Best Overall: American Red Cross Emergency Radio
Easily the winner of our comparison, the Red Cross radio comes with every essential feature for a still relatively fair price. It offers a flashlight and a 2600 mAh battery allowing you to charge your phone in case of an emergency. If power goes down you can charge it via its cranking handle or solar panel. Most importantly you really get quality here and it will feel like something you can actually rely on when you really need it.
Budget Pick: Running Snail
If you are looking for a cheap emergency radio coming with every essential feature you’d need, while at the same time offering long battery life, then the Running Snail radio is the way to go. It allows you to use multiple features like charging your phone while listening to music at the same time and has powerful speakers to ensure you hear exactly what is going on. You’ll find that for the price and the durability of the radio, you can’t go wrong.
Most Features: Midland XT511 Base Camp
If you want more than just an emergency radio, then you’ll want the Midland. This radio works with multiple ways to charge up the battery. The Midland comes with a CB radio so you can reach out if cellphone towers are out of reach. Plus, you can charge your phone. The flashlight is bright and the radio for the weather comes in clear.
Best Battery Life: VMEI Emergency Radio
When it comes to charging your device and keeping it going, you’ll find that the VMEI gives you the most options. With a hand crank, solar panel, the option to use batteries, and an internal battery, you are certain to keep this charged all day every day. The VMEI works great and will keep you up to date with what is happening with weather any other emergency information. I also allows you to charge your phone. The internal battery offers impressive 2300 mAh internal battery.
Best for Camping: Sangean MMR-88
If you’re a huge fan of camping, then you know that every ounce counts when packing you backpack. But you don’t want to be caught in a dangerous situation like a flash flood when you are out in the backcountry. That is why the Sangean makes for a perfect emergency radio for camping. With multiple ways to keep this radio charged and how super light weight it is, the Sangean is a perfect radio to take with you.
How We Picked
You never know when an emergency will strike and the best way to survive is to be prepared for anything Mother Nature throws at you. It doesn’t matter if you live in California, where the entire state is on a fault line that could shift at any moment or in the sunny state of Florida, prone to hurricanes. You will want an emergency radio to keep you informed of what is happening and any changes to the weather.
But finding the perfect radio is a daunting task, especially when you start searching online to find the best of the best. You’ll soon realize that there are a ton of options to choose from. There are some radios that give you the option of charging your cell phones while others even offer CB radios. So which one do you get? Here is a list of the top eight we think you can’t go wrong with.
#1 Running Snail
When disaster strikes you want an emergency radio that can do more than just tune into AM/FM stations. You want one that can keep you in touch with everyone to let them know you’re okay. That is why the Running Snail is a great radio to have on hand. It comes with a water resistant rating of IPX3 and weighs only 7.8 ounces.
Not only can the Running Snail charge your phone with its 1200mAh power bank (online stores sometimes say 1000 mAh, but the manual says 1200 mAh), it can also play the radio and have the flash light running at the same time. However, if you want to save battery life, you should stick with just using one or two features at a time. After all, with the radio and flashlight running at the same time you’ll get about 10 to 12 hours of battery life.
Now if you’re looking for a radio that can crank out a lot of sound, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with this one. The Running Snail comes with a powerful speaker. The dial is a bit touchy, so if you want quieter sound, just turn the knob in tiny increments.
The Running Snail is a hand cranked emergency radio that will allow you to manually power the unit. When you crank for around 130 rotations or roughly 1 minute, you can get 20 minutes worth of power for the flashlight to shine bright. Some people might find the handle (you use for cranking it up) a little small. However, 1300 rotations will only barely charge your phone for maybe a couple percent, not more.
You’ll also find that the Running Snail has the option for you to charge it by solar. This extra way of charging ensures you that no matter what disaster strikes, you will have a power source (as long as there is sun) and a means to hear what may be coming next with the AM/FM radio.
The Running Snail is perfect for those who want an emergency radio that has multiple features and more than one power source. Plus, with the USB port on the radio, your phone can get charged even if there is no power at your house or neighborhood. Its lightweight of only 7.8 ounces make it a great choice for hiking as well.
