Best Weather Radios in 2021 – 7 Reviews
Looking for the best weather radio?
Best Weather Radio Reviews at a Glimpse:
- Midland – WR400 – Best Desktop Weather Radio
- Midland – WR120B – Best Budget Desktop Weather Radio
- Midland – ER310 – Best Emergency Weather Radio
- iRonsnow Solar Emergency NOAA Weather Radio (Upgraded) – Best Budget Emergency Weather Radio
- FosPower Original
- RunningSnail Emergency Crank Radio, 4000mAh-Solar Hand Crank
- Sangean MMR-88
How to Select the Best Weather Radio for Your Needs?
When deciding to buy an emergency weather radio, you’re really making two decisions. What kind of radio do you need to alert you to emergency situations and what kind of radio will you need during a serious weather event? Beyond that you can choose additional features to fit your budget. So how do you select the best weather radio?
Weather radios are one-way radio receivers designed to receive weather notifications though often come with other uses and functionality.
We’re not going to be subject to severe weather events constantly (we hope), so where you keep and how you use a weather radio in the meantime will determine what is best for you.
Some people prefer fixed, multipurpose radios, others prefer portable radios they can also use as a flashlight, entertainment or as a charger on camping trips and other outdoor or survivalist situations. The following weather radio reviews cover seven of the best weather radios on the market in 2021.
Comparison Table of the Best Weather Radios
Review of the 7 Best Weather Radios
1. Midland – WR400: Best Overall Desktop Weather Radio
4 X AA
- NOAA Emergency Weather Alerts
- Auto scan function through 7 available weather band channels, locking onto strongest weather channel
- Public Alert certified
- S.A.M.E localized programming for alerts from up to 25 counties
- 80+ Emergency Alerts
- Alarm Clock includes snooze button three alarm options: radio, buzzer or local weather
- 8 ounces in weight
- LCD display
- Runs off 4 AA batteries in event of power outage
- 85db siren alarm, voice alert or LED flashing light customizable to your preferred alert system
This high quality desktop weather radio is designed to run off the mains and is capable of running off 4 AA batteries for a month in monitoring mode, so ideal in the event of prolonged power outages.
This public-alert certified, wall mountable device comes with a wide range of features foremost of which is detecting and alerting you to emergency situations.
It scans the 7 weather channels for NOAA weather updates and locks onto the strongest channel, and also receives S.A.M.E. alerts for your area with minimal programming.
You can select up to 25 alerts yourself, so you only receive what is relevant and important to you. You can program the weather radio to exclude alerts you don’t want to hear, especially as the alert siren is loud, at around 85 dB (e.g., same as a lawn mower or leaf blower), and unlike previous models, not adjustable. Some people just don’t want the adrenaline rush of being alerted to every weather watch and warning!
The warning system is customizable, and you have the choice of siren, voice or visual LED flasher. You can choose English, Spanish and French for the voice alerts.
The display screen is large and bright, with 10 settings that some say don’t go low enough, especially if you decide to use this as a clock radio in your bedroom. However, combined with the loud siren, the bright screen makes it suitable if your household has visually or hearing-impaired individuals.
The screen displays time, remaining battery, and current alerts. The WR400 is an updated version of the WR300 and has a brighter, more visible display, is easier to reprogram and configure, and the speaker offers better sound quality too.
The alert on/off button on the older WR300 model used to be on the side but is now much easier to use as a large press button on the face of the device.
Overall, it has a sleek feel to it, coming in an inoffensive dark gray and is proven to be reliable (if not a little loud). As a weather alert radio, it will certainly do the job and has proven many times to be more reliable than cell phone alerts and is easy to use even if you’re not confident around tech.
