Eton Microlink FR160 – The Best Emergency Radio with Flashlight Review
Eton Microlink FR160 Review – Solar-Powered, Wind-Up AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight
When you’re stocking an emergency kit two essential items to include are a flashlight and a radio. But when disaster strikes and you pull out your emergency kit, the last thing you want is to find a flashlight or radio with dead batteries. Even rechargeable batteries are no good if the power’s out and you have no way to recharge them.
Out here on the east coast we had an earthquake and a hurricane in within a week of each other so stocking an emergency kit is something everyone is talking about. We consider ourselves lucky that we didn’t get a lot of damage from either event. We did lose power for 11 hours during the worst of Hurricane Irene and having a radio with a flashlight that worked amazingly well and could be recharged with a wind-up hand crank or solar panel was a huge help in maintaining peace of mind during the storm. That’s where the Etón FR160 Microlink Self-Powered Radio with Flashlight comes in.
Finding the Perfect Emergency Radio with a Flashlight
In the past I’d found a wind up radio/flashlight at Costco that did a pretty good job but I lent it out and never got it back. Sadly I never found them again at Costco or any other local store so I needed to find another source. Luckily I found the Etón FR160 Microlink Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight on Amazon.com. It’s even better than my previous wind-up radio since it has both a wind-up hand crank and a solar charging panel. You use the solar panel to keep the Ni-MH battery topped off and the hand crank is great to have if the battery runs out during an emergency.
Why Choose the American Red Cross Model?
The model in the pictures is the American Red Cross ARCFR160R Microlink. The only difference between the ARCFR160R and the FR160 is that the Etón Corporation will contribute $0.49 to $1.00 (it depends on the price of the particular product) for each “Red Cross” product sold to support the American Red Cross. I also think red is a good color for emergencies. In case you’re curious, the last letter in the catalog number is the color code. “R” is for red.
By the way, I call this an emergency radio flashlight but it would also be great for general travelling and camping trips.
Eton Microlink FR160 Features & Specs:
- The Etón FR160 Microlink can use it’s solar panel or hand crank dynamo to charge the internal Ni-MH battery
- It has the standard AM (520-1710 KHz) & FM (87-108MHz) so you can tune to your favorite local stations
- The NOAA weatherband radio includes all 7 channels so you can find your local weather information
- The built-in flashlight uses 3 white LED light bulbs
- The USB cell phone charging feature is great to have in a an emergency
- The Etón FR160 Microlink has a 3.5 mm headphone jack so you can listen the the weather when everyone else is trying to sleep
- Dimensions: 5.25” x 2.5” x 1.75” (133 x 63.5 x 44.45 mm) (W x H x D) Weight: 8.5 oz. (241 g)
Charging the Etón Microlink FR160 Emergency Radio Flashlight
The Etón FR160 has an internal Ni-MH battery that can be charged by the solar panel on top of the radio or a hand crank for up to 5 hours of radio time.
Charging the Etón Microlink FR160 with the Solar Panel
To fully charge the Etón FR160 Microlink with the solar panel it needs to be in the sun for about 8 hours. That seems like a long time but solar charging is something you would do whenever you’re not using the emergency radio. All you need to do is store it in a sunny window and whenever you need it it’ll be ready to go.
A full charge from the solar panel will give you 3-5 hours of continuous radio play.
Charging the Etón Microlink FR160 with the Wind-Up Hand Crank
Having a hand crank means this emergency radio/flashlight will truly never let you down. If your Etón FR160 Emergency Radio Flashlight runs out of power in the middle of an emergency you can use the wind-up hand crank to recharge the batteries and you’re back in business.
Turning the crank for 90 seconds gives you 30-40 minutes of wind up radio play.
Built-in AM/FM Radio
The Built-in AM/FM radio works really well and is great for getting local news and information from your local radio stations. It’s also useful to have a radio for music for times when you might be without power for an extended time and need some entertainment. It’s great for camping trips for that reason as well.
Some people have mentioned that the knobs are a bit small (about the size of a nickel) and sensitive, but tuning in stations works well once you take a second to get used to the light touch needed.
NOAA Weatherband Weather Radio with All 7 Channels
NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weatherband Weather Radio is operated by the National Weather Service and sends out alerts about National Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day. It also broadcasts alerts of non-weather emergencies such as national security, natural, environmental, and public safety through the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Emergency Alert System.
The Perfect Self-Powered Flashlight
During the hurricane we lost power just after midnight. We were still up watching the Weather Channel to keep track of the storm when the lights went out. Having a flashlight handy, that was easy to recharge with a hand crank made things a lot less stressful as we kept an eye on things while the storm raged.
The 3 LED lights does an excellent job of lighting the way. And knowing that the flashlight could be recharged with the hand crank made it unnecessary to limit how long the light and radio were on. Plus the crank is fun to use and gave the kids something to do even when it really didn’t need to be charged. So we never ran out of power.
Emergency USB Cell Phone Charger
The Etón FR160 Emergency Radio Flashlight has the ability to charge most cell phones with USB connections. You have to use the hand crank to charge your cell phone though so it’s definitely just for emergencies.
You charge a cell phone by connecting your phone’s USB charging cable to the USB port on the back of the radio. Then you need to turn the hand crank for about 10- 15 minutes to get a small amount of talk time on your cell phone.
In a pinch this can come in handy but 15 minutes is a long time to turn a hand crank. If you’re really interested in charging your cell phone when the power is I’d recommend getting a dedicated solar power charger like the Powermonkey Extreme Solar Charger.
Note: This charger (and most similar chargers) will not work with an Apple iPhone 3GS. Apparently it has something to do with the iPhone and not the charger but if you have an iPhone 3GS it’s something you should be aware of.
Compact and Convenient
The Etón FR160 Rechargeable Radio Flashlight combines an AM/FM radio, weather radio, and flashlight that can be recharged with a wind-up hand crank and solar power into a convenient, compact package that fits nicely in your hand and weighs just over half a pound. And you can pick one up for around $30 which is an excellent value.
Customer Reviews and Ratings
At the time of this post the Etón FR160 Microlink has over 180 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.2 stars out of 5.
The majority of customer reviews are positive but a few customers had some minor concerns. One customer said “If you have a Smart phone do not even bother.” But like I mentioned previously, the phone charging feature is not a big selling point of this radio and there’s a known issue with the iPhone 3GS and these kind of chargers.
The majority of reviews were extremely positive with comments like “EXCELLENT item, it is better than I expected.”, “Perfect emergency radio & flashlight”, and “Greatest little radio!” You can read more more customer reviews here.
The Eton Microlink FR160 Energency Radio Flashlight is an ideal addition to your emergency kit. It combines an AM/FM radio, weather radio and flashlight into a compact package that works when you need it most.
The combination of solar charger and hand crank makes this self-powered radio flashlight a perfect choice for any emergency. If you store it in a sunny window you’ll always have 3-5 hours of use whenever you need it. If you need to recharge it in a hurry you just turn the hand-crank for about a minute and you’re good to go for 30 – 40 minutes.
The included USB phone charger is useful in a pinch but if you’re really interested in charging your cell phone in an emergency I’d recommend a dedicated charger like the Powermonkey Extreme Solar Charger.
A radio, weather radio and flashlight are essential items in any emergency and the fact that this radio/flashlight combo can be recharged in any condition, day or night makes it the best choice for an emergency radio.
Where to Buy an Eton Microlink FR160 Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight
The best place I’ve found to buy the Etón Microlink FR160 is Amazon.com. Amazon actually sells the FR160 for a few dollars less than the Etón site and you can get free shipping from Amazon. Total cost should be around $30.
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