For humans, vision is the most dominant sense organ. That’s why we feel more helpless and afraid when darkness descends.
Whether you’re at a campsite or tackling a grid failure due to a winter storm, you need a dependable light source.
In such situations, wind-up or hand crank flashlights are a great option. With them, you don’t have to depend on batteries to illuminate your surroundings. Even when your backup power generators fail, you can depend on this simple device to beat the darkness.
I always carry a hand crank flashlight on all my outdoor trips as they are easy to use and carry. And all you need is some muscle power to generate electricity super quickly.
That said, you need a reliable product that you can depend on during an emergency.
So in this article, we review 9 top hand crank flashlights that are the best and the brightest.
This wind-up flashlight from Thorfire is our top pick in terms of performance and durability. Not only is it great for emergency scenarios, but it’s also a great companion for hiking and camping trips.
The good thing is you can charge it by hand cranking or solar charging. This solar-powered rechargeable flashlight has an 80mAh battery and a 20 mA solar panel.
The flashlight has three LED bulbs that can be used in low and high modes. There’s an SOS flash mode as well.
Coming to the light quality, the bright mode is not ultra-powerful, but good enough to light up trails at night. The low mode is ideal for small rooms or a tent.
ThorFire says that a minute of turning the crank gives you an hour of light in the bright mode. I got close to an hour though the light intensity dropped after 30 minutes.
Even so, compared to other products of this category, the conversion efficiency is super impressive. An hour of solar charging will stretch the light even longer.
On top of that, the device feels robust enough for outdoor use. The IPX6 waterproof rating is another added bonus.
Some users mentioned that the crank feels a bit hard in a new model. But it loosens up with use.
The Thorfire flashlight combines cranking and solar charging into a durable and affordable package. We had no second thoughts about marking it as our top pick.
This product from Runningsnail isn’t just a flashlight, but an emergency radio as well. And the best part is, it’s extremely versatile.
To start with, it packs a 4000mAh rechargeable battery. That’s one of the biggest in this category. The large capacity also allows the device to work as a power bank.
Besides, unlike many other units, the battery is replaceable.
And consider this…
Apart from hand cranking, you can charge up the battery in two other ways. Through a micro USB and solar charging.
USB charging takes around 6 hours. One minute of hand cranking can deliver you 20 to 30 minutes of bright light.
However, the solar panels included in the device aren’t the most efficient. But depending on the solar intensity, it will give you a few hours of light.
The light comes in three modes. The far beam has a range of around 20 meters.
Keep in mind, the device comes with a powerful radio that captures 7 NOAA weather channels apart from AM and FM stations.
Another feature of the device is a reading light with a motion sensor. Runningsnail also offers a lifetime of support for their product and users have appreciated their customer service.
This product from Runningsnail is heavier than standard flashlights and the price tag is relatively higher. But considering the advanced features and high battery capacity, it’s a good investment.
The Primalcamp flashlight is a favorite among users looking for a small and affordable product. And don’t let the cheap price misguide you. The sturdy design makes it a highly functional tool for emergency use.
Speaking of the design…
Primalcamp has included a carabiner clip with the light. This allows you to attach it to a belt or a backpack.
One minute of cranking will give you around 8 minutes of power. And the battery holds charge very well.
In addition, the battery also supports solar charging. Leaving the device under the sun for the whole day will give you more than an hour of light.
The flashlight comes with a single LED. Even so, the brightness was higher than most users expected from this small device.
Admittedly, you won’t get a super-bright output to light up the whole yard. But it’s good enough for small spaces and tents.
Being a small and lightweight product, it’s also easy to store. And the casing is durable enough to withstand rough use.
At this price, the PrimalCamp flashlight offers excellent value. If you want something cheap and reliable for your survival kit, go for it.
I’ve to admit it. The Thorfire design team has done a great job with this unit.
When folded the device acts as a mini flashlight. Unfold the flashlight and it transforms into a LED camping lantern. There’s also a handle at the top for hanging it from an attachment.
A minute of hand cranking will give you around 15 to 20 minutes of light at the high mode. On the other hand, the 300mAh lithium battery can be charged by a micro USB as well.
Once fully charged, you get around 40 minutes on the high mode. Moreover, Thorfire has also added safety features to protect the lantern from overcharging, over-discharging, and short circuits.
There are two brightness modes- high and low. You get 65 lumens and 15 lumens from the two modes.
