The Best Hand-Crank Radios Tested in 2023

Keep your family safe by staying on top of the latest emergency information with the best hand-crank radio.

Best Overall

The Best Hand Crank Radio Options: DaringSnail MD090P Emergency Weather Hand Crank Radio

DaringSnail MD090P Emergency Weather Hand-Crank Radio

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Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Hand Crank Radio Option: Esky Portable Emergency Weather Hand Crank Radio

Esky Portable Emergency Weather Hand-Crank Radio

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Best Digital Tuning

The Best Hand Crank Radio Options: Eton FRX3 American Red Cross Multi-Powered Radio

Eton FRX3 American Red Cross Multi-Powered Radio

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Weather-related emergencies are often unpredictable, which means keeping informed about the latest developments can make the difference between staying safe and being caught off guard. Stocking a survival kit with the best hand-crank radio is one step toward keeping in touch with the world around you.

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 the chances of staying safe. We spent 3 days field testing eight different hand-crank radios to find out which features matter most and which ones boost overall functionality during an extended power outage. Read on to learn more about our shopping priorities and how each of these models performed in our tests.

  1. BEST OVERALL: DaringSnail MD090P Emergency Weather Hand-Crank Radio
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Esky Portable Emergency Weather Hand-Crank Radio
  3. BEST DIGITAL TUNING: Eton FRX3 American Red Cross Multi-Powered Radio
  4. BEST SHORTWAVE: Kaito KA500 AM FM Shortwave Solar Hand-Crank Radio
  5. BEST COMPACT: Midland ER40 Emergency Hand-Crank Radio
  6. BEST WEATHERPROOF: Eton Scorpion II Rugged Multi-Powered Weather Radio
  7. BEST WITH CHARGER: C. Crane COBS CC Solar Observer Emergency Radio
  8. BEST SOUND QUALITY: C. Crane CCRS CC Radio Solar Windup Emergency Radio

Editor’s Note: We’re in the middle of testing even more of the top hand-crank radios on the market right now. Check back for our honest reactions after getting our hands on best picks.

The Best Hand Crank Radio Options
Photo: Jacob Wolfe

How We Tested the Best Hand-Crank Radios

We set up testing scenarios to simulate the types of real-world events, such as severe storms and power outages, that hand-crank radios are designed to meet. In order to get a real feel for how each model would perform, we created a scoring rubric that included battery life, charging capabilities, radio signal reception, audio quality, portability, and additional features that might make sheltering in place a little easier.

We started by recording the physical dimensions and weight of each radio and charging the batteries. Next we counted the number of AM, FM, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stations that each radio received in three different locations and awarded 1 to 5 points for signal reception. We also scored the radios on a 1 to 5 scale according to overall sound quality. Finally, we awarded additional points for such bonus features as charging ports for other devices, clocks, lights, and battery efficiency observed by a runtime test.

The Best Hand Crank Radio Options
Photo: Jacob Wolfe

Our Top Picks

Whether shoppers need a small radio to stow away in a pocket or glove box or a larger option with longer battery life and built-in features, this guide can help. We tested eight different models, each of which excels in its own way. In our reviews ahead, find out how each hand-crank radio performed and why we consider these among the best hand-crank radios for use in emergencies.

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DaringSnail’s emergency crank radio boasts the necessary features for responsible and streamlined emergency preparedness. This radio features a replaceable 4,000 milliampere hour (mAh) lithium-ion battery and three different methods for charging: a folding hand crank, a USB charger, and a built-in solar panel. The micro USB charges the battery in 6 hours; spinning the hand crank for 1 minute provides up to 30 minutes of flashlight time or 6 minutes of radio. The radio measures 6.5 inches long by 3.25 inches high by 2.5 inches deep, and it weighs 13.35 ounces.

This hand-crank radio offers AM and FM radio reception as well as seven NOAA weather stations for monitoring emergency weather conditions. A 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 reading 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.

We awarded the DaringSnail radio Best Overall because of its combination of affordability, radio reception, sound quality, and battery size. In our opinion, this no-frills option offers the best combination of features for emergencies. In our tests, it tied for the best overall reception and offered pretty good sound quality.

The analog display with manual tuning and on/off/audio knobs were easy and intuitive to operate. But, because the tuner turned somewhat stiffly, precision tuning wasn’t easy. We picked up plenty of clear FM stations, but most of the AM stations came in with some amount of static.

