The 7 Best Weather Radios to Help You Prepare for Any Situation
As extreme weather events become increasingly common, it's more important than ever to know how to access emergency information—especially if the power goes out, the internet goes down, or you’re in the great outdoors. If you want to ensure you are being alerted to warnings about inclement weather in a timely manner (because being told there was a hurricane while it's already upon you is hardly helpful), consider stocking your emergency kit with a weather radio.
The reigning body of weather radios is the National Weather Service, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA hosts a nationwide network of radio stations that broadcast weather warnings, forecasts, watches, and hazards. It also sends out AMBER alerts for missing children and other emergencies such as oil spills and terrorist attacks.
There are seven preset stations on weather radios that tune in to 750 different frequencies to bring the public hazard information close to them. The NOAA stations provide a comprehensive and continuous source of public emergency information. While some vehicles are equipped with radios that can receive weather radio broadcasts, and there is limited streaming available through NOAA’s website, the most reliable way to get access to the NOAA alerts is through a weather radio (also sometimes called an emergency weather radio).
According to NOAA, its goal is to “expand the reach of weather radio broadcasts to cover 95 percent of the U.S. population,” which includes those who might not normally have access to regular radio, TV, internet or cell phone services. Weather radios can be immensely helpful in helping prepare for emergencies no matter where you live or where your travels take you.
What to Look for in a Weather Radio
When choosing a weather radio to purchase, it’s important to consider how often you think you’ll be using it, and under what circumstances. Here are a few factors to think about.
Desktop models are means for home use, which can be helpful for those who live in rural areas without reliable cell signal or internet coverage. For those who plan to use their weather radios when out and about, having a compact model with multiple methods of charging is key. Most offer a mix of solar, hand crank, rechargeable battery, and alkaline batteries. The more charging options you have, the more reliably you’ll receive alerts in circumstances where the power is out for a few days or you’re out on an extended camping trip.
Types of Alerts
If you live in an area that experiences sudden weather events such as tornadoes and flash floods, you might want to consider opting for a model with automatic alerts. These models will tune into your local NOAA weather station and send out a notification if there is a warning in your area. If you prefer to only get alerts when you choose to tune in—say, if you know a storm is rolling in—or to get an update on a weather event that is already happening, a weather radio without automatic notifications (sometimes called a weather band radio) should suffice.
Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME)
Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) is programming that allows you to set your location and only alert you when there are ebidsories, watches, and warnings for your specific locale. This is helpful in avoiding someone based in New Orleans, say, from receiving an alert about a tornado in Ohio. Even if you keep your weather radio tuned in to your local NOAA station, with only seven stations there are many alerts that may not apply to you, and SAME models allow you to program specific counties and even specific types of warnings. This is a relatively newer feature of weather radios, and most models are not equipped with this ability. While it’s not necessary to have, it can be nice if you want to screen out the number of alerts you are receiving.
Keeping the above factors in mind, we scoured the internet for the best weather radios, according to shopper reviews.
- Best Overall: Midland ER 310 Emergency Crank Weather Weather
- Best with SAME: Midland WR120B/WR120EZ NOAA Emergency Weather Alert Radio
- Best Solar-Powered: FosPower Emergency Solar Hand Crank Portable Radio
- Best Compact: Midland ER 210 E+Ready Compact Emergency Crank Weather Radio
- Best for Camping: Kaito KA500, 5-way Powered Emergency AM/FM/SW NOAA Weather Alert Radio
- Best Desktop: Midland WR400 Deluxe NOAA Emergency Weather Alert Radio
- Best Budget: RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank Self Powered AM/FM NOAA Solar Weather Radio
Best Overall: Midland ER 310 Emergency Crank Weather Weather
If you’re looking for a reliable portable weather radio that provides NOAA alerts for emergency weather events, you can’t beat the Midland ER 310. The compact, durable device features four power sources—solar, hand crank, rechargeable battery, and six AA batteries as a final backup—so you never have to worry that you’ll run out of juice. The all-star weather radio also has a brighter-than-average LED flashlight, automatic alerts, and an SOS beacon that flashes Morse code for emergencies. Its versatility is what makes it a solid emergency radio. Although the model is one of the pricier options on this list, reviewers say that it’s incredibly sturdy and built to last. They also praise its “simple digital user interface” that’s easy to read and operate.
