Best Of
Best Emergency Radios _PC Mallory Paige
Testing emergency radios in Colorado; photo credit: Mallory Paige

The Best Emergency Radios of 2021

From solar-powered to elbow grease, we’ve found the best emergency radios of 2021.

Daily, we use our smartphones, computers, and TVs to keep us aware of what’s going on around us. But if a storm knocks out the power grid, our everyday tech isn’t enough.

One of the most crucial features of the best emergency radios is the ability to keep running no matter what. Whether dealing with a blizzard, tornado, or any unforeseen event, you need to be able to keep it charged for days on end.

We rounded up a variety of radios that run on batteries, solar energy, and ones that charge via hand crank to help you find the best survival radio on the market.

And check out our buyer’s guide at the end of this article for advice on how to choose the best emergency radio.

Best Emergency Radios of 2021

Best Overall: Midland ER210 Emergency Company Crank Weather AM/FM Radio

Midland ER210

The lightweight, ergonomic ER210’s 2,000mAh battery offers 25 hours of continuous use. And when that runs out, it can be recharged via a hand crank or direct sunlight with its solar panel.

This radio ($50) receives the standard AM/FM signals as well as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) channels. And it has a handy auto-scan that will find the best weather channel signal for your location. You can also set it to alert you to severe weather risks in your area. The large backlit LCD display can show the radio station, time, and weather channels.

We especially like the attention to small details, like the SOS emergency flashlight. The 130-lumen LED light has an SOS strobe to call for help in emergency situations. Also, the loop on the end makes it easy to fix to a backpack and let the solar panel soak up the sun during a hike.

  • Weight: 15 oz.
  • Power source: Rechargeable battery pack, solar, hand crank
  • Pros: SOS beacon, weather alerts
  • Cons: No dog whistle like its bigger brother, the ER310

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Runner-Up: C. Crane CC Solar Observer

 C Crane CC Solar Observer

At under half a pound, the CC Solar Observer survival radio ($50) is a top pick for hiking and travel.

Being one of the lightest on our list doesn’t mean it’s a lightweight when it comes to power, though. Eight hours in the sun powers the battery for 4-6 hours. And 90 seconds of cranking will get you up to 30 minutes of listening time.

However, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever need to use those options, as this radio will run for a whopping 60 hours on three AA batteries. This means a 12-pack of batteries will keep it going for 10 days straight in an emergency situation.

The radio tunes in to AM/FM radio and weather bands via a backlit analog tuner. A USB adapter will charge external devices. And the LED flashlight lights the way.

And at just over 6 ounces, there’s no excuse not to take one with you when adventuring.

  • Weight: 6.5 oz.
  • Power source: AA batteries, rechargeable battery pack, solar, hand crank
  • Pros: Lightweight, reliable, clear reception
  • Cons: No automatic alert function

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Best Budget: RunningSnail Solar Crank NOAA Weather Radio

RunningSnail Solar Crank NOAA

It would be hard to find an emergency radio that provides more bang for your buck. This Solar Crank NOAA Weather Radio provides a wide range of emergency features for $30 MSRP (and you can find it cheaper). The radio tunes in to all of the NOAA weather stations and AM/FM radio. Plus, it can be set to alert you to severe weather, hurricanes, and tornadoes in your area.

When the weather does hit, an SOS alarm with a flashing red light lets others know that you need help. The LED flashlight brightens the up dark areas, and the USB port lets you charge smartphones and other small electrical devices. We love the table lamp feature, which functions as an LED reading light and brightens up dark rooms when the power goes out. This can provide a lot of comfort during an emergency.

If the 2,000mAh battery runs out, it can be replaced with three AAA batteries, powered up via a solar panel (albeit slowly), or manually charged with the crank arm.

  • Weight: 11 oz.
  • Power source: AAA batteries, rechargeable battery pack, solar, hand crank
  • Pros: SOS signaling, weather alerts, table lamp
  • Cons: Slow solar panel charging

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Most Durable: Kaito Ka500 Voyager Emergency Radio

Kaito Ka500 Voyager Emergency Radio

Weighing in at 1.4 pounds, Kaito’s Voyager radio ($50) is a behemoth when it comes to features. It sports a range of band reception that includes AM, FM, shortwave, and NOAA weather stations, with all seven NOAA channels pre-programmed for easy switching.

