Whether you are safe at home or out on a camping trip, it can be daunting when the lights go out and you are left in the dark. The problem can worsen if there are no available candles to light or batteries to run a standard flashlight. However, a hand-crank flashlight can be used to illuminate the surrounding area so that you can work to resolve the problem or prepare to ride out the current situation.
By turning the crank on the flashlight, you use kinetic energy to generate electricity so that the flashlight can function with nothing more than a little extra effort on your part. Some hand-crank flashlights are even designed with additional emergency features, like a built-in radio, a seat-belt cutter, or an emergency hammer that’s designed for breaking car windows. Take a look below at the list of top products for help in finding the best hand-crank flashlight for your emergency kit.
- BEST OVERALL: RunningSnail Emergency Crank Radio with Flashlight
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: MECO Hand Cranking Solar Powered Flashlight
- UPGRADE PICK: Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight, Lantern and USB
- BEST WITH SOLAR PANEL: ThorFire Solar Flashlight Hand Crank
- BEST FOR CAMPING: Kaito KA500 5-way Powered Solar Power, Dynamo Crank
- BEST LANTERN: ThorFire LED Camping Lantern Lights Hand Crank USB
- BEST FOR EMERGENCIES: LUXON Emergency Tool Kit LED Flashlight & USB Charger
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Hand-Crank Flashlight
Hand-crank flashlights might seem like a product that doesn’t belong in the modern world, but this perceived shortcoming is their strength, allowing users to recharge the flashlight and generate their own light instead of relying on batteries and electric connections. Read on to discover key considerations to keep in mind while shopping for the best hand-crank flashlight including the size and weight, durability, brightness, and several more important features.
Size and Weight
The size and weight of a hand-crank flashlight aren’t going to be a big concern if it’s just for a home emergency kit, but if the flashlight will be used for camping trips, hikes, or even as an emergency device in the car, then the size of the flashlight should be considered. The average size of a hand-crank flashlight is about 6 inches by 1 inch by 2 inches, but this can vary widely depending on the additional features.
Hand-crank flashlights that are made with built-in radios, charging ports, solar panels, and any other additions will be larger than a standard hand-crank flashlight. These multifunctional devices will also be heavier and may not be able to fit comfortably in a vehicle’s glove box or console. But these additional features are extremely valuable during a power outage at home, where the size of the flashlight is less of a concern.
Emergencies require reliable equipment, devices, and supplies in order to be certain that you and yours are safe and secure, so the last thing you want is a fragile emergency flashlight that can be broken by a few bumps or a heavy drop in a backpack. Look for products that mention resistance to impact damage, drops, and abrasions to ensure that the body of the hand-crank flashlight is made with tough, durable material, like ABS plastic.
Also consider whether the flashlight is resistant to water, or if accidentally dropping it in a river will destroy it. The hand crank is another feature that needs to be strong enough to withstand regular use; otherwise, the user will be unable to actually charge the flashlight, making it essentially useless.
Battery Type and Run Time
The internal battery of a hand-crank flashlight will often dictate the run time of the device as well as the number of times it can be recharged before the performance begins to degrade. Hand-crank flashlights usually use a rechargeable Ni-MH or lithium-ion battery that can store a significant amount of energy for long run times ranging between 2 and 48 hours. These batteries are capable of between 500 and 1,000 charges on average before they begin degrading.
However, other hand-crank flashlights use capacitors, which store less energy but can last for up to 500,000 charges, making them a great option for emergency kits or regular camping accessories. The run time of a hand-crank flashlight is also reliant on the energy output, with powerful lights quickly draining batteries while small, pocket-size flashlights can last for much longer.
The light level of a hand-crank flashlight is measured in lumens with an average brightness level between 8 and 150 lumens, depending on the specific product. To put it in perspective, a standard cell phone flashlight will usually produce about 10 lumens, while a standard incandescent light bulb can create about 800 lumens. Hand-crank flashlights are usually intended for standard use during emergency situations, so it isn’t common to see products that exceed 300 lumens.
