Owning a hand powered flashlight is a good idea - and not just for camping!
There are lots of great flashlights available - but most of them have one big disadvantage: they are powered by batteries. And batteries wear out - whether or not you ever use the flashlight!
It can sit indefinitely, unused, and then be ready when you need it.
You can store it away with your camping gear at the end of the season, and it will still work next year!
The light from a hand powered flashlight is not as bright as from a comparable battery-powered light.
A hand powered flashlight should be reserved for use as an emergency flashlight, not as your everyday flashlight.
Shake flashlights were all the rage a few years ago. We bought some for our kids. It sounded like a great idea: a flashlight that was powered by shaking!
I won't pretend that I completely understand the science involved, but here are the basics:
Shaking the unit vigorously and steadily for about 30 seconds is supposed to provide about 5 minutes of light.
It turns out that 30 seconds is a long time to shake a flashlight! It's beyond the capability of all the kids I know.
The light that is generated is not very bright.
I suppose that if there were a genuine emergency and I really needed the light, I could get myself to shake the unit for the required time - but I'd rather not!
These flashlights do work, but unless they have a battery, they cannot store power.
You get light only as long as you are actively squeezing the handle!
Some models do have a battery that is supposed to be charged when you squeeze - but most reviewers say that the system doesn't work well.
These are fun to play with, but not very practical for actual use.
You could use one of these to light your way to the real flashlights!
Turning the crank operates a generator which charges the battery.
A good quality hand crank flashlight will produce up to an hour of light with just 60 seconds of cranking.
I think that they are. I find the cranking motion much easier than either shaking or squeezing.
When the solar panel is exposed to sunlight, it converts that energy into electrical energy which is then stored in a battery.
Solar flashlights work, but they aren't ideal emergency flashlights for camping. Here's why:
For these reasons, these are not ideal emergency flashlights for camping.
I like to store my emergency camping flashlight in the camping tub, and not think about it at all until I need it!
A solar powered flashlight would be a great emergency flashlight for home or vehicle, though.
Or you could get one of these hybrid flashlights! They combine the advantages of solar and hand-cranked power.
I haven't tried these yet, but they get enthusiastic reviews.
Leave a solar powered flashlight on the dash of your vehicle all the time. It will charge whenever the sun is out!
If you are looking for a good emergency camping light, get a hand crank flashlight. Don't depend on it for all of your lighting needs, though.