Best Emergency Radio

Last updated: November 02, 2019
BEST OVERALL
Great Features, Well Built
Read Review
BEST BATTERY POWERED
Light Weight, Nice Design
Read Review
BEST SOLAR
Excellent Battery, Great Design
Read Review
BEST WATERPROOF
Lifetime Warranty, Water Resistant
Read Review

eHomeUpgrade is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Your guide

Do yourself a favor and don’t buy the first emergency radio you see online. It might seem easier than going through dozens and dozens of models, comparing their specs and features. But not the right way to go about it. Especially considering that emergency radios can be crucial for your safety and survival.

To save your time and energy, we’ve done the homework for you. We’ve looked at numerous emergency radios in the market, and shared five of the best ones right here.

As much as you want to enjoy the outdoors, whether it’s the backcountry or the mountains, it’s good to remember the boy scout motto “Be Prepared”. Emergency radios provide a solid link back to civilization and a connection to the NOAA. That just might end up saving your life. But you already know that. What you might not know is what is the best emergency radio you should buy.

To help you answer that question, we’ve condensed our extensive research into five great emergency radios. Each one has certain unique qualities that make it a bit different. And it’s even just about going camping or trekking…

 Sometimes you’ll need to use an emergency radio in your own basement. When there’s a power outage and/or extreme weather. When you face things like flooded roads and broken bridges, timely information and communication can mean the difference between life and death.

This is why you should buy an emergency radio after proper research. We’ve taken care of most of the research for you. Now you just need to take out some times and go over the five best emergency radios we’ve shortlisted and reviewed for you here.

1. Best Overall - Kaito KA500 Voyager

Specifications:

  •     Dimensions → 8.25 X 5 X 2.25″
  •     Weight → 1.25 lbs
  •     Power Sources → Solar, Hand Crank, Battery
  •     Colors → Yellow, Black, Blue, Red, Green

Key Features:

  •     SOS beacon
  •     Telescopic antenna
  •     LED signal strength indicator
  •     5-LED reading lamp

Kaito KA500 Voyager Review

The Kaito KA500 Voyager seems to check all the boxes when you’re sizing up different emergency radios. Overall it’s a solid survival tool with unique features that should be part of your emergency preparedness kit.

In addition to alerting you to troublesome weather, the KA500 can also help others find you in case you’re lost. This radio is one of the few certified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Sturdy Construction

This well-built radio is made from premium durable impact-resistant and water-resistant ABS material. This makes it ideal not just for indoors but for outdoor use as well. The Kaito KA500 Voyager is the perfect radio for emergencies and disasters, packed with important features.

5-Way Powered

One of KA500’s unique features is that it can be powered in 5 different ways:

  1. Wired into a wall outlet
  2. USB cable
  3. Solar panel
  4. Hand crank
  5. AA batteries (3 needed, not included)

All this helps power the built-in NiMH replaceable and rechargeable battery. And even when the battery isn’t installed, the radio can run on solar power. The KA500 features a 180-degree solar panel designed to catch the maximum sunlight. However, solar charging is slow so don’t count on solar alone.

Analog Tuner May Take Some Getting Used to for Novices

If you don’t have a lot of experience with radios, you might be a little confused by the analog tuner. But it isn’t rocket science and you’ll get the hang of it with some practice.

Just make sure to wrap your head around it before you head out. You don’t want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere or facing a storm without knowing how to operate the radio properly!

Tiltable, 180° Solar Panel

The decent-sized solar panel rises up from the top of the radio. You can tilt the solar panel in a way to ensure it gets maximum sunlight. The solar panel powers the radio and charges the built-in batteries too. This solar powering option is great. But solar charging is slower compared to other methods such as cranking it up.

Specially Designed for Emergency Situations

Kaito has supplied millions of radios to the United Nations, American Red Cross and several other and government agencies and NGOs. So you can rest assured this is a renowned company known for making quality radios, and that you can depend on their products in an emergency.