The 14.5-inch telescoping antenna increases reception. And the LED signal strength indicator lets you dial in your tuning. It also offers an “Alert” mode, which automatically turns the radio on when it receives emergency weather alerts from NOAA weather stations.

The AC/DC and USB chargers are useful for day to day use, but the Voyager really shines when the power goes out. The Voyager runs on three AA batteries or the 600mAh rechargeable battery pack. If you run out of batteries, the radio can run on solar power. And in overcast conditions, you can use the hand crank to charge up the battery pack.

It shines literally as well, with its included reading lamp, flashlight, and red blinking emergency light. It also sports a USB port, so you can charge up your smartphone and small devices as well.

  • Weight: 1.4 lbs.
  • Power source: AA batteries, rechargeable battery pack, solar, hand crank
  • Pros: Multiple power sources, water- and impact-resistant
  • Cons: Small battery — testers reported that smartphones charged to about 75%

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Best of the Rest

Midland ER310

Midland ER310

Midland’s ER310 emergency radio ($60) sports a variety of charging options — rechargeable and disposable batteries, solar power, and hand cranks — when wall charging isn’t an option.

However, the whopping 2,600mAh battery will last for up to 32 hours before you need to use secondary charging options. When it goes down, the efficient hand crank sports a 10:1 listening to cranking ratio. This means you’ll get an hour of listening after 10 minutes of crank time.

It lets you listen to AM/FM radio and all seven NOAA weather channels, with an automatic scan feature that automatically finds the strongest weather channel to get emergency information for your location. It also has a handy alert feature that sounds an alarm to indicate severe weather risks in your area.

The onboard LED flashlight helps you find your way when the lights go out, and the USB output will charge small electronic devices, including smartphones.

Our favorite features on the ER310 are designed to help rescuers track you down. The SOS strobe beacon and the ultrasonic dog whistle make it easier for search-and-rescue teams to track your location. Features like this should be standard on emergency tech, and if you ever get stuck somewhere, you’ll be glad you have it.

  • Weight: 1 lb.
  • Power source: AA batteries, rechargeable battery pack, solar, hand crank
  • Pros: Multiple features to help SAR find users
  • Cons: No reading lamp, not waterproof.

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C. Crane Skywave Pocket Radio

 C Crane Skywave Pocket Radio

With 70 hours of runtime on batteries, 400 memory presets, and an ultralight weight, there are plenty of reasons to love the Skywave Pocket Radio ($90). But its ability to tune in to the Aviation band makes this radio really stand out.

The Aviation band lets you listen to nearby aviation personnel: pilots, ground crew, and air traffic controllers. This can give jetsetters a heads-up when facing airline scheduling changes and delays, helping them avoid the mob when having to change flight plans.

In addition to the aviation band setting, the Skywave tunes in to AM/FM stations, shortwave radio stations, and weather alerts. The lighted digital LCD display and presets let you dial in your preferred stations accurately and quickly, and the auto-scan feature finds the clearest stations for you.

Besides access to the weather bands, the Skywave doesn’t offer many emergency features (no flashlight or beacon lights), but it does offer weather alerts and excellent NOAA weather radio reception. With its compact size, insane battery life, and Aviation band accessibility, it’s a great all-around radio, especially for frequent travelers.

  • Weight: 5.5 oz.
  • Power source: Battery
  • Pros: Aviation band, long battery life, low weight
  • Cons: Lack of emergency features, no alternative power sources

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Eton American Red Cross FRX3+ Emergency NOAA Weather Radio

American Red Cross Emergency NOAA Weather Radio

Designed in conjunction with the American Red Cross, Eton’s FRX3+ survival radio ($36) comes in handy in and out of emergencies. The 2,600mAh battery is useful on camping trips. It’s bolstered by hand-turbine and solar charging for multiday use and provides 1.5 charges to a smartphone, and the loud speaker provides clear sound whether you’re listening to music or weather alerts.

The radio receives AM/FM stations with digital tuning as well as all seven NOAA weather bands. And the alert function will let you know if severe weather is heading your way. Also, an LED flashlight is useful if your headlamp goes out, and the red flashing LED beacon makes you visible to search-and-rescue teams.

It’s larger than most of the radios we’ve seen, but the rugged build and carrying handle make it one of our favorites. And the glow-in-the-dark indicator is a head-slappingly simple feature, but it’s a lifesaver when you’re groping around in the dark looking for your radio.

