The Best Emergency Radios for Staying Prepared and Safe

We recommend the Midland ER310 E+Ready Emergency Crank Weather Radio

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Commerce Photo Composite

The Spruce / Lecia Landis

A good emergency radio is an essential component of any emergency "go bag" or disaster-preparedness kit, ensuring your family's ability to receive severe weather updates and other critical information.

We researched radios across price ranges and considered options that receive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather alert broadcasts at a minimum and offer other emergency features like flashlights and charging. We also consulted preparedness expert John Ramey, founder of The Prepared and a leader of the "sane prepper" community, about the benefits and key features of these devices. "Emergency radios are near the top of the priority list," Ramey says. "Communication during a crisis is essential."

Based on our research, the Midland ER310 E+Ready Emergency Crank Weather Radio has the best combination of weather alerts, power options, durability, and additional features that offer emergency value.

Here are our picks for the best emergency weather radios.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Midland Emergency Crank Weather AM/FM Radio

4.8
Radio

Midland

What We Like
  • Alarm for weather alerts

  • Multiple power/charging options

  • Bright LED light

  • Durable, water-resistant

What We Don't Like
  • No SAME technology for local alerts

  • On the pricey side

The Midland ER310 E+Ready Emergency Crank Weather Radio can be a valuable tool in emergencies for numerous reasons. First and foremost is its ability to let you know loud and clear about weather emergencies in your area. Besides tuning to NOAA weather stations (along with traditional AM/FM radio), the ER310 automatically scans for alerts from the National Weather Service and sounds an alarm if severe weather is detected.

One downside, though, is that the ER310 lacks the Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) functionality that lets you program codes specific to your county, so you may get alerts that don't necessarily affect you.

Also crucial for an emergency radio is staying powered when you need it, and the ER310 can run on six AA batteries, solar power, or a manual hand crank. Its rechargeable internal battery has a solid 2600-milliampere hour (mAh) capacity, enough for over 30 hours of radio use or just remaining on standby mode to wait for weather alerts. You can even use it to charge your phone or other devices through USB.

In general, the ER310 is well built, with a sturdy, water-resistant exterior, easy-to-press buttons, and an easy-to-read display. An ultrasonic dog whistle and a bright LED flashlight with an SOS signal add extra emergency benefits.

Dimensions: 9.61 x 2.95 x 6.85 inches | Power Options: 6 AA batteries, solar panel, hand crank | Transmission Type: NOAA, AM/FM | Durability: Water resistance

Best Shortwave Radio: Kaito KA500 Emergency Radio

Kaito KA500 Emergency Radio

Walmart

What We Like
  • Excellent power/charging options

  • Decently durable

What We Don't Like
  • Small battery capacity

  • Flimsy hand crank

The Kaito Voyager KA500 offers a lot of value through versatility, starting with its ability to pick up various radio signals. A dial is dedicated to presets for all seven NOAA weather stations, along with tuning for AM/FM radio. More notably, it's one of the few radios of its type that picks up long-distance shortwave radio signals, which often include informational international broadcasts.

The KA500 also provides extra options when it comes to its power supply. You can insert three disposable AA batteries, recharge the internal battery through a Micro USB cable, plug in an AC adapter from a wall outlet, or use the built-in solar panel. A hand crank is available if those other options fail you, though the mechanism isn't the sturdiest. Still, the radio's overall construction feels durable enough thanks to its somewhat water-resistant, rubberized casing.

Rounding out the KA500's features are a headphone jack and three varieties of LED lights you can use for reading or in flashlight modes. Finally, a 5-volt USB output can charge devices like your phone, but you won't get too much mileage from the radio's meager 600mAh battery. It's not powerful enough to replenish other devices fully, but you may be able to use it to raise the charge level on smartphones and other gadgets—as long as they still have a little battery life.

Dimensions: 8 x 2.6 x 5 inches | Power Options: 3 AA batteries, AC adapter, Micro USB, solar panel, hand crank | Transmission Type: NOAA, AM/FM, shortwave | Durability: Water resistance

Best Features: Eton FRX3+

Eton FRX3+

Amazon

What We Like
  • Receives weather alerts

  • Multiple power/charging options

  • Distinct visual design

  • Backed by American Red Cross

What We Don't Like
  • No SAME technology for local alerts

  • Not water-resistant

  • Lacking in durability

When it comes to recommendations for emergency supplies, it doesn't get much better than being backed by the American Red Cross. The disaster relief organization sells Eton's FRX3+ Rechargeable Weather Alert Radio as its official emergency radio, marking the product as a reliable choice for just about any household.

