On our journey to determine the best weather radios, we intensively researched dozens of models before purchasing the top 9 to assess head-to-head. First, we measured the dimensions and noise levels produced by the radios in the lab. Next, our team of tech and outdoor product experts dialed, programmed, charged, and tuned in on every model for weeks. There are many differences in the size, type, and functionality of these nifty little devices. Read below to find out which are the best for your needs, which are the best bargain, and which are our personal favorites.If you want to know the exact conditions surrounding your home rather than a forecast for the area, we have also reviewed the best weather stations available today. Another exciting option for monitoring conditions in real-time is setting up one of the best trail cameras, which can be particularly useful for monitoring snow totals in remote areas.
Our Top Picks
The FosPower Emergency Solar Hand Crank earns the top spot as our favorite all-around weather radio. This device is intuitive straight out of the box without needing to consult the instructions or perform any extra setup steps. It comes equipped with an SOS mode switch on the bottom that emits a very loud siren and a bright flashing red light from the front of the radio. It has a few other design features we love as well. The FosPower's antenna is housed within the body of the device when not in use, which is different from the external storage of most models. In addition, the lanyard is equipped with a handy carabiner, and the LED reading lights on the underside of the solar panel are convenient when you don't want to use the full power of the main flashlight.
The FosPower has a basic design and lacks many of the bells and whistles offered by other weather radios. Also, it doesn't have an auxiliary plug — a feature that allows users to listen to their personal music rather than just AM/FM radio and NOAA frequencies. Many weather radios have moved on to LCD displays with buttons, but this model sticks with an analog setup and dials. Therefore, it does not offer an alarm clock or other programming capabilities. Some may see this as a drawback, but LCDs use energy, so if the ultimate goal is power conservation or use in an emergency, the FosPower is your best bet.
When it comes to indoor-specific alarm clock-style weather radios, it's hard to beat the Midland WR400. This high-tech weather alert device automatically scans all seven NOAA frequencies until it locks on to the one with the strongest signal. The WR400 is also capable of scanning Specific Area Message Encoding (S.A.M.E.) frequencies. This technology cycles through the various NOAA signals and warns you when the specific counties you set alerts for are threatened. When there is an alert, you have three different options for how you can receive that notification: flashing LED lights, a voice alert, or a siren. We also measured the radio speaker volume on the WR400 at an impressive 79.5 dBa.
The Midland WR400 is a bit limited. Although it does take batteries, the DC power cord is its primary power source, with the batteries acting as a backup in case of power outages. This model is also more challenging to program compared to crank models, which essentially come ready to go out of the box. Also, the WR400 is relatively expensive. Still, this device is a solid choice for those looking to add a highly programmable weather radio to their home or workplace.
If you're shopping for a weather radio on a budget, the RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank is one of your best options. Despite its low price and small size, this model has many of the same features found on considerably pricier and substantially larger models. It has a USB jack, hand crank, and can be tuned to AM, FM, and NOAA radio frequencies. It also includes an iPhone adapter for the Micro USB cable for all of the Apple customers out there.
As with other compact weather radios, the RunningSnail lacks a backup battery compartment. Once this device loses its original charge, you will be relying on the solar panel or the hand crank to listen to the radio and charge devices. This model lacks a headphone jack as well as an auxiliary audio plug. If you want to listen to your own tunes through the speaker or use your headphones to check the weather, this is not the model for you. Despite its lack of features, the RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank is an excellent choice for those looking for an emergency weather radio on a budget.
The Eton Hand Turbine is a high-performance weather radio squeezed into an impressively small package. The flashlight on this model is made up of three LED bulbs rather than the single standard bulb that many radios use, so you can rest easy knowing that it's unlikely that you'll be worrying about a bulb dying. Surprisingly, the hand crank is longer than many models that are much heavier and bulkier, which significantly increases cranking leverage. This model features a headphone jack, allowing you to listen to the radio or weather channels quietly while also conserving power. This device proved to be exceptionally loud, which is good for those who would rely primarily on the internal speaker. The Eton uses a backlit LCD and has glow-in-the-dark accents around the flashlight lens to make it easy to locate in the dark.
