It can be frightening to be alone in the dark when the lights go out – no matter if you’re secure at home or deep in the woods on a camping vacation. That being said, if you don’t have a flashlight the dark suddenly becomes a whole lot darker. Lucky for you, if you have a hand-crank flashlight your problems suddenly become a lot smaller.
A hand-crank flashlight is exactly what it sounds like. By rotating the flashlight’s crank you can generate electricity to produce light – meaning the darkness becomes a lot less frightening. Some of our favorite choices contain extras, like a built-in radio, a seatbelt cutter, or a window-breaking tool. So, if you’re ready to learn more about hand crank tools, as well as some of our favorite products, then buckle up.
Want to read more about hand crank tools we’re loving? Check them out here!
Why Choose a Hand Crank Flashlight Instead of an Electric One?
I get it, electric flashlights are more convenient, AND you don’t have to crank them. However, hand crank flashlights have a ton of their own benefits. Here are a few of them:
- Longevity: First of all, hand crank flashlights last forever. Seriously. Every time I lose power, I get out the same hand crank flashlight I’ve had since a child – passed down through my parents.
- No Battery: Secondly, you never need to worry about a battery dying and being stuck in the dark. After this happened to me on a couple of car camping trips, I now bring a hand crank flashlight on all of my trips. It’s just always there for any type of emergency situation.
- Easy to Fix: If you’re one of those fix-it types, you’ll be happy to learn that hand crank flashlights are easy to fix. They’re mechanical, rather than electric – meaning they’re safe and easy to fix.
What To Consider When Buying a Hand Crank Flashlight:
Hand crank flashlights may appear to be old-fashioned. But, in our opinion, this perceived weakness is a strength – since it enables users to recharge the flashlight and and create their own light (all without the need for batteries or an electrical connection).
But, if you’re in the market for a flashlight (and judging by the fact that you’re reading this article you probably are), there are a ton of options out there. Here are a few of the things you should consider when choosing a hand crank flashlight that fits your needs.
Size and Weight
If you’re using a hand crank flashlight exclusively in an emergency kit, size, and weight aren’t deciding factors. However, if you’re using your flashlight for hiking or camping, you’ll want the lightest option possible. Even if you’re making an emergency kit for your car, a small and lightweight option will be the easiest to manage.
When you’re thinking about normal hand crank flashlights, the typical measurement is 6 inches by 1-2 inches, though this can vary significantly depending on the extra features.
Hand crank flashlights that have solar panels, charging ports, built-in radios, and any other additions will have a larger footprint than those without. Additionally, these products are often more expensive than the more basic options. That being said, if you find yourself in an emergency situation – or just a simple power outage – having some of these benefits really helps.
Longevity and Reliability
The last thing you want in an emergency is a delicate flashlight that breaks after you drop it in your backpack. Emergencies require dependable equipment to keep you safe. To be sure your hand crank flashlight is made with sturdy and durable material – such as ABS plastic – look for items that say they’re resistant to impact damage and abrasions.
Another part of the longevity and reliability of a hand crank flashlight is its water resistance. If you’re planning on keeping your flashlight indoors, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you ever plan on using it outdoors, you may want to splurge for extra protection.
Finally, the most important part of a hand crank flashlight is the hand crank. For that reason, you want it to be of the highest quality. Otherwise, you won’t be able to charge the flashlight – rendering it useless.
Some of the best hand crank flashlights have built-in radios, making them all the better for emergency scenarios. If there is no available power source, having a radio that doesn’t require batteries or an electrical connection can save your life. Think about it, you can prepare for impending storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes by listening to real-time weather updates, including the emergency broadcast system.
But radios aren’t just great for emergency situations. They’re also a great tool for a camping trip or hanging around the house if you lose power. They let you listen to radio shows, talk shows, or popular music.
Depending on the particular device, the brightness level of a hand crank flashlight is measured in lumens. For most hand crank flashlights, the average brightness level ranges from 8 to 150 lumens. In comparison, a typical cell phone flashlight typically produces around 10 lumens, whereas an incandescent light bulb can produce roughly 800 lumens.
Since they’re manually operated, it’s pretty uncommon to find hand crank flashlights that are more than 300 lumens. And, if you do find one, they’re often big, bulky, and super expensive – which isn’t ideal for camping, hiking, or most emergencies.
However, if you’re looking for a larger device, you will probably have a few benefits, like lantern illumination and USB charging ports. We think that a flashlight with between 100 and 200 lumens is the perfect choice because it can illuminate a sizable area without being too bright or too bulky.
The internal battery of a hand crank flashlight will determine how long it lasts. Typically speaking, hand crank flashlights have rechargeable Ni-MH or lithium-ion batteries. These have longer run periods between two and forty-eight hours. On average, these batteries can withstand 500 to 1,000 charges before they start to degrade.
If you want a flashlight that truly will last a lifetime, you should be looking for ones that employ capacitors instead of batteries. While capacitors store less energy, they have a longer lifespan (up to 500,000 recharges). This makes them a perfect choice for emergency packs or everyday camping gear.
Finally, the energy output of a hand crank flashlight also affects how long they can operate. In contrast, small, pocket-size flashlights operate much longer – however, they run through more batteries.