- Two forms of power, solar and crank
- AM/FM radio
- Ability to use more than one feature at a time
- Reasonably priced coming in around $20
#2 VMEI Emergency Radio
If you are looking for an emergency radio that is sturdy, and packed with awesome features, then you might want to check out the VMEI. It comes with four different ways to get this emergency radio charged up and ready to go. Not only does it come with a hand crank, but it is also solar powered, and comes with a 2300 mAh internal battery, which when failed can be substitued with AA batteries. It weighs 15.2 ounces.
The VMEI comes with a flashlight that allows you to choose different settings from constant, to flashing, or even Morse Code SOS. You’ll also find an emergency siren that allows others to find you faster should you get stuck somewhere or need to be located. The VMEI will charge your cell phone or any other electronic that utilizes the USB port and comes with a compass so you never lose your way.
The VMEI is a powerful little emergency radio and works great, but one thing that you’ll find is that if you plan to charge your phone, don’t expect it to charge quickly. Because this is an emergency radio, the power flowing into your phone will take a while, whether or not you hand crank to get more juice. Similar to when you charge your phone in your car while the motor isn’t running.
It comes with an antenna which does fold down if you don’t need it. The dial is smooth and doesn’t take a lot to get tuned into the weather channel or any other channel for that matter. You’ll find that the speakers are clear and the sound quality is great. Plus, it comes with a jack for headphones so that you can listen to what’s happening even if others don’t want to. Not using the speakers will also save battery.
So, if power is a concern and you want more than one way to charge your emergency radio, you might want to get the VMEI. That way there is no question about whether or not it works. Plus with the added bonus of a compass and different ways to signal for help, it makes it a nifty emergency radio to have around.
- Four power sources
- Charges any device that utilizes the USB port
- Comes with an insert for headphones
- Flashlight with different settings
- Comes with a compass
- Reasonably priced at under $35
#3 Kaito KA500 (Updated Version)
With high ratings across the board, the Kaito KA500 is an emergency radio that definitely deserves to be on this list. It is lightweight coming in at about a pound which is great for those who want to take it camping as it doesn’t add much weight to the pack. You’ll also notice that it comes with a reading light, a flashlight, as well as a red blinking emergency light to ensure that you’ll have enough light for anyone to spot you.
The Kaito comes with AM/FM radio along with a 14.5″ antenna that is collapsible. The knobs are sturdy and dependable so you can easily find the station you need to be up on current weather or music station.
Now when it comes to the solar charger, you’ll find that four hours of direct light will provide you with about three hours of play time. And of course when you are charging your cell, expect a long charge time. Some reviews have also stated that when charging the phone, the radio may fade in and out which might relate to the radio waves that the phone has effects on.
You’ll also notice that the crank is easy to use. If you crank to get power, expect to do it for a little while. About three minutes of crank time will run the radio for about twenty minutes. Some might find that the crank seems a bit flimsy, so just go easy with it and the Kaito will put out the juice you need to get the flashlight and radio going. This is not really an emergency radio that you can toss around.
The Kaito is a great little emergency radio that gives you five ways to charge it. You’ll get your standard AM/FM radio stations, and an antenna to reach them. The dials are durable and slow turning allowing you the proper speed for catching the stations instead of missing them.
- Powerful flashlight
- Reading light
- Five power sources
- Easy to Use
- Bright Yellow color make it easy to see
#4 Running Snail Basic
If you’re looking for a small, compact emergency radio, then you might want to check out the Running Snail basic version. The basic version is just a couple of inches longer than an iPhone which makes it perfect for a camping trip. It is lightweight and very sturdy for its size. It weighs 10.9 ounces.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised that the Running Snail offers three different ways for you to charge it. It comes with a hand crank, solar panel, a slot for three AAA batteries and a USB port with a power bank of 2000mAh. When fully charged the internal battery offers 2 hours of light or 4-6 hours of radio time.
