9 Best Wind-up Survival Gadgets in 2020 – Updated Review

9 wind-up gadgets
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It is not until you are deprived of power for any length of time that you realize how much we depend on having a power supply. There have been several serious blackout situations in the USA in the past, where having electricity generating capability would have made a big difference. None of these are as bad as could occur in the future but they give us an idea of how things work.

29th June 2012

On that evening one of the fastest, severe, deadly thunderstorms hit Mid Atlantic and Midwest regions. It caused tornadoes, heavy winds, and flash flooding. The result was the largest non-tornado based blackout in the history of the United States. The result was that in 11 States more than 4 million people lost power. It took ten days to restore power in some centers.

What if?

Our society is dependent on electricity. Imagine what would happen if there was a long term power outage in the USA. For a start, after a while water supplies will probably fail as many places rely on electric pumps to distribute the water.

Some people have gasoline or diesel powered generators and that’s fine, but when they run out of fuel they are no good because without electricity the gas stations cannot pump the gas. If you have a battery radio you will soon run out of batteries and the broadcasting station will probably have closed anyway, unless they are broadcasting emergency information.

Your landline might work but cordless handsets won’t, and your mobile phone will not work either, as the system is overloaded with panicking people seeking help. Power at supermarkets will fail and food will spoil. The stores will probably close anyway because equipment fails. ATMs will no longer work so you can’t get money or use credit cards.

Air-conditioning and electric heating will not function, nor will your fridge, freezer, electric cooker, or electric heating.

This is where hand/food cranked wind-up devices will prove to be invaluable. At the very least that can power your hand held devices so that when the cell phone system does come back online or radio stations are provided with generators, then you will at least have some contact. Other generator systems will be able to power 12v car batteries and keep portable appliances working, like the fridge you use for camping or in your RV.

This is not some far-fetched disaster scenario that may never happen; this is something that has happened before in the USA on a more limited scale. It is also something that happens in third world countries all the time.

9 wind-up gadgets pin

9 Wind-up Gadgets

So, you are in a survival situation and your safety depends on a gadget that requires power. You are not able to just plug the device in and the stores (if available) are all out of batteries, thanks to panic buying.

Solar power or even wind power is possibly an option but conditions may not make their use practical. The one power source that you can depend on is the power of your muscles. A hand cranked or wind-up generator or gadget is not going to let you down. In this article we are going to look at hand cranked devices that may truly be a lifesaver.

In some cases the hand crank is built into a gadget, and in other cases the hand crank generator is an independent unit that can connect to a variety of different gadgets,

At the end of this article on 9 wind-up gadgets, I have also included one device that does not come under hand cranked, solar, or wind powered devices but could be used as an alternative power source and like hand cranking it might be a solution to your needs and yet may be forgotten.

FosPower Solar Hand Powered Portable Radio for Emergencies

The first of our 9 wind-up gadgets is the FosPower. This device has the hand crank built into it. The device consists of NOAA weather radio, which is essential in any weather related emergency, either when you are at home, or when outdoors. It has both AM and FM bands. It also contains an LED flashlight, reading lamp, 2000mah power bank, a USB charger and finally an SOS alarm.

The FosPower is enclosed in a rugged, rain resistant case that will keep the device working in adverse rain conditions.

Let’s look again at what this device can do for you:

  • Chargeable Power bank for powering all your USB devices (2000mAh)
  • An LED reading lamp (4 LED)
  • Flashlight (1 LED)
  • An emergency radio with AM and FM bands

The whole thing is powered by AAA batteries, a solar panel, and the all-important hand crank.

One user tells of how during hurricane Florence in SE North Carolina he lost all power and during those dark days the FosPower was a lifeline to NOAA weather, local radio reports, and for keeping cell phones charged, in case the cell service resumed. It also served to provide light during the long nights.

This is a fairly small package and yet has a comprehensive list of benefits. I certainly think that this is a great candidate for inclusion in your emergency kit. 

I almost forgot, it also includes an SOS feature which when pressed emits a VERY loud shrieking noise/siren and this will help anyone searching for you to locate you as it is continuous. The noise would also be a pretty good deterrent to wild animals from coming too close.

