Best Budget Emergency Radios – Sticking it Close on the Go

This is our official list in search of the best budget emergency radios on the market today. Scroll further down for full details on each product and a brief overview of what emergency radios are and how they should be chosen.

In the event of power outages due to natural disasters or local power issues, the emergency radio has been one of the staple mobile electronic gadgets to help people stay in touch with the outside world for decades.

Today, even with the popularity of modern mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, having an emergency radio can still be considered a worthwhile purchase. Save for the more classic, battery-operated models, emergency radios are always designed to be independent. They are built to be used anywhere, anytime, allowing users to use it for a variety of different purposes even in the event of a widescale network outage.

That being said, just buying any available emergency radio would just not do, and we have provided a list of top modern models that you should look out for.

1.) iRonsnow Radio (2018 ver.)  

As far compact and easy to hand goes, the iRonsnow radio takes the first spot on our list with its 5-inch long 1.6-inch wide body. Certainly not unique in its portability when compared to others in this list, but a handy device it is nonetheless.

Aside from its AM/FM radio, the iRonsnow Radio ‘s basic features include a 3-LED flashlight, a tiny solar panel, a hand crank, 300 mAh internal battery, as well as several ports and slots to charge your mobile devices. While 300 mAh might seem insufficient in terms of maximized use, it is often enough to keep the radio and flashlight on, though a bit of vigorous hand-cranking is required to keep mobile devices charged for an extended period of time.

This particular emergency radio takes the first spot on the list as it is the cheapest out of all five.

Pros

  • Battery life is surprisingly long. (for the 1000 mAh version at least)
  • Has an almost ergonomic design that fits firmly on the hand.
  • Best features for its price.

Cons

  • Needs extra care in handling its small form factor when cranking.

($) Check prices on Amazon

2.) Safe-T-Proof Emergency Radio  

The Safe-T-Proof emergency radio seems to be a step up further to the last entry, with its even more flashlight-centric look. Most of its important features are still strikingly visible, as you would expect from a slightly larger 7-inch body.

Features mainly consist of the similar AM/FM radio, flashlight, solar panel, hand crank, and an unrated internal battery. This particular model, however, also features a blinker and a siren. It has 2 ports for charging your mobile phones, and a single USB port for direct charging for more updated versions of the model.

Its overall design suggests its use as a passive device, to be held charged and ready for disasters or emergencies. Its slightly lower charge rate, however, somewhat offsets this, making it more of an on-the-go portable device instead.

Pros

  • Handy design makes it better to use on-the-go.
  • Internal battery plus USB port on newer models amps its convenience factor.
  • Blinker and siren for use in calling emergencies.

Cons

  • No charge indicator.
  • Relatively low charge rate on both hand-crank and solar.

($) Check prices on Amazon

3.) The American Red Cross FRX3  

The American Red Cross FRX3 sports an unusual box design, varied from most other entries on this list with its build as a desk item. This also highlights its most recognizable difference: its weird side flashlight.

Everything else, however, is pointed and centered. The AM/FM weather broadcast radio, alarm clack, AAA battery slots, USB ports, headphone jack, hand crank, and a LED flashing beacon. It can even play music from an external MP3 playing device via AUX-input.

Perhaps most useful of all, it has a special alert function that is synced with emergency alerts from weather radio broadcasts, so you can’t miss out on the latest news during a disaster or emergency.

Pros

  • Integrated weather report functions.
  • Has various features that are entertainment-centric.
  • Comes in a regular form factor that is very easy to keep and store.

Cons

  • A bit clunky to use as a flashlight.
  • Much pricier than others in this list.

($) Check prices on Amazon

4.) Ivation Emergency Radio  

The Ivation hand-cranked and solar-powered emergency radio sports a sleek, tapered look, with its handle at the tail end. While this may seem strange at a glance this is actually optimal in holding the device downwards, with its 5-inch length and 1.8-inch thickness.

As for its innards, the standard slew of emergency features is available. First is the AM/FM radio, followed by its white flashlight, 2.5-inch by 1.5 inch solar panel, and (AAA) 800 mAh Ni-mH battery. It is equipped with 4 adapters for charging and connecting to various devices, and has a USB port for direct charging.

