Do you live in an area that sees inclement weather far too often? A good weather radio can help you to stay on top of alerts. These devices are not very common anymore, so I’ve gathered a list of recommendations for the best weather radios for an emergency.
We will cover what makes a weather radio different from a normal radio, and look at what factors to consider before buying one!
Comparison Table of the 7 Best Weather Radios For Emergency
What is a Weather Radio?
A weather radio is a special type of radio that receives emergency alerts for severe weather events and other hazardous issues. It transmits information on national disasters, thunderstorms, and terrorist threats.
The alerts are official, which means the Canadian and US governments broadcast them over high-frequency radio stations. The weather station in the United States is operated by NOAA.
Weather radios can be emergency or desktop. They can also be categorized as weather radios or weather alert radios. A portable weather radio is ideal so you can stay informed wherever you’re going.
NOAA provides three types of alerts: watch, warning, and advisory. It issues a watch when hazardous weather could potentially come and cause severe damage Warnings are more urgent since they pose a threat that needs immediate action.
An advisory is a statement for less severe events. They could cause minor inconveniences to the public, such as travel hazards. Emergency alerts and statements don’t pose a threat, including a power outage or follow-up messages.
Desktop Weather Radio vs. Emergency Radio
Desktop weather radio and emergency radio are the two primary types of weather radios you should consider. Learning the differences between the two will help you decide which one to get.
Desktop Weather Radio
Desktop radios are self-explanatory. They are bulky devices that sit on your tabletop and use the AC outlet for power.
Most, if not all, units feature a clock, so it doubles as a bedside alarm clock. These traditional weather radios provide hyper-local weather alerts even if you have no batteries. It includes a battery compartment, which doesn’t always mean you can take it anywhere.
Desktop weather radios are too heavy and oversized to carry around. It’s a good idea to have a separate model for outdoor adventures or evacuating during a natural calamity.
Some desktop weather radios also have a digital display that shows “watch,” “warning,” or “advisory.” They also display what kind of emergency is coming, such as a tornado, hurricane, flooding, or thunderstorm.
Emergency radios are portable versions of the desktop weather radio. Companies design these tools for “off-grid” situations, power outages, and backpacking trips. Emergency radios should be shockproof and weatherproof so you can carry them around.
It doesn’t primarily run on an AC outlet but its internal battery. Most brands also feature rechargeable batteries like a hand crank or solar power for more convenient usage.
You can find several emergency radios with an integrated flashlight. It’s a favorite feature among preppers, survivalists, and adventurers who like doing nighttime activities.
Other models feature charging stations for your phones to make emergency calls.
An emergency radio is a fantastic choice for all families. This lifesaver fits inside the emergency kit to keep you updated about current weather news.
Overall, an emergency radio has more benefits than a desktop weather radio. It’s more versatile, compact, and ideal for indoor and outdoor use. Only use a desktop weather radio if you want to get alerts at home, even when you’re asleep.
Regular Radio vs. Weather Radio vs. Weather Alert Radio
While regular radios can provide news about current situations, a weather radio is still more dependable for emergency situations. Take a look at their main difference.
The regular radio is also known as the AM/FM radio. AM refers to amplitude modulation, while FM means frequency modulation.
AM uses audio signals to change the radio waves’ strength. But it usually picks up electrical noise, so the sound quality isn’t perfect. Meanwhile, FM radios focus not on the strength but on the modulation that changes the radio waves.
The regular radio is ideal for entertainment but not for NOAA weather alerts. The stations do not provide official information on the weather, including watches and warnings.
A weather radio offers official information about the present conditions of the weather and forecasts. It lets you access the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards for advisories, warnings, and watches.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration does not make these radios. They manage the transmitter network while letting manufacturers use its name for their products.
NWR, which stands for NOAA Weather Radio, broadcasts information and warnings about any type of hazard. It keeps you updated about national emergencies, technological emergencies, natural disasters, and more.
Most people combine their weather radio with a home weather station.
Weather Alert Radio
A weather alert radio is different from a weather radio because it automatically receives warnings. Meanwhile, you need to turn on a weather radio before receiving notices.
Your weather alert radio automatically responds when it senses an emergency alert. It provides issued warnings, advisories, and watches even if you’re not listening to music. It does this by overriding other radio functions automatically.
But with a weather radio, you need to press the on button. You also have to tune it to your local weather station before receiving alerts.
