Here's an AMAZING little Emergency Radio that I've selected for our "How to Build a Bug-Out Bag" Series. It's SUPER small, hand-crank and solar-powered, tough and inexpensive ($18 US ea) and I picked up a two pack on Amazon for only $24.99 US + shp. Let’s take a quick look at this tough little survival radio that I recently discovered... the Ambient Weather WR-1059.
Taking a Closer Look
The Ambient Weather WR-1059 is a mini-hand crank and solar-powered emergency AM, FM and Weather Band radio that is 3 inches or 7.6 centimeters wide, 3 1/4 inches or 8.2 centimeters high by about 2 inches or 5.1 centimeters deep and it weighs only 7 ounces or 198 grams.
Its shell is made out of an impressively durable-feeling white plastic that has already taken some abuse by me since I’ve toted it around in my bug-out-bag and have been messing with it for a couple of weeks now. In the front, the radio has about an 8 ohm, 1/2 watt mono-speaker that is protected by a pretty hefty metal grill. And there is a red LED light in the bottom front corner that indicates signal strength and helps with tuning.
On one side you’ll see a simple but durable OD green-colored, tuning dial that is raised only about 1/16th of an inch or 1.7 millimeters off the side of the radio. Because this dial is nearly flush with the side, the chances of busting it off are pretty low. There is also a notched bump pattern around the dial to give some grip for tuning.
This little guy has no digital screen, just the frequency marking for each band printed onto the inner part of the dial. Finding your station is pretty easy, but you want to make sure that you have the antenna up for best reception. I found the dial easy to tune and the old school nature of the tuner brought back some memories from my teen years many moons ago.
Below the tuning dial, there is a simple 3-position band switch. Again, this switch is very close to the surface of the radio and feels like it’s pretty decent quality. On the other side there is a dial on / off switch and volume control in one. It’s identical in size, design and quality to the tuning dial.
Turn this dial clockwise to power up the radio and adjust the volume. To turn the unit off, you simply turn the dial counter-clockwise until you hear “click”.
Below this switch is your headphone jack. Using small headphones instead of the speaker seems to extend battery life. On the top of the unit a good quality telescoping antenna is built in, which goes from a 1/2 inch or 1.3 centimeters to nearly 9 inches or 23 centimeters when fully extended.
Next to the antenna is another small red LED that lights up when the unit is receiving enough power from either the built-in solar panel or hand crank to charge the on-board battery.
This is a handy indicator especially when trying to charge the unit using the sun... And most of the top of the radio is wisely taken up by this solid and sizable solar panel. Then on the back you will find a hand crank that recesses into the back of the radio for protection when not in use.
I was again surprised by how substantial this crank handle felt for it’s size. Most radio hand cranks feel really cheap, but this one actually feels like it will last with a reasonable amount of care.
Non-Electric Power Up! This unit is powered ONLY by either the solar panel or the hand crank. There is NO DC power plug or slot for AA or AAA batteries. When I ordered this unit I was originally a little concerned because I’m like anyone else, I like to be in control and I like options... but once I experienced how easy it is to charge the radio using the hand crank and solar panel I was SOLD on its simplicity.
To power the Ambient Weather mini emergency radio with the hand crank, simply turn the crank in either a clockwise or counter clockwise direction. Hand cranking is really easy and as you turn you will see the red LED light on the top of the unit come on which means you’re charging the battery.
So How Much is a Crank Worth?
To test how much play time you get with handcranking and through the solar panel we first ran the original charge totally out of the unit. Then I hand cranked for one minute and much to my surprise I got over 15 minutes of play time on a local FM radio station through the speaker with the volume up about a quarter of the way. Next we took the radio out and faced the solar panel toward the sun. It was cool but sunny winter day without clouds. We left the radio outside for exactly 1 hour and got about 20 minutes of play time out of the radio... which was a real surprise considering that the radio packaging says that 5 hours in the sun will yield only about 30 minutes of play time.
I also noticed while on a trek in the mountains in winter with filtered sun coming through the leafless trees that the unit was charging. So, it does charge in less than full and direct sunlight. Two other cool things about the solar charger... the solar panel will charge the unit while it is on, so it is possible to listen to it while you trek and have it charging at the same time AND you can even trickle charge the unit on your desk with a fluorescent bulb if the solar panel is just a few inches from your desk lamp.
So the battery that’s in this unit is a 2.4V 300mAh Nickle Metal Hydride battery and of course I was curious whether it could be accessed and replaced.
So I removed the 4 small Phillips-head screws from the back of the unit, and found that anyone who is confident with soldering electronics could easily replace this battery for only a few bucks if it ever fails.
Now we have not fully charged the radio yet, but the packaging says that the play time with a full charge is 7 hours.
Owner Comments Owners comment on the surprising quality of the Ambient Weather WR-1059 for its reasonable price... as well as the more than adequate volume, ease of use and how easily it charges by either hand cranking or through the solar panel.
We rate this Ambient Weather emergency radioat a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars for its convenient, super-small size, durable build, ease of use, how well the hand crank and solar power plants work... and for its low price on Amazon US of less than $19.
So Who is this Mini-Emergency Radio For? The Ambient Weather WR-1059 is for anyone - period. No, I’m serious. This is an excellent and functional everyday, go anywhere, barebones but highly functional off-the-grid radio that’s great for camping, backpacking, hunting, fishing, travel, missionaries, emergency kits, bug-out-bags, students and would make a unique and thoughtful gift for anyone who may find themselves away from or without power for an extended period of time.
If you want an emergency radio with a few more bells and whistles like a USB phone charger a built in LED light and alternative power options... Check out my reviews of the ETON - American Red Cross - Emergency Radio and the Ambient Weather WR-333.
So... we’ve just taken a look at the Ambient Weather WR-1059 emergency hand crank and solar powered radio.