Best Emergency Radios – Reliable Survival Radios for 2018
An emergency radio warns you of looming dangers. It later keeps your body and soul together as you wait for help when disaster strikes.
In these best emergency radio reviews, we’ll be looking at the features that should top your must-have list as you shop for these survival gadgets. We’ve also scoured the market for a few models that, in our opinion, might help you go through the ‘storm.’
We’ve analyzed 628 reviews of emergency radios, and compared them side-by-side.
Below you will find a comparison chart.
American Red Cross Elton FRX3
Kaito KA500 5-Way Radio
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|Actual Range||Audibility||Ease Of Use||Durability|
A few things to keep in mind
Similar to other electrical devices, picking an emergency radio is not as easy as going for the best-looking model on the shelves.
Since they are designed to survive rough conditions, you’ll realize later in this article that the best models for survival aren’t necessarily the most impressive from a design standpoint. I bet no one cares about the looks when it’s a matter of life and death.
So, what features do you want in an emergency radio? I will be taking you through the most critical considerations and a few nice-to-have features later in this article.
Before that, your response to these questions might help narrow down to your ideal model:
- What’s your budget?
- Does the radio receive NOAA weather broadcasts?
- Is the radio durable?
- Does it feature the SAME technology?
- How audible are its emergency alerts?
- How good is its reception?
- What is its source of power?
- Does it have an emergency siren?
- What are your preferences regarding size and weight?
- Does it have a flashlight? You need this!
- Would you want a model that charges your other gadgets?
The American Red Cross Elton FRX3+ – Best For Sturdy Construction
I wouldn’t think of a better way to kick off these reviews than with a radio that gets the nod of the American National Red Cross itself. Enter the Elton FRX3+.
The simple fact that this radio is sold and highly recommended by an organization that responds to emergencies is hands down, an assurance that it is reliable and worth going for.
But there’s more to that.
The Elton FRX3+ is an AM/FM radio that connects directly to 7 NOAA weather channels to keep you updated on issues related to weather changes in your locality.
This radio has a weather ‘Alert’ function that you only need to keep on to receive all weather events as they occur.
You can also use it for entertainment. Other than keeping you off danger, the FM frequencies of this radio let you listen to music and news updates.
On this note, this radio also features an AUX jack where you can plug in your earphones.
Other lifesaving features of this radio include a bright flashlight to illuminate a dark walkway and a red LED beacon that you can use to attract attention. It also has a glowing locator (around the solar panel) that makes it easy to locate in the darkness.
Another huge feature that makes this radio a favorite contender here is its multiple charging options. The FRX3+ uses a rechargeable Li-ion 3.7v battery- a low-maintenance battery with notably lower discharge rate and no memory issues.
But what’s more interesting is the different ways of powering it. Besides charging it directly from your wall socket, it comes with an onboard solar panel (atop the handle) that sucks juice from the sun to the battery.
In instances where the power grid is down, and there isn’t the sun, a hand crank generator takes over. Worth mentioning is that this crank can create enough power to run the radio and the flashlight concurrently for up to 7 minutes simply by turning it for 90 seconds only.
I should also mention here that this radio can run on AAA batteries as well. Thus, keeping a packet of these nearby can save you the agony of spinning the hand turbine and attending to other lifesaving duties.
Lastly, you can also rely on the American Red Cross FRX3+ to charge your USB-powered devices including phones and tablets. This radio has a USB port and charger for this purpose.
Well, this radio has its drawbacks too. For instance, it uses the large USB-B outlet other than the micro USB port that is common with most gadgets. Although not a deal breaker, it can be quite inconveniencing when its original cable isn’t available.
Secondly, its audio output isn’t the best. However, we can’t deny that it is audible and that’s all that you want when in a tight fix.
Kaito KA500 5-Way Radio- Best For Reception
Crossing in at a slightly higher price tag compared to the FRX3+ is the Kaito KA500- another popular emergency radio with a good online following.
If we were to compare this radio with our first pick, then the KA500 would take the cake credit to its versatility and top-notch construction design.
Don’t just take our words for it. Here is the radio in a glimpse.
The first thing that we love about the Kaito KA500 is that it has been designed to be of great use both indoors and outdoors.
This radio is crafted from sturdy ABS plastics and has been engineered to withstand not only impacts but also water (light showers and splashes though).
