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In case of an emergency, a portable weather radio can be a vitally important tool to keep you informed of impending disaster, especially in situations of extreme weather, when the power is liable to spontaneously go out. The best hand crank radios can generate power manually, without electricity or external batteries, but not all hand crank radios are created equally.
Depending on the quality of the radio, for example, the amount of life you get from the hand crank is going to vary wildly, and you’ll want to look for something that can hold a charge for a while so you’re not constantly recharging. The radio must also be able to perform its most basic functions (obviously) which is to pick up weather alerts, and in most cases AM/FM broadcasts as well.
Unlike the most basic weather radios, many self-powered radios include additional emergency features like a built-in flashlight, a USB port to charge your phone, a clock, or emergency alarm. Many also include solar panels or another secondary method of self-charging (effectiveness of these vary as well).
So consider the factors that are most important to you, and where you feel you need to best prepare. Do you need a radio that provides automatic alerts? Are you looking for a particularly bright flashlight? Or is the size of the radio your top priority? No matter what you’re looking for, we’ve rounded up some popular hand crank radios that should keep you well-equipped for any emergency.
1. RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank Radio
The RunningSnail radio is our pick for the best all-around option because it covers all of the most important bases, it’s intuitive to use, and the hand crank power is effective (though it does take a little work).
It’s smaller in size than you might expect, about the size of an iPhone, making it convenient to carry around, which we appreciate. It receives AM and FM broadcasts as well as NOAA weather updates, and people have noted how sensitive it is to tune, which lights up when you’ve found the best signal.
At full charge, this radio is an excellent substitute for a power bank, but it won’t work quite as well if it’s running on a hand crank charge. Speaking of hand crank charge, it’s powerful enough to provide enough juice to keep the built-in flashlight running all night long. While there are certainly more elaborate emergency radios on the market, we don’t think you’d realistically need anything more than this little model can deliver.
2. Esky Portable Emergency Weather Radio
This radio’s manufacturer says it was “designed with extremes in mind.” To wit: the radio has a robust and water-repellent outer shell to defend against accidents — a key feature in a tool that’s supposed to see you through hurricane season.
Like the other models, the Esky radio comes equipped with additional features that are most helpful in events of a power outage, or any time you’re away from electricity, like a camping or boating trip. The hand crank and solar panel reliably produce an effective charge, but on a full USB charge, the radio will last for days anyway. It can also charge your phone and has a flashlight.
3. Kaito Solar Power Wind Up Radio
While not everyone is looking for a weather alert in an emergency radio, we love that this one comes equipped with a NOAA alert feature, which automatically lets you know of weather emergencies in your area. We also like that this feature is optional, in case you find spontaneous alarms from your radio unsettling.
Other useful features to this radio are the impressive five charging methods, including hand crank and USB charge, as well as AC/DC adapter, a rechargeable battery, and an adjustable solar panel. Band reception reaches AM and FM stations, plus seven weather channels which are all conveniently preprogrammed.
4. RegeMoudal Emergency Solar Hand Crank Radio
We hope you never have occasion to use the RegeMoudal’s SOS emergency alarm, but we like that it’s included just the same, making it this radio’s standout component.
It’s not the only reason we like it though. It can also be charged with removable batteries in addition to USB cable, hand crank, and solar panels, and the more charging options the better in our opinion. This radio also has a headphone jack and both flashlight and reading light. The light from the flashlight feature probably isn’t strong enough to replace a high-quality regular flashlight, but it’s certainly bright enough to be useful if you’re in a jam. We also like the reading light option for when you need a light source but not necessarily at flashlight-level brightness (think on a camping trip at night).
As for the actual radio part, it picks up AM/FM and NOAA stations and the sound comes in loud and clear, if a little tinny.