We wrote here in July about the evolution of the emergency radio.
In addition to providing access to AM/FM/SW/Weather broadcasts and backup power during unforeseen circumstances, these rugged radios can be useful in everyday life.
Radio World asked Nicole Adams, a wilderness enthusiast who enjoys camping, backpacking, hiking and canoeing — she has scaled Mount Kilimanjaro — to rank several emergency radios for outdoor use.
(“I am often accompanied by my beloved chocolate lab BonBon on my canoe trips,” said Adams. “Unfortunately, she is much better at retrieving than paddling!”)
#6: Sangean MMR-88
An AM/FM/Weather/handcrank/solar/emergency alert radio
The Sangean MMR-88 “has a clunky design and the battery is too small for the size of the device,” says Adams, “but it’s compact and has a full suite of features — digital display, solar and dynamo charging, flashlight and a decent sound. The MMR-88 has a USB port as well, which is a vital feature in today’s highly connected era. It would be a good fit with any camper’s gear, but I wouldn’t recommend it over any of the others.”
Best feature: Has everything you need in a compact size
Worst feature: 850 mA battery is too small
#5: Kaito KA500
An Emergency AM/FM/SW/NOAA Weather Alert Radio with solar, dynamo crank, flashlight and reading lamp
“The Kaito KA500 was the second-largest of the radios I reviewed,” said Adams, “nearly the size of the C. Crane device by volume. It’s well-designed with a strong battery, all the same features as the rest, and has a rugged and solid design. But the KA500 lacks a digital radio display, and while it does everything well, it comes up just short of the other models I tested.”
Best feature: Rugged design
Worst feature: Size
#4: RunningSnail MD-090
Solar and crank AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with flashlight, reading lamp and 2000mAh power bank
The RunningSnail MD-090 was “the most pleasant surprise of the bunch,” Adams said. “It’s slightly smaller than the Sangean MMR-88, but with a much stronger battery and a solid design to it. The MD090 lacks the MMR-88’s digital display, but that’s the only downside of this emergency radio. It’s sleek, strong, has all the same features as the other five radios I tried, and deserves its place in the top 3.”
Best feature: Battery strength relative to radio size
Worst feature: Lack of digital display
#3: CCRadio Solar Digital Radio
A windup and solar emergency radio with AM, FM, NOAA Weather, built-in LED flashlight and cellphone charger.
“The CCRadio Solar Digital Radio is a huge upgrade over the previous model” — C. Crane’s analog dial/display CC Solar Observer, still on sale for $59.99 — “with a compact, full-functioning design where no space is wasted,” said Adams. “This radio has all the same features as the others, with the much-needed USB port embedded in the device, which the previous model was sorely lacking. The sound quality and sensitivity of the radio is excellent, the lithium-ion rechargeable battery has a solid capacity, and this model has a large solar charging panel relative to its size.”
Best feature: Wide range of attributes
Worst feature: Clunky design
#1 and #2: Eton Scorpion II and Eton Sidekick
AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radios
“This is a toss-up,” said Adams, “because the two best radios are excellent but for very different reasons. Both are Eton models; I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide which is better depending on their needs.”
For backpacking, Nicole Adams prefers the Eton Scorpion II.
“The Scorpion II is the lightest and smallest of all the radios on this list, and it has all the best features including solar and dynamo charging, digital radio display, flashlight, rugged and solid build, USB port and rechargeable battery,” she said.
“The small capacity of the battery is a weak point if you need a lot of power, but given how small the Scorpion II is, this is a great radio for those trips where every ounce of weight makes a difference. It also has a strong metal clip on the top, so you can clip it to your backpack as you hike, and let the sun charge it for you. The smallest radio by volume and weight, this is my top choice for either backpacking trips or solo canoe trips.”
Best feature: Compact size
Worst feature: Small 800mAh battery
Meanwhile, she ranked the Eton Sidekick as #1 for canoeing or leisurely camping.
“It has the strongest battery of the bunch, plus many more features than its competitors. The Sidekick is the same size as the Voyager KA500 and slightly smaller than the CC Solar Observer, but it has a digital display, USB port, alarm clock, all the same radio bands, and even has Bluetooth capability, which makes it unique among the radios I sampled. You could play evening music from your phone using the Bluetooth, then charge both of them with the device’s solar panel the next day.
“If you can spare the space, and you’re looking for a radio that can do everything well, this is the top choice. I would take it on a tandem or group canoeing trip, where I expected to be out in the woods for a while.”
Best feature: The Sidekick has everything
Worst feature: Large size due to 2600 mAh battery