We’ve mentioned it a few times, but most hand crank flashlights for emergency situations come with a handy amount of other features. These include:
- Solar Compatibility: Some flashlights can be charged using solar power and the hand crank. For these types of flashlights, the internal battery of the flashlight can be charged by leaving it out in the sun. This ultimately saves time and work by eliminating the need to spin the hand crank.
- USB Compatibility: Many flashlights can double as a battery for portable electronics like smartphones, headlamps, and even other emergency devices (like radios). For use in an emergency, you simply need to recharge the flashlight by at least 10%. However, it’s best if you keep it above 10% since USB charging can drain batteries relatively quickly.
- Emergency Equipment: Despite being a vast category, emergency equipment often contains straightforward additions that don’t significantly increase the flashlight’s size. In some situations, these features are vital, like a seatbelt cutter or window hammer. Additionally, SOS signals are frequently included so that, even in low light, a flashlight can call for assistance from a distance.
The Best Hand Crank Flashlights in 2023
There are what seems like a hundred options for emergency gear out there. We think the hand crank flashlight is one of the best. Here are our top choices of gear:
The hand crank flashlight from DaringSnail has all the characteristics you’d expect from an emergency flashlight – plus a few additions that really make it a winner in our book. The flashlight has four different ways to charge it: a lithium-ion battery, a foldable hand crank, a USB charger, and an integrated solar panel. That means, no matter where you’re going, there’s really no excuse for DaringSnail’s product to not be charged.
The hand-crank flashlight also contains a built-in radio with seven pre-programmed weather channels (along with a telescoping antenna for clearer transmission). The flashlight itself includes three light-level options, including a combined beam with a maximum of 135 lumens, a red reading light, and a far beam with a maximum of 75 lumens. Even better, it contains a motion detector that turns on the tiny reading lamp for 30 seconds so users may move silently through a busy tent or cabin without waking others.
With the carabiner clip on its base, this inexpensive hand-crank flashlight is easily tucked into a pocket or fastened to a belt loop or backpack. It has one lighting setting, which can generate 8 lumens or roughly the same brightness as a typical smartphone flashlight. This amount of light is sufficient for most uses, such as finding first aid supplies in the dark or even bandaging wounds in an emergency.
This hand crank flashlight has a solar panel integrated into the design for hands-free charging throughout the day. Of course you can always pull out the hand crank to charge it – which conveniently folds into the body of the device. Thanks to the small footprint of this flashlight, it can recharge within in about 6 minutes and produce an hour’s worth of light.
This ThorFire hand crank flashlight is an excellent option because it features a built-in solar panel. This is great for people who want an efficient emergency hand crank flashlight but want the flexibility of charging it multiple ways. In fact, this flashlight has a full-length solar panel that allows it to collect solar energy and recharge its internal Ni-MH battery.
This hand crank flashlight can survive being submerged in up to 45 feet of water because of its outstanding IPX6 waterproof rating. That makes it a safe option for spending a lot of time outdoors. It has three lighting options: high beam, low beam, and flashing (which can be used to call for help).
The hand-crank flashlight from LUXON takes emergency situations seriously. That’s because it includes a variety of tools for escaping any potentially dangerous scenario. Some of these items include an integrated window hammer and seatbelt cutter. The window hammer specifically has a sharp tip designed for swiftly and effectively shattering car windows so that trapped occupants can flee.
The flashlight may be charged with kinetic energy using the hand crank. Unlike other options, it doesn’t have an integrated solar panel. However, it can charge several mobile devices via the USB outlet. This is ideal if you often lose electricity, but still want to be able to use your phone. Finally, the flashlight has a built-in magnet that may be used to fasten it to the car’s hood or roof.
This cutting-edge hand-crank flashlight includes a solar panel, three charging connections, an internal rechargeable Ni-MH battery, optional AA batteries, and a hand crank to provide constant power. Yeah, it’s jam-packed with benefits. It also has an integrated emergency radio with access to the public emergency alert system and seven pre-programmed NOAA weather channels for breaking news, 24/7 real-time forecasts, and weather information.
This hand-crank flashlight is equipped with a small reading lamp, a red SOS beacon, and a primary LED light to illuminate the campsite. You can also connect a phone or other electronic device to this flashlight thanks to its USB connectivity. This flashlight’s ABS outer frame is water- and impact-resistant, making it ideal for hiking or backpacking.
I get it. After reading about the capabilities available on many hand-crank flashlights, you might still have some unanswered questions. The most frequently asked questions about these flashlights are answered in the section below.
Can hand crank flashlights work without electricity?
Hand-crank flashlights are made to function in emergency situations without using batteries, power connections, or solar panels. However, they still need kinetic energy, created by turning the hand crank, to produce light.
How long do hand crank flashlights typically last?
With regular use, a hand-crank flashlight will normally survive for three to four years. However, I know many people with hand crank flashlights that still work from their childhood (that’s 10+ years). Its lifespan can be increased by making sure it is never stored in extremely hot or cold conditions, which might harm the battery’s capacity.
How many lumens should your flashlight have?
A flashlight typically produces 100 lumens of light. An improved flashlight is possible, with some battery-operated models having a 1,000-lumen maximum output. However, even a hand-crank flashlight with only 8 lumens can be useful in an emergency.