Anyone who’s ever found themselves hunkered down and at the mercy of the elements will tell you that smartphones and other modern devices aren’t built for such situations. This is because there’s no service and there’s no way to recharge the batteries.
This is where emergency devices like portable solar radios come in.
The best solar radio is easily worth its weight in gold, or so to speak.
If you ever find yourself in the middle of a catastrophe, a waterproof solar radio can give you all of the necessary information that you will ever need. This includes what’s happening around you, what to expect, as well as who to call for assistance or if you should expect assistance from the government and other organizations.
Finding the best solar radio is much easier said than done though.
For those who’ve had little experience with such devices, it’ll be hard to tell one solar powered emergency radio from another solar powered portable radio.
Thankfully, we’re here to help.
Below, you’ll find all of the information that you need to get your hands on the best solar radio for your own particular use.
|Best Overall||Most Durable||Most Budget-Friendly|
|Preview||Runningsnail MD-088||Kaito KA500||FosPower FOSPWB-2376|
|Dimensions||5 x 1.8 x 2.4 inches||8.82 x 5.79 x 2.83 inches||6.2×2.9×2.1 inches|
|Weight||0.49 pounds||1.48 pounds||0.68 pounds|
|Power Source||Corded, Hand crank, Solar, Battery||Corded, Hand crank, Solar, Battery||Corded, Hand crank, Solar, Battery|
|Water Resistance Level||IPX3||–||IPX3|
- Best Solar Radio Reviews
- 1. RunningSnail MD-088s Emergency Solar Weather Radio
- 2. Kaito KA500 Weather Alert Radio
- 3. FosPower Emergency Radio
- 4. Midland ER310 Emergency Weather Radio
- 5. Eton Ultimate Camping Sidekick
- 6. Sangean MMR-88 Emergency Radio
- 7. Greadio GR-002W Emergency Weather Radio
- 8. RunningSnail Emergency Weather Crank Radio
- 9. Bonpro BY042 Weather Radio
- 10. RunningSnail MD-094-O Emergency Radio
- What to Look for When Buying a Solar Radio
- Other Important Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Solar Radio Reviews
1. RunningSnail MD-088s Emergency Solar Weather Radio
Being compact, versatile, and durable, the RunningSnail MD-088s Emergency Radio ticks all the right boxes. Its LED flashlights are amazingly bright for a solar powered am FM radio, and you get three different ways of recharging the unit.
First, you can charge the unit through the manual hand crank. The second is via USB, and the third is via solar. But that’s not all. You can also charge your mobile devices using this solar emergency radio.
This means that you can always expect to find a way to get in touch with your loved ones or use your phone in case of an emergency.
With access to as many as 7 NOAA weather channels, as well as both AM and FM bands, this solar radio will give you a hand in making informed decisions regardless of the situation.
Perhaps the main selling point of the MD-088s though is its compact nature.
Unlike other emergency radios, the MD-008s is easy to carry around. This is an invaluable quality to have in case of emergencies. In such situations, constant movement and packing light are keys to survival. This also makes the perfect companion for your next hiking, camping, or hunting trip.
What makes this potentially lifesaving emergency radio even better is that it comes at a fraction of the cost of others.
For roughly the same price as a large pizza or a new shirt, you can have the peace of mind brought by having this solar radio in your corner. Not only in case of emergencies and power outages, but also for when you want to get off-grid.
Just be sure to bring a watch with you. This solar radio doesn’t come with a clock.
2. Kaito KA500 Weather Alert Radio
Kaito has long been known for creating reliable devices, and the Kaito KA500 Weather Alert Radio is no exception.
The KA500 is well-known among survivalists, preppers, and survivors alike. Many attest to how the KA500 has saved their lives in emergencies, and for a good reason — few can compare to just how useful the KA500 is.
In terms of charging, there are numerous ways to power the KA500. You can charge it by plugging it directly to a wall outlet or simply use it with batteries. The hand crank charging function also works quite well. Plus, there’s the USB input, and of course, the solar panel.
You’ll find security with the KA500 because you’ll never have to worry about a power disruption wherever you go and whatever happens.