This feature makes the Kaito KA500 quite a good option for camping, hiking, and fishing expeditions, among other outdoor activities. It also makes a reliable option for general emergency preparedness.
To complement its outdoor usage is its ease of carrying. This radio weighs 1.6 pounds and maxes out at 8.3 x 2.3 x 5.3 in.
This compact size gets a good boost from the sturdy handle from which you can grab the radio with ease. Note that I do not deny the fact that the FR3+ is compact. But its handle is a little bit awkward to grab.
Let’s get to the meaty part- signal reception.
This is yet another area where the KA500 creates quite a good name for itself. This radio is fitted with a 14.5-inch telescopic antenna that offers clear signal reception from the available radio bands and weather channels around you.
On the same note about signal reception, this radio comes with seven pre-programmed NOAA channels for weather updates as well as AM, FM, and Shortwave broadcasts for both entertainment and news updates (you’ll need to purchase the SW antenna separately).
Scanning through the channels is manual. This is a little bit traditional in our present times. But what’s important is that it does its duty.
Importantly, these weather channels have been labeled 1 to 7. It also has an LED indicator that pinpoints the channels to make tuning even much easier for you.
About powering, the Kaito KA500 can use a rechargeable Ni-MH battery pack, 3 AAA battery packs, or the built-in dynamo hand crank.
Charging the Ni-MH battery pack can either be an AC/DC adapter, a USB port, or via the built-in hand crank and solar panel.
Most people appreciate the ability to charge this radio from any USB source. But what makes it even better is that, unlike the FRX3+, the solar panel can be adjusted 180 degrees for maximum sunlight exposure.
Other interesting features about the KA500 include the ability the charge your phone, MP3 player, and GPS unit among other devices. It also has a super bright 5-led table lamp, a flashlight, and an S.O.S beacon light.
Yeah. First, the dynamo crank charging system is notably slower compared to other radios in its category. Second, its speaker quality isn’t the best as well.
Sangean MMR-88 – Best For Audio Quality
It’s a well-known fact that when purchasing an emergency radio, the last feature that you want to die for is CD-quality audio.
But let’s face it. It does not hurt to get a radio that sounds great especially if you plan to use it not only for emergency alerts but for entertainment as well. It gets even better if you don’t need to part with an arm and a leg for it.
So, if crisp and clear sound tops your nice-to-have features’ list, then the Sangean MMR-88 is probably what you have in mind.
Well, I don’t mean that its sound quality is excellent. But it’s way above average when compared to most of our recommendations in this list.
If you plan to listen to FM stations for prolonged hours, then this radio’s 20-station memory will come in handy. This feature allows you to store your favorite stations and be able to access them in a snap. Mind you; not many emergency radios offer this feature.
Also, we love this radio’s heavy-duty construction design. This model features hard plastics for its body and thick screwed-on rubber corners for prolonged impact-resistance.
Even better, this radio has an IPX3 water-resistance rating. It means it can survive water sprays coming from any side.
This is a nice feature for outdoor enthusiasts who want to stay updated with any unexpected weather eventualities while in the wilderness. This durability aspect also makes it a superb option in that it can be relied upon in all kinds of weather.
What about its performance?
This radio’s versatility does not end with its impressive audio quality and good build. Rather it also performs quite well about signal reception.
On this note, the Sangen MMR-88 is an AM/FM radio that comes with 19 presets to let you listen to your favorite programs, music, and news either through its built-in speaker or via stereo headphone.
Again, this is a Public Alert Certified radio that will keep you posted about any severe weather warnings within your locality.
Designed for emergencies, this radio comes with a rechargeable 850mAh Li-ion battery that offers three charging options; hand crank, USB, and solar panel.
I have to admit that the battery that it ships with is terrible. The good news, however, is that it is replaceable.
So, if you don’t mind getting another reliable battery for it, this radio has our thumbs up!
Midland ER-210 – Great For Portability
If all you hope to do with your radio is listen to warnings of impending inclement weather, then the Midland ER-210 might please you.
One of the features that attracted us to this radio was its compact design. This model measures around 9 x 2.8 x 6.5 inches and weighs about 10.6 ounces.
This small size and lightweight design will allow you to fit it in almost any bug-out bag or emergency toolbox without displacing other survival items.
Carrying it is much easier when calamity strikes as evidenced by its sturdy handle. It also has a strong clip that you can use to attach it to a belt in a snap.
Is it durable?
