When any sort of natural disaster happens, one of the first things to go down are communication lines. Emergency radios have been an integral tool in survival kits for some time, but solar powered alternatives bring some vital advantages that battery-operated models simply do not have. In fact, solar power is now a staple in many emergency kits, used to power a range of emergency tools.
Traditional radios have the major disadvantage of running on finite batteries. In an emergency situation you cannot always count on a readily available power source, rendering them practically useless. Solar powered emergency radios mostly rely on a combination of solar energy and hand-crank mechanisms to power up, meaning no grid electricity is needed. They are useful in the same way solar generators are useful in powering whole homes in the event of a blackout.
Staying on the airwaves during a calamity can be extremely useful, catching up with emergency broadcasts, NOAA weather updates (in case of storms, floods or hurricanes) and other vital news. Most modern models also come with extra survival-oriented features such as flashlights, sirens, ultrasonic dog whistles, SOS alarms, USB port for phone charging and more.
Many solar powered emergency radios are made of highly-resistant and waterproof material intended for use in the most adverse situations, making them the item you want to have if things go sideways.
We’ve picked out our top solar powered emergency radios here for a quick look.
One of the best solar powered emergency radios currently on the market, taking first place due to its exceptional durability and reliability (probably the two most important features any device can have in the event of an emergency). Excellent reception across AM, FM and NOAA bands and outstanding battery life and charging capabilities cement its position at the top of our list.
Probably one of the best solar powered radios on the market bar none, taking the premium position only because of its higher price tag. A higher cost is warranted in this case because this solar powered radio has it all. Extremely resistant and possessing a litany of extra features that make it a quintessential gadget for your survival kit.
How do Solar Powered Emergency Radios Work?
Unlike other solar powered devices, solar powered emergency radios almost always use multiple power sources as they have to be reliable in situations of calamity.
The primary source is a small PV panel integrated into the device, that absorbs and converts the sun’s rays into usable energy, then stored in the device for later use. The second source is the hand crank, a gear motor activated by kinetic energy. The two main components that create usable electricity are a magnet and a conducive wire or coil. The interaction between the two when stimulated (via cranking the lever) creates a small current of electricity.
Usually a 15 minute cranking session will buy you around 5 minutes of radio autonomy. That might not seem much but it can be done at any time and can still come very much in handy during an emergency. As relying solely on solar power or hand cranking in the wilderness or while in a tough predicament is not ideal, practically all solar powered radios can be charged by USB or by conventional AA batteries.
The main use of any radio during a long camping trip far from civilization, or god forbid during a natural emergency, is to quickly tune into real-time alerts. Whenever such an alert is broadcast, the emergency radio will receive an SAME alarm. SAME stands for Specific Area Message Encoding. These are alerts that are sent to radio owners in a specific area in the case of an emergency.
To be sure to receive updates or alerts it is best to remain tuned on the standard 24 hour broadcasts of the NOAA weather prediction center (NOAA stands for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) or also the various channels under the NWS and NWR umbrella (respectively the National Weather Service and National Weather Radio).
Different models have different reliability when it comes to audio crispness, reception and frequency range, especially when considering you might be in a remote area but all modern solar powered radios should tune into the main FM, AM and NOAA frequencies, though keep in mind not all receive SAME alerts.
All modern solar powered emergency radios possess added functionalities to help in times of need, as they are first and foremost a survival gadget. Flashlights, sirens, SOS lights and even beer openers can be almost as useful as the radio itself.
Some radios even have color coded LED lights that can indicate the gravity of the emergency. This will then be supplemented by the emergency broadcast that not only may alert you to impending danger such as the category of an incoming hurricane or tornado (real worst case scenarios here) or the severity and damage to infrastructure caused by a storm.
Finally solar powered radios work excellently as a power bank being able to charge other crucial devices to have during an emergency such as your cellphone.
Pros and Cons of Solar Powered Emergency Radios
All solar-powered technology comes with inherent pros and cons. We’ve already seen how incredibly useful solar powered emergency radios can be in times of need. They are an eco-friendly and resilient alternative to normal radios or other devices that may be affected by power outages (TV’s, computers, landlines etc) or malfunction if wet.
