8 Best Emergency Radio for 2021

While we’ve become accustomed to modern tech, most computers and smart devices are of little use if there’s no power. In such a scenario using an emergency radio is a more reliable way to access information

Whether it utilizes a long-lasting battery, windup power, or solar, the best emergency radio is one that can function in all situations.

We’ve narrowed down the search to eight leading products, so you can find the best survival radio for your needs.

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1. Midland ER310

One of the best hand crank radio choices on the market, these Midland radios also have a built-in solar panel. This redundancy ensures you have power, no matter what your situation. You can also keep up with weather alerts from the NOAA radio band. Full Review

  • Receive weather alerts
  • Multiple power options
  • Charge external devices

One of the best hand crank radio choices on the market, these Midland radios also have a built-in solar panel. This redundancy ensures you have power, no matter what your situation. You can also keep up with weather alerts from the NOAA radio band. Full Review

2. RunningSnail MD-088s

This compact solar-powered radio lets you efficiently use the AM, FM, and NOAA bands to keep you informed if you find yourself in an emergency. It has a responsive antenna with good reception and an LED flashlight to help you in the dark. Full Review

  • Two renewable power options
  • Built-in flashlight
  • Access NOAA alerts

This compact solar-powered radio lets you efficiently use the AM, FM, and NOAA bands to keep you informed if you find yourself in an emergency. It has a responsive antenna with good reception and an LED flashlight to help you in the dark. Full Review

3. Kaito KA500

If you’re looking for the best shortwave radio for emergencies, then consider the Kaito KA500. It can pick up most of the shortwave radio spectrum (from 3.2 MHZ to 22MHz). It has good coverage of regular AM and FM as well. It’s also one of the best waterproof portable radios we’ve seen. Full Review

  • Receives shortwave, NOAA, and AM/FM
  • Powered by crank or solar
  • Versatile LED light

If you’re looking for the best shortwave radio for emergencies, then consider the Kaito KA500. It can pick up most of the shortwave radio spectrum (from 3.2 MHZ to 22MHz). It has good coverage of regular AM and FM as well. It’s also one of the best waterproof portable radios we’ve seen. Full Review

4. FosPower Emergency Radio

This solar panel crank radio from FosPower gives you just what you need in an emergency. You get a 1-watt LED flashlight and reading light and a backup power bank that can also charge mobile devices. You also get access to NOAA emergency weather forecasts. It’s also IPX3 rated, meaning it can withstand rain and other water sprays. Full Review

  • Get emergency weather forecasts
  • Recharge via solar or crank
  • Multiple power backups

This solar panel crank radio from FosPower gives you just what you need in an emergency. You get a 1-watt LED flashlight and reading light and a backup power bank that can also charge mobile devices. You also get access to NOAA emergency weather forecasts. It’s also IPX3 rated, meaning it can withstand rain and other water sprays. Full Review

5. Eton FRX3+

The Eton FRX3+ emergency weather radio is a durable and practical choice if you find yourself in a blackout, natural disaster, or are adventuring off the grid. It reaches AM, FM, and weather stations quickly and clearly without much radio noise. Plus, you can provide power to the device via a solar panel at the top or a hand crank at the front. Full Review

  • Certified by American Red Cross
  • Good sound quality
  • Emergency siren feature

The Eton FRX3+ emergency weather radio is a durable and practical choice if you find yourself in a blackout, natural disaster, or are adventuring off the grid. It reaches AM, FM, and weather stations quickly and clearly without much radio noise. Plus, you can provide power to the device via a solar panel at the top or a hand crank at the front. Full Review

6. Midland ER210

If you need a feature-rich but compact solution, the Midland ER210 may be the best portable AM FM radio for you. It has impressive battery life and can be easily recharged in direct sunlight. The backlit LCD display is also a nice touch. Full Review

  • Targeted weather alerts
  • Powerful LED light
  • Loud maximum volume

If you need a feature-rich but compact solution, the Midland ER210 may be the best portable AM FM radio for you. It has impressive battery life and can be easily recharged in direct sunlight. The backlit LCD display is also a nice touch. Full Review

7. Sangean MMR-88 Emergency Radio

Known for its durability, the MMR-88 from Sangean is also one of the most efficient hand crank AM/FM radios available. You’ll get five minutes of playback for every minute winding, and this is further supported by solar power. You also get access to all seven weather stations. Full Review

