Best Portable Radio For Emergencies & To Keep You Connected

Best Portable Radio For Emergencies & To Keep You Connected

Looking for the best portable radio for emergencies? Our expert team has tested and reviewed the top models on the market. Find the perfect one for your needs and budget in our comprehensive guide.

In today’s high-tech world with mobile phones, smartwatches and other electronic devices, why would you need a portable radio?

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Well, have you ever found yourself in the middle of an extended power failure and your mobile phone is also flat? Unless you have a solar-powered charger and the sun is shining, a portable radio might be your only connection to the outside world during emergency situations.

old style portable radio resting on some books

Many portable radios have at least dual power sources. You can either plug them into a wall socket or they can run on batteries. Some can even be solar-charged while others include a hand crank in case everything else fails. 

These units can come in very handy when you’re in the middle of a weather emergency as they might be your only source of reliable information.

And, do you realize that compared to other types of media such as television and newspapers, radio still remains the top medium for mass communication since its inception in the 1890s?

A Portable Radio Is A Necessity During A Weather Emergency

dark storm clouds over an open field

If you’re in the middle of a weather emergency or there’s one about to happen in your area, you can get regular updates from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

This federal body will broadcast weather alerts and warnings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This means that you’ll always be in the know as to what’s going on and what you should do to stay safe.

Not only is this type of information important while you’re at home but it’s also absolutely crucial if you’re out hiking or camping in a remote part of the country.

In fact, in many rural and remote areas, radio still remains the most reliable form of communication.

So, now that you know why you need a portable radio, let’s look at the factors to consider when selecting the best portable radio for your needs.

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Portable Radio

When it comes to selecting the perfect portable radio, you might find yourself facing a sea of options, each with its own bells and whistles. While this can be confusing, there are certain important factors that I’m going to explain to make your choice easier. 

Here are the most important factors that you should consider when choosing the perfect portable radio for your needs.

two young hikers with backpacks

Intended Use: Your Radio, Your Way

Before anything else, think about how you want to use the radio. Are you planning a few outdoor activities like hiking, camping, or beach outings? 

Or perhaps you’re looking for a reliable companion during power outages or natural disasters? Your radio’s intended use will greatly influence the features you should prioritize.

Portability: Size Does Matter

The whole point of a portable radio is, well, portability! Therefore, you want to select a portable radio that’s going to fit your purpose. 

For example, do you want one small enough to fit into your pocket? Or, will you be sliding it into your backpack? Then again, you might just want one that will fit comfortably in the glove compartment of your car.

Therefore, check out the dimensions of each model to make sure that it’s going to meet your needs.

Power Options: Stay Juiced Up

Some portable radios are powered by traditional AA or AAA batteries, while others also have a power cord or a solar charger. Think about your access to power sources – are you okay with changing batteries frequently, or do you prefer the convenience of recharging via USB or solar panels?

close up of radio dial

Reception: Tune In Clearly

No one wants a radio that’s all static and no substance. Consider the quality of reception, especially if you’re planning to use your radio in remote areas. 

Look for radios with good sensitivity and a strong signal range to ensure you can catch your favorite stations or emergency broadcasts without frustrating interruptions.

Audio Quality: Crisp and Clear Sound

It’s important that the audio quality is clear enough so that you can hear exactly what’s being said. There’s nothing worse than listening to an emergency weather warning when the information is garbled and you can’t make out what is being said.

Durability: Built to Last

If you’re going to take your portable radio into the great outdoors, you want to ensure that it’s not going to fall apart the first time you drop it. Or, that it will stop working if it gets wet during a particularly heavy shower of rain.

When looking at different portable radios, consider some of the extra features such as shockproofing and water resistance. This will ensure that your radio will last for more than just one camping trip. 

Additional Features: More Than Just Radio

While you can settle for just a basic model, you might also want to consider whether additional features might come in handy.

For example, would a built-in flashlight come in useful during a power emergency? Or, would you like the ability to charge your smartphone when you’re nowhere near a power source?

If these features sound like they might be useful, look for them in the portable radio you want to buy.

Budget: Finding the Sweet Spot

Whenever you make any kind of purchasing decision, it’s important to keep your budget in mind. The portable radios we’re going to review come at various price points.

This ensures that there’s bound to be at least one or two that will easily fit into your budget.

So, now that you know the important things to consider when purchasing a portable radio, let’s have a look at the top choices that our team has come up with.

9 Best Portable Radios

Here are nine portable radios that the team considered both excellent value and well worth the investment to ensure that you can be connected no matter where you are or what you’re facing.

