Survival Gear - Emergency Radio

Survival Gear: Emergency Radios

What Is An Emergency Radio?

An emergency radio is a radio that is designed to function on minimal power and can be recharged by use of either a built in battery/plug-in pack, batteries, a hand-crank, solar power, or a combination of all of the above. It is designed to be portable and lightweight, so as to be easy to carry while you are on foot. We aren’t talking about something to listen to music on during an emergency. We are talking about the AM radio band that is used to make announcements in case of an emergency.

Why Do You Need An Emergency Radio?

An emergency radio is a fundamental necessity in your survival gear because it is how you can pick up on important news, weather, and safety announcements or warnings in the event of a major or local disaster or civil unrest.  For example, if the power went out (I mean ALL the power…no T.V., no cell phone reception, etc…), how would you even know why it went out? How would you know where to avoid and what to prepare for? Luckily, radio technology works even when the grid is off. The AM radio band utilizes frequencies with extremely large wavelengths so that AM transmissions can be sent and received across vast distances and over all types of terrain. This makes the AM band ideal for announcements during emergencies. With your emergency radio, you can tune into the stations reserved for emergency announcements and find out what is going on and what you need to do to stay safe and protect those with you.

Survival Gear - Emergency Radio

“Handy for Emergencies,” © 2009 Alan Levine, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license:

What To Consider When Purchasing An Emergency Radio?

1. Durability

My first emergency radio was a cheap little gadget that literally broke the second time I tested it. The hand-crank snapped right off…really pissed me off. Lesson learned, you get what you pay for. It is worth it to spend the extra money and get an emergency radio you know will work when you need it. Can you imagine something like the hand-crank breaking in a situation where you actually need the radio? Things that break most often are the gadget extremities like the hand-crank and the tuning knobs. If you purchase a radio and are testing it out and something like what happened to me happens to you, check to see if the place you purchased the item has a money back guarantee or a manufacturers warranty. That being said, even a well-built radio can break. I am a fan of the phrase “One is none and two is one.” It means you should always have a back-up in case the first one breaks.

2. Charge Capacity, and Duration

The great thing about emergency radios is that you have a virtually limitless power supply…your arm (or the sun). However, using the hand-crank can get annoying and tiresome and waiting for the sun to come out may not be an option. It might be worth it to spend a little extra and get a radio that can hold a charge for a couple hours on just a few minutes worth of cranking.

3. Earphones vs. Speaker

You should get an emergency radio with both a speaker and earphones. The speaker is great for if you have other people with you and everyone wants to listen. However, it is nice to be able to switch to just the earphones because 1) the speaker consumes more power, and 2) you may be trying to keep quiet and avoid detection.

3. Power Source

I think you should get a radio that utilizes a combination of all power sources: Plug in/built in power, battery power, solar power and hand crank power. Ideally, you have the radio fully charged when you need it, you have a whole bunch of extra batteries, and then you have the solar power and the hand-crank to fall back on when those sources are needed. I would actually suggest resorting to the hand-crank before using up your batteries. You may need them for something else or for barter.

4. LED Light

Almost all emergency radios come with an LED light these days, so this probably isn’t even an issue to consider, but just make sure there is a light attached. It is always good to have an extra source of light in case you loose or break your flashlight.

5. Don’t Neglect “Know-How”

Finally, while making a purchase is important, don’t forget to actually learn how to use the radio and find the emergency announcements. Watch some tutorials on youtube and understand how to find the information you are looking for on your radio. Take it for a test drive right away. You should also try and take it out on a camping trip or other type of getaway and get used to using the hand-crank and become familiar with how it behaves and how long it holds a charge (what is advertised is not always accurate).


An emergency radio is an absolutely essential piece of equipment in your survival gear. These are some basic considerations to keep in mind when you are ready to purchase one. If you want a recommendation on a good place to purchase an emergency radio, I would suggest the Emergency Radios at Nitro-Pak Preparedness Center. They have a large selection and offer a 100% money back guarantee for 6 months on all of their products (See item # 1 above).

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