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2. Midland – WR120B/WR120EZ: Best Budget Desktop Weather Radio
3 X AA
- NOAA Emergency Weather Alerts
- S.A.M.E localized programming
- Trilingual display
- 60+ Emergency Alerts and Clock
- 16 ounces in weight
- LCD display
- 3 AA batteries in event of power outage
- 90db siren alarm
- 16 ounces
The Midland WR120B, also called the Midland WR120EZ, is an updated version of the Midland WR120 and the WR100 products with the modifications designed to make it easier to use and program, and it certainly is simple to operate.
This desktop radio takes 3 AA batteries which you can keep installed as a backup in case the power goes out. They seem to last around a week and will kick into use when unplugged from the mains or during power outages.
Like its more feature-rich counterparts, this public-alert certified weather radio receives NOAA weather alerts, and you can set it to receive from the strongest weather station in your area, though it will scan for others in the background.
The Midland WR120 has S.A.M.E localized programming with the ability to store up to 25 S.A.M.E locations. In addition, you can set the radio to receive one S.A.M.E alert, multiple, or all (or even none if you forget to turn the alert switch hidden on the side on).
You can turn some notifications off, but not all. Those that can’t be disabled won’t show up on the Edit Alerts menu when programming, so don’t worry, you’re not going mad if you can’t find some of them when you’re scrolling through and setting it up.
Three LED colors indicate warning, watch or advisory alerts. If the weather alert radio doesn’t receive an alert for 10 days, it will activate a test alert itself. However, most areas will have some kind of weekly test, as long as it doesn’t jeopardize genuine emergency situations.
When weather alerts come through, you can turn them off by hitting the biggest button on the top, which also doubles as your snooze button if using as an alarm clock.
Unlike some weather radios, this radio can detect the “end of message” after which the radio goes back into standby mode which preserves the battery when not using mains power.
You can choose tone or voice alerts as well as visual LED flashing lights. It also comes with an external alert port which enables you to connect external alert mechanisms like strobes or a vibrating pillow mechanism which is especially useful if you are visually or hearing impaired. The alert sound is loud, up to 90 dB though the sound is adjustable.
The speaker and reception aren’t as good as some radios but the WR120 does come with an RCA antenna jack meaning you can attach an old-style antenna to massively improve reception.
The radio doesn’t receive normal AM/FM radio bands but does have an alarm clock which wakes up to your choice of buzzer or weather reports.
Most of the buttons for operation are on the top of the radio, so there is less scrabbling around the side trying to find switches. Do make sure the alert button on the side is set to “on” if you want to use it for weather alerts.
The white casing has hinged feet and can be wall mounted. The display faces up, rather than at an angle so may not be visible across the room on a desk. Overall, it is a decent budget pick as a basic, desktop weather alert radio and clock.
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3. Midland – ER310: Best Overall Emergency Weather Radio
6 X AA
- NOAA Emergency Weather Scan and Alert
- Locks onto strongest of the 7 weather band channels
- 2600mAh rechargeable battery, solar panel and hand crank
- Emergency flashlight and emergency SOS flashing beacon
- 16 ounces in weight
- Runs off 6 AA batteries as further power back up
- Comes with ultrasonic dog whistle to assist search and rescue
The Midland ER310, like other portable emergency weather radios, doesn’t receive S.A.M.E alert notifications but does scan the 7 NOAA weather channels and receive weather alerts. A small red light to the left and above the operating buttons comes on for an hour after a weather notification comes in to prompt you to check the NOAA weather channels for the last update. You have the option to set the radio to scan by channel or frequency.
This digital emergency radio comes with both day-to-day and emergency features. It has AM, FM and the NOAA weather radio stations but while you can switch between the three, you can’t pre-set the stations so you will return to the last one you were on in each mode.
Compared to the older model Midland ER210 product, this radio is slightly bigger but sturdier, has an easier hand crank, longer battery duration and additional battery capacity by containing an additional battery space for 6 AA batteries in case you need an alternative to the proprietary Midland battery.