Even though the flashlight doesn’t provide a directional beam, it’s extremely bright. That makes it good enough to light up large rooms as well as small tents. In short, a great choice for indoor as well as outdoor use.
The innovative design and a weight of 5.9oz make this a highly portable tool. Not to forget, the device feels durable and can easily withstand shocks and drops. Also repeated opening and collapsing won’t break it down within a short period.
With a versatile design and a fantastic price tag, this is a great choice if you’re looking for a reliable light for tackling emergencies.
An emergency radio coupled with a flashlight is a practical idea. And the iRonsnow IS-088+ is equipped with an AM/FM/NOAA weather radio that will allow you to tune in to any emergency news.
The device comes with a 2000mAh battery which also acts as a power bank. Besides hand cranking, it also supports solar and micro USB charging.
The one-watt LED emits 50 lumens and is bright enough for use in short and medium distances. A minute of hand cranking will provide around 15 minutes of light.
USB charging takes around 2 hours. Since the battery also holds a charge well, it’s a good choice for your bug out bag.
On the downside, the light only has a single mode.
The flashlight offers excellent portability as iRonsnow has kept the size of the unit compact. It’s just 5-inches in length and weighs only 7.84 ounces. But it’s well built and the crank handle feels sturdy in the hand.
As for the radio, it’s highly sensitive and picks up stations with ease. Also, the sound output from the tiny unit is great.
You can also use it to charge your phone, but the charging speed is on the lower side.
Overall, this tiny unit offers a decent flashlight and an emergency radio at an affordable price. A great companion during any devastating weather event.
Four More Wind Up Flashlights
Simpeak offers 2 flashlights in one package at an affordable price. That gives you more than one light source to tackle an emergency.
The LEDs offer good light intensity. The flashlight won’t disappoint you during a late-night hike.
Moreover, the product also supports solar charging. However, the process takes a long time.
The overall charging efficiency while cranking is good. A minute of charging will give you around 10 minutes of light.
The build quality is great and the flashlight can easily handle rough use. The ergonomic and lightweight design also makes it handy. Simpeak has also added a carabiner clip for convenience.
On the downside, the charge holding capacity comes down after a year or so of use.
Admittedly, this crank-powered flashlight comes with a premium feel. Eton has kept the design simple and functional.
The battery can be charged by cranking and you get 10 minutes of light after a minute of cranking. Note, there’s no other way of charging the battery.
And the device also comes with a USB port for charging other devices.
The LED offers a broad beam that offers sufficient brightness in pitch darkness.
The overall build quality is good and at 5 oz it’s light enough for pocket carry. The other nice feature is a built-in carabiner clip to attach it to other objects as needed.
In short, a reliable product that comes at a super affordable price.
The Stormproof flashlight from Lifegear is another reliable device that delivers a powerful light beam. Besides, the product is not just a flashlight but also has an FM radio and a siren.
A minute of charging will give you around 10 minutes of light. It also supports USB charging. The charging time is around 2.5 hours.
There are two modes of operation. You get 30 lumens on high and 6 lumens on the low mode.
Beyond that, it also allows USB charging of other devices. But the charging capacity is on the lower side.
Other than that, with a length of 6.2 inches, it’s on the longer side of the scale. If you’re looking for a compact unit look elsewhere.
This product of Luxon comes with a relatively high price tag, but there’s more to it than a flashlight. With a car safety hammer that acts as a window breaker and a seat belt cutter, it’s a multifunctional emergency safety tool.
The powerful LED flashlight is powered by a 2600mA battery. It comes with a USB charger and you can reverse charge your smartphone by using the battery.
There are three modes for using the light and it also has a red light for use as an SOS signal.
With a length of around 9 inches, the device is on the longer side. However, the ergonomics are top-notch and it feels sturdy in hand.
To sum up, if you’re looking for an emergency flashlight only, this multi-purpose tool might be overkill for you. But if you need a safety device to fit in your glove box, this is a good choice.
Best Hand Crank Flashlight: Choosing The Right One
For first-time buyers, buying a crank flashlight might seem like taking a leap of faith. The market is crowded with multiple brands but chances are, you haven’t heard of them before.
That’s the reason we have chosen the top products by checking every aspect of quality, performance, and customer feedback.
Even so, there are some important factors that you need to keep in mind while selecting crank flashlights. Take a look.
Size and Weight
A big advantage of hand crank flashlights is they are versatile. You can use them indoors and carry them during a camping trip as well. Since they are compact, you can store a few in your bug out location. They take up much less space than other light sources like emergency candles.
