With each new invention in the digital age, consumers are more connected to their technology than ever, but what happens when you need your device charged in the middle of nowhere? Hand crank chargers have been around for quite some time but now, they are more accessible than ever, and can even be used to charge things like cameras and smart devices while out enjoying nature.
Furthermore, have you ever been in a situation where you needed your phone while out in the woods or in the middle of an emergency situation but all the power had already been used up and you were unable to use it?
Or how about when you’re out in the back country for a long weekend and only brought your phone to take photos and listen to music around the fire, but it dies sooner than expected? In both of these examples, and many more situations avid outdoor goers might find themselves in, a portable hand crank charger could easily be the solution for staying connected when you need it most.
Since their early days, hand crank chargers were more commonly used to power weak flashlights, and to be honest, they didn’t do such a great job of it. However, technology today is much more efficient than it has ever been making hand crank chargers more accessible and reliable then ever for a growing number of electrical needs.
How Hand Crank Phone Chargers Work
Hand crank phone chargers work in the exact same way, albeit on a much smaller handheld scale, that a wind turbine or a hydroelectric dam works. In all three, a turbine is turned producing friction which produces electricity. These turbines are already connected to a rechargeable battery like in a hand crank phone charger or the power grid of society so that the energy created is not wasted.
With the hand crank charger however, nature does not do the work. The actual act of a user physically turning the crank on the side of the charger is what produces the electricity needed to power compatible devices.
One of the main complaints of hand crank chargers is the effort it takes for them to work and how efficient they actually are when charging devices. Most companies who make hand crank chargers claim that turning the crank on their device for around 10 minutes or so will give you at least one emergency call. To be fair, having that one call can certainly make a difference in a life or death situation.
However, this low level of efficiency might not be worth the effort for some people. Especially when considering the fact that certain portable charging banks can hold as many as three full phone charges, a hand crank might not always be the best option.
If you are thinking about buying a hand crank charger for emergency purposes, do some research and figure out if it is best for you. Users on longer trips taken in more remote areas could easily benefit from having a portable charger in their hands, but if you are only going out for less than a week, there might be other option that are easier to use and much more efficient.
Practical For Backpacking?
Hand crank chargers can be very practical for backpacking and other overnight trips. They are often times fairly light weight, compact, and can be used over long periods of time to slowly charge devices as needed. I will say though that on shorter trips that are less than a week long, there is definitely other more efficient option to effectively keep your devices charged.
Portable charging banks (basically a tiny battery that is recharged and has a USB port for any charging cable) as well as portable mat solar panels might be put to better us depending upon the trip you are taking. Again, just do the necessary research to decide the best way for your to keep devices necessarily charged.
Best on the Market Right Now
Here is a short product guide to some of the best hand crank chargers that are on the market right now for purchase.
Ampware Hand Crank Phone Case (Small)
This incredible hand crank phone case is perfect for those that just want to have the option of giving their device a little extra juice whenever they need it and is for those that are often away from power outlets.
Users will have to purchase the case specific to the phone they use however once they’ve got one, their phones will always be plugged into this remote hand charging station.
The case can even produce up to 1 amp of power when needed.
The lone drawback to this product is that it can be too big of a phone case for some users making their device a bit clunky in hand. However, no other phone case on the market can do what this one can making it highly unique and desirable.
K-Tor Pocket Socket (Small)
This tiny hand crank charger is just what it says it is, an electrical socket that can fit right in your pocket.
It works just like the phone case or any other tiny hand crank and connects to your device through a USB port which is what most phone chargers use today.
It also produces about 1 amp of power which is pretty good for a device that is so small and portable.
If you cannot find a phone case hand crank that fits your needs, this tiny handheld one should work just fine.
American Red Cross FR1 (Medium)
Unlike the smaller hand crank chargers and phone cases on this list, this hand crank will offer quite a few more features that can be convenient in any outdoor situation.