The lithium ion battery is fully rechargeable via a USB cable from the mains over about 6 hours. The battery can also be recharged using the solar panel, also taking up to 6 hours, though some reports suggest it will do so faster, while others suggest it will never get to full charge on the solar panel. Once charged the battery should last 32 hours compared to 25 hours for the ER 210 model.
Hand cranks are useful for emergencies and while sturdier than the ER210, this one is still somewhat loose and flimsy. You can get a few minutes of charge from it after a decent burst of cranking so save your arms, and the hand crank, by using the solar panel and mains to recharge wherever possible.
In addition to the instructions, USB cables, and battery, the set comes with an emergency kit checklist – a thoughtful extra! Seriously though, you must make sure you test and maintain this emergency radio if it is part of your camping or survival kits. Don’t leave it plugged in all the time, but do set yourself a reminder to check, test and recharge the battery every 1 to 3 months. The 2600 mAh batteries are proprietary to Midland so replacing them is not always straightforward. Make sure you also have fresh AAs in your kit.
The radio has a flashlight with high, low and strobe settings. The low setting will prolong the battery, and the strobe is bright enough to attract attention, along with the silent (to us) dog whistle for rescuers if required.
The LCD display will show a dog icon flashing if the dog whistle is on so use this to double check you’re not freaking the neighborhood dogs out. The display screen shows the time which it alternates with the radio station playing, has a battery life indicator and can be backlit.
The LED display stays on and will drain the batteries over time unless you take them out. In addition, you cannot disable the weekly alert test on this emergency radio unless the batteries are flat or removed.
The speaker volume has 12 settings and can reach around 87 dB, again good for attracting attention when using the siren. Sound quality isn’t great but is adequate to hear messages. It has a nifty little tuck-away slot for the antenna, but it can be quite hard to pull out and push back in.
The connector ports are under a rubber seal, for earphone jack, battery and USB charger and the radio can charge your mobile device if required. The black and red plastic casing isn’t waterproof or particularly sturdy, so you will need to take care of it in adverse weather and not throw it around too much on camping expeditions.
Overall, it’s a pleasantly compact portable emergency weather radio with a comfortable grab handle and plenty of useful functions for day-to-day outdoors and in emergencies.
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4. iRonsnow Solar Emergency NOAA Weather Radio (Upgraded): Best Budget Emergency Weather Radio
6 X AA
- Access to NOAA weather, AM and FM bands
- 2000mAh battery power bank which can be USB charged, solar power or hand cranked
- Battery indicator
- Capable of charging mobile devices
- 7.2 ounces in weight
- 3 LED flashlight
The iRonsnow Solar Emergency NOAA radio is a surprisingly nifty little emergency radio good for stash withing your gear or carry in a pocket while camping. It is simply constructed making use of manual and analogue technology. It has soft casing around the port and flashlight and comes with a convenient lanyard.
This upgraded version has had its rechargeable battery size increased substantially to 2000 mAh which gives it far more battery duration as well as better capability to charge mobile devices in an emergency situation. The other key upgrade design modification was to change the connectors over to standard USB.
It receives AM, FM and the NOAA weather bands, using a slide switch to change settings between them and rotating dials to tune the radio and turn the volume up and off. It comes with a simple battery indicator, counting down in 25% increments.
This amazingly affordable radio can recharge its 2000 mAh battery with a USB charger, and a nicely resistant, easy to use hand crank as well as a built-in solar panel.
It comes with a telescoping antenna on the top to assist with reception but depending on your location, feedback about reception is mixed from non-existent to no issues at all so be aware of this and test it out before stashing it in your emergency kit if you plan to use it for NOAA weather reports during adverse weather conditions.
It has an LED light, with flashing mode for drawing attention, and can, in this upgraded version, become a cell phone charger, or other mobile device, for short periods of time.
Overall a relatively sturdy emergency radio. Given its compact size and plenty of useful functionality it is a great budget pick.