This radio would fit in a travel bag easily, adding less than a pound. In addition to its signal sensitivity, it offers the added benefit of storing enough electricity to boost a cell phone charge. It provided a 50 percent cell phone charge in a couple of hours, with enough left in the battery to power the radio for 10 hours straight at a low volume.

For a depleted battery, cranking for a minute at two to three turns per second provided 6 to 10 minutes of radio runtime. The solar panel was best used as a battery maintainer, as it only charged effectively when the radio was powered off and placed outdoors with unobstructed sunlight angled directly onto the panel. In this scenario, solar charging for 6 hours provided about 5 hours of runtime.

Read our full review:DaringSnail MD090P Emergency Weather Hand-Crank Radio

Product Specs

  • Power: 4,000mAh rechargeable battery (Li-ion)
  • Frequencies: AM, FM, and NOAA
  • Size: 6.5 inches long by 3.25 inches high by 2.5 inches deep
  • Weight: 13.35 ounces


  • Large 4,000mAh rechargeable battery with 3 optional methods of charging
  • Excellent AM, FM, and NOAA Weather Radio reception to keep users informed
  • Easy-to-use analog display; manual tuner and on/off/volume knobs
  • Compact and lightweight construction for easy storage and transportation
  • Motion-sensor light helps conserve battery life in a power outage


  • The radio must be on to monitor weather alerts—no automated alert feature
  • Stiff tuning knob makes precision tuning more difficult than other radios

Get the DaringSnail hand-crank radio at Amazon or DaringSnail.

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Sometimes a small, inexpensive option that really works is the best choice. Those shopping for the cheapest, smallest, and lightest weather radio possible may want to consider the Esky portable emergency weather radio. It measures 5.25 inches long by 2.5 inches high by 2 inches deep and weighs just 7.45 ounces, making it a good option for commuters. Although this little device doesn’t offer many extras, it picks up nearby AM, FM, and NOAA weather stations, and, having recently been upgraded, it now includes a 2,000mAh battery that can boost a cell phone for a quick emergency call if needed.

Although this radio is small and relatively spartan, it does include the emergency features we find most important. Standard and micro USB ports facilitate charging of other devices and AC charging of the onboard battery. The battery can also be charged with the hand crank or via the small solar panel. The three-LED flashlight offers basic on/off functionality. A telescoping antenna helps ensure the best possible reception of FM and NOAA signals, while an internal antenna receives AM frequencies. Since we tested this product, Esky has upgraded the battery to 2,000mAh (compared to the 1,000mAh that we used), so we have linked to those here, as the 1,000mAh model is no longer available. We look forward to testing this upgraded version soon.

In our tests, with the 1,000mAh battery fully charged, the Esky radio offered 6.5 hours of radio runtime. We would expect to get closer to 14 hours from the updated battery in the current model, and the price appears to be the same as before. With the smaller battery that we tested, we only recommend using it to boost a cell phone to 5 or 10 percent charge for texting or emergency calls in order to leave adequate radio battery life. But with double the available power in the updated Esky radio, charging for app usage and other smartphone functions becomes a more realistic option.

We really liked the compact size of this radio that easily fits in a jacket pocket, backpack, or purse for daily carry. It weighs less than half a pound—similar to the weight of a smartphone. Also, the low-profile on/off/volume and tuning knobs won’t catch on other items when removing the radio from a pocket or bag.

The only problem with the unit’s small size was that the analog display was not easy to read or super accurate when it came to finding a known frequency/station visually. When we were close to the known station, we sometimes had to slow down and move the dial back and forth a few times to home in on it.

Product Specs

  • Power: 2,000mAh rechargeable battery (Li-ion)
  • Frequencies: AM, FM, and NOAA
  • Size: 5.25 inches long by 2.5 inches high by 2 inches deep
  • Weight: 7.45 ounces


  • Pocket-size, lightweight emergency radio is easy to pack and carry
  • Minimal battery drain in storage and long-lasting battery life while operating
  • Also works as a portable phone charger or flashlight


  • Suitable for emergency charging only—charging other devices significantly depletes battery
  • Affordability means not much functionality beyond radio, flashlight, and emergency charger
  • Built-in lithium-ion battery has a 5-year life expectancy and is not easily replaceable

Get the Esky hand-crank radio at Amazon.