Also, as a bonus, you can use this solar-powered radio to charge devices if your mobile devices are running low on power.
This solar radio comes with numerous (6) different charge and power modes, as well as a 2-band shortwave capability with support for AM/FM stations, and finally, it has access to the Public Emergency Alert System (PEAS).
If you need a solar AM FM radio that has 24/7 access to forecasts in real-time, this is it.
Tough, light, and built like a tank, the KA500 is the ideal emergency radio.
However, the manual isn’t really good at explaining what the KA500 can and cannot do. This isn’t great when you consider the cluttered design as having too many buttons and switch options for anyone to reasonably know what they’re supposed to do.
3. FosPower Emergency Radio
The FosPower Emergency Radio is a versatile product meant for home use, the outdoors, and for emergencies.
It’s rugged and built to last, with access to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration emergency broadcast to help keep you updated with everything there is to know about the weather. It’s also worth taking note that this radio has access to both AM and FM stations.
In terms of charging power, the FosPower Emergency Radio won’t leave you wanting for more. It comes with three charging options, including solar panel, the crank lever, and a wall socket. You can also use AAA batteries to generate power if you don’t have access to other power sources.
The varied charging options will definitely come in handy knowing that the FosPower Emergency Radio’s solar charging leaves a lot to be desired.
You can also use the FosPower Emergency Radio to charge your phones. The battery capacity is 2000mAh, which can give your phones enough juice in emergencies.
A compact power bank and emergency radio rolled into one, the FosPower Emergency Radio is recommended to anyone who wants to prepare for emergencies.
4. Midland ER310 Emergency Weather Radio
The Midland ER310 screams survival gear at every angle. But that doesn’t mean it’s too utilitarian. In fact, one could say that its appeal lies in how rugged and functional it looks, no matter how weird that may seem.
Speaking of utility, the ER310 was built for ease of use.
The ER310 is a handy item for quick carrying and transporting. Even better, you have easy access to important information. You can even finetune the backlit LCD panel to show accurate information.
Equipped with a 130 lumens LED flashlight, you can see clearly in the dark thanks to the ER310. You can also expect up to 30 hours of use with the ER10 when it’s fully charged. But while the reception of the ER310 is good, you can reasonably expect it to pick up only the closest 2 NOAA weather alert stations at most.
Like other solar radios, you can use the ER310 to charge your other mobile devices.
A no-nonsense solar radio, the ER310 offers one of the best radio receptions, has weather alerts, and has multiple charging options. It’s also tightly sealed and water-resistant. Plus, its bright flashlight and tough build make it well-suited for a variety of conditions.
5. Eton Ultimate Camping Sidekick
Are you looking for something that’s built for the outdoors, reliable during emergencies, rechargeable and solar-powered, with Bluetooth and S.A.M.E technology to boot?
Well, say no more.
The Eton Ultimate Camping Sidekick comes with a rechargeable lithium battery, a solar panel, and a hand crank. These are three essential power generators for any solar radio. The Sidekick also has an automatic alert function that will let you know about NOAA emergency weather alerts in and around your area, including but not limited to hurricanes, tornadoes, and powerful storms.
Perhaps the best part about the Sidekick is that it features S.A.M.E technology.
This stands for Specific Area Message Encoding, and you can set up as many as 25 locations. This means that, wherever you are, rest assured that you’ll be safe and notified of any emergencies.
The AM/FM Digital Radio comes with a display and an alarm clock. It’s also ready for Bluetooth with an auxiliary audio port so you can plug in and listen to your favourite tunes and podcast as you wait for the emergency to pass. You can even plug in or connect it with your headphones so you can listen to whatever you want on your own.
In as little as 5-6 hours, you can fully charge the Sidekick. You can also have up to 15 minutes of power after cranking the hand turbine for only four minutes. Plus, for added charging options, you can also charge the built-in rechargeable battery using a micro-USB cable.
A huge downside to the Sidekick is its lack of compass. It also doesn’t have a thermometer.
These are two glaring omissions from an otherwise perfect solar radio.
6. Sangean MMR-88 Emergency Radio
Aesthetics don’t usually make an emergency radio worth buying, but it does give it an edge over the competition.
