9 Best Emergency Radios Reviewed ( Battery & Hand-Crank Survival Radios )

Midland ER10 on a log

In a time when there’s an unprecedented number of severe natural disasters, it’s hard to understate the importance of emergency radios.

That warning blare may shock you out of your reverie, but it may also be the only warning you’ll get about the tornado forming a mile away from your house.

Emergency radios of old were simple devices that had a backup power supply and would automatically turn on the NOAA weather station when prompted. Modern emergency radios, on the other hand, are high-tech, multi-purpose tools that should live in anybody’s house, rural or urban.

The idea behind an emergency radio is simple enough, but not many cheap emergency radios will last when the lights go out and you need to learn whether there’s a flood coming. Protect your family with a good emergency weather radio.

 

The 9 Best Survival Radios of 2020: Outdoor Empire Reviews

  1. Best Battery-Powered #1: Midland ER310
  2. Best Battery-Powered #2: FosPower Emergency Radio
  3. Best Battery-Powered #3: C. Crane Pocket Radio
  4. Best Hand-Crank #1: Midland ER210
  5. Best Hand-Crank #2: Zurio Emergency Radio
  6. Best Hand-Crank #3: Eton Scorpion II
  7. Best Overall #1: RunningSnail MD-090P
  8. Best Overall #2: Sangean MMR-88
  9. Best Overall #3: Midland WR120EZ

 

CategoryBest Battery Powered
Best Hand Cranked
Best Overall
ProductMidland ER310
Midland ER310

Eton Scorpion II
Eton Scorpion II

Sangean MMR-88
Sangean MMR-88

Power Source- Solar panel
- Hand crank
- Rechargeable 2600 mAh battery
- 6 x AA batteries
- Solar panel
- Hand crank
- Rechargeable 800 mAh internal battery
- Solar panel
- Hand crank
- 850 mAh rechargeable battery
Radio Bands- AM
- FM
- NOAA
- AM
- FM
- NOAA
- AM
- FM
- NOAA
Weather AlertYesYesYes
FlashlightYesYesYes
WeatherproofingNot stated by manufacturerIPX4IPX3
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Best Battery-Powered Emergency Radio #1: Midland ER310

Midland ER310

Specs

• Power Sources: Solar panel, hand crank, rechargeable 2600 mAh battery, or six AA batteries
• Radio Bands: AM, FM, NOAA
• Weather Alerts? Yes
• Flashlight? Yes
• Weatherproofing: Not stated
• Other Features: Device charging, dog whistle, headphone jack

Overview

The Midland ER310 is a great emergency radio that doesn’t have too many frills.

It has a rechargeable 2600 mAh lithium-ion battery that can keep the radio on for 36 hours. It can also charge your cell phone or similar devices that can be charged via USB. The battery bank can also be replaced by six AA batteries.

A solar cell can be used to keep the unit topped up. You can also use the built-in dynamo to charge the unit by cranking on the handle, though this will give you quite the workout!

You’ll get nine minutes of radio time for each minute of cranking. This is more than the average but less than the preceding model, the ER210.

The well-protected radio antenna can pick up AM and FM channels, and seven NOAA radio channels. There’s also a weather-alert alarm, of course, and a single LED flashlight that can also be used as an SOS strobe light.

The whole unit is small enough to be easily portable and is covered in protective armor, though it’s not waterproof.

Pros

• Compact
• Durable
• Good-sized battery bank

Cons

• Lower cranking efficiency than the ER210
• Not waterproof

Recommendation

The Midland ER310 is a great emergency radio for people who want a compact, capable, and durable unit that doesn’t waste your money on silly features, though cranking it takes effort.

 

Midland ER310 is also available at:

Cabelas

 

2. Best Battery-Powered Emergency Radio #2: FosPower Emergency Radio

FosPower Emergency Radio

Specs

• Power Sources: Solar panel, crank, rechargeable 2000 mAh battery, or three AAA batteries
• Radio Bands: AM, FM, NOAA
• Weather Alerts? Yes
• Flashlight? Yes, two
• Weatherproofing: IPX3
• Other Features: SOS beacon, device charging

Overview

The FosPower Emergency Radio is another radio that has a built-in rechargeable battery bank that can be replaced with batteries if the main battery dies.

The main battery holds 2000 mAh, which is good enough to keep the radio alive for two to three years, even if you use it for three hours a day. Using the flashlight or USB charging port will knock this down quickly, though the solar panel helps keep the unit charged unless you store it in a dark area.

You can also use the hand crank for power, but don’t expect much unless you spend a lot of time with it. You have to crank for four hours at a brisk rate in order to fully recharge the battery.

