Reliable forms of communication have proven time and time again to be the major difference maker in whether you live or die in an emergency.
Having a dead cell phone is just as bad as having a brick in your pocket and although most people probably have a backup battery or external battery pack, those too will fail to keep your cell phone alive after a few days. Having a hand crank charger should be a top priority for anyone filling up a bug out bag or preparing for emergencies!
These mechanical chargers can be implemented anywhere at any time with just a little elbow grease. Being without a reliable form of communication can put you and others who need you in danger. We often don’t realize how crucial having a charged up functioning cell phone really is until we lose access to power and are unable to keep our handhelds alive.
A hand crank phone charger can be used for more than just your phone, too. Since most of them have high output USB ports, you’ll be able to charge cameras, tablets, GPS devices, flashlights, Bluetooth speakers, etc.
You never know when the next power outage, natural disaster, or a zombie apocalypse is going to strike.
The good news is…
Having a mechanical hand crank charger is one of the cheapest ways to apocalypse-proof your life! Hand crank USB chargers for phones are really cheap considering the amount of utility they provide and how crucial they can be when the grid is down or you find yourself miles away from an outlet.
We are all well aware of how shotty phone batteries can be. Sure, the manufacturer says it’ll get two whole days on a single charge! Yeah, if you keep the wifi and mobile data off, Bluetooth off, screen brightness and resolution to the minimum, don’t touch it, don’t look at it, don’t talk about it. Yeah, you get the point. If you’re the type of person who uses apps like Google Maps, Facebook, or Spotify then you already know how fast phone batteries can be drained.
- Here Are the Best Hand Crank Phone Chargers
- 1. Red Cross Clipray (Cheapest)
- 2. Esky Portable Emergency Charger (Best Value)
- 3. Compass Culture Hand Crank Device (Highest Rated)
- 4. Huaban Hand Crank Generator 30W
- 5. Sangean MMR-88
- 6. K-TOR Power Box Emergency Pedal Generator (Most Powerful)
- 7. RunningSnail Solar Crank Radio
- 8. Wayl Buzz4000 3000 mAH Radio Combo
- 9. Eton FRX5-BT
- 10. Promotor High Power Portable Manual Crank Generator
How do Cell Phone Crank Chargers Work?
Turning the hand crank generates power through electromagnetic induction, which basically just means as you spin the handle it spins a magnet within a wire coil. As the surfaces pass one another electrons are stripped from the magnetic field creating a sustainable form of electricity. The energy is then stored in the battery or capacitor to be used as needed.
3 Considerations To Find the Best Hand Crank Phone Charger for You
Check the Battery Capacity (usually listed in mAh)
If you don’t already know what mAh means, it stands for milli-Ampere-hours, which is a measure of the battery’s energy storage capacity. For example, comparing it to a car’s gas tank, it’s basically just how much “fuel” the tank can hold. The higher the mAh rating the longer the device will likely last on a single charge.
Your phone or whatever other devices you’re attempting to charge will have a rating in mAh. Some phones have this information in the phone’s software, somewhere under settings. Many other devices will have a sticker on the battery or battery cover stating what size it is in mAh.
Knowing the capacity of the devices you’re attempting to charge is important. Do you just need to make a single two-minute phone call or do you need your phone to be completely charged? If your phone is a 4000 mAh battery and its at zero, how long do you have to crank a mechanical charger to get it topped off?
The mechanical chargers should tell you their output and after some simple math, you should have a rough idea of how much you’ll need to crank to fill a certain battery. But wait, it gets worse.
Remember that each time you move energy, some of it becomes lost in the form of heat. That means that if your chargers output is 1000 mAh and the battery of your phone is 4000 mAh, it should take four hours to charge, but that’s not actually how it works and will likely take roughly 20% longer.
Look at the Hand Crank Conversion Efficiency
Hand crank conversion essentially tells you how much power you’ll get over a specified time period of manual cranking. I’ll list the specs for each product below in the buying guide section if available. Some of the manufacturers hide this or use different units to confuse consumers, so beware of that!
Does it have all the features you want?
If you’re looking for just a hand crank phone charger, the cheapest made by the Red Cross might be just fine for you, but if you need an emergency radio or want a product with multiple charging method capabilities you might want to choose another product on this list.
