After months of persuasion, my sister finally convinced me about the importance of an emergency kit. She had been on my neck all the while simply because she knew my family and I live in a disaster prone area. After finally decided to get one, I was not up to buying a ready-made kit because I wanted to be sure that everything I thought was important was in the bag. I got an idea of what I needed in an emergency bag and then made a list of the most important items. Top on my list was a hand crank radio simply because in my research on what goes into an emergency kit, I found that most people started off their proposed list with this item.
Now I had to choose a model and I went straight to Google and my search came back with a couple. I saw that toptenreviews has done a review on the best hand crank radio so I decided to visit. I was torn between choosing the American Red Cross Eaton FRX 3 that was selling for &79.99 and other cheaper options. However, I had to go for the Eton FRX because it seemed to be the best in terms of reception. I thought to myself that if I had to buy a hand crank radio for use in an emergency, it had better be one that works well when needed.
When I bought the Eton FRX 5, I never imagined I would use it so soon. My main aim of buying the radio was to place in the emergency kit that I was putting in place. When the box containing the radio arrived I noticed the plastics casing and from the weight, I could tell there was a huge coil inside that was probably the rechargeable system. I also got news later that day that my club members will be going for a hunting weekend. As a club member, I had to join the hunting party. It was my wife who suggested that I try out the emergency radio since I will be off in the woods for a good two days. I decided to follow her advice and that is how I got to learn more about this radio.
From the reviews I had read, I expected the radio to get fully charged within five hours of being connected to a power source. As far as this aspect was concerned, I was not disappointed. When I connected my new purchase to a power source, I was pleased to find that within five hours the battery was fully charged and ready for use.
I decided to hand crank the radio while in the field and was pleasantly surprised that it took a little under fifteen minutes to charge up to a charge that could sustain a radio call. I also read from the manual that came with the product that the batteries were rechargeable. Also, it could run on AAA batteries which to me was really important given that in the woods there may be no power supply to charge the radio. Although no AAA batteries came with the Radio, to me that was not a problem. I could always buy one from the supermarket around. Then very impressive was the fact that it could be charged by the sun through the tiny solar panel that is built into the structure of the radio. I was definitely eager to try out all these features on the field. Nevertheless, I a bit disappointed that the claim by Eton that the device came with a NiMH battery with dump charge capabilities was not exactly true. What I found was a 600 mAH from the internal battery dump charge.
First of all, I didn’t get to use the AAA batteries that I took along as we stayed camping and hunting in the woods the whole weekend and I never saw the need for extra power. Even when I kept trying out the radio to check the signals that I could receive and making sure the volume was at its loudest, I still had enough power to last me the whole weekend. It is important to note here that the radio I had with me did not play continuously the whole weekend. However, from some of the reviews I had read, the radio can play continuously for a little more than 15 hours.
Meanwhile, I need to try out the solar panel to see if it would work. We were in the woods and tree coverage would not allow enough detection of satellites, however, I tried using the solar panel to charge the radio and I discovered that it was able to charge the radio by an additional 1% just after about an hour. To me I thought that was impressive as I have other devices that claim to charge using solar power and spend the whole day in direct sunlight without even charging by 1%. There are other consumers who complained that it took them more than three hours to get the radio to a state where they could use it. No matter the time taken, when you are in an emergency situation, you will be glad that your radio can even charge at all.
As if the manufacturer understood that I needed to have my phone charged at all times, they included a USB port and Micro USB port to allow for phones and other devices to be connected. I used the USB port to charge my phone and it did quite good. Come to think of it, the battery of my phone was running down faster than the battery on the radio. At least all weekend, even while in the woods and hunting wildlife, I was still able to keep in touch with my family back home.
I really cannot claim to know anything about hand crank radios so I can only talk about my personal experience. As far as I am concerned, the AM and FM reception was simply great. Given that we live at about 9800ft, you could listen to the radio clearly; even from deep within the woods with a lot of tree coverage. The reception even got better when the antenna was extended. Also, as far as you could manage to set your frequencies right audio quality was very good.
However, I spent almost an hour trying to figure out how to store radio stations only to realize it is not possible although the manual claims otherwise. The volume is very high you don’t need any headsets to use with it. Actually, it can really help when you are in a group and you are the only one with such a radio. My hunting team and I were able to gather round the campfire and listen to weather forecast as well as the news.
Public and specific alert
After reading numerous reviews and buying guides, I knew I needed a radio that either used the NOAA or NWR alert systems. Immediately I found out the Eton FRX 5 had the NOAA label I knew it was made to standard and has its quality well tested and refined for the conditions it will be subjected to. The other interesting fact was that it means I could program the radio such that I receive alerts that were specific to my area.