There are two LED lights. One is a flashlight, and the other is a reading light hidden under the solar panel. It turns on automatically, and tilting the solar panel toward the sun turns on the light.

There’s also an SOS alarm that makes a loud noise to make it easier for rescuers to find you.

Pros

• Charges devices
• Low-power reading light

Cons

• The reading light turns on when you tilt the solar panel, robbing efficiency when charging

Recommendation

The FosPower Emergency Radio will survive a long time to warn you of any incoming dangers and is fairly inexpensive for an emergency radio.

 

 

3. Best Battery-Powered Emergency Radio #3: C. Crane Pocket Radio

C. Crane Pocket Radio

Specs

• Power Sources: Two AA batteries
• Radio Bands: AM, FM, NOAA
• Weather Alerts? Yes
• Flashlight? No
• Weatherproofing: Not stated
• Other Features: Clock and alarm, belt clip, sleep timer, headphone jack

Overview

The C. Crane Pocket Radio is a miniature radio with surprising audio quality.

It is an emergency radio because it not only has access to NOAA weather stations but will receive weather alerts. However, it doesn’t have a built-in flashlight or crank-charging capabilities. It’s just an emergency radio, but it delivers on that task.

This small device has a greater sensitivity to both AM and FM radio stations than larger units. The built-in antenna is fairly small, but you can augment it by plugging in headphones so the cord works as an antenna. It also comes with an antenna extension for the same purpose.

The outside has rubber armor to protect the radio against drops and scrapes, though it’s not waterproof.

It also has an alarm clock and a sleep timer, which can be set for 15 minutes to 120 minutes, which helps conserve batteries.

Finally, if you forget how to use the radio, instructions are printed inside the battery cover.

Pros

• Comes with C. Crane earbuds
• Good audio quality and reception
• Pocket sized

Cons

• Expensive
• No built-in flashlight or hand crank

Recommendation

The C. Crane Pocket Radio is an excellent portable emergency radio, though it requires AA batteries to function.

 

 

4. Best Hand-Crank Emergency Radio #1: Midland ER210

Midland ER210

Specs

• Power Sources: Solar panel, hand crank, rechargeable 2000 mAh battery, or two AA batteries
• Radio Bands: AM, FM, NOAA
• Weather Alerts? Yes
• Flashlight? Yes
• Weatherproofing: Not stated
• Other Features: Device charging, dog whistle, headphone jack

Overview

The Midland ER210 is yesteryear’s version of the ER310, but it’s preferred by some people because you give up a little bit of battery capacity and a tiny amount of battery for almost twice as much cranking efficiency.

Other than that, it has many of the same features as the ER210. There’s a solar panel, you can charge phones and tablets off the unit, there’s a headphone jack for listening to the radio without bothering other people, and there’s even a dog whistle.

You can use that dog whistle to attract the attention of search and rescue workers who are using rescue dogs.

Powering the ER210 only requires two AA batteries instead of six, which can be more convenient.

It’s not quite as ruggedized as the ER310, but does the handle really need to be armored?

Pros

• All the capabilities of the ER310 (except battery life) with easier hand-crank charging
• Less expensive than the ER310

Cons

• The rechargeable battery is a proprietary 18650 design that can’t take normal 18650 batteries

Recommendation

If you want an emergency radio that works well even with hand cranking, then the Midland ER210 is a great choice for you.

 

Midland ER210 is also available at:

Cabelas

Walmart

 

5. Best Hand-Crank Emergency Radio #2: Zurio Emergency Radio

Zurio Emergency Radio

Specs

• Power Sources: Solar panel, hand crank, rechargeable internal 4000 mAh battery, or three AAA batteries
• Radio Bands: AM, FM, NOAA
• Weather Alerts? Yes
• Flashlight? Yes
• Weatherproofing: IPX3
• Other Features: Device charging, SOS siren

Overview

The Zurio Emergency Radio, like many such devices, comes with a rechargeable battery already installed. You don’t have to swap it out to add three AAA batteries, and it can be charged from a wall outlet, a vehicle’s cigarette outlet, a solar panel, or the power generated by the hand crank.

It’s a whopping 4000 mAh battery that can fully charge cell phones!

What’s so great about this radio, though, is not the battery size. It’s the hand crank.

The crank is well protected in the bottom of the radio when you’re not using it. When you are using it, the mechanism is smooth and easy to use, and the radio’s design gives you plenty of leverage.

This makes cranking this radio more pleasant than other emergency radios, so you’ll be more willing to rotate that lever for longer.

