The type of radio that is best for you during an emergency is going to depend on your own unique set of circumstances. After all, a tool is only an advantage if you actually know how to use it. For example, if you have no ham radio knowledge then you will need to learn those skills shortly after getting a radio. If you don’t want to do that, then just a basic emergency radio will probably fit your needs. A lot of people just want a way to hear what is going on and listen to some music or audiobooks.
You can pay a significant amount for a radio with a lot of features and communications capabilities. If you just want to be able to listen in to a few things and get the weather then you have a big range of options to choose from and they are affordable enough to have a few of at different locations or throughout the home.
I have reviewed a few Kaito radios, and I was amazed by how many features they have for what you pay. You get a nice light to read by and AM/FM Shortwave bandwidths. You also have NOAA weather station access.
I like a radio that takes SD cards as well. This allows for stashing some music and other media back for listening to if the internet is not available and the power is out. A lot of the radios take mini SD cards. You can stash 24 tiny SD cards in a small wallet and have a ton of music and ebooks put back. I found the Mini SD cards so tiny that I had to get something to store them in. It is amazing what you can fit on something that small.
Best Emergency Radio
Panasonic RF-2400D AM / FM Radio
Sangean MMR-88 AM/FM/Weather+Alert Emergency Radio
I love this radio because it offers fabulous sound and I am confident that it would keep me reading and informed in comfort. The volume is loud enough to hear throughout our house and it looks nice. You don’t just look at the KA900 and say that it is some piece of emergency equipment. This is a radio you can display on a fine shelf or anywhere and it looks classy. For your in-home base station radio, this is a good one to consider and you can add an external antenna to get better reception.
I am including another Kaito because they make radios in many sizes. This Kaito is a mid-sized version of their classic line of emergency radios. For someone that is looking for a compact radio and wants to stick in a moderate price range, the KA500 is an option to consider. You get a lot of nice features like a light to read by which can be lacking in some smaller basic radios. If you need SD card capability or Bluetooth, you will want to go with a Kaito model in the 600 series or above.
I will say that the sound quality is not going to be anywhere near what you can expect from the larger Kaito emergency radios.
This pocket-sized radio comes to you from a well-known company in the world of radio. This is a very basic radio because it just offers AM/FM and NOAA bands. For a lot of us that is all we need. The price is modest. You can literally fit this radio in the palm of your hand. It runs on two AA batteries. Personally you will never see me buying a radio that doesn’t have alternative power options that takes anything but AA batteries.
It is very easy to keep some AA batteries charged up and a lot of flashlights take them too. The radio has an alarm function and a clock. While the single speaker offers decent sound, it also comes with earbuds and a belt clip for easy use on the trail or out in the field.
This is an incredibly rugged emergency radio solution that could work for a bug out bag or similar. Eton makes a lot of radios. This compact waterproof radio features AM/FM and NOAA weather bands. You also get a flashlight function and multiple charging options. The hand crank dynamo allows you to keep this going no matter what. There is also a solar panel on the side. The rechargeable battery pack can keep cell phones or small devices going. While I would not want to rely on hand-cranking to keep a device topped off, sometimes all you need is to be able to make a quick call to relay a message or get help.
So this radio can be played for an outstanding 45 minutes with just a minute of hand cranking. That is so much better than my experience has been with hand-cranked radios. You also get a solar panel on the side that acts as a trickle charger to keep this device ready to go during emergencies. The battery life is pretty amazing. Supposedly it will last 25 hours on a single charge.
The ER310 is the larger version of this radio. Sometimes you want more sound and a bigger battery. There are positives and negatives to each radio. I advise picking the one that is best suited to your lifestyle. The lighter weight is better for those that are getting out on the trail a lot or want something for a bug out bag whereas bigger with more battery and sound may be worth it for those that stay in place during an emergency or live off-grid a lot of the time.
This radio has been around a while which says something in a competitive environment like the emergency radio market. The square design helps this radio fit in a lot of different spaces. The hand crank dynamo is easy to use and the digital display is clear too. You can set the alert function so that the radio will come on and alert you to any extreme weather coming your way.
While I try to keep an eye on the sky, there are times when having a radio to help keep up with current weather trends would be nice.
The radio can help keep your cell or small device going too. A built-in LED flashlight adds to the versatility of this device.
This is a very basic AM/FM and weather band radio. I know there are probably some of you that have a lot of Craftsman tools in the garage. I had no idea until now that they made anything like an emergency radio.
The Craftsman can be charged using USB to wall or computer, trickle charged with the solar panel, or you can opt for the hand crank. The radio can be used to power small devices like cell phones and e-readers too. You also get an LED flashlight built into the side of the radio so you are never left in the dark.