Like the iRonsnow emergency radio, it has a really low introductory price point. Though to be fair, this may also be the reason why its look and finish doesn’t seem as polished either.

Pros

  • Surprisingly charges (relatively) fast via hand-cranking.
  • Very bright, powerful white flashlight.
  • Best features for its price.

Cons

  • Has a rather cheap, plasticky finish on top of its premium rubber feel.

($) Check prices on Amazon

5.) RunningSnail Emergency Radio  

The RunningSnail emergency radio delivers a form factor that is perhaps the most familiar as a classic emergency radio. Nevertheless, it still has all the necessary integrated features, with a little boost for each of them as well.

Standing behind its (rather) impressive 2000 mAh internal battery is a reliable AM/FM radio, an adjustable solar panel and hand crank, and the all-familiar ports and connectors to different standard mobile devices. This is even supported by its AAA battery slot, for added extra power when there is just no time for hand cranking and solar charging.

Literally, its wide energy options are the best thing about RunningSnail, allowing this particular model to last a very long time for that sudden extended emergency.

Pros

  • Huge capacity internal battery.
  • Wide and stable radio reception range.
  • Varied energy provision methods make it a very convenient choice.

Cons

  • Dial may be too small and sensitive for fine radio tuning.

($) Check prices on Amazon

Beginner’s Guide in Choosing Emergency Radios

Emergency radios may seem simple enough as a device, but they provide many other different features. Things such as device connectivity and various levels of lighting will affect its application in actual emergency situations. That being said, it is important first and foremost that any emergency radio should have a sufficiently wide and stable reception range, as well as the battery power to keep tuned to the radio station for as long as possible.

Who can benefit?

Emergency radios are for everyone. This may sound obvious and intuitive, but they are not to be bought in the event of the emergency. They should be purchased before any emergency even takes place. Therefore, anyone who is in need for critical weather updates, or quick lighting, or alternative method of charging devices, should need and want an emergency radio sooner or later.

What to look for?

Because a stable AM/FM function and good solar/hand crank options are already the basis of a good emergency radio, the things that you actually have to look for when looking for a particular model are:

  • Battery options – assess the available energy options of an emergency radio. The more the options, the better.
  • Internal battery charge – If the model is using an internal battery, check if it can last for several hours, or if it can be charged quickly.
  • Device connectivity – Make sure that the emergency radio connects to your device, should you need an alternative charging method.
  • Lighting – the emergency radio model should have at least one usable lighting installation.

Other options things to look out for in an emergency radio could be:

  • Weather updates – it might be to consider buying models that can directly tune in to official weather radio stations for specific updates.
  • Alarms – In the event of being stranded during a natural disaster, an alarm function may help rescuers find you faster.

What to avoid?

Due to the sheer similarity of most emergency radio models, there are no direct pointers on what to avoid. However, do be wary that price may wildly change among brands. What’s cheap may not necessarily be of significantly low quality and vice versa. If in doubt, always go for the cheapest possible with the most features and/or bigger battery pack.

FAQs

1.) How long do I have to crank the radio before it recharges up?

  • One minute of cranking usually adds 10 more minutes of radio time. You can extrapolate from there.

2.) Can I charge my devices using the built-in solar panel?

  • Yes, but you have to wait for the internal battery itself to be charged first.

3.) Can I just plug it into an outlet to charge?

  • Typically yes. Most emergency radios have USB ports that can be plugged with mobile phone chargers to charge from an outlet.

4.) My smartphone isn’t charging with it. What should I do?

  • Wait. Emergency radio chargers are not as fast as your average outlet charger. Also, it would help to turn off your phone first.

5.) What should be done if radio signal reception sometimes isn’t good?

  • You may have to ground the radio to boost its signal, a topic which is beyond the scope of this guide.

Conclusion

Emergency radios may not be as savvy and as multi-purpose as a modern mobile device, but it still provides a good host of features that would most likely be far more helpful in situations where necessity is more of a concern than standard convenience. Just remember how emergency radios are originally designed for and you will always have a good general idea on the particular options that you would need.

Written by Chris Crisostomo

Chris is a straight up lifelong self-described tech nerd. He's one of e-Ranker's technology and electronics experts.

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