When Mother Nature hits, she can hit hard. In the event of a weather or other emergency knowing your situation is half the battle. An emergency radio or NOAA weather radio is one of the best ways to stay up to date on the latest evacuation and recovery information. We’ve reviewed 9 of the best emergency radios available to aid you in your emergency preparedness.
- 1 What is an Emergency Weather Radio
- 2 Best Emergency Radios
- 2.1 The American Red Cross FRX3 Emergency Radio
- 2.2 Kaito KA500 Voyager 5-Way Powered Emergency Radio
- 2.3 Sangean MMR-88 AM/FM/Weather Alert Emergency Radio
- 2.4 Midland ER310 Emergency Crank Weather Radio
- 2.5 Kaito KA101 One Touch NOAA Weather Radio
- 2.6 American Red Cross Eton FRX2
- 2.7 Running Snail Emergency Radio
- 2.8 Eton FRX5 and FRX5-BT Emergency Weather Radio
- 2.9 Eton Scorpion ll Rugged Portable Survival Radio
- 3 Best Emergency Survival Radio Buyers Guide
- 4 Final Thoughts
What is an Emergency Weather Radio
An emergency weather radio is a device designed specifically for receiving weather and other disaster information during an emergency. They’re built to receive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) alerts and FEMA reports on disasters. They use tried and true technology that’s simple and basically foolproof, all things that are essential during a weather emergency.
Most are capable of receiving the 7 NOAA alert channels as well as traditional AM/FM broadcasts. Unlike home or car radios they don’t require a constant source of power to operate. Many have rechargeable internal batteries or run on standard AA or AAA batteries.
More recently emergency radios have begun to include useful features for hiking, camping, or disaster situations. They can be charged multiple ways and have the ability to charge a smartphone or other communications device.
Best Emergency Radios
Given their simple design and the core feature set shared by all emergency radios there are tons of quality models on the market. We tried to find several types at a variety of price points to help you choose the best model for your needs.
The American Red Cross FRX3 Emergency Radio
The American Red Cross is one of the most famous aid organizations in the world. Their FRX3 emergency radio was built in partnership with Eton, a titan in the preparedness equipment world. It’s a large and comprehensively designed survival radio that is loaded out with features.
To start with it receives all 7 NOAA emergency weather bands as well as AM/FM channels. It’s designed with an Alert function that will automatically play emergency alerts when placed in the proper mode. It uses a rechargeable battery with three different charging options as well as the option to use AAA batteries in an emergency.
You can maintain a baseline charge at all times with the USB charger and top it off during an emergency with a hand crank. A minute of cranking gives you about 15 minutes of radio power. If you’re taking it with you camping, hunting, or hiking there’s a small solar cell along the handle that helps top off the battery.
It’s capable of adding emergency power to your phone but doesn’t have the capacity to give most modern smartphones a full charge. It also has an emergency flashlight on one end. One thing to keep in mind is that the FRX3 is fairly large. It’s almost 7 inches tall and 6 inches wide. It’s technically handheld but more like a large beach radio than true hand size.
This is one of the best survival radios on the market today. It’s robust, packed with useful features, and has the backing of the Red Cross.
Kaito KA500 Voyager 5-Way Powered Emergency Radio
The Kaito KA500 Voyager is an emergency radio designed to charge from 5 different sources in an emergency. In reality it has 4 different charging options with 2 that work in the same fashion. It falls about middle of the pack as far as size goes. It’s just over 8 inches long and 5 inches wide.
You can charge up its internal Ni-MH battery using a standard USB AC adapter or one plugged into your computer or car. It has a hand crank dynamo built into the side and a solar panel.
The solar panel is actually one of the best we saw on an emergency radio. Instead of being permanently built into a handle or onto the back of the radio it’s on a small swivel that allows you to adjust it in relation to the sun.
This is a seemingly simple innovation but one that increases your ability to charge it from the sun. The final charging method uses AAA batteries to transfer power to the radio. You can top off your phone from the radio using a small USB port, though again you shouldn’t expect to get a full charge for a modern smartphone.
It’s capable of receiving all 7 NOAA bands as well as AM/FM radio. On the back of the solar panel is a 5 LED reading light that consumes very little power. There’s also a small flashlight on the side of the radio. The housing is made from rubberized plastic and is water resistant in most situations.
Kaito built a rugged and highly functional emergency radio in the KA500 Voyager. It’s lightweight, extremely portable, and has one of the best solar panels we’ve seen on an emergency radio.
Sangean MMR-88 AM/FM/Weather Alert Emergency Radio
The Sangean MMR-88 is a Public Alert certified emergency weather radio able to tune to all 7 NOAA bands as well as AM/FM radio. It’s right at 6 inches long and weighs just 13.8 oz.
The MMR-88 has an 850mAh lithium ion battery that can be charged via USB, hand crank, or a small solar cell. It’s capable of charging some phones and MP3 players but only provides a 5V .3A current. This is insufficient to charge many modern smartphones at more than an emergency level.