Solar powered radios are not limited by the circuitry of traditional radios meaning they are much more water and fall resistant. Let’s see their other main positives but also some of their (fortunately few) shortcomings.
- Solar powered emergency radios have multiple power sources, not limited just to solar power meaning they can be hand cranked and charged by simple USB cable
- They are also distinguished by durable and sturdy designs made to brave even extreme weather conditions as they are after all a survival gadget
- To that respect they almost always come equipped with additional highly useful features such as powerful flashlights, sirens, alarms, SOS lights, stroboscopic lights and more
- The best solar emergency radios can tune into FM, AM and NOAA frequencies even in extremely remote locations and during bouts of adverse weather
- Solar powered radios work even during severe or prolonged power outages or blackouts as they rely on alternative power sources. In fact they are not only used during remote trips but as household radios when grid electricity fails in areas prone to severe weather
- Emergency broadcasts in general are crucial to have before or during a calamity, solar powered radios are one of the most surefire ways to receive them and stay informed as they unfold.
- Though powered by multiple power sources many find the panel and hand crank technology to be a bonus at best, relying on normal charging for peace of mind. Higher quality models though have much better PV panel and hand crank technology so a slightly higher investment may be warranted
- Not all solar powered radios emergency possess the SAME alert or automatic alarm feature so check accordingly before purchase
- Not all solar powered radios can guarantee adequate reception. Though most can, as with any radio there are always blind spots especially in remote areas
The Top Solar Powered Emergency Radios Reviewed
With our top picks laid out, let’s take an in-depth view at some of the best solar powered emergency radios and their defining features.
Kuwugi Emergency Weather Radio
- Brand: Kuwugi
- Four charging methods
- AM/FM & NOAA weather radio around
- LED Flashlight & SOS Alarm
Our top pick encompasses all the defining features a solar powered emergency radio should possess and more. First-off, this model’s 2000mAh power bank is one of the most durable on our list, able to charge a vast array of devices including phones and tablet and keeping you connected with the outside world during emergencies for a whopping 16 hours on a full charge.
The four ways to charge said power bank are all extremely efficient including: Hand cranking, solar panel, micro USB cable, and AAA batteries (not included). The frequencies range from FM/AM and NOAA alerts and are extremely easy to find (due to its very high quality reception) and listen to, thanks to Kuwugi’s emphasis on providing crisp, quality audio. The build is both sturdy (highly water and shock resistant) and compact, arguably one of the most important characteristic of any survival gadget.
The Kuwugi Emergency Weather Radio has a litany of extra features that are extremely useful and could be vital in an emergency situation. A 1W long lasting powerful LED light could be considered the main add-on. But it also boasts an SOS alarm alert, emergency red beacon light, survival para-cord bracelet, compass, whistle, magnesium flint fire starter and even a stainless steel bottle opener. At around 38$ it costs a bit more than most models reviewed here (prices for a standard solar radio from a reputable brand oscillate between 25-35$) but it more than makes up for it, something also shown by its increased popularity.
- 16 hours of autonomy on a full charge
- Extremely resistant and compact
- High quality audio and reception
- A ton of vital extra features (including SOS alarms, fire starter and powerful flashlight)
- Great price
- No SAME Alert
Fospower Emergency Solar Portable Radio
- Brand: Fospower
- 3 Power Sources
- 2 LED Lights Sources
- Emergency Radio Access
Another extremely popular and well-reviewed model. The Fospower Emergency Solar Portable Radio also possesses a durable 2000mAh power bank that can charge just about any model of cellphone, smartphone or tablet. Frequencies range across the usual FM/AM/NOAA spectrums, this radio will dependably receive emergency weather forecasts as they happen in real time.
Another compact model noted for its lightweight but resistant design. It can be powered by hand cranks, through solar power and by battery. These in turn can be used to power not one but two flashlights for different uses. A powerful LED light for movement in the dark and a nifty reading light to use during blackouts or while on the trail.
