Crank radios don't rely on store-bought batteries to operate. Instead, you spin a hand crank and this generates electricity that charges an internal battery. The advantage of a crank radio is simple – you don't need to rely on the power grid or store-bought batteries to access important information broadcast over the airwaves. An emergency radio is a critical part of any emergency preparedness kit, because it is your lifeline to what's happening around you when the power fails.
The best crank radios are also tools of survival, with features that help you when you're lost or stranded, making them great additions to camping gear. They can have sirens, compasses, flashlights, thermometers and more. The Eton Scorpion, Ambient Weather Adventurer and Eton FRX3 are great examples of dependable weather radios that warn you of the oncoming storm and help you in an emergency. And when the sun's out and everything is great, these crank radios are great for simply listening to your favorite radio station wherever you are. For more information, check out our articles on crank radios.
In the most basic form, a crank radio is a simple handheld device powered by a hand crank that receives AM and FM radio stations. However, the best crank radios are more than an AM and FM radio. They're preset with NOAA weather alert stations to warn you of potential severe weather like tornados, hurricanes and flash floods. They need to be durable devices capable of handling whatever the weather throws at you. In addition, they need to be dependable, with multiple power options in case one method fails. Below are the criteria we considered when reviewing the best weather radios.
The most important feature we considered was the battery life while you're listening to the radio at the lowest volume. Next, we considered the hand crank's efficiency. We measured this by considering the minimum amount of time you have to turn the hand crank to create a charge and how much battery life this charge provided. Then we looked at features that would help in an emergency – NOAA weather alerts, flashlight, compass, mobile device charger and more.
Emergency radios need to be able to survive the situations they're used to help you survive. The casing should be capable of withstanding bumps, drops and jostles. The best weather radios are splashproof and water resistant. Your radio needs to be able to handle the weather, especially while you're camping. The hand crank should also tuck out of the way so that it doesn't snag on things or get in the way when not in use.
Every crank radio has a hand crank for generating power, but it's important to have a contingency plan for the power. Most crank radios are also solar radios that recharge in direct sunlight. An AC adapter and a USB port with a computer are quick ways to recharge your crank radio, allowing you to skip the sweat of hand cranking. However, these methods aren't available in a power outage, so they're best used before an emergency as preparation. As a last resort, you should also be able to use normal AAA or AA batteries.
Help & Support
When working with any electronic device, we like to look into the help and support the manufacturer offers. That way, even after you make your purchase, you can stay informed and receive the support you need if something goes amiss. The services we looked into include email and phone contacts, FAQs pages and user forums.
Whether you're looking for a way to stay connected during a tornado warning or you simply want some tunes at the beach, a crank radio is a great device to have. Adding one to your survival kit or your camping gear helps ensure you never get caught unprepared.