For a small and durable emergency radio, you’ll find that it works great. You’ll be able to pick up all the stations, including NOAA so you can track the storm or situation in your area with ease. The speakers may be small, but they are clear even if you don’t have a direct line of sight outside. Some emergency radios won’t work unless you have direct radio waves, but this one should allow you to tune in and stay informed even if you’re in a damp cellar.
The Running Snail also comes with a loud and somewhat obnoxious SOS sound, but if you’re in a dire situation, you’ll want to be heard and this device won’t let you down.
As for the light, you’ll find it produces enough to light a small room with no issues. Plus the reading light is a nice touch so you can at least pass the time with a good book.
When it comes to charging your phone, the Running Snail will give you enough juice to make calls. Like most emergency radios trying to charge your phone isn’t going to be fast. But, it will provide you with enough juice to make the calls you need to get help.
The Running Snail is a great emergency radio with great online ratings. You’ll find that it fits perfectly in your pack and is super lightweight. You don’t have to be delicate with it either as it is well made and heavy duty for such a small radio.
- Clear speakers
- Easy to use and adjust dials
- SOS signal
- Multiple ways to charge it
- Reasonably priced at around $30
#5 Esky Emergency Radio
If you are looking for an emergency radio that will last a super long time from one charging, then you’re going to want the ESky. You’ll find that this little emergency radio packs quite the punch. When fully charged, this radio has power for two days or more. It weighs 7.8 ounces.
When it comes to the speakers, you’ll find they are crisp and very clear. No scrambled or static sounds that muffle with the reception. You can crank up the sound to ensure everyone in your house can hear what’s going on.
Like other emergency radios on this list, the ESky comes with a USB port that allows you to plug in your phone or other devices like a small USB fan.
The flashlight is bright enough to illuminate a small space, just not an entire room. It only comes with one setting for the light, but the one light that it does have isn’t too shabby.
Another thing about the Esky is the hand crank that charges the unit relatively fast. However, the solar panel that comes as an alternative method of charging takes a really long time. Don’t be surprised if you keep this in direct sunlight for four to five hours and the battery isn’t charged completely. It comes with a 1000mAh lithium battery, which is easily enough to charge your phone but not your laptop.
One person reported that the plastic can get a little sticky when placed into direct sunlight, however that usually shouldn’t happen, as long as you don’t plan on using it in extremely high temperatures.
The ESky is a powerful little emergency radio that will get the job done. It comes with three methods of power and the dials are sturdy enough where you don’t have to hunt for the radio stations.
- Great hand crank
- Sturdy and dependable
- Multiple ways to power
- Sturdy knobs for the radio
- Reasonably priced coming in at under $20
#6 Kaito Voyager
The Kaito Voyager is a great little emergency radio that comes with a handle to make it easier to pick up and go. The Kaito Voyager offers you the same great features as many of the other radios on this list and comes in many different colors. It comes in at around 1.3 pounds.
The radio is solid and feels really sturdy. The knobs allow you to tune into the radio stations with precision. You can also pick up a shortwave radio bands, the weather, and local stations.
Now when it comes to the hand crank, you’ll find that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get the radio fully charged. The hand crank is quite pleasantly, not sticky and not flimsy. Many hand cranks will make you turn for twenty minutes straight just to get a charge for an hour or so. But with the Kaito, you’ll find you don’t have to work it nearly as much to keep the battery life strong.
The lights that come with this emergency radio are strong and can illuminate a small space with ease. It also comes with a reading light that gives you just enough light without being too bright or too dim. The flashing SOS light doesn’t actually flash with the proper SOS frequency, but is more to cause draw the attention of possible rescuers.
The Kaito will charge your phone with the USB port, but it will take about five minutes to get 2% phone battery life with an averagely sized phone battery. So, don’t expect a fast phone charge. However, if you are in an emergency and need your phone to charge quickly, you can use the hand crank for additional power.
The Voyager has great online ratings and is well worth the money. You’ll find that it is super lightweight (1.3 pounds) and easy to carry with the handle. The decently sized antenna doesn’t get in the way and can be extended.
