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A reliable radio is an essential part of any emergency kit, because it will keep you connected to the outside world when your power cuts you off.
The best emergency radios allow you to receive essential information that’s being broadcast over the air (I.e. news and weather updates) without needing to be plugged into an outlet. These portable radios can recharge on their own (or via batteries), and their weatherproof construction and multi-functionality make them great for taking on camping trips or to the cottage as well.
What to Know Before You Buy an Emergency Radio
There are many factors to think about when choosing the right emergency radio for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Reception: This is an item you’re relying on to keep you informed of incoming weather and potential disasters, so clear reception is vital. Weather radios should be able to pick up NOAA as well as AM/FM frequencies. Additionally, some radios send automatic weather alerts, in which case we suggest looking for Specific Alert Message Encoding (SAME) technology which allows you to specify disaster warnings for certain counties and cities.
Durability: Pay attention to the quality of the radio itself. Kind of like that old joke that the brick phones of the early 2000s are indestructible, think about how long the radio is likely to last, and whether it can withstand a little wear and tear. As with any emergency tool, you need to be absolutely sure it’s not going to fall apart right when you need it the most.
Portability: You want a radio that you can grab-and-go, or something you can stash in your bug-out bag or survival kit, so portability is key. All of the models on our list are lightweight and no bigger than a drugstore novel, so you can easily take them with you.
Battery: Some emergency radio batteries be recharged without access to power, through solar panels or a hand crank, though the effectiveness of these methods varies by model. This isn’t standard with all emergency radios however, particularly those functioning primarily to monitor weather emergencies. Other radios are powered up by standard batteries. In any case, how long your radio holds a charge is important when you don’t know how long the emergency is likely to last.
Extra Features: We’ve found portable emergency radios that do more than broadcast the news. The latest emergency radios can also be used to charge up your devices, and many come with built-in flashlights for when the power goes out too.
1. Esky Portable Emergency Weather Radio
If you really want to make sure you have all your bases covered, we recommend a heavy-duty radio with extra precautionary features like this Esky unit.
The first thing we like about this radio is that it was designed to withstand harsh conditions, so it has a very durable and water-resistant body. In case of power outages, it can be charged via hand crank or solar panel, and it includes a USB port to charge via a USB cable as well. You can also use the USB port to plug in small devices like a phone to keep them powered through the radio unit. Additionally, it has a powerful built-in flashlight.
We’d consider this radio especially handy during hurricane or tornado seasons, but it’s small enough to carry with you everywhere, even your pocket if you need. It picks up AM/FM and NOAA frequencies, and the reception is clear and reliable. Our only caveat is that the self-charging systems are not as powerful as the USB charge.
Pros: Weather-resistant and self-charging with good reception.
Cons: Hand crank and solar charge don’t last as long as full USB charge.
2. Vondior NOAA Weather Radio
This is our pick for when sound quality and reception is your highest priority, particularly useful for anyone living in secluded or rural regions where reception isn’t known for its reliability.
The radio’s superior reception and clarity are thanks to an upgraded DSP chip, a six-inch antenna, and a high-performance speaker. It picks up AM/FM and NOAA broadcasts from practically anywhere in the United States and at almost any frequency range. It doesn’t have a self-power apparatus but operates on two AA batteries.
Pros: Excellent and reliable reception even from secluded and out-of-the-way regions.
Cons: Requires batteries to operate.
3. Midland NOAA Emergency Weather Alert Radio
This Midland radio sends automatic alerts, so you don’t need to be actively monitoring the weather broadcasts to see if there’s a natural disaster headed your way.
Importantly, it does have SAME technology, so you can narrow your alerts to a specific county or city. You can also customize the manner in which you would prefer to be alerted, whether through voice, LED display, or tone alerts. It should be noted that this radio only picks up weather broadcasts, so you cannot hear AM/FM radio. However, it does include an alarm clock. As for power, it can be plugged into a wall socket or take alkaline batteries.
Pros: SAME technology for weather alerts keeps you in the loop without a lot of action from your end.
Cons: No AM/FM radio.
4. Eton Hand Turbine Weather Radio
Another self-powered emergency radio, there are a few features to this specific model that we particularly like.
It comes with a glow-in-the-dark locator, for example, so it can be spotted in the dark (like when your power suddenly shuts off and you really need to find your radio). It also has a headphone jack for individual listening, and a digital clock. Additional emergency features include the ability to self-power via hand crank or solar panel, plus an LED flashlight, and a USB port to charge small devices.
As for the most basic functions, it picks up AM/FM and NOAA broadcasts, and people generally agree that the reception and sound quality are high. If there is a fault with this radio, it’s in its ability to hold a charge, which does not last as long as other radios.
Pros: Digital clock and LED display in addition to extra emergency features.
Cons: Weak charge when self-powered.