Emergency radios are an essential bit of kit that can help you to prepare for the unexpected. If you live in a zone that’s prone to hurricanes or earthquakes, getting a heads up on what’s coming can provide you with valuable time that can make all the difference to your evacuation plans. Or perhaps you spend a lot of time out at sea. You don’t want to get caught in a storm while you’re out there, and a crucial weather update might make the difference between you getting back to shore safely or not – or you might even cancel your day trip in the first place. Similarly, if you’re out hiking at the weekend, it’s better to know if torrential rain is heading your way so that you can set up camp before it hits, or bail back to the car if it’s very serious.
Choosing the right radio is crucial to your safety, and you want something reliable that won’t let you down. There’s a whole suite of radios out there, and some are definitely better than others. We’ve put together a list of our best emergency radios so that you can be sure you’re investing in the right bit of equipment. Hopefully, you’ll never end up in an emergency situation, but if you do, you’re going to want to have one of these by your side.
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Introducing the first emergency radio on our top list, the Sangean MMR-88. This sturdy little radio is not only built like a tank, but it’s also surprisingly lightweight and compact, and it even comes with a carabiner so you can clip it somewhere handy.
It also comes with some nice extra features, and we especially like that it comes with a 4 LED reading lamp as well as a 1W LED flashlight. The flashlight itself is multipurpose – set it to high, low, blinking, and even SOS morse code if you need to! There’s an emergency buzzer too, in case you end up in a situation where you need to attract attention.
Having enough battery to see you through an emergency situation is essential, which is why we love the 90-minute auto-off feature that saves you power. And even if you do run out of juice, you can use the hand-crank or solar panel to recharge, so you’ll never get caught off guard. And this goes for your phone and other gadgets too, as this radio doubles up as a power bank.
It tunes in to all seven NOAA channels as well as AM and FM, and it has 19 preset stations so you don’t have to waste time tuning, and you’ll get alerts when bad weather is heading your way.
Our only complaint with this radio is the battery size – the 850mAh Lithium-ion rechargeable battery is a little on the small size – but other than that, this radio is an absolute winner.
Here is one of our absolute favorites, the Kaito KA500. The reason we love this radio so much is that you can charge it in six, yes that’s right six, different ways.
If you’re at home, you can use a USB cable or wall adaptor and, when you’re on-the-go, you can make use of the rechargeable battery, a hand crank, solar panel, or AA batteries. And you can use these to charge your phone too, which can be super handy. This really does give you that peace of mind that you’ll be able to get a signal if an emergency arises.
On top of that, this radio has coverage of AM/FM stations and the NOAA weather channels are already plugged in. And if you set the radio to ‘alert mode’, you’ll get 24/7 weather updates. Oh, and don’t worry if you go off-grid, you’ll still have a signal thanks to the telescopic antenna that extends to an impressive 14.5 inches.
As well as a reading lamp and flashlight, you can also use this radio to generate a red SOS beacon to signal to rescuers in the dark. It also comes in a lovely range of colors. Our only complaints are that this radio isn’t fully waterproof and the solar panel is a little on the small side, so it’ll take a while to get a good charge. However, with all the other power sources, slow solar probably isn’t that big a deal.
Midland are a big name in the world of radio communications, and it’s therefore not surprising that one of their products, the Midland ER310, made it into our list of the best emergency radios around.
This is an eco-friendly radio thanks to its three methods of sustainable charging – hand crank, solar, and electric rechargeable – and it can also be powered by AA batteries as a back-up. The battery life is awesome too, with a single charge lasting up to 32 hours. You’ll also know when you’re running low thanks to the battery level indicator.
The emergency flashlight is pretty nifty and can be used to signal morse code. You can also set it to high (130 lumens) if you want to attract attention, but if you’re worried about charge you can select a low power mode. Another more creative way you can attract attention is to make use of the in-built ultrasonic dog whistle, a feature that we love and rarely see elsewhere.
Like the other models we’ve looked at, this radio taps into AM/DM and all NOAA channels. It also has an alarm to signal when extreme weather is heading your way.
Unfortunately, the grip on the crank can get a little uncomfortable, so perhaps leave this charging option until last. Our major complaint is that this radio isn’t claimed to have any water resistance, so it’s probably best to keep it indoors or in a dry bag. Overall though, this is a well thought out radio that we’d trust to get us safely through some unsettling situations.
Eton is another brand that has been producing radios for a while and has managed to build itself a solid reputation, and from what we’ve seen of the Eton American Red Cross, it’s easy to see why.
This radio receives all 7 NOAA/Environment Canada Weather bands as well as digital radio (AM/FM), and the alert functions make you aware of any emergency weather updates. It can also be used as a power bank, and has a pretty powerful flashlight and can emit a red flashing beacon.
Although it comes with a hand crank and solar panels as alternative power sources, the hand crank can be a little slow and the solar panels are actually located on it, so they might be prone to breaking and you won’t get a solar charge while cranking. They will still give you some juice in an emergency, but maybe consider taking some batteries along with you just in case.
Unfortunately, the internal battery is pretty small at 300mAh but, overall, this is a simple radio that covers all the basics. It’s solid and durable and you won’t have to buy yourself another radio any time soon.
The RunningSnail MD-088P radio is a great bit of emergency equipment and features several upgrades from the previous models (which were already very good!).
Like all the radios we’ve looked at so far, this one doubles up as a powerbank, but it now has an even more powerful 2000mah Li-ion battery. Although that will give you plenty of charge, you can always top-up your battery levels using the hand crank or solar power. And you’ll know when this is necessary thanks to the battery level indicator.
