Have you been spending a lot of time outdoors lately? If that’s the case, then getting an emergency radio with you could increase your survival odds in case of an emergency. Read on to learn how to choose the best emergency radio and what are the top picks on the market.
Choosing a proficient radio that will keep you connected isn’t as easy as it may seem – all radios may look the same but basic features usually differ. Depending on your budget and additional preferences you could have about the device might leave you confused as to where to start looking.
For reasons like that, we thought we’d give you not only an insight into our top choices for emergency radios, but also let you learn about things to look out for when you start buying. Hopefully, that makes the buying process a lot easier for you.
There are several things you need to keep in mind before buying your radio – don’t get distracted by all the cool colors or logos. It may be for the best to try and follow a set of criteria like the ones we’ve listed below.
|Product Name||Dimensions||Weight||AM/FM Receiver||Price|
|American Red Cross FRX3||6.9 x 5.8 x 2.6 in||1.3 lb.||Yes, both||Check price on Amazon|
|iRonsnow IS-088 Dynamo||2.4 x 5 x 1.6 in||0.45 lb.||Yes, both||Check price on Amazon|
|C Crane CC Solar Observer Wind Up||7.2 x 2 x 5.5 in||1 lb.||Yes, both||Check price on Amazon|
|Sangean MMR-88 AM/FM/Weather+Alert||6 x 2.7 x 3.3 in||0.8 lb.||Yes, both||Check price on Amazon|
|Midland ER200 Emergency Weather||9 x 2.8 x 6.5 in||1 lb.||Yes, both||Check price on Amazon|
|La Crosse RED Alert Super Sport||7.5 x 1.2 x 8.5 in||0.35 lb.||Yes, both||Check price on Amazon|
|Kaito KA500 5-Way Powered Alert||10.5 x 5.8 x 3.2 in||1.8 lb.||Yes, both||Check price on Amazon|
|Ambient Weather Pocket||2.2 x 1 x 3.5 in||0.2 lb.||Yes, both||Check price on Amazon|
Things to Consider Before Buying
The primary role of an emergency radio is to give you disaster warnings and updates. That’s why the first thing you should check for is whether your device has an AM/FM receiver and how efficient that receiver actually is.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most authorities will send their alerts on the AM band because that is less likely to get disrupted in case of a major catastrophe. The FM stations are the first to go down, although you might be able to get some valuable alerts if you listen to local stations too.
After making sure you can keep track of all emergency and/or disaster warnings, you can start looking into more advanced receivers that let’s say, will enable you to communicate with others.
Two-way radios, as well as shortwave ones, could work great for that, so remember to check if a device has those if you’re interested in getting back to whoever has tried to contact you.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that most of the devices have letter logos written on them. Those are there for a reason – each logo shows what technical criteria are met by that device. You’ll want to pay attention to the Public Alert logo and the NOAA NWR All Hazards logo.
The Public Alert logo shows whether your radio can receive particular alerts related to certain zones, whether you’ll receive a sound notification prior to the actual alert being conveyed and whether you can add some additional devices that make the emergency notifications clearer, like a visual or vibration alert.
The visual and vibration features may come in handy not only for people with hearing or seeing deficiencies but also in case you miss a sound notification because you’re busy doing something else.
The NOAA NWR All Hazards logo will further assure you’ll get any important alerts in case any type of hazard or emergency happens in your area. Both logos pertain to NOAA and NWS, meaning that they receive an evaluation from these authorities, as well as the all clear permission.
We didn’t make a spelling mistake on that one – the SAME function is actually an abbreviation for Specific Alert Messages Encoding. A radio with the SAME technology added to it will be able to transmit very particular alerts that regard a certain area.
If you’re going in a region that’s known for its frequent disasters such as earthquakes, floods, or falling rocks, you’ll definitely need the SAME function.
It’s even more important to get a radio with the SAME function if these disasters don’t affect a huge region or aren’t particularly significant on a national scale so that they aren’t conveyed through the usual channels. If you’re not going in such an area, then the SAME function is just a cool addition you can consider for your other trips.
Before buying a radio, check the power source of the device. There are several ways in which you a radio could be powered: with an AC adapter, batteries, and/or with the hand crank.
