Weather-related emergencies are often unpredictable, which means keeping informed about the latest developments can make the difference between staying safe and being overwhelmed. Stocking a survival kit with the best hand crank radio is one step toward staying in tune with the world around you.
Gone, though, are the hand crank radios of old. Today’s models have built-in extras and features—from flashlights and built-in batteries to phone-charging ports and solar-powered options—that maximize your chances of successfully navigating a bad situation. This guide will take a look at those features worth considering as you shop and then explore some of the best hand crank radios on the market to use in an emergency.
- BEST OVERALL: RunningSnail Emergency Crank Radio
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Raynic Weather Radio 5000mAh Solar Hand Crank
- BEST DIGITAL TUNING: Eton American Red Cross Emergency NOAA Weather Radio
- BEST UPGRADE: Kaito KA700 Bluetooth Emergency Hand Crank Radio
- BEST COMPACT: RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank Self Powered AM/FM
- BEST PORTABLE: Criacr Emergency Solar Hand Crank Radio
- BEST FOR PHONES: RunningSnail Emergency NOAA Weather Crank Solar Radio
What to Consider When Buying the Best Hand Crank Radio
Hand crank radios might seem old-school, but the newer products on the market feature modern technology that makes them more versatile than ever before. Read on to discover several of the most important considerations to keep in mind while shopping for the best hand crank radio, from supported frequencies to weatherproof qualities to portability and more.
Today’s hand crank radios are all about usable power. In fact, many of the best hand crank radios can charge or run using several power-source options, such as accepting replaceable batteries and featuring onboard batteries that charge via a solar panel or a USB port. Most of these devices can also charge cellphones or flashlights in a pinch.
When it comes to battery size, there are options as compact as 1,000mAh batteries, which are ideal for packing in a bag or stowing in a glove box, and larger 5,000mAh batteries for longer charging and flashlight usability. Some larger batteries offer more than 12 hours of radio time or 15 hours of flashlight power. While they might take 10 to 15 minutes of cranking time, you can replenish your battery and charge devices even when the power is out.
While weather-related frequencies should be the main focus of a hand crank radio, entertainment can go a long way toward maintaining morale when the power is out. A high-quality hand crank radio should be easy to swap between several frequencies.
Emergency radios are capable of AM, FM, and weather-band frequencies. Music, talk shows, sports reports, and more are available on AM/FM frequencies. FM radio waves don’t travel as far, and as such, these local radio stations provide locale-specific reports, including weather-related closings and emergency information valuable to people living or working in the area. This type of information might not be available on the weather bands, so it’s an important feature to consider.
Whether it’s used as a piece of gear for camping or in the event of hazardous weather conditions, the best hand crank radio might have a weatherproof rating that guarantees the device is reliable in tough conditions. These radios will resist damage from water, dust, and other would-be detrimental elements, ensuring users are able to stay up to date on the latest emergency information.
Often, manufacturers test their products using Ingress Protection ratings (IPX). The most common designation for the best hand crank radios is IPX3, which means these radios are protected against water and dust sprayed onto the device from any angle up to 60 degrees. While that might seem complicated, the gist is that IPX3-rated products may offer more weather-related protection than non-IPX-rated products.
NOAA Weather Alerts
If there is one feature at which the best hand crank radio might excel, it’s accessing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) emergency weather updates. NOAA maintains a network of radio stations throughout the country, and reports run continuously, 24 hours a day. These reports warn against storms, earthquakes, avalanches, and other public safety concerns relevant to the region.
While weather reports and updates might be available on a standard radio, NOAA broadcasts its reports at higher frequencies than FM radios can pick up. NOAA-enabled radios can tune into several of these frequencies, keeping users up to date on emergencies and changing conditions.
The most important feature a radio can provide is information, but the best hand crank radio might have more to offer. Many of these devices have built-in options that can increase comfort, morale, and survivability. Features like compasses help guide explorers, while thermometers can point out when conditions are unsafe and it’s time to set up camp for the night.
Built-in flashlights are incredibly helpful. The best hand crank radio for a given situation may include one or two lights, helping to navigate lights-out scenarios. These radios might feature a small flashlight beam, as well as a light that operates as a lamp, illuminating a room with a wider beam of light. When these lights drain the battery, a few minutes spent spinning the hand crank can have them back up and running.
Some emergencies require evacuating or heading for higher ground, or an adventure might simply require packing lightly. Whatever the situation, an easily portable hand crank radio can make a huge difference. While most of the best hand crank radios are compact and easy to transport, there are a few points to consider.
Folding handles and telescoping antennas help the design of these emergency tools remain streamlined and easy to pack. Likewise, the best hand crank radio for portability might have a smaller battery to keep it lighter and packable. A particular design with carrying handles to which a carabiner can clip might make one model the best hand crank radio for strapping to a backpack. Balancing portability and usability will help ensure the radio is functional and easy to keep on hand.
Our Top Picks
When it comes to choosing the best hand crank radio, there are lots of products on the market from which to choose. There are small radios that stow away in a pocket or glove box as well as larger options with longer battery life and built-in features. Be sure to keep all the above shopping considerations in mind while reviewing the top picks of some of the best hand crank radios for emergencies.
RunningSnail’s Emergency Crank Radio boasts all the necessary features for responsible and streamlined emergency preparedness. This radio features four different methods for charging: a replaceable 4,000mAh battery, a folding hand crank, a USB charger, and a built-in solar panel. The micro USB charges the battery in six hours; spinning the hand crank for one minute provides up to 30 minutes of flashlight time or six minutes of radio.
This hand crank radio offers reception for AM, FM, and seven NOAA stations, and the telescoping antenna helps maintain clear reception. The built-in flashlight offers three modes, including settings for far, dipped (pointing downward), and both beams at the same time. There is also a built-in lamp underneath the solar panel, allowing users to light up the room during power outages. Additionally, a motion sensor picks up movement and illuminates the lamp for 30 seconds.