The main drawback with the Eton Hand Turbine is that it relies entirely on the internal battery pack. There is no compartment for extra batteries for occasions when you'll be away from a power source, out of sunlight for the solar panel, or too tired to hand crank. Despite this shortcoming, the Eton Hand Turbine is our choice for backpacking or other activities where space is limited and weight is a concern.
We think the Eton American Red Cross is an excellent option for anyone who holds sound quality in high regard. Radio signals can often produce scratchy, almost incoherent tones — the high-performance speaker equipped with this model helps mitigate this frustrating problem. As a bonus, you can use the Red Cross as an external speaker for your own devices using the auxiliary plug, but it also has a headphone jack if you'd like to listen to the radio or weather more privately. This device has a backlit LCD, a selector lever set to all seven NOAA weather frequencies, a mute button, and an alarm clock. The flashlight function features two clear LED bulbs as well as a red bulb for signaling emergencies or keeping your illumination to a more mellow level while navigating the forest or the inside of your vehicle or tent.
All these great features come at a price — the Eton American Red Cross is relatively expensive. We were also somewhat disappointed to find this weather radio does not take backup batteries. It comes equipped with a large internal battery, but it would be nice to know that you could pop some AAs into the device for cases when the sun is down or you don't feel like operating the hand crank. Still, if you value sound quality along with some bells & whistles, the Eton American Red Cross is the way to go.
If your portable weather radio's flashlight function is the most critical feature for you, we highly recommend the Givoust Emergency Weather Crank. The LED bulb on this model easily outshined the rest during our assessment. The display on this device is exceptionally easy to read, thanks to its extra-large LCD. The Givoust has the industry-standard USB in and out jacks, but it also has an auxiliary input as well as an included double-male auxiliary cord. In the case of a real emergency, this device has an easily accessed SOS button that activates a very loud siren and flashes the LCD light to let others know that you require help.
Despite how much we love the Givoust, we did find some fundamental flaws. For starters, it is very bulky — it's probably not the best choice for backpacking or stashing in a car with limited cargo space. During our sound pressure level meter measurements, the radio speaker only produced 64.5 decibels. If the volume is a purchasing factor for you, we recommend you go with a louder weather radio. Shortcomings aside, we're big fans of the Givoust design, and the brightness of the flashlight feature would be hard to beat.
The Midland WR120EZ is another good option if you'd like an alarm clock-style weather radio. This model has three LED color indicators that let you know if the NOAA alert level is a watch, an advisory, or a warning. The LCD will also tell you what type of alert has been issued, whether it's a flood, tornado, thunderstorm, or whatever else nature decides to cook up. The WR120EZ has S.A.M.E. capabilities meaning that you can program the radio to only alert you for your local area rather than the whole state or region.
When we broke out the sound meter, we were disappointed to discover that the Midland WR120EZ maxes out at a volume level of 58.6 decibels. If you want a radio that will get your attention no matter where you are in the home or workplace, it'd be wise to go with a louder model. Despite its relative quietness, we think the WR120EZ is a good choice for those looking for an alarm clock with weather frequency capabilities.
For those that want an especially loud portable weather radio, we recommend the Midland ER310. When we conducted our sound pressure level analysis, this model produced an impressive 79.8 decibels. The ER310 uses a digital LCD, and it automatically scans to the strongest weather channel frequency when you hold the tune button down. The flashlight has four settings — low, high, strobe, and an SOS setting that emits an ultrasonic dog whistle to aid rescue teams in locating you in the case of an emergency.
We weren't thrilled with the price. Some weather radios offer many of the same functions for a fraction of the cost. We liked the storage location of the antenna on this device, but we found it challenging to extend or collapse when not in use. Despite the short list of flaws, we still think the ER310 is the perfect choice for someone who wants as much volume as possible from their portable weather radio.