- Great for camping
- Comes with a sturdy handle for transportation
- Powerful flashlight
- Picks up shortwave radio bands
- Multiple ways to charge
#7 Sangean MMR-88
The Sangean is a tough and sturdy little emergency radio. You’ll find that the radio is protected by its rubber ends which gives it the feel of a construction radio that won’t break unless you take a hammer to it. In case of an earthquake this thing should be able to take a drop off a shelf without any problems. It comes with an IPX3 water resistance rating, which means it’s rain and splash proof. It weighs 13.8 ounces.
You’ll notice that the solar panel for this radio is a bit different than most on this list. Instead of having you extend the panel out and away from the radio, the panel takes up the top portion of it. Additionally it comes with a hand crank to juice it up.
This emergency radio is digital. Instead of dealing with knobs, it has buttons that you use to find the radio stations you want. The screen tells you exactly how much battery life the radio has so you know when to charge it without it accidentally going dead on you.
As for the radio and speakers, you will get a clear sound without any crackling that comes with poor quality speakers. It doesn’t matter if you are listening to the weather or music, the speakers will produce enough sound so that everyone can easily hear what is going on.
The hand crank works very well and doesn’t take much to get it powered up. When charging your phone or any other USB device, “cranking” will allow you to charge quicker.
The flashlight works but don’t expect to brighten an entire room. The light holds well and can last hours which is great during a blackout. It comes with a 850mAh Lithium-ion rechargeable battery which can be replaced. Actually we recommend to replace this battery right away with one that offers more power (very cheap but great improvement).
The Sangean is an awesome emergency radio perfect for your car, camping trips, or even everyday use out in the garage. With multiple ways to charge and a solar panel that actually charges the device, you might want to give it a try.
- Strong and durable
- Rubber ends for added protection against dropping
- Multiple ways to charge
- Long battery life
#8 Midland XT511
When it comes to being prepared for any emergency, the Midland has you covered. This emergency radio comes with a ton of features and truly is a base camp radio.
The Midland comes with a strong sturdy handle that is attached to the radio. It isn’t a small plastic strap, it is a handle that allows you to pick up and go. Plus, it has a two-way radio so you can communicate with rescuers or other people with 121 privacy codes that gives you over 3,000 channels to scan. With the Midland you’ll always be in the know and get the information you want from local radio stations, to police channels, and even the NOAA. It’s water resistant (not water proof) and weighs 1.2 pounds.
CB Radio Included
With the added CB radio, you don’t have to worry if cell phone towers are out of commission. You’ll be able to communicate with others easily and figure out what’s going on. However, you’ll notice that the antenna isn’t very big and it’s not possible to extend the antenna for better reception and longer range. Out of the box it offers a range up to 40 miles.
The battery is long lasting and can keep going for hours, making it the perfect little radio for your base camp. Also, you’ll find that the radio comes with a bright flashlight that will come in handy when the power goes out.
When it comes to the speakers, they aren’t too great. You’ll still get clear reception but the speakers aren’t meant for you to blast music. As for talk radio, you’ll hear everything clear and crisp. So it might be the bass of music that throws off the speakers when playing music.
If you are looking for something a bit more than just an emergency radio, then you might want to check out the Midland. You don’t have to worry about if cell towers work which is a major plus.
#9 American Red Cross Emergency NOAA Weather Radio
- 3.7V Battery
- Integrated USB ports
- Integrated LED Flashlight
- Built-In Solar Panel
- 8.7x Longer Playback Than Other Models
The American Red Cross Emergency NOAA Weather Radio is designed to be a an emergency weather radio that provides maximum performance while requiring the minimal amount of effort in order to work.
To this end, the hand crank is designed to require as little physical effort as possible in order to work. Meanwhile, the radio comes installed with a 3.7V battery that provides 8.7x longer playback times.