Besides having a hand crank lithium rechargeable battery and USB port, this device will also give weather updates from AM, FM, and NOAA weatherband, and NOAA weather alerts.
It also has a headphone jack and an LED flashlight input.
This charger will put out about 2 amps worth of power at one time.
Eton FRX3 (Large)
Finally, this hand crank charger is probably one of the best on the market right now.
It will put out near 2.6 amps of power when being cranked and comes with all of the features of the American Red Cross FR1 and more.
Beyond having AM and FM digital tuning and a digital display, it also receives all 7 NOAA/ Environment Canada weather bands.
Furthermore, it has solar power charging capabilities, a long lasting LED flashlight, a red LED flashing beacon for emergency signaling, and an alarm clock function.
If you wanted a product that keeps your devices charged and has a wide range of essential functions for camping or any survival situation, this is the hand crank generator for you.
DIY Hand Crank Generators
When it comes to the people who want to build a hand crank generator themselves, here is a pretty good tutorial for making one and there are plenty more pages online with instructions and tips for those interested. I would suggest everyone do their own research on building one and to not mess around with electricity unless you completely know what you are doing.
I’d also caution that in an emergency situation, you do not want to be fiddling around with the wires on a hand crank charger you built at home. If you are thinking about one for emergency situations, I’d recommend against building it yourself unless you are very confident in your abilities.
Don’t let that dissuade you from building your own though, this can be a delightful little project though for learning about basic circuits and how generators truly work. Hand built crank generators are very inexpensive and fun to mess around with so find instructions to the one you’re interested in and assemble the parts.
Other Power Source Options
There are quite a few other ways in which to keep devices powered while out in the wilderness or backpacking away from civilization. Not only do hand crank chargers work but so do charging banks at even greater efficiency than ever before. Now, small devices half the size of your phone can hold between 3 and 7 full charges.
This can be a great option if you only need to recharge your device a handful of times. But, if you think you will need to recharge more than this because of a longer trip or for other reasons, the old reliable hand crank charger will work great.
There is also many different solar panel charging devices on the market today. These will work much better if you are able to set them down in a sunny area to let them charge up while you are off doing other things. Because of this, a base camp situation is more ideal when using solar panel charging units because you can leave them out and come back to charged devices.
Solar charging devices are a bit heavier than hand crank chargers and charging banks so these will not be as good when you are hiking all through the day to reach your next camp. The sun could be down by the time you are ready to lay out your panel and charge something up.
Final Thoughts on Hand Crank Chargers
Honestly, the method needed to keep devices charged in a variety of different situations is going to completely depend upon that situation. For those that are going to be off the grid for weeks at a time, hand crank chargers are more efficient than ever and work great.
Besides hand cranks though, there are a bunch of other products on the market that will work to charge devices remotely. Users just need to figure out which ones will work best for the types of activities that they love.
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Cameron Bailey is a writer and musician currently living in Evanston, IL. He spends most of his time outdoors hiking and fishing but also spends plenty of time reading, writing, and working on his photography.
I’m surprised that you don’t mention BioLite. Darn heavy but yet another alternative that uses wood burning to produce electricity.
Just a small correction.. The electric charge in a ‘cranking’ charger or for that matter even in a Turbine (Wind or Hydro driven), ‘is NOT produced due to FRICTION’ … the electric charge is produced due to ‘the inductive effect of cutting magnetic lines’… This simply means … if a coil placed in the proximity of a magnetic field and rotated, such that the ‘magnetic lines’ are ‘cut’ in rapid motion, a current is ‘induced’ into the coil, which can be routed for storage into a rechargeable medium such as a battery… to observe this effect, one needs to just take a small experimental motor and ‘physically rotate the shaft’… the powering terminals of the motor, show the presence of ‘electric’ charge, which can be used to light an experimental bulb…
The Cranking Chargers work on the same principle…
The efficiency of the generated ‘electric power’ depends on the components used, such as the magnets and the coils, used in the cranking device.