Consider the Sangean MMR-88 one of those who gets plus points for being a looker.
Looks aside, the MMR-88 is a solid and reliable solar radio. Weighing less than a pound, it’s as portable as they come, but make no mistake. Even though it’s light, it feels very solid. This is probably thanks to the heavy-duty rubberized caps that will make it withstand most falls. It also comes with an easy-to-read digital display that allows users to monitor the charge levels, among many other things.
The MMR-88 also comes with an AUX port for your headphones that you can use to hear emergency broadcasts and important information regardless of the weather conditions.
Finally, as is the usual requirement for an emergency radio, the MMR-88 comes with multiple charging options. Unfortunately, one of the biggest gripes with the MMR-88 is it doesn’t support standard alkaline batteries. You’ll either have to charge it via its solar panel or use the hand crank. But then again, the hand crank is very efficient.
7. Greadio GR-002W Emergency Weather Radio
Weighing roughly less than 11 ounces, the Greadio GR002W is a lightweight emergency weather radio that comes with four different charging options.
For starters, you can charge the rechargeable lithium polymer batteries using the bundled micro-USB cable. You can also use three AAA batteries to power the GR002W, or a solar panel, or via the hand crank if you’re up for some manual labor.
Speaking of the hand crank, unlike other solar radios, The GR002W can support up to twenty minutes of light or around 10 minutes of emergency broadcasts per one minute of manual hand cranking.
In addition, when the battery is fully charged, we can use them for up to 12 hours of radio time or 15 hours of flashlight time, which is a lot especially during emergencies.
The GR002W also covers AM, FM, and 7 NOAA weather channels, and comes with powerful LED flashlights, as well as a reading lamp.
On top of all of this, the 12-month warranty covers both broken and damaged parts.
Just a little bit of concern on the hand crank quality as it downgrades after a short time usage, following several comments from previous buyers. So the manufacturer should keep working on improvement.
8. RunningSnail Emergency Weather Crank Radio
You certainly can’t stop disasters regardless of how prepared you are, but you can make your life a bit more comfortable if and when they come.
The RunningSnail Emergency Weather Crank Radio is what you’ll want to have during such tough times as it comes with a weather alert function that will notify you ahead of time in case of a disaster.
You can also use the radio to charge your mobile devices to keep contact with your family and friends for a little longer. Plus, the access to NOAA weather channels lets you call for help using the SOS function.
If all else are inaccessible you can use the hand crank to make it last a few minutes longer.
When not in an emergency, this solar radio also comes in handy since it can play wonderful and relaxing music while out on a picnic. Or, you can also connect your favorite music player or headphones via the AUX port.
Finally, the solar radio comes with a 4000mAh capacity power bank and a portable handle to make it easy to carry or tie on your bag.
On the other hand, the limited information about the product online and on its manual means that you’ll have to figure out how it works pretty much on your own.
9. Bonpro BY042 Weather Radio
The Bonpro BY042 solar powered weather radio comes with everything that you can ask for in an emergency radio. It comes with multiple charging and power options, including via 3 AAA batteries, a solar panel, as well as a crank level. The best part? Both the solar panel and hand crank are generative. In addition to the aforementioned ways of powering the BY042, you can also power it using the NiMH rechargeable battery pack and the 5V mini USB. This combination of charging options ensure that you’ll always have power whenever you need it.
But what use is power if a weather radio isn’t using it to power something useful?
To that end, the BY042 delivers.
It supports AM/FM channels and NOAA weather channels to help you keep tabs on the weather conditions in real-time. It also comes with an SOS alarm, 1W LED flashlight with zoom, a power bank with a 2,000mAh capacity and a 5-LED reading lamp.
10. RunningSnail MD-094-O Emergency Radio
Don’t let the tiny size of the RunningSnail MD-094-O emergency radio fool you.
Despite being a relatively small handheld unit, the MD-094-0 comes with some serious power, both in terms of its power bank and its volume.
For starters, then 4000mAh rechargeable battery is good for up to 12 straight hours of radio playtime. That translates to roughly around 40 hours of flashlight time on a full charge. That’s far longer than how long other emergency radios can last, especially when you consider how portable this unit is at a little over 1 pound.
