While an idyllic summer day full of sunshine and a light breeze is ideal, the weather is rarely so cooperative. Natural disasters ranging from tornadoes, cyclones, fires, and blizzards can ravage neighborhoods and cities. The most deadly of these are the ones that aren’t prepared for – knowing when one of these disasters are afoot will help you better respond and evacuate if needed.
Having a quality weather radio on hand will ensure that you are never caught off-guard again. In this guide we will go over some of the best weather radios are and what features they possess.
What is a Weather Radio?
These are specially designed radios to receive alerts for emergency events such as extreme weather, natural disasters, and even terrorist threats. Picking up on routine broadcasting schedules these devices also give local and regional weather forecasts and everything related to the environment in question – such as rivers, streams, lakes, ocean, and so forth. Severe weather events trigger shorter-term forecasts along with other special weather statements.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is in charge of these broadcasts. Because of this many people use “NOAA radio” interchangeably with “weather radio”. As the technology has become available more features have been added, making these once simple devices multipurpose machines that have other radio options, flashlights, and even cellphone charging.
Because the demand is so high there are a variety of options on the market today with a higher price associated with superior quality and features.
Best Weather Radio Comparison in 2019
|Image||Model||Power Source||Public Alert Certified||SAME Tech||Weight|
(Best Noaa Weather Radio)
|DC,3 AA Batteries||Yes||Yes||1.0 lb|
(Best Solar Powered)
|Midland - ER310|
(Best Emergency Radio)
Hand Crank, USB,
Solar,6 AA Batteries
2 AAA Batteries
|American Red Cross FRX3||Rechargeable|
Hand Crank, USB,
Solar,3 AAA Batteries
Hand Crank, Solar,
(Best Desktop Weather Radio)
|AC, 4 AA Batteries||Yes||Yes||1.6 lb|
|Sangean CL-100||DC, 4 AA Batteries||Yes||Yes||1.1 lb|
|Eton Scorpion II||Rechargeable|
Hand Crank, Solar,
|RunningSnail NOAA Weather Radio||Rechargeable|
Hand Crank, USB,
Solar, 3 AAA Batteries
Types of Weather Radios
Weather radios come in a few forms and it’s important to know the difference between them and how they work. Keep in mind that not all of these types aren’t mutually exclusive, for instance, hand-crank and solar can be one in the same device.
- Portable: Great for staying informed on the go, making these weather radios ideal for anyone who needs to evacuate or who is going on an extended trip. Often times portable radios are powered by some sort of replaceable or rechargeable battery.
- Hand-Crank: A subset of portable models, these type of radios are great because they are powered by a cranking mechanism – this means they will always have juice regardless of where you are at.
- Solar-Powered: Often incorporated into other power types such as a battery, AC, or hand-crank to serve as a backup, solar-powered weather radios can harness the power of the sun to stay powered. These devices often use some sort of battery to hold excess power, which is activated in low-light conditions.
- Alert-Radios: These type of devices sit silently on a desk, table, or shelf and automatically scan NOAA broadcasts. When an emergency does happen, these radios will automatically engage with a warning tone followed by the threat. These radios usually rely on AC power.
- SAME: Short for Specific Area Message Encoding, these are an upgrade of alert-radios that allow users to program them for their specific geography and climate. Because of this, these radios are less likely to receive any false alerts.
What Features to Consider
Picking the best radio for you means looking over a few of their attributes. Depending on your needs some of these characteristics might be more important than others.
- Broadcast Channels: There are 7 broadcasting channels that the NOAA relies on and another 3 if you include Canadian ones. It makes sense to get a radio that can access all of them, so be sure that you have a radio that can read frequencies 161.650 through 163.275.
- Smartphone Charging: Many weather radios have remained unchanged for years – it wasn’t until recently that they started including support for other devices. Many upgraded weather radios incorporate a USB charging port to plug your smartphone and other devices in.
- Power Source & Battery Life: There are a few ways to power a weather radio – with battery and crank being the oldest. Solar technology though has become more viable along with lithium-ion batteries – when combined this means that leaving a radio out in the sun for a couple of hours will give you a full charge. A radio with a USB port can sometimes even charge via this.
The length of the charge will depend on the quality of the battery. Lower end models will only last as low as fifteen minutes, while others can go upwards to a dozen hours or more.
- Audible Alerts & LED Warning: A weather radio isn’t just a cool piece of equipment to have, but is actually an important safety device that can save lives. Having an NOAA radio that lets you know when bad weather is coming is incredibly important – this alert can come in a couple of forms too. Loud siren-like wails are good for large properties, voice alerts for smaller homes, and LED lights turning on best for hard of hearing people.