This radio has some communications capability unlike the rest of the radios on this list. It caught my eye because it is a full-featured base camp radio at a good price point. You can keep this radio running in many ways. Simply use 4 standard “AA” batteries, 6.0V rechargeable NiMH battery pack, AC adapter, DC adapter, or the hand crank.
The 2-Way radio operates using the standard walkie talkie frequencies. There is an interesting privacy code feature I read about. This allows you to block other conversations so you have clearer communications and more privacy than you would otherwise.
This radio picks up AM/FM and NOAA stations. Midland appears to have a solid reputation among preppers. I have not owned one for any length of time but they are a name that appears a lot when you search for emergency radios that have a lot of info and customers out on the web.
Sangean MMR-88 AM/FM/Weather+Alert Emergency Radio. Solar/Hand Crank/USB/Flashlight, Siren, Smartphone Charger
Sangean is another very well known radio company. This emergency radio features AM/FM and NOAA Weather bands. You can keep the radio charged via hand crank, solar panel, or USB. The battery bank feature allows you to keep small devices topped off. A built-in flashlight adds to the functionality and can be set to flash SOS or used with Morse code. An emergency buzzer and clock are other features that you may need some time.
Although this is a compact radio, it still has 19 presets so you can find your favorite stations fast.
This is the most basic radio in this post. This is just a small AM/FM radio and nothing more. There is not even a weather band function in this case. At the same time, you are getting a radio from a well-known company. I have a feeling this basic little radio would outlast a lot of fancier ones. The radio takes 4 AA batteries and you have no other charging options. Manual tuning makes this a true retro style for those that miss the day and age of simple yet functional technologies.
This is a very lightweight and inexpensive portable option for those that want AM/FM and shortwave listening capabilities. Eton makes a variety of radios, but this is perhaps their smallest offering.
Despite the size, the radio is Bluetooth compatible and features digital tuning and an easy-to-read display, a sleep timer, alarm, and 50 possible pre-sets adds additional value. I like being able to set an alarm at times and if you are in an emergency situation, your schedule may need to be vastly different than it regularly is.
I am sticking this radio on the list because it serves the purpose of an emergency radio and it has a vintage charm to it. This is a great radio for blending into the decor at a cabin. You get AM/FM and NOAA coverage as well as the option of using your phone with the radio via a built-in Bluetooth connection. You can charge the radio via USB or by plugging into an outlet with a 5V adaptor. The auxiliary out function offers an additional connection option for your Mp3 player.
Digital Vs Manual Tuning
I used to be a little cautious of digital tuning. At least part of this was because my Dad always bought manual tuning shortwave radios and similar for the house when I was growing up. I am also from the generation that remembers how technology like CD changers usually led to a more complicated device that messed up. Anyone else remembers looking in awe at the 3-6 CD changers at the store and thinking about how you would never have to do anything to listen to music for a long time?
Digital tuning has come a long way and I am not going to turn it down in an emergency radio. If you don’t like digital tuning then there are a ton of emergency radios out there that offer manual tuning.
How durable do you need?
Everyone loves to hear how durable a radio is but that can also lead to limiting yourself to only the toughest of the tough when the reality is that it may very well be worth it to sacrifice some toughness for additional features.
Size and weight
There is only so much a speaker of a certain size can do. If you buy a smaller radio, then the sound is going to be quite limited. You will have to figure out how important weight is to you when it comes to emergency radio. Plenty of people find that they like to have a variety of radios for different tasks. You might have one that fits in a pocket for going out on day hiking trips but has a beefier radio with more robust sound at your base camp or cabin.
I will guarantee that if you look at reviews for any of the radios I have mentioned in this post, there will be someone that says they get terrible reception. While I agree that some radios do not pick up stations as well as others, I have also discovered that people are pretty quick to complain about reception no matter what.
There are many factors that can affect how well a radio station comes in. This has nothing to do with your radio. For example, I have a metal roof on my house and barn so any type of signal has a hard time reaching inside the house or barn. We also have a radio transmission tower nearby. You may have to use extra antennae to pick up stations or listen in certain areas of your home or property.
It may take some experimenting to find the radio that is best for you.
It also may take buying a few radios before you find a model or brand that you like. There is no one size fits all radio that is everyone’s choice. Fortunately, emergency radios are very reasonably priced.
Note On “Other” Brands
When I was growing up my Dad taught me to look for certain brands if I wanted quality electronics. Nowadays it is not that simple. When I was writing this article, I found a ton of brands that I had never heard of. This is not to say that some of these brands are not made well. I will say that you are taking a chance when ordering any brand, even those that you trust because, over time, manufacturing standards have changed for everyone.
With that in mind, I invite you to let us know in the comments if you have had a good experience with any radio brands that we may not have heard of?