The Fospower radio also integrates the usual SOS and alarm alerts that define these survival gadgets. The use of this (obviously only during an emergency) could range from beckoning rescue workers from afar, to scaring wild animals.
- Compatibility with a wide array of smartphones and tablets
- Compact, lightweight design
- Reliable reception and good audio
- Useful reading light, powerful LED light and high volume SOS alarm
- No SAME alert
- Less durable than other models
RunningSnail Solar Crank Radio
- Brand: RunningSnail
- Color: Green
- AM/FM & NOAA weather alert radio
- Table Lamp & 1W LED Flashlight
- Hand Crank Self-charge for Outage
- Multiple Ways to Charge
A strong contender for best value model and a fan-favorite lightweight model also thanks to its pleasing design and vivacious lime-green color. RunningSnail offers an emergency radio that blends compactness, quality and versatility. Equipped with powerful and rechargeable AAA batteries using an 2000mAh capacity that can be charged via three methods: Solar power, hand-crank and direct USB adapter port charging meaning over 12 hours of light via its powerful LED flashlight with an integrated red-blinking SOS feature.
A full charge will also guarantee up to 6 hours of radio of good quality audio spanning all three AM/FM/NOAA frequencies, vital for any emergency situation. This is a high-quality, durable and highly affordable solar radio that works well under pressure.
- Compact size and durable
- Very affordable
- Good charging lifespan
- Can suffer from poor reception occasionally
Eton Ultimate Camping Radio
- Brand: Eton
- Weather alert radio with Bluetooth weather
- Easily rechargeable via solar power
- Multifunction digital device
When it comes to a natural disaster of any kind, the most important aspects any survival tool must have are reliability, resistance, durability and useful extra features. That is why the Eton Ultimate Camping Radio tops our list in the premium sector.
You could drop this radio in a lake and it’ll still work thanks to its IPX4 water-resistance rating, so heavy rains aren’t an issue. The hard plastic exterior is super compact measuring just 2.9 x 7.8 x 12.7 inches and weighing 2 pounds, meaning you can bring it wherever without any space or weight issues.
Four charging methods (solar, hand-crank, USB and included Li-ion rechargeable battery) are readily available and are all very effective. A full charge guarantees almost 13 hours of turned on radio at full volume. This solar radio also doubles as a small power bank and emergency phone charger and powerful Bluetooth speaker with a 3.5mm audio input to play your music instead of the radio.
The audio and reception itself is very high quality. To top it off this solar radio feature a super powerful LED light that can completely illuminate a campsite, incredibly useful as a survival item or just to create some ambiance.
- Excellent audio, reception and added functionalities
- Excellent charging capabilities and battery life
- Very good reception across all frequencies
- Doubles as a high-performance speaker
- Most powerful flashlight on our list
- Also the most expensive item on our list
Esky Emergency Solar Radio
- Brand: Esky
- Color: Yellow
- 3 Charging methods
- Durable Emergency Radio
- 3 LED Emergency Flashlight
- Portable Radio On The Go
Our best budget pick from Esky is a super compact and ultra-lightweight solar emergency radio with some decent capabilities despite its tiny size and low price. First of all its measurements constitute a positive already, as it is so small it can fit in a pocket, doubling as an emergency phone charger and 3W flashlight. Coverage of AM/FM/NOAA stations and weather alerts is of decent quality and reception.
This small radio has 3 efficient charging methods (hand crank, solar panel, USB port) and a 1000mAh powerbank that in turn can function as a charger for a wide array of cellphones. It’s rugged design is designed to ensure maximum durability and resistance.
- Ultra compact design (can fit in pocket)
- Rugged and durable build
- Exceedingly affordable
- Frequencies may get jumbled
- Reception could be better (complaints of static if staying in one place)
Raynic Solar Weather Radio
- Brand: Raynic
- 5 Power sources including a hand crank
- Multi-Use & Durable
- NOAA weather alert radio
- 2 LED Lights Sources
- Outdoor Necessary
Another extremely popular entry from Raynic. This compact and rugged radio has 5 different power sources that include the usual hand crank, solar panel, USB port but also a built-in Li-ion rechargeable battery and 3 AAA batteries (not included) together with AC power that make it easier and more versatile to keep the radio running for a prolonged period where AC power is off and batteries have been used up.
