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hand crank torch radios for disasters and hiking


  • the prime role of these devices is to provide a short amount of emergency power for either your smartphone, a torch or radio by using a hand crank which you rotate at around 120-150 rpm to drive a dynamo which can then create a charge - usually enough to power your device for a couple of minutes per minute of cranking
  • the secondary role of most of these devices is as a power bank which not only can store the hand cranked charge but can also be charged via USB or, in many cases by a small attached solar panel.
    • these power bank batteries are generally lithium batteries now, mostly 3.7V 18350 batteries up to around 2500mAH capacity which is the maximum safe amount for 18350 sized cells
    • smaller units may have smaller batteries and many do not allow user to replace them.
    • these batteries should be charged every 2-3 months and should not be used continuously if you want to prolong their life - they generally have around 500 charge-recharge cycles lifetime
    • they should not be exposed to very high temperatures
    • they generally should be above 0degC to charge
    • most have a USB-out to charge your smartphone and other devices
  • the other roles these can play and other functions they might have are:
    • analog AM/FM radio
      • some have SW as well but this is now of very limited utility and the small antenna and usually limited tuning controls further limit this use
      • some have DAB digital radio but this is generally not so available in rural areas, thus unless specified they do NOT have DAB digital radio (DAB only works in some parts of Australia - see
      • in Australia, you don't need the NOAA weather radio channels (these are for USA and Canada only)
      • usually mono speaker but some have a stereo headphone port
    • LED torch with SOS blinking option
    • LED reading lamp - some have a proximity sensor to optionally activate the light as you walk past for 30secs
    • red LED - very few have these, but the Retekess does have a red SOS LED
    • SOS loud siren
    • LCD display with alarm clock with sleep
    • battery meter
    • MP3 player - either via microSD slot or Bluetooth
    • aux in port to play music by wire from your smartphone, etc
    • weatherproofing
    • ultrasonic dog whistle - not many have this!

What features are important as a disaster/hiking survival tool?

  • should be small enough and light enough that you will actually take it with you
  • should have a sturdy, reliable hand crank
  • should have some weatherproofing eg. IPX3 as minimum - you are likely to need this in bad weather!
  • the lithium battery should be user replaceable unless you plan on buying a new one every 2 yrs or so
    • the greater the capacity the better
  • must have USB in to charge
  • must have USB out to power your smartphone, etc
  • LED torch with SOS blink - assume your smartphone dies or falls off a cliff
  • AM/FM radio
    • very useful when disaster strikes and you have no other way to remain in contact with news services
    • should have an extendable antenna
  • optional:
    • headphone socket is a very nice addition - gives stereo audio instead of just the mono speaker output
    • solar panel - these are not essential but could be useful if there are many days without access to power but they are not going to be great giving less than 1W charge per hour
    • red LED is nice at night to avoid upsetting your night vision
    • MP3 player - not sure if this is very useful
    • reading lamp
    • SOS siren - might be handle if you forget your whistle
    • Bluetooth - not really a good idea as it uses up lots of hand cranks of power
    • AAA batteries use as an option instead of the rechargeable battery
  • I have not tested any of these nor do I sell them nor do I get paid by any of these companies in any way!

Models available in Australia in 2021

    • IPX7 waterproofing; runtime 4hrs on full charge; FM radio only;
    • 207g; 16×4.8cm; no extendable antenna; battery but non-replaceable?
    • ~$AU40
  • TechLight AR-1771 4 in 1 AM/FM radio, torch
    • 171g; 16x5x3.3cm; 3.7V 480mAh LiPo battery 2hr USB charge; 10hrs torch;
    • no extendable antenna; battery but non-replaceable?
    • ~$AU40
    • AM,FM, SW half coverage; solar; Internal Ni-Mh battery pack or AAA batteries;
    • 210g;
    • $53;
    • DSP AM, FM, SW; MP3; Bluetooth; microSD slot (max 32Gb play MP3s or record radio);solar; backlit LCD screen; alarm, sleep; extendable antenna; red SOS LED headphones jack;
    • 255g; 12.5×6.1×4.3cm; 4.2V 850mAh BL-5C lithium battery 4-6hr charge by USB and gives 5hr radio; not weathersealed;
    • $69
    • IPX-3; replaceable 3.7V 4000mAh 18650 Li-ion Battery; battery indicator; extendable antenna;
    • 350g; 16x8x6.3cm; 12-15hrs radio or 10-12hrs torch on full charge;
    • tilt up solar panel for a reading lamp as well as the torch; motion sensor to optionally activate light automatically for 30secs as you walk past;
    • ~$AU70
    • IPX3; AM,FM, SW; LCD screen; solar;
    • 3.7V, 4000mAh (2 x 18650 ternary lithium cells) 6-7hr charge via USB; 50hrs via solar; gives 18-20hr radio or LED; or 3AAA batteries which take priority;
    • 490g; triangular with handle: 20x9x8cm; Aux input;
    • $100
  • Midland ER300 solar crank torch radio
    • replaceable 2000mAh LiIonBattery with pigtail lead (ER310 has 2600mAh battery); can also use 6xAA batteries via rear switch; LCD screen: clock, battery meter, radio stations;
    • 20x8x5.8cm; ultrasonic dog whistle;
    • ~$AU99-139
    • replaceable 3.7V 850mA 18350 Lithium battery; backlit LCD screen; clock, sleep auto shutoff; DSP FM tuner; extendable antenna;
    • 392g; 15×8.4x7cm;
    • $AU129-179
    • there is also a DAB digital FM version but this does not have AM radio bands just DAB or FM
    • one with the lot except DAB!
    • solar, DC in, USB, hand crank, replaceable 3.7V 2,000 mAh 18350 Lithium battery (not included)
    • digital tuner for AM, FM, SW, NOAA; stereo speakers; can play MP3s via Bluetooth or 32Gb max microSD card; 3.5mm audio input jack;
    • extendable antenna to 14“; backlit LCD; clock; sleep timer; alarm, USB-out charging; reading lamp and torch;
    • 765g; 24x14x6.4cm; $US109; not available within Australia; too heavy for hiking but a useful tool if you live in disaster prone areas!
australia/handcrank.txt · Last modified: 2021/07/26 20:31 by gary1

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