Best with SAME: Midland WR120B/WR120EZ NOAA Emergency Weather Alert Radio
Using SAME technology, this weather radio allows you to choose up to 25 locations to get tailored alerts for emergencies. You also have the option for those alerts to be voice, siren, or flashing LED light, allowing for optimal customization depending on your surroundings. Complete with an easy-to-read LED screen, standard wall outlet plug-ins with AA battery backup, and a built-in alarm block, the Midland 120B/ER120EZ is a great choice for location-specific alerts in any situation where you have access to electrical power. Many Amazon reviewers—including self-proclaimed heavy sleepers—praise the weather radio for actually waking them in the middle of the night (unlike other storm warnings they’ve slept through).
Best Solar-Powered: FosPower Emergency Solar Hand Crank Portable Radio
With over 11,000 five-star Amazon ratings, you can trust this solar-powered weather radio from FosPower is reliable in an emergency. Reviewers say the device has “earned a permanent spot in [their] emergency kit” thanks to its comprehensive features, which include three power sources, a radio light, flashlight, SOS alarm, and red light to send out a help signal. The radio also connects not only to the NOAA weather station but to regular AM/FM channels, leading one reviewer to praise the radio for keeping her family connected through Hurricane Florence in North Carolina when even the generators ran out for a few days.
Best Compact: Midland ER 210 E+Ready Compact Emergency Crank Weather Radio
Similar to the Midland ER 310, the 210 model is slightly smaller (about 33 percent), making it a great fit for a backpacking adventure or storing in an emergency kit. With that reduction in size, however, you do lose a bit of power. While battery life may be a bit shorter than the larger mode, you still have solar, hand crank, and rechargeable battery options to keep you going. And most importantly, the Midland ER 210 will automatically alert you when there is a weather warning on your local channel.
Best for Camping: Kaito KA500, 5-way Powered Emergency AM/FM/SW NOAA Weather Alert Radio
Outdoor enthusiasts love the Kaito KA500 for its water and impact-resistant build, as well as its 14.5-inch telescopic antenna that will help find a signal no matter how far into the woods you go. It covers the seven NOAA weather stations as well as AM, FM, and shortwave radio. As if that wasn’t enough, the Kaito boasts five charging options and can serve as a spare battery for charging electronics through USB (albeit somewhat slowly, according to shoppers). Reviewers say this emergency radio is ideal for fishing, keeping in a bug-out bag, or taking on a trip, although you can also use it for normal home use.
Best Desktop: Midland WR400 Deluxe NOAA Emergency Weather Alert Radio
If you’re looking for a weather radio for your home, the Midland WR400 offers a host of features, including SAME programming, customizable warning system options, automatic scanning of NOAA stations, and an alarm clock. Because power outages often occur during weather events, the desktop model comes with an emergency power backup in the form of four AA batteries. This feature could be especially helpful for people who live (or have vacation cabins) in areas without reliable cell or internet service to stay connected to weather alerts.
Best Budget: RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank Self Powered AM/FM NOAA Solar Weather Radio
RunningSnail offers an affordable model with basic features for those who want to be prepared for emergencies, but don’t anticipate using their weather radio on a regular basis. The compact model weighs less than half a pound (the lightest option on this list) but still broadcasts AM/FM and NOAA radio stations, has three ways to charge up, and contains a flashlight. However, the device does not feature automatic alerts, so you will have to be actively listening if you suspect there might be inclement weather nearby. At the under-$25 price point, reviewers say it’s a good option to keep in a hurricane preparedness kit or for keeping in the car for an emergency cell charge.