Our favorite feature on the Kaito KA500 is the carrying strap. This comes in handy if you'd like to hang the radio from something, and it's more comfortable to carry than models with rigid handles or those that don't have a handle at all. The KA500 has a headphone jack — this is great for instances in which you'd like to listen to the radio or the weather in a private fashion.
Sadly, the Kaito KA500 had more flaws than features we liked. Despite outfitting this model with a DC power jack for charging the internal battery, the manufacturer didn't include a cord. Unlike virtually every other model we tested, the KA500 lacks an elbow to aid in adjusting its position for better reception. This product features most of the functions we would expect from a weather radio, but the controls are downright silly. There are seven switches in total and dials scattered all over the unit, whereas other weather radios with the same or more functions only have three buttons or dials. Lastly, the Kaito KA500 is very pricey for the functionality, looks, and performance you get in return. Unless the carrying strap is a must-have for you, we recommend choosing a less expensive option.
Why You Should Trust Us
At GearLab, we never accept freebies or demos from manufacturers in exchange for positive reviews. We purchase every product we test at full price from the same sellers as our readers to ensure we eliminate any brand bias. For this review, we measured the volume that each radio is capable of producing. We carefully measured their dimensions and inspected them for any special features or functions. Finally, we took them camping to judge their true performance in the field.
Ross Patton spearheads this review. Ross attended the University of Nevada, Reno, where he majored in environmental science. His formal education, coupled with more than ten years of experience in product testing, has helped him develop a sharp skill set to identify consumer devices' tiniest differences. The range of categories that he has covered is vast — Ross has tested and written about dozens of products, including tents, bicycle pumps, Bluetooth trackers, and WiFi extenders. In other words, weather radios are right up his alley.
Analysis and Test Results
To determine an overall score for these products, we used our team of research analysts to carefully inspect each model for features and settings that we liked or disliked. We used a sound pressure level meter to measure noise levels, and we measured each radio's physical attributes to be sure that the manufacturer's claims are accurate. We divided our review into three metrics — noise, user-friendliness, and features.
The functions you need are the main factor you'll want to consider before choosing a weather radio. These devices come in numerous styles and include a vast list of available features. Some models mimic a digital alarm clock common in most homes and remain permanently plugged into a power source with backup batteries for outages. Others are designed to be stashed in a vehicle. The smallest ones are so compact they can accompany you on a backpacking trip.
If you're looking for a model that will permanently live indoors, it'd be hard to top the Midland WR400. This device offers all of the functions you'd expect out of an alarm clock, including AM/FM radio, a standard buzz, but also the option to wake up to your local weather. This highly programmable model can scan for the strongest NOAA frequency in your area so that your signal will always come through as clear as possible — and it does it automatically. The WR400 also offers Specific Area Message Encoding, which narrows the alerts down to your local county rather than a broader region. Add that to several options for weather warnings, including LED lights, voice alert, or a siren plus a USB charging port for your devices, and you've got the ultimate indoor weather radio.
The portable versions in our review have many features in common that make them perfect to bring along. Each one has a radio that can be switched between AM, FM, and NOAA frequencies. They have a flashlight, although they greatly vary in brightnesses. They are all designed with an internal battery and have a minimum of three ways that they can charge — via USB either in your car or home, a solar panel, and, our personal favorite, a hand crank. They are also all capable of charging devices via a USB port. However, there are also many ways that they differ.
In general, digital models tend to have more features than those that use analog controls. The Eton models are the only portable versions we reviewed that have an alarm clock — a feature that could be especially useful if you're out camping and you need to get up early to sink some worms, climb a mountain, or complete that long bike ride. We love that the Eton American Red Cross has an auxiliary input jack that allows you to play music through the speaker.
Another digital version, the Givoust Emergency Weather Crank, has all of the standard features we see from every model in our review, as well as an auxiliary jack with an included cord. We love that it has an oversized digital display for finding the right frequency and that it has a backup battery compartment that provides a fourth power source.
The element that truly sets the Givoust aside from the rest is its remarkably bright flashlight. We consider this feature to be truly important in a real-life emergency.