We like that the panels have been conveniently placed on the top of the radio to maximize the amount of sunlight they can capture – an important factor for a radio this compact. Although we love that it comes with an SOS alarm, it has been known to get stuck from time to time, which isn’t very pleasant.
With a large flashlight for its small size, and the ability to pick up AM/FM and NOAA broadcasts, there isn’t much more you could ask for at such an affordable price. Oh, and it comes with a 1-year warranty too.
Introducing the most portable of our featured radios… the Crane CC Pocket. As the name suggests, this is a super-compact pocket-sized option that even comes with a removable clip belt so you can keep it close to hand. It won’t be a drag either, seeing as it weighs an incredibly light 0.25 lbs.
It picks up the usual AM/FM and NOAA channels, and is surprisingly sensitive for its size, although one drawback is a lack of an in-built antenna. We like that there are five presets too, so you can easily tune in to those all-important weather updates.
One thing we don’t like about this radio is that it relies on a single power source, AA batteries. Having said that, however, the battery life is excellent and they’ll keep you going for up to 75 hours. You can also disable the display to save yourself some power, and the sleep timer means you won’t waste juice while you’re snoozing. And you don’t have to worry about oversleeping either, thanks to the in-built alarm clock.
There’s no flashlight included in this, but if all you’re after is a simple and portable device for tuning in to those weather updates, then you can’t go wrong with this.
The FOS Power emergency radio is certainly one of the more stylish radio options out there, but that’s not all we like about it.
The radio is powered not only by a rechargeable battery, but you can also use solar, the hand crank, and AA batteries if you’re in a pickle. All this power goes into not only the radio that picks up AM/FM and NOAA stations, but also into the light sources – a reading light and a flashlight.
It also doubles up as a 2000mAh power bank, so you’ll be able to use your phone in an emergency if you need it. One minor gripe is that you won’t get any alerts for incoming weather in your area, so make sure you keep your wits about you and tune in if you see any signs of conditions changing.
It also packs a super loud SOS alarm that’ll be sure to attract attention when you’re in need. Although it is water-resistant rather than waterproof, it can take more of a spray than lots of similar models thanks to proper seals on the openings and knobs.
This radio has all the essentials, looks good and, on top of that, it’s very reasonably priced and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
The Esky Emergency Radio is a great portable option for staying in touch with the weather.
Made of durable, water-resistant plastic, this radio can handle being knocked around a little bit, so you can chuck it in your bag without worrying too much. In case you run out of juice after charging it at home, it can also be charged via a solar panel and a hand crank.
The solar panels may not be the biggest, but that goes hand-in-hand with a radio this small, and we don’t think 10-12 hours for a full solar charge is too bad. Plus there’s the hand crank after all. Similarly, the knobs can be a little on the fiddly side, but again that’s almost inevitable on a super-compact model.
The flashlight on this is nice and bright, with 140 lumens of power behind it, and the radio doubles up as a power bank too.
Overall, we think this is a great little radio that will stand the test of time and, at this price, is an absolute steal.
Last, but by no means least, on our list is the Wayl Emergency Weather Radio. This radio is packed full of high-end features, such as a 4000 mAh rechargeable battery – much larger than most batteries in radios this price. It can also be powered with disposable batteries, solar power, or the hand crank. And the hand crank is one of the best we’ve seen, with one minute of cranking providing 30 minutes of light and up to 20 minutes of radio – perfect if you get caught off guard.
Not only does this radio receive AM/FM and NOAA channels, but you can also play your own music via mp3 or USB – neat huh? There’s an SOS alarm too, in case you need to attract attention.
The flashlight is pretty bright with 100 lumens of light behind it, and we love that you can angle the reading light so you won’t find yourself in an awkward position. As for the other radios mentioned, this one doubles up as a power bank so you can be sure to have your phone charged when you need it most.
One minor gripe is that you won’t get an alert if bad weather is coming your way, so be sure to keep an eye on the sky. Other than that, this is a quality piece of equipment with some well thought out features.
So there you have our best emergency radios, but what should you keep your eye on when you’re shopping around?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) is a US-based weather station that provides round-the-clock updates. You really want your radio to tune in to this station and, ideally, alert you when there’s an update in your area. It’s also nice to receive AM/FM stations as these can also provide important updates and can be used for entertainment too.
You don’t want to get caught out without a radio in an emergency situation because you’re radio was so heavy you didn’t put it in your bag… think carefully about what size you’re willing to carry – there are some great portable options out there, although sometimes they compromise on other features (for instance, there will less space for solar paneling). On the other hand, if you’re radio will be sitting in an office or on a boat, then size and weight won’t be so important.
There are a whole bunch of extra quirks out there, ranging from USB ports to angular reading lamps and even to dog whistles. Which of these appeals to you will depend on your exact needs, but it’s worth shopping around and finding a radio with some perks you’ll enjoy – just don’t get too distracted from the essentials.
Now you know what to look for, but in case you want to know which radios we’d go for, here are our top three.
Our top choice if you’re on a budget is the Esky Emergency Radio. It has everything you need – good channels, decent battery size, and multiple power sources – all at an affordable price. You also get a very bright flashlight included, and it’s super light and compact so you’ll barely even notice that you’re carrying it around.
Our top allrounder is the Kaito KA500 – how could it not be with so many power sources? That’s just one of the reasons we love it though, it also has great reception, doubles up as a power bank, and gives you actual alerts when there’s bad weather near you.
Our top pick of emergency radios is the Sangean MMR-88. With three power sources, an auto shut-off feature and a low flashlight setting, you won’t have to worry about running out of juice. The emergency buzzer is a great way to attract attention and, if that doesn’t work, you can always use the blinking light that can even signal morse code! With its handy carabiner, it couldn’t be easier to keep this radio close, and it’s certainly something we’d want by our side in an emergency.