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6 X AA
- NOAA Weather Channels
- 2000mAh power bank capable of charging small devices in emergency
- AM/FM radio
- Solar power, rechargeable battery and hand crank power options
- Comes with 4 LED reading light and 1W flashlight
- SOS alarm and red light
- Rain resistant and rugged casing
- 10.9 ounces
This compact portable emergency weather radio is simply designed using analogue functionality and manual switches to move between modes, improving power usage compared to LCD display counterparts.
The FosPower Original picks up NOAA, AM and FM radio stations but won’t receive weather updates unless the radio is turned on and you are tuned into a weather station. Sound quality is reasonable, and reception can be improved by extending the small telescoping antenna tucked neatly into the body of the radio.
This emergency radio’s greatest feature is its multiple power options as it comes with a 2000 mAh battery which can be recharged:
- Via a micro-USB port from the mains
- From a hand crank
- Via an in-built solar panel on the top
In addition, it has a separate battery compartment which takes 3 AA batteries which can be turned on by switching the battery mode over.
Main power charging is the most effective way of keeping this radio fully charged. A steady hand crank over 4 hours might also fully charge the battery if you have the time, patience and endurance. The solar panels are not recommended for charging the device as it is very slow. It is best used to elongate battery use on sunny days.
A small light near the tuner panel glows red when the radio is recharging and will turn green when the battery is fully recharged.
This radio can act as a cell phone charger, though of course it will drain the batteries to do so. However, especially with the crank handle option, you can get enough power into a mobile device to make calls. Don’t expect it to charge the phone fast or fully.
Underneath the radio is a toggle switch between SOS alarm, off and cell phone charger mode which people seem to forget about. Switching this toggle to SOS activates an incredibly loud siren and turns on a flashing red beacon, though the radio doesn’t emit an SOS radio signal.
A reading light is tucked under the solar panels, which you tilt up to access and a small telescopic antenna is tucked into the body of the radio, well out of the way. The flashlight beam focus is adjustable by twisting the casing at the front.
It’s great for outdoor use as its fairly durable hard-plastic casing is water resistant and it comes with a lanyard and carabiner making it easy to carry around. Note that this model was upgraded in 2020 and you can now get versions with a 4000 mAh battery and/or digital LCD screen.
- Receives 7 NOAA channels
- 4000 mAh battery with solar power and hand crank recharging
- Capable of charging mobile devices in an emergency situation
- AM/FM radio
- Motion sensor reading light and three-mode flashlight
- SOS siren and flashing light
- 13.9 ounces
Like the other less expensive and more manual emergency portable radios, the RunningSnail Emergency Radio doesn’t automatically turn on or alert you when there is a weather warning.
You must turn the radio on and tune it to a weather station to hear weather updates. But, like other manual/analogue designed radios, by not being on standby, or having an “always on” LCD display, it uses power more efficiently. The telescopic antenna for improving radio reception clips neatly on the outside of the casing.
You can move between the weather, AM and FM stations using the sliding switch mechanism. You have analogue dials for tuning and volume and on/off which can be quite small and stiff to manipulate so watch out if you have big sausage fingers.
Power options, usage and functionality are a bonus on this model and for such a compact size it carries a replaceable 4000 mAh battery making it well suited as a cell phones charger out in the wilds or during power cuts. The hand crank is supposed to generate 20 minutes of radio time per minute of cranking and a bit longer for the flashlight, however, don’t rely on the solar panels to recharge the battery.
Solar power will be more useful for prolonging a charged-up battery during. Note that using the tilt function to position the solar panels will turn on the reading lamp underneath resulting in some unnecessary drain of the battery at the same time. You’re better off awkwardly angling the entire radio in the direction of the sun. The radio connects to the mains using a micro-USB power cable.
This radio comes with a battery indicator light which is red when charging and green when done and shows battery life going down in 25% increments.
Nice touches are the carabiner and adjustable wrist strap, but this model doesn’t come with an earphone jack. The 4 LED reading light and adjustable flashlight are useful for nighttime activities or power cuts. It comes with that soft touch type of coating over the casing which is nice to begin with but may degrade over time.
