BL-5c, 18650 vs AA batteries for portable radios

I’m a bit perplexed at all the negative comments on review sites about today’s portable radios using “non-standard” batteries like the BL-5c and the 18650. Almost all reviewers mention this as a possible ‘con’ while reviewing newer portable shortwave radios because there are always a few comments that say “It’s a deal breaker”.

Personally, I don’t understand why anyone would want to buy and have to store conventional Alkaline batteries these days. Don’t forget to remove them -or- have them leak all over inside your radio. Then you are left wondering ‘are these still good…. awe well… throw them away and grab some new ones to make sure they are fresh… then fill your pocket in case those run out’.

Every radio I have come across that uses these batteries can be recharged from the radio by simply plugging them in via a USB cable. Plug the other end into a wall adapter, my cars USB port, or my larger USB power bank. Why the heck would I spend the money on alkaline batteries!? From a prepping standpoint, these batteries can easily be charged in the radio or simply pop a charged spare one in. Who’s to say the corner store is going to have alkaline batteries to sell in an all out disaster.

At this point, I’d suspect everyone wold have an extra USB wall adapter…. looking in my junk drawer I see three without digging! left over from old phones or tablets.

Truth is, the BL-5c is a very common battery. It was used in cell phones for many years and currently in a lot of cameras. They are CHEAP. You can buy an ‘extended runtime’ kit from CountyComm for less than $15 that has two BL-5c batteries and a wall charge kitted into a nice plastic storage case. They offered this as a compliment to the receiver they sell (GP7/SSB) that also uses this battery. A BL-5c is less than $5 on Ebay. Heck! you can buy three of these batteries cheaper than you can buy a 24-pack of Coppertops today. 18650’s are even cheaper. I just ordered 2-batteries and a USB charger that charges both batteries at the same time for $6.99 on Ebay.

I’m done with alkaline batteries if I can avoid it.

4 Comments on “BL-5c, 18650 vs AA batteries for portable radios

  1. I am not a “prepper”. However, odd sized and type rechargeables make sense in a long term outage solution ONLY if you have a supply of replacements. The conventional thinking among those that do not like more modern type batteries is that you can buy AA and AAA batteries nearly any backwater hardware store, pharmacy, grocery store in the world. Try finding an 18650 on the shelf of any of those places even in a big city. For long term, you MAY be able to find batteries on a shelf someplace in a grid down or worse situation, but I doubt that too. Batteries and water are about the first things sold out in a disaster. Hence, a set of rechargeables and a hand cranked or solar recharger are my choices. I have several larger rechargable Goal Zero flashlights that are crank/solar and they have saved us countless times living in the countryside with storms taking out our aging power lines seemingly several times per year. They are handy power banks for phones and tablets. Just have spares. Everything has a shelf life. Get a good steel fire starter too. At some point all batteries will fail and you’ll need fire to keep the wolves away.

    Did you know you can get 120v inverters that run on several types of lawn and garden tool batteries? Might be a good way to watch TV when the power goes out too. There are adapters to use garden tool batteries for many things.

    Do what’s right for you. I always do. Think interchangeability and overall usefulness. All my gear is multi purpose.


    • Very good points. Guess I’d be assuming my batteries wouldn’t fail to charge for the long haul. Still think anything built to charge off USB power would be easy to power long term since most of us do have solar generators and battery banks. Might be worth it to make some sort of alkaline battery bank with an adjustable output that could supply USB 5v voltage or something like that if we indeed couldn’t charge. So much to consider.

  2. I love the 18650 batteries I have many personal items from LED flash lights to strobes that run this battery
    not sure how Id recharge them in a SHTF scenario, but I have over a dozen so Ill be good for a while…
    I have a patriot charger and a chinese knockoff , the only difference is the chinese clone solar panel is worthless

  3. After my most recent down the rabbit hole trip. I don’t put much faith in what i see or hear from the shtf prepper types online. I agree with you on the BL-5C, 18650 vs AA, AAA battery stance. I’d dare say a majority of us that have built, are building or are still in the planning stages of building our off the beaten path rigs have figured out a secondary power solution for them. My build for example, is currently set up with a sealed 35Ah agm battery for just the bed interior lighting. I carry an extension cord to plug my truck into a wall outlet and that battery is charging. Once solar is added, it’ll be rechargeable from both shore power and solar. More than enough to run a qrp rig and keep a few ht’s ready to go. As for where to find 18650 batteries locally in a shtf situation… just have to think outside the realm of normal.

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