  • Good audio quality
  • Highly drop-resistant
  • Efficient hand crank

Known for its durability, the MMR-88 from Sangean is also one of the most efficient hand crank AM/FM radios available. You’ll get five minutes of playback for every minute winding, and this is further supported by solar power. You also get access to all seven weather stations. Full Review

8. C. Crane CC Solar Observer

The Solar Observer is an excellently designed and power-efficient AM FM radio, that can give you a staggering 30 minutes of use for just 90 seconds of manual cranking. It can also go for 60 hours with just three AA batteries before you need to switch to the rechargeable. Full Review

  • Excellent battery life
  • Very light
  • Receives weather radio

The Solar Observer is an excellently designed and power-efficient AM FM radio, that can give you a staggering 30 minutes of use for just 90 seconds of manual cranking. It can also go for 60 hours with just three AA batteries before you need to switch to the rechargeable. Full Review

The Best Emergency Radio for 2021

The best portable AM FM radio for you will depend on the emergency situations you might use it in. Here’s how each radio in our list excels:

Detailed Reviews

Midland ER310
Midland ER310

BEST FOR

Overall features

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  • Receive weather alerts
  • Multiple power options
  • Charge external devices
  • Built-in whistle and flashlight

The ER310 is a dual solar and hand crank emergency radio, giving you two options if you find yourself stranded or the power grid is down. It also allows you to tune into NOAA radio alerts, so you can receive any emergency weather or disaster reports in your area.

Features

Power

The radio’s standout feature is its ability to remain powered from multiple sources. You can use regular AA batteries in the beginning and if they run out you can then move on to the rechargeable lithium-ion battery. This can be powered in the daylight via the built-in solar panel or simply by winding the hand crank if you aren’t in bright conditions. When fully charged you get an impressive 32 hours of continuous use.

If you are preparing for an emergency or there’s a scheduled power outage, you can charge the battery beforehand via USB.

Coverage

It covers the FM and AM radio frequency via a telescoping antenna. The reception cannot be faulted, and it can be used outdoors without any trouble. Indoors is a bit more challenging and will require you to test out different placements and positions to find the best audio signal.

The device also functions as an emergency alert system radio, which means you can tune in directly to any NOAA weather and disaster updates, if applicable. If you turn on the emergency activations feature, the radio will only activate if there’s actually an update detected. This will help you to conserve power.

Charge Devices

If you cannot obtain any information via the radio and need to contact the emergency services directly, the built-in USB port can pass the charge on to your phone and other smart devices.

SOS Mode

The built-in flashlight will aid you if you’re stuck somewhere dark or need to make a visible signal. Setting it to SOS mode will automatically blink the light in the universal sequence. Furthermore, if you get separated from your party or you know there’s help nearby, you can use the loud dog whistle to draw attention.

Pricing

$59.99

Verdict

Overall, this Midland emergency radio is high-performing little weather alert radio that can help you survive in numerous scenarios. Its multiple power options and extra features like the flashlight and whistle make it a very desirable option. Its ability to charge other devices is also a major plus. Our only gripe is that it is only water-resistant and cannot handle a constant bombardment of water or being submerged. This reduces its versatility in some situations.

RunningSnail MD-088s
RunningSnail MD-088s

BEST FOR

Budget buyers

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  • Two renewable power options
  • Built-in flashlight
  • Access NOAA alerts
  • Very affordable

At under $25, this affordable solar hand crank radio allows you to use your own force or the sun to keep its lithium-ion battery charged. As well as FM and AM stations, you can also tune into weather and disaster alerts via the NOAA band. 

Features

Power

RunningSnail’s MD-088s keeps you prepared in multiple emergency scenarios thanks to its two renewable power options. If it’s daylight, then you can rely on its solar panel to hold a charge. If conditions are bad, however, you can use the manual hand crank to create your own energy.

If you do have access to power, there’s also a micro USB charging mat. You might want to use this ahead of a potentially dangerous trip to ensure everything is fully charged beforehand.

The lithium-ion battery can last between 12 and 15 hours but will extend beyond this if you remain in the daylight. Using the flashlight or having the radio particularly loud will drain the battery quicker.

