Review: A Light, A Battery, A Book, and A Radio, by Thomas Christianson

Editor’s Introductory Note:  This review was written by a long-time content contributor to SurvivalBlog who wrote his articles under the pen name “The Novice.”  Thomas Christianson just had his name added to our masthead. Since he will be a paid member of the SurvivalBlog editorial staff, he will no longer be eligible for our writing contest.

From time to time in my daily life, I run across items that may be of interest to SurvivalBlog readers. This article is a collection of short reviews about some of those items. These items include a heat-powered lantern, a battery bank, a book, and a radio.

A Heat-Powered Lantern

Recently, a powerful windstorm swept through our area. Our electricity was down for a couple of days. Fortunately, we have a generator. We ran it for a couple of hours each morning and each evening. This kept the food in the refrigerator and freezer adequately cooled and provided us with hot and cold running water for a portion of each day. Our woodstove kept the house warm, so all in all, we were well provided for.

During the evening hours when the generator was off and everything was dark and quiet, things could become somewhat boring. Fortunately, I remembered a gift that my wife had given me a couple of years ago that I had not taken the opportunity to test yet. It is a Luminiser Heat Powered Portable LED Lantern. The lantern came in a simple box that contained only the lantern and a user manual. I read through the directions, and then lit the wick of the oil unit with a plasma lighter. A steady flame quickly established itself. Next, I inserted the oil unit into the lantern and extended the legs. After allowing the unit to warm up for about 30 seconds, I switched on the front LED reading light.

I was pleased to find that the lantern did indeed produce enough light for comfortable reading. I tested it by reading The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest in a collection of Hercule Poirot short stories by Agatha Christie. Then I used the lantern to provide light for writing the notes on which this review is based.

The lantern is constructed mostly of a heat-resistant plastic. It seems to function quite well for home use. I am not sure how well the plastic would hold up to long-term field use.

When the lantern is burning, the operator can select between using the oil light only, using one front LED reading light, or using two side LED lights. Each oil unit holds enough fuel to power the lantern for approximately eight hours.

The lantern was designed and developed in Norway. Unfortunately, it was made in mainland China.

The lantern is available online for about $20, with eight extra oil units costing a total of about $15.

All in all, I found the heat-powered lantern to be a handy tool for a grid down situation. Having enough light with which to comfortably read and write was a great emotional boost during a long, dark evening.

A Battery Bank

When the power went down, my wife had just sent a message to someone about the possibility of spending the night in our home. Her cell phone was almost out of power, and she was concerned that the battery might die before she received a response to her invitation.

Fortunately, we already had plans to take a ride to look at a used pick-up truck that we were considering buying. We plugged in the car charger for her phone, and away we went.

After we got home, I began to consider other options for keeping our phones charged until the power came back on. We wanted to remain accessible in case our kids, my Mom, or someone in our church family needed us.

I remembered that a couple of years ago, our daughter had given me a generic solar-charged power bank. These are often sold through eBay,, and other Internet retailers. They are sold under various brand names. I got it out, and was pleased to see that even after sitting on a shelf for a couple of years with just the original factory charge, the power bank still came out of the box with about 50% of its charge available. My phone has a pretty good battery. After a full day of use, it typically retains more than 80% of its charge. When I plugged the phone into the power bank under those conditions, it recharged in about 30 minutes. Recharging the phone did not noticeably diminish the remaining charge in the power bank.

The next couple of times that the generator was running, I plugged the power bank in for charging. The power bank was fully charged after being plugged in for about 3 hours.

The power bank seems quite durable, and has covers over all of its ports to make it more dust and moisture resistant. It does seem a bit on the heavy side for field use.

I have not yet tried charging the power bank using the integrated solar cell. Based upon the small size of the solar cell, I do not have high expectations for a quick recharge.

Similar power banks are available online for about $35.

All in all, I am impressed with the power bank as a tool to help smooth out some of the challenges associated with a short-term power outage, even if I am not optimistic about longer-term use.

A Book

While browsing the shelves of a local thrift store recently, I ran across The Official MacGyver Survival Manual by Rhett Allain, Peter M Lenkov (Foreword), and Lucas Till (Introduction). I enjoyed watching the original MacGyver series on television many years ago. I don’t really watch much television anymore, so I don’t know much about the new series. Although I enjoyed the original series, I felt that many of the improvised devices featured in that series were wildly implausible. As a result, I did not have high expectations for the book. I expected it to be entertaining but highly impractical.

As expected, the book contained some ideas that would only work in Hollywood. For example, it suggested making a spy drone using a “sky-lantern” type hot air balloon and a cell phone. Based upon my youthful experiences with sky-lantern type hot air balloons, I do not believe that a balloon of the size portrayed in the book could carry a payload as heavy as a cell phone.

But amidst all the chaff, I was surprised to find some wheat. Among other interesting bits of information were a number of excellent summaries for how to tie essential knots. There were also instructions for making thermite, a penny stove, a Leyden jar, a litmus test, pepper spray, and a water filter. I decided that it was probably best that I did not have this book around when I was 12 years old. It is the kind of book that could have gotten me into a lot of trouble.

I should also confess to something that dedicated MacGyver fans may consider to be heresy: I believe that MacGyver would be better served by a Leatherman multi-tool than by a Swiss Army knife. The various Swiss Army knives are wonderful tools, but I find my Leatherman multi-tools to be even more useful.

So all in all I found the book to be fun, and to even include some information that might be genuinely helpful to someone trying to improvise a defense against a terrorist attack or to survive in a disaster situation. It could also lead a young person to accidentally burn down their dad’s garage. I am definitely not giving this book to my grandsons. My son-in-law is too good a man to knowingly subject to those kinds of trials and tribulations.

A Radio

For Christmas this year, my wife gave me a Raynic Solar Crank CR 1009 Radio. I had asked for a radio that can receive shortwave stations, which is why my wife selected this particular model. The radio can be powered in five ways: with a hand crank, a built-in solar panel, a micro-USB input, a lithium-ion battery, or with three AAA batteries. It also has a USB output to power other USB-compatible devices like cell phones. The directions indicate that this output is for emergency use only, so that the device should not normally be used as a power bank.

I verified that the crank and the solar panel both produce enough current to charge the lithium-ion battery. The solar panel is only rated for 30 to 50 mA, so it only functions in the most direct sunlight, and then only slowly. Do not expect sunlight alone to keep this unit fully charged for regular use. The solar panel can be tilted to get the best angle toward the sun.

The radio receives AM, FM, Weather Bands, and SW. The sound quality and volume are better than I expected from the size of the speaker.

The radio also includes a flashlight with two brightness settings and a reading light with two brightness settings.

The unit is constructed of fairly heavy gauge plastic and appears to be reasonably durable. Unfortunately, the unit was made in mainland China.

The radio is available online for about $35.

All in all, I am pleased to add this device to my tornado preparedness kit.


I did not receive any financial or other inducement to mention any vendor, product, or service in this article.