That means a flashlight needs to offer good portability. That makes it easy to stash it in your backpack or the kitchen drawer. It’s also easier to carry a compact device in your hand for long periods.
Obviously, you can’t expect the flashlight to be as compact as a butane lighter. But they are much lighter than most tactical flashlights.
Usually, devices with a larger battery are heavier. So it’s a tradeoff between battery capacity and portability. That said, ergonomics plays an important role in making a flashlight comfortable for use. Keep that in mind while choosing a product.
Honestly, there aren’t many options in this category. Most hand crank flashlights come with lithium-ion or NiMH batteries as they can hold on charge more effectively.
A few units come with capacitors that charge at a faster rate and last longer. However, the discharge rate of capacitors is much higher. So, you’ll need to crank more frequently.
Fact is, both lithium-ion batteries and NiMH batteries start to deteriorate after a few years of use. If you store the device in a hot environment, it will deteriorate faster.
Most batteries have a fixed number of charge cycles beyond which the performance comes down. Depending on the battery type this number can vary from 500 to 1000.
Keep in mind, even if you keep the battery unused for years, degradation will happen. So it’s best to check the flashlight periodically if it’s a part of your emergency kit.
The run time of the flashlight will depend on the battery capacity and also on the brightness level of the LED. The higher the brightness, the lower the run time. Besides, the run time for every minute of cranking will also depend on the charging efficiency of the battery.
It’s best to compare the run time of the various products before making a choice. Balance the runtime with other factors like product size, battery capacity, and price.
One disadvantage of hand-cranked flashlights is they don’t offer as much brightness as a conventional flashlight. That’s why they are best for emergency situations and not for everyday use.
However, the light output of the top products is good enough to help you beat the darkness. These flashlights use LED lights that are energy efficient and deliver higher lumens/watt.
Also, flashlights with more than one battery often have multiple light modes. This allows you to conserve the battery as needed.
When you’re planning to use the flashlight outdoors, durability is one factor that you can’t ignore. A weatherproof and hardy design will allow you to use it in the rain or snow.
No matter the type of use, it’s necessary for the flashlight to have a durable outer casing.
The reason is, a flashlight with a crank mechanism contains a small dynamo and other electronics in it. You wouldn’t want the device to start malfunctioning after an accidental drop to the ground.
The first thing you need in a flashlight is reliability. And it goes without saying that not all brands offer the right level of quality. Many of the claims made by brands that sell cheap flashlights on Amazon will fall flat when it comes to long-term performance.
Remember, you’re depending on the flashlight to work during an emergency. Cutting corners by buying a cheap product isn’t the right step.
Picking reputed brands that offer flashlights with a warranty is always the best choice. You won’t get a super long warranty on a flashlight. But the longer the warranty, the better it is.
The most important feature of a flashlight is to act as a dependable light source when needed. However, additional features can make the device more useful.
One useful feature is having other ways of charging the battery. Solar charging and USB charging are two common methods. That way, you can use a solar generator as a power source to charge the battery.
The ability of the flashlight battery to charge other devices like a cellphone can also be useful in emergency scenarios.
Many flashlights also come with a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio. These radios will provide you with around-the-clock updates on natural disasters. This can be a lifesaver in critical moments.
How Do Crank Flashlights Work?
You might be wondering how a hand crank energizes a battery?
The primary element functioning in a hand crank light is an in-built electrical dynamo. The dynamo converts mechanical energy to electrical energy that’s used to charge the battery.
The device has a spinning coil or rotor placed between two magnets. As the coil is rotated, it cuts through the magnetic field and generates an electric current.
The crank handle is connected through a set of gears to the generator. The generated current then passes through a circuit that contains a rectifier and a filter capacitor. This is done to convert the current output to clean and stable DC.
The DC is transferred to the rechargeable battery which stores the current and also powers the LED lights. Once the energy is stored in the battery, the light can be operated through a simple switch without the need for cranking.
In general, small devices in a flashlight can generate around 5 watts of power per crank.
Emergency crank flashlights are a handy and versatile tool in any emergency situation or during power outages. While they aren’t the brightest options in the market, the advantage of having had an emergency light source that can run with manually rechargeable batteries is undeniable.
And the best part is, they aren’t very expensive either.
If you’re looking for the best hand crank flashlight on the market, check out the ThorFire Hand Crank Flashlight. This flashlight gives you excellent ergonomics and high battery efficiency.
Now that you know all about the best options, it’s time to make a choice.