The AC adapter or any other kind of external source can be incredibly useful in cases when you don’t have many batteries left or simply because you would want something sustainable. Most radios support batteries, which work great when you don’t have any power to charge your device or in times when the power is out altogether.
Don’t forget to make sure you bring enough batteries to last you long enough. The hand crank – or any other manual charger – is great when you don’t really have or don’t want to use the previous two options.
Powering a radio with the manual charger ensures you’ll never lose touch with the outside world nor fail to get any important emergency alerts. In our opinion, getting a radio with a hand crank may be the most reliable power source.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a versatile radio with multiple functions and gadgets needs more power to run, so it could be for the best to look for a radio that has at least two different charging options.
Some devices may feature extra features that may prove useful in challenging situations. A feature like that is the ability to charge other devices. So let’s say, if you’re stuck in an emergency and can’t charge your phone, having a radio that doubles as a charger may work great for you.
If you opt for a device that has an included flashlight you could be able to save both money and space. Casting some light on your surroundings is extremely important and may even save your life in extreme cases. The solar panels are another additional feature that some devices may have.
Those harness solar power and allow you to charge the radio or any other devices. On top of that, don’t forget to check whether the device is shockproof and/or weatherproof as features like that might be important in cases of major disasters.
By now, you’ve probably understood some of the basic features each radio device has and you’re more aware of your needs. Let’s move on to the part where the best products on the market are reviewed.
Top Products on Today’s Market
We’ve done some thorough research and looked at more than a handful emergency radio devices before making this selection for you. As you’ll see, all the radios meet certain criteria and functions we’ve already discussed, which is why we think they’re one of the best options on the market.
Price: Approximately $60
Weight: 1.3 lb.
Dimensions: 6.9 x 5.8 x 2.6 in
Specific features: AM/FM & Weather band alerts; smartphone charging via USB; multiple power options: rechargeable batteries, hand crank, solar power, AAA batteries; LED flashlight & emergency beacon; aux-input
Best use: Weather related emergencies
The American Red Cross FRX3 Radio has both AM/FM bands, as well as weather band alerts, with a flawless reception for all of them no matter where you are.
The radio can be powered through various means. You can use AAA batteries, though those aren’t included. If you have access to a wall socket, you can use the DC adapter on the radio in order to save battery life.
The radio includes solar panels that can be used for powering as well. The included rechargeable NiMH battery can be used in two ways: either with the solar power or by plugging the radio into a computer or laptop.
And last but not least, you can use the hand crank to power the device. Granted, the handle is made out of plastic but it should still be sturdy enough. You’ll get about 15 minutes worth of radio time if you use the hand crank for 3 minutes.
Other advantages come in the form of this radio’s ability to charge your smartphone through the NiMH battery, as well as its clock and aux-input that helps you listen to your own tunes.
The included LED flashlight is another thing worth mentioning if you don’t have any other source of light. Even though the flashlight should give you just enough visibility to make due in an emergency, the light isn’t exceedingly bright.
Speaking of brightness, the emergency beacon is definitely another big plus, since it can be used to signal your position to people who may help you.
- Three ways of charging
- Radio can be used to charge other devices
- Features AM/FM
- Weather band alerts
- The LED flashlight isn’t very bright
- May be a bit heavy for some users
Related: The manufacturer offers a similar product you may find useful, such as the American Red Cross FRX2 Radio, a radio that features AM/FM receiver and the ability to charge your phone via a USB slot. The device has a hand crank as an additional power source and a glow-in-the-dark locator.
Price: Approximately $20
Weight: 0.45 lb.
Dimensions: 2.4 x 5 x 1.6 in
Specific features: AAA batteries; 2.7 V to 4.2 V working voltage; 0.5 W maximum power consumption; AM/FM and weather bands; 3-LED Flashlight; USB charging cable included; retractable antenna; wrist lanyard; mini USB smartphone tips
Best use: Earthquake, fire, outdoor emergencies
The iRonsnow IS-088 Dynamo Emergency Solar Radio is one great way to receive your emergency notifications and alerts, seeing as it has great options for various bands: AM, FM and the weather band. That means you’ll always stay connected and get enough stations to increase your chances of receiving the alerts that might interest you.