American Red Cross Emergency NOAA Weather Radio with USB Smartphone Charger, LED Flashlight & Red Beacon

A terrific little emergency radio combined with flashlight, beacon and equipped with a 2600mAh battery that you can easily charge your cell phone with the hand crank or solar panels. Can pick up all FM /Am frequencies and also the NOAA emergency broadcasts. It is super easy to use with digital tuning function and great portable size perfect for including in your bug out bag.

Solarrific W4010 Solar/Hand Crank LED Torch Keychain

This product is not only small in price but also small in size. This remarkable keychain flashlight is powered not only by a manual hand crank but also a solar panel as well. This is a useful product as you will normally have your keys with you when you are out and about. Who knows where you will be when a crisis occurs, at least with this device you have immediate light available, even if you have accidentally let the battery run down. Something like this can help you get your other emergency kit out and operating.

The light is very bright for a small flashlight as it contains two separate LED lights in the housing. Here is the product information listed for your convenience:

  • Item weight: 0.798 ounces, so it is incredibly light.
  • Dimensions: 1.9 x 1 x 1.2 inches which makes it small enough to carry around as a keychain.
  • The Power Source is both solar and wind up. 
  • The unit is rain-proof, not waterproof so do not drop it in a puddle.
  • The main problem people have with this product is the switch which seems to get temperamental after a while.

American Red Cross Emergency Light Set with Clipray & Blackout Buddy

Eton is a company that makes several Red Cross branded products, designed to be useful in emergencies. This product is a set of two different flashlights for use in an emergency.

The Blackout Buddy

The blackout buddy is designed to be left plugged into a socket and when the power goes off it automatically switches itself on. Whilst in the socket it keeps itself charged to the maximum so that it is always ready when needed. Sometimes when there is a power outage it is hard finding a flashlight, but with Blackout Buddy you know where it is going to be and you will see the light and a safe path when you go to get it.

Once you have this light up at running it is easy to use it to assemble any other emergency lights and gadgets that you have in the house, such as the Clipray.

The Clipray

The Clipray is a second flashlight, which also features a smart phone charger. Both the flashlight and smartphone charger are powered by a hand crank which you can use to generate electricity should the emergency last longer than your supply of batteries.

The Blackout Buddy, which comes on instantly the power goes off, and the Clipray which keeps the lights on for the longer term are a great team for those wanting to ensure that they are not left in the darkness.

HUABAN Hand Crank Generator High Power Charger

This product is a much more robust hand cranked generator. It is not a flashlight, a radio, or anything else except a generator. What you are actually buying with this device is a hand held cranking unit, a DC regulator, with a variety of power cables attached. The product, which is made in China, has an aluminum shell and a much larger cranking handle than on previous items in this review. It does not have a battery so does not store the electricity it generates, you need to have it plugged into another device when you are cranking.

Users have found that it is best if you use duct tape to fix this crank mechanism to something solid at the right height for comfortable cranking. It makes it easier that way. But you must be aware that it will take a lot of cranking to fully charge a device. One user was connecting this device to a military grade LI Battery Brick and it would take two hours of vigorous cranking to charge it. I think the optimal way of charging devices is to connect up both a cranking device and solar panel to what you need to charge, so that when you are not cranking you can plug in the solar panel, and in that way cut down the amount of cranking that you still have to do. 

That said, my earlier comments about a hand crank generator being more reliable than waiting for sunshine or wind power still stands. It is just a lot of work that’s all.

Technical Specs

  • Power:30 Watts
  • Current:1.5 to 2 Amp
  • Voltage: 0-28 Volts
  • Max Current: 3 amps
  • Regulator Plug: 12mm Socket + Mini USB Plug and USB 2.0 Plug

If you have the strength and patience to keep on cranking, and let’s face it, in an emergency situation you would have a good incentive, then this device will manage to charge walkie-talkies, laptop, power tools, mobile phones and even a portable mobile TV.

eSpin Bicycle Generator

Generally the act of cycling is going to be a lot easier than cranking. With this product you connect up your regular 26″ bicycle to a frame and as you cycle it generates electricity. For example to run energy efficient light bulbs through the night would only require one hour on the bike. Get you physical exercise while generating electricity. When not in use the unit will fold up and take very little space to store. You can charge cell phone tablets and fans or if you choose a DC convertor or connect up 12v inverters you can do so much more. 