It doesn’t come with an SOS radio beacon, but there is a toggle switch underneath which switches between cell phone charger mode, off, or SOS siren and flashing light to alert rescuers in the vicinity.
- 7 NOAA Channels and Emergency Weather Alerts
- 19 preset AM/FM stations
- Solar, hand crank and USB power charging options for the battery
- 13.8 ounces in weight
- Triple LED light with SOS signal
- Bright, backlit LCD display
- Loudspeaker with emergency buzzer
- Headphone jack
- Reinforced rubber on corners of casing for extra protection
The Sangean MMR-88 is a sturdy, compact, rectangular, relatively weather resistant portable digital emergency radio. A key feature is it’s one of the few portable public-alert certified emergency radios designed to receive weather alerts. It can do this on stand-by without draining the small rechargeable battery too much.
The radio demonstrates clear reception across the weather channels, AM and FM radio stations. With an LCD screen, press button operation and digital tuning, you can pre-set up to 19 ratio stations. It comes with an external telescopic antenna that clips neatly away on the outside and an earphone jack for private listening.
Like many other portable radios, this device comes with a range of charging options including mains micro-USB recharging, a crank handle, and in-built solar panels. However, the battery is average quality, so you may want to ensure you have a back-up on hand. The battery is only 850 mAh so noticeably smaller than most other emergency weather radios which almost rules it out as a cell phone charger except in the direst of circumstances when even a minimal charge is critical. It won’t even take AA or AAA batteries as an alternative which has really marked it down in the rankings.
The lithium ion battery lasts around 10 hours. One minute of dynamo cranking will give you around five to seven minutes of radio.
It’s shock-resistant rubberized corners make it robust, and it comes with a wrist-strap for portability. It has a very loud SOS siren and comes with a three-mode flashlight, though it’s not as bright as some of the others.
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Buyers’ Guide Choosing the Best Weather Radio for You
Do you prefer a reliable, always-on or stand-by weather radio which will alert you in your home, or are you looking for a durable portable emergency weather radio for camping trips or your survival kit? Do you need or want to charge other devices from it? How long do you need the battery to last and what recharging options are reasonable for you? Do you want to use it daily as a radio or clock or do you want something small and easy to store until required? Do you get a lot of severe weather in your area?
The desktop weather radios are the only ones with S.A.M.E functionality, and while they can run on batteries for a while, they’re not designed to be portable. The desktop radios have more options to support individuals with special needs.
Some of the portable emergency radios have alert mechanisms on standby but you need to ensure the batteries are checked and maintained so they are ready for trips or emergencies. The analogue, manual design of the small emergency weather radios may be more annoying or fiddly to operate without pre-set options but will drain power less and generally less can go wrong with them.
Remember, these are one-way receivers, not two-way transceivers, so you’ll be able to receive information. Sending information on these devices will utilize loud sirens, flashing lights and dog whistle features if the radio has them.
The desktop weather radios are the only ones capable of using S.A.M.E technology though some of the digital portable emergency radios have alert mechanisms when on standby.
Check your alert capabilities. Do you need a loud alert? Is it easy to reset? Can you turn off some alerts? How programmable are the alerts?
Analogue tuned radios have to be tuned manually by scanning the radio bands. Those with digital tuning technology have varying capabilities to scanning, pre-setting and receiving alerts.
Desktop radios designed to be always on are less durable in weather emergencies though their battery lives during power outages will normally last at least a few days and the batteries are generally easy to source.
Portable emergency weather radios are designed to be more durable in adverse weather conditions and come in a wide range of casing designs, some more robust than others depending on coating, rubberization, plastic casing design and size.
Desktop radios are really a binary option of battery or mains as expected.
All the portable emergency radios come with hand cranks and solar power in addition to lithium ion and sometimes AA or AAA batteries. However, expect the solar powers to prolong duration once charged and expect mere minutes of charge for every one minute of hand cranking. These will reduce over time.