Pros
  •     Strong ABS construction
  •     NOAA certified
  •     Comprehensive coverage (AM/FM/SW1/SW2 and NOAA)
  •     5-way recharging options
Cons
  •     Analog dial has a learning curve for inexperienced users
  •     Slow solar charging

2. Best Battery Powered - C. Crane Pocket Radio

Specifications:

  •     Dimensions → 2.5 x 1 x 4.25”
  •     Weight → 4 ounces
  •     Power Sources → Batteries
  •     Colors → Brown

Key Features:

  •     5 one-touch memory buttons
  •     Lock-switch
  •     Quality earphones included
  •     Removable belt clip

C. Crane Pocket Radio Review

Lovingly known as “CC Pocket Radio” is an excellent purchase if you’re looking for battery-powered radios. It combines each of use with great reception and excellent audio. In addition to housing two AA batteries powering it, the radio packs numerous functionalities into its small size. It gets you the NOAA Weather Bands in addition to AM and FM.

2 AA Batteries = Up to 100 Hours of Play

Two AA batteries power this handy and elegant radio. With a couple of fully charged batteries you can get around 80 hours on the built-in speaker, and 100 hours of play if you use earbuds. The CC Buds Earphones are included, batteries are not.

Excellent Functionality and Features for its Size

One of the first things you’ll notice on this radio is the five adequately spaced one-touch memory buttons, one for each band. Using the CC Buds Earphones included you get excellent voice and music quality. The sensitivity and selectivity for a radio of this size are impressive.

Other features include a sleep timer, backlight, clock & timer, and a removable belt clip. C. Crane also throws in an external FM wire antenna, adding to CC Pocket’s overall value. The sides are rubber coated, providing you a better grip and some protection with falls and bumps.

A lock switch is also given to prevent accidental station change or on/off. There’s also a Stereo/Mono/Speaker switch. This lets you use the built-in speaker to listen to the radio while using the earphones as an antenna for the NOAA Weather Bands or the FM radio.

Try this: As you’re listening to an AM station, press the #1 and #5 buttons simultaneously. It will disable the display screen to reduce noise and improve reception in certain situations.

You must be getting a better sense of what this well-designed radio is capable of. Just remember that the AM/FM radio is disabled when you activate the NOAA Weather Radio with Alert feature.

From the rubber grip sides to premium earphones providing crisp highs and rich lows, the CC Pocket Radio has a lot going for it. All things considered, if you’re looking for the best battery-powered emergency radio, we can safely say you may have found it.

Pros
  •     Uses only 2 AA batteries
  •     Lightweight
  •     Nice design
  •     Display toggle for better signal
Cons
  •     Bit pricey
  •     AM reception issues in some areas

3. Best Budget - RunningSnail MD-88

Specifications:

  •     Dimensions → 5 x 1.8 x 2.4”
  •     Weight → 7.84 ounces
  •     Power Sources → Solar, Hand Crank, Battery
  •     Colors → Red

Key Features:

  •     1000mAh battery
  •     1W LED flashlight
  •     Micro USB cable
  •     Wrist lanyard

RunningSnail MD-88 Review

Available on Amazon for under $20, this emergency radio by RunningSnail is a great budget pick. It offers a nice combination of price and features. And it has a traditional look with an analog display. If that works for you, great. Otherwise, it’s a compromise you’ll have to make for the lower price.

Value for Money

It’s hard to deny that this RunningSnail emergency radio provides great value. It has three recharging methods: manual crank, solar, and micro USB plugin. You get a 1000mAh battery which is not too shabby at this price point. You can use it to charge your phone and tablet in a case whether you’re out camping or at home with a power outage.

You also get a 1W LED flashlight. This can help you find your way as you’re hiking or camping. It isn’t too bright but good enough for generic tasks in the dark.

You can turn on the flashlight while the radio is playing. But that’ll not only cause you to run out of power sooner (obviously) but it can also damage the battery. So unless there’s no alternative, don’t run them simultaneously.

If you’re pressed for cash, this is the one to get. If you’re not pressed for cash, you can also get this as a secondary emergency radio. Just saying…

Covering the Essentials Nicely

The RunningSnail may lack a digital tuner and some advanced features on other (pricier) radios. But it covers the essential functions of an emergency radio in a nice little package. You get AM/FM and all 7 NOAA weather stations with excellent reception, especially for the price.