Some mechanical hand crank chargers will have built-in flashlights, multiple USB ports, higher quality USB ports, overcharge protection, solar capabilities, etc.
Remember, it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have!
Ok, that covers the basics…
Here are some of my favorite products that can be used stand-alone and double as hand crank cell phone chargers.
Here Are the Best Hand Crank Phone Chargers
1. Red Cross Clipray (Cheapest)
Price Range: Around $17
My Review: The Red Cross Clipray is the cheapest product on this list. Along with being a pretty solid flashlight, it also doubles as a USB cell phone charger.
This charger is pretty good for emergency purposes, but don’t expect it to generate enough power to be playing games or listening to music. It’s really only powerful enough to charge your phone enough to make emergency phone calls.
It’s certainly not the best charger on this list, but it will get the job done and give your phone enough juice to make a phone call or check the messages on your phone during an emergency.
Cranking for one minute generates enough power to use the light for about 10 minutes. It has 3 LED bulbs that are quite bright considering its price point. There is a light on the side of the device and it makes a distinct sound that lets you know when it’s charging.
The carabiner clip is nice because you can attach it to the outside of your backpack or other gear. It is compatible with iPhones, Samsung series, HTC series, and most cellular devices.
Note: While cranking does store power to the battery for the light to be used on-demand, to charge your phone you’ll need to continuously crank while the phone is connected.
If you want to learn more about this charger, the video below does a pretty good job summing up the features of this light.
- 3 bright LED bulbs
- Carabiner Clip
- Made by Red Cross
- Hand crank is moderately efficient
- Cheap and reliable hand crank charger
2. Esky Portable Emergency Charger (Best Value)
Price Range: Around $18
My Review: If you’re looking for straight value this charger by Esky is a steal! It has hand crank and solar power capabilities.
The brightness of the flashlight is on point considering you wouldn’t want a hand crank device to be too bright (it would draw too much power).
Along with the hand crank phone charger function, you also get the flashlight, radio, and a 2.5mm output mini USB charging cable, 1 2.5mm connector to USB converter, Esky weather radio warranty card, user manual.
Working voltage is between 2.7 and 4.2 volts. It can be powered by battery as well (requires 1 lithium ion battery). You can pick this product up in multiple colors.
- NOAA Radio
- Multiple Charge Modes
- Micro and Standard USB Ports
3. Compass Culture Hand Crank Device (Highest Rated)
Price Range: Around $30
My Review: The Culture Brand’s solar hand crank phone charger multi-functional device is very cheap considering its functionality. There are 4 separate ways to charge the device. (solar, wind up, USB, or 3 AAA batteries).
It has an emergency radio with AM, FM, and 7 NoAA weather channels, so you’ll know what’s going on if you’re using it during a storm or power outage. If you plan to charge your phone solely through hand cranking you can expect to get 3-5 minutes of cell phone power for every 1 minute cranked.
That’s not great but remember this is a last resort type charger to give you enough juice to make that important call or get updates on what’s going on.
A mechanical flashlight is a perfect emergency tool to keep in your car, RV, home, or emergency gear stockpile just in case something should happen.
The company recommends charging the radio to full (takes 2.5 hours by USB) to get 6 hours of radio, 15-20 minutes of light. To fully charge the device through solar power takes about 20 hours.
- 2000 mAh battery capacity
- Multiple charge modes
- Efficient power usage and generation
- Adjustable light intensity and zoom
- Bracelet with compass
- Magnesium flint fire starter
- Loud and clear speaker
- Lifetime customer service
- Reading lamp and light
4. Huaban Hand Crank Generator 30W
Price Range: Around $165
My Review: When I first heard about how expensive this unit was and how small it was, I was automatically dismissing it. After further inspection, though, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much power this tiny thing can generate, with some intense cranking action of course!
The Huaban crank generator can fit in your pocket (barely) but is capable of a 30 Watt output anywhere from 0 to 28 volts and a maximum current of 3 Amps. Not bad at all!
It also comes with an array of charging cables including USB, alligator clips, etc.
To make matters even better, they claim this unit is waterproof! I wasn’t able to test that and i’d be uncomfortable submerging it, but yeah, it does seem like it’d hold up to some light rain or a splash.
