Best Weather Radio & Emergency Radio Reviews for NOAA Alerts in 2018

Severe weather can strike at any time, and when it strikes, your power might go out, and communication networks may go down. It’s not wise to assume that our modern technology will work no matter. What if your computer, TV and mobile phone stopped working in a disaster situation? Who would warn you of an incoming tornado? Where would you go for information? And, how would you communicate with the authorities? Most people would be left in the dark during a serious weather event. Don’t be caught off guard—be prepared with a NOAA weather radio in your home and workplace.

A weather radio with a backup power source is the only truly reliable medium to receive weather and disaster alerts so you can stay in touch with what’s going on around you. These special radios receive alerts as soon as they’re issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The best weather radios are equipped with technology that automatically turns the radio on when alerts are broadcasted, so you’ll be ready in case of any severe events, from tornadoes and hurricanes to fires and chemical spills.

Best Weather Radio Comparison

Image

Model

Power Source

Public Alert Certified

SAME Tech

Weight

Midland WR400

(Best Desktop Weather Radio)

AC, 4 AA Batteries

Yes

Yes

1.6 lb

Midland ER310

(Best Emergency Radio)​

Rechargeable 2600mAh Battery, Hand Crank, USB, Solar, 6 AA Batteries

No

No

1.0 lb

Midland WR120EZ

AC, 3 AA Batteries

Yes

Yes

1.0 lb

Eton FRX5BT

Rechargeable 2000mAh Battery, Hand Crank, Solar, USB

No

Yes

1.375 lb

Sangean CL-100

DC, 4 AA Batteries

Yes

Yes

1.1 lb

Eton Scorpion II

Rechargeable 800mAh Battery, Hand Crank, Solar, USB

No

No

0.66 lb

Sangean MMR-88

Rechargeable 850mAh Battery, Hand Crank, Solar, USB

Yes

No

0.86 lb

RunningSnail NOAA Weather Radio

Rechargeable 2000mAh Battery, Hand Crank, USB, Solar, 3 AAA Batteries

No

No

0.68 lb

Kaito KA700

Rechargeable 2000mAh Battery, Hand Crank, USB, Solar

No

No

1.7 lb

Types of Weather Radios

How do you choose the best weather radio? Let’s first talk about the difference between a desktop weather radio and an emergency radio, and who they’re most suitable for. Then we will get into the best weather alert radio reviews where I'll reveal the models that you can rely on during a severe weather event.

Desktop Weather Radios

Desktop Weather Radio

Midland WR400 Desktop Weather Radio

Desktop weather radios are exactly what the name suggests—they sit on your desk plugged into an AC outlet for power. They broadcast weather alerts when they’re issued in your area, and they can even double as a bedside alarm clock. They can also run off batteries as a backup power source but are not designed to be portable. Most models here come with a display which highlights the threat level of the alert (warning, watch, advisory) along with the type of emergency event that is active (flood warning, hurricane, tornado, etc.).

Emergency Radios

Emergency Radio

Midland ER310 Emergency Radio

Emergency radios, on the other hand, are designed to be more portable as they run primarily on internal power and are typically weatherproof and shockproof. They have a robust construction with a rechargeable battery instead of having to plug them into AC power. The best emergency radio models can be charged by using a hand crank or solar power, which makes them great for ‘off the grid’ situations, outdoor adventures or times where the power is out for an extended period.

Some emergency radios have extra functions, such as a built-in flashlight and a reading light. They also include the capability to give your phone a quick boost of power to make an emergency call.

Don’t think you just need to be a survivalist or ‘prepper’ to own an emergency radio. Every home should have some type of emergency kit just in case, and an emergency radio is a vital piece of equipment to have in that kit—being prepared and informed can save your family’s life.

Do You Need a Desktop Weather Radio or Emergency Radio?

An outdoor enthusiast would find an emergency radio more versatile, as it can be used both indoors and outdoors on camping and hiking trips.

My recommendation is to have a desktop radio at home beside your bed ready to alert you of any incoming threats and then have an emergency radio packed away ready to go in your survival/emergency supply kit for incidents where the power might go out or if you need to leave your home in a hurry.


Features to Consider When Shopping for a Weather Radio

There are a lot of options available when it comes to purchasing a weather radio. With that said, some are not as reliable as others, and some models don’t include important features. Below we have listed the features we think you should look for to get the best weather radio.