Coverage

The device is known as an emergency weather radio as it allows you to access the NOAA band, not just FM and AM. This picks up weather alerts and updates on natural and manmade disasters. This is an invaluable feature. 

Flashlight

A simple but useful feature that can help you navigate through dark conditions is the LED flashlight. 

Design

Depending on where you pick it up, you can choose from three colors – red, green, or black. While the antenna is small, it is fast to pull stations and you shouldn’t have any reception issues. 

Perhaps the only thing lacking is full waterproofing. The radio does resist splashes, but it cannot accommodate torrential rain or be fully submerged. 

Pricing

$24.90

Verdict

While it’s not the loudest or highest quality, for emergencies the RunningSnail MD-088s ticks all the right boxes. It has two renewable power sources and access to weather alerts. It is also portable and durable. The added flashlight will keep you safe in the dark. For its price, it is one of the best NOAA weather radios on the market.

Kaito KA500
Kaito KA500

BEST FOR

Portable shortwave radio

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  • Receives shortwave, NOAA, and AM/FM
  • Powered by crank or solar
  • Versatile LED light
  • Supports backup batteries

Although the shortwave radio band is not necessarily the first solution for emergencies, having the ability to receive such signals adds another line of information. It is commonly used for international broadcasts. The Kaito KA500 supports most of this band, on top of AM/FM and the NOAA weather bands. It also has multiple options for generating power in an emergency when you have no access to the power grid.  

Features

Water and Drop Resistance

The Kaito radio has a standout design that is impact and water-resistant. Unlike many others, it is ABS certified and therefore can be fully submerged in water. Its impact resistance means it can be dropped from your person and not receive any serious damage. Both of these make it ideal if you’re out in the elements.

Coverage

The telescoping antenna extends to 14.5 inches, ensuring you have no problem finding stations across traditional AM/FM bands and its shortwave spectrum. It also supports NOAA weather and disaster updates. Once you’ve found what you want it does a good job of providing clear reception that isn’t interrupted by other signals.

SOS Mode

If you’re out in the wilderness a clear path may be just as important as a clear radio station. That’s why it has a versatile LED flashlight with multiple modes. It has a torch setting to allow you to see into the distance in front of you. The reading lamp illuminates your immediate surroundings. Then there’s an SOS beacon that pulses to draw the attention of others if you’re in a dire emergency.

Power

Thanks to multiple power options, the KA500 is brilliant if you find yourself with no access to mains power. You can use a solar panel to draw energy from the sun – one of the few portable shortwave radios to do this. If conditions are particularly bad and there is no sun, however, the manual hand crank also lets you generate power by ‘winding’. Its nickel-metal hydride battery is replaceable and rechargeable and can work in conjunction with standard AA batteries to prolong its life. On a full charge without additional batteries, you can expect around 10 hours of continuous. Fortunately, if the sun’s out the radio will last much longer.

When you are at home on the power grid, a USB slot allows you to charge the battery quickly. When on the go, this same slot also allows you to output stored power from the radio to charge your other devices. This can be a lifesaver if, for example, your phone has run out of charge and you desperately need to reach the emergency services.

Pricing

$49.99

Verdict

This water-resistant portable radio is one of the better options out there when prepping for an emergency. Not only does it include the added shortwave band, but it can also withstand being dropped and totally submerged in water. Its flashlight with multiple modes is also a cut above the rest. Despite these attributes, it remains affordable at $49.99. It’s the best shortwave radio in its class.

FosPower Emergency Radio
FosPower Emergency Radio

BEST FOR

SOS alarm and light

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  • Get emergency weather forecasts
  • Recharge via solar or crank
  • Multiple power backups
  • IPX3 weatherproof AM FM radio

The FosPower emergency radio leaves you prepared for home power outages, outdoor adventures, and unexpected disasters that leave you without a mains supply. The fully charged radio is complemented by a power bank, solar panel, and hand crank. It can further be backed up with regular batteries. You can also light your way with an LED light and alert people with an SOS alarm.

Features

Coverage

You can depend on the FosPower Emergency radio to deliver quick access to AM and FM radio stations, as well as to weather and disaster reports from the NOAA.  

Power

The multiple power options ensure that the radio remains functional, even if you are away from the power grid. There’s an inbuilt rechargeable battery, which is supported by a 200mAh power bank. With the bank in, you can also pass power along to any mobile device via USB to micro USB. Power can be further supported by 3 x standard AAA batteries.

