If you’re a frequent camper or hiker, or are otherwise away from cell service often, most of these products aren’t going to help you in an emergency. That’s where a satellite messenger comes in.
We have a guide with a few picks for different situations, but the Garmin inReach Mini is one of our favorites. It’s light and takes up little room in your bag, plus it utilizes the super-fast Iridium satellite network to get your SOS to help.
The Garmin inReach Mini costs $350 from Garmin and Amazon.
A Flashlight Works Too
Infinity X1 Hybrid Power Flashlight
I’ve talked to several self-defense teachers over the years who always recommend flashlights as personal safety devices—yes, more than mace or a pocket knife. A flashlight obviously lights your way while you walk in the dark, which might help you see someone otherwise cloaked by darkness, but there are two other reasons why these work. Putting a flashlight up to someone’s eyes will disorient them, hopefully long enough to let you get away. I’m nearly blinded by an iPhone’s camera flash, so imagine thousands of lumens directly to your eyeballs. If it was truly a kind stranger asking for directions and not a threat, you didn’t actually harm them, and you’ll be far away before you know any different. (Sorry, stranger.)
If that fails, you can use it to, frankly, hit them. A hunk of metal to the face will hurt worse than your fist, and won’t hurt you in the process. Get a good swing and run. Of course, though, like any weapon, it can be taken from you and used against you, so keep that in mind.
The Infinity X1 Hybrid Power Flashlight ($79) has 4,000 lumens (the brand has other options available too). When I turned it on in my apartment, it lit up the room brighter than my actual lights do. It comes with two cores, one that holds the batteries and one that’s rechargeable. There are cheaper flashlights, but I like that the rechargeable core can also charge your phone, so it’s not bad to keep on hand for emergencies anyway. It’s heavy and long, which is good if you need to swing it, but it won’t be easy to stow in your purse.
★ Cheaper options: Any flashlight with some heft will do, and there are a few others we really like. WIRED writer Matt Jancer recommends the 350-lumen Fenix E20 V2 ($45) in his Guide to Creating a Home Emergency Kit. It’s compact, so it shouldn’t be too annoying to throw in your bag, but it’s still constructed of tough metal. For even less, writer Louryn Strampe recommends the 900-lumen Anker Rechargeable Bolder ($30), which even has a strobe function. It’s a lot smaller, but it will still pack a harder punch than a lone fist.
The Infinity X1 Hybrid Power Flashlight costs $79 from Infinity X1.