The FRX3+ has a well-rounded feature set that helps it earn the endorsement, including a receiver that picks up the seven NOAA weather bands. It delivers alerts with any nearby emergency weather broadcasts (though it doesn't support SAME codes for specifying your exact location). It has a digital tuner for AM/FM radio, an alarm clock, an LED flashlight/beacon, and USB charging capabilities for some smartphones. The FRX3+ also offers three charging methods: hand crank, solar power, and charging the internal battery via a Mini USB cable.

The radio's squarish, X-shaped construction gives it a distinct look that matches the Red Cross branding, and it's compact enough for most go-bags. However, besides the easy-to-grasp handle at the top, the design sacrifices some practicality. It's not rated water- or impact-resistant, and the manufacturer recommends avoiding rain and moisture.

Dimensions: 5.8 x 2.6 x 6.9 inches | Power Options: Micro USB adapter, solar panel, hand crank | Transmission Type: NOAA, AM/FM | Durability: None

Best Budget: Esky Hand Crank Radio with Flashlight

Esky Hand Crank Radio with Flashlight

Amazon

What We Like
  • Multiple power/charging options

  • Compact and portable

What We Don't Like
  • No shortwave or weather alerts

  • Non-premium construction

If you're looking for an emergency device that can be valuable in a pinch without paying for many frills, consider the Esky ES-CR01 Emergency Weather Radio. This low-cost option offers similar key features as pricier alternatives. Its extendable antenna picks up NOAA weather signals along with AM/FM radio. It doesn't provide emergency alerts or shortwave reception, but it's easy enough to tune in to what you need.

The ES-CR01's decent-sized 1000mAh lithium-ion battery is estimated to last for 7 hours of operation, and you can charge it through a Micro USB cable, solar panel, or hand crank. You can also use it to charge other USB devices. Like most portable emergency radios, it includes an LED flashlight but no other light modes or a reading lamp.

Esky manages to fit these capabilities into a device that fits in your pocket, much like a smartphone would. The tradeoff is that plastic construction isn't the sturdiest option available, and it doesn't come with any durability or waterproof ratings. However, it weighs only about half a pound, so it has the portability to go pretty much anywhere.

Dimensions: 5 x 1.8 x 2.4 inches | Power Options: Micro USB, solar panel, hand crank | Transmission Type: NOAA, AM/FM | Durability: Not listed

Best Compact: Vondior NOAA Weather Radio

Vondior NOAA Weather Radio

Amazon

What We Like
  • Receives weather alerts

  • Good reception and sound

  • Manual tuner for precise control

What We Don't Like
  • Not rechargeable

  • Can be tricky to operate because of small size

You might want a small radio that works great at being a radio for emergency use. By leaving off all the extra features, Vondior's NOAA Weather Radio is a diminutive size that fits in the palm of your hand, not to mention any emergency bag or kit. It receives AM/FM plus NOAA weather signals, and you can even set it to an alert mode that automatically gets severe weather broadcasts as they come in.

Despite its small size, the Vondior NOAA Weather Radio is capable of surprisingly strong sound quality. It produces loud, clear audio and gets strong reception through its advanced signal processing chip and 6-inch telescopic antenna. Its manual tuner, while potentially more difficult for large fingers to operate because of its tiny size, allows for finer audio signal control than you can get with automatic tuning.

This radio also has a port for headphones, which can be hard to find among emergency radios. Unfortunately, this model doesn't offer any recharging options, but it's still simple enough to power it for a long time with just a pair of AA batteries.

Dimensions: 2.75 x 1.1 x 4.7 inches | Power Options: 2 AA batteries | Transmission Type: NOAA, AM/FM | Durability: Not listed

Best Splurge: C. Crane CC Skywave SSB AM, FM, Shortwave, NOAA Weather + Alert, Scannable VHF Aviation Band and Single Side Bands Small Battery Operated Portable Travel Radio

Skywave SSB AM, FM, Shortwave, NOAA Weather + Alert

Amazon

What We Like
  • Shortwave, airband, and single sideband signals

  • High-quality reception and sound

  • Long battery life

What We Don't Like
  • More complex than most people need

  • No light, hand crank, or other features

The C. Crane CC Skywave SSB is pricier than most emergency-bag radios, but it offers unmatched receiver options for people looking to listen anywhere, in any situation. In addition to AM, FM, and NOAA weather radio (with alerts), the Skywave SSB also gets long-range shortwave broadcasts, as well as the VHF aviation band used by pilots and air traffic control. It has excellent reception and sound quality for the portable size, with a backlit LCD and room to save 400 channels as memory presets.

Defining this model is the SSB feature, in contrast to the less expensive Skywave radio without it. SSB refers to single-sideband mode, which essentially lets you hear two-way communications from ham radio, military and marine broadcasts, and other shortwave stations that you typically wouldn't have access to. It takes extra effort to identify and tune to the right signals (which can change throughout each day) but opens up many possibilities for radio enthusiasts.