Well, this radio has been designed for the toughest times. While I can’t compare it to the MMR-88’s tough build, the Midland ER-210 also has a fairly rugged construction design and might withstand being thrown around and banged in your survival bag and even being dropped onto hard surfaces.
Unfortunately, do know that this radio does not have a waterproof rating. Thus, you might want a waterproof casing if you plan to use it outdoors.
Designed to alert you of Mother Nature’s calamities, this radio keeps you connected to 7 NOAA Weather stations for up to the minute warnings and alerts.
While it’s not programmed for S.A.M.E codes, it has a decent reception to allow you to connect to the strongest weather channel which is most likely from a weather station near you.
Scanning through the available weather, AM, and FM channels are quite easy thanks to the large LED display and huge backlit rubber buttons. Worth mentioning, there is an option to turn off the backlight function completely or set it to go off after 5 seconds to save on power.
The Midland ER-210 is not designed purposely for entertainment as its average audio quality depicts. But its bright 130-Lumen Cree LED is a proof that this radio is determined to get you through the toughest situations.
Interestingly, you could also use this flashlight as an SOS beacon for sending Morse code distress signals. Alongside the distress signal, you can also activate this radio’s siren which is impressively loud at around 84.9 dB to attract attention your way.
This radio draws power from a rechargeable 2000 mAh battery. Charging is through AC/DC outlet with any cell phone charger, an onboard solar panel, or a hand crank generator.
This radio has several drawbacks. For instance, similar to other emergency radios, its audio quality is just enough to let you get weather alerts. Secondly, it has proprietary power connections. This means that you’ll need to buy this brand’s battery in case you need a replacement which is downright inconveniencing.
RunningSnail MD-090 – Best For Budget and Battery Life
Anyone who is looking for an affordable emergency radio is better off with the RunningSnail MD-090. This is also the most compact radio in this list.
Thus, it might please you if you are looking for a radio that you can slip into your pockets or hide somewhere in your car for a bad day.
First things first, don’t let its name fool you. This thing isn’t anything near a snail when it comes to keeping you safe from monster storms.
Measuring slightly bigger than your phone, this is a radio that you can take with you almost anywhere including on hiking, camping, and fishing. An interesting feature here albeit basic is its wrist holder that you wrap around your wrist as you walk around or do other things.
The Runningsnail has a long retractable antenna that can pick up both AM and FM stations and NOAA weather channels near you.
Similar to other radios here, this radio will keep you entertained and alert you of an approaching storm.
Another awesome feature of this radio is its bright flashlight that illuminates the area around as well as the trails in the woods. Although it’s not as bright as the Midland’s, the adjustable lens on its focus is a huge plus.
In times of imminent danger or in case of an injury that renders you immobile, an SOS alarm accompanied by a visible red light will broadcast your location to ease the rescue mission.
Designed purposely for off-the-grid performance, this radio comes with a very reliable 2000 mAh rechargeable battery. This high-performance battery can offer you 4-6 hours of radio use and up to 12 lights of lighting.
You could charge this battery using a micro USB cable, by the sun, thanks to a tiltable solar panel, or by the hand crank when all other means are near impossible. It also has a slot for 3 AAA batteries which are readily available and affordable.
What are its drawbacks?
The analog display might not please you if you prefer the convenience of a digital display. Also, I feel that a clock could have been a huge plus for situations when all you have is the radio.
However, these 2 issues seem minor considering the price at which you get this radio.
What matters when buying the Best Emergency Radio Buying Guide?
I bet Tae Yoo (Senior Vice President, Cisco) had an emergency radio in mind when she said that ‘‘in times of disaster, basic connectivity is a form of aid that connects people to the resources critical for survival.’’
However, and on a serious note, simply buying a radio for your emergency kit is one thing, but buying a survival tool that won’t die on you when a disaster strikes is another thing.
While an emergency radio is a device that receives AM/FM and weather updates in its most basic design, it’s important to go for a radio that offers as many survival features as possible.
Here are some of the features worth considering:
NOAA and SAME Weather Alerts
All emergency radios come with built-in NOAA (National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration) channels. These will keep you posted on any occurrences within your area (tornados, hurricanes, storms, fires, chemical spillages, etc.) so you can take the necessary precautionary measures.
However, not all emergency radios are designed with SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) technology.