#1 – Midland NOAA Emergency Weather Alert Radio (WR120B)

Midland WR120B NOAA Emergency Weather alert radio

Main Features:

  • Connectivity – USB
  • Tuner Technology – AM
  • Power Source – AC & Battery backup
  • Dimensions – 6 x 5 x 1.5 inches
  • Weight – 1 pound
  • Special Features – Built-in clock

If you’re just looking for a portable radio that will send you automatic weather alerts, then this small-size model from Midland might just be the right one for you.

The radio can receive 7 NOAA channels to give you warnings of upcoming weather events such as floods, thunderstorms, tornadoes and any other type of weather emergencies.

You can receive weather alerts in a variety of different ways including a 90 decibel siren, a voice alert or a flashing LED warning light system. 

Although this unit runs on AC power, it can also utilize three AA alkaline batteries as an emergency power backup if you happen to suffer a power outage.

You can easily program the radio so that it only provides you with the warnings that you want to be alerted to in your local area and how you want to be alerted. 

There’s also a built-in clock which can be quite handy during a power outage and when your phone has run out of charge.

Here’s a video that explains all the features of this portable radio:

ProsCons
Small and compactYou have to turn on the weather radio switch on the side of the unit to get alerts
Great for receiving weather alertsIt needs to be plugged into a power outlet on its own to avoid interference.
Programmable
Built-in clock
Battery backup power source

#2 – Powerbear Portable AM/FM Radio

Powerbear Portable AM/FM Radio

Main Features:

  • Connectivity – Auxiliary
  • Tuner Technology – AM/FM
  • Power Source – 2 x AA Batteries
  • Dimensions – 4.6 2.7 1.1 inches
  • Weight – 3.4 ounces
  • Compatible With – Earphones and headphones

If you’re looking for a small portable radio that can easily fit into your pocket or your backpack, you might want to consider this one from PowerBear.

It features both AM and FM channels and is easy to program to the station you want. This allows you to listen to your favorite station when all is fine or tune into a local news station if the weather is looking a bit threatening.

The unit is powered by two AA batteries and it has a long battery life of over 800 hours. This makes it perfect for taking on your next camping trip or long-distance hike no matter how remote you’re going to be. It has a long-range antenna so you should be able to get a radio signal almost anywhere.

The radio also has a 3.5mm headphone jack so you can listen to the horse racing without bothering anyone else who might be nearby.

ProsCons
Very compactTuning can be a bit touchy
Runs on 2 AA batteriesDoes not stand up on its own
Long-range antenna
Easily switch between AM or FM
Built-in headphone port
Good sound quality

#3 – Panasonic RF-2400D Portable AM/FM Radio

Panasonic RF-2400D Portable AM/FM Radio 

Main Features:

  • Tuner Technology – AM/FM
  • Power Source – AC & Batteries
  • Dimensions – 14 x 6.25 x 10.5 inches
  • Weight – 1 pound
  • Compatible With – 3.5 mm headphone jack

This portable radio is a little larger than the previous two but is still small enough to be portable. It has a carry handle so you can take it wherever you want to use it easily.

The radio features a large dial for tuning in your favorite station whether on AM or FM bands. You can either plug this radio into an AC power source or pop 4 x AA batteries in so that it can be used away from home or in the event of a power outage.

This is a great little radio with basic functions that will keep you company while you’re camping or during an extended power outage.

ProsCons
Large dial for easy tuningOnly supports mono and not stereo headphones
AC or battery power sourceTuning can be a little touchy
Handy carry handle
Headphone jack
Good sound quality

#4 – FosPower NOAA Emergency Weather Radio

FosPower NOAA Emergency Weather Radio

Main Features:

  • Connectivity – USB
  • Tuner Technology – AM/FM
  • Power Source – Solar power, crank handle & AAA batteries
  • Dimensions – 6.2 x 2.1 x 2.9 inches
  • Weight – 11 ounces
  • Compatible With – tablets and smartphones
  • Special Features – water resistant, 2000 MAh powerbank, reading light, flashlight

This is the perfect portable radio for all types of situations. It features an AM/FM radio with an easy-tuning dial. In addition, it has a solar panel for charging and also allows you to charge your smartphone or other devices.

This makes it the perfect companion for taking on camping trips out in the wilderness. The unit also has two LED light sources – a reading light and a flashlight. So, if you’re lost in the middle of nowhere in the dark and your GPS can’t work out where you are, you can get out your trusty paper map and read it!

The team also really liked the rugged construction of this unit which makes it drop-proof and also water-resistant. So, if you’re caught out in the rain, your radio will still work even when everything else fails.

And, if the batteries run flat and you haven’t seen any sun in days, the crank handle can help you power the radio when you need it the most.