The build quality overall really impressed me. I like the aluminum shell and solid steel gears. This hand crank generator feels durable and heavy duty without being as heavy as a brick. You can pick this unit up in OD green or flat black and both options come with a DC regulator.
- Small, compact, durable, and capable of a 30W power output at 3A
- Rugged and durable aluminum body that is waterproof
- Comes with several cables to charge an array of devices such as cameras, phones, standalone batteries, etc
- High gearing as opposed to most other crank chargers that allows for much higher torque and lower RPMs, which in my opinion is better for crank charging
- This unit is far more expensive than other handheld cranks, but it does offer slightly higher power output so the price may be worth it
5. Sangean MMR-88
Price Range: Around $50
My Review: This thing looks like a tank or a radio you would take to a construction worksite.
It has a digital display that is backlight so you can easily see how much battery is remaining and exactly which of the 19 preset AM/FM radio stations you’re on.
Like many of the other chargers on this list, there are multiple ways it can be charged (Hand Crank, USB, or Solar).
The battery capacity seems a little low to me (850 mAh), but it does have great reviews, and for emergency situations, it will do the job. I did read one review that said, “what battery.”
Not the best hand charger on this list, but also a respectable alternative if you don’t like the others on this list.
- 19 preset stations
- Certified weather alert radio
- USB to Micro B cable included
- Digital display
- Splash Proof
6. K-TOR Power Box Emergency Pedal Generator (Most Powerful)
Price Range: $395
My Review: Okay, I lied, it’s not a “hand” crank phone charger. It’s a foot crank phone charger!
I guess you could use your hand though, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it and some people in the comments section are whining they hurt their hands trying to do so, so hand crank at your own risk!
K-TOR has been developing tons of different emergency power related electronics.
From pocket outlets to this 14 Volt 3 Amp 50 Watt foot pedal monstrosity, they got you covered no matter where you are.
There is also a smaller version of this unit called the Power Box 20.
The Power Box 50 is constructed of glass fiber reinforced nylon so it’s actually lighter than what I would have initially guessed. The feet have been constructed out of steel angle iron to provide a very steady and mountable experience.
The Power Box 50 folds up and is actually pretty small and can be put into a large backpack with room to spare.
Don’t be fooled by the negative comments you’ll find about this product on the web. They’re silly people who think ten minutes of pedaling should fully charge a car battery and that’s ridiculous.
This unit should provide roughly the same amount of charging capabilities that your wall outlet in your home would be capable of providing. If it takes your phone four hours to charge via a wall outlet, it’ll take four hours of pedaling. The good news is, you can charge multiple devices at once through this bad boy!
- 50 Watt power output which is similar to a home power outlet
- Extremely easy to deploy and use and is much better than hand crank devices so long as you don’t mind pedaling
- Supports charging for multiple devices at once
- The resistance of pedaling will automatically regulate depending on the load required
- Constructed of mostly polycarbonate which is very durable and also lightweight
- Not a great product to carry with you on a backpacking trip or everyday usage
- There is no onboard battery, meaning that if you aren’t pedaling, you aren’t charging
- Fairly high investment for something you won’t use often
7. RunningSnail Solar Crank Radio
Price Range: $30
My Review: This radio is another good option. I like that is capable of running on replaceable AAA batteries.
As far as battery life and hand crank efficiency this product is on par with most of the others on this list.
The 2000 mAh battery gives about 12 hours of light or 4 to 6 hours of radio playtime.
I do like the positioning of the solar charger and overall this seems like a very well-designed radio.
- Sos alarm with red flashing light
- Good battery life
- multi-mode charging
- Good radio
- Lamp and light functions
8. Wayl Buzz4000 3000 mAH Radio Combo
Price Range: $45
My Review: This radio has a seriously impressive battery capacity (4000 mAh).
The radio has a bright flashlight built into the side which is perfect when you’re carrying it by the handle while walking. There is a reading light built into the handle that can be propped up.
As far as efficiency, one minute of hand cranking provides up to 30 minutes of light or 15-20 minutes of radio life. It also has a dedicated USB port, so you can charge the device through a computer or outlet charger.
Pros: Headphone Jack, 4 power modes, dedicated USB port, very efficient power conversion, LED flashlight, LED reading light, dual speakers, removable lithium-ion battery, MP3 USB player port, SOS Alarm, Folding Handling, water-resistant (IPX3), money-back guarantee.