If you turn it off because you’re sleeping, it will do nothing when an alert is issued. It won’t wake you up with a loud noise, which can be deadly and dangerous.
Is There a Weather Radio App?
Yes. There are weather apps that give you weather alerts about severe conditions. They provide detailed forecasts, air quality information, radar images, and warnings. NOAA has a mobile application for alerts called the NOAA Weather Radar Live.
It offers real-time radar that shows the changing conditions in your county. You’ll get 24/7 updates and severe weather alerts. You can also access the temperature, precipitation, and other weather variables.
A weather radio app is convenient because it’s more portable. Your smartphone can be an all-in-one tool for getting updates, seeking help, and communicating with your loved ones. However, a weather radio device is still more reliable.
First, the networks and infrastructures that cell phones rely on are more vulnerable than radio. Solar flares and software glitches can instantly ruin the signal and hinder you from receiving alerts.
If a power outage occurs and you don’t have a power bank, it will be impossible to charge your phone and access the weather radio app. Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina are two examples of how unreliable cellular network communication can be.
Emergencies increase the strain on mobile communication, so you can’t always text your loved ones. When you get proper reception to check on people and use your social media, you won’t have any power to access the weather radio.
I also don’t recommend weather apps because they only work when you open them. Some applications do not send notifications unless you open the app. Others require an enabled background data feed, which decreases your battery life.
If you do not have a Wi-Fi connection or cellular data, you won’t receive important alerts. You may only accept them after an hour when the 4G or Wi-Fi is back. They are also not as loud as actual weather radios.
Can I Travel with my Weather Radio?
Yes, you can travel with your NOAA weather radio, as long as the model is suitable for the country. Look for a unit with an on/off switch for travel mode. It will help make traveling easier so you can still get live weather alerts.
But you have to know how to preset your NOAA weather radio for a SAME county code. Learn the code to your location through the National Weather Service’s site.
Don’t buy a weather radio product that does not offer country programming. You’ll have difficulty getting alerts when you go on adventures.
Can I Get Weather Radio Broadcasts in My Vehicle?
It depends on the vehicle that you have. Some automotive brands have a built-in weather radio that can receive alerts about the weather. Check if your current car or the car you want to get has this option.
If your vehicle doesn’t offer this feature, you can tweak your car radio by adding NOAA/SAME functionalities. Ask your manufacturers for professional assistance.
Remember that every station has a corresponding frequency where they transmit alerts. You may consult the official GOV website to program your radio accurately.
Is there a Weather Radio for Aurally Challenged?
If you are aurally challenged or experiencing difficulty hearing, some NOAA radios can cater to your needs. Instead of producing a loud sound for alerts, they either vibrate, blink, or do both.
Manufacturers design these devices to offer visual and tactile features rather than audio. Position yours in a visible area so you can make the most out of these functionalities.
How to Choose a Weather Radio
There are different kinds of weather radios available, but not all are worth trying. To avoid buying the wrong model, consider these factors so you can narrow down your weather radio choices.
NOAA capability is an essential element to look for when buying a weather radio. Suppose you have a specific model in mind, research or ask the salesperson if it has an NOAA-enabled version. Radios with NOAA bands are usually more expensive than their regular counterpart.
Aside from the “NOAA NWR All Hazards” label, you can also look for a “Public Alert” logo. They are two competing standards, but the National Weather Service and NOAA approve of them.
The Public Alert logo means that the unit receives crucial alerts and meets other technical standards. They include hearing a tone before the signal comes, plugging into external devices, and more.
Specific Alert Message Encoding
Look for a radio that offers SAME. Specific Alert Message Encoding is the technology that lets you program certain areas to your radio for alerts. It’s a helpful factor for receiving local alerts and warnings when a disaster hits your city or county.
SAME technology lets you filter out unnecessary alerts for counties far from you. The radio will only give you notifications relevant to your city instead of a state or a multi-county location.
Portability is a massive concern for outdoor enthusiasts who want to stay updated about the weather. Survivalists and preppers would prefer to carry a small unit with extra features, like a flashlight, alarm clock, and charger.
An emergency radio is the best choice for these people because it’s the most compact and lightweight weather radio. They are much smaller than desktop weather radios and require a convenient power source.
However, some portable emergency radios do not offer the SAME technology. Others aren’t also public alert-certified, so choose wisely.
A good weather radio has a solid construction, usually a thick plastic shell on its exterior. If it includes a hand crank, it should not break right away when you drop or beat it. This feature is significant if you need to carry the device all around.