A radio with this technology narrows down to the disaster warnings that are particular to a specific city, town, or county rather than alerting you to multi-county warnings. Read more about SAME technology here.
Size, Weight, and Portability
The issue of size and weight of the radio is a personal preference. All in all, you might want to get a compact model that you can easily fit into your pockets or a bug-out bag.
Small sized radios bring a ton of convenience especially when a situation demands that you hold the radio for prolonged periods.
On the same note, a small and lightweight emergency radio with a sturdy handle or a lanyard makes using the radio on the fly quite easily.
It also means that you can take the radio wherever you go without its weight or size bogging you down. If you like hitting the woods for camping, hiking, and biking and want to receive up to the minutes alerts on any tornados around you, size and weight are two key features that you’ll want to consider the most.
Don’t go too small though. In most instances, small size comes at the expense of several other features that you might depend on when trapped by a disaster.
Signal Reception (clarity and strength)
Most radios receive AM and FM frequencies. This means that besides receiving weather updates, you’ll also be able to tune in to the local FM stations for entertainment.
However, do know that this highly depends on how good the radio can get the signals from wherever you’ll be using it.
This largely depends on the size of the antenna and its quality. Tall antennas always work better in receiving strong and clear signals.
Importantly, consider a radio with an antenna that can be tucked away when not in use and retracted when necessary. This saves space during storage. It also minimizes the risk of breaking the antenna.
Even better, an antenna that can rotate and tilt 180 degrees on all sides makes it even easier to get a signal even in difficult situations.
It might be a tad hard to determine how good a radio performs regarding clear signals especially if you are shopping online. But that’s where previous buyers’ feedback comes in handy.
For reasons best known to most manufacturers, emergency radios are not designed to offer crisp and nicely detailed audios with punchy bass.
But trust me. The last thing that you want is to guess the direction from which a hurricane is approaching simply because your radio wasn’t designed to give clear sounds.
Thus, do your diligence to ensure that your target radio is clear enough so you can get the info as it is and on time.
On the same note, if you’ll be using your radio mostly for music and news updates, audio clarity is simply indispensable.
An emergency radio is meant to be your loyal companion when everything else (phones, TVs, computers) fail.
Therefore, it’s important that you get a model that has been designed for the toughest of times. Here, you want to consider the quality of its construction and how good it can resist water, dust, and a few drops.
Battery Compatibility and Charging Options
Signal clarity, clear audios, and the source of power go hand in hand when discussing the critical features of an emergency radio.
Most emergency radios run on rechargeable batteries. This is great since you just need to plug it whenever the batteries have been emptied.
However, what matters most is how you’ll be able to keep the battery charged when there is a prolonged power outage.
Therefore, it’s paramount that you consider the options that your target radio offers. Luckily, most of them come with built-in solar panels and a hand crank generator that can be used to recharge the battery.
Importantly, inquire about how reliable these charging options are. Some models have been reported to have flimsy cranks while others require you to spin the generator for quite a long time to get one minute worth of power.
Speaking of solar charging, a radio with a pivotable solar panel might be a little bit more effective regarding getting maximum exposure to the sun.
Besides alerting you of looming disasters in your locality, a good emergency radio should also offer a few survival features to see you through in case you are caught in a disaster.
Among other emergency preparedness features, a bright LED flashlight, a loud Siren/buzzer, and an S.O.S beacon light are the most essential.
Other nice-to-have features include the ability to recharge your USB compatible devices (mobile phones, GPS, etc.) and an earphone jack to boost audio clarity.
It’s undeniable that we are all at the mercy of nature and cannot stop disasters. However, emergency preparedness is key to survival when we are ensnared by a calamity.
We can’t talk of emergency preparedness without speaking of an emergency radio. These models are designed to alert you about oncoming dangers (for instance, bad weather) and to help you reach for help when things go south.
What’s your pick of the best emergency radio from the list above? In my opinion, the Sangean MMR-88 has everything that you need to make it through a bad storm (Okay, not everything).
I like that this radio has a digital AM/FM/WX tuner that eliminates all guesswork and ensures clear signal reception. Its loud emergency buzzer and built-in adjustable flashlight will also go a long way in getting you help.
Its battery isn’t the best at the moment. But that isn’t a deal breaker since it can be swapped with a reliable one.
As a side note, you might want to keep a HAM radio alongside the emergency radio. Ham radio is a 2-way device that allows you to transmit and call for help in situations where your phone can’t go through.