- Durability: While not really a huge factor with home models, this can be integral to portable variants. Ideally, you want a device that is made from a tough plastic interior with some sort of rubberized shell to serve as shock absorption. Waterproofing via aluminum parts should be on it as well.
- Size & Weight: There’s a bit of a balancing act you have to do. To know which way to lean you need to ask yourself a question: “How much do I need out of my radio?” A portable weather radio that has everything from lights, multiple alerts, SAME technology, bottle opener – and yes there are some with bottle openers – is going to be a bit larger than more streamlined models and thus more cumbersome to lug around.
- Flashlight & Reading Lamp: Why have multiple machines when just a single one can do? Often times these radios can be incorporated with some sort of light feature. These lights can be great in a pinch. Even more advanced portable models can have a reading lamp, allowing you to see without blinding yourself.
- Signal & Sound Quality: Won’t matter if you can get a good station if you can’t hear it! Quality is important and it comes in two forms – the speaker itself and how well the signal is being absorbed by the weather radio. Good speakers and some sort of telescopic antenna are highly recommended.
- Miscellaneous: There are plenty of minor features you should keep an eye out too – think along the lines of digital readings, automatic station scanning, and glow-in-the-dark panels. While they might not be absolutely necessary they can be a quality of life improvement that helps you get the best out of your weather radio.
Top 10 Best Weather Radio Reviews
There’s a lot of these devices out there – instead of blindly looking through all of them we have made a list of the absolute best ones out there today. Each of these devices is of remarkable quality and bring something unique to the table related to features, affordability, or just straight toughness.
1. Best Noaa Weather Radio: Midland WR120B/WR120EZ
An all-around great device that incorporates multiple features making it one of the best NOAA weather radios on the market. SAME programming technology allows users to get alerts only when their area is pinged to be threatened from one of 7 channels. The siren is rated at 90 dB, making it slightly louder than typical garbage disposal, along with having a flashing LED warning system.
This machine also doubles as an alarm clock, making it useful even when the weather is calm. Powered by an AC adapter means that this radio is meant to be located in a central location in the home. This system can work even when the power is out though with its backup AA battery source. This Midland device is capable of alerting in three languages – English, Spanish, or French. Alerts range from tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and much more.
As you can see, despite its low price point this machine has plenty of special features and flexibility. When programming it for your area you’ll notice you’ll be able to customize it upwards to 25 counties, allowing you to look at a huge swath of land if you so desire.
2. Best Solar-Powered Weather Radio: Kaito KA500 5-Way
This weather radio has a plethora of potential power sources – AA batteries, USB input, AC plug, hand-crank, and solar powered. When combined with a range of important safety features this Kaito machine is a step ahead of the competition making it one of the better solar-powered weather radios. A total of 7 NOAA weather channels are pre-programmed, along with capabilities to access AM, FM, and 2-band shortwaves channels if desired.
The reception is crystal clear – this is a result of the 14.5″ telescopic antenna reinforced with a semiconductor circuit design. For improved tuning accuracy, there is the LED signal strength indicator, meaning you’re not going to be searching for a station for long. There is an additional USB output port that allows most smart devices like phones and GPS units to hook up and charge.
Made from an impressive dual impact and water-resistant exterior, this device is ready to be taken outside if needed. Included in this device are a flashlight, S.O.S. beacon, and reading lamp. Available to purchase in yellow, blue, green, and black.
3. Best Emergency Radio: Midland ER310
Don’t be caught off guard with a substandard weather radio – this machine is perfect for prognosticating emergency situations. Coming with a trifecta of power sources – solar panel, rechargeable battery, and hand-crank – means you won’t have to worry about it cutting out anytime soon. This excellent emergency weather radio has a built-in flashlight, SOS beacon that shines at 130 lumens, allowing it to be seen even from a far distance.
Like other weather radios, this machine has 7 available NOAA weather stations to choose from. What sets this one apart is the automatic scan feature that locks onto the strongest channel available, cutting past all the unnecessary funneling in getting a station to come through. When a bad natural disaster is coming up it’ll automatically alert you. Also capable of charging other portable devices like phones or tablets through the USB charging cable. If this wasn’t enough this machine also has a built-in dog whistle, allowing for the assistance of searching for people during an emergency situation. Overall, this radio is very well made, coming with an ergonomically designed handle on one side to aim the flashlight or clip to a pack if needed.
4. Best Portable Weather Radio: Midland HH54VP
Fitting in just one hand this great weather radio is for those looking for something extremely portable. Capable of linking up with the strongest of NOAA broadcasts, what is really interesting is that this machine actually has SAME technology built-in. Surprising for such a little device this technology allows you to hear alerts just for your immediate area. Once a potentially bad weather situation is pinged this Midland machine will alert you through one of three options.
