The Best Emergency Radio, Light, Charger | Solar and Crank

Emergency radios have come a long way since the WWII lifeboat radio above. Extremely versatile and found in virtually every bug-out-bag and survival kit list, they now come with rechargeable batteries, solar, and crank power as standard options. All emergency agencies (FEMA, CDC, CERT, etc) agree that every family should have one and you won’t find a prepper that disagrees.

There are plenty of brands and types to choose from when it comes to emergency radios. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best survival radio, tested each of them, and the results are in: the overall best, a budget option, and an upgrade option. If you need a radio that will keep you informed in a survival situation, one of our suggestions will help keep you up to speed.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


NOAA CR1009 Emergency Radio

The Best Emergency Radio

NOAA CR1009 Radio

Versatile, 5000 mAh, and Effective

Solid, dependable function paired with a solid 5000 mAh battery makes this the ideal pick for your Radio swiss army knife.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

The NOAA CR1009 Emergency Radio is feature-packed and has a huge rechargeable battery making it the top pick of our review roundup. If you pick this bad boy up, you’ll be getting:

  • Weather radio
  • FM radio
  • AM radio
  • SW radio
  • Flashlight (6W)
  • Reading light (3W)
  • Red flashlight
  • Loud SOS Alarm
  • Crank power 300 mA
  • Solar power 50 mA
  • 5000 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • AAA battery power (3)
  • Headphone jack
  • USB port/cable
  • Compass

The 5000 mAh gives you 12 hours of continuous radio play on a single charge, but the other methods let you power the radio on-demand with extreme versatility. Pick up this easy-to-use radio and you’ll be adding tons of versatility to your survival kit and setting a solid foundation.


RunningSnail Emergency Radio with Crank and Solar Power

Budget Emergency Radio

RunningSnail Radio

Cheap, 2000 mAh, and Dependable

A small and lightweight option that will get the job done on the go- and for cheap!

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

This small and lightweight option is smaller in length and width than most smartphones, making it ideal for mobile kits. You still get plenty of versatility in the smaller package, including:

  • Weather radio
  • FM radio
  • AM radio
  • Flashlight (1W)
  • Crank power
  • Solar power
  • 2000 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • USB port/cable

The radio will run up to 12 hours on a fully charged battery, making the RunningSnail Emergency Radio the clear pick for those on a budget or looking for an on-the-go solution.


Kamapulo 10000 mAh Emergency Radio

Upgrade Emergency Radio

Kamapulo Radio

Strong, 10000 mAh, and Versatile

Powerful lights, strong radio reception, and a large capacity battery make this the strongest option available.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

This beast can actually put out some volume and has much better sound quality than the other radios- not that you necessarily need that in an emergency. The main perk of this upgrade pick is the massive 10000 mAh rechargeable battery. This powers plenty of functions including:

  • Weather radio
  • FM radio
  • AM radio
  • Flashlight (1.4W)
  • Reading light (1W)
  • Red flashlight
  • Loud SOS Alarm
  • Crank power
  • Solar power
  • 10000 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • Headphone jack
  • USB port/cable
  • USB-C port

Juice this thing up and you’ll be sitting pretty through any emergency. The Kamapulo Emergency Radio will run up to 48 hours on a fully charged battery and is a solid upgrade pick for your survival kit.


Everything We Recommend

NOAA Weather Radio

NOAA CR1009 Radio

Solid, dependable function paired with a solid 5000 mAh battery makes this the ideal pick for your Radio swiss army knife.

Where to Buy

$32* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

RunningSnail Emergency Radio

RunningSnail Radio

A small and lightweight option that will get the job done on the go- and for cheap!

Where to Buy

$17* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Kamapulo 10000 mAh Emergency Radio

Kamapulo Radio

Powerful lights, strong radio reception, and a large capacity battery make this the strongest option available.

Where to Buy

$40* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing


The Radios We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several radio brands that we tested: RunningSnail, Red Cross, Kamapulo, Midland, Tenergy, FosPower, ‎RCA, and more.

There are a lot of brands that make emergency radios these days with a wide range of prices. We found that price doesn’t necessarily line up with function, power, and versatility, and as a matter of fact you can find several different brands selling the same unit at very different prices. Many of these brands are using the same manufacturers, so it is important to make sure that you aren’t getting fleeced when there is a better deal from another ‘brand.’ You can see our full list of review criteria below in the what to look for section, with an explanation for each.

Like other radios (walkie-talkies, CB, HAM), we have compared and reviewed, you will be hard-pressed to find equipment that isn’t from China. One stand-out with these radios are the brands that don’t shy away from sharing spec.


What to Look For

The best emergency radio has several important features to look for.

  1. Value
  2. Battery Capacity
  3. Reception
  4. Durability
  5. Versatility

When you get the right blend of these, you can find a reliable radio that will keep you informed in an emergency. Below, we break down what each of these features means for truly dependable emergency radio:

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like a radio shouldn’t blow out your budget. Having one is better than having none, but the same applies to other tools and gear you may need for an emergency. Budget according to your risk and your needs rather than just spending lavishly.