The tuning is quite sensitive, with the frequency changing quickly even as you slowly turn the dial. But it’s not too much that getting hold of a station becomes too difficult. And the sound quality may be a bit thin but good enough to understand a storm’s coming. This isn’t exactly for karaoke nights!

You will also like its sturdy construction. And one minute of cranking on this unit will give you 5 minutes of radio and 30 minutes of light. I’d say it earns its place in any 72-hour emergency kit in your home and/or car.

Ultimately, as with all budget picks we review, my advice is that your expectations from the product must match the price tag. This is not to say you compromise on key features though.  And with this product that’s certainly not the case. All in all, RunningSnail MD-88 is a good budget purchase.

Pros
  •     Affordable
  •     Excellent reception
  •     Sturdy construction
  •     Compact and lightweight
Cons
  •     No AA battery support
  •     No headphone jack

4. Best Solar - RunningSnail MD-90

Specifications:

  •     Dimensions → 6.2 x 2.1 x 2.9″
  •     Weight → 0.68 lb
  •     Power Sources → Solar, Hand Crank, Battery
  •     Colors → Green, Orange

Key Features:

  •     Pivotable solar panel
  •     Zoomable LED flashlight
  •     “Reading lamp”
  •     Durable hand crank

RunningSnail MD-90 Review

One of the best solar emergency radios with excellent battery life, this RunningSnail radio also looks great. Its flashlight may not be as powerful as Kaito’s or some others’ but it has an adjustable focus. If you are going to a place with a good amount of sunlight, this is an excellent solar-powered emergency radio.

Sturdy Construction and Excellent Battery Life

This well-built radio also boasts an excellent battery life. The 2000mAh rechargeable battery gives you up to 12 hours of light or 4 to 6 hours of radio function. You can also charge your smartphone or tablet with this. Multiple charging options include a reliable hand crank and a solar panel.

Pivotable Solar Panel  with Lamp

The decent-sized solar panel rises up from the top of the radio. And underneath it is a convenient lamp. This can be your handy little reading lamp as you’re lying in your tent. You don’t want to turn on the flashlight for that.

No Automatic Weather Updates

The main drawback with the MD-90 is the lack of automatic weather alerts. But it does catch all seven NOAA weather channels with great reception. And there are mobile apps you can download to get severe weather updates. But those will only work if you’re in an area with cell phone coverage.

So whether or not this is a dealbreaker depends on where you plan to take this emergency radio. If flash-floods and tornados are a common concern, this might not be the best radio for you.

IPX3 Waterproofing

The IPX3 rating basically means the radio will be fine against water sprays (including light rainfall). So long as it isn’t immersed in the water, the radio will continue working. So it’s really “splashproof”. You can take it to the beach (not into the waves) without any trouble.

“Waterproof” is actually a vague marketing term used by different manufacturers. It’s best to know the specific rating to understand what your product can and cannot handle when it comes to water.

Pros
  •     Water-resistant
  •     Impressive design
  •     Reasonable price
  •     Excellent battery life
Cons
  •     No weather alerts
  •     Speaker could be better

5. Best Waterproof - FosPower

Specifications:

  •     Dimensions → 6.2 x 2.1 x 2.9″
  •     Weight → 10.9 ounces
  •     Power Sources → Crank, Solar, AAA Batteries
  •     Colors → Orange

Key Features:

  •     2000mAh battery
  •     1W flashlight
  •     4 LED reading light
  •     Loud SOS alarm

FosPower Review

If you want to enjoy the rain while you’re out camping without worrying about your emergency radio malfunctioning, consider this one by FosPower. But if it’s pouring, cover your “waterproof” radio. Let me explain…

 Waterproof vs. Water-resistant

Before we talk more about the product, a little reminder about waterproof radios. You won’t actually find an emergency radio that really is “waterproof”. “Water-resistant” on the other hand is a more accurate term. And that means the radio can resist some level of water penetration.

 Waterproof would mean the device doesn’t let water inside it, no matter how long you let it sit underwater. And that’s not really the case with this or any other emergency radio available for consumers.

 But, people continue to use search terms like “best waterproof emergency radio”. So we’re using the same phrase. Fair enough?