NOAA Weather Radio Broadcasts

Public Alert and NOAA All Hazards Logos

A weather radio is exactly that first and foremost. Any one you choose should have the “Public Alert” or “NOAA NWR All Hazards” logo (some will have both, which is even better). These are third-party standards used to certify weather radios, and both programs were developed in conjunction with the NOAA and the National Weather Service.

Public Alert radios, in particular, meet a stricter technical standard. These radios must be able to receive area specific alerts and be able to turn off non-relevant ones (like coastal flood warnings for those that live inland). They must play a tone before an alert is broadcast, and include an external jack to power notification devices such as a strobe light.

Weather radios will be able to tune to the following seven frequencies which the National Weather Service broadcast through.

  • 162.400 MHz
  • 162.425 MHz
  • 162.450 MHz
  • 162.475 MHz
  • 162.500 MHz
  • 162.525 MHz
  • 162.550 MHz

These stations are not accessible with standard radios.

SAME Technology

The best NOAA weather radio models support SAME, short for Specific Area Message Encoding. This feature allows the radio to ignore weather alerts that are not for your area. Most people will only want to hear the alerts that are for their county, not the whole state or country. This also minimizes the risk of any “false alarms” from events that are a few counties away from where you live.

Power Source and Battery Life

Your typical desktop weather radio always comes with an AC power cord. However, these radios also have batteries as a backup, so they will still run for a short period of time after power is lost. This will work for most people but aren’t practical in emergency situations where power can sometimes be out for days or even weeks.

Those that need more portability or options to power the device without AC power or changing batteries might be better served by an emergency radio. These devices have an internal rechargeable battery, and all you need is either sunlight or the turning of a hand crank to give it enough power to operate (most can be quickly charged via USB ahead of potentially hazardous weather).

In any case, look for a weather radio that also has a battery life indicator, so you’ll be notified before the device runs out of power. Additionally, only consider an emergency radio that has a rechargeable battery with at least a 2000mAh capacity so it can stay operational for longer periods.

Audible Alerts and Flashing LED Warning Systems

Make sure your weather radio has a loud audible alert that you will hear. If you have hearing difficulties, get a Public Alert certified radio. These radios have a jack to attach an external warning device, like a strobe light.

Durability

Durability is an especially important quality to look for in emergency radios. You will want a solidly constructed device with a shockproof case, as it will be knocked around quite a bit when you’re on the move in an emergency situation. A waterproof case is also nice to have so it can survive any wet weather.

With desktop radios you will want a bit of durability—these units are intended to give you years of service, so purchase a unit with a robust construction and not something cheaply made.

Size and Weight

Your size and weight considerations when choosing a desktop weather radio or emergency radio are going to be something you’ll need to judge for yourself. Small and portable weather radios are easier to carry around and are better for emergency kits, but are typically a bit more fragile and aren’t as loud. Larger radios give you better sound and are usually more durable, but they can be awkward to carry around.

Flashlight & Reading Lamp

Kill two birds with one stone in your emergency kit and get a radio with an integrated flashlight and reading lamp. If the power’s out, these features will come in handy. An integrated flashlight does seem to be a standard feature on most emergency radios. However, desktop weather radios will not have this luxury so keep that in mind when making a buying decision.

Smartphone Charging

The best emergency radio devices now come with a USB port to provide a quick charge of your mobile phone. I caution you not to expect your phone to get a full charge off a radio, but it will be enough to make an emergency call at least.


Best Weather Radio Reviews

Which radio should you pick? We’ve researched dozens of the latest desktop weather radios and emergency radios and read genuine reviews from other consumers to produce the rankings of the models below. Here are the top rated weather radios on the market.


1. Best Desktop Weather Radio: Midland WR400

Dimensions: 5.5 x 7 x 2.2 inches
Weight:
1.6 pounds
SAME Technology:
Yes
Public Alert Certified:
Yes
Power Source:
AC, 4 AA Batteries

By far the Midland WR400 is the best NOAA weather radio available. It doubles as an AM/FM alarm clock too, which makes it a great replacement for your current alarm clock. A large, bright screen displays the time, battery life, and current alerts. The device also has four radio presets for easy tuning.

