In an emergency situation a reliable source of light is really nice to have. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to carry enough batteries to keep your light running. That’s where hand cranked flashlights come into play. Today we’re reviewing 12 of the best hand crank lanterns and flashlights to help you pick out the best one for your needs.
- 1 Best Hand Crank Lanterns and Flashlights
- 1.1 Thorfire LED Camping Lantern & Mini Flashlight
- 1.2 MECO Hand Crank and Solar Powered Rechargeable Flashlight
- 1.3 LifeLight LED Emergency Hand Crank Flashlight
- 1.4 Midland ER310 Emergency Crank Flashlight with Radio
- 1.5 Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight & Lantern
- 1.6 Eton Scorpion ll Rugged Emergency Flashlight with Radio
- 1.7 AGPTEK Hand Crank Lantern
- 1.8 Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Hand Crank Lantern
- 1.9 Kaito KA249W Hand Crank Lantern
- 1.10 Energizer Weatheready Rechargeable Crank Light
- 1.11 Thorfire Hand Crank Rechargeable Flashlight
- 1.12 Solarrific Hand Crank LED Keychain Flashlight
- 2 Buyers Guide for Buying the Best Hand Crank Lantern or Flashlight
- 3 Final Thoughts
Best Hand Crank Lanterns and Flashlights
Picking out the best hand crank lantern or flashlight really depends on how you intend to use it. If you’re looking for strictly an emergency light source there are tons of basic lights available.
If you’re willing to spend a little more though you open up the door to all kinds of interesting features and highly effective charging methods.
Our list includes everything from high-end disaster preparedness tools to lights that are just a step above novelties. They all have their use, find the one that fits your needs and go for it.
Thorfire LED Camping Lantern & Mini Flashlight
The Thorfire LED lantern is a hand crank light source that uses a space saving collapsible design. It offers multiple light modes and the ability to accept several different charging sources.
The whole thing is quite small yet highly capable. It weighs just 5.9 oz yet provides up to 125 lumens of light on high. You can also use it as a flashlight if you fully collapse the extendable plastic lantern bulb.
You have 3 charging options available, USB wall power, hand crank, or solar cell. USB is the fastest of course but the crank and solar option both provide adequate top offs in the backcountry or during a disaster. The battery can also be used to top up the charge on your smartphone or other electronic device, though it isn’t capable of fully charging modern phones.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are several manufacturers offering a very similar lantern to this one. It’s a good idea to check around and find the best price at the moment you’re interested in purchase.
MECO Hand Crank and Solar Powered Rechargeable Flashlight
The MECO rechargeable flashlight is a lightweight plastic flashlight designed for emergency use. It allows you to charge up its internal battery through the hand crank or a small solar cell built into the side.
They advertise that 6 minutes of cranking will provide a full hour of light. That’s a lot of functionality for a flashlight that weighs just 3 oz. We really liked the built in carabiner. It makes it easy to clip it to your belt loop, backpack, or inside a bag.
The MECO hand crank flashlight lacks some of the premium features of name brand products but covers the basics for a quality emergency flashlight.
LifeLight LED Emergency Hand Crank Flashlight
The LifeLight emergency flashlight is a multi purpose survival tool great to put in your car emergency kit. It includes several light based and practical tools to help you out in an emergency situation.
The flashlight itself can be charged using one of 2 methods. It plugs into your car lighter or USB and will run off of hand cranking. It also has the ability to charge up your smartphone.
The light itself uses 3 LEDs to provide substantial brightness. You can also activate a blinking red light signalling tool as needed. If you find yourself in an accident you’ll love the included seat belt cutting hook and glass breaker.
The LifeLight LED emergency flashlight is perfect for use in an automobile emergency kit or similar preparedness pack.
Midland ER310 Emergency Crank Flashlight with Radio
Midland is one of the largest suppliers of preparedness electronics and communications gear in the world. Their ER310 emergency crank flashlight combines multiple charging methods with a bright light and emergency radio.
The main light on the ER310 is a 130 lumen CREE LED. This provides substantially more light than similar crank flashlights without draining the battery too rapidly. It’s powered by an internal 2,600mAh battery that can be charged three different ways. The fastest is by plugging it into a USB port in your home and car.
For emergency situations or while out in the wild you can also charge it through the built in solar panel or hand crank. In a true emergency you can also top off the charge with 6 AA batteries. It also includes an emergency radio capable of receiving all 7 NOAA bands as well as AM and FM channels. The cherry on top is the inclusion of an ultrasonic dog whistle to help you keep all the members of your family together.
The Midland ER310 is a robust emergency flashlight and radio built to help you survive and stay informed in disaster situations.
Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight & Lantern
Goal Zero is one of the premier manufacturers of portable solar charging systems and outdoor power equipment in the world. Their Torch 250 is a hybrid flashlight/lantern with multiple charging methods built right in.
There are actually 2 different lighting options on the Torch 250. The main light is a flashlight capable of producing 250 lumens of light at maximum power. You can also use a flood light strip on the side of it to produce a lantern-like effect.
The Torch 250 runs on a 4,400mAh lithium ion battery and can be charged three different ways. One side of the Torch is a small solar panel capable of topping off the battery as you hike or camp. You can also run the hand crank to add power as needed.
The battery on the Torch 250 is capable of running the flashlights between 7 and 48 hours. It can also be used as a USB charging station for your smartphone or other small electronic device.
Goal Zero has a well deserved reputation for producing excellent products. The Torch 250 is well made, elegantly designed, and provides significant value for its size.
Eton Scorpion ll Rugged Emergency Flashlight with Radio
Eton is one of the most famous emergency preparedness companies in the world. Their Scorpion II emergency flashlight and radio is a ruggedly built tool designed to help you survive a disaster.
It gives you a ½ watt LED flashlight and emergency radio capable of receiving NOAA bands and AM/FM service. It’s powered by an internal 800mAh battery that can be charged three ways. You can give it a full charge with a USB cord or top it off in the field via the built in solar panel or hand crank.
The Scorpion II is a sturdy emergency flashlight with several useful features. The only real downside we saw was the relatively small battery capacity compared to similarly functional hand crank flashlights.
AGPTEK Hand Crank Lantern
The AGPTEK hand crank lantern is a lightweight emergency lantern with significant lighting flexibility. It runs in two modes, bright and super bright, and offers you 4 different charging methods.
The fastest is through a wall or car USB charging cord. If you’re in an emergency situation though you can also charge it via a hand crank in the side or the solar panel built into the top of the lantern.
It also has the capability to run on 3 AAA batteries in case power runs short on the internal battery. You can also charge up your smartphone or other small electronic through the included USB port.
The AGPTEK lantern is a well made and easy to operate emergency lantern that’s great to keep in your car, and emergency kit, or to take on your monthly camping trip.
Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Hand Crank Lantern
The Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 is a hand crank lantern that outputs 400 lumens of light. It stands 6.5 inches tall on collapsible legs and can also acts as a USB charging hub.
The main battery of the Lighthouse 400 is 4,400mAh lithium ion that provides between 2.5 and 48 hours of runtime depending on the setting. It’s designed to be charged via hand crank, USB wall power, or with any of Goal Zero’s solar panel products.
The hand crank will give you 10 minutes of power on low setting for every minute of continual cranking. Given that it weighs just over a pound this makes the Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 a great lantern to take on casual backpacking trips or while car camping.
Kaito KA249W Hand Crank Lantern
Kaito is a well known manufacturer of radio components and emergency communications equipment. Their KA249W hand crank lantern combines a reliable source of light with lots of useful features.
The main light is and 8 LED lantern with 2 brightness levels. It runs off an internal lithium ion battery that can be charged via USB, through the hand crank, or with the solar panel on top. This gives you considerable charging flexibility and improves its usefulness in an off grid or disaster scenario.
The extra features we mentioned include a high-quality emergency radio with telescoping antenna. It picks up all 7 NOAA bands as well as AM and FM channels. It also includes the ability to charge small electronics via a 5V usb port.
The Kaito KA249W is a ruggedly built and well designed hand crank lantern. It’s on the bulky side but includes a ton of very useful features for a blackout, weather emergency or on a weekend camping trip.
Energizer Weatheready Rechargeable Crank Light
The Energizer Weatheready flashlight is a dynamo style squeeze flashlight good for emergency use. It doesn’t have a battery or other power storage but works great in a disaster kit or other emergency preparedness bag.
To turn on the light you just operate the dynamo. As long as you keep pumping it the light will stay on. It’s a reliable system built into a sturdy plastic case but does have some downsides. The light produced is definitely on the dim side. You’ll also quickly find your hand getting tired with regular pumping.
Overall the Energizer Weatheready is a quality crank flashlight that’s been overshadowed by newer and more advanced products.
Thorfire Hand Crank Rechargeable Flashlight
The Thorfire hand crank flashlight has a basic design that nonetheless provides reliable light when needed. It lacks many of the extra features of more expensive lights but makes up for it with it’s low price and weight.
It offers two methods of charging. The first is a built in solar panel and the second is a hand crank system. It’s much dimmer than similar crank flashlights but it does give you an impressive amount of runtime.
A minute of cranking gives you fully 80 minutes of light on the lowest setting. The amount of light provided isn’t huge but it’s adequate for most tasks in an emergency.
The Thorfire is a bargain priced hand crank flashlight that nonetheless provides reasonable value and usefulness.