  • Weight: 15 oz.
  • Power source: AAA batteries, rechargeable battery pack, solar, hand crank
  • Pros: Clear speaker, good sound, glow-in-the-dark locator
  • Cons: Solar panel charges slower than other models

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FosPower Emergency Solar Hand Crank Portable Radio

 FosPower Emergency Solar Hand Crank Portable Radio

Considering that it’s about the size of a smartphone, the amount of features that FosPower has packed into this radio ($30) is impressive. The 2,000mAh battery provides a full charge to smartphones, and a four-LED reading light and zoomable flashlight keep the dark at bay. When the battery dies, the radio charges via hand crank, solar power, or AAA batteries.

It tunes in to the standard AM/FM radio and NOAA stations and provides emergency alerts when severe weather is approaching. The ergonomic shape makes it easy to grip when turning the crank or using it as a flashlight.

We loved the FosPower for its water resistance: Its IPX3 rating makes it resistant to rain, making it ideal for storms and flooding emergencies (as long as you don’t submerge it).

  • Weight: 11 oz.
  • Power source: AAA batteries, rechargeable battery pack, solar, hand crank
  • Pros: Water-resistant, multiple lighting options
  • Cons: No emergency beacons

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Sangean MMR-88 AM/FM Weather+Alert Emergency Radio

Sangean MMR-88

One look at the MMR-88 ($48), and you can see that it’s built to take a beating. The black rubber bumpers on the sides protect from drops and bumps, and the IPX3 rating makes it water-resistant, which is handy during the occasional downpour. This Public Alert-certified radio sports a digital AM/FM tuner, receives all seven stations, and has 19 preset stations.

While not as powerful as some of the other radios on the list, the 850mAh lithium-ion battery can be recharged via solar or hand-crank power (1 minute of cranking gives you 5 minutes of listening time), and the auto-off feature turns the radio off after 90 minutes of play to help stretch the battery life.

Besides the radio’s durability, we also like the emergency features. The triple LED light has four available patterns — low, high, blinking, and SOS — while the loudspeaker and emergency buzzer reveal your location to search parties.

The only drawback we’ve found is that it doesn’t take standard disposable batteries. But you can swap out the rechargeable battery for other lithium-ion batteries, so you can still double or triple the radio’s life before you need to start cranking away.

  • Weight: 11 oz.
  • Power source: Rechargeable battery pack, solar, hand crank
  • Pros: SOS signaling, emergency buzzer
  • Cons: Small battery, doesn’t use disposable batteries

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Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Emergency Radio

Reception & Ability to Receive NOAA alerts

The most basic function of an emergency radio is to keep you informed. It’s vital that your radio can pick up AM/FM radio stations and NOAA weather stations. Most emergency radios do this, but make sure to find one that provides solid reception. Look for a radio with a telescoping antenna to better pick up radio waves.

Charging Methods

In an emergency, there’s no guarantee the power will stay on (it’ll likely go out). So make sure your radio has multiple charging options. The easiest and fastest way to get a full recharge is to replace the battery. We like radios that have the option to use disposable batteries. You can easily stock up and get several days of power without much of a financial investment.

Solar charging is useful, but it can be slow and only works if the sun is out. During severe weather, this can be a problem. That’s why another charging method — like a hand crank — is essential.

All hand cranks aren’t created equal, so take note of how much power you can get per crank. Look for a radio that will give you a good ratio of cranking to listening time, like 10 minutes of listening per 1 minute of cranking.

 C Crane CC Solar
Photo credit: C. Crane

Battery Life

That said, the longer the battery lasts, the less likely it is that you’ll have to crank away to keep it going. Batteries on the bigger end for emergency radios tend to be around 2,000 to 2,600 mAh, which should give you a full day of use before you need to recharge.

Smaller and lighter radios will have 850 to 1,000 mAh, which will provide enough for shorter emergencies or camping trips when used sparingly.

Extra Features

Features on emergency radios range widely from emergency buzzers and SOS signaling to table lamps, LED flashlights, and USB charging. Most radios have a USB output to charge your small electronic devices. A larger battery (for example, 2,000 mAh) will give you half to a full charge. If your phone is a priority, opt for a larger battery.