It comes standard in an easy to spot emergency yellow or bright red. Some of the features that separate the MMR-88 from its competitors are the SOS function flashlight and the emergency buzzer. Both of these are useful in an emergency situation where you need to signal for help.
Overall the Sangean MMR-88 gives you everything you need from an emergency weather radio plus some very handy extras. The only real downside to it is the relatively small battery and inability to provide much charge to smartphones.
Midland ER310 Emergency Crank Weather Radio
The Midland ER310 is a high quality emergency radio with one of the largest lithium ion batteries found in a weather radio. At 2,600mAh it’s capable of fully charging many modern smartphones.
You can charge up the internal battery through USB, a solar cell, or the hand crank. It also has the ability to accept 6 AA batteries as a backup. Expect to get about 10-15 minutes of radio use out of a minute of cranking. For that same cranking you get about a minute of talk time on your phone.
It’s a NOAA All Hazards certified radio and has a number of very useful features. The tuner is digital and has an automatic scanning feature to find the strongest signal possible. One extra feature we really loved was the included silent dog whistle. After all, is survival without mans best friend really worth it?
The included Cree LED flashlight on the ER310 has low and high settings as well as an SOS signalling mode. In the event of an emergency alert a siren will sound and the flashlight will blink for a full minute.
All of this combined gives you a really useful emergency radio that’s rugged, packed with useful features, and has one of the most effective emergency charging functions available.
Kaito KA101 One Touch NOAA Weather Radio
The Kaito KA101 is about as bare bones as a weather radio can get. It’s powered by 3 AA batteries or an A/C adapter and only receives the 7 NOAA radio bands.
It’s designed to allow one touch updates on your local situation. By pressing the large red power button on the KA101 you’ll instantly receive up to date information on your local weather. There’s no tuning required, it automatically selects the strongest channel available.
It lacks any kind of rechargeable battery or the ability to charge your devices. It also has no particular waterproofing, shock resistance, or other ruggedized design features.
The KA101 isn’t ideal for a wilderness situation or a moving emergency but is one of the easiest to use and most affordable weather radios available. It’s perfect to give to aging parents or others who may struggle to work a more complex radio.
American Red Cross Eton FRX2
The Eton FRX2 is another Red Cross approved emergency radio by Eton. It’s a smaller and lighter weight analog version of the FRX3 but has most of the same features. The battery is a bit smaller but is still capable of being charge by USB, hand crank, or a solar cell.
The FRX2 is capable of receiving all 7 NOAA bands as well as AM/FM radio. It has an extendable antenna to improve signal strength and uses a traditional analog dial tuner rather than a digital display. It has an LED flashlight and the ability to charge smartphones in an emergency.
There’s a headphone jack for private listening or to conserve power during an emergency. The FRX2 is just over 5.4 inches long and weighs just 9 ounces. This puts it very close to the smallest and lightest weather radio available.
If you want a high quality emergency hand crank radio that’s smaller and lighter than many other products check out the analog American Red Cross Eton FRX2.
Running Snail Emergency Radio
The Running Snail Emergency Radio is a NOAA and AM/FM weather radio that packs a ton of valuable features into a compact and low cost package. It has a 1000mAh battery that’s rechargeable via USB, hand crank, or a solar cell.
It’s capable of connecting to all 7 NOAA channels and gives you the ability to provide emergency power to your phone. The Running Snail is one of the smallest emergency radios available at just 5 inches long. That’s suitable for packing in on a hiking trip or keeping in an emergency 72 hour kit. It also has a small LED flashlight for emergency lighting.
It has a manual tuner and lacks many of the digital or advanced features found on other weather radios. Despite that we like this little radio. It’s inexpensive, sturdy, and does all the basic things you need an emergency radio to do.
If you’re looking for a bargain basement weather radio that provides you with real value and dependable service the Running Snail emergency radio is the one for you.
Eton FRX5 and FRX5-BT Emergency Weather Radio
The Eton FRX5 is a top of the line emergency radio with a host of great features. It has the same basic list of charging and usability options as other radios. The FRX5 just takes them to the next level.
It can be charged using USB, hand crank, or a solar cell but does so much more efficiently than similar products. The entire back surface of the FRX5-BT is a high-efficiency solar cell capable of fully charging its 2000mAh lithium ion battery in just 5 hours of sun exposure. It has full SAME capabilities. This allows you to target alerts for your specific area with pinpoint precision.
The FRX5 receives all 7 NOAA bands and AM/FM but the FRX5-BT adds in the ability to pair with your phone via Bluetooth. Yep, the FRX5-BT can actually play music streamed to your phone while you’re out in the backcountry or in your backyard. This gives it an everyday usability most other emergency radios lack.
The battery is large enough to effectively charge most smartphones and even better, the FRX5 and FRX5-BT are designed to produce a full 5V 2.1A charging current. This will charge up your devices much more rapidly than similar radios.