The battery capacity continues to improve with newer models. If you want a cell phone charger, go for something above 2000 mAh at least.
Everyone seems to expect these radios to have the capability to charge their mobile device but check how well each model does this.
Check the flexibility of your desktop radio to take add-ons or antenna to suit your circumstances.
Do you want an AM/FM radio? Not all of them come with one so don’t take it for granted. Same with an earphone jack, not all radios have them and it can be a disappointing oversight if it is important to you.
There can be a lot of variation in extras so check your requirements for cables, reception and lighting.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the weather radio frequencies?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), also known as the NOAA Weather Radio (NWR), broadcasts 7 weather channels 24 hours a day in the United States. These broadcasts take place every 5 to 15 minutes across VHF frequencies between 162.400 mHz and 162.550 mHz. Canada, Mexico and Bermuda use the same frequencies meaning your emergency weather radio will work across all of North America.
What is my weather radio channel?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses 1000W transmitters to broadcast weather updates, each of which typically has a range of around 80+ miles but this varies depending on the conditions. In the US, there are over 1000 transmitters achieving over 95% area coverage across the country. Depending on where you are based, accessing each of the 7 channel frequencies will depend on your local terrain and transmitter placement so it is best that you scan the 7 channels and find the ones that work best in your area.
How does a weather radio work?
Fixed, desktop weather radios and portable emergency weather radios receive signals from the NOAA (or NWR) weather channels. Public alert certified radios can be activated from stand-by mode and will sound an alarm, voice message, and/or light according to your device specs and how you set it up.
Some radios can return to stand-by mode when they receive the end of message notification, while others must be turned off or reset on alert activation. Specific Area Messaging Encoding (S.A.M.E) technology allows you to program your emergency weather radio to receive alerts specific to your situation or location.
How do I program a weather radio?
Desktop weather radios are relatively straightforward to program and come with simple to follow instruction booklets, also downloadable online. They usually use a push button menu selection process allowing you to turn off and on some (though not all) alerts and pre-program others.
Portable emergency weather radios operate in a similar way, with push button technology and settings though are often more basic. Analogue-based portable radios use old-style dials and switches.
Why does my weather radio keep beeping?
Unusual beeping usually indicates you’re received a weather alert and need to acknowledge it by pressing a button or resetting the radio. Some models of weather radio will send a beeping alert if they don’t receive an external alert for over a week. Usually, you just need to turn the device off, take the batteries out, reset or reprogram it according to your model’s instructions.
How can I test my radio for weather alerts?
The National Weather Service (NWS), a department of the NOAA in the U.S. issues weekly test alerts to enable emergency weather radio owners to check their radios. Sometimes during adverse weather periods or seasons, these are suspended to avoid confusion with genuine weather alert notifications. Some radios, notably the Midland WR120, will self-test after 10 days without an external alert.
What is S.A.M.E and how do I access it?
Specific Area Messaging Encoding (S.A.M.E) technology is used on the NOAA Weather Radio network and enables S.A.M.E capable radios to receive alerts for specific locations and specific types of weather notifications. This enables relevant alerts to come through while filtering out alerts that aren’t useful to you. To access S.A.M.E alerts you require a S.A.M.E capable weather radio, which you can program to your requirements according to its design. You can access weather updates on all weather radios, but unless you have alert or S.A.M.E capability, you need to turn on and tune into the weather stations to receive updates.
How can I prolong the battery life of my emergency weather radio?
You can maintain the battery life of your emergency weather radio by regularly checking and testing the radio and recharging the battery every one to three months. Portable emergency weather radios use a variety of batteries, some better quality than others. Some use AA or AAA batteries, as do desktop radios though these will normally be connected to the mains. Again, check any and all your batteries are fresh, replaceable or rechargeable, and easily on hand in the event of a power cut.