Other advantages include the 3 LED flashlight, which works great both in terms of intensity as well as lifespan. The LED lifespan is 100,000 hours, which translates into about 11 years of continuous use. It also has included mini and micro USB smartphone tips for charging other devices such as phones or tablets.
That being said, you can rest assured that all these benefits are met without too much power consumption, seeing as its maximum reaches just 0.5 W. That will allow you a working voltage of 2.7-4.2 V, enough to use very little energy.
In fact, you can power this radio with the help of basic AAA batteries, but you also have a USB charging cable included, to plug the radio into your computer or laptop directly.
The wrist lanyard is another advantage, which will help you carry the radio more comfortably around your wrist. Since it’s small enough and weighs less than half a pound, you can easily carry it around in your hand without getting tired. That’s quite an advantage in survival conditions.
- AM/FM receiver
- The lifespan of the LED is pretty long
- It features a USB charging port
- Long battery life
- Small and light
- May not hold enough power to charge a smartphone
- Some users may find the USB charging port too complicated for everyday use
Related: iRonsnow IS-88 plus is an emergency radio. When you are in an emergency, is best to be prepared while you wait for help. Since you will need water, a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter will come in handy.
Price: Approximately $60
Weight: 1 lb.
Dimensions: 7.2 x 2 x 5.5 in
Specific features: Multiple power sources; led flashlight; good AM/FM and NOAA reception
Best use: Outdoor emergencies
Most reviewers say they buy C Crane CC Solar Observer Wind Up Radio for the power outages it provides. Firstly, you can use its included solar panel and if you keep it in the sun for 8 hours you get 4-6 hours of play time.
However, make sure you don’t charge it somewhere very hot because this radio is made out of plastic, and that would melt if the temperature were to go above 195°F.
You can also use the hand crank quite effectively considering that cranking it for 1 minute will give you 8 minutes of radio play. That’s almost double the amount you can get with the FRX3 and it’s another reason why this radio is so good in outdoor survival, where you mostly rely on the elements and your physical abilities to make due.
The battery pack can also be recharged with the AC adapter you can decide to buy, as well as with 3-AAA batteries. Another advantage is its built-in 2-inch speaker, but the headphone jack for stereo listening works amazing too. The reason is that it gives a very good, natural sound, not something tinny.
That will be incredibly useful for remote areas where the signal isn’t that strong and you need to catch every word in an emergency alert. In fact, you will be able to switch between the AM, FM and NOAA weather station bands very easily, without needing a retune.
Additional bonuses are its dial light, the included flashlight and the ability to charge a phone just enough to make a few distress phone calls.
- Three powering sources
- It features a built-in speaker
- Suitable for remote areas
- Long battery life
- The radio is made out of plastic, may not be sturdy enough
- It’s a bit heavier
- On the higher end of the price range
- The AC adapter is not included in the price
Related: If you’re looking for a reliable charging adapter for your radio, then the C. Crane OBA CC Solar Observer may be the right thing for you. The adapter is light and wouldn’t take much space while at the same time providing you with enough power for your radio in times when there isn’t enough sun light.
Price: Approximately $50
Weight: 0.8 lb.
Dimensions: 6 x 2.7 x 3.3 in
Specific features: Public alert certified weather alert radio; DSP digital AM/FM/WX tuner; 19 pre-sets (mixed AM/FM); USB A to micro B cable and hand strap included; bright backlit LCD display
Best use: Camping, backpacking, power outages
The Sangean MMR-88 AM/FM/Weather+Alert Emergency Radio has a very sturdy construction that comes incredibly handy when you’re outdoors and can easily damage your radio, or during a power outage where the lack of light may also damage a run of the mill radio.
But not this one, because it’s made of a resistant plastic used in making some things you even find on construction sites. Besides, it has rubberized caps that protect it from the effects of a nasty fall. One of these rubberized ends will give you access to the headphones and USB, all the while protecting them too.
Speaking of the USB tips, you can easily charge your smartphone from these although you can’t play it. That’s because this is a basic sort of radio, which you mostly use for emergency purposes, not for active entertainments.
