Mike Cane and I have a running rapport about how bad the economy has become, and is still becoming. He is constantly encouraging me to build a bunker at the ranch, and warning me to prepare for the Collapse of All Things, or C.O.A.T. as he calls it. I used to tease him a bit for being such a fatalist; I would say that I had a freezer full of beef, a stocked pantry, and that I was ready for whatever comes. He would tell me that I was being naive.
About the time that Congress was debating the $700 Billion Bailout plan, something clicked for me. Maybe it was that I could see some of the things Mike had been predicting for over a year coming true, or maybe it was that the idea of what might happen if the bailout plan did not go through; I don’t know. Whatever it was, I finally started to think about what living in the United States might be like if we were in the midst of a second Great Depression. A Mad Max type of world is the scenario that scares me most, so of course that is what I imagine. Mike evidently envisions something similar…
Don’t expect electricity. I’m not saying your lights will be turned off for non-payment. That’s naive. I’m talking about the breakdown of the infrastructure. I’ll coin the term you’ll be hearing in this alternate awful future: micro-terrorism. All of you think terrorism means some madman with a bomb strapped to him. That’s the past. Micro-terrorism is this: you live in an area where your electricity and cable TV and telephone are delivered on old wooden posts? Expect bastards to go out there with chainsaws and take those poles down. This is micro-terrorism. An entire town’s or city’s lights don’t have to go out all at once. Terror can be done neighborhood-by-neighborhood. Hardly any of this will be political. It will be criminal. A population kept off balance is easy prey.
He goes on to say:
You’re isolated. No electricity means no Internet, no TV. And if you don’t have a hand-crank radio, you’ll run out of batteries. You won’t know what reality is because you’ve been cut off from the flow of information. You’ll hear nothing but rumor. And lies. None of it will be good and your daily sense of dread will eventually turn to gut-wrenching panic. You will have no rest. You can’t sleep at night. And you need to also be awake during the day to try to connect with people to see if anyone knows what’s really going on.
The funny thing is, what he describes about living without electricity could easily apply in the aftermath of any disaster, economic or natural. Compiling all of the materials to be completely self sustained and “off the grid” would be time consuming, expensive, and more than a little bit daunting if starting from scratch, but there was one thing mentioned which would be easy enough to do: buy a hand-crank radio.
Let’s take a look at two models I recently received…
Measuring a nearly pocketable 4.96” long x 2.36” wide x 1.81” thick, the FR150 weighs 7.5 ounces and has a satisfyingly substantial heft. It is available in solid black, or translucent orange or green.
I got the translucent green one (yay!); its body is composed of two tone soft-touch plastic, and when torqued or squeezed it does not creak; the overall feel is one of quality.
* AM (520-1710 KHz)
* FM (87-108MHz)
* NOAA weather – all 7 channels
* Built-in hand crank power generator recharges the internal rechargeable Ni-MH battery and cell phone batteries
* Built-in 3 white LED light source
* Can be powered from three different sources: From solar power, From the built-in rechargeable Ni-MH battery that takes charge from the dynamo crank, From the USB port (USB cord not included)
* Built-in cell-phone charger
* Earphone jack – 3.5 mm socket
Included in the box are the FR150, an owner’s manual, warranty card, preparedness guide, cell phone charging cord, and a redemption card for one cell phone tip.
A large hand crank on the backside is used to build up the Ni-MH battery, which can then be used to power the radio, flashlight, or the cellphone charger.
Even easier than cranking, the battery can also be recharged by placing the radio in the sun; a 2.5″ x 0.75″ solar panel stands ready to collect.
A rubber covered button on the top of the flashlight powers the triple bulb LED flashlight when pressed. The light cast is bright white, and easily powerful enough to guide you down a dark path.
Under a rubber gasket on the rear there are ports for headphones, the cellphone charger, and a miniUSB to USB cable (not included) – yet another way to charge the internal battery. A telescoping antenna rests in a bay on top of the radio; when closed it measures 3.25″ long, and when opened it is 10″ long.
The FR150′s radio contains the typical AM and FM bands, as well as all seven NOAA Weather Bands. I live several miles outside of Eldorado, Texas (about 45 miles from the nearest city of any size), and I am able to pick up two FM stations, but no AM stations (does anyone still use that?), and no Weather Bands. Unfortunately, this was not surprising given the short length of the antenna and the radio’s size. If you live in a more urban area, you will have much better results. On the stations I was able to pick up, sound was exceptionally clear and surprisingly loud through the single speaker.
The Etón FR150 Microlink is the perfect size to keep in your glove box or to carry along when camping. Knowing that it can help recharge a mobile phone in an emergency, guide a loved one down a trail in the dark, or give timely information in the middle of a power outage would be reason enough to consider this as the perfect stocking stuffer.