The antenna, though, is a weakness. It’s not protected and is easily nudged even when down, which can get annoying.

Pros

• Big internal battery
• Hand-crank lever is well designed and easy to use

Cons

• Unprotected antenna
• Weak flashlight

Recommendation

The Zurio Emergency Radio has both a huge battery and a well-designed hand crank that makes it easy to recharge that battery.

 

 

6. Best Hand-Crank Emergency Radio #3: Eton Scorpion II

Eton Scorpion II

Specs

• Power Sources: Solar panel, hand crank, or rechargeable 800 mAh internal battery
• Radio Bands: AM, FM, NOAA
• Weather Alerts? Yes
• Flashlight? Yes
• Weatherproofing: IPX4
• Other Features: Carabiner, bottle opener, device charging

Overview

The Eton Scorpion II is a small emergency radio that’s designed to be carried with you on outdoor adventures.

The device is covered in a rubber armor and has an IPX4 rating. You’re not supposed to submerge it, but the radio can survive getting splashed.

The Scorpion II is powered by an internal 800 mAh battery. It’s actually two 400 mAh batteries attached together, but they are supposed to stay in the radio unless they fail. No AA or AAA battery swaps here.

The solar panel does a good job at giving supplemental power during the daylight hours, and you can use the crank to add some more oomph to the radio’s charge. It’ll last about 24 hours from a full charge, less if you use the LED flashlight.

You can charge a smartphone off this emergency radio, but since its battery is much smaller than a cell phone battery, don’t expect more battery life than a call or two.

The antenna hides inside the radio unless extended so it stays quite safe.

Pros

• Compact
• Rugged

Cons

• Small battery

Recommendation

The Eton Scorpion II is designed as a portable emergency radio for outdoor adventures and does well at this, but it shouldn’t be your house’s main emergency radio.

 

Eton Scorpion II is also available at:

Walmart

 

7. Best Overall Emergency Radio #1: RunningSnail MD-090P

RunningSnail MD-090P

Specs

Power Sources: Solar panel, hand crank, rechargeable 4000 mAh battery, or three AAA batteries
• Radio Bands: AM, FM, NOAA
• Weather Alerts? Yes
• Flashlight? Yes, two
• Weatherproofing:
• Other Features: Device charging, flashlight modes, SOS alarm

Overview

The RunningSnail MD-090 emergency radio is a beloved radio unit, and the MD-090P is the newest version.

It has a massive 4000 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion 18540 battery. Unlike most 18650 batteries, this one isn’t proprietary, so it’s easier to buy replacements. You can also put in three AAA batteries for emergency radio use.

It does take a long time to crank the MD-090P for long-term radio use, though, and the solar panel cannot charge the battery from empty. It’s good primarily for maintenance.

The flashlight has three lighting modes available, and the reading light under the solar panel is motion activated. This can preserve battery life.

Though this radio is not rated as being waterproof, users have reported that the radio has survived heavy downpours.

However, one reviewer had some damage from light and heat, but only to the analog tuner’s frequency label.

Also, some people have reported reception issues and blamed the radio, though that might have been from other factors.

Pros

• Good water resistance
• High-capacity, nonproprietary rechargeable battery
• Motion-activated reading light

Cons

• Analog instead of digital tuner

Recommendation

The RunningSnail MD-090P is a high-capacity and durable home emergency radio, though the emphasis is on “emergency” and not “radio.”

 

 

8. Best Overall Emergency Radio #2: Sangean MMR-88

Sangean MMR-88

Specs

• Power Sources: Solar panel, hand crank, or 850 mAh rechargeable battery
• Radio Bands: AM, FM, NOAA
• Weather Alerts? Yes
• Flashlight? Yes
• Weatherproofing: IPX3
• Other Features: Clock, device charging, auto shut-off, headphone jack, SOS alarm

Overview

The Sangean MMR-88 is an emergency radio that comes up again and again in conversations about emergency radios.

It’s not the latest and the greatest, but it’s been recommended for many years.

It’s a Public Alert–certified radio with a digital clock on the front. The automatic shut-off helps to preserve battery life, which is good since the battery is only 850 mAh.

Unfortunately, the included 18650 lithium-ion battery is not the best. Some people have no issues, while other buyers receive problematic batteries. Thankfully, you can replace it with a higher-quality 18650 battery, but because of the tight battery compartment, it needs to be a smaller one.

The solar cell on top is better than average, though it’s still more of a maintenance option. The hand crank works well but only gives a moderate amount of radio time for every moment you rotate the handle.

