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Thursday, October 3, 2019

3 of the Best Emergency Radios for the Intelligent Pessimist

emergency radio with cranking power isolated with clipping path at original size

Just because a hurricane’s knocked out your power doesn’t mean you can’t stay abreast of further, developing bad news with an emergency radio. That’s precisely why I’ve slapped together this short list of three well-received receivers.

For the youngsters: Not all radios are emergency radios. See, back in the ’90s, people used radios to listen to music (and baseball). We all had radios, and not just in our cars. Now, portable radios are a bit fewer and farther between, but they’re just as useful during a natural or man-made disaster as they always were, as radio waves can keep broadcasting while more complex media and utilities are drowned by the fog of uncertainty (or even literal fog—which makes it tricky for repair crews to drive around).

These radios are specialized for that, and they all have one thing in common: a liberal array of charging capabilities. You can charge these radios via USB if you’re able. If not, they’ve got solar power. Uh oh—the sun exploded; now what? Good thing these radios also have cranks. Other helpful odds and ends include emergency flashlights, distress beacons, and ports to charge your phone. Enticing extras, to be sure, though I’m not quite sold on how easy it is to charge a smartphone with a hand crank. Then again, if cranking a phone battery for 45 minutes gives you enough juice to make a 911 call, give an address, then drop the call, that could well be worth it. Just don’t expect to play Fortnite mobile through the end-times.

Best Overall: Kaito KA500

Kaito KA500 emergency radio

When it comes to recharging my frail human form, there are precious few options: food and water, sleep, maybe an EpiPen, if I can get my hands on one. The Kaito KA500, however, is not a frail human, but rather quite the opposite: an emergency radio that can get its energy from five different sources.

The usual suspects—hand crank, solar panel, and USB—are all there. But they’re joined by some new meat: 5V AC/DC input with power adapter (you need to buy that yourself, though), and a built-in NiMH rechargeable/replaceable battery pack.

This old girl also works as a mobile battery charger, with a built-in standard DC 5V USB output. It’s also got lighting options: LED flashlight, red LED SOS beacon, and a 5-LED reading lamp, in case you want to try reading a book while waiting for the power to come back.

The casing is impact- and water-resistant ABS, which is cool, and the telescoping antenna opens up to 14.5″, for increased sensitivity. We could all use a little more sensitivity.

Best Overall

Kaito KA500 5-way Powered Solar Power,Dynamo Crank, Wind Up Emergency AM/FM/SW/NOAA Weather Alert Radio with Flashlight,Reading Lamp and Cellphone Charger, Yellow

The Kaito KA500 offers more options than the others, and costs less than the "premium" pick. It’s slightly less portable than some of the smaller radios, but it’s probably the most "prepper" oriented radio on this list, given its features.

Best Premium: Midland ER310

Midland ER310 emergency radio

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