On the flip side, you don’t want to go too cheap. You can still find emergency radios in big box store bargain bins that won’t hold a candle compared with our budget pick. Don’t get too frugal when it comes to something you will rely on in an emergency.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something like a radio. It’s better to diversify your tools and preparedness gear to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios. There is a sweet spot where you get high value out of the best features with not-to-high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.

Battery Capacity

Battery capacity in these radios is measured in mAh (milliampere/hour), and they step up as you step up in price. A few of the ones that we reviewed didn’t list mAh or had misleading numbers that people may assume mean battery capacity (but doesn’t). Steer clear of those, because the capacity was lower than 1000 mAh in the unlisted or ‘misleading’ products.

All of our picks use rechargeable batteries, and a few of our picks have extra battery compartments for common batteries, like AA or AAA. This can let you pop in some new batteries to quickly regain function if you drain the rechargeable batteries. It’s not built-in battery capacity, but having more options to power your radio is always good.

Reception

A radio is not worth a damn if it can’t reliably pick up a signal. Integrated, extendable, and positionable antennas work best when you are trying to pick up reception in a remote area. That’s why each of our picks has this. The downside is that you could possibly break or damage the antenna if you are not careful.

This is worth the risk compared to housed antennas, which don’t match the reception of these models. Emergency radios with housed antennas may be tough and durable, but you need to be able to receive the emergency communications or the radio is essentially useless.

Durability

While the emergency radios of today are not made of steel like the WWII lifeboat radios, the ABS plastic is strong enough and much lighter. We did notice the durability of the knobs, antenna, lights, and radio housing does scale slightly with price, but most of the radios were the same.

You will need to take care of your radio. Our top pick does have IPX3 waterproof and shock-resistant housing, but even that should not get crushed in your bug out bag, sat on, or fully submerged in water.

Versatility

Emergency radios have an amazing number of uses these days. With all of our picks, you have these versatile options:

  • Weather Band radio
  • FM radio
  • AM radio
  • Flashlight
  • Crank charging
  • USB charging
  • Solar charging
  • Charge your USB device (cellphone/smartphone)

A few of our picks have these extra features, which make them slightly more versatile:

  • Short Wave radio
  • Headphone jack
  • SOS Flashlight
  • SOS Alarm
  • USB-C port
  • microUSB port
  • Compass
  • Red Flashlight
  • AAA battery power

Larger battery capacities also contribute to versatility, since they will let you use these extra features more often.


How to Use an Emergency Radio

The basic function of any emergency radio is the weather radio. You’ll want to learn how to tune in to updates by setting your radio to NOAA weather band. You’ll need to set the radio to “WM” or “WB”, usually with a switch on the unit. Some radios will let you scroll between weather band frequencies, or turn a know between presets.

All of the other radio bands, charging methods, compasses, lights, and other tchotchkes are icing on the cake and easy enough to figure out. Most of the time you’ll have better lights, chargers, and compasses but combo radios make for excellent back-ups.

The Shootin Guy (TSG) shows how to use our top pick:


Who Needs an Emergency Radio?

Everyone can use at least a basic emergency radio. The combination of functions that they provide gives everyone a cheap and easy building block to work towards preparedness.

This is one reason it pops up on almost all of our survival kit checklists.

Emergency radios are essential for:

You can always use the radio for things beyond emergencies and survival kits too, of course. It can come in handy while you are camping, or you can sneak a listen to the big game out in the yard. There are better tools for those, but like any multitool or combo tool, an emergency radio makes it easy to keep track of and compact.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best emergency radio is useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Jones, J., Kragh, J., Aden, J. & Dubick, M. (1987). NOAA Weather Radio: The Source of Weather Information 24 Hours a Day. Natl Weather Service Forecast. (Seattle, WA). (Source)

Kupec, R. (2008). Tuning In: Weather Radios for Those Most at Risk. Journal of Emergency Management. Volume 6, Issue 4. (Source).

Troutman, T., Vannozzi, L., & Fleming, J. (2001). The Importance of Educating the Public Regarding NOAA Weather Radio Reception and Placement within a Structure. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. (Source)


The Final Word

Emergency radios save lives every day. Staying informed through an emergency could be the difference between life and death. It isn’t the only radio you can use for emergencies, though: How Will You Communicate in an Emergency?

To go along with a solid emergency radio, you should also consider a few other tools that can help keep you in touch:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found that the NOAA CR1009 Radio is the best option given the value, reception, battery capacity, durability, and versatility. If you take our suggestion and grab one of our radio picks- make sure you get used to it by learning how to use it.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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The Best Emergency Radio

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer by day, but a prepper 24/7. I am an Air Force veteran that developed emergency and disaster plans as an emergency manager and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters worldwide. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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