The Skywave SSB doesn't include the same array of features that most emergency-oriented radios do, forgoing a flashlight and USB charging for its radio focus. It can't recharge with solar power or hand cranking, but it can run for an estimated 70 hours on two AA batteries. It also comes with a carrying case and earbuds.

Dimensions: 4.8 x 1 x 3 inches | Power Options: 2 AA batteries, AC adapter | Transmission Type: NOAA, AM/FM, shortwave, VHF airband, SSB | Durability: Not specified

Best Durability: Eton Scorpion II Emergency Radio

Eton Scorpion II Emergency Radio

Amazon

What We Like
  • Multiple power/charging options

  • Bright LED light

  • Built-in carabiner and bottle opener

What We Don't Like
  • Small battery capacity

  • On the pricey side

When preparing for a storm or other survival scenario, it's reassuring to have supplies you feel confident can survive. With its tough, rubberized exterior casing, the Eton Scorpion II Rugged Weather Radio can withstand drops, knocks, and general outdoor use. It sports an IPX4 water-resistance rating, which indicates it can hold up against water splashing from any direction. It's not entirely waterproof against, say, falling into a lake, but it's better protection than most similar products offer.

In terms of its radio functionality and other emergency features, the Scorpion II is in line with other (often cheaper) weather radio alternatives. It supports AM/FM and NOAA weather radio, and charging methods include a hand crank, solar panel, and Micro USB cable. It provides a 5-volt USB output, but the 800mAh battery doesn't offer much charging power.

A decently bright half-watt LED flashlight makes the Scorpion II a useful tool for camping trips outside of emergency situations, as do a couple of unique extras: an aluminum carabiner loop at the top and a bottle opener on the side.

Dimensions: 2.5 x 1.9 x 6.5 inches | Power Options: Micro USB, solar panel, hand crank | Transmission Type: NOAA, AM/FM | Durability: IPX4 splashproofing, rugged casing

Best Light: RunningSnail Emergency Radio (Upgraded)

RunningSnail Emergency Radio (Upgraded)

Amazon

What We Like
  • Large rechargeable battery

  • Affordably priced

What We Don't Like
  • No shortwave or weather alerts

  • Non-premium construction

While the radio RunningSnail MD-090P Emergency Crank Radio doesn't offer weather alerts or other notable receiving features beyond the standard AM/FM and NOAA weather radio reception, its lighting options stand out from competitors. Its 1-watt flashlight is one the brightest on any portable radio, with three modes to choose from: a far beam, a dipped beam, and a combination of the two.

It includes a reading lamp, but unlike the basic lamp on other radios, the MD-090P's adds a motion sensor; the lamp kicks on if it detects movement within 3 meters and turns off after 30 seconds of inactivity. Finally, the light comes into play as part of an SOS alarm with a loud siren to signal for emergency help.

The MD-090P also has an impressive 4,000mAh battery capacity by way of a pair of replaceable 2000mAh-sized 18650 lithium-ion batteries. In comparison, most weather radios don't top 1000mAh capacity, with some going up to 2000mAh. Besides providing long-lasting power when fully charged, the battery is also better equipped to charge other devices like phones (even more than one at a time) and tablets.

Dimensions: 6.3 x 2.48 x 3.19 inches | Power Options: 2 18650 lithium-ion batteries, Micro USB, solar panel, hand crank | Transmission Type: NOAA, AM/FM | Durability: IPX3 water resistance

Best Desktop Radio: Sangean CL-100 Weather Alert Table-Top Radio

Sangean CL-100 Weather Alert Table-Top Radio

Amazon

What We Like
  • Weather alerts with SAME

  • Good reception and sound

  • Battery option

What We Don't Like
  • Not rechargeable

  • No light, hand crank, or other features

While portable emergency radios are the more convenient, affordable option for many households, desktop weather radios can also offer several advantages. One is that it's easier to find desktop radios that support the SAME technology for NOAA weather alerts, and that's the case with the CL-100 from Sangean. It also gets AM/FM radio and allows you to save several preset stations.

On the back of the device are ports for various outputs, including an external antenna for better reception and external alert devices like outdoor sirens or flashing lights for the hearing impaired. The CL-100 also comes with a 3.5-millimeter auxiliary input if you want to feed in audio from an external player.

Designed to stay stationary on a tabletop, the CL-100 works well as a radio alarm clock with the benefits of a full emergency weather radio. At the same time, it's fairly compact and easy to move around at a little over 1 pound, and it can run on replaceable AA batteries if you need to take it elsewhere and don't want to keep it plugged in.