The Fospower has a flashlight lens that spins, allowing you to spread the light wider or focus the beam to be narrower and brighter. This model also has a wrist lanyard with an adjustable strap and a carabiner. One cool feature we particularly liked on this model was a hidden set of LED reading lights hidden below the solar panel.
Predictably, the smaller the radio, the fewer features it can provide. The smallest versions offer a more barebones experience than some others. The main thing that sets the Eton Hand Turbine and RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank apart from each other is that the Eton is digital and features an alarm clock while the RunningSnail uses analog controls. Also, the Eton has a headphone jack if you'd like to listen to the radio in a more private manner than by using the main speaker.
Next, we subjectively judge how intuitive the devices are to use. Do they require a setup? Are the controls complicated? Are they ergonomic and comfortable to hold? Are the charging ports and battery compartments easy to access?
We found that the most straightforward models to use are the ones with the most uncomplicated design. The model with the least amount of switches, buttons, and dials is the RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank. This device has a dial for tuning, a dial for volume, a selector switch for changing between WB, AM, and FM, and a flashlight button. The tuning is analog, and there are no instructions or programming necessary to operate this radio; we were able to manage it straight out of the box. We love that the RunningSnail fits comfortably in your hand and easily slides into a pack or pouch for storage.
Only slightly more challenging to use, the ForPower Emergency Hand Crank has virtually the same controls and dials as the RunningSnail except that there are two additional selector switches: one for changing between the AAA batteries or the internal lithium-ion battery, and another for switching between standard, USB charging, and SOS mode.
Although it is a digital version, the Givoust is very easy to use. With the exception of a flashlight button located on top of the device, the rest of the controls are all on one side of the radio body. This model is a no-brainer to use, thanks to the easy-to-read buttons, the lack of programmable features, and the large display. The crank arm on this device is one of the longest that we've seen, which significantly helps get the RPMs on the charging motor going.
Both of the Eton models are a bit more difficult to operate than many others due to their alarm clock functions. However, the Hand Turbine is a bit more intuitive because it only has one button and a dial for programming, and we love that it features a long crank. The Eton American Red Cross isn't the easiest to use. This device is covered in buttons, dials, and switches. It took us a few minutes to get it all figured out. That said, the Red Cross gets bonus points for its comfortable cranking position.
Finally, the Midland WR400 is a bit of a pain to use. Along with its long list of customizable features and functions comes a lengthy setup time. If you're going to purchase this model, be prepared to settle in with the instruction booklet or a video tutorial to get it all figured out beforehand.
Some people may place a large degree of importance on how loud each of these devices can be. For models that can be set to alert mode, it's not going to do much good if you can't even hear the emergency warning. Also, if you plan on using the radio function to play tunes while out camping or backpacking, it'd be a good idea to get a louder device. To measure noise, we used a sound pressure level meter for each model at a distance of 3 feet. Then, we used our panel of sound experts to judge the quality each radio speaker produced.
As far as sound quality, our favorite indoor version is the Midland WR400. It also happens to be the loudest version, and we measured a whopping 79.5 dBa at full volume. The best-sounding portable weather radio is the Eton American Red Cross. This model is substantially quieter than the WR400; it only produces 65.3 dBa.
Considering its tiny package, we were shocked to see a measurement of 78.9 dBa out of the RunningSnail Hand Crank. Our judges also found the sound quality to be pretty decent, an unexpected perk for its size.
The Eton Hand Turbine produced 70.7 dBa during our analysis, and just behind was the FosPower, putting up a decibel level of 70.3. The judges liked the sound emitted from the FosPower but weren't too impressed with that of the Hand Turbine.
Finally, the Givoust can put out 64.5 decibels of noise, which is pretty quiet, though the quality was excellent.
At GearLab, we see it as our duty to provide you with the world's best product reviews. To reach this goal, we purchase every model for side-by-side analysis and objective comparison. We enjoy what we do, and we hope this review has given you the knowledge necessary to purchase the perfect weather radio to help you prepare for your next outdoor adventure.
— Ross Patton