Your best option for recharging the battery is to use the crank lever, which is faster than the small solar panel. It’s advised to only use solar as a method to prolong overall battery life rather than for full recharging, which can take days by itself. 

When fully charged you can get up to 20 hours of radio listening time, though this will be reduced when using other features.

Flashlight

The FosPower SOS radio can also be used as a light source. There’s a 1-watt flashlight to illuminate the area in front of you if you end up in the darkness. Meanwhile, the 4 LED reading light is good for performing tasks in your immediate vicinity, such as reading a book.

SOS Mode

If you are lost outside or in some other emergency, a special SOS alarm can be triggered that reaches 115dB. This will help others locate you in conjunction with a flashing light from the LED.

Water-Resistant

The IPX3 water rating means that it cannot be fully submerged. The radio, however, will do okay in the rain or if sprayed or splashed. 

Pricing

$29.99

Verdict

Overall, the FosPower emergency radio is good value for money and provides adequate power solutions in the case of a blackout or outdoor trek. The additional safety features, like the loud SOS alarm and LED lights, are a nice touch. As is the ability to use the radio’s stored power to charge more practical devices, like your mobile phone.

Eton FRX3+
Eton FRX3+

BEST FOR

Emergency alert system radio

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  • Certified by American Red Cross
  • Good sound quality
  • Emergency siren feature
  • Powerful LED light

Great for camping and venturing outdoors, the Eton FRX3+ has some of the clearest and loudest playback we’ve experienced with a hand radio. It has all the expected features, like solar power and hand crank, but lots of extras as well. It’s also officially endorsed by the American Red Cross, so you can be sure that it gets the job done in true emergencies.

Features

Coverage

This Eton radio particularly stands out in the sound quality department. This is because of excellent reception delivered by the extendable antenna. You’ll get AM and FM frequencies whether you’re indoors or in the back of beyond. Furthermore, if you’re experiencing bad conditions and want to check for any specific warnings, you can access the NOAA band for the seven weather stations it carries.

You can easily narrow reports down to the county you’re in by activating the SAME alerts feature. This can save you time in an emergency. 

Power

The battery-powered radio utilizes a rechargeable lithium-ion pack. This can be wound by using the crank at the front, but it is quite a laborious process with this model. One minute of winding supplies approximately 2.5 minutes of radio playback. It’s best reserved for night-time emergencies or to prolong overall battery life.

If you’re not cut out for cranking you can rely on the small solar panel at the top of the radio. It needs to be in direct sunlight to be effective, but in doing so you’ll be fully charged in 10 hours. This is great for the outside, who can let it charge in the day so it can be their light source at night.

Of course, if you aren’t in an emergency or at least have intermittent access to mains power, there is also a mini-USB port. When fully charged, the Eton FRX3+ can last for approximately 15 hours.

Device Charging

Some emergencies require more than a radio. If you really need to access the internet or use your phone, the FRX3+ can output power via USB. This allows you to charge any mobile device.

Siren

For a small radio, it is one of the loudest in its class, topping out at 90.3dB. This is good for listening to music in the wilderness. It also works as a safety measure to alert people where you are. This is done via the SOS siren button.

Note, the louder you use the radio the more power it will take, so keep that in mind if you’re trying to conserve the battery life.

Water and Drop Resistant

You don’t have to worry about dropping Eton radios as they’re made from durable plastic. They’re also IPX4 rated for water resistance. This means they can’t quite take being completely underwater but will resist the heaviest of downpours or extreme splashes from rafting, for example.

Lighting

Furthermore, the FRX3+ makes an excellent night-time companion due to its powerful LED flashlight. This doubles as a flashing beacon if you activate the siren.

Pricing

$49.99

Verdict

With superior sound quality and reception, the Eton emergency radio is a cut above most preparedness radios on the shelves. It’s sturdy, well made, and little touches like SAME alerts make it that much more efficient. 

Midland ER210
Midland ER210

BEST FOR

Small radio

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  • Targeted weather alerts
  • Powerful LED light
  • Loud maximum volume
  • Only 10.6 ounces

If you’re conserving space, the Midland ER210 is one of the smallest and lightest rechargeable radio devices you can find. At just 10.6 ounces you won’t even register that it’s in your bag or pocket. And, for its size, it doesn’t lack performance. It gets regular and emergency weather radio, uses solar and a hand crank for renewable energy, and has a powerful LED flashlight. It’s a great addition to any camping or emergency preparedness kit.