To top it all off, the radio is also able to receive NOAA emergency weather broadcasts but needs to be tuned to the NOAA weather station. As long as you tune it in, you’ll be forewarned when some inclement weather is heading your way.

Here’s a great video that explains all the features of this portable radio and how to use them:

ProsCons
Compact sizeYou have to tune in the NOAA weather station manually
Various power source capabilitiesNo headphone jack
Emergency charge for phone
2 LED lights
SOS switch for NOAA broadcasts
Pull out antenna for better reception

#5 – Midland Emergency Crank Weather AM & FM Portable Radio (ER310)

Midland Emergency Crank Weather AM & FM Portable Radio (ER310)

Main Features:

  • Connectivity – USB cable
  • Tuner Technology – AM/FM
  • Power Source – Solar, Micro USB charger & crank handle
  • Dimensions – 8 x 2.4 x 3.4 inches
  • Weight – 1 pound
  • Compatible With – headphones
  • Special Features – Built-in flashlight & SOS strobe, headphone jack, smartphone charger

This is a more feature-rich portable radio from Midland than the basic model we reviewed earlier at a slightly higher price-point. It features both AM and FM radio tuning and has multiple power sources.

It has a solar charger, can be charged via the Micro USB port and includes a rechargeable battery which is replaceable. If all of that fails, there’s also a crank handle. For additional backup power, the unit can also be powered by 6 AA batteries. This makes it perfect for outdoor use.

In case of an emergency, the radio has an SOS flashlight beacon that can flash Morse code. You also have the option to select the low brightness function in order to conserve the battery.

For NOAA weather alerts, the radio can scan through the 7 available weather channels to find the one with the strongest signal. If a current weather alert is in force, the radio will sound an alarm to let you know.

On top of all of that functionality, you have the option to charge your electronic devices when you’re away from a reliable power source. This can be very handy when you’re camping. And, there’s also an ultrasonic dog whistle that can be used to alert search and rescue teams if you happen to get lost.

Here’s a video that highlights all the features:

ProsCons
Highly portable & compact radioThere’s a hidden switch that you have to toggle to run the unit on AA batteries
Receives weather alertsThe instruction manual is not as clear as it could be
Multiple power sources
Built-in flashlight
SOS strobe light
Can charge your electronic devices
Long battery life

#6 – Midland Weather Emergency Radio Deluxe (WR400)

Midland Weather Emergency Radio Deluxe (WR400)

Main Features:

  • Connectivity – USB cable
  • Tuner Technology – AM/FM
  • Power Source – AC or batteries
  • Dimensions – 7 x 5.5 x 2.2 inches
  • Weight – 0.5 pounds
  • Special Features – Time & alarm clock, USB port

Here’s another weather alert portable radio from Midland which has a number of good features. The weather alert function is fully programmable. You can receive automated alerts either by voice, a flashing display or a loud siren alarm.

This means that even if you’re listening to the radio on either an AM or FM station, the weather alert will override this to give you the necessary alert.

For those who want to stay totally up to date with any type of weather situation, there’s the option of programming in your local county and the types of alerts you want to be made aware of. This includes around 80 different emergency alerts.

The radio can either be plugged into an AC power socket or you can use 4 AA batteries to power it. This is particularly useful during inclement weather conditions when you suffer a power outage.

The unit also has a digital display clock which can be used as an alarm clock as well.

Here’s a video that shows the features of this weather radio and how to set it up and program it:

ProsCons
Get a wide range of weather alertsCan suffer from poor reception in some areas
AM/FM radioVery bright digital display
Uses AC or battery power
Fully programmable
Alarm clock with snooze function
USB port to charge devices

#7 – Kaito AM/FM Solar Powered Portable Radio (KA500)

Kaito AM/FM Solar Powered Portable Radio (KA500)

Main Features:

  • Connectivity – USB cable
  • Tuner Technology – AM/FM/SW
  • Power Source – AC, Solar, Micro USB charging port, crank handle or AA batteries
  • Dimensions – 9.3 x 2.3 x 5.3 inches
  • Weight – 1.48 pounds
  • Compatible With – smartphones
  • Special Features – Water resistant. USB Charge port, LED reading light & flashlight, and headphone jack

This is a durable and water-resistant portable radio with a number of good features. The team particularly liked the fact that you can use multiple power sources to keep this unit charged. It contains a NiMH rechargeable battery that is also replaceable.

This can be charged using any AC power outlet, the micro USB charging port, the included solar panel or the crank handle. You also have the option to install 3 AA batteries for extra backup.

For better reception, there’s a 14.5 inch extendable antenna so that you can listen to the radio stations that you want to or get NOAA weather alerts.