In that regard, you’ll get access to AM/FM radio bands, but you’ll also have access to the Weather Band and to Emergency Weather Alerts. You’ll be able to listen to your favorite stations, but you’ll also remain safe because you’ll get important weather forecasts and disaster notifications.
You can charge this item in three ways: by using the incorporated hand crank, through the USB or by harnessing solar power. That will enable you to keep in touch with the outside world, but also use additional functions like the incorporated, adjustable LED flashlight or the loud emergency buzzer.
- Extremely sturdy and durable
- Light and easy to be carried around
- Three powering sources
- It has extra features built-in
- Doesn’t feature an AC adapter
- Some may find it a bit pricier
Related: The Survival Spark Magnesium Fire Starter is a great addition to any survival gear. The fire starter can be used up to 15,000 times, while at the same time being windproof and weather resistant. The device also features a compass and a whistle, making it everything you might need in times of trouble.
Price: $55 – $90
Weight: 1 lb.
Dimensions: 9 x 2.8 x 6.5 in
Specific features: AM/FM NOAA Weather emergency bands; hand crank; Cree LED flashlight of 130 lumens; USB output; replaceable 2000 mAh rechargeable lithium ion battery; SOS flashlight beacon that flashes Morse code
Best use: Severe weather situations; outdoor emergencies
The Midland ER200 Emergency Weather Radio has an additional advantage from the other models we’ve previously reviewed, in the form of its SOS flashlight beacon that flashes Morse code. Most radios which provide an emergency beacon don’t have this option of sending precise messages, albeit conveyed in Morse code.
Your distress signal can be sent courtesy of the Cree LED incorporated flashlight, which is very bright seeing as it produces light at a maximum intensity of 130 lumens. But don’t be scared of its brightness, you can easily opt between different intensities with the low and high buttons.
At this point, you may even think that these uses, along with the reception of AM/FM and NOAA Weather Emergency bands make your battery life shorter than usual. But the Midland ER200 has an incorporated 2000 mAh lithium ion battery. These materials make it last for very long, reaching in fact about 25 hours of constant use.
Not to mention that you can recharge this battery in various ways, either through the solar panel, the hand crank or the mini USB cable. The USB output can also be used for charging other devices, but not to play them.
- It has an SOS flashlight beacon
- The intensity of the flashlight can be regulated
- Long battery life
- You can charge other devices via the radio but you can’t play them
- Some users may find it too heavy
Related: The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is a handy addition to any survival gear. It can remove 99.9% percent of all waterborne bacteria and parasites, making water clean enough for drinking. It can filter up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water. The product is small and lightweight and it comes pre-packed in a clean, sealed bag.
Price: Approximately $25
Weight: 0.35 lb.
Dimensions: 7.5 x 1.2 x 8.5 in
Specific features: NOAA Weather band: all 7 Channels; USA-made IC Chip; blue LED backlight; red weather alert LED on top; 3.5 mm earphone jack socket; ergonomic, rugged design; non-slip rubberized finish for portability
Best use: Outdoor emergencies, camping, backpacking
The La Crosse RED Alert Super Sport Radio catches all 7 NOAA channels providing a very clear sound, as well as a great reception. Combine that with its compact, lightweight look and its rubberized, non-slip grip to understand why this radio is great for camping and backpacking.
As such, you can easily carry it in your backpack or in your hand, without fearing it may accidentally break if you drop it or if you sit on your backpack to take a break.
You’ll still be able to gain access to all the news and weather alerts, even if you treat it a little rough. So when you’re just listening to some music, you’ll see a blue backlight on its top.
But if you’re receiving a weather alert, this light will turn red thanks to a flashing red LED. That will prove of great assistance in noisy circumstances or if you’re hearing is impaired.
Moreover, the incorporated flashlight is pretty good, working at both high and low power. You only need to hold the flashlight button pressed for a second to change between these two settings, so that’s definitely a plus.
The volume itself has many different levels of intensity, and the sound quality is outstanding even when using the headphones.