Since this is a Public Alert certified weather radio, you’ll be able to connect an external alerting device, but one of our favorite features here are the customizable alerts. Say you live well inland in a county facing the water. Marine warnings are irrelevant to you, and the WR400 can filter them out. Or perhaps you only want to be alerted to warnings, and not watches. You could set up the WR400 to alert you only to issued warnings, limiting the amount of times the radio goes off during severe weather events.

Sound quality is commonly cited as one of the WR400’s top features, with good reception being the main contributor. That’s often an issue with other weather radios, and clear signals are necessary for the SAME alert system to work.

We could see however that the WR400’s screen may make it an impractical weather radio for the bedroom of some users. One customer review did say the screen was too bright even on the “dim” setting.

Pros
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Large clear display
  • Good reception
  • Customizable alerts
Cons
  • Display might be too bright for the bedroom of some users

2. Best Emergency Radio: Midland ER310

Dimensions: 9.6 x 3 x 6.8 inches
Weight:
1 pound
SAME Technology:
No
Public Alert Certified:
No
Power Source:
Rechargeable Lithium Ion 2600mAh Battery, Hand Crank, USB, Solar, 6 AA Batteries

Midland has also produced the best emergency radio on our list, the ER310. This radio has a 2600mAh capacity rechargeable battery that can be charged three ways, via the hand crank, solar power and USB. The radio may also be powered by 6 “AA” batteries as a backup. The Midland ER310 has support for AM and FM radio as well as the NOAA weather radio band.

This radio has a built in 130-lumen flashlight and even a USB port to allow you to charge your smartphone or other USB powered devices. With a 2600mAh internal battery, regular use will net you about 32 hours of radio time. The company says that even from a dead battery, just an hour of sunlight should be enough to power the radio for 45 minutes.

Other useful features include a strobe light SOS feature (flashes S-O-S in Morse code), and an ultrasonic dog whistle to assist search teams in finding you if you get lost. We think the Midland ER310 is the best weather radio for your emergency kit or outdoor adventures as it’s reliable, robust and includes all of the essential features to help you survive any disasters.

Customer reviews often cite impressive sound quality from the speaker and ease of use as high points of the ER310. You simply can’t go wrong here.

Pros
  • Great audio quality
  • Multiple charging options
  • Large battery capacity
  • Included flashlight with strobe light SOS
  • Compact size
Cons
  • Lack of memory buttons
  • No waterproofing

3. Best Cheap Radio: Midland WR120EZ

Dimensions: 5 x 4.5 x 2 inches
Weight:
1 pound
SAME Technology:
Yes
Public Alert Certified:
Yes
Power Source:
AC, 3 AA Batteries

The WR120EZ desktop weather radio gets high marks because of its affordable price and strong feature set. It can display weather alert messages on its screen in three languages – English, Spanish, and French, and has a loud 90dB siren and flashing LED warnings to let you know whether the alert is an advisory, watch, or warning.

It is Public Alert certified so even at this price you’ll still be able to filter out unnecessary alerts, and attach external warning devices to the radio. Reception and audio quality is impressive, however not as robust and clear as the WR400. 3 AA batteries give you a backup power source if the power goes out, and the device can scan other channels while you’re listening to one so that you never miss an alert. We’re impressed with all the features they could fit into this device for such an affordable price.

There are some negatives which are to be expected for an entry level model. The WR120EZ isn’t as durable as the WR400, and the screen isn’t as informative. It also sits with its display facing upward rather than outward like the WR400. You’ll need to walk up to the device to physically read any alert messages.

Pros
  • Value for money
  • Text alerts
  • Easy to program
Cons
  • Cheaper construction
  • Upward facing display

4. Best Hand Crank Radio: Eton FRX5BT

Dimensions: 5.8 x 7.1 x 2.3 inches
Weight:
1.375 pounds
SAME Technology:
Yes
Public Alert Certified:
No
Power Source:
2000mAh Rechargeable Lithium Battery, Hand Crank, Solar, USB

The Eton FRX5BT is similar to the Midland ER310 in functionality, but in a bigger overall package with a few additional features. Charge the FRX5BT via solar, the hand crank or with the included micro-USB cable. A 2000mAh rechargeable battery even gives you enough battery capacity to charge an electronic device. This is the best hand crank emergency radio as the actual crank is the largest of every model we have reviewed—making it much easier to turn over and charge the radio.