Pros

• Compact
• Durable
• Good reception

Cons

• The included battery is of mediocre quality
• Small battery capacity

Recommendation

The Sangean MMR-88 is not an award-winning emergency radio, but it does everything an emergency radio should do and does it well enough to withstand the test of time. Once you replace the battery.

 

 

9. Best Overall Emergency Radio #3: Midland WR120EZ

Midland WR120EZ

Specs

• Power Sources: Three AA batteries or wall outlet
• Radio Bands: NOAA
• Weather Alerts? Yes
• Flashlight? No
• Weatherproofing: No
• Other Features: Alarm clock, SAME programming

Overview

The Midland WR120EZ is not a do-all emergency radio. However, what it does, it does very well — and that’s being a customizable weather alert radio.

Unlike most emergency radios, it does not receive AM or FM radio. It only receives NOAA’s weather channels. This happens automatically, so you don’t have to manually set which weather channel happens to be broadcasting in your vicinity.

You can use the SAME programming to choose which counties you’re concerned with, so you can monitor family members who are not in the same state as you.

The alerts are even more customizable. There are 60 different weather events the WR120EZ can warn you about, from avalanches to icebergs. However, 25 warnings, such as for tornadoes, cannot be disabled.

You can enable or disable the other events and even control how you want to be warned. The radio can warn you through its display, a voice, or a loud tone.

There are even color codes under the display to let you know whether you’re under an advisory, watch, or warning.

Pros

• Highly customizable
• Inexpensive

Cons

• Cannot receive non-NOAA radio signals
• No solar panel or hand crank

Recommendation

The Midland WR120EZ is a simple yet highly customizable device that focuses on one task: warning you about incoming dangerous weather.

 

 

Why Should You Choose a Quality Emergency Radio?

man holding Midland emergency radio outdoor in the snow

Emergency radios are in many homes, but not enough.

Many normal radios, both FM and AM, can receive NOAA weather channels. This doesn’t make them a good substitute for emergency radios, though.

There are several reasons for this.

The first reason is that emergency radios can receive alerts pushed through public alert systems. When the emergency radio receives such an alert, it turns on, blares a tone, then describes the incoming hazard.

This alert tone is loud enough to rouse most people from sleep and can be heard through loud music. This makes it much more likely for you to get warned about an incoming tornado or flood before it hits your house.

Midland WR120EZ showing warning

Also, emergency radios use a variety of power sources. Most can be plugged into a wall outlet so they stay powered, but some have batteries, sometimes several types, so they can continue to operate if the power goes out.

Even then, most emergency radios will have solar cells to extend the battery’s life and a hand crank so you can power a dead radio.

Most are more durable than your standard home radio too, so they will continue to operate even if an earthquake knocks the radio off the furniture.

Some emergency radios are durable and portable enough to be good companions for camping, hiking, hunting, kayaking, and other outdoor pursuits. A good outdoorsman will keep an eye on the weather, but conditions can change quicker than expected.

A good emergency radio will keep you informed of potentially dangerous weather and can do so if you’re in the safety of your home or in the fickle wild.

 

How to Choose a Quality Emergency Radio

different emergency radios on the grass

There are many emergency radios out there, but not all of them are good enough to trust.

Here are some features you should look for when considering buying a weather alert radio. There aren’t really any features to avoid, but there is at least one feature you need.

 

NOAA Signals

hand tuning the Midland ER210

Every emergency radio needs to be able to receive NOAA weather channels and to receive weather alerts.

There are many radios that can be programmed to listen to NOAA radios that don’t receive these alerts. They’re fine for monitoring the weather manually but can’t alert you to an incoming storm if you’re not actively listening.

I know that I don’t make a habit of listening to NOAA’s weather broadcasts 24/7!

Thankfully, all of the radios listed above do have the capacity to receive these weather alerts, but some products labeled as emergency radios lack this oh-so-important functionality!

 

Charging Options

emergency radio in the forest

The second aspect of an emergency radio is the ability to function without external power for a significant period of time.

A bad tornado or hurricane can leave you without electricity for hours, days, or even weeks. Your emergency radio should be able to remain powered for this entire time.

It shouldn’t necessarily be on this whole time. You’ll drain the battery within a day or two if you keep the radio speaker on all the time. But the weather alert radio should be able to continue to provide you with alerts without an external source of power.

 

Battery

AA batteries lined up

All emergency radios will contain batteries so they can continue to function when the wall outlets are unpowered.

Some use replaceable batteries. This is fine, so long as you have a supply of these batteries.

Most have rechargeable batteries, typically Ni-MH or lithium-ion. This is great because you can keep them charged through several methods I’ll mention in a moment.