- Great reception
- Extremely light for carrying
- Features a flashing red LED as a visual alert
- Very sturdy
- Offers clear sound
- No SAME function
- It doesn’t receive weather alerts if radio is playing
Related: If the water quality during a crisis is a concern to you, then the Survivor Filter Reusable Water Filter might be just the thing for you. It successfully removes 99% of all bacteria and it features a system with three filters. On top of that, it has a protective bacteria mouthpiece and can be screwed on top of water bottles and canteens.
Price: Approximately $50
Weight: 1.8 lb.
Dimensions: 10.5 x 5.8 x 3.2 in
Specific features: Multiple power sources: dynamo cranking power, solar panel, AA batteries, USB port; built-in rechargeable battery pack
Best use: Camping trips, blackouts
The Kaito KA500 5-Way Powered Alert Radio is another great model to have both in real emergencies, as well as on camping trips when you need an entertainment source to unwind.
That’s because it gives you the possibility to stay tuned with NOAA weather alerts, it has a comprehensive AM band, but you can also listen to your favorite FM stations. In fact, using its shortwave clip-on antenna will actually enable you to listen to radio stations from other countries too, like France or Argentina.
The number one reason why it’s so good both outdoors and in emergency situations is that it can be powered easily, through various means: the hand crank works pretty fast, but you can also use batteries, the incorporated USB port, as well as its solar panel. 1 minute of cranking will give you 4 minutes of radio time, so that’s pretty nice.
The second reason is because it’s quite sturdy. You can drop it or sit on it without damaging it, and you can even forget about it in very low temperatures and still have it in perfect working order.
Keep in mind not to be very brutal with the hand crank though, not to use it for less than 2 minutes or to overdo it, because that will either break the radio or not charge it enough.
- Multiple powering sources
- It features a shortwave antenna that can be clipped on
- Clear sound
- Long battery life
- The hand crank may not be sturdy enough
- Some may find it heavy
- Not the best budget-friendly option
Related: The Alicenter Magnesium Flint Stone Fire Starter could be just the thing you were missing in your survival kit. It’s light and could easily fit into a pocket, while at the same time having the ability to start more than 1,000 fires. The fire starter features a wrap for better hold though you could also tie it to something.
Price: Approximately $20
Weight: 0.2 lb.
Dimensions: 2.2 x 1 x 3.5 in
Specific features: Pocket size; AM/FM/ NOAA; real-time alert; DSP (Digital Signal Processor); built-in LED flashlight; back-lit display with 12/24 hour digital clock; 8 in long telescopic antenna; headphone jack; optional AC adapter and DC converter
Best use: Earthquakes; tornados; outdoor emergencies
The Ambient Weather Emergency Pocket Radio will enable you to get all sorts of weather alerts, as well as civil emergency notifications wherever you may be. It’s handheld and portable, considering its small dimensions and low weight.
You’ll also benefit from its illumination system, and its compact and sturdy design are perfect for all hikers and campers.
You can listen to local stations on the FM band, but you can also set it to the alert mode if you want to be on the lookout for possible disasters. That will activate the weather band, so you’ll know if a certain alert becomes active in your area.
The ways through which you can power this radio are either the mini USB port to connect it to your laptop or an AC converter. In fact, these optional AC and DC converters will prolong the life of your battery, making sure the radio stays charged.
The extra features you get are: incorporated LED flashlight, an antenna that improves reception, backlit display for night viewing and headphones.
- Extremely light and small
- Sturdy enough
- Built-in LED flashlight
- Multiple powering sources
- Features a powerful antenna
- Some users may find it outdated
- It can’t be used as a charging source
Related: If you’re looking for a reliable set of AAA batteries, then the Duracell AAA Batteries are an amazing durable edition. The package comes with a set of 16 alkaline batteries and you get a great worth for your money. The batteries stay full even if not used for a period of up to ten years.
Even though there’s a variety of models on the market, we’ve decided to include the best of the best. Most of the devices included have already been tested by a large number of satisfied customers.
No matter which of these radios you decide to go for, test it at regular intervals and make sure it stays properly charged at all times – you never know when you might need it!
Do you think there are some great models we’ve accidentally left out? Feel free to drop us a comment in the section below and let us know about your favorite emergency radio!