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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 and FM radio as well as 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. The solar panel is surrounded by a glow-in-the-dark rim that makes it easy to find the device at night. Charging devices is easy with the built-in USB port. It provides an automatic weather-alert function that sounds when a weather advisory is activated for the signal area, and the built-in three-LED flashlight can light the way to safety.

When it came to radio reception, the Eton FRX3 American Red Cross crank radio tied for the best overall among our test group. It transmitted clearer sound with less static than the analog radios, possibly due to having one of the longest telescoping antennas (23 inches, compared to an average of 16 inches for the group) and because it locked in on the signal wavelength with greater precision.

The included Weather Alert function was a helpful feature that only four of our tested radios offered. It extends battery life by eliminating the need for constant radio play and automatically turns on the radio when an alert is issued by NOAA.

Another nice feature was the included clock function. Only half the radios in our test group included a clock, and just two included an alarm clock function. Tracking time accurately is critical when dealing with injuries, and it comes in handy for mundane chores like periodically refueling a generator.

We were also impressed with the relatively fast charging power of the FRX3’s solar panel. It only took about 10 hours to recharge the depleted battery completely, whereas the others took twice as long or longer. Cranking the handle also seemed to produce more efficient results than average. At a rate of two to three turns per second, 1 minute of cranking powered about 10 to 15 minutes of radio runtime.

Product Specs

  • Power: 2,600mAh (Li-ion)
  • Frequencies: AM, FM, and NOAA
  • Size: 6.75 inches long by 6 inches high by 2.5 inches deep
  • Weight: 1 pound 2.9 ounces


  • Digital tuning and alarm clock functions make this a practical radio for everyday use
  • The 2,600mAh battery holds plenty of power for extended runtime or for boosting a cell phone battery
  • Features a bright LED flashlight with flashing red SOS function
  • Efficient solar and hand-crank charging systems for faster battery charging


  • Control panel is covered by the carry handle, so the buttons are more difficult to access

Get the Eton FRX3 hand-crank radio at Amazon, Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, or American Red Cross.

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Those who want more functionality and a broader range of reception may be considering a shortwave radio option. Shortwave radio frequencies are transmitted over much longer distances of hundreds or thousands of miles, and are often used by international broadcasters and audiences. The Kaito KA500 hand-crank radio offers the AM, FM, and NOAA Weather Radio bands that are locally important during power outages and emergency situations, as well as two shortwave radio bands, 3.2 to 10.0 megahertz and 10.0 to 22.0 megahertz, for curious listeners.

The radio features a large analog display, a telescoping antenna, and manual control knobs for AM/FM/SW1/SW2 tuning, volume, off/power mode, band selection, and weather band tuning. It comes equipped with a built-in 600mAh nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable battery that may be charged by AC adapter, USB PC connection, hand crank, or with the built-in solar panel. Users also have the option to install three AA alkaline batteries to power the radio. The three-way light switch features a LED flashlight with display backlight, red flashing SOS, and five LED reading lamp modes.

The Kaito Voyager measures 8.5 inches long by 5.5 inches high by 2.75 inches deep. It weighs 1 pound 3.1 ounces. In testing, it scored 4 out of 5 on both reception and audio quality, plus it earned extra feature points as the only model we tested with shortwave reception.

We noted that the KA500 features a smaller-than-average battery that provides about 4 hours of runtime per charge. The fact that it works with conventional AA batteries makes it a bit more flexible than most of the other radios we tested, although the charge from AA batteries cannot be used to charge other devices.

In many circumstances, this may not be the best option for primary cell phone battery backup. But the fact that the hand crank can be used to charge a phone directly—instead of charging the radio battery first and then dump charging the phone from the radio battery—is a faster, more direct way to get emergency power into a phone. In our tests, the solar charger worked slowly, only moving the battery indicator light from “LOW” to “HI” after about 12 hours.

Product Specs

  • Power: 600mAh rechargeable battery (NiMH)
  • Frequencies: AM, FM, NOAA, SW1, and SW2
  • Size: 8.5 inches long by 5.5 inches high by 2.75 inches deep
  • Weight: 1 pound 3.1 ounces


  • Features AM, FM, NOAA, and 2 shortwave radio bands for international radio listening
  • Built-in rechargeable battery charges with AC adapter, PC adapter, hand crank, or solar
  • Also works with 3 AA alkaline batteries for even more flexibility during power outages
  • Preprogrammed NOAA radio frequencies eliminate the need for precision tuning


  • Smaller-than-average rechargeable battery offers less runtime per charge

Get the Kaito hand-crank radio at Amazon or Kaito Radios.