Features

Lightweight Design

This Midland radio is small and lightweight but also durable, withstanding drops and impacts thanks to its rubberized shell. The only thing it lacks is waterproofing, though a little bit of rain won’t do any damage. At 6.5 x 1.8 x 2.8 inches and under 11 ounces, it can easily slip into your pocket or bag. Its handle also allows you to tie it to your bag, person, or tent. 

We were particularly impressed by the backlit LCD display. It tells you the radio station you’re listening to and the time, among other details.

Power

On a full charge, the ER210’s 2,000mAh battery delivers between eight and 25 hours of use. The exact time depends on the volume, how often you change stations and settings, and whether the light is on. It has a USB port for regular charging when you have access to regular power.

Battery life can be prolonged with the hand crank but is not efficient to use this alone. Testing shows that you get about one minute of power for every two minutes of cranking. Fortunately, it has a solar strip across the top which can take over as the primary power source if you are in direct sunlight.

If you are hiking in the daylight, for example, tying the solar-powered radio to your rucksack is a great way to maintain charge and prepare for the nighttime

Due to its smaller size, the ER210 cannot be supported by extra batteries. It also doesn’t allow you to use its stored power to charge other devices. Despite this, it still remains competitive when it comes to battery life.

Lighting

The Cree LED flashlight is 130-lumens and one of the brightest you’ll find among weather radios. Not only does it light your way, but you can also set it to SOS mode which produces a strobe effect to alert people of your presence. 

Coverage

The ER210 provides good AM and FM coverage and you won’t have trouble picking up stations thanks to its lengthy retractable antenna. Sound quality is not the best but portable radios of this kind aren’t intended for accurate audio playback. What it does excel at is volume. At around 85dB it’s one of the loudest on our list and is one of the better options for attracting rescuers or other people in your group via sound.

As well as regular radio, you also get full access to NOAA weather stations.  The closest and strongest signal can easily be found based on your location by using the helpful auto-scan feature. This means you don’t have to spend time searching for the relevant station. Even better, if you turn on emergency alerts you don’t even have to listen in for information. Instead, the radio will only trigger when a severe weather warning has been issued

For a lot of people out in the wilderness, this may be the only setting you need to use.

Pricing

$42

Verdict

The Midland ER210 stands out because it has all the necessary features of a radio for emergency preparedness, but it also implements those features well. It doesn’t just have light; it has one of the brightest Cree LED lights you can find. It doesn’t just deliver muffled audio; it is one of the loudest pocket radios of this type. To top it off, it’s small and very lightweight.

Sangean MMR-88 Emergency Radio
Sangean MMR-88 Emergency Radio

BEST FOR

AM FM radio for durability

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  • Good audio quality
  • Highly drop-resistant
  • Efficient hand crank
  • Comprehensive SOS features

Excellent for active adventurers, this particularly durable handheld AM FM radio has multiple flashlight settings, an emergency alarm and beacon, and full access to weather alerts. Battery life is efficiently prolonged thanks to its solar panel and hand-winding mechanism.  

Features

Design

This Sangean radio is not flashy but it’s clearly built to last. The entire shell is made of tough plastic, while each side has rubber bumpers. You can drop it on concrete, and it’ll bounce around without causing any damage, making it ideal for trekking outdoors.

While it cannot go underwater, it is IPX3 water-resistant, which means it can survive downpours and splashes from a lake.

As far as portable AM FM radio goes, the sound quality is well above average and rivals some portable speakers

Coverage

As an AM/FM radio you’ll have no problem finding your favorite station and reception is great when you’re outdoors. It even has 19 pre-sets, so you don’t have to spend time tuning it in yourself.

On top of this, it is ‘public alert certified’, meaning you can access all seven NOAA weather radio channels. This allows you to hear forecasts and emergency warnings. 

Power

Sangean has created an especially efficient power system. Although the battery is relatively small at 850mAh, it lasts between 8 and 10 hours when fully charged. Where it really deserves praise is its hand crank. It can generate five minutes of radio playback for every one minute of winding – well above average.

