Emergency Radio Reviews

I counted up all the emergency radios I could find in my house: seven! When the power goes out here, we’re ready. (We have had four power outages in the past two years, one of which lasted about 9 hours. Long enough to test our equipment.)

You may not need this many radios to outfit your house and cars, but you certainly need at least one. And you want to be able to count on it when you need it.

What should you look for in an emergency radio?

Before you buy, consider these questions. You may want to jot down your answers so you have a reference sheet.

  1. What frequencies do you need? AM & FM? Shortwave? Most good radios have both AM & FM, but if you want shortwave reception, you’ll have to look farther and pay more.
  2. Does the radio have a light or flashlight? How big and how bright? An emergency blinker?  The best emergency radios are multi-purpose pieces of equipment, and a good light is desirable.
  3. How is the radio powered and/or recharged?
    • Hand-crank – essential!
    • Charge from computer
    • Plug into the wall (AC)
    • Powered by batteries (DC)
    • Built-in solar panel
  4. Does the radio have rechargeable or regular batteries or both? Or none?
  5. Can the radio power other appliances? (Like your mobile phone? your MP3 player?)
  6. Does the radio have a siren or glow-in-the-dark feature to help you find it and people find you?
  7. How big is the radio?  How heavy?  How sturdy?  How packable?

As you shop, you’ll notice that a number of the radios carry the label “NOAA.” That refers to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather service, which puts out forecasts and alerts.

NOTE: As mobile phones and computers continue to evolve, the connectors between the emergency radio and YOUR device/s may not match. When your radio arrives, be sure to check right away for compatibility. If necessary, simply buy the right connector as a separate piece of equipment. It may add another $4-$15 to the price of your radio.

Emergency radio reviews

Here are comments about five radios from our collection. They will give you some idea of what to expect as you shop. As you will see, we prefer to use Amazon.com as the best place to shop. It consistently has the best prices and a great deal of valuable feedback via customer reviews. We are Amazon Affiliates and may receive a commission if you buy through our link.  Your price is never impacted by our relationship to Amazon.

1. A NEW WINNER!

Eton FRX5 Hand Crank Weather Radio with SAME (Specific Area Message Encoder) Alerts

We loved our Ambient Weather radios -- and still have them -- but times change and the latest versions don't seem as good as this radio, by Eton. (Don't confuse it with the FRX3, shown below.)

Key feature: outstanding crankability. (I made that word up. It means the crank is effective and the amount of power per 2 minutes of cranking exceeds that generated by other radios.)

Solar panel on the top, along with flashlight, emergency beacon and ambient light so you won't lose it in the dark. Set it so you get automatic weather alerts.

2. Grundig S450DLX – We've upgraded to this model as our best choice if you want shortwave. It is certainly not the same quality as the full-sized receiver we have owned for 20 years, but it does have a super-fine as well as regular tuning knob, and you can attach an external antenna. Allows you to pre-set channels, and also to lock them so they don't get "lost" in travel. Its power source: 6 x D batteries (not included) or DC IN (9V). It's not a radio for easy carrying but it's great for camping, weekend listening in stereo or mono, etc. It even has an alarm!
3. Etón American Red Cross FRX3. We had an earlier version of the Eton. It worked moderately well until maybe a year after we had purchased it, the rubberized coating suddenly turned all sticky! No good at all!

This is a newer version. No rubberized coating! Lighter weight, adds solar on the top; choice of rechargeable or regular AAA batteries (not included). Has a flashing red beacon and a glow-in-the-dark locator, which could be very helpful.

Again, be sure the cell phone connector fits YOUR phone.

Compare this radio with Eton's radio, FRX5, that we describe above.

4. Kaito Electronics Inc. KA500BLK Voyager — By far the best lighting options. The radio has a bank of 5 LEDs for reading or ambient lighting (located underneath the solar panel), as well as a flashlight with red strobe. At the top is the 180-degree adjustable solar panel (largest of the lot). This radio also receives shortwave broadcasts. Its crank is a strange dog-leg shape but it seems to work perfectly well.

Five way power: AC, Battery, hand crank, solar and computer.


Radio manufacturers update their models regularly. Be sure to get the most recent model you can find, if only to have a better chance of having the connectors fit your phone or tablet. And don't forget, all radios' reach depends on what's between you and the next guy, so you may not get exactly what's advertised.

Now as for our last radio, it is the

Small emergency radio with red x showing it's not to be recommended.

Hand-held radio a disappointment.

5. Durapro emergency light/radio – This was the very first hand-crank radio we bought. It was labeled “compact,” I was excited to get it — it was inexpensive, looked great and is extremely handy to tuck in the door or glove compartment.  Today, there are other compact light/radios on the market. I urge caution with these based on my own experience.  These small radios may require pretty much constant cranking for you to get any signal or have much light.  Still, the small size makes them attractive.

Plus, It’s always helpful to see what specials are available at Amazon. The list below will give you more price options and is updated regularly.