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The Midland ER40 emergency crank radio is built for everyday use, keeping users informed in case of emergency. It picks up AM, FM, and NOAA Weather Radio, and it features a Weather Alert mode that can automatically tune in whenever an emergency weather alert is issued for the broadcast area of a selected NOAA channel. The ER40 is powered by a 2,600mAh lithium-ion battery that may be charged with the included micro USB cable, the built-in hand crank, or the built-in solar panel.

Measuring 6.25 inches long by 3.25 inches tall by 2 inches deep, and weighing in at 11.45 ounces, the radio is easily packable for travel. It features digital tuning with a backlit LCD clock display screen. The LED flashlight function includes high and low beams as well as an SOS strobe mode.

In our tests, the Midland ER40 showed excellent runtime, rapid recharging, good reception, and fair sound quality. The radio ran for 27 hours on a full charge, and cranking the handle for a minute at two to three turns per second gave an additional 15 to 20 minutes of runtime. This radio offered significantly better reception than the similarly sized Esky and Eton Scorpion II radios we tested, with slightly better sound quality, too.

Another significant standout feature is the 2,600mAh battery. In addition to offering lots of straight running time, it was able to boost our cell phone battery from 5 percent to 25 percent in less than an hour, and it still had power left for hours of radio play. Those looking for a hand-crank radio that doubles as a cell phone battery backup would do well choosing this model.

Product Specs

  • Power: 2,600mAh rechargeable battery (Li-ion)
  • Frequencies: AM, FM, and NOAA
  • Size: 6.25 inches long by 3.25 inches tall by 2 inches deep
  • Weight: 11.45 ounces


  • Lightweight, compact radio fits easily into a backpack, purse, or cargo pocket
  • The 2,600mAh battery can charge a phone and still provide hours of runtime
  • Emergency Weather Alert feature preserves battery life while monitoring conditions
  • Bright 3-way LED flashlight includes high and low beams as well as flashing SOS mode


  • Audio quality is adequate but not great for casual listening

Get the Midland hand-crank radio at Amazon, Crutchfield, or Bass Pro Shops.

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For off-grid adventures, an emergency radio must meet multiple preparedness needs. The Eton Scorpion II features rugged construction and splash-proof certification that ensure safe, reliable outdoor operation in any weather. This AM, FM, NOAA Weather radio features a digital tuner with LCD clock display, telescoping antenna, LED flashlight, and emergency siren.

This packable radio measures 6.5 inches long by 2.5 inches wide by 2 inches deep, and it weighs 10.35 ounces. The rubber exterior skin provides slip resistance for wet hands and shock protection in case of accidental drops. A carabiner and bottle opener are built into the exterior of the radio housing for added versatility. The 800mAh lithium-ion battery can be charged with the included mini USB cable, the hand crank, or the built-in solar panel. A USB out port supports cell phone charging from the battery.

We were impressed right away with the sturdy construction of the Eton Scorpion II. The compact, stocky build and rugged housing felt more durable and ready for outdoor use than any of the other models we tested. This was also the only radio with an Ingress Protection (IPX) rating for splash resistance: IPX4 means it is safe for operating in rainy weather, but should not be submerged in water.

We considered the overall operation to be good for local emergencies. The radio received stations within 40 to 50 miles but not the weak or distant signals that some of the other radios detected. Rural users may need to seek an elevated or unobstructed location for best reception. The sound quality was adequate for emergency use, but not great for casual listening.

The smaller-than-average battery (800mAh) powered 13 hours of continuous radio play. Charging the depleted battery for 1 minute with the hand crank added about 5 minutes of radio time. Like the other small-battery radios we tested, this one should only be relied upon for a minimal cell phone boost—not for a significant recharge.