It also meant wherever I found myself with my emergency radio, I could always program the alerts that I receive. Obviously, there was no need receiving information from every country covered by the radio. This was actually one of the reasons why I decided to go for this radio even though there were cheaper options.
The fact that it came with NOAA certified meant that I could receive weather information from the seven different stations on NOAA. More interesting was the fact that it also includes the SAME technology that also gives out weather report only they do so for specific areas. However, I discovered that while the SAME gave you information on your programmed alerts, it still continued to give information from other countries. I realized later that for some reason, this is how most Eton radios are programmed. Then once the alert was on, I discovered I could not use the radio for any other purpose.
According to the reviews on the website toptenreviews, this radio was tested at 1 meter from the radio speaker and it produces a sound of 90.3 decibels. They claim that this is about 3 decibels higher than what other high-quality crank radios are offering. This level of volume that the radio is able to give makes it a perfect accessory for when in the woods or facing a disaster.
As for me, I don’t know anything about decibels but I can say here that the volume of the radio is really loud. When I tried playing the radio at the loudest I was impressed by the level and quality of sound it produced.
The radio comes with a lot of add-ons which make it a huge value for money. The radio contains a glow in the dark feature which makes it easy to locate the radio in the dark. It also has a flashlight that is led as such there is no need for you to have power, it will still glow. I also found the red beacon and whistle that came with the radio really useful. I was never in the position to use the radio for emergency help but I did try out some of the features just for fun. I used the whistle and blew on it and the sound that it made was more than a shriek. It was obvious to everyone around that that kind of high pitch sound should be able to travel quite a distance.
Whilst we were out in the woods hunting, it started raining and I had left my back with my raincoat a few yards away. The sudden downpour meant I was soaked within seconds and I looked at the flashlight in my hand with a bad feeling in my gut. It was still on and seemed to be working just fine but my gut feeling said it was just a matter of time before it started to malfunction. I switched it off with the hope that it will do it some good. The next morning, when I got up and reluctantly replaced the battery, I half expected it not to come on. To my utter disbelieve, it came on and was working fine. It was not until I returned home that I got a chance to look at the online manual available at Eton’s website and discovered that the plastic housing that the radio came in was waterproofed. I had known that the casing was rigid and did a great job protecting the radio through the bumpy ride that we had to go through to get to the hunting area. What I never realized was that I could take it swimming and it will still survive. Reviewers at Gizmodo also confirmed they have had a chance to benefit from this radio’s waterproofing feature.
Apart from the USB and microUSB port, there are other ports that can be used with a media system. I was never bored whilst out in the field because I came along with my media device player. Since I was not using the radio continuously, the battery was holding on fine so I could charge my MP3 player and use it all weekend. This was made possible thanks to the auxiliary port that is included in the radio. Another feature that makes this radio worth considering is the fact that it can be used with a microphone in times of trouble. The microphone will help to amplify any cry for help that you send out. I was not able to try out this feature since I didn’t come out with a microphone but from what I have read, some customers say it does a good job at amplifying the voice.
Although there are some customers who have been quick to discredit this radio because it does not have a compass, I am of the opinion that the other survival tools like the whistle and beacon light are handier when it comes to an emergency situation. This is because I know that there are very few of us who can manage to operate a compass very well.
Eton FRX 5 Hand Crank Radio Key Features
- This radio can give area-specific alerts
- It can be used under wet conditions without the radio losing its functionality
- Its battery can last for at least 15 hours of continuous use
- Does not require any spinning to charge phone; charges phone directly
- It does not have a compass which is one of the most important equipment you need when you are stranded in the middle of nowhere. Those who know how to use a compass may not like this but there are other options.
Eton FRX 5 Hand Crank Radio Video Review
After about 294 reviews on Amazon.com, this product still manages to get an overall four-star rating. This is enough to tell anyone that this product has some really great virtues. Many of the customers said the product was lightweight which made carrying it around fairly easy. Others were happy with the fact that they could charge the radio battery directly on a wall socket or use a computer. There were those who complained that the radio could not charge the battery to allow more than 30 seconds of talk time. However, you will all agree with me that when it an emergency, even 10 seconds of talk time could be an eternity.
So far I am happy with my purchase of the Eton FRX 5 and I have kept it well secured within my completed emergency kit knowing well that it is in full working condition and will serve me well if I ever found myself in an emergency situation that required the use of a hand crank radio.