth, a rubber band, and seeds.
5 Interesting Facts About Sprouting
- Sprouts Grow in the dark. (finish in sunlight for chlorophyll, but it’s not necessary for nutrition)
- Use your stored raw-grain to create fresh produce
- Baked or heat-treated grain won’t sprout
- Sprouts take up minimum space
- Start sprouts indoors during winter months.
Check out Ready Squirrel’s comprehensive article Sprouts Are An Excellent Survival Food
Cast Iron Loaf Pans
Loaf Pans are used for baking bread, sweetbreads, or meatloaf.
- Take care of them, and they will last forever.
- Cast Iron heats evenly, so you get a perfect crust.
- Loaf pans can be used to bake bread in a solar oven.
Hand Crank Noodle Machine
Forgo a wooden rolling pin in favor of a pasta maker. Roll dough super thin for:
- Turnovers, or anything that requires thin dough
Hand Crank Meat Slicer
When you think of a meat slicer, you may think cold-cuts for sandwiches, but there are many other things you can slice with a meat slicer.
- Bread-to uniform thickness
- Cheese: to uniform thickness
- Potatoes, for thick-cut fries
- Cabbage, for sauerkraut or kimchi
- Onions for sandwiches
- Tomatoes for sandwiches
Hand Crank Meat Grinder
Hand-crank meat grinders are used primarily to grind beef, pork, or wild game.
With the right attachments, meat grinders can also be used to make homemade sausage.
5 Steps To Use A Meat Grinder
- Use Bolts or Clamps to secure grinder to a table or countertop
- Cut meat into small pieces and grind it several times
- For a finer grind, change to a die with smaller holes between each grind.
- Drop cut-up meat chunks into the top of the grinder
- Turn the handle slowly
- Chill meat before preparing, it makes cutting and grinding easier
- Run moist bread through your grinder to clean
Indoor Propane Range
Small ranges rated for indoor use, not a camp-stove.
These babies are not cheap, but they work well if you have an off-grid cabin or use them as a back-up. Only use UL-rated stoves.
- Get a stove with a battery ignition system that works without electricity.
- Newer gas stoves/ranges, rated for indoors, can not be lit manually. If the electricity is off, more modern stoves, have safety solenoids that stop gas flow and ignition.
I’ve always wanted a wood cookstove. For most of us, these are a pipe-dream because they are super expensive. You may want to look into a wood cookstove if you have timber on your land or access to inexpensive firewood.
- Wood Cookstoves aren’t considered a primary heat source, but they put off quite a bit of heat.
- You can purchase Cookstove models that are for wood heating and cooking.
- The Vermont Bunbaker has a stove, a broiler, a range top, and a wood heating component. (I have no financial interest in the Bun Baker Oven, it’s just a good example.)
Propane refrigerators come in all shapes and sizes, from small portable units to full-size refrigerators.
Propane refrigerators are a good option for short-term power outages; a place to keep expensive cuts of meat, or a couple of gallons of milk.
- Commonly used in RVs
- Require no electricity
Manual Water Filter
If the power goes out, backpacker type water filters are a flexible way to get your drinking water.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests storing a minimum of 1 Gallon of water, per person, per day for emergencies such as power outages.
Backpacking filters come in family size and small personal filters.
- Gravity-fed filters are much slower to filter water, but there is no pumping involved. Example: Platypus Gravity Works
- Squeeze Filters: A small filter that fits in your hand, I used the Sawyer mini on a recent 110-mile hike, and it worked well. The Sawyer Mini is lightweight, compact, and filters 100,000 gallons of water.
- Filter water on the move.
- One gallon of water weighs 8.3 lbs, carrying a large supply of water is not an option. (suggested pack weight is 20% of total body weight)
To give you an idea of water storage, I have a 55-gallon drum filled with water as a back-up.
- For a family of four, a 55-gallon drum provides 1 gallon of water, per person, per day for 13.75 days. (Used for drinking, cooking, and hygiene.)
- The average American shower lasts 8.3 minutes and uses 17.2 Gallons of water.
Kilner Butter Churner
Hand Crank Device for churning butter. This device screws onto a Bell-type jar filled with heavy cream.
Using a Kilner Butter Churner
- Place heavy cream into the jar
- Screw the top on
- Turn the handle for approximately 10 minutes, and you have butter.
Hand Crank Nut Chopper
These come in all shapes and sizes—the ones I like the best screw on top of a ball jar for secure storage.
Hand Powered Potato Ricer
Potato ricer is an alternative to hand mashing potatoes.
A few things you can do with a potato ricer:
- Mashed potatoes
- Cooked squash-spread
- Smooth Pie fillings
Hand Crank Cheese Grater
There are many models and price ranges to choose from. Pick a model that best suits your needs.
- Suitable for grating cheese, nuts, and chocolate
Rotary Food Mills
Food mills are a staple of every Amish Kitchen. No electricity needed. This hand crank kitchen tool comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Excellent for canning or everyday use. Make everything from baby food to tomato sauce.
- Fresh juices
- Baby food
- Refried beans
- Let your fruits and vegetable breath by hanging them in a string bag.
16 Hand Tools That Don’t Use Electricity
You choose what edged items, tools, and equipment you need for maintaining your homestead.
Maybe you depend on a chain-saw for cutting wood, an electric boning knife for processing game or livestock, or you till your garden with a diesel-powered lawn tractor.
Have manual substitutes to replace the tools and equipment you use to survive. Maybe you’ll have gas, and perhaps you won’t. If you depend on fossil fuels, you’ll need to store extra for emergencies. If the power is out, gas pumps don’t work.
