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Best Crank Radios of 2019

Hand crank radios are the best emergency radios you can own. Able to run for hours on a full battery, they’re easy to charge and don’t rely on solar power or the grid to keep you informed – making them a smart choice whether you're on an outdoor adventure or facing a crisis. 

That said, the best hand crank radios will have multiple charging capabilities – solar, USB and traditional wall outlet, for example – to help you be as prepared as possible. Other essential features to look for when choosing an emergency radio include AM, FM and NOAA weather band frequencies, a built-in flashlight, and a USB output port to charge portable devices like your smartphone or GPS unit. Here are the best hand crank radios you can buy right now.

    

best emergency crank radio: Eton FRX5BT

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Eton FRX5BT

The best hand crank radio overall

Charging modes: Hand crank, solar | Internal battery: 2000 mAh | Radio frequencies: AM/FM/NOAA Weather band | USB Output: Yes | Features: LED flashlight, siren, Bluetooth | Weight: 2oz

Efficient hand crank
Great audio quality
Long battery life
No compass or thermometer

The Eton FRX5-BT is one of the best hand crank radios out there, offering great reception, durability, and an impressive future set. To test the efficiency of the hand crank, we fully drained the battery and then turned the crank for two minutes at a steady rate of 120 revolutions per minute. The results were impressive: the FRX5-BT has the most efficient hand crank of the radios we tested, and was able to play the radio at full volume for 13 minutes, which is more than double the average of any other crank radio we tested. 

This crank radio also has outstanding audio and reception quality – again, it proved the best in our tests. We were easily able to tune in to all the available AM and FM stations around us (in Ogden, Utah), and the sound quality was clear and balanced. The Eton FRX5-BT also performed exceptionally when we tested it outside cellular service coverage, again better than any other crank radio we tried. 

The Eton FRX5-BT is an excellent emergency radio, with extra features including Bluetooth, solar charging, an LED flashlight that can transmit a Morse code beacon and a siren, plus handy glow-in-the-dark rims around the solar charger to help you find it in the dark. This crank radio also has an IPX4 water-resistance rating, which means it can withstand splashing water and heavy rain. This great balance of performance, features and price make the Eton FRX5-BT our pick for the best hand crank radio you can buy.

best emergency crank radio: RunningSnail

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. RunningSnail MD-090 Solar Crank Radio

The best value hand crank radio for anyone on a budget

Charging modes: Hand crank, solar, micro USB, AAA batteries | Internal battery: 2000mAh | Radio frequencies: AM/FM/NOAA Weather band | USB Output: Yes | Features: LED flashlight, SOS alarm, reading lamp | Weight: 0.68lb

Inexpensive
Efficient hand crank
Poor reception quality
Speaker sounds bad

If you’re looking for the best-value emergency radio you can buy, the RunningSnail MD-090 hand crank radio is it. This durable radio has an efficient hand crank and quality feature set. We found that it generated five and a half minutes of battery life after two minutes of cranking, which is above average for the crank radios we tested; and starting with a full battery, it can play at maximum volume for 11.5 hours, which is also well above average. In addition, the RunningSnail MD-090 offers microUSB charging, solar charging and you can use disposable batteries as a backup too.

The analog tuning knob did make it a little hard to find some of the FM and AM stations in our reception quality tests. Also, the RunningSnail MD-090’s audio quality didn’t compare well against that of the best hand crank radios we tested. However, because of its efficient hand crank and good battery life, we recommend the MD-090 if you want a crank radio solely for emergency preparedness – it’s just not a good option if you want to listen to music while camping. 

This emergency radio has a very durable case, plus an IPX3 water-resistance rating, which means it can handle spraying water and light rainfall. It also comes with a siren and Morse code beacon to alert people to your location if you’re lost or injured. For the price, the RunningSnail MD-090 hand crank radio is a very good budget choice.

Best emergency crank radio: Eton Scorpion II

(Image credit: Amazon)

3. Eton Scorpion

The most durable hand crank radio for tough environments

Charging modes: Hand crank, solar | Internal battery: 800mAh | Radio frequencies: AM/FM/NOAA weather band | USB Output: Yes | Features: LED flashlight, IPX4 splash proof | Weight: 0.66lb

Good hand crank
Durable design
Great reception quality
No siren or SAME alerts

The Eton Scorpion II is an extremely durable crank radio. Its compact, rubber exterior has an IPX4 water-resistance rating, which means it can endure heavy rain, accidental drops in a river or lake, and any extreme outdoor conditions. It also has a carabiner handle that you can use to securely attach it to the outside of your backpack.