Smaller hand-crank flashlights that are designed to fit in a pocket or hang from a carabiner generally produce less light than larger products that may also incorporate lantern lighting, USB charging ports, and other bulky features. In most circumstances, a flashlight with about 100 to 200 lumens is a suitable option that can illuminate a broad area to deal with or prepare for an emergency.
Some hand-crank flashlights are better equipped for dealing with emergency situations because they come with a built-in radio. Having a radio that doesn’t require an electrical connection or batteries to operate can be a literal lifesaver if there is no available power source. This is because it allows the user to listen to real-time weather reports, including the emergency broadcast system so that one can take proper precautions to avoid or prepare for incoming storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes.
Outside of emergency survival, radios are entertaining and can help alleviate stress and pass the time during a power outage. They’re also nice additions to a camping trip or long hike because they give you and your group the ability to listen to popular music, breaking news reports, or talk shows while enjoying the outdoors.
Lots of hand-crank flashlights come with additional features that make them easier to use or just more convenient, including solar panels, USB charging banks, and emergency tools, like seat-belt cutters, window hammers, and SOS signals.
- Solar panels may be built into the back or side of the flashlight, allowing the internal battery to be charged by just leaving the flashlight out in the sun while the user enjoys their day. This feature saves time and effort that would otherwise be spent turning the hand crank.
- USB charging banks allow the flashlight to serve as a battery for mobile devices like cell phones and tablets. Just plug it in and start cranking. You only need to recharge to at least 10 percent so that it’s usable in an emergency situation. Or put in the effort to achieve a larger charge to continue to use your devices for entertainment and more.
- Emergency tools are a broad category but will typically include simple additions that don’t add a lot of bulk to the flashlight. These features are invaluable in certain circumstances, like a seat-belt cutter or window hammer, both of which are made for helping passengers escape from a vehicle. SOS signals are also commonly incorporated into the lighting settings so that the flashlight can be used to signal for help from a distance, even in dim lighting.
Our Top Picks
Picking the best hand-crank flashlight may require some research, but this list contains quality models with solid features. Durability, charging capacity, brightness, and additional features are top priorities in an emergency situation. Consider these options while shopping for a hand-crank flashlight to become better prepared for what may come.
RunningSnail’s hand-crank flashlight comes with all the necessary features for a flashlight but also includes several extras that make this device invaluable for emergencies. The flashlight is designed with four methods of charging, including a replaceable lithium-ion battery, a folding hand crank, a USB charger, and a built-in solar panel for effortless charging while the sun is out.
The hand-crank flashlight also comes with a built-in radio that has seven preprogrammed weather channels and a telescoping antenna for better signal clarity. It has three light-level settings including the far beam with 75 lumens, the dipped beam with 70 lumens, and the combined beam with a maximum of 135 lumens. It even has a motion detector that will activate a small reading lamp for 30 seconds so that users can navigate through a crowded tent to find the exit without waking anyone up.
This affordable hand-crank flashlight fits comfortably into a pocket, or it can be clipped to a belt loop or backpack with the carabiner clip on its base. It has only one lighting mode, capable of producing 8 lumens, which is about the same brightness as an average smartphone flashlight. This is enough light for most flashlight uses such as locating first aid supplies in the dark or even applying bandages in emergencies.
The hand-crank flashlight is designed with a built-in solar panel for hands-free charging in the daytime and a simple hand crank that folds into the body of the flashlight when it’s not in use. The hand crank has a decent conversion efficiency, able to generate an hour of light with just 6 minutes of continuous cranking recharging the internal Ni-MH battery.
This water-resistant hand-crank flashlight can be used indoors or outdoors with three light settings, including floodlight, spotlight, and red lighting for emergency signaling. At its brightest, the hand-crank flashlight is capable of producing up to 250 lumens of light, which is about 100 lumens more than a standard flashlight. This useful device has an advanced lithium-ion rechargeable battery to store the generated energy, which can also be used to charge cell phones and other mobile devices through the USB port.