Power can be further extended thanks to the solar strip at the top, which is automatically made use of whenever you are in the sunlight. 

The downside is that there’s no slot for extra batteries, so you must rely on the rechargeable pack. The good news is that you can replace this with a more powerful battery.

You can also use the micro USB output to share charge with your mobile devices.

One helpful feature is automatic switch off after 90 minutes. It is useful if you need a nightlight to go to sleep without draining the battery or if you’re off hiking and lose track of time. 

SOS Mode

These Sangean radios come with a powerful LED light that can be set to several modes. Low is good when you’re inside your tent or just need a bit of light to read a book. High is great for venturing at night when what’s in front of you is important. Meanwhile, SOS mode provides a blinking beacon to help people pinpoint where you are. This is accompanied by a loudspeaker and an emergency alarm.

Pricing

At $69.99 MSRP it is at the higher end of the price scale but can usually be found for closer to $50.

Verdict

The Sangean MMR-88 gets the nod from us thanks to its tough design and responsive hand crank. It also has one of the better-implemented SOS modes and high audio quality, which is rare for emergency portable radios.

C. Crane CC Solar Observer
C. Crane CC Solar Observer

BEST FOR

Rechargeable battery-powered radio

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  • Excellent battery life
  • Very light
  • Receives weather radio
  • Clear reception

With a vintage design and superior performance, the CC Solar Observer is one of the best portable AM FM radio choices you can buy. It excels where it most counts – the ability to stay powered for long periods of time. It’s so lightweight you’ll forget you’re carrying it.

Features

Design

The Solar Observer’s old-school lunchbox design holds a certain charm, but what’s most striking is how light it is. At just 6.5 ounces it’s easy to pack in your bag without bogging it down. The padded carry handle also makes it simple to hold or hang from tents or rucksacks. 

It comes with analog dials and digital signal processing, so you can fine-tune the station you want to listen to.

Coverage

It has full AM/FM coverage and can tune into the weather alert bands as well. The only downside is this is a manual process. You cannot set it to automatically deliver forecasts that are relevant to your current location.

Nonetheless, reception is sensitive and clear, and we had no trouble finding the stations we wanted while out in nature. 

Power

What makes it one of the best portable AM FM radios is its ability to maintain power. You can use one of two sources, the built-in dynamo battery or regular disposable AA batteries. We found it most efficient to start out with regular batteries, which deliver approximately 60 hours of playback. If you’re on a long trip off the grid, only then do you need to rely on the rechargeable.

This can be powered by direct sunlight or via winding the hand crank found on the side of the radio. It’s one of the most efficient we’ve seen, providing an impressive 30 minutes of listening time with just 90 seconds of cranking.  

The solar panel is also good, delivering 4 to 6 hours of playback for 8 hours of light exposure. Taking it out in the day and cranking a bit in the evening is all you’ll need to do to keep the radio running.

In dire emergencies, you can also charge your phone and other mobile devices with the included USB port adapter.

Flashlight

While there is no alarm or specific SOS mode, the radio comes with a bright light on the side that can help you navigate the dark. The analog dial is also backlit for easier use in the dark.

Pricing

$59.99 with a 60-day satisfaction guarantee and lifetime tech support.

Verdict

These CCrane radios are our top pick for efficiency and long battery life thanks to the excellent hand crank. It is also one of the lightest of the bunch, so you don’t have to worry about adding extra weight to your preparedness kit. While it does lack some features and extras, such as an alarm or automatic weather alerts, its strengths outweigh its weaknesses.

What Is Emergency Radio?

It’s a device that’s designed to function in an emergency, such as a power cut, getting stranded in the wilderness, or during a natural disaster. 

Emergency radios use small amounts of power and are commonly designed to run on renewable energy, such as solar.

The hand crank radio is another good option, due to its manually powered electrical generator. It allows you to use physical motion to recharge the battery.

Emergency radios can typically tune in to the AM, FM, and weather broadcasting bands. Some will also include shortwave radio to get international and amateur broadcasts.

In the United States, most emergency radios allow you to receive weather and disaster reports via the NOAA Emergency Alert System (EAS). There are seven stations broadcasting weather updates in different regions of the country. Some radios will even automatically deliver alerts from the most relevant broadcast based on your location.