This radio has the second most efficient hand crank in our test group. It produced nine minutes of battery life during the two minutes we spun the hand crank – which is double the average for our test group. It also only took four hours to fully recharge a dead battery when we plugged it into a wall socket, and was then able to play at maximum volume for 12.5 hours.

The Scorpion II has excellent reception, only being slightly outperformed by the best crank radio we reviewed. Its audio quality is good enough that you can use it to listen to music on a camping trip or by the pool, instead of just packing it away in your emergency preparedness bag. It also has a 3.5mm audio input, so you can plug in and play music from your phone or music player if you don’t want to listen to the radio.

Esky ES-CR01

4. Esky ES-CR01

This super-compact crank radio is a good option if storage space is tight

Compact
Affordable
Can't run on batteries
Reception could be better

The Esky ES-CR01 is a compact and durable emergency radio with an efficient hand crank. You can charge the internal battery four ways: with the hand crank, the solar panel and an AC wall plug or a car charger. However, it can’t run on disposable batteries. This exclusion is noteworthy because disposable batteries allow you to continue using the radio, even when the rechargeable battery is old enough that it stops holding a charge.

In our hand crank efficiency test, the Esky produced an average of four minutes of battery life after two minutes of using the crank, which was average for our test group. For comparison, the best crank radio we tested generated over 13 minutes of power in the same test. This crank radio has a particularly awkward crank, because the radio is so small and the crank is so big, our reviewers often struggled to keep their grip while they spun it. When plugged into a wall, the battery reached a full charge in 14 hours.

Kaito Voyager Pro KA600

5. Kaito Voyager Pro KA600

The best crank radio if you want specialized environmental information

Temperature and humidity information
Expensive

The Kaito Voyager Pro KA600 has lights so you can see in the dark during a power outage, a digital thermometer, and a humidity meter. This is the only radio we tested that displays specialized environmental information. Access to temperature and barometric pressure alerts you to incoming storms if you are stuck somewhere with poor radio reception and can’t get NOAA or SAME alerts.

The KA600's battery reached a full charge in one hour and 45 minutes, making it the fastest-charging radio we reviewed. However, the battery only lasted one and a half hours when we played it at full volume. The biggest downside to its subpar battery life is that you must charge it frequently. Fortunately, it also runs on disposable batteries, so you can use the rechargeable battery as a secondary power source.

This emergency radio also charges with its AC adapter, built-in rechargeable battery pack, USB port or solar panel. It's one of the few radios we tested that has an adjustable solar panel for finding the optimal position to capture the sun's energy. It takes longer to charge the radio with the solar panel than using the other charging methods, but it's the easiest way, especially while you're camping.


Why Trust Us? 

When we updated our crank radio reviews, we spent 16 hours researching the newest technology to keep you in the know about innovations in the industry. Once we identified the best models, we fashioned our testing as if we were customers looking for a crank radio, just like you. That means we got the products from the same retailers you would, instead of directly from manufacturers that might hand-pick and examine a radio for flaws before sending it to us to review.

We tested the crank radios in real-world conditions at a remote location in the Wasatch Mountains. For example, rather than test their emergency sirens in our lab, we turned them on in the middle of nowhere and hiked away to find out how far they projected. Our hands-on experiences helped us identify the benefits and shortcomings that don’t show up on spec sheets and in customer reviews.


I talked to Steve Glockenmeier, VP of Preparedness and Health and Safety for the American Red Cross about the role of a crank radio in an emergency preparedness kit. He shared with me the most important features of a crank radio to consider before adding one to your preparedness kit. Those features include battery operation, an efficient hand crank, solar panel and a USB port for charging mobile devices. He also emphasized the need for an emergency radio to receive weather alerts from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is included with every radio we tested.

Steve told me the Red Cross recently sent a carton of crank radios to Puerto Rico nearly a year after Hurricane Irma ravaged the island because the infrastructure is still in need of remote weather reports and alternative sources of energy. The Red Cross has a list of expert tips about what to do before, during and after emergencies or disasters.

How We Tested 

We tested each radio’s maximum volume, charge time, battery life and hand crank efficiency in our lab. To measure maximum volume, we placed a decibel meter 1 meter from the speaker and turned the radio up full blast.

Our battery life and charge time tests were done in tandem. We drained each radio, plugged it into a wall socket and timed how long it took its battery to reach a full charge. We then emptied the battery again by playing the radio at full volume, timing from the moment we turned it on until it died. 

For the hand crank efficiency test, we started with a dead battery and cranked the handle for two minutes at a steady rate of 120 revolutions per minute – the industry-recommended speed. As with the other battery tests, we timed how long it took for the radio to die again when we played it at its maximum volume. 

