midland-emergency-radio-heroSource: Midland

Best Emergency Radios iMore 2020

When storms hit and the power fails, you can't rely on your internet connection to keep you abreast of things. If your cellular network goes down too, you're really in a bind. That's where emergency radios come in. My favorite is the Midland ER310. With three power sources, weather alerts, and a flashlight, it's one of the most useful electronics I own. However, the Midland isn't the only emergency radio that catches my attention.

Best Overall: Midland ER310

midland-er310-emergency-radio-lifestyleSource: Midland

I've put my trust in the Midland ER310 for more than a year. When I'm home, it sits on a windowsill, and when on the road, I toss it in a backpack. For weather emergencies and general usefulness, it's tough to beat.

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The Midland operates on three sustainable power choices: a hand crank, solar, and rechargeable batteries. The hand crank is smooth to operate, and one minute of turning the handle around the back of the radio provides 10 minutes of power. The solar works remarkably well, too, even on cloudy days. Finally, the built-in battery indicator lets you know when the juice is running low. You can then keep your devices powered up via USB.

There's also an emergency CREE LED 130-lumen flashlight on the Midland. The SOS beacon flashes Morse code so you can signal for help when needed, and brightness levels can be adjusted to conserve battery. In addition to an AM and FM radio, the Midland also has NOAA weather scanner and automatic alerts that keep you on your toes when bad weather is near. And if that weren't enough, you'll also get an ultrasonic dog whistle. How's that for feature-packed?

My only gripe is that the Midland is water-resistant but not waterproof. I've never had an issue, even in the pouring rain, but with plastic battery covers and no rubber to seal ports, you certainly take a risk going out in the rain. Still, if you're looking for a well-made radio that doesn't skimp on features, you'll want to pull the trigger on this unit.

Pros:

  • NOAA weather scan + alerts
  • Three sustainable power sources
  • Built-in flashlight
  • Charges external devices
  • Portable

Cons:

  • Not waterproof

Best Overall

Midland ER310

It does everything well

This radio has you covered in emergencies with a flashlight, three power sources, and the ability to charge your devices.

Best Value: RunningSnail MD-088s

RunningSnail MD-088s Emergency RadioSource: RunningSnail

With a new and smaller design that feels good in the hand, the RunningSnail MD-088s scores high marks by checking off all the essential boxes. A 1,000 mAh power bank gives you a place to charge your small devices with a Micro-USB cable. The volume and stations are adjustable with traditional dials, and the right-sided speaker is loud enough to hear weather alerts or crank some tunes in the garage.

This model is three-way rechargeable. It comes with a Micro-USB cable, a manual hand crank, and a solar panel. There's also a built-in LED flashlight, which is bright enough to illuminate the terrain around you, but not powerful enough for use during some heavy storms. For backpacking or camping, it'll do. The RunningSnail also gets AM/FM stations plus NOAA weather bands. The antenna is small and retractable, but it pulls in stations quickly.

If I have to find fault, it's with the lack of weatherproofing. This emergency radio is water-resistant but not waterproof. Because it has lots of dials and buttons, there are many places for water to drip inside. If you're using it in the rain, I suggest a plastic baggie. However, for the money, when you need the added security of having an emergency radio with a power bank at your side, it's hard to beat the price or portability of this option.

Pros:

  • Three-way rechargeable
  • Built-in power bank
  • Has a flashlight
  • AM/FM/NOAA weather bands
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Not waterproof
  • Flashlight not the brightest

Best Value

RunningSnail MD-088s

A lot of radio for a little price

You get three color choices, a flashlight, a power bank, and the ability to recharge it three ways. It's a steal at this price.

Best Weatherproofing: FosPower Emergency Radio

FosPower Emergency RadioSource: FosPower

You'll get all the bells and whistles in this portable emergency radio from FosPower. Housed in a muted safety yellow waterproof shell, this tiny powerhouse is just the right size to tuck in a bag or leave on a shelf. There are three power sources to ensure you're always covered in the event of an emergency, including a hand crank and solar panel that recharge the internal battery, plus three AAA batteries. Reception is good when you fully extend the antenna. You can tune in AM/FM stations and your local weather bands.

This radio doesn't emit weather alerts when watches or warnings are in effect in your area, so you'll need to be on the ball and tune in yourself when the skies look menacing. It does, however, have an awesome SOS alert that you can sound to signal for help. Pushing the SOS alert emits a very loud alarm that's sure to wake the neighbors. Four internal LEDs serve as a flashlight or a reading light. We love the reading light and found it more useful than expected.

Best of all, the waterproofing is excellent! All the doors and knobs are sealed as they should be, and this tough little guy does well in rain or snow. The big downer for us was the lack of instructions. We're well-versed in tech but could not figure out where the port for charging external devices was located without a little help from FosPower. It turns out, directions are available online, but only if you ask for them. If you don't mind that, this is a feature-heavy emergency radio that is made to survive the worst of Mother Nature.