Tools that use fossil fuels are absent from the following list.
16 Hand Tools That Don’t Require Electricity
- Axe for cutting wood
- Knives for processing food-stuff, cutting rope or green woodwork
- Hand-saws for making and fixing
- Wood chisels and files for building and fixing
- Saw Horses If you don’t have electricity you might be working outside
- Shovels of various shapes and sizes for gardening and repair work
- Rakes for gardening
- Hoes for gardening
- Scythe to keep the grass and weeds down and to mulch
- Machete to clear weeds
- Pickaxe to excavate the ground if you are putting in a new garden bed
- Wheelbarrow to carry anything heavy
- Rope and parachute cord
- Pruning Shears for harvesting
- Crow Bar for removing rocks in your garden
- Seizing wire and chicken wire for mending fences
Items For Tool Maintenance
- Manual Sharpening System
- Manual Grinding wheel
- Replacement Handle or wood to make them
- Honing oil
- Leather strop
If you’re looking for a lightweight can opener for backpacking, consider a lightweight P38 or P-51 used by U.S. armed forces to open canned rations.
- You will probably want a manual-can opener that’s a little beefier and easier on the hands for everyday use.
Mechanical Egg Timer
In a power-out or off-grid environment, it’s a good idea to have a timer that doesn’t require power.
- Most mechanical timers have a minimum set-time of 1 minute and a maximum of 60 minutes.
Manual Juice Press
This is another gadget that comes in all shapes and sizes.
Some of the larger units can juice just about anything. A less expensive option is small hand juicers used for juicing citrus.
This is kind of a catch-all section. In a power-out or off-grid situation, having a washtub for your clothes and a couple of water bins for a washing station is a way to create a centralized cleaning station where you keep your bleach and soaps. Other useful items to have when it comes to staying clean:
10 Gadgets To Keep Clean When the Power Is Out
- Clean 5 Gallon Buckets
- Composting bucket toilet
- Composting mixture of 60% Organic material like wood chips and 40% peat moss.
- Wash Basin, and Pitcher
- All-in-One Castile Bar Soap or liquid soap that will clean clothing and bodies
- Quick Dry Towels and Clothing- I learned this on the Appalachian Trail, cotton clothing takes so long to dry you stay wet.
- Clothes Horse for clothes Drying
- Hand crank washing machine
If the powers out and the waters not running a sunshower makes an excellent addition to your hygiene kit, and they are simple to use.
A couple of years ago, I helped build an off-grid cabin with no power or running water. After working hard all day and getting sweaty, I looked forward to taking a sun shower. A warm shower is a huge psychological boost.
How To Use A Sunshower
- Fill with 5 gallons of water
- Set in the sun with the dark side up
- Wait an hour
- Take a hot shower (make sure the water isn’t too hot)
Large stoneware crocks with heavy stoneware lids have been used throughout the ages to pickle and ferment.
- Pure filtered water and salt are used for fermentation
- Sizes from 1 to 10 Gallons.
- They are used to make Sauerkraut, Pickles, and Fermented Vegetables.
Hand Cranked Cider Press
A Cider Press is used to press chopped apples and other fruit into cider. When homesteading, Colonial Americans planted apple orchards and fruit bushes before building the house or barn. That’s how important a clean source of drinking liquid was for survival.
- Cider, the non-alcohol variety, will last 10 to 21 days before it begins to ferment
- Hard Cider has a shelf-life of two years
- Hard cider was a colonial survival food; raw milk and freshwater were disease carriers
*Note: A typical colonial family of six drank about 90 gallons of cider each year; 15 gallons each.
Hand Crank Emergency Radio
A hand-crank radio is powered by a magnet and wire. When you crank the radio’s handle, an electric charge is generated that is stored in a battery.
Most hand-crank radios also come ready for solar, 12 v charging, and are equipped with a flashlight.
11 Reasons To Have A Hand Crank Radio
- Emergency Lighting
- NOAA Weather Reports
- Emergency Updates
- Off-grid Living
- Solar Charge
- Car charge
- Manual Charge
- 3 AAA Battery Charge
- USB Charge
Hand Crank Pump
- Use to transfer liquids
- Use a manual pump to get water out of 55-gallon water storage
- Install a hand-pump on your water well if your pump runs on electricity
Hand Crank Lantern
Hand crank lanterns have an internal battery that can be charged by hand cranking and usually have LED lights. Most of the new models also allow you to charge via solar, from an outlet, or with a 12-volt charger from a car battery.
4 Uses For A Hand Crank Lantern
- Emergency Power outages
- Car Camping
Hand Crank Ice Cream Maker
A Hand crank ice-cream-maker is a frivolous item. The ice cream is so good I thought it worth mentioning.
You need ice to make ice cream with these makers.
Check out this YouTube video on manual ice cream making
Treadle Sewing Machine
Treadle sewing machines are powered mechanically with a foot pedal, so your not relying on electricity.
Refurbish an antique or purchase a modern machine.
A device used to pull or lift heavy objects with a rope, straps, or cable.
Also called a “come along,” ratchet strap, tie-down strap, lashing strap, or cargo strap.
7 Uses For A Crank Winch
- Vehicle recovery and survival
- Moving logs
Items You May Need With Your Crank Winch
- D-Ring Shackles
- Heavy Duty Towing or Nylon Strap
Warning: rope, cable, and lines under strain can cause serious personal injury. Ensure that all the materials you use to move or lift an object are rated for the weight being moved.
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