PROS / It has SAME encoding for localized weather alerts.
CONS / The hand crank is inefficient.
VERDICT / The L.L. Bean FR-370 is a simple crank radio that provides you with light and information when you need it.
Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been discontinued. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
The L.L. Bean FR-370 is one of the most reliable crank radios because the Eton Corporation, which leads the emergency radio market, manufactures it. It has an inconveniently located solar panel and an inefficient hand crank, but it'll work when you need it. And if it doesn't, the lifetime warranty ensures that you'll have it replaced with a model that works.
The hand crank is a disappointment. Cranking for one minute only gives you 10 minutes of listening time on the lowest volume. For comparison, the best crank radio provides up to two hours with two minutes of using the hand crank. Nevertheless, it's a reliable source of weather alerts. You can also charge the battery using a wall plug or the solar panel. However, the solar panel is set too far back in the handle to be an effective charger. As a result, the radio takes much longer to recharge using the sun.
There isn't anything overtly special about this weather radio, but the simplicity of it is what makes it useful for any emergency preparedness kit. In addition to a standard AM/FM tuner, you get NOAA weather alerts that you can set to turn the radio on automatically when an alert is broadcast.
One feature of the FR-370 that isn't common among other weather radios is the SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) programming. This means that it automatically tunes to weather forecasting in your specific area. NOAA has a website where you can find the SAME code for your area.
Several ports are available with this emergency radio, such as a USB port, an earphone jack and an AC jack for charging. A USB port allows you to charge your mobile devices, which is critical in power outages or while camping because you may need your phone to contact people for help. It also includes an LED flashlight and an emergency flash to warn you during emergencies.
The FR-370 from L.L. Bean has a simple design, but it doesn't sacrifice reliability, which is critical with an emergency radio. The hand crank lacks the efficiency of the best crank radios, but the SAME technology is a unique feature that gives you localized weather alerts. It makes a great addition to any home emergency kit.