Dimensions: 7.16 x 2.49 x 5.19 inches | Power Options: AC adapter, 4 AA batteries | Transmission Type: NOAA, AM/FM | Durability: Not listed

Final Verdict

The Midland ER310 E+Ready Emergency Crank Weather Radio is our top choice because of its overall build quality and impressive feature set, which includes loud weather alerts, a bright flashlight, and a decent-sized battery with multiple ways to charge it. The Kaito Voyager KA500 is another well-rounded option. While it doesn't deliver automatic weather alerts, it offers even more power supply options and the ability to receive shortwave radio signals.

What to Look For in Emergency Radios

Power Options

An emergency radio's power source is essential since you can't be sure what power options will be available to you during emergencies. The most basic radios may use two or three disposable AA batteries that you need to have on hand. More reliable, though, are models with a rechargeable internal lithium-ion battery that support multiple options for powering it up. These options often use some combination of a Micro USB cable that you can plug into a wall adapter or computer, a solar panel to draw energy from the sun, or a manual hand crank you can use if you don't have any powered sources.

Alert Types

Emergency radios, at minimum, allow you to tune in to AM and FM stations as well as the U.S. government's NOAA weather radio (usually all seven of its broadcast frequencies) to listen for severe weather or natural disaster updates. Certain radios can stay on standby mode and automatically alert you if there's a warning about dangerous weather in your area—a feature made more useful when paired with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology to specify the location you want to receive alerts about.

"Imagine how you'd be able to receive information, such as updates about a natural disaster, when you don't have the internet, TV, mobile networks, etc.," says Ramey. "Radio is the only dependable way normal folks can communicate without the grid—a grid which we're becoming more dependent on over time, not less, and has proven over and over again to be vulnerable."

Emergency Features

Emergency weather radios often come equipped with additional functions that could be useful in disaster situations, such as an LED flashlight, sometimes accompanied by a reading lamp, and the ability to signal SOS in Morse code. Many emergency radios can also double as a portable power bank, allowing you to plug in a USB cord to output power from the battery to phones or other rechargeable gadgets.

"Radios are one of the products where manufacturers tend to jam lots of features in, such as flashlights and phone chargers and so on," Ramey says. "We favor products that do a few things well, rather than the Swiss Army knife versions. It's okay if an otherwise-good radio has these features, but they are nice-to-have backup extras, not something you should rely on."

FAQ
  • How do emergency radios work?

    Emergency radios are generally also weather radios since they can tune in to NOAA weather radio broadcasts for 24/7 updates about severe weather, natural disasters, and other hazards. Almost all models also pick up AM/FM radio stations, with some also receiving shortwave signals, aviation frequencies, and more. The idea is that you'll be able to hear live, valuable information from various sources, no matter what's going on around you—even if you can't use the radio to communicate back.

    "A one-way receive-only radio, like a typical NOAA emergency radio, is fine for most people," Ramey adds. "One-ways are cheap and easy, but you won't be able to reach out to other people like you can with a two-way radio that both transmits and receives (a 'transceiver'). Two-ways, like a classic CB radio, can do the same things one-ways can but with extra complexity and cost. They often require more training and government licenses, too."

  • What is the SAME standard for emergency radios?

    Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology is a feature on some receivers that allows them to give alerts only about your relevant location. You would find the SAME code for your county, as an example, and then program that code into your radio. You will only be alerted if the National Weather Service broadcasts a warning that includes your county's code, reducing the number of alerts you might get (potentially in the middle of the night) about weather updates that don't apply to you.

  • How effective are hand-crank radios?

    Hand cranks on emergency radios are a useful option for generating a bit of power even if you don't have access to batteries, electricity, or sunlight. For radios that can serve as a USB charger, it means you could also transfer just enough juice to your phone to make a lifesaving call. Hand cranks on most emergency radios are simple and effective enough to operate, but they're not always very reliably built, especially on more budget-friendly models.

    "Hand cranks are common, but experts don't like them because they tend to break too easily and quickly," Ramey notes. "So it's okay if a radio has a crank, but it should be a second or third backup power source, not the main one."

Why Trust The Spruce?

Anton Galang is a freelance contributor for The Spruce and Lifewire who researches and reviews household products with a technology focus, from battery chargers to tablets to all manner of smart home gadgets. He has a background in magazine journalism and has covered tech and education since 2007.

In narrowing down the top emergency/weather radios, Anton considered offerings from more than a dozen manufacturers, seeking out products with useful features in various situations and favoring options with demonstrated reliability and value. He also brought in the expertise of John Ramey, founder of The Prepared website and a pioneer of the "sane prepper" mindset. As one of the first "outed" preppers in Silicon Valley, Ramey has since taught over 10 million people and helped bring preparedness into the mainstream over the last decade.

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