We’re intrigued by the Bluetooth functionality, which allows you to connect the device to your smartphone to use it as a Bluetooth speaker for entertainment purposes. It does have the capability to receive SAME alerts—however, the display doesn’t show the type of alert like other models we’ve listed here.

Also included in the device is a LED flashlight and red emergency beacon, as well as a separate dimmable ambient light. The rugged casing is also excellent, giving the FRX5BT a good deal of durability. In fact, the unit is drop-proof from a height of 3.3ft and water resistant to the IPX4 specifications.

One area where the Eton isn’t as good as our top picks is reception. Some reviews cite issues with receiving weather alerts in rural areas, although the sound quality is fairly decent when an adequate signal is available. The internal rechargeable battery is also smaller than some other competing radios, which may be an issue for some depending on how you’ll use it.

Pros
  • Water resistant and drop-proof case
  • Bluetooth for music playback
  • Large hand crank for easy charging
  • SAME technology
Cons
  • No option for disposable batteries
  • Small buttons which are hard to read as they are hidden under the handle

5. Sangean CL-100

Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.2 x 2.5 inches
Weight:
1.1 pounds
SAME Technology:
Yes
Public Alert Certified:
Yes
Power Source:
DC, 4 AA Batteries

Sangean is known for making high-quality shortwave radios, and their AM/FM-RBDS/Weather clock radio the CL-100 is no different. This desktop weather radio is the only one we know of that does FM-RBDS (those text messages that appear on your car radio telling you the station or song that is playing), and it even includes an audio jack so you can connect an external audio source.

The CL-100 is SAME capable, and alert messages appear on the device’s upward-facing display. Digital signal processing makes the audio quality top notch, and you can store up to five presets for both the AM and FM bands.

The clock radio is handy and features something called HWS, or Human Wake-Up System. Essentially, alarms and music can be set to gradually get louder to gently wake you up versus the traditional alarm which can sometimes be harsh on your ears.

Our only concerns are poorly written directions and the display. This seems a bit awkward for a clock radio since you must be on top of the radio to view the screen. Some users also reported difficulty in receiving RBDS signals correctly.

Pros
  • High-quality speakers
  • RBDS functionality
  • Great reception
Cons
  • Upward facing display

6. Eton Scorpion II

Dimensions: 2.5 x 6.5 x 1.9 inches
Weight:
0.66 pounds
SAME Technology:
No
Public Alert Certified:
No
Power Source:
800mAh Rechargeable Lithium Battery, Hand Crank, Solar, USB

The Eton Scorpion II is a lightweight and weatherproof hand crank emergency radio. It includes a half-watt LED flashlight and USB charging capabilities, along with AM, FM, and NOAA Weather band support. You can charge the internal battery via the solar panel or the hand crank, and you should be able to get a full day’s use out of the included 800mAh battery.

One area where the Eton Scorpion II seems to do better than the Midland ER310 is its ruggedized casing that is also IPX4 splash proof. This particular radio is probably much more suited for the outdoor enthusiast, and an attached carabiner will allow you to attach this easily to your hiking bag.

There are a few disadvantages here, first and foremost being a much smaller battery than most emergency radios with only an 800mAh capacity. While it does make the Scorpion II light in weight, we wouldn’t recommend this if you also want an emergency radio that can give a quick charge to your electronic devices—even though the Scorpion II can just manage to do it. Other customers point to a small screen and average audio quality as downsides to an otherwise pretty solid device.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Rugged construction
  • Included carabiner
Cons
  • Average audio quality
  • 800mAh rechargeable battery
  • Small display screen

7. Sangean MMR-88

Dimensions: 6 x 2.7 x 3.3 inches
Weight:
0.86 pounds
SAME Technology:
No
Public Alert Certified:
Yes
Power Source:
850mAh Rechargeable Lithium Ion Battery, USB, Solar, Hand Crank

Sangean’s second radio on this list is the public alert certified MMR-88. This radio can be powered by either solar or crank power and includes a DSP digital AM/FM/WX tuner for superior audio quality. You can have up to 19 AM/FM presets, and an included USB cable allows you to charge standard USB powered devices.

850mAH batteries should give you enough power for all-day use, and an adjustable high/low/blinking/SOS light on its side should be plenty powerful enough for emergency situations.

There are a few potential disadvantages to this particular model which may make another radio on this list a better bet. If you’re looking for a radio that is comfortable to hold when using as a flashlight, this one might be a bit too bulky. Others point to reception issues in areas where radio signals are weaker. Otherwise, just like any other Sangean radio, the audio quality is superb—as long as you have a good signal.