Solarrific Hand Crank LED Keychain Flashlight
The Solarrific is a pint sized keychain flashlight that offers two methods of charging for its dual LED lights. It can be charged much like an old school solar calculator or with the small hand crank on the side.
Given its tiny size, under 2 inches on the longest side, the Solarrific is better suited as a backup than your primary light. It hangs well on your keychain or a backpack strap. A minute of consistent cranking will give you up to 5 minutes of light.
The Solarrific leans more on the novelty side of crank flashlights but still provides useful light. It’s definitely cheaper feeling and dimmer than many other lights on this list but it’s also significantly less expensive and more compact.
Buyers Guide for Buying the Best Hand Crank Lantern or Flashlight
With hand crank flashlights it’s all about the feature set. They’re built almost entirely with disaster and emergency preparedness in mind.
They’re generally bulkier and less powerful than similar EDC flashlights. On the flip side though they offer a self charging capability perfect for long term emergencies or camping trips without the ability to charge your flashlights or pack in multiple batteries.
It’s very important that you consider how you want to use your flashlight, how it’s charged, and what other capabilities it offers.
Hand crank flashlights aren’t high dollar items. You can generally find them for around $20-$30 with feature packed models running around $50.
For that you get a hand powered flashlight or lantern that’s perfectly suited for emergency situations.
Intended Use – Should you get a Flashlight or Lantern
Choosing between a hand crank lantern or a hand crank flashlight really comes down to how you plan to use it. If you’re looking for something to take with you on camping trips a lantern may be the better choice.
It provides a broad pattern of light that’s useful around camp. Most lanterns will have larger battery capacity than hand crank flashlights as well. Of course that also means it takes longer to charge them up with the crank.
Hand crank flashlights are mostly used as emergency preparedness tools. They’re great to have in a 72 hour kit or to keep in the glovebox of your car. Even if you forgot to charge them up you’ll be able to produce useful light in the absence of grid power.
Type of Hand Crank
Probably the most important thing to consider is how your lantern or flashlight generates power. There are several different methods available, with one definite winner for most uses.
Windup Flashlight – By far the most common variety, wind up cranks use a spinning dynamo to provide power. They allow you to produce power more effectively than shake or squeeze style lights.
Most modern emergency radios/flashlights use a wind style crank to produce power.
Shake or Linear Induction – Shaker flashlights, more properly called linear induction or Faraday flashlights, rely on the movement of a magnet through a metal coil. They don’t actually have batteries inside. Instead, they use a superconductor to store the energy produced by the movement of the magnet.
Most advertise that they’ll provide up to 5 minutes of light for 30 seconds of shaking. They actually work well and are easy to charge up but don’t produce enough power for a truly bright light. The same limitations prevent them from having any addons like radios or charging capability.
Squeeze Flashlight – Squeeze or dynamo flashlights were one of the earliest commercially available self powered lights. In order to use a dyno light you need to pump the handle continuously. There’s a direct connection between the dynamo and the bulb so if you stop pumping your hand the light goes out.
The downsides of this design are easy to see. You’ll quickly wear out your hand trying to use the light. Nowadays squeeze flashlights are mostly sold as novelties for children.
In the past a self powered flashlight had pretty much one function, providing light in an emergency. Advances in power generation and battery storage have allowed all kinds of useful emergency and outdoor features to be added in.
By far the most common is the inclusion of an emergency radio. A crank flashlight with a built in radio gives you light and allows you to hear emergency weather and disaster reports. Most will have built in NOAA band reception as well as the ability to hear regular AM and FM transmissions.
A relatively new advance has made hand crank flashlights much more useful to hikers and campers. The ability to charge smartphones, tablets, and e-readers directly from the battery. If you’re willing to spend an hour or two cranking steadily you can generate a significant top up for most phones.
Even just a few minutes of cranking is enough to place an emergency call.
Another important new feature to consider is solar power. Many hand crank flashlights and lanterns are now incorporating a backup solar panel into their design. This lets you effortlessly top up the charge in sunny weather for the night to come.
For the vast majority of hand crank flashlights and lanterns battery sizes will be quite small. They’re designed to be recharged rather than to store substantial amounts of power. The exceptions to this are the flashlights that offer additional functionality.
Radio and charging capable hand crank devices generally have batteries above 4,000mAh. These not only offer multiple hour runtimes but can also let you charge your devices multiple times.
Choosing the best hand crank lantern or flashlight comes down entirely to what functionality you’re looking for. If you want an everyday flashlight we recommend you look elsewhere.
These are built for emergency use, backcountry camping, or supplementary use in a 72 hour kit or similar preparedness set up.
As long as you keep that in mind though you can definitely find a great hand crank flashlight for a good price.