Your radio should withstand destructive elements during dangerous weather events like thunderstorms and twisters. The internal electronics should also be robust, so go for a weather radio from a reputed brand.
Multiple Power Sources
It’s okay to get a battery-operated radio, as long as you’re willing to bring multiple backup batteries. If not, a weather radio with various power sources is more practical. Choose one that accepts power from an AC adapter, a hand crank, and a manual charger.
Emergency radios are supposed to have long battery life. However, if you frequently use the flashlight or charge your phone, you need to increase its power. Always make sure it has enough power to fulfill its primary role, which is to give you alerts.
Emergency radios offer several additional features depending on the model. These functionalities make the device more useful during emergencies. Some other features you might look for include:
- Mobile charger
- Alarm clock
Top 7 Weather Radio Reviews
So, which one should you get? Check out seven of the best weather radios you can try and their unique features.
1. Midland WR-400 Deluxe NOAA Weather Radio
The Midland WR400 is the best emergency weather radio that serves as an alarm clock. This NOAA device also supports weather radio bands AM/FM while featuring four radio presets to make tuning convenient.
You can stay ahead of severe weather events because WR400 allows you to set customizable alerts and link with an external alerting device. Remove marine warnings if you live in a county that faces the water. Or just choose to receive warnings instead of watches.
Even though Midland WR400’s display is too vibrant for some users, its sound quality compensates. The audio updates are clear to the user with no issues regarding the reception. If only the model features better lighting, especially when turning on the “dim” setting.
- Most popular in the market
- Large display
- Receive customizable alerts
- Excellent reception and sound quality
- The display is too bright
2. Midland ER10 Emergency Crank Weather AM/FM Radio
Another reliable Midland model for weather alerts is the ER10. The compact weather radio fits right inside your emergency kit to offer several functions. It contains an SOS emergency flashlight, backup power options, an ultrasonic whistle, and an LED alert.
The compact model is easy to carry around. Take advantage of the solar panels, rechargeable battery, and crank charge for power! Get your USB port and use the radio as a power bank for your gadgets if power outages occur.
One thing I noticed about the Midland ER10 is that it needs battery replacement after several uses. But its weather alert function is excellent. With the best audio quality, it supports both AM and FM signals, along with seven WX channels.
ER10 also has an ultrasonic whistle which other models do not have. It’s beneficial in dangerous situations when rescuing or seeking rescue. You’ll also receive both audio and visual notifications for alarms.
- Multiple power sources for different needs
- It has a unique SOS function
- Made of high-quality materials to withstand severe conditions
- Impressive sound quality
- The battery needs regular replacement
- Not public alert-certified
3. Eton SIDEKICK Ultimate Camping AM/FM/NOAA Radio
The Eton SIDEKICK is an on-the-go weather radio you can take with you to camping and outdoor adventures. It’s one of the few portable radio models that provide NOAA weather alerts and Bluetooth features. There’s also an aux-in port for several entertainment options.
This Weather radio has a back panel that doubles as a reading light for nighttime activities. You can cook your food, read your book, and conveniently find things in the dark. The weather-band radio also receives hyper-local Specific Area Message Encoding alerts.
It’s pretty impressive to find an AM/FM, NOAA weather radio with SAME alerts in a small device. You can also use the SIDEKICK in an emergency scenario, such as extreme weather events. Its durable materials are reliable, making them resistant to water and shock.
Its flashlight function is functional but could use some improvement regarding brightness. Still, the Eton SIDEKICK is a one-of-a-kind weather radio model!
- The compact design makes it perfect for outdoor enthusiasts
- Amazing sound quality
- A mix of entertainment and functionality
- The flashlight is too dim
4. Sangean CL-100 NOAA
The CL-100 is one of Sangean’s best portable weather radios with a fantastic price-to-quality ratio. The underrated brand can live up to Midland’s unique features because it supports the SAME broadcasts and is entirely programmable.
The certified item lets you pick between the 25 county codes and personalize the alerts. It also keeps up to 20 alert notifications with an EEPROM backup system. Unless you suddenly unplug the weather radio, you will never lose anything when utilizing it.
Use it as an alarm clock and hit snooze all you want. You can also personalize the bass and treble for alarms. It operates on HWS or the Human Wake-Up System.
The CL-100 also features an LCD with settings the contrast. Although the screen is small, the digital display is clear and readable. The clock radio gets louder gradually so you can wake up at ease compared to the traditional alarm tone.