A powerful 5000mAh power bank means this portable solar radio can be readily used as phone charger while its 3.5mm headphone jack means it doubles as a radio/mp3 hybrid. The entire range of AM/FM/SW/7 preset NOAA weather channels are available, though they have to be manually tuned to receive alerts. A defining add-on this model possesses is a highly functioning compass together with a powerful 3W flashlight and SOS alarm. At an IPX3 water-resistant this solar radio is as durable as it is compact and would make a reliable addition to any nature lovers survival kit.
- 5 different power sources
- 5000mAh power bank (high for its compact size)
- Wide range of frequencies
- Durable composition and compact build
- Working compass
- Analog frequencies may be difficult to manually tune
- Has to be manually tuned to receive alerts
The Buyer’s Guide To Emergency Solar Radios
These are the main aspects to consider when buying the right solar emergency radio for you.
The main advantage of solar powered emergency radios when compared to traditional radios has to be the abundance of alternative charging methods and power sources. Solar powered radios mostly use a combination of hand-crank (for a quick charge), solar energy (for a longer charge) and standard USB charging.
The efficiency and speed of each method is a cardinal feature to look out for when purchasing a solar powered radio. Almost all models also use double batteries, normally a Lithium ion battery and a back-up AAA battery. When one dies the other kicks in. Some models also utilize standard AA batteries.
A radio works by tuning into a radio frequency, typically AM or FM. An emergency radio should at least be able to connect to local NOAA weather stations and weather alerts in the case of an emergency. As we’ve seen the frequency spectrum is a defining feature with some models spanning the whole AM/FM/LW/SAME/NOAA spectrum. Compatibility with more channels means nothing if the reception or audio quality is poor so be sure to invest in a model with proven chops in that department.
The actual working lifespan of a solar powered emergency radio is also extremely important. Models on this list are intended to work up to 16 hours on a full charge (though most models realistically run for about 4-8 hours). Be aware that the total working time of other accessories, such as the flashlight or phone charger are independent from the radio working time and each other.
Solar powered emergency radios are much more than simple radios. Not only are they a lifeline with the rest of the world especially if you find yourself in an unlucky predicament but they add so much to your survival kit through their many accessories. Some of them include: Led flashlights, red light SOS alarm, sirens, dog whistles, thermometers, barometers and more. More accessories usually means a higher price tag and decreased portability, so choose according to the type of outing you’re accustomed to. For example, a solo week-long hike as opposed to a month-long family RV trip could warrant a different model of solar radio.
The durability and resistance of the materials that make up both the device and its solar panels is also vital (so vital our top pick won because of its excellence in this category). A solar radio can have great audio quality, reception and accessories but if it breaks on the first fall or short circuits with a few splashes of water its all for nothing. This is an even more important point to consider in an emergency situation.
A crucial matter with any tool or gadget you bring on a trip is portability. Almost all the models reviewed here are noted for their sleek design and compactness. A slight exception would be the Kaito Pro Voyager, that could arguably be intended more as solar radio to place indoors in a camper or boat, though at the same time at 1.3 pounds its not exactly a boulder.
With all these factors taken into account, but especially due to its excellent durability, working time and excellent reception and audio quality (which let’s face it is the main feature one looks for in any type of radio) we’re going for the Kuwugi Emergency Weather Radio as best overall solar powered emergency radio currently on the market.
Check out our updated Pinterest board with the best solar radios:
Solar powered emergency radios usually use a combination of hand-cranking, solar power and battery power charged by a standard USB port to function.
Apart from the radio itself, a powerful functioning flashlight would probably the most important extra accessory. Sirens to attract attention or scare animals also qualify as most important.
Audio quality and reception are obvious candidates, but also durability and resistance to the elements like any survival gadget.
The National Oceanic a Atmospheric Administration and Specific Area Message Encoding. The first deals with weather alerts all over the United States, while the second is a protocol used for framing and classification of broadcast emergency warning messages
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