The memory is capable of storing up to 9 county codes, giving users the ability to toggle back and forth as needed. Warnings are organized using a tri-color LED signaling either warning, watch, or advisory alerts. The home mode allows users to select a weather channel from the menu while travel automatically scans and picks up the best one.
A great portable device that is made with a rugged exterior and fairly simple, making it a good choice not only for those on the move but those that just want something no-nonsense. This weather radio uses either 3 AAA batteries to stay powered or use a rechargeable battery pack. Included with this machine are wrist strap, radio belt clip, and owner’s manual.
5. Best Hand Crank Radio: American Red Cross FRX3
This nifty machine is amazing if you don’t want to have to worry about a power source. Capable of using just good ole muscle to stay functioning, this hand-crank radio is also capable of using both solar and AAA batteries as well. The USB output allows for the charging of another necessary portable device, while the aux-input gives you the ability to plug in headphones if you need to.
What you really get a weather radio for though is how well it will operate in emergency situations. Capable of relaying not only weather band alerts, but also AM/FM stations mean you’ll be privy to all the necessary information. On the side is an LED flashlight, while also having a glow-in-the-dark exterior making it a great machine to have in a dark spot.
The Red Cross has also included other smaller features like an alarm, backlit display, and illuminated buttons. Its square design makes this device easy enough to grip from the top, while the broadcasting potential works just as well as other weather radios.
6. Best Cheap Weather Radio: iRonsnow Upgraded Version IS-088U+
Coming in a variety of styles and offering a huge range of features, this affordable iRonsnow device is most notable for not costing an arm and leg. Recently upgraded in 2017 with a USB charger, this device can be powered by solar panels, lithium-ion batteries, and a hand-crank. It is also capable of accessing multiple NOAA broadcasts along with digital AM and FM radio. Despite being so cheap it is one of the better radios.
The machine itself weighs less than a half a pound and is only 5 inches long, making it also a great radio to have on a trip. On one side is the LED flashlight while on the other is the USB port to charge anything you might need – a pretty interesting prospect considering it can just be crank charged when needed, giving you effectively unlimited charging power as long as you have a pair of hands.
The original color is orange, but you can also purchase this machine in red, black, white, and yellow as well. The telescopic antenna on top makes sure you always have a signal regardless of where you are at.
7. Best Desktop Weather Radio: Midland WR400
Looking for something a bit higher caliber? Then look no further than this excellent Midland device. The automatic scan sifts through the 7 primary NOAA weather channels to get the one that is clearest. Once there is a viable threat scheduled for your area the device is set off, with little programming needed by you. Customization options are present though, allowing alerts from 23 counties.
When this radio does alert it can be based on one of three alert options – either the 90dB siren alarm, a voice alert, or bright LED flasher. The SAME technology makes sure that you only receive warnings that are pertinent to you. On those occasions, you don’t have any extreme weather this device doubles as an alarm clock along with an AM/FM radio with 6 radio channels.
This machine is meant as a home alert radio and because of that it runs on AC power – don’t worry though because even in a power outage this machine still functions with a backup battery source. To get better reception there is an attached antenna along with that clips in the back.
8. Sangean CL-100 Same Table Top Weather Radio
This snazzy machine has a classy exterior with a plethora of features with buttons to match. This table-top model weather radio is able to receive everything you need to know about natural disasters in your area from NOAA weather bands. Even when the bad weather is just about on top of you it doesn’t stop and gives you evacuation details to make sure you can take you and your family to safety.
Whether it is a tornado, fire, or massive storm you’ll know it before it comes – automatically alerting when you need to know, this machine is also outfitted with SAME feature. This feature gives you the ability to program up to 25 county codes and activate them as you see fit – allowing you to get alerts from either a wide area or just your locality. Using the auto-station search you’ll find getting to the strongest station is easier than ever. The digital display is extra wide to make it visible from around the room, while also having a dimmer and contrasting adjustment. This system can be expanded to be used with other audio devices via the 3.5 mm stereo auxiliary input.
9. Eton Scorpion II Portable Multi-Purpose Weather Radio
A nice little portable weather radio with the ultra-contemporary design. The handle on top allows you to clip this machine on belt loop or backpack, giving you the ability to be up to date with the weather situations while still having a full range of motion. Capable of listening on all the NOAA weather alerts, this device can also tune onto both AM and FM frequencies using the digital tuner and display.
The USB charger allows you to plug in your smart devices to get them up and running again by using the energy from the rechargeable 800mAh lithium battery. You won’t be left in the dark either as there is a super-bright LED flashlight on one end and a battery charge indicator giving you an idea of how much juice you got left. This battery is powered with both a hand-crank and solar, but what really makes this portable weather radio great is the extra-tough splash proof case. As a nice touch, Eton has added a hand bottle opener. The combination of usability, ruggedness, and great aluminum carabiner means this device will be ready for action whenever you need it.