Pros:

  • Waterproof
  • 3-way power
  • Flashlight + reading light
  • SOS alarm
  • Integrated power bank

Cons:

  • Instructions not included
  • No weather alerts

Best Weatherproofing

FosPower Emergency Radio

Built to outlast Mother Nature

A waterproof radio with a power bank, SOS alarm, flashlight, and 3-way power. It's small, portable, and affordable.

Best Alert System: American Red Cross Emergency Weather Radio

American Red Cross emergency radio lifestyleSource: American Red Cross

When you need a grab-and-go radio that looks as cool as it works, you want this Eton model from the American Red Cross. This is a sharp little device in red casing with silver accents. It also has a big handle that begs to go with you everywhere. Featurewise, you'll get the usual offerings. There's an AM/FM radio and NOAA weather bands. The receiver is digital, and it's simple to switch between stations and bands. The internal battery is rechargeable with a built-in solar panel, a hand turbine power generator, or AAA batteries.

My favorite feature is the automatic alerts. You no longer need to check the skies to see a storm approaching before you flip on your radio. If you have the radio set to alert, it will automatically broadcast emergency weather alerts for your area. Equally nice is the red flashing beacon. You use this to alert others that you need assistance or to help others find you. The LED flashlight is easy to operate and bright enough to shine a light on paths or to use to read.

My gripes are few. First, the solar panel is on the handle, so every time you grab the radio, you touch the panel. Our unit stayed safe and charged fine, but the potential for damage is there. Second, this model is not waterproof. It will alert you of storms, but with flimsy plastic covering the battery port and the solar panel at the top of the handle, you can't take this out in lousy weather. If you need an indoor radio with an excellent alert system, this is the one you want.

Pros:

  • Gives automatic alerts
  • Cool, useful ergonomic design
  • Three-way power
  • Flashlight
  • Power bank to recharge devices

Cons:

  • Solar panel is on top of the handle
  • Not waterproof

Best Alert System

American Red Cross Emergency Weather Radio

Sound the alarm

You'll get an excellent alert system to warn you of incoming storms, plus a flashlight, power bank, and three-way power.

Best Power Options: Kaito KA500

kaito-ka500-lifestyleSource: Kaito

When you like to have all your bases covered, you want the Kaito KA500. This handsome emergency radio boasts six-way power. You'll get a hand crank generator, solar panel, AA battery compartment, 5V USB input, 5V AC/DC input with a wall power adapter, and a built-in NiMH replaceable and rechargeable battery pack. As if the added ability to recharge the radio via USB weren't a feature worth touting, we think you'll love the replaceable and rechargeable battery pack. Unlike other radios, this one lives on long after the batteries die. We love non-disposable tech!

The Kaito comes in five colors, including standard black, blue, green, red, and bright yellow. The radio itself sports AM/FM, shortwave, and seven pre-programmed NOAA weather channels, plus it broadcasts on the Public Emergency Alert System. The LED flashlight is bright and features a red LED SOS beacon light to call for help. There's even an LED reading lamp. And yes, there's a power bank in here. You can charge all your devices via USB port.

The only thing this radio is lacking is weatherproofing. It is water-resistant but not waterproof. I've had the Kaito out in storms and downpours with nary a problem, but be aware that it's not guaranteed to work in such conditions. This radio is a standout in the sound department. It's loud, never tinny sounding, and the speakers project bass and treble tones well. The Kaito is an excellent all-around emergency radio that recharges a multitude of ways and has a replaceable battery pack, a feature we love.

Pros:

  • Six-way power
  • Replaceable battery pack
  • Seven weather stations pre-programmed
  • Flashlight +SOS beacon
  • Power bank

Cons:

  • Not waterproof

Best Power Options

Kaito KA500

The radio that will outlive you

The Kaito is tough, comes with a replaceable battery pack, recharges six ways, and is all-around impressive.

Bottom line

Part of my job includes travel and lots of it. I'm often in the backwoods with nothing more than a backpack and a phone that's out of range of any cellular signal. The best investment I've made in recent years is to throw my money into an emergency radio. The model that works best for me is the Midland ER310.

I love that I have three sustainable power sources at my back. The hand crank provides roughly 10 minutes of radio time for every one minute spent turning the handle. The solar panel works surprisingly well, even on cloudy days. I've hung this from my backpack and let it charge while I walked on numerous occasions. It's perfect. You'll also have backup battery power at your disposal.

NOAA weather scans and alerts are fantastic and have never let me down. There's also an AM and FM radio for tuning in the news, music, or other weather information. My only complaint is that this model is not waterproof. I put the unit in a plastic baggie when storms hit, but that's not ideal. If you can live with that, this is a reliable emergency radio that works exceptionally well at home or in a go-bag.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Jodi Owan spends a good chunk of her time testing gear in the outback. Find her on Instagram and her website.

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