We tested each crank radio’s reception in the city and in the backcountry. In both spots, we evaluated how well it picked up AM daytime, AM nighttime and general FM radio transmissions and assigned a grade based on clarity. While in a remote area of the Wasatch Mountains, outside the range of cellular service, we also tuned into the NOAA weather bands and graded each radio’s ability to transmit important weather information clearly.


How Much Does a Crank Radio Cost? 

Crank radio pricing depends heavily on the included feature set. Radios with flashlights, sirens and Bluetooth connectivity are more expensive, but eliminate the need for multiple devices in your backcountry or emergency preparedness kit. The best crank radios we tested cost around $85. If you add the cost of a $10 flashlight, $20 battery pack and a $15 solar charger, a more feature-packed crank radio saves money and space in your kit.

Crank Radio: What Else to Look For 

In its most basic form, a crank radio is a simple handheld device that receives AM and FM signals and can be powered by a hand crank. However, the best models are more than that – they are survival tools. You should look for a crank radio that has as many survival features as possible, is built to be durable and comes from a manufacturer with great support.

SAME Alerts
Every crank radio can pick up all seven NOAA weather alert stations. However, each station is geographically dependent, so you can only pick up one at a time, depending on where you are. The stations provide warnings for severe weather like tornados, hurricanes and flash floods, but they cover large enough areas that you can receive an alert for conditions several states away.

As such, you should consider an emergency radio with SAME technology. With SAME, you enter your zip code and the radio alerts you to weather and environmental conditions in your county.

Emergency Preparedness
You should look for a radio with survival features like a flashlight, siren, compass, dog whistle and a mobile device charger. Every tool you have available in a survival situation is important, and these features can help you find your way and get your bearings if you're lost. They also attract attention if you need help and keep you connected to your phone.

Since these radios are designed to help you survive an emergency, they need to be able to withstand rough conditions. The best models are water-resistant and can survive bumps, drops and jostles. Your radio needs to be able to handle the weather, especially while you're camping.

Help & Support
When we evaluate any electronic device, we like to look in to the kinds of help and support the manufacturer offers. After you purchase your radio, it’s important to have access to help if something goes amiss. The manufacturers we tested have a combination of email and phone support, FAQs pages, and user forums.

Portable Battery Banks 

The best crank radios we tested have solar cells and hand cranks to charge the internal battery and allow you to hear weather alerts. However, the fastest way to charge a battery in a crank radio is to plug it into a wall socket or power bank with a USB port. Here are some of our favorite mobile power banks to add to your emergency-preparedness kit.

Anker PowerCore
This portable power bank is about the size of a smartphone and has a 20,100-mAh battery that can fully charge a crank radio or other mobile devices more than six times. It has two USB outputs that let you quickly charge a pair of devices simultaneously, as well as a micro-USB port for recharging. The Anker PowerCore weighs just over 12 ounces, which is a bit heavy for a backpacking trip but light enough for most emergency-preparedness situations. It takes about 10 hours to fully charge the Anker PowerCore using a wall socket, and there are four indicator lights on the front panel that tell you how much charge is left.

RAVPower Portable Power Bank
If you want a more portable device, this battery bank is a good choice. The RAVPower Portable Power Bank is about the size of a credit card and can fully charge a phone almost three times on a single charge. The 6,700-mAh battery has a voltage control chip that automatically adjusts for the connected device, as well as iSmart technology that detects the optimal current for the devices and maximizes the charging speed. This battery bank has only one USB outlet, but the device reaches a full charge in less than 4 hours when plugged into a wall socket.


More Emergency Preparedness Guides:

ProductPriceOverall RatingPricingPowerAudioEmergency FeaturesCharge Time: 2-Minute Crank Test (min)Charge Time: Wall Socket (hours)Battery Life (hours)Disposable BatteriesAudio QualityMaximum Volume (dB)Backcountry Reception QualityAudio InputWater Resistant RatingMorse Code BeaconSiren
Eton FRX5BTView Deal4.5/53555135.515.5A90.3A-IPx4
RunningSnail MD-090View Deal4/54.94.73.43.45.5411.5B83.2B+IPx3
Eton Scorpion IIView Deal4/54.44.84.81.79412.5A-82.9A-IPx4
WeatherX WR-383RView Deal4/54.94.241.7410.55.25C+80.5CIPx0
Sangean MMR-88View Deal3.5/51.91.73.73.462.755A82B+IPx3
Midland ER 310View Deal3.5/51.92.33.41.73.559.75A-87.6B+IPx0
Midland ER 210View Deal3/54.431.71.74.54.58.25B84.9BIPx0
Esky ES-CR01View Deal3/552.80.80.714148.25C+93.3C+IPx3
Kaito Voyager Pro KA600View Deal3/534.41.601.751.751.5B+76.7BIPx0