10. RunningSnail Solar Crank NOAA Weather Radio
At the intersection of affordability and quality is this great RunningSnail weather radio. Any emergency will be known ahead a time – whether it be rain, sleet, snow, fire, or whatever else nature has to throw at you. Coming with everything you need in a weather radio, like access to all NOAA broadcasts, along with AM and FM stations, this machine also boasts one of the largest rechargeable batteries.
Ranking in at 2000mAh means you’ll have a total of 4 to 6 hours of radio time or a dozen hours of light. All of this and it’s powered through hand-cranking, solar charging, a USB cable, or 3 AAA batteries. Because of this, it is great for everything from around the home power outages or camping excursions.
The antenna allows you to pinpoint down stations more accurately, while the lamp feature allows you to shed light on an area without blinding anyone. The built-in SOS alarm flashes red to warn somebody or in case you have an emergency. Approximately the same size as a standard phone, this device is also capable of charging your smart devices as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Looking through all of these weather radios has probably brought up a few questions – and that’s completely normal! Here are a few of the most common ones that we have come across.
What exactly is the National Ocean and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA)?
The NOAA doesn’t do just emergency bulletins. While daily weather forecasts and storm warnings are one of their primary jobs they are also an intensely scientific agency that monitors coastal, marine, and fisheries. Many of the things NOAA does is to support the economic vitality of America by making sure environmental integrity is kept. They’re able to do this by staffing over 12,000 people worldwide.
The idea is to be able to predict these intensely chaotic parts of nature and share their information with others – the agency ultimately believes that working together can we conserve our natural ecosystems.
What is the NOAA broadcasting schedule?
With the exception of emergency situations the NOAA broadcasting channels typically follow a routine every day. Regional forecasts are updated multiple times a day – typically around the 4:30, 10:30, 15:30, and 20:30 times. A synopsis is given some time during the next hour. Area climate summaries are usually around 7:00 and 17:00.
Every hour follows a schedule as well, with hourly weather roundups given in single minute segments outlining weather conditions. Climate summaries that go over temperature, humidity, and wind speed readings – including minimum, maximum, and historical extremes – are given approximately every 15 minutes.
Why are there so many broadcasts for the same area?
Approximately 95% of people in the United States are covered by a weather transmitter. Each of these transmitters extends about 40-miles in radius assuming everything is in working order. Needless to say, there is often overlap with these devices, causing weather radios to pick up multiple signals. That’s why it is recommended to get radio stations that have SAME technology, to cut out all the unnecessary transmitters.
How do I program my SAME weather radio for my specific county?
It can vary a bit depending on your model. Most machines, like the Midland models, require going through the menu, which is usually controlled by an arrow pad until you get to SET LOCATION. On this menu, you will receive one of three options – single, multiple, and any. As expected any pick gets you alerts from all possible locations, while single and multiple need to be programmed.
Using either the single or multiple county functions requires you to know the county codes. In order to get these you need to either call the National Weather Service (NWS) or go to their website at www.nws.noaa.gov. Once you have the code, merely input it into the machine and you are good to go.
What about programming the correct frequency?
Just in the way you enable the SAME function. Merely go through the menu and go down to the word labeled CHANNEL. After you push the select key you’ll be greeted with a series of numbers starting with either 161, 162, or 163. Using the arrows select one of the frequencies that come in best. Once picked the radio will default to this station to receive your weather alerts.
I’m hard of hearing, is there another way I can get weather alerts?
If you are deaf or hard of hearing don’t worry as you still have a few options. If you still have partial hearing a louder siren can be put in place to signal you. If this is impossible you can attach other devices via an accessory port, putting out signals like vibrating your pillow, bed shakers, or strobe lights.
Other than a weather radio what other supplies should I have in an emergency kit?
The general formula is non-perishable foods, water, toiletries, first-aid, and some sort of container to hold everything in – typically a backpack or tote. Food should include anything canned or dehydrated, include some sort of can opener. Other things like basic tools such as a screwdriver, wrench, knife, and pliers are recommended as well.
Specific things related to your area and personal items should be included. This means any important paperwork like identification, insurance, social security, etc. Climate-related items should include an extra set of clothes, ponchos, snow boots, and whatever else you can think of.
There are a few fundamentals you need to look out for when picking the best weather radio for you – sound quality, access to all broadcasting channels, and alert type. Other secondary options you might want can range from portability, power source, and the incorporation of other tools like flashlights, bottle openers and what not.
A weather radio is a machine that uses one of the largest organizations on the planet, the NOAA, and streams their warnings right into your home. A quality weather radio can become a lifesaver and safety device akin to a smoke detector.