Editor's Note: Products featured on Wide Open Spaces are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
If you live in a place that has serious weather emergencies like hurricanes, tornadoes, and events that can lead to long stretches of no power, you need to add an emergency radio to your kit. We live in a tech-driven world, but if you hike or camp, you already know how a dead battery or no phone service can mean you're pretty isolated from the outside world. Usually, it's more than fine to take a break from the grid, but in a dangerous situation, it can be what stands between you and safety. An emergency radio can charge your phone with a hand crank or a solar panel, so it's a must-have if you don't have access to electricity. Additionally, it doesn't function as a regular radio that you might have around your house: besides a regular AM/FM connection, it also connects to stations controlled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That's the administration that controls the National Weather Service and broadcasts things like hurricane and tornado watches. Emergency radios can also pick up those NOAA stations that are farther away than your local stations, so if you have bad service, you can still access important weather alerts. There's also additional features that make this a must-have: emergency radios have features like flashlights for visibility, and some even have additional safety features like SOS emergency lights or sirens. It's an all-in-one station for a power outage or weather emergency, and can also come in handy for things like car troubles or if you get lost on a hike. We rounded up our top picks here:
1. Our Top Pick
This popular emergency radio from trusted brand Midland (in fact, the only thing this company makes is radios) has all the necessities, plus a few bells and whistles that make this stand out as our top choice. Like any emergency radio, it has a power source that can be used without electricity, but this one has four options available for use: a hand-crank, a USB rechargeable battery, six AA batteries, and a solar panel. It has an NOAA weather scan, but this one goes through seven different weather band channels within 50 miles and will sound an alarm if there is the risk of severe weather in your current location. It also functions as an AM/FM radio and even comes with a USB cable that will quickly and efficiently charge your devices. There is a bright LED flashlight you can use, but this one has three settings: a high setting to garner attention or have better visibility, a low setting to preserve energy, and a Morse Code SOS. Finally, there is an option to release an ultrasonic dog whistle should you be lost or in trouble and hope to attract the attention of a search party. The rechargeable battery can last up to 32 hours (and there's a battery life indicator), plus it has extras like a headphone jack and an LED clock. We think this is by far the best option on the market, and recommend it highly.
2. The Best Budget Option
The RunningSnail radio clocks in at around $20, making it a solid budget option that still has all of the must-have features of its more expensive counterparts. There are three power sources — hand-crank, solar, and the rechargeable USB battery — so you can still use this without electricity. It has AM/FM radio, the NOAA weather scan, and a flashlight for better visibility when you need it. It can also charge your phone, and lasts approximately 10 to 12 hours without needing a battery or solar charge. While this water-resistant radio is great for the basics, it is fairly bare-bones: it's not recommended that you use all three features (flashlight, charging, and radio) at once, and there's only one flashlight setting. If you don't feel you need to have the additional safety features the Midland offers, it's an affordable option that will come in handy if you live somewhere with frequent power outages.
3. The Best Option For The Car
An emergency radio is something you should keep in the glovebox of your car or truck, especially if you tend to drive in areas that don't have a lot of cell service or are exposed to inclement weather. The features that make this Tenergy radio an exceptionally car-friendly option are the small size and weight, the carrying case, and the included batteries and USB cord so you can drop it in your glovebox and forget about it. We also think this a better, more suitable option for the car than our budget pick for some important reasons: it has two different types of lights (a floodlight and a traditional flashlight) and an SOS siren as well. The added light sources and siren could be life-saving if you're not equipped with additional emergency gear the way you might be at home or on a campsite. It also has AM/FM and NOAA radio access and the ability to charge your phone. The radio will last up to 14 hours without needing a recharge, while the light will last up to 10.
Enjoy the outdoors?
Sign up for daily stories delivered straight to your inbox.