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OVER THE YEARS, I've ridden out about a half-dozen hurricanes (from 1985's Elena to 2005's Rita), endured floods-turned-mudslides in California's Laurel Canyon and, most recently, went off-grid for a week during last fall's superstorm Sandy. As a result, I've given the various strategies for contending with extreme weather a lot of thought. I like to think of the approach I've arrived at as cautiously laissez faire—a sensible middle ground between batten-down-the-hatches hysteria and maybe-it-will-take-a-sudden-turn caprice.
Some scoff at calls to evacuate ("Batteries and booze!" is their common refrain). Others amass arsenals of worst-case-scenario supplies in garish shades of neon. Navigating the two extremes can be tricky. However, the latest spate of high- and low-tech emergency gear lets you partake in the doomsday giddiness of the former without sacrificing the security of the latter. Best of all, thanks to their sleek, minimalist designs, these emergency gee-gaws don't need to be hidden away.
Here's a trusty shortlist of understated essentials—from smartphone chargers to water purifiers—for dealing with the elements, even when they aren't pounding on your door.
1. SpareOne Plus Mobile Phone
A single AA battery provides the SpareOne Plus cellphone with enough juice for 10 hours of talking time. This recently upgraded model is equipped with a LED torchlight (which lasts for as long as 24 hours), a panic siren and a waterproof pouch that is acoustically transparent (you can talk through it). No service plan or SIM card is required to place 911 calls. $80, spareone.com
2. Grundig Mini 400 Radio
You can almost hear Paul McCartney's "Jet" emanating from this super-compact, retro-awesome AM/FM transistor radio. But the Grundig Mini 400 is totally 21st century and aligned for emergencies. Equipped with a telescopic antenna, it picks up shortwave bands and runs on two AA batteries. A glove-compartment must. $30, etoncorp.com
3. Kem Playing Cards
Power outages call for old-school gaming. Kem playing cards are made of cellulose acetate (plastic), hence, they are waterproof and beer-proof. Casino pros, take note: The company asserts that the tear-resistant cards have the "classic snap and feel of paper." The decks are sold in pairs, and include a hard-plastic carrying box. $30 for a set, either poker- or bridge-size, kem.com
4. Streamlight PolyStinger DS LED Flashlight
Flashlights—we've had a few. But the PolyStinger DS LED polymer portable puts other beacons in its shadow with its three brightness levels (the highest is a 365-lumen beam) and a tail-cap strobe, which runs for up to 5½ hours and is great for signaling from an attic window or flagging down a cop car. Water-resistant and shock proof, the slim flashlight comes with a wall-mounted charger as well as one for your car's cigarette lighter. $215, streamlight.com
5. Zero Halliburton Slimline Aluminum Purse
For escaping life-threatening situations, the lightweight, attaché-size Slimline Aluminum Purse is an evac-friendly 10-by-14 inches. With an exterior made of aircraft-grade aluminum, it's also resilient enough to safely transport your important paperwork from Point A to B. And who would guess that, behind that shining armor, there was a supple leather lining? You might as well survive in style when you get to that clean, well-lighted place. $595, zerohalliburton.com
6. Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .9 First-Aid Kit
The red-tin, cross-embossed first-aid kits of yore have been rendered quaint. Housed in a waterproof, seam-sealed DryFlex bag, this 12-ounce stash somehow includes enough supplies to stop bleeding, set fractures and sprains, anesthetize pains, and soothe burns and bug bites for up to four people on a four-day adventure (or disaster). Our favorite tools: tick-remover forceps and easy-access bandages, which can be applied with one hand. $36, adventuremedicalkits.com
7. Etón BoostTurbine 2000 Hand-Powered Backup Battery
Manpower meets modern technology in this lightweight, aluminum portable crank generator, which charges USB-powered mobile devices, including smartphones. For every minute you revolve the turbine you will generate enough power for about four minutes of talk time, maybe even a few texts saying that you are OK. A built-in 2000mAh battery lets you crank now and send an SOS later. $60, etoncorp.com
8. CamelBak All Clear UV Water Purifier
Just the ticket for when a water main breaks, or your car runs out of gas near a creek in the middle of nowhere, the CamelBak All Clear UV water purification system treats iffy H2O by neutralizing microbiological contaminants (to EPA standards) in 60 seconds. An LCD screen alerts you when the water is potable. Go ahead and gulp right from the bottle. $99, camelbak.com
9. Filson Upland Hunting Vest, Frontloader
This water-and-wind repellent vest is the ideal marriage of function and form. (Manly, yes, but she will like it, too.) It may have been designed for bird-shooting in the brambles (those double expandable bellows pockets are perfect for quail calls and dog treats), but in inclement weather you could wear it over a shirt and tie to carry all your delicate tech essentials, or simply a flask and a ham and cheese. $220, filson.com