With so many different emergency radios out there it can be challenging to decide on what brand to trust. Kaito is a company that has been in the survival radio business for quite some time.
Why you need a full-featured emergency radio
- Know when weather systems are moving your way
- Battery bank for small devices
- Short wave listening during a major event
- To keep up with current events
- Provide a backup light and signaling device
- A sustainable way to listen to mp3s via micro SD card
- Keep mp3 player charged and listen to music at the same time
- Provides a lot of function in off-grid or primitive camping situations.
- Compact and affordable
I use the Kaito KA900 as my main emergency radio at my house. It has superior sound and works with Bluetooth and SD cards so I can listen to what I want when I want to. The radio definitely came in handy during the winter storms of 2018.
While the KA900 is a great radio, it is not made for as rugged use as the Kaito KA700. I wanted to review the 700 for those that are looking for a radio that is made for more rugged conditions and at a great price point.
With so many devices offering Bluetooth technology, it is nice to have this feature included in an emergency radio. I can use the speaker system with my cell phone or even my computer. This helps me listen to radio shows and whatever music I might want to. For those that are fans of Audible, you can stream off your phone and listen on the Kaito.
You can put a lot of music on an SD card. This also allows you to have specific playlists or have different cards for various genres of music. This is great for creating a SHTF Music Box. Music is so important for morale and normality during an extended emergency.
Light is important during an emergency or a camping trip. I love that Kaito radios have a built-in reading light under the solar panel charger. The position is adjustable so you can be comfortable when reading or writing when the sun goes down for the day.
While the reading light is nice, Kaito also includes a flashlight with SOS flashing capability. This allows you to carry the radio like a flashlight and signal if needed. I have tried out the Kaito flashlight feature in my dark house with no night lights or external light pollution and I can safely say I would have no problem moving around inside or outside if this was the only light available to me.
USB Battery Bank
If you have a cellphone or e-reader such as a Kindle, you can use the battery bank of the Kaito KA700 to keep your devices going. This means that off the grid you could have your e-reader loaded with books and stay entertained. This is also not a bad plan for power outages.
All in one entertainment
What I most like about the Kaito KA700 or the KA900 is that it is an ideal companion for a nightstand in a cabin. If the power goes out I can listen to music, have light to read by, and keep an e-reader, tablet, or phone charged up. The weather radio feature will allow me to keep tabs on what to expect while camping or during a weather-related event.
If you want to keep a voice log or just make a note of thoughts and ideas, then the built-in microphone and recorder feature is a major bonus. The microphone can also be used to record radio programs and broadcasts for listening later on.
Some emergency radios have an old fashioned dial tuning system that can make it more difficult to tune into stations quickly. The KA700 has an easy to use digital tuner and buttons for direct input. You can save your favorite frequencies too so you can access shortwave channels and more with ease.
The KA700 has a solar panel that is a trickle charger. The panel will help your radio stay topped off when not in use but it is not the most powerful or fast charging method overall.
The hand crank charging feature is faster and it is not as cumbersome to crank as some dynamo chargers I have used in the past.
The radio can be fully charged in just a few hours using the included USB cable. So you could hook the Kaito to your computer or a portable power center like the Jackery 240 and charge it with ease. If you are using a power center with a solar panel, then you can keep a lot of devices powered using collected sunlight.
Some solar panels have built-in USB charging ports so you could just hook the radio directly to the panel and use the larger panel to charge rather than the small included one.
You can purchase a 5V charger that plugs into a standard 110 V power outlet. An alternative is to use a plugin 110 V charger that uses a USB cord. A lot of phones come with these versatile chargers.
While the screen is not particularly large, there is a feature on the radio that will allow you to use it to read ebooks and other documents that are in .txt format. Not only that, you can choose between 8 of the most common languages. I think it is pretty neat that you can load prepping books and documents in .txt format and access them on the radio. That could come in handy when you need to look something up and other devices are not available or they are too power-hungry.
