Batteries are a HUGE weakness in emergency preparedness and many devices require batteries. This basic comparison chart compares characteristics of rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries.

  • Shelf Life is the amount of time that batteries hold their charge without being used.
    Rechargeable batteries typically have a much shorter shelf life and may have little or no charge if not used for weeks or months.
    Non-Rechargeable have a very long shelf life and can be stored for years with little or no power loss.
  • Charge Time: How long does it take to fully charge the batteries.
    Rechargeable: A 4-8 hour charge time is not unusual.
    Non-Rechargeable: NO charge time (single use only).
  • Recycle Time: The time required for the device to be ready for the next use (camera flash, etc.)
    Rechargeable batteries normally take more time per cycle.
    Non-Rechargeable batteries typically have longer life per battery and faster cycle times.
  • Expense: How much do the batteries cost to use over time.
    Rechargeable: Higher initial cost but can be more economical to use over time.
    Non-Rechargeable: Lower initial cost but higher cost over time since the batteries are single use.
  • Temperature: How do the batteries function in extremely cold temperatures?
    Rechargeable batteries such as Nickel Metal Hydride (NiHD) are severely weakened in cold temperatures.
    Non-Rechargeable: Tolerate cold temperatures better.

Choose the battery that best fits your needs. Rechargeable batteries can be a good solution for frequently used devices. Infrequently used devices may require batteries with a long shelf life. Be sure to test your batteries to ensure that they functioning properly. Be careful when replacing disposable batteries with rechargeables. The rechargeable batteries may output different voltages and voltage differences could cause your device to malfunction. Here are some general battery guidelines:

  • Both rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries can leak and leakage could damage or destroy your device. With infrequently used devices it is best to remove the batteries and store them in small zip bags.
  • Always have extra batteries for emergency preparedness. Your stored batteries could leak, lose charge, or you may need more battery power than you anticipated.
  • If you anticipate needing more longevity from your batteries then consider alternate power or charging options. Small devices can be charged using solar chargers, an external USB battery pack, and devices such as the Bio Lite stove that converts heat to USB power.
  • Use high-quality batteries. You will probably save money by using the cheaper batteries that have a shorter life cycle.
  • Always dispose of your batteries properly and look for recycling options.


If you are using a device where power is critical then use replaceable batteries (either disposable or rechargeable cells). If the device loses power you can carry spare batteries and get the device working again. Rechargeable batteries make sense for heavily used devices. For example, if you are in law enforcement or security and have a vehicle charger for your flashlight then a rechargeable light is a good option. Just remember that rechargeable battery cells generally do not last as long as disposable batteries and they have a much shorter shelf-life.

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