You are not going to be able to run your household off this bike, it is for emergencies, but it sure beats the hand cranked generators. The manufacturers have tested the device and got 280w. The manufacturers (Tesla Energy Solutions) state that if you also buy a DC to DC step up convertor you should be able to run 42 to 48 volt loads. To store electricity you will need to have a battery. Any portable battery 11v 220v outlet can be connected to the bike (and also a solar panel if you wanted). 

K-TOR Power Box 20 Watt Pedal Generator

Another cycle powered product is the K-TOR Power Box 20 Watt pedal generator. This unit can easily charge a 12v battery. It has a 20 watt output. When charging your portable devices using this product it will charge exactly as it would in a wall socket. They also sell a 50 watt output model. The device is used by placing it in front of a chair and then you sit in your comfortable chair and pedal away. It does work better if you are able to bolt it down to avoid movement when you are pedaling. It is perfect to charge you portable devices while you get some exercise.

The unit comes together with a Powerstream 12v charger and a Cree rechargeable flashlight with a built in USB. A great combination of products.

That is the last hand crank or foot powered generator in this review we will continue with two more specialist products. But first, just to reiterate once more, a hand crank charger will not be something you would want to use for everyday use. It is purely an emergency device that provides enough power for an emergency situation. A foot operated cycle unit will produce more power and will certainly be easier to use, but of course they are also much more expensive.

I personally favor a combination of chargers, such as solar, hand crank/cycle, wind powered, and water powered (see the last item I am reviewing today). So now a look at a specialist piece of equipment that is hand cranked.

Vixen Horns Loud Heavy Duty Hand/Manual Crank Alarm/Siren

In a long term situation where there is no power, it can be difficult to communicate with people in a community. In this situation if the community owns a “Vixen Horn” then this can be resolved.

This military style hand operated siren generator creates a sound that is instantly recognisable to everyone and that carries for one mile in each direction. It comes with its own stand and is operated by a hand crank. Cooperating with your community prior to any incident you can explain what it means if the siren sounds. It could be sounded as a warning or as a call to congregate in a prearranged place. Whatever you organize, you can guarantee that you will attract everyone’s attention.

  • Gray in color
  • Hand operated crank
  • Built inside strong steel housing
  • Powerful sound in low frequency
  • A sound that is universally recognized as a warning
  • Very well made

Waterlily USB – Portable Water Power Generator

I am going to finish the review section of this article with a product that does not fit in with solar power, wind power, and hand/foot power. But I wanted to review it, as it is kind of an alternative that could be a very useful generator if you have running water going through or alongside your property.

For centuries people have used watermills to power equipment, making use of the non-stop flow and power of water. This is a modern development that could prove to be invaluable in a SHTF situation. The construction of this device is so simple.. yet the power is so strong that it will charge small devices in the same time as they would charge plugged in at home. As long as your stream keeps running this device will keep charging 24 hours a day in any kind of weather. Yes, it is more efficient than a hand cranked device and will charge without any effort on your part.

They recently did some development on this product and it now works 20% better than the original model performed. Also, for just $30 more they also make a more powerful version which will charge any 12v input product. If you search on Amazon there is also a hand crank attachment in case you have no water.

Another great feature is that you can string more than one together and connect them in parallel. Just two water Lily devices can generate 30 watts an hour, 24 hours a day. You can use this device to keep a car battery charged up.

So, you can see that unlike some of the smaller devices I have reviewed, if you are lucky enough to have a stream, this device can supply some serious power, and with multiple devices the sky is your limit.

Final Thoughts

In this article, and others on this website, we have talked about situations which could occur and how you might prepare for them. The message of this article is that power outages do occur all the time, maybe not on the scale we described, but they do occur and will cause problems.

The ability to power a device even for an outage that lasts a couple of hours is very comforting. Even if we put aside the issue of power outages for a moment. There are places that do not have access to power supplies, out in the wild, and these devices can prove very useful there as well. Well, that’s it for my thoughts on Wind-Up devices (and water powered too).


Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_2012_North_American_derecho 

Morning Money: https://moneymorning.com/2016/06/17/the-five-worst-blackouts-in-u-s-history/ 

Amazon: Wind-Up Gadgets on AMAZON

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