Pros
  • Preset station feature
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Flashlight has several lighting options
Cons
  • No option for disposable batteries

8. RunningSnail NOAA Weather Radio

Dimensions: 6.2 x 2.1 x 2.9 inches
Weight:
0.68 pounds
SAME Technology:
No
Public Alert Certified:
No
Power Source:
2000mAh Rechargeable Lithium Battery, Hand Crank, Solar, USB, 3 AAA Batteries

RunningSnail gives you a lot of bang for your buck with a 2000mAh battery, AM/FM/WX band support, and an integrated flashlight and reading light. The company says you’ll get up to 12 hours of light from the device, or 4-6 hours of continuous radio time.

The battery can be charged either by the hand crank or the included solar panel, although USB charging is, of course, the fastest. You can even power the device using 3 AAA’s.

For times of distress, the RunningSnail includes an SOS alarm with flashing red lights. However, the device does not have weather alert capabilities (where the radio self-activates for broadcast alerts), there's no digital display and reception may not be the best as the antenna construction lags other options.

Still, at its price point, the RunningSnail offers quite a bit of functionality.

Pros
  • Portability
  • Reading light and flashlight
  • Affordable price
Cons
  • No weather alert functionality
  • Cheap construction
  • No digital display

9. Kaito KA700

Dimensions: 10.5 x 5.9 x 3.6 inches
Weight:
1.7 pounds
SAME Technology:
No
Public Alert Certified:
No
Power Source:
Rechargeable Lithium Ion 2000mAh, Solar, Hand Crank, USB

The last weather radio on our list is more of an entertainment device than a weather radio, but we like it just because it can do so much. Not only can the Kaito KA700 receive AM, FM, and Weather Radio broadcasts, but it also can be used as a Bluetooth speaker, an MP3 player (it uses an SD card to work), but a voice recorder as well.

Like most weather radios, it can activate itself to play weather alerts and has three options to charge the 2000mAh battery—mini-USB, hand crank and solar power.

But we’re not finished yet: the KA700 also has a bright 5-LED reading lamp and integrated flashlight, there’s also a USB port that you can plug your electronic devices into to get a quick power boost. Customers report excellent sound quality, portability, and a durable construction as its biggest drawcards.

One thing we don’t like is the fact that while there’s quality sound, the radio is overall quieter than most of the options on this list, and the crank doesn’t work as efficiently in charging the device as other emergency radios do.

Pros
  • Entertainment features
  • Several charging options
  • Ability to swap out rechargeable batteries
Cons
  • Small display
  • Inefficient hand crank

Additional Advice

Before we wrap things up, here’s a few things to keep in mind after you purchase your desktop weather radio or emergency radio. Make checking the batteries and the functions of the radio part of your regular housekeeping routine, just like checking the smoke alarms in your home. If you don’t use your emergency radio for an extended period, the batteries can become depleted, and batteries can potentially leak causing damage to the whole system. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to use the radio and find out that it doesn’t work properly anymore. It’s also important to make yourself familiar will all of the functions of the radio beforehand.

Lastly, don’t forget to program the radio if it is SAME capable! If you don’t, you’ll get every alert not just the alerts that apply to you inside your county.

Conclusion

In emergency situations, power is sometimes the first thing to go, and you will need a reliable device that can run off internal power to warn you of any incoming severe weather and keep you connected to the outside world.

The best emergency weather radios have good reception to the NOAA weather channels, have at least a 2000mAh rechargeable battery and include different options to charge the unit such as a hand crank or solar panels.

Not all desktop weather and emergency radios are built the same, and that’s why we chose the Midland WR400 desktop radio and the Midland ER310 emergency radio as our top recommendations. Midland was one of the first companies to produce weather radios and has rightfully earned a reputation as a leader in the market due to building quality products that consumers can depend on when disaster strikes.


Best Weather Radio Reviews
5

Summary

A weather radio can potentially save your life during a severe weather event, but it's important to have a reliable radio that will withstand the rigors of the outdoors and receive excellent reception to the NOAA weather band—so you don't miss any alerts. After reviewing the top rated models, we have concluded that Midland has the best weather radios for any home or emergency preparedness kit as they are durable, reliable and feature-packed.

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