Emergency features are paramount with these radios, so keep an eye out for a radio that you can set to alert you when NOAA issues severe weather alerts. If you find yourself in an emergency, a good flashlight comes standard with most radios.

Also, look for features that will help people find you if you’re trapped in your house by a flood or lost in the woods. A blinking red LED light or flashlights with blinking or SOS signal functions are a great option, as is an audible alarm, buzzer, or ultrasonic dog whistle, which can help search teams zero in on your location.

USB Charger
Photo credit: RunningSnail

Durability & Waterproofness

Emergency situations are usually messy, so you’ll likely end up dropping your radio or getting it wet in inclement weather. Look for a radio that’s built with sturdy materials like impact-resistant rubber skin or bumpers.

Also, get to know the IPX rating system, which rates how waterproof a device is. It ranges from breaking down after any water exposure (IPX0) to being able to withstand powerful water jets (IPX9K). The majority of radios that we’ve found were in the range of IPX3 (able to withstand a light rain) and IPX4 (able to withstand splashes from any direction).

FAQ

What Is a Crank Radio?

A crank radio uses an internal generator to create power. The external crank arm charges an internal battery by moving metal coils around a magnet, creating a current. This is especially useful for emergency radios because other charging options depend on sources outside of yourself.

Most radios have replaceable batteries and solar chargers. But a wall outlet is useless when the power goes out. Solar chargers only work when the sun is shining and there’s no cloud cover. And eventually, you’ll run out of batteries. Having a hand crank means that the life of a radio is indefinite as long as you have functional hands.

What Kind of Radio Is Used for Emergencies?

The federal government recommends including a battery-powered or hand-crank radio with NOAA weather access and alerts in your emergency kit. Radios designed for emergencies are specifically tuned to find not only AM and FM radio, but they’re also able to access NOAA weather channels. They’re made to be powered independently of wall outlets in case the power grid goes out.

At the very least, go with a radio that will alert you to NOAA weather alerts and doesn’t require a plug to function. Perks, such as integrated flashlights or USB charging ports for your phone, are useful but not necessarily essential for emergency radios.

Best Emergency Radios
Photo credit: Midland

When Would I Need an Emergency Radio?

An emergency radio is most often used in emergency weather situations, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and severe storms. But they’re useful in any emergency situation, from fires to chemical spills.

If you live in or are visiting an area during a time in which storms are frequent, an emergency radio that can tune in to NOAA weather stations can provide a warning and help you prepare for a storm before it arrives. If you’re bunkered down during a storm, access to NOAA alerts can let you know when it’s safe to go outside or whether you need to evacuate your home.

Because they don’t need an external power source like an outlet, emergency radios still work when a storm knocks out a power grid. This also makes it useful for long-range outdoor activities like backpacking or bike touring. Additional features like blinking light beacons or emergency buzzers are also useful in any situation in which you may need to indicate your location to search parties.

What Is the Best NOAA Radio?

The best NOAA radios are designed specifically to receive alerts from the NOAA as soon as they’re sent out, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They’re able to run without the use of an outlet in case a storm knocks out the power grid and often make use of integrated hand cranks and solar chargers to power the battery.

Aside from access to NOAA alerts, the biggest key to a great NOAA radio is its battery life. A smartphone is useful, but its battery won’t last longer than a day. Hand-crank radios will keep you apprised of your situation indefinitely. Just use the crank to power your radio and keep yourself informed. This way, you can save your phone’s battery (and in many cases, replenish it) for more important uses like calling for help.

Best Emergency Radios: Conclusion

Emergency radios are like smoke alarms. You hope you never have to use one, but you’re glad you have one around when you need it. They’re essential tools for surviving an emergency situation — or, ideally, avoiding one entirely — by heeding an early warning and getting out of Dodge before the storm hits.

Most radios we’ve seen cost around $50 (often less), but their value is incalculable.

Sources


Have a favorite emergency radio we missed? Let us know in the comments and we’ll check it out for future updates to this article.


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Billy Brown
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Billy Brown has a problem sitting still. His constant search for the next challenge has him doing everything from running ultramarathons and climbing 14er’s to gaining 40 pounds to compete in powerlifting, breaking several state records and growing a killer beard in the process. With over a decade of writing under his belt, his work, covering action sports, gear, and beer, can be found in a variety of publications. He lives with his wife and their two cats in Sacramento, California.