The hand-crank flashlight can also be recharged with the built-in solar panel, allowing it to gather energy effortlessly in direct sunlight. Once fully charged, the flashlight can be used for 7 hours with the top-mounted floodlight or up to 48 hours with the red emergency light before it runs out of power.
For those who need an effective emergency hand-crank flashlight but don’t enjoy constantly cranking the handle to generate power for regular use, this ThorFire hand-crank flashlight is a great choice because it has a built-in solar panel. The solar panel occupies one full side of the flashlight, allowing the device to be left out on a table or deck to absorb solar energy and charge the internal Ni-MH rechargeable battery.
This hand-crank flashlight boasts an impressive waterproof rating of IPX6, which allows it to withstand being fully submerged in up to 45 feet of water. It comes with three lighting modes—high beam, low beam, and flashing—which can be used to signal for help.
This innovative hand-crank flashlight incorporates a built-in rechargeable Ni-MH battery, optional AA batteries, a solar panel, three charging ports, and a hand crank to ensure that the flashlight always has an available power source. It has a built-in emergency radio with seven preprogrammed NOAA weather channels for breaking news, 24/7 real-time weather forecasts, and access to the public emergency alert system.
This hand-crank flashlight has a small reading lamp, a red SOS beacon, and a main LED light to illuminate the campsite. Built-in charging ports to connect a cell phone or tablet are extremely useful. The outer frame of this flashlight is made of impact- and water-resistant ABS material that’s suitable for protecting the interior components during a long hike or portage.
The ThorFire hand-crank lantern is a versatile product that can be used as a standing lantern, or it can be collapsed to be used as a disc-shaped flashlight. The hand-crank flashlight is designed with convenience in mind, allowing it to be charged with the hand crank or through the included USB charging cable. This cable can also be plugged into a mobile device so that by winding the hand crank on the flashlight, it will charge the connected phone or tablet.
This hand-crank flashlight comes with two lighting modes, including a high lighting setting that produces 125 lumens of light and a low lighting setting that produces only 30 lumens of light. This low lighting setting conserves the stored energy of the flashlight. With a compact shape and foldable handle, this flashlight is easy to carry in a pocket or backpack. The battery is designed for longevity, built with an internal fail-safe to prevent the lantern from overcharging.
Take emergency preparedness seriously with the LUXON Emergency Tool Kit hand-crank flashlight that is designed with several tools to escape an emergency situation. It has a built-in window hammer with a pointed tip that is made for quickly and effectively breaking the windows in a vehicle so that trapped passengers can escape. It also has a seat-belt cutter to cut away stuck or broken seat belts in seconds.
This hand-crank flashlight is capable of charging the flashlight with kinetic energy. Through the USB outlet, it can also charge a wide variety of mobile devices so the user can connect a phone to call for help. It comes with a built-in magnet that can be used to mount the flashlight to the hood or roof of the car. Once mounted, the flashlight can be switched to red SOS lighting to signal for help.
FAQs About Hand-Crank Flashlights
After reading about some of the features offered by many hand-crank flashlights, there may be some lingering questions. Below are answers to some of the most popular questions about these flashlights.
Q. Can a hand-crank flashlight operate without energy?
Hand-crank flashlights are designed to work in emergencies without electrical input from batteries, power cords, or solar panels, but they still require kinetic energy to generate light, which is produced by turning the hand crank.
Q. Why are most hand-crank flashlights made with LEDs?
LED light bulbs require less energy than standard light bulbs, and they are typically brighter, so hand-crank flashlights use the most efficient lighting system to get the most out of the power generated by hand cranking.
Q. How many lumens is enough for a powerful flashlight?
On average, a flashlight will emit about 100 lumens. A flashlight can be much more powerful with some battery-powered products able to produce up to 1,000 lumens of light. However, a hand-crank flashlight with as little as 8 lumens can be an effective flashlight in an emergency situation.
Q. How long will my hand-crank flashlight last?
A hand-crank flashlight will typically last for 2 to 3 years with regular use, though the life of a flashlight can be extended by ensuring it is never stored in extreme hot or cold temperatures, which can negatively affect the capacity of the battery.