- 4000 mAh Battery
- Efficient power conversion
- Water resistant (IPX3)
- Multiple power modes
- Great radio (dual speakers)
- dedicated USB port
- Headphone jack
- Mp3 USB port
- Removable and replaceable battery
9. Eton FRX5-BT
My Review: The biggest thing that makes this product stand out as far is tech is that it has Bluetooth syncing capacities. During an emergency situation, you’ll be listening to music while others are struggling to make ends meet.
Although it does have some great features I do think there are better products on this list for the money.
There are a lot of mixed customer reviews for this hand crank phone charger multi-functional device so be sure to read what other customers are saying about the pros and cons before you purchase this product.
The Eton company cells a few different products, so you might want to check out some of their less expensive hand crank phone chargers. You can find them on the product listing page for this device.
- Music streaming
- Durable (drop proof up to 3.5 feet)
- 2000 mAh battery
- Splash proof (water resistant to IEC IPX4)
- multi charge methods
- digital tuner and display
10. Promotor High Power Portable Manual Crank Generator
My Review: This is more of a keep at home or throw it in the camper type of unit, but it’ll certainly get your cell phone charged up in an emergency!
The Promotor portable crank generator puts out roughly 20W with multiple voltage options available on the unit via a selector switch. It’s got several different ports including two USB ports and two sets of power terminals.
Since this unit uses a larger crank than most of the other devices on this list, it’s significantly easier to crank for long time durations and you may be able to crank faster, resulting in marginally better charging.
This product is meant to do far more than just charge your cell phone. Of course, it is an emergency type product and not meant to charge your car battery to full in just minutes. It is a crank charger, so it will take some serious work, but I’d say this product is far easier to charge large batteries overtime than handheld crank charger options.
- Much easier to crank than most other crank chargers due to a smoother experience and longer radius
- Perfect for camping or traveling where you can store the unit in a vehicle
- Multiple voltage options
- There is no onboard battery, meaning that if you aren’t cranking, you aren’t getting anything charged
- All instructions come in Chinese, making this a bit difficult to use at first if you haven’t ever used one before
- It most certainly would be hell to power an entire food stand like the photos suggests. You could maybe do it but I wouldn’t recommend it!
Remember what you’re using it for…
I added this to the list because after reading customer reviews I saw some people giving certain products 1 star reviews because it stopped working after 3 months. These are mostly designed as an emergency tool, not as a primary charger or radio. A lot of the products I’ve reviewed in this guide have really bad reviews on storefronts across the web. Why?
Because people have ridiculous expectations of emergency usage items that are cheap and meant to be on hand as a last resort. For example, that K-TOR power box has comments that say “they don’t tell you it takes hours to charge a car battery”. Of course it takes hours, that particular product outputs as much energy as a standard outlet in your home and you’re trying to charge a massive battery.
Have realistic expectations and you’ll be fine with anything on this list!
Don’t wait until it’s too late…
It’s 2018, crazy things happen all the time. Here are some situations a hand crank phone charger might come in handy.
The first hand crank cell phone was designed after the designers realized the necessity after hurricane Katrina left tens of thousands without power. America saw firsthand what happens when our power grid is compromised. The inventors saw a golden opportunity and funded their project on Indiegogo, and since then the idea has taken off!
Tips on how to make the battery last longer
If you’re charging your cell phone it will charger faster if you turn it off. When you’re cranking you won’t be able to use your phone too efficiently anyway so just turn it off or put in in power save or airplane mode.
Also, keeping the radio on low volume and the lights on low will increase the battery life.
Lowering your phones screens resolution will reduce how much energy the graphical processing unit requires to produce a clear picture on the screen and of course, lowering the brightness will save tons of battery life.
That does it for this review. If you have tried any of these products feel free to share your experience. Reviewing every option available is impossible because there are so many! If you know of a good product you think should be added to this list please let me know.
Thanks for visiting Marine Approved! If you enjoyed this page and want to stock up on more manually powered devices, check out my wind up flashlights page!
Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines that specialized in Mortars. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, hiking, running, shooting guns, and reviewing gear. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. We are currently looking for former Marines to join the team who are interested in writing about tactical gear, survival gear, hiking supplies, etc. For more information about us or joining the team, check out the “About Us” tab.