A better antenna can be added
A lot of people complain about the radio reception quality when you look at reviews for any radio out there. As far as I can tell there is no radio where people overwhelmingly say that the reception is great. Part of the reason for this is that reception can be affected by a variety of factors that have nothing to do with the actual radio.
For example, if you live in a house that has a metal roof, you may need a more substantial external antenna to get good reception. You may even need to use the radio outside if you want the best. I have the name brand Kaito retractable antennae that can be a big help when trying to get better reception. If it does not come with the Kaito radio you decide is best for you, it is an inexpensive purchase. My KA900 came with an external antenna but the KA700 did not.
KA700 and KA900
KA900 vs KA700
I actually like both of these radios but there are some key differences that I want to highlight so that you can make the best decision for you.
The KA900 is a larger radio and it has duel speakers so the volume and sound quality is better. If you plan on using your radio for entertainment at a base location, you will like the KA900 better.
The KA700 is more compact so it makes more sense for those that just want an emergency radio to stash back but not something that gets daily use. The smaller size and lighter weight make it better for taking on trips that require you to carry your gear in.
While both radios have the same lithium-ion battery bank, the larger size of the KA900 means that the battery does not last as long on a charge. With any electronic device, the bigger the speakers and the higher the volume you listen to music at, the shorter the battery life. This may not be a big deal for those that are using the radio at home or that have power centers to keep it topped off. The KA700 is smaller and although I did not want to run the battery all the way down for this test, I have read where others have tested the KA700 and at 30% volume, the radio stayed on for over 31 hours with no input power besides the minor amount that the solar panel produces.
Reading Light and Flashlight Features
The reading lights on the KA900 and KA700 are the same as far as I can tell. This was a nice surprise because I really like to be able to read a book or write in a notebook during an emergency or a camping trip. I tested the KA700 before retiring for the evening and I read several chapters with no eye strain at all. It was enough light to be very comfortable and it is easy to adjust the light so that it doesn’t bother the person next to you.
The flashlight functions on both radios are far different. There is no question that the KA900 is a much more powerful flashlight. The KA700 still has enough of a flashlight to see to get around but you definitely don’t get the range that the KA900 offers. On the other hand, the KA700 has a red light and SOS option that is useful for signaling. This is not a feature on the KA900.
Other Kaito Radios
Kaito offers a big range of emergency radios that vary in price. It seems like the KA600 and KA700 are the most popular models out there. The KA900 is not as well known because it just started being available for sale within the last year or so.
I encourage you to take a look at the smaller radios as well as the radios that have manual tuning options. While digital tuning has come a long way, I had a Radioshack Shortwave emergency radio that worked great for many years but what eventually caused me to toss it was the digital tuning mechanism stopped working. It would just constantly scan and never stop on a single station for any length of time. I have not had a Kaito long enough to know if this is a problem with their radios. I suspect that it will not be because it is a modern radio, not a model made in 1999.
There is not as much on shortwave any more thanks to the internet. If you have not tuned in to shortwave recently you might be disappointed when you finally do. Shortwave is a great thing and there is definite value in knowing about it and how to operate a HAM radio in an emergency but as far as entertaining shows and a lot of easy to pick up stations, it is not what it was back in the 80s and 90s when my Dad and I listened daily.
I like both of my Kaitos. For home use, I prefer the KA900 but for out on the trail and packing, the KA700 is smaller and more rugged and the battery will last longer as a result of the smaller size and lower power requirements.
Do you have a Kaito radio?
Is there a different brand of radio you prefer? I would be interested in your experience with the KA600 or KA500 models because they are more compact and budget-friendly than some of the larger models.
I have also never doused my radio in water or had it sit out in a rainstorm. Have you found Kaito radios to hold up well under wet conditions?
Another area I have not tested is how well a radio like this will hold up if you live near saltwater. Has anyone used a Kaito for very long on a boat?