You also have the ability to charge your other electronic devices when you’re away from home or there’s a power failure.

The 7 weather channels are automatically programmed into the radio so you can select the one that works best for you. And, if you set the radio to “alert” mode, it will automatically alert you when a weather emergency is coming your way.

ProsCons
Multiple power sourcesThe rechargeable battery is quite small
Automatic weather alertsThe solar panel will take a long time to recharge the battery
Can charge electronic devices
Built-in flashlight
Durable & water-resistant

#8 – Retekess AM/FM Portable Radio (TR604)

Retekess AM/FM Portable Radio (TR604)

Main Features:

  • Tuner Technology – AM/FM
  • Power Source – AC and batteries
  • Dimensions – 8.66 x 2.44 x 5.71 inches
  • Weight – 2.2 pounds
  • Compatible With – Earphones

This is a very classic style portable radio that also allows you to receive 7 NOAA stations. You can only listen to the weather forecasts on these stations but you won’t receive any alerts on this classic radio.

The radio has the option of connecting to a power outlet or you can use it with 3 D-size batteries in the event of a power failure. This also means that you can take the radio with you anywhere.

This is the perfect radio for when you’re out working in the shed or the garage or to keep you in touch with the outside world when you’re suffering a lengthy power outage at home.

You could also take it camping or boating so that you always know what’s happening with the weather. And, you can listen to your favorite music or talk-back radio stations as well.

ProsCons
Easy to operateHeadphone jack is mono
Convenient carry handleTuning can be touchy
AC or batteriesVolume control is overly sensitive
Telescopic antenna for good receptionDoes not have a lot of features
3.5mm earphone jack

#9 – C. Crane Portable Analog Radio (EP-Pro)

C. Crane Portable Analog Radio (EP-Pro)

Main Features:

  • Connectivity – Auxiliary
  • Tuner Technology – AM/FM
  • Power Source – AC and Batteries
  • Dimensions – 11.4 x 2.75 x 7.3 Inches
  • Weight – 3.1 pounds
  • Compatible With – Stereo Headphones
  • Special Features – Bass & treble control

If you’re just after a portable radio that allows you to listen to your favorite radio stations, we’ve left the best till last. This quality unit has simple controls that offer superior sensitivity with great reception. It allows you to select the right channel with ease.

It also features separate bass and treble adjustments so that you can easily dial in the sound you prefer.  C. Crane is also well-known for having the best AM reception so that you can listen to your favorite local radio stations.

The unit runs on 4 D-size batteries or a 6volt AC adapter which is included.

The tuning display is lit so that you can easily select the correct channel even in the dark. 

There’s also a ⅛” stereo headphone jack and a ⅛” AUX in jack.

Here’s a great video from C Crane that gives you some insight on how to select the perfect radio for your needs.

ProsCons
Easy to tuneHas a tendency to stray off a station while playing
Excellent audio quality
Earphone jack
Runs on AC or batteries
Fold down carry handle
Telescopic antenna

Tips On How To Improve The Reception And Audio Quality On Your Portable Radio

Here are some top tips from the manufacturers of C Crane radios on how you can improve the reception and audio quality of your portable radio.

  • Make sure that you fully extend the antenna and rotate it when dialing in FM stations.
  • To improve AM reception, try turning the radio in different directions.
  • More your radio away from other electronic devices such as computers or TVs as these can interfere with the reception.
  • Try running the radio on batteries instead of plugging it into a power outlet. Sometimes, interference can be transmitted through AC power lines.
  • If you’re having trouble getting decent reception indoors, it could be that you’re in a brick, concrete, stucco or metal building. These buildings can greatly reduce your radio reception.
  • Consider purchasing an external antenna if you find that you get poor reception indoors.

Frequently Asked Questions

When did portable radios become common?

The transistor (the first portable radio) was first invented in 1947. It’s interesting to note that the portable radio was the most popular communication device until around 2010.

What can block radio waves?

Radio waves can be blocked by a solid metal sheet. In addition, radio frequencies can be blocked by aluminum and copper.

​In Summary

There are many reasons why you might be looking for a portable radio. Perhaps, you just want to listen to your favorite radio stations while you’re working in the garage. Or, you might want a lightweight portable radio that you can take camping or hiking so that you stay connected. 

However, many people like to have a portable radio on hand at home so that they can be alerted about weather emergencies and stay prepared.

Whatever your needs are, the portable radios that our team has reviewed will fit your purpose and your budget. The one you select will depend on the features that you’re looking for and how much you want to spend. Nevertheless, buying a portable radio that will keep you connected when nothing else works is definitely a good and wise investment.