Product Specs

  • Power: 800mAh rechargeable battery (Li-ion)
  • Frequencies: AM, FM, and NOAA
  • Size: 6.5 inches long by 2.5 inches wide by 2 inches deep
  • Weight: 10.35 ounces


  • Faster scanning with digital tuning fixes precisely on the desired radio frequency
  • Certified IPX4 splash-proof for safe outdoor operation with exposure to rain
  • Compact size and lightweight construction; easy to take along on outdoor adventures
  • Unique features include a built-in carabiner and bottle opener on the body of the radio


  • Fair reception; best for emergency use within 50 miles of the broadcast tower
  • Limited battery size is less capable of charging other devices

Get the Eton Scorpion II hand-crank radio at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or The Home Depot.

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The C. Crane Solar Observer radio is a simple compact radio with enhanced reception and audio quality, making it a great choice for both emergency use and casual listening. It’s powered by an 800mAh rechargeable and replaceable NiMH battery pack. The included AC adapter keeps the battery pack charged, or the built-in hand crank or solar panel can do the job during a power outage. The radio can also be powered by alkaline batteries.

The Solar Observer measures 7.5 inches long by 6 inches high by 2.5 inches deep and weighs 1 pound 1.9 ounces. It features an analog display and manual controls for volume and tuning AM and FM radio. The seven NOAA Weather Radio frequencies are preprogrammed on a separate dial for fast access during bad weather. This radio also includes a three-LED flashlight and radio display backlight.

We were very impressed by the Solar Observer’s reception capability and audio quality. In our tests, it tied for the top scores in both categories. In fact, the audio quality of both of the C. Crane radios we tested stood head and shoulders above the others in our test group. The sound is optimized for voice clarity, as in news, talk, and sports broadcasts, so those who want one radio for both casual listening and emergency use might want to take note.

The Solar Observer was the only radio we tested that actually included its own wall plug, which was helpful. All of the others included mini USB cables but no hub to plug into. The 800mAh battery pack was somewhat underwhelming for the price, but it operated more efficiently than the similarly powered Eton Scorpion II.

On the first full battery charge, we got 17 hours of radio runtime. When the battery was depleted, 1 minute of cranking added 15 to 20 minutes of radio play. One downside: This radio does not have a built-in USB port for charging cell phones, but it does come with a USB adapter that plugs into an older-style port to accomplish the same thing.

Product Specs

  • Power: 800mAh rechargeable battery (NiMH)
  • Frequencies: AM, FM, and NOAA
  • Size: 7.5 inches long by 6 inches wide by 2.5 inches deep
  • Weight: 1 pound 1.9 ounces


  • Includes an AC adapter for direct power and to charge the battery pack
  • This versatile radio can also be powered by alkaline batteries
  • Tied for best radio reception and best sound quality among the radios we tested
  • Preset frequencies for quick monitoring of any NOAA Weather Radio channel


  • Uses a USB adapter rather than a built-in USB port to connect with other devices
  • The smaller-than-average battery pack limits phone charging ability

Get the C. Crane Solar Observer hand-crank radio at Amazon or C. Crane.

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Radio enthusiasts who appreciate quality will enjoy the great-sounding and well-appointed C. Crane Radio Solar Windup model that picks up AM, FM, and NOAA Weather Radio. With its clean lines, clear sound, and LCD alarm clock display, this compact radio is an ideal choice to keep on the desk or nightstand. A high-capacity lithium-ion battery offers many hours of radio play per charge and supports external device charging during emergencies.

The Radio Solar weighs 1 pound 0.95 ounces and measures 6.25 inches long by 3.25 inches high by 2.25 inches deep. It comes equipped with a 3,600mAh lithium-ion battery that is charged via micro USB cable or the built-in hand crank; a larger-than-average solar panel can boost the battery during power outages, and it also works with three AA alkaline batteries.

Several premium features stand out on this radio in addition to the voice-optimized sound quality. The clock may be used as an alarm clock, and the radio includes an optional Weather Alert function. Users may preset up to 25 stations, customize the audio, customize the display, set a sleep timer, set up tuning filters, or lock the radio controls.

The C. Crane Radio Solar is a high-performing emergency radio that does not look like an emergency radio. The sound quality was outstanding (tied for top honors in our tests), the signal reception was very good, and the battery life was the best we tested. And the radio itself has an understated “office equipment” sort of appearance. Any buyer might be satisfied with the performance, but it comes at a premium price.