How To Choose the Best Emergency Radio for You?

Finding the most suitable emergency radio for your needs will depend on several factors. The following is worth keeping in mind:

Price

This type of radio isn’t intended to produce the highest quality sound or the most modern features, so they do not utilize expensive technology. That means even the best emergency radio solutions are affordable. Still, if you are on a tight budget you should expect to spend between $25 and $60.

Weather Alerts

Staying informed about the weather is important if you are out braving the elements or camping. It’s also useful if you’re at home in a power cut or the weather itself has taken out the power grid. 

Look for a device with access to the NOAA radio band. You can tune in to up to seven basic radio stations that broadcast emergency weather reports and other disaster warnings across the United States. Some make things even easier by automatically tapping into the most relevant station and switching on when a broadcast is being made

Power Efficiency

Just because a radio has a rechargeable battery, crank, or solar panel, doesn’t mean it will last a long time or is efficient at charging. Before parting with your cash, you need to check the overall average battery life. Anything over eight hours is considered good.

Likewise, cranks vary greatly in the time it takes to generate meaningful power. At the lower end, it can take two minutes to generate one minute of playback. At the higher end, you can get more than ten times the number of minutes you put in. 

Charge Other Devices

If you want to be reassured that you’ll always have contact with the outside world in an emergency, a radio with the ability to charge mobile devices is a good solution. It works by simply sharing stored power via USB. While it’s not the fastest or most efficient way to get your devices running again, it can be a lifesaver.

Durability

If you’re very active and will be taking your hand radio hiking, rafting, or camping, it needs to be durable enough to withstand the elements. Many of the radios we’ve looked at are shock/drop and water-resistant to varying degrees. This allows you to drop them on different terrain or expose them to downpours without causing any damage.

If you want to be able to take your radio completely underwater, you need to check for an IPX rating of at least 4.  

SOS Features

Some radios can pulsate light in the universal morse code SOS sequence. That way, the emergency services or other members of your group can find you in the distance

This might also be accompanied by a loud alarm or noise that plays out of the radio’s speaker, so people can locate you by sound.

Size

Seasoned adventurers will know that to make the journey easier, it’s best to pack as light as possible. If you don’t want to lug extra weight around or need to conserve space, you’ll need a compact radio. 

The trade-off is that the smaller and lighter the device, the less likely you are to get great sound quality. But it’s not like you need high-fidelity audio to appreciate a weather update.

Wrap Up

Survivalist radios aren’t the flashiest technology. Those of us that own one are hoping that we never find ourselves in a dire enough situation to use it. 

Whether you’re looking for the best portable AM FM radio or the best shortwave radio, however, all the products on our list are perfect for emergencies. They have long-lasting batteries, renewable charging methods, and everything from weather alerts to SOS alarms and lighting. 

If you’re planning to brave the great outdoors or live in an area with extreme weather, now’s the time to get prepared!

FAQ

What type of radio is best for an emergency?

If you find yourself in an emergency, a functional radio can be a lifesaver. The best emergency radio is one that uses minimal power and does not require the main power grid to charge. 

Common options include solar emergency radios that draw power from the sun. Emergency crank radios are also great. They allow you to wind up the radio to create power.

What is the best wind-up radio?

The best hand-crank radio is the Sangean MMR-88. It produces five minutes of radio playback for every minute of winding. If you’re content without an SOS alarm, automatic weather alerts, or certified drop resistance, the C. Crane CC Solar Observer is even more efficient. This can generate 30 minutes of power from just 90 seconds of winding.

Do hand-crank radios work?

Yes, while not every model will be perfect, crank radios are a trusted technology. They allow you to recharge a battery-operated radio simply by turning a crank. I.e. Winding it up. 

A crank radio will not be as powerful or last as long as other power sources before needing to be recharged, but they are particularly reliable when there is no other access to electric power or solar.

Efficiency varies from two minutes of winding for one minute of power to 90 seconds of winding for 30 minutes of power.

How long do hand-crank radios last?

On average you can expect between 10 and 32 hours of radio playback from the best crank radio options on our list. But if you use additional features like lights or have the volume turned way up, batteries run out quicker. 

Overall, the best emergency radio we’ve reviewed is the Midland ER310. This can make use of AA batteries before moving on to a windable and solar-powered battery that lasts up to 32 hours.