Best Portable & Budget-Friendly Emergency Radios for Your Survival Kit

Updated: Jun. 09, 2024

Whether you're a camper or prepper, be prepared for any situation that arises with the best emergency radio.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
Learn more.

The 5 Best Emergency Radios To Prepare You For AnythingVIA MERCHANT

Some people might not include an emergency radio in their emergency go bag since smartphones can do nearly anything. The truth, however, is that the best emergency radio has a better chance of receiving urgent information than your smartphone, according to the National Association of Broadcasters.

“AM radio stations have a long reach, covering a much larger geographical area than a cell phone tower, and can be accessed by anyone with a simple radio device,” the association says. “This ensures that vital information is accessible to everyone, including those in rural or remote areas.”

Additionally, the federal government’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) doesn’t work on the internet.

“There are several factors that contribute to a high-quality emergency radio,” says Rachel Paul, merchant of home and mobile electronics at Home Depot. Find one that’s durable and portable. Look for a “sturdy and portable design suitable for emergency situations and consider factors like water resistance.”

Next, think about the power source. “Radios with multiple power sources, such as battery-powered, hand-crank, solar or possibly AC/DC adapters allow for versatility during emergencies,” says Paul.

Don’t lose sight of the real purpose of your emergency radio. Paul recommends looking for models with automatic alert features. “Some radios have specific alert features that automatically activate during emergencies, ensuring you don’t miss critical information.”

We’ve found some of the best emergency radios for preppers, people building a camping survival kit and those who just want to ensure they’re ready for an emergency.

1 / 5
Midland Er310 Emergency Radio via merchant

Best Overall Emergency Radio

Midland ER310 Emergency Radio

The Midland ER310 emergency radio is one of the best things that you can put in your home emergency kit. The radio can be powered via a crank, a rechargeable 2600 milliampere-hour (mAh) battery and solar panels to guarantee you’ll never lose power. It’s also a flashlight and an ultrasonic dog whistle, and can charge external devices via a USB cord.

Another reason the Midland is the best emergency radio for preppers, campers and survivalists is that it comes with a scanner that locates the best radio frequency carrying emergency weather alerts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), meaning you won’t have to waste precious seconds tuning your radio to get vital information.

On top of having more than 4,400 five-star ratings, Amazon notes that this emergency radio has fewer returns than similar products. You’ll want this in your emergency toolkit.

Pros

  • Rechargeable via three power sources
  • Doubles as a flashlight and an ultrasonic whistle
  • Emergency weather alert scanner
  • Can charge external devices via USB cord

Cons

  • Tiny switches and screen

2 / 5
Esky Hand Crank Emergency Radio via merchant

Best Budget Emergency Radio

Esky Hand Crank Emergency Radio

Though the Esky emergency radio is small enough to fit on a lanyard, this budget-friendly prepper necessity is mighty. It has three charging methods (battery, solar and hand crank), an emergency weather alert scanner, can be used as a flashlight and works as a backup generator for small devices.

With nearly 7,500 five-star ratings, customers rave about this compact emergency radio and the peace of mind it gives them. Some shoppers say it’s the radio they depend on when their town is under a tornado warning, and it has served them well for many years.

“It required minimal effort to get started, was easy to work and reliable,” writes five-star reviewer, LeeLee. “An absolutely necessary item in a hurricane or emergency kit. I’m so grateful we had this.”

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Rechargeable via three power sources
  • Charges phones
  • Very compact

Cons

  • Power drains quickly

3 / 5
Runningsnail Emergency Crank Radio via merchant

Best Portable Emergency Radio

RunningSnail Emergency Crank Radio

The RunningSnail emergency radio weighs under 1 pound and is small enough to fit in your pocket, on a lanyard or nearly anywhere else. It’s one of the few emergency radios to use 4000 mAh rechargeable batteries (the industry standard is 2600 mAh). As you might guess, that means the batteries hold more power and can keep your radio charged for longer.

Customers love the amount of value it provides for a mid-priced radio. “The radio alerted the tornado was on the ground before any alert my phone gave,” writes verified purchaser, T. Yawn. “Power is still out and I’m writing this review while I’m charging my phone on this radio.”