Some of the best emergency weather radios will let you add standard batteries alongside the rechargeable batteries. These are the most flexible emergency radios.

 

Hand Crank (Dynamo)

hand rotating lever of a hand-cranked r emergency radio

A classic way to give radios power without an external source of electricity is to use a dynamo. A dynamo is a simple type of electrical generator that uses wire coils rotating through a magnetic field to produce electricity. They’re simple and robust.

All you have to do is rotate the crank lever to spin the coils.

Most wind-up radios will give about 10 minutes of radio time for every minute spent cranking at 120 to 140 rotations per minute. Go too slow, and you won’t produce electricity. Go too fast, and you may damage something.

It can take up to 4 hours to fully charge an emergency radio. However, you typically won’t need to take it all the way from dead to fully charged.

 

Solar Panel

emergency radio charging with solar panel on the ground

A common addition to weather radios in recent years has been to add solar cells to the top of the device.

These solar panels are smaller than what’s necessary to fully power a radio, so don’t expect to charge even the best emergency radio from dead to full in a day or even several day’s worth of sunlight.

However, these solar cells are good at trickle charging the rechargeable battery and so help keep it from losing charge as quickly. They’ll also work under indoor lights, so you can keep an emergency radio ready yet unplugged for months at a time.

Batteries don’t like staying at full charge all the time, so this may be a better choice than to keep the unit plugged in constantly.

 

Misc. Features

A radio that receives weather reports and has an alternate power supply is all you need for an emergency radio.

There are some other features which can make them even more useful, though.

Flashlight

emergency radio flashlight on

Adding a flashlight to the radio is a common and welcome modification to the weather alert radio paradigm.

Every home and vehicle should have spare flashlights. However, the lights may go out while you’re far from the nearest one, and many dangerous pieces of furniture may lie between you and where you think you left the light.

Emergency radios, on the other hand, are easier to find in the dark because they’ll be telling you about the weather situation that caused the blackout. Just find the radio, hit a switch, and you have light!

I wouldn’t use an emergency radio’s light as your main source of light, though.

That’s because it draws from the same batteries that are powering the receiver, which is the entire reason you have the radio in the first place.

 

Device Charging

Eton Scorpion II. charging phone

Another good feature is the ability to charge an electronic device using your radio unit.

These USB ports let you charge smartphones, tablets, GPS units, and other devices that you can use to call for help or figure out where you are.

I wouldn’t rely too much on this feature, though — for the same reason I wouldn’t rely on the flashlight. Smartphones are power-hungry devices and will gladly consume all your radio’s electricity without getting fully charged.

However, a wind-up radio will let you use your arm muscles to charge your phone enough for a call, so this is still an excellent feature to include.

 

Top Brands

Midland

Midland logo

The Midland Radio Corporation is a venerable radio manufacturing company that maintains its place as a maker of some of the best radios available today. The company was established in 1959.

Their line includes CB radios, FRS and GMRS radios, marine radios, weather-alert radios, and even Bluetooth systems.

Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, Midland is the American part of a multinational radio company called CTE International.

Midland doesn’t just produce radios. They develop them as well and have been responsible for furthering the technology. For example, they released the first 14-channel Family Radio Service two-way radios.

Midland radio products are used by a wide variety of customers. Hobby ham radio operators use Midland products, as do industrial facilities and large-scale agricultural operations.

Naturally, the company offers a variety of emergency preparation radios. Midland has been in the business longer than most competitors who offer emergency radios.

In fact, some other radio companies offer these products almost as an afterthought, while Midland takes pride in producing high-quality radios that can weather any storm.

 

FAQ

When should I buy an emergency radio?

The best time to buy an emergency radio is before an emergency strikes. The sooner you get one, the better, so you can test it and trust it before you have to rely on it.

 

Can’t I use regular two-way radios or a smartphone in an emergency?

Emergency radios are different from two-way radios and smartphones.

Two-way radios are for direct communication with other people, and though some of them can receive weather alerts, they’re not constantly on and able to receive a weather alert.

Smartphones can also be used to keep track of the weather. However, they are not reliable and will run out of power relatively quickly. In fact, you can use a good emergency radio to charge your smartphone!

All three of these tools have their place in an emergency situation and are not substitutes for each other.

Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson learned to walk in the mountains and has spent much of his life exploring the outdoors. He is equally at home in the woods, at the range, or on the gunsmithing bench, and loves to build guns almost as much as he enjoys shooting them. His travels have taken him to the four corners of the United States. Though his favorite hunting spot is in Alaska, Kansas deer taste better.

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