The Radio Solar played for 51 hours on the initial charge, which is more than double the second longest runtime. When the battery was finally depleted, 1 minute of hand cranking added about 10 minutes of radio runtime. The large solar panel on this model stood out among the test group as one of only two (the other being the Eton American Red Cross emergency radio) that added more playing time than the amount of time it spent in the sun; 5 hours in the sun added 6 hours of radio play.

Product Specs

  • Power: 3.7-volt 3,400mAh rechargeable battery (Li-ion)
  • Frequencies: AM, FM, and NOAA
  • Size: 6.25 inches long by 3.25 inches wide by 2.25 inches deep
  • Weight: 1 pound 0.95 ounces


  • Outstanding audio quality with the ability to customize sound and fine-tune the reception
  • Extended running time per charge; more than double that of the others tested
  • Numerous premium features, including up to 25 preset stations, customizable display, and more
  • Oil- and UV-resistant rubber housing for long life without yellowing


  • Applying premium functions requires sensitive/complicated operations like pressing 2 buttons simultaneously, press and hold, etc.
  • More than 5 times the price of the least expensive option in the test group, and nearly double the average price

Get the C. Crane Radio Solar hand-crank radio at Amazon or C. Crane.

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What to Consider When Choosing a 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 cell phones or flashlights in a pinch.

When it comes to battery size, there are options as compact as 600mAh batteries, which are ideal for packing in a bag or stowing in a glove box, and larger 4,000mAh batteries for longer charging and flashlight usability. Some larger batteries offer more than 20 hours of radio time or 15 hours of flashlight power. While they might take 10 to 15 minutes of cranking for a usable charge, users can replenish the battery and charge devices even when the power is out.

Supported Frequencies

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 from the National Weather Service. 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 detailed information might not be available on the weather bands, so it’s an important feature to consider.

Waterproof Rating

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 detrimental elements, ensuring users are able to stay up to date on the latest emergency information.

Often, manufacturers test their products using IPX ratings 0 through 6. 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 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.

Additional Features

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. A clock display can help the user monitor anything from timing of medication to the next time the generator will need fuel. 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, while a planned-for adventure might simply require packing lightly. Whatever the situation, compact and lightweight hand-crank radios will be the most portable. While most of the best hand-crank radios are compact and easy to transport, there are a few points to consider beyond size and weight.

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 even lighter for carrying. A design with 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.

The Advantages of Owning a Hand-Crank Radio

  • Hand-crank radios keep users 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 in to NOAA weather stations, owners can stay alert to changing conditions, emergency situations, and other life-saving information. With automatic alerts, a hand-crank radio can prepare users and their household for tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, and other public safety emergencies.
  • Hand-crank radios allow owners to stay in touch with loved ones in an emergency by charging their phone while the power is out. They make excellent power banks for charging devices during power outages. By cranking the handle for 10 to 15 minutes, users should be able to charge a smartphone for quite a while, allowing them to make emergency calls or send text messages to check on loved ones.
  • Users 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, users never have to be without a flashlight for more than a few minutes.


While hand-crank radios aren’t new technology, there is a lot to know about their different features and how the devices work. Below is a collection of some of the most common questions about hand-crank radios and our succinct answers.

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 extended radio or flashlight time without cranking.

Q. How long does it take to charge a hand-crank radio?

Charging time depends on the mAh rating of the battery and the charging method. The larger the battery, the longer it takes to fully recharge when depleted. Charging via an AC adapter takes 4 to 10 hours. Solar charging requires 12 to 20 hours of full, unobstructed sun exposure. Turning the hand crank at a rate of two to three turns per second will fully recharge the battery in 6 to 15 hours.

Why Trust Bob Vila

Readers have trusted for sound budget-conscious home improvement advice since 1996. Staff writer Mark Wolfe has tested hundreds of battery-powered tools and gadgets for Bob Vila’s product reviews team. He provides honest and straightforward recommendations based on more than 20 years of professional lawn and garden experience, along with an extensive background in DIY home and automotive repairs.

Additional research provided by Tom Scalisi.

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Tom Scalisi


Tom Scalisi is a freelance writer for some of the largest DIY and construction-related websites in the world. He also runs his own blog,, which is a pest-control website that helps homeowners and renters choose their best pest-control options. He has a passion for building: Whether it’s a DIY project or an entire website, Tom loves creating something from the ground up, stepping back, and admiring a job well done.