The Etón FR150 is available in black, orange or green from.
What I Like: Three possible power sources; can be used to power a mobile phone; built in flashlight; kids are fascinated by the crank
What Needs improvement: I wish I could get more bands, including weather from the radio, but due to my rural location the antenna is just not powerful enough to help
The FR500 is the radio I want to have handy in my bunker when the Collapse of All Things occurs: this bad boy not only has FM, AM, all seven NOAA Weather Bands, a flashlight and a mobile phone charger, it also has Short Wave radio, a flashing beacon, an emergency siren, and an alarm clock. This radio is chock-full of features!
The FR500 is composed of soft-touch plastic, and it measures 7.75” wide x 8.5” tall x 2.5″ thick, and it weighs 1.9 pounds. It feels absolutely solid, and it will not squeak when torqued or squeezed. The handle formed at the top is convenient for carrying the radio around, but it is a smidge too wide for long time comfort.
Included in the box are the FR500, an owner’s manual, warranty card, a redemption card a for cell phone tip, and a USB cell phone charging cord.
* AM (520-1700 KHz), FM (88-108 MHz), Shortwave (6000-12100 KHz)
* NOAA weather – all 7 channels plus “Alert”
* Siren and Flashlight
* Can be powered from four different sources: From the built-in rechargeable 600 mAh Ni-MH battery that takes charge from the dynamo crank and from a computer USB adapter (not included), From 3 AA batteries (not included), From the AC adapter alone (not included), From solar power
* Analog frequency dial with digital display
* Built-in cell phone charger
* Digital clock function
On the front of the radio, starting on the left side of the display, there are rubber buttons for setting the time, setting the alarm, and turning on or off the alarm. On the left side there buttons for power (on and off), setting the sleep timer, and snoozing the alarm. On the bottom left, there is a multifunction knob which selects between Alert (to get weather channel alerts when the radio is on or off), function switch off, Flashlight on, Red flashing light on, and Siren…holy hell. Only turn the siren button on in an emergency, as it is an earsplitting cacophony of annoyance. The right knob controls the radio’s volume.
A hand crank on the front of the radio can be used to recharge the battery, but it is a bit impractical. This radio has a larger 600 mAh battery, and the included manual says that it takes cranking 120 times per minute for one minute to get four minutes of radio play at low volume. At this rate, it would take 3 hours of hand cranking, at 120 times per minute. It makes more sense to solar charge the radio, accepting that it will take 12-15 hours for a full charge.Keeping three AA batteries in the radio will keep the clock powered and also allow radio play when the rechargeable battery is dead.
A fully charged battery is supposed to provide approximately six hours play at low volume when receiving radio programs, or about five hours at low volume when receiving aircraft band.
The buttons on the top edge of the radio are for setting the clock’s time and activating the display’s brilliant green backlight. In the middle of the radio’s back, there are two rubber gaskets which lift to reveal phone charger (USB) and DC IN (miniUSB) ports on the left, and DC IN 5V, headphone jack, and Audio IN ports on the right. At the bottom there is a battery compartment door which covers the rechargeable battery pack, and the bay for the AA batteries.
On the top of the radio, there is a 4″ x 1″ solar panel, as well as the telescoping antenna, which opens to 9.5″. I honestly expected a longer antenna, but it is at least a larger diameter than the FR150′s.
On the left, there is a “focus lamp” which has four bright white LEDs and one red LED. This is a fairly decent flashlight, which should be sufficient for getting from one place to another in the dark. The red LED is used for the SOS feature.
On the right, there is a power supply knob which allows you to select your source from battery, solar, Dynamo (rechargeable Ni-MH battery), or Off. If you are charging the battery via solar or USB, you can listen to the radio at the same time. The bottom knob is twofold: the outer ring selects the listening band, and the inner knob does the tuning.
Radio sound through the single speaker was excellent, and I was able to receive five FM stations, no AM stations, and once again, I was disappointed to find that I could not receive any of the weather bands at my house; those of you living nearer to a transmitter will be able to enjoy active weather channel alerts as they occur. Bear in mind that all band testing was conducted during the day; at night the it should be possible to pick up more stations.
The Etón FR500 is available from.
What I Like: Four possible power sources; can be used to power a mobile phone; built in flashlight; built in alarm clock; built in red SOS light; kids are fascinated by the crank
What Needs improvement: I wish the antenna was longer or more powerful so that I could get more bands from my rural location, especially weather
Whether you are considering the possibility of the “Collapse of All Things”, or you are simply concerned about being able to hear weather updates during a hellacious storm, these two are ready to serve; each with its own unique capabilities.