Pros

  • Weighs under 1 pound
  • Has a flashlight and SOS system
  • Charges phones
  • Uses 4000 mAh rechargeable batteries

Cons

  • Takes a long time to fully charge

4 / 5
Eton Sidekick via merchant

Most Versatile Emergency Radio

Eton FRX3+ Emergency Radio

The Eton FRX3+ has some of the best features of any emergency radio. You get the standard AM/FM radio with severe weather alerts, along with Bluetooth compatibility that allows you to stream music from your smartphone. The light can be used as a flashlight, red emergency beacon or ambient light to illuminate a small room.

More than 2,900 five-star Amazon ratings confirm this radio is worth the more expensive price tag. “This not only [gave] accurate and timely updates directly from the National Weather Service, but also provided local programming to come through,” writes five-star reviewer, Rick Warner, who calls this Eton model an “absolute necessity.”

Pros

  • Bluetooth compatibility
  • Multiple light sources
  • Charges external devices
  • Built-in battery charged by solar panel or hand crank

Cons

  • On the pricier side

5 / 5
Kaito Ka500 via merchant

Best Shortwave Emergency Radio

Kaito KA500 Emergency Radio

If you want to pick up shortwave frequencies, which are radio frequencies that can relay information over long distances, there’s no better choice than the Kaito KA500. This is the best shortwave emergency radio because it’s compact, affordable, has six charging methods and has seven pre-programmed NOAA weather channels.

The radio is made with a plastic material called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which is impact-resistant and protects the radio’s interiors from chemicals and heat. It’s available in five colors and is returned less often than other shortwave emergency radios, according to Amazon.

Pros

  • Picks up shortwave frequencies
  • Six charging methods
  • Charges phones
  • Durable

Cons

  • Some customers report poor sound quality on FM frequencies

What to Consider When Buying an Emergency Radio

Emergency radios have kind of turned into Swiss Army Knives in that they do much more than what their name implies. Of course, you’ll want something that receives AM/FM radio frequencies and severe weather alerts from the NOAA. You’ll also want to make sure it’s EAS-compatible, meaning it can receive alerts from the Emergency Alert System. That’s the “knife” of the Swiss Army Knife.

You’ll also want to look for things like a light source that can be used as a flashlight or flash to help people locate you in case of an emergency—some may even be powerful enough to light up small rooms. Other features include the ability to charge external devices, multiple charging methods and some sort of SOS system, usually a combination of noise and lights. Also think about the device’s size, ease of use and price.

Types of Emergency Radios

There are two types of emergency radios. The first is your standard AM/FM radio, which also receives radio frequencies broadcasting NOAA weather alerts. These radios are usually equipped with a light source, charging port and other features like whistles.

The second type is shortwave emergency radios. Shortwave emergency radio frequencies can be transmitted over long distances, including overseas. You should make sure you also have AM/FM frequencies and NOAA weather alerts.

Why You Should Trust Us

I’m an award-winning writer and reporter with experience in various beats, with a degree in Print Journalism from St. John’s University. In addition to my additional background as a maintenance worker, I also love hiking and camping and understand how important it is to get alerts in remote areas.

We consulted Home Depot’s merchant of home and mobile electronics, Rachel Paul to learn more about what to look for in an emergency radio. She knows what to look for in an emergency radio and why it’s such an important item to have.

How We Found the Best Emergency Radios

I’m a camper who’s always prepared, and who has hiked the trails of the Shenandoah National Park, the Adirondacks and the Appalachian. I need to know that I can find out about severe weather events or other emergencies at times when my smartphone isn’t working.

I looked for radios that have AM/FM frequencies and can receive all severe weather alerts and federal alerts broadcasted over the radio. Because you can never be too safe, I wanted to make sure you could charge your radio through at least two means, including solar, and that the radio came with other features, such as a light source and charging port.

Then, I looked at what other campers, preppers and survivalists were talking about on Amazon, and scanned through hundreds of customer reviews to find the best of the best.

FAQ

What radio has no power source?

There is a type of radio called a crystal radio that’s battery-less. It charges itself on the radio waves it receives. However, there are no mainstream emergency radios that operate without a power source.