The audio quality of the American Red Cross Emergency NOAA Weather Radio is very crisp as well, and easy to adjust. Additional features worth mentioning include the mini-USB cable, a USB port for charging phones, an integrated LED flashlight, and a solar panel that has been built into the device to provide supplemental power. When the ‘Alert’ function is set to on, the radio will also broadcast emergency alerts automatically as well.
One thing about this radio, is that the battery cover is a bit flimsy, and can therefore be more susceptible to damage than other emergency weather radios, so that’s something to be aware of, and it may not even shut all the way when the battery is installed.
What We Like
This radio does what it says it will do: put the out the maximum efficiency while requiring the most minimal investment of force and energy in order to operate. We also like the automatic alert function, the 3.7v battery, and the integrated features like the LED flashlights and USB ports. The supplemental power from the solar panel is also a nice feature to have.
The American Red Cross is a good NOAA weather radio over all, and it will alert you to broadcast emergency alerts and offers you a variety of features for the money.
- Integrated USB ports and flashlights
- Crisp audio
- Minimal force required to operate hand crank
- 3.7v battery
- Built-in solar panel
Emergency Radio Buying Guide
When it comes to picking out the best emergency radio, you have a lot of options. How do you pick the right one for you? Well, to help you out, there are a few things you need to think of before purchasing your emergency radio.
The first thing you are going to want to check out is the battery life for the device. You’ll want an emergency radio that provides you with enough juice to keep you connected to what is happening. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of a tornado warning and have your emergency radio die because the radio drained the battery in an hour.
The juice for the radio will come in “mAh.” This is basically the milliamps per hour that your device puts out. It’s often used to measure energy of the battery. You’ll want an emergency radio that can provide you with enough power to last through the storm and then some. So you’ll want to find one that has a high rating.
Here is the mAh capacity of popular devices for you to get an idea of how much power we are talking about:
As you can see 2000 mAh is enough to fully charge an iPhone 7. Keep in mind that you can always add power manually by using the crank, so even if you radio only comes with a 1000 mAh battery, you could in theory fully charge any phone.
Each emergency radio comes with similar features. You’ll most likely find that all radios come with AM/FM, an antenna, and some form of light. However, you can find some emergency radios with added features like a reading light, red lights, flashing lights, and lights that signal SOS.
Other features you might want to be on the look out for is a built-in compass. If you know you are heading into backcountry. Being in an area prone to earthquakes, having an emergency radio with a siren will speed up rescue as they will be able to hear that better than anything else.
Also, there is the option to find a radio that allows you to charge your phone. There are even some emergency radios that allow you to use multiple features all at once. For example you could be charging your phone while listening to the radio with the flashlight on.
So, before you buy a new emergency radio, you might want to think about how you would use it. Would you need it to charge up other devices through the USB port? Or would you just want a simple emergency radio to keep up with what is happening with the storm?
Plus, you might want to grab yourself an emergency radio that is waterproof. Having a waterproof emergency radio on camping trips is a must as you are out in the elements and may be stuck in a rain storm or flash flood.
When it comes to blackouts, sometimes they can be super scary for younger children. Most emergency radios come with some kind of light feature so you won’t be stuck in the dark. You may want a radio that gives off enough light to illuminate a small room, or you could want a radio where the flashlight has multiple functions like strobe lights or even SOS flashing to make it easier for rescuers to spot you.
Lighting may not seem like a big deal, but when you are in pitch blackness, even a dim light can keep you and your loved one’s calm. Another thing you may want is a radio that gives off red or even blue lights. These different colors can be entertaining for younger kids, but they also set you apart from other light sources that could be competing for attention.
So before you grab your next emergency radio, think about what kind of lighting you’ll need during a disaster. Do you want something bright like a spot light, or something that gives off different flashes? Maybe you want an emergency radio that has a reading lamp so you don’t disturb others while they are sleeping.
One of the things you’re going to want is clear communication from the outside world in a disaster or emergency. You’ll want to know what is happening and where the event has struck or is going to strike. But you won’t know unless your radio has loud speakers and give you a clear crisp sound. The last thing you want is for scratchy speakers that cut out important information. Also, you may want to find a radio that allows you to plug in your earbuds so you can listen to what is happening while others sleep.
