Thursday, 29 June

Today’s technology seems to also find its way to the outdoors enthusiast. I have been geocaching already for a number of years, and when I go hiking and camping, I tend to use my GPS to track my path, and I use the smart-phone for other “smart” stuff.

Microlink FR160 Weather Radio comboMicrolink FR160 Weather Radio comboThe electronic gear is not only handy in our routine outdoors endeavors, but can also be helpful in emergency situations. But you can never relay on, or build your survival plan, on electronics. They can fail, and leave you stranded in the wilderness. You still need to rely on the old proven skills and tools

The electronic gear can still be a great addition for your outdoors convenience and emergency preparedness, as long as you don’t rely on them, but still have a solid backup plan.

The Weather Radio has a crank for charging external devicesThe Weather Radio has a crank for charging external devicesOne weakness I have found with the electronic gear I bring with me is that they eventually run out of power. Batteries only last so long. I have always brought with me extra batteries for the GPS handheld unit, but I don’t have any backup power for my cell phone.

One solution to the power issue is a USB charger, powered by a crank dynamo, and/or solar power. Many outdoors- and electronic stores sell various brands and configurations of those chargers.

The other day I saw one at Radio Shack, a Emergency Weather radio charger combo. I decided to buy it to try it out. It is a Microlink FR160 Red Cross edition, made by Eton Corp.

Earphone and USB outletEarphone and USB outletIt is self-powered, using solar power and a dynamo crank, to charge the built-in battery, which powers a 3-LED flashlight, anAM/FM radio, and the 7-channel NOAA Weather Band. It also has a headphone outlet. But the best feature, in my opinion, is the crank-powered USB charger, which can charge almost any handheld device that has a USB port. It is not compatible with Apple products though! It won’t charge iPhones and iPads. On the contrary, it could damage them.

Testing the unit at home, the FM and AM stations came in just fine. Also 2 of the 7 Weather channels were clear.

Charging an Android phoneCharging an Android phoneI tried to charge both my Android smart phone and my DeLorme GPS unit, and it worked fine. It is a slow charge, so you would have to crank quite a long time to charge them up. But for an emergency use, all you need is a few minutes of cranking, for a quick use of the GPS or phone.

This unit didn’t come with any USB cables. You just have to use the devices’ own USB cables.

There is also a video review of this unit on the nwsisu Youtube Channel: Weather Radio USB Charger Review