You can power the MD-094-O with AAA batteries, the hand crank, or then solar panel, as well as via USB cable. The USB cable can take as long as 7 hours to fully charge the MD-094-O.
Finally, MD-094-O is quite loud. It’s not a boom box, but it is loud, and that’s important for an emergency radio. This is especially when you consider that it comes with an AUX port and AUX cable so you can connect your cellphone or laptop or other devices to tune in to your favourite tunes or podcast.
This solar radio would’ve definitely been perfect had it not been for its relatively high asking price.
What to Look for When Buying a Solar Radio
Plenty of factors go into choosing a solar radio, but not as much as choosing a conventional radio.
Sound quality, for example, isn’t as important. As long as the voices are audible, that’s great. But of course, the louder the volume, the better. This is especially true when it comes to its SOS distress signal or weather alerts.
Here are the important factors you’ll want to consider when buying a solar radio:
Multiple Charging and Recharging Options
A solar-powered radio doesn’t just have to rely on solar power. In fact, it shouldn’t have. This is a crucial feature to have in an emergency device built specifically for emergency situations. The more charging options a solar radio can have, the better.
The most common charging methods for solar radios include solar power, hand cracking, and USB. However, some solar radios come with additional power options as well, such as by plugging it into a wall socket or using lithium-ion or alkaline batteries.
This kind of feature is especially useful for an emergency device like a solar radio.
Always look for these features when reading through a solar radio review.
How many hours a solar radio can work on a single charge is always important. Some can only last for 4-6 hours, while others can last double that. Also, when reading a solar powered radio review, make sure you don’t confuse how many hours the flashlight can last with how many hours the radio can last.
Access to weather reports from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration are definite musts. The more channels, the better. Even though most solar radios and emergency radios come with weather alerting capabilities, it would still help to monitor the weather channel manually for good measure.
Because your reason for buying a solar radio is for emergency purposes, you’ll want something with a lot of additional emergency-oriented features.
SOS red lights, AUX ports, and waterproofing, or at least some degree of water resistance, are great to have. Other means of alerting rescuers will also come in handy, like dog whistles. It probably also wouldn’t hurt if your solar radio has an ergonomic handle or is lightweight for added portability.
$50-ish Price Range
Price is a major factor when buying something. This includes solar radios. But when you’re shopping for one, you ideally don’t want to go below the $25 price range. Anything above $60 probably isn’t worth it either.
The reason? Cheap solar radios likely won’t have enough features to be a useful part of your survival kit. But at the same time, more expensive solar radios might not be worth it. They’re usually heavier and bulkier.
You’re most likely better off buying multiple solar radios of a more reasonable price instead of one expensive solar radio.
Other Important Factors to Consider
There are some things that you will want to know first about solar radios before shopping for one. The more you know about solar radios, the more prepared you’ll be in case of an emergency. This is because you won’t find yourself satisfied with your purchase, nor safe, unless you do your due diligence.
What is a Solar Radio? How Does It Work?
A solar radio uses photovoltaic panels for power. It works just like any other solar-powered device, using the panels under the sunlight to generate DC electricity used to charge the device’s lithium or NiMh battery.
Most solar radios aren’t just solar-powered though. Some use a dynamo, like a hand crank, to generate DC electricity by manual force through the lever to power the radio.
Other solar radios can also be charged using a USB port, or via a conventional electricity socket, or using extra lithium or AAA batteries.
Who is a Solar Radio For?
Solar-powered radios were initially built to help provide radio access to areas with limited access to power. However, these days, they have become essential parts of emergency kits. Because they don’t rely on traditional means of power, solar-powered radios are an excellent source of weather updates and alerts, even when the electricity is out. Also, most solar radios today are fitted with LED flashlights that can last for hours.
The same set of features that make them great for emergency situations also make them ideal for off-grid activities like hiking, camping, and trekking, among other things.
Why Do You Need a Solar Radio?
For safety, primarily.