An emergency radio is no good if it doesn’t work when it’s supposed to. That is why you can now find radios that offer different means to juice them up. The best emergency radio you can find is one that provides multiple ways to keep it charged. Be it through batteries, solar panel, or cranking.
Now, when it comes to power sources, you don’t want to have to wonder when the batteries were charged the last time. That is why getting an emergency radio with a crank is so important. You don’t have to worry about the juice. All you have to do is crank it up for a couple of minutes and you are good to go.
Cranks on a radio should be easy to use. You don’t want one that makes you feel like you’re going to break the lever with every rotation. The handle should be strong and somewhat thick to ensure your grip won’t slip. Also, you want to make sure that the lever doesn’t jerk about when you are cranking.
Another thing about cranks is the amount of time it will take you to get the emergency radio going. You don’t want one that keeps you lock to the handle every minute. About twenty minutes of crank time should provide you with at least an hour to two hours.
You may also want to consider getting an emergency radio that has a solar panel. While some are great, others will leave you wondering why the panel is even there. The solar panel should be wide enough to catch the sun’s rays and you should be able to adjust the bend degree so you’re not chasing the sun.
The weight of your emergency radio shouldn’t be something that is too heavy especially if you are using it to go camping. Like everything else you pack for a trip, your radio is going to add weight to your pack. Most emergency radios are fairly lightweight coming in at no more than a couple of pounds.
Now of course the weight also depends on the features and batteries that you use with it. If you are just purchasing one for the house, then you can find a bulkier one that will be durable during aftershocks and able to be tossed around a bit without breaking.
Either way, you want to keep an eye out for the weight of the radio and determine where you are going to need it. There are some that come with suction cups on the base to ensure it will remain in the same spot.
Next, you’ll want an emergency radio that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. There are many emergency radios on the market that are extremely well made, durable, and have plenty of features for under $40. The Running Snail is a great option and depending on which one you get, you are looking at only a $30 purchase.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What Does mAh Stand for?
A: When it comes to battery life, the mAh is how you can tell how much juice or energy flows through the battery. The higher the rating, the more energy your radio will have. It is best to get an emergency radio that has at least 1000 mAh so that you’ll have enough for a couple of hours of use. See the chart in the buyer’s guide if you want to know the capacity of popular smartphones.
Q: Are Emergency Radios Waterproof?
A: Most emergency radios are at least water resistant. If you live in an area that is prone to flash flooding, or even tornadoes then you will want a radio that is resistant to rain and splashed. Get one that has a rubber or plastic casing that covers the USB ports so no water will be able to get into it and corrode the port. Also you may want to think about the knobs and go for hard plastic with a lining so water can’t get into the base and ruin the radio.
Q: How Much Should I Spend on an Emergency Radio?
A: When it comes down to the cost of your radio, you have to consider all the features that comes with it. Do you want a radio that offers you an alternative means of communicating like a CB radio? If so, then that will cost a bit more. However, if you just want a simple radio to stay informed of the weather and what is happening in your town after the emergency then you can find a radio that is relatively cheap. The least expensive radio on this list comes in at under $20. It offers you the basic features of a radio, hand crank, solar panel, with the option to use AAA batteries as a backup for power. But when looking at the price range, it all depends on what you want to get out of your radio. There are some excellent emergency radios that you can get for under $50.
It doesn’t matter if a hurricane hits, or a tornado rips through your neighborhood unannounced. You’ll want to make sure that your family is safe and has all the information you need to get to safety or get help. That is why getting yourself an emergency radio can be a great tool for survival.
The last thing you want is to be stuck somewhere with no way to inform the outside world. Radios that allow you to charge your phone, or even hand crank the internal battery are the way to go. No longer do you have to worry about where the batteries are at, or if the emergency radio has juice to work.
Don’t be a victim of the storm. Take charge and get yourself and emergency radio. You’ll be glad you did when SHTF.
Product Boxes: Last updated on 2019-06-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API