I have some of the early generation BayGen flashlights in storage. I bought them back around…mmm..must have been around 2000 or 2001 when CostCo cleared ‘em out when the Y2k stampede was done. These are the ones made in South Africa and use incandescent bulbs. They’ve sat , patiently, awaiting the time they’d be needed. I think they were about $20 ea. when I got them. (I also have one of the older SW/AM/FM radios as well.) Of course, now it’s ten years later and everyone seems to be making a handcrank light or radio. As is usual in technology, the prices dropped and the technology improved. The incandescent bulbs are replaced with far superior LED bulbs, and the bulky mechanisms have been made smaller. More interestingly, the ‘clockwork’ technology has been used in other devices as well.
Two of the most interesting devices, which I have no experience with, by the way, are the Freeplay Weza generator and their 12v device charger. The Weza is basically, as I understand it, a cross between one of those 12v battery packs you buy for jumping vehicles and a Stairmaster. You step on the pedal to turn a flywheel generator that charges the internal battery. I’m guessing it’s gonna take alot of pseudo-stairstepping to charge a 12v battery but if you have nothing else to do and its the only thing standing between you and no lights/communications………….
As I’m discovering the increasing utility of devices like IPhones and iPads I am becoming convinced that even without phone service these devices have tremendous utility. Depending on what you stuff into them they do spreadsheets, note taking, photography, take and view video, provide translations, hold reference books, calculations (inc. ballistics), etc, etc, and they do it all in a package smaller than 20-round rifle mag. This handcrank device charger (Freeplay FreeCharge 12V Black- AK060) looks like just the ticket for keeping the iPhone or iPod charge…although the amount of cranking might be onerous…which is why I have one of these tucked away. (That little Goal0 panel really does work…you have to keep it in direct sun, but I’ve used it a bunch of times and it will indeed charge up an iPhone although some people report mixed results.) However, the ability to produce enough power to charge up a USB device when the sun isn’t cooperating is something that I can see being mighty handy.
For small AM/FM/weather radios, I wound up with one of these Etón radios and have been quite pleased with it. I keep it in my everyday bag so that if things get weird in a hurry I can at least glean some inforamation off of the AM/FM bands. The flashlight function is also quite good for indoor navigation.
Interestingly, someone brought this to my attention. It’s a windup headlamp. I had no idea such things existed. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised….I’m rather pleased this is a technology that has started to go mainstream after being almost exclusively limited to Third World relief products.
One of the common complaints about these things is that the handcrank invariably breaks. Well, that makes sense since it’s a fairly high-stress part. The trick is to wind the devices purposefully and carefully. If you just grab the crank and start rotating it as fast as you can like your landing a fish then when the spring hits the end of the spool youre either going to rip the handle off the thing or similarly damage it. Wind it in a manner so that if the handle comes to a sudden stop your grip either naturally slips or you have enough time to stop your movement. I’ve yet to break a windup device this way.
There are tons of cheapo windup lights and stuff out there. Even the cheap 3-in-a-package ones from CostCo do a decent job of throwing light around a darkened house. But, be smart….check the reviews and don’t be hesitant to spend a few more bucks. Ive a Freeplay 360 that I use in my kitchen when I’m cooking or cleaning and have never had a problem. On a sunny day, with the volume kept fairly reasonable, I can just sit it in the sun and not even have to crank the thing. I’ve got plenty of flashlights and a goodly amount of batteries to run them but these newer windup lights and radios really do provide a secondary level of redundancy that is very appealing. If you havent checked out getting such devices I think you may find them worth your time.