 IPX3 Water Resistance

The FosPower emergency radio carries an IPX3 rating. This means it won’t be affected by water sprays like light rain. The rain-resistant rugged shell might look it can survive a storm. But now you know what it can really handle. Don’t let those marketing photos of lightning bolts and heavy rain mislead you!

 Having said that, it’s really great to have an emergency radio that can handle light rain or small splashes of water. Both are common if not inevitable when you’re out hiking or camping. If you’re in an area with a lot of rainfall or possible flooding, the water-resistance of FosPower is a big deal and puts it over others without this feature.

Flooding or Not, It’s Loaded with Great Features 

In addition to being water-resistant, this is a solid emergency radio with numerous features and functionalities. You get the usual AM/FM and NOAA emergency broadcast access providing the latest emergency weather forecasts and news. And it’s SOS alarm is really loud.

It has two lighting options, one as a powerful flashlight and other as a kind of reading lamp. You can also charge your devices like a phone or tablet using a USB cord. All this is powered by a 2000mAh battery, rechargeable through a crank, solar panel or cord. And you can also put in 3 AAA batteries to run this radio.

Pros
  •     Rugged, rain-resistant shell
  •     IPX3 water resistance
  •     Limited lifetime warranty
  •     Reasonable price
Cons
  •     May have some solar charging issues

Frequently Asked Questions: Best Emergency Radio

What is the best emergency radio in 2019?

Take your pick from the five radios we’ve covered above. The best overall emergency radio would be the Kaito KA500 Voyager.

But it’s hard to claim one product as the absolute and irrefutable best. Still, the KA500 just might be your best bet.

What is the best hand crank emergency radio?

Speaking from our experience (and therefore from the above list), four of the five radios we covered had a hand cranking option:

● Kaito KA500 Voyager Emergency Radio
● RunningSnail MD-90 Emergency Radio
● RunningSnail MD-88 Emergency Radio
● FosPower Emergency Radio

All four of these have efficient and reliable hand-cranking option.

How does hand crank radio work?

A hand-crank radio contains a small hand-powered generator. The generator uses a magnet and conductive wire coil to produce power.

Electricity is produced when the coil of wire is wrapped and spun around the magnet. That happens when you wind the crank, and the generator then provides a charging current to the radio’s internal rechargeable battery.

What is the best emergency radio for backpacking?

In addition to the Kaito KA500 Voyager, the RunningSnail MD-90 and FosPower Emergency Radio would make the best radio for backpacking. They all are durable, have good battery life and are water-resistant.

What is the best emergency radio for preppers?

For preppers, we’d recommend the Kaito KA500 Voyager and the FosPower Emergency Radio. Why? Because peppers like to be, well, prepared.

So we’d advise them to get the KA500 as their main emergency radio and use the less expensive yet practical FosPower one as a backup.

Who makes the best weather radio?

Kaito Electronics has a solid reputation for producing high-quality weather radios, among other electronic devices. As we mentioned above, the company has also supplied millions of radios to various government agencies and NGOs.

Another good manufacturer we can vouch for is RunningSnail. Well, at least for the two emergency radios that made it on our list. Many of their products are the best sellers on Amazon.

Is NOAA Weather Radio AM or FM?

The NOAA Weather Radio is a network of FM radio stations. It broadcasts on 7 FM channels in the frequency range 162.400 MHz to 162.550 MHz. These are collectively known as the “Weather Band”.

What type of radio is best for emergency?

Any radio that can be considered the best for emergency use should have the following qualities:

• Excellent reception
• Sturdy construction
• Flashlight
• Good battery life
• Multiple recharging options
• Water-resistance

A radio that lacks any one of the above capabilities cannot be a contender for the best or even a great emergency radio.

Is the Kaito KA500 Wind Up Emergency Radio the best?

It certainly is a top contender. Of all the radios we reviewed, this one seems to fit the bill of an overall best emergency radio.

Why radio is important in a survival kit?

A radio is important in a survival kit because it provides you critical weather updates and even helps you send out distress signals if needed.

This is in addition to providing other uses such as working as a flashlight and charging your mobile phone.

Best Emergency Radio — EHome