The main reason why you’ll want to invest in a quality solar radio is so that you can listen to some music and tune in to the weather stations during emergency situations. Everything else is a bonus. Although SOS signals, weather alerts, and power banks are added features that are nice to have in a solar radio, especially during severe weather disturbances.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Most Trusted Solar Radio Brands?
The most dependable solar power radio comes from the best brands.
You can’t go wrong with solar radios manufactured by known brands such as Midland, Sangean, RunningSnail, Eton, and Kaito. These are brands trusted by the public and often back their products with extensive warranties.
How Do You Use a Solar Radio?
Solar radios don’t really work too differently from conventional radios. The main difference is that they typically don’t plug into outlets. Instead, they use built-in batteries that are powered either by photovoltaic cells or other means.
The only thing that you need to make sure when using a solar radio is to make sure that they are fully charged. Other than that, you can treat a solar radio as you would a normal radio. Choose a particular channel to listen to the weather broadcast, or other AM and FM channels if you want to listen to music, podcasts, drama, and more.
In case your solar radio runs out of power, you can usually squeeze out a couple of minutes more of radio time via the hand crank. This is a literal lever that you need to crank manually for at least a minute or two to provide enough power for the solar radio to work.
What is the Warranty?
The warranty depends on the manufacturer of the solar radio. Some come with six-month warranties, while others come with 1-year warranties.
The best solar radios are those that are backed by extensive warranties that include both parts and labor. This kind of warranty is a huge help because it pretty much ensures that the manufacturers trust their products well enough to last for a long time.
Where Can I Buy a Solar Radio?
You can find solar radios at your local electronics and appliances store. However, if you’re looking for an extensive selection, you’re better off going online and checking out the listings found on either eBay or Amazon.
Going online is your best bet when it comes to looking for solar radios.
In addition to having more choices available for you, most solar radios sold online are usually priced lower than the ones found in brick and mortar stores. Even if they aren’t, there’s still the convenience factor since you won’t have to leave your house at all. You’ll have to wait for the retailers to deliver the product/s to your home address or office.
When Will I Need a Solar Radio?
Solar-powered radios come in handy the most during emergencies. This includes hurricanes, tornadoes, and other freak weather disturbances that can result in flooding and/or no electricity. Because during such situations, the power grid is usually out and you can’t just use your phone to get updates.
A solar radio comes in handy if you ever find yourself in such a dire situation, because it allows use to receive the latest weather status updates and whether or not it’s time to evacuate already.
Can’t I Just Use My Phone Instead of a Solar Radio?
Yes, you can. No one is stopping you. However, most phones aren’t built to withstand extreme weather as much as solar radios are. Also, you’ll want to have your phone’s battery preserved when you have to call for emergency services, or have to answer a call and vice versa.
Solar radios can keep you and your family informed and educated while providing light when things literally go dark as well as provide extra power for your electric devices.
Who Should Get a Solar Radio?
Solar radios are an integral part of any emergency preparedness kit. It doesn’t if you don’t live in an area prone to natural disasters. Being prepared is always a good idea.
Even if you live in an area prone to natural disasters and already have a desktop radio equipped with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME), solar radios are still a more reliable option. It will retain its power through a blackout or in worse cases, as the sun is literally a solar radio charger too.
Your phone can and may help you in such situations, but when it’s out of service or out of battery, it’s essentially useless.
A solar radio is more than just a warning device and a way to keep tabs. It’s also a way to keep you connected with the outside world. You can use it to power your flashlight and other mobile devices. Also, it’s a way to entertain yourself since most are equipped with an AM/FM radio or an AUX port.
It doesn’t take more than one natural disaster for the best solar radio to pay for itself.
Between giving you and your family light, timely and correct weather updates, contact with the outside world, and a chance to plan your evacuation, the best solar radio can literally save you and your family’s lives.
To put simply, they’re worthy investments. The best part? They’re not even that expensive at all.
So, buy one today, and thank yourself later.
Richard Pennington is the one to consult when you need professional insight into electronics. With over a decade of experience in the field of electronics and communication engineering, he now serves as our chief content editor.
He is an advisor for multiple articles and videos with topics revolving around ham radios, electronics devices, and communication.