Some users report poor battery power. Make sure to bring extra AA batteries wherever you go so you can rely on CL-100’s impressive radio reception.
- Best reception
- It supports 25 SAME codes
- It has five station presets
- RBDS functionality
- Upward display
- Factory reset may occur if you suddenly unplug
- Extra batteries are a must because they drain quickly
5. Eton Scorpion II Emergency Weather Radio & Flashlight
The Eton Scorpion II is the most lightweight and portable emergency weather radio that is an excellent choice for backpacking.
It’s the embodiment of a small but terrible device, with its weatherproof hand-crank feature and multiple power sources.
This device has a powerful 0.5-watt flashlight for its size. It has NOAA Weather, AM, and FM band support for all your needs, along with a USB charging port and a headphone jack. Choose this radio over the Midland ER310 if you prefer a ruggedized casing for your radio.
Scorpion II has a bright LED flashlight that relies on solar power. Even its sound system relies on solar panels with a battery charge indicator. This indicator makes sure you know how much power you have left.
Eton Scorpion II could do better with longer battery life. Emergency radios need to have a high capacity for disaster situations. But Eton only has an 800mAh capacity. It also doesn’t quickly charge your phones and other electronic devices.
- Easy to take anywhere you go
- Robust yet lightweight construction
- It has a carabiner
- Affordable price point
- It does not feature the SAME technology
- Low battery capacity
6. Sangean MMR-88 Emergency Radio
The MMR-88 is Sangean’s second-best model after the CL-100. You can operate this weather alert radio using a crank or solar power. The DSP digital AM/FM/WX tuner ensures that the audio quality is impressive, so you can enjoy up to 19 presets on the device.
Sangean also has 850 mAh batteries that are ideal for daily use. However a higher battery capacity is still superior, especially when backpacking or experiencing a natural disaster. Included in the package is a USB cable for charging devices like mobile phones and other devices.
One of MMR-88’s best features is its flashlight. You can adjust it to high, low, blinking, or SOS to serve different functions such as an emergency signal. Use it for everyday activities or emergencies.
The only unfavorable feature I noticed is its bulkiness. Despite its brightness, the flashlight radio is hard to carry when you’re walking long distances. It’s much better to get a compact flashlight with the same brightness.
Sangean could also do better with its reception. Its radio signals are weaker compared to the CL-100. That’s why its excellent audio becomes useless when it can’t catch audible alerts in terrible weather.
- It includes several preset radio stations
- Flashlight with many settings
- Excellent audio quality
- Weak reception
- Too bulky
- No disposable alkaline batteries
7. Kaito KA700 Bluetooth Radio
Last on the list is Kaito KA700, a weather radio that makes a solid choice for those who want additional features. You can charge it in three ways, and one is through its patented 180-degree solar panel.
It also has a USB input for iOS and Android devices, allowing you to charge your phone wherever you are which is great in the event of emergencies. Use its red LED SOS beacon light, bright LED flashlight, and 5-LED reading lamp.
Customers also enjoy the fantastic sound quality of Kaito. It has a plug-n-play feature for an MP3 player. Weather enthusiasts and techies categorize the model as an entertainment radio more than a weather one. But the device can be both!
Kaito has comprehensive broadcast coverage that includes AM, FM, and a network of radio stations with automatic alerts. If you don’t like the music on the DM radio, switch to wireless audio streaming using your Bluetooth device.
KA700’s sound quality is average. Anyone looking for a regular radio might think it’s not a dealbreaker. But if you compare it to other products, Kaito is much quieter. The crank also doesn’t charge more quickly than other emergency models.
- It has a Bluetooth connection and an MP3 player
- Many charging methods
- Battery backup
- Quiet sound
- Ill-performing hand crank
- Not public alert-certified
The Midland WR-400 is the best NOAA weather radio for everyone, followed by the Midland ER10 and Eton SIDEKICK. Experts and casual users love it because of its excellent reception. And compared to the Sangean MMR-88, it receives alerts in remote areas.
The weather radio also features 25 programmable areas and 80 weather and emergency alerts. That’s a lot compared to Kaito KA700’s seven pre-programmed weather channels. Other notable features include a large display, compact size, customizable alerts, and an alarm clock.
A good weather radio should be portable, SAME-enabled, and durable. And this product ticks every essential feature of a weather radio off the list! For more great recommendations, check out our list of the best greenhouse thermometers!
Last update on 2023-12-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API