The FRX5 series are tough, high-quality weather radios that are packed with extras. They’re relatively inexpensive, have day to day usability, and include all the emergency features you’d need.
Eton Scorpion ll Rugged Portable Survival Radio
The Eton Scorpion II is a rugged and reliable survival radio that packs tons of useful features in a very small package. It’s 6.5 inches long and weighs just over 10 oz. It has an 800mAh lithium ion battery that can be charged via USB, hand crank, or a small solar cell.
The radio receives AM/FM and all NOAA radio bands. It has an extendable antenna to increase signal strength and the ability to charge most smartphones. There’s a standard USB port that provides 5V 1A power to your devices and an AUX port so you can conserve power by using earbuds. It also has a half watt flashlight built right in.
The body is made from durable plastic with rubber shock absorbers and it’s water resistant. A minute of cranking can provide you with 10-15 minutes of radio or a minute of talk time on your smartphone.
One of the things we loved about the Scorpion II was its digital tuner. In the past we’ve spent fruitless minutes searching for the right station with an old school dial tuner on cheaper radios. Overall this is an excellent product from a well respected emergency equipment manufacturer.
Best Emergency Survival Radio Buyers Guide
Because of their unique use case emergency weather radios only need to fulfill a basic set of functions. They have to keep you in touch with the outside world, be ready to use when needed, and stand up to rough treatment while doing so.
Emergency radios aren’t particularly expensive. They generally use off the shelf components in a rugged but easy to manufacture case. You can get a good one for around $40 and a great one for around $60-$70.
The exception to this are Ham capable emergency weather radios. These require licensing to use and generally cost significantly more. They allow you to receive and broadcast but aren’t really necessary for the vast majority of people.
An emergency radio is only useful if it’s working. Try to get one that has multiple sources of power. A great option available on many of the radios on the market today is a hand crank. This allows you to quickly add enough power for several minutes of news no matter what conditions are like.
If you’re looking for one with additional features you should check out USB rechargeable and solar powered models. Some models will also run off standard AA or AAA batteries.
Charge Time and Battery Life
Battery life is important with emergency radios. Most will give you varying reports on charge time and battery life. If they’re on their most basic radio settings at low volume they can often provide many hours of useful service.
When rechargeable they should be able to recover a good amount of battery life quickly. Check for the battery type as well. Ni-MH batteries are inexpensive but require periodic draining and recharging. If you just plan to toss your radio in a bag for a year or two you should spring for a more expensive lithium ion battery.
Most emergency radios are at least somewhat water and shock resistant. They’re designed to be used during hurricanes, tornados, floods, and the worst that mother nature can throw at us.
Where possible try to get one that’s fairly water resistant. Immersion resistance is nice but not absolutely required. They should at least be able to withstand splashed water or rainfall.
Check the Standards and Logos
The best emergency radios will have either the Public Alert or NOAA NWR All Hazards logo on it. These competing standards show that the radio meets certain standards required for approval by the NOAA and National Weather Service. The All Hazards logo has fairly standard requirements.
The Public Alert standard takes it even further. Any radio with this endorsement is required to receive special alerts, emit a tone before alerts come through, and accept accessibility accessories. These include vibration sensors or flashing lights for hearing or visually impaired individuals.
Specific Alert Message Encoding (SAME)
SAME is another important certification to look for in an emergency radio. It allows you to select a specific area to receive alerts for. This is extremely important for localized emergency situations like tornados or wildfires.
There are emergency radios that just provide you with news but some versions go far beyond that. High end models accept multiple power sources, can charge your phone, have hand cranks or solar panels, and have the option to be used with headphones or speakers.
Flashlight emergency radios are another hot feature. Most EDC minded individuals will carry a small tactical flashlight but having another one with your emergency kit is always useful.
If you want the best emergency radio possible look for one that can be charged via USB, a hand crank, solar, and external batteries. You want to have as many options as possible for getting it running. The phone charger is a lot more useful than you might imagine at first. It allows you to add enough power for a call or keep your phone going to comfort a frightened child.
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In most cases an emergency radio doesn’t need to be incredibly loud. They need enough volume to be heard over storm winds and other environmental sounds but they aren’t really built to be used as everyday speakers. If possible get one that has an AUX port. This allows you to use your own earbuds or headphones when conditions permit.
Durability, Weight and Size
We recommend you buy as durable an emergency radio as you can. They provide potentially life saving information in the most trying of circumstances. At the very least get one that is water and shock resistant. This allows it to function in a storm through rough treatment.
As far as weight and size go you should consider how you plan to carry it. For most people it’ll be with them in their home, a shelter, or their vehicle as they’re looking for shelter. If you think there’s a good chance you’ll need to walk to safety go for a smaller and more lightweight model. Otherwise larger editions will be more durable and feature rich.
Emergency weather radios are one of the most important pieces of survival gear most people will ever buy. Information can be the difference between life and death when bridges are out and roads are flooded.
As long as you keep our basic buying guide in mind you should have no problem picking out the best emergency radio for your situation and location.