Staying prepared doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. When it comes to charging multiple devices or long-lasting power outages, the large battery capacity of Raynic’s Weather Radio can weather the storm. This radio features a 5,000mAh battery that charges through solar, a USB cable, the folding hand crank, and an AC adapter while also accepting AAA batteries for extra backup. It can charge devices with the built-in USB port, light the trail with the built-in flashlight, and provide enough illumination for reading.
This hand crank radio features AM, FM, and NOAA weather bands, keeping users up to date on changing weather conditions. It also includes a nylon carrying handle with an attached compass, keeping adventurers on track when they’re off the beaten path. The IPX3 rating ensures it’ll stay functional if conditions worsen, making it a reliable option when the weather doesn’t want to cooperate.
Those concerned about keeping their crank radio charged and available will appreciate the American Red Cross Emergency NOAA Weather Radio from Eton. This digital radio is easy to tune to AM, FM, or all seven NOAA stations. The slim design fits nicely on a counter or nightstand, and the alarm clock function means it can also be used as an everyday radio or clock.
This crank radio’s 2,600mAh battery charges via USB, solar, or the hand crank, and it accepts AAA batteries for supplemental power. Charging devices is also easy with the built-in USB port. It provides an automatic alert function that sounds in an emergency, and the built-in three-LED flashlight can light the way to safety.
Kaito’s KA700 Bluetooth Emergency Hand Crank Radio provides more features than one might expect from a hand crank radio. This radio reads and plays MP3, WMA, and WAV files, and it accepts micro-SD cards. It also connects with Bluetooth devices like smartphones and tablets, making streaming audio in power outages a possibility. Charging the onboard 2,000mAh battery comes via a USB adapter, an AC wall outlet adapter, the folding hand crank, or the solar panel on top.
There’s a lot more to like about the KA700. In addition to an alarm clock, it includes a digital dial for tuning into AM, FM, and NOAA stations. This feature-rich radio also boasts a built-in microphone for recording voice memos, a flashlight, and a five-LED reading lamp under the onboard solar panel.
Having a hand crank radio on hand for emergency situations doesn’t mean it has to be a big, heavy machine. RunningSnail’s Emergency Hand Crank Radio offers charging capability, emergency reports from NOAA radio transmissions, AM and FM frequencies, and a flashlight, all while measuring just 5 inches long and weighing less than half a pound. Its small footprint makes it easy to store in a backpack or glove box.
This radio features a 1,000mAh battery, and it charges via a micro USB, the hand crank, or the built-in solar panel. It also has a flashlight built into the unit, and it can charge mobile devices with the USB output.
The Emergency Solar Hand Crank Radio by Criacr provides an affordable option with a 2,000mAh battery, multiple charging methods, and built-in lighting choices. This hand crank radio charges the onboard battery with the folding hand crank, a solar panel, and a USB charger. It also includes a compartment for three additional AAA batteries (not included or required).
This radio offers several other desirable built-in features as well. It boasts a bright flashlight as well as a six-LED lamp for playing games or reading to pass the time. It includes both AM and FM frequencies, in addition to the NOAA weather bands. It also features an SOS alarm for alerting help, and its IPX3 rating will help ensure it stays functioning even in rough conditions.
Maintaining good morale is an important part of surviving ugly situations. RunningSnail’s Emergency NOAA Weather Crank Solar Powered Portable Radio’s audio input jack can keep the tunes going while the power is out. Its 4,000mAh battery also keeps phone batteries topped off while alerting users to emergency conditions.
The radio charges via the built-in solar panel, a USB adapter, or the hand crank; AAA batteries can add some supplemental power. Fully charged, it will reliably offer up to 10 hours of radio time. The built-in flashlight provides plenty of light for navigating a home when the power’s out, and the SOS alert feature can get the attention of rescue crews.
The Advantages of Owning a Hand Crank Radio
- Hand crank radios keep you up to date on dangerous weather and public safety situations. Having such a device means always having the information necessary to stay safe. By tuning into NOAA weather stations, you can stay alert to changing conditions, emergency situations, and other life-saving information. With automatic alerts, a hand crank radio can prepare your family for tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, or other public safety emergencies.
- Hand crank radios allow you to stay in touch with your loved ones in an emergency by charging your phone while the power is out. They make excellent power banks for charging devices when the power is out. By cranking the handle for 10 to 15 minutes, you should be able to charge a smartphone for quite a while, allowing you to make emergency calls or send text messages to check on your loved ones.
- You won’t be without a flashlight for more than a few minutes, as a few turns on the crank will keep the light working. Hand crank radios also provide renewable energy for flashlights and other needs. Between the built-in solar panels charging the battery during the day and the hand crank for charging after sundown, you’ll never have to be without a flashlight for more than a few minutes.
FAQs About Hand Crank Radios
While hand crank radios aren’t new technology, there is a lot to know about the different features and how these devices work. Below is a collection of some of the most common questions about hand crank radios.
Q. What is a hand crank radio?
A hand crank radio is a radio that doesn’t require outside electricity to run. The user simply turns the crank to charge an onboard battery, allowing these devices to work even when the power may be out.
Q. When would I need an emergency radio?
Should there be a natural disaster or an unfortunate public safety situation, the power grid could go down, leaving you without valuable information that could keep you safe. An emergency radio helps you keep in touch with that info.
Q. Do hand crank radios need batteries?
Hand crank radios have built-in batteries onboard, but many can take supplementary batteries for longer radio or flashlight time.
Q. How long does it take to charge a hand crank radio?
Many of the best hand crank radios might require cranking for 10 to 15 minutes until they reach full charge.