The Eton FRX series of crank radios is endorsed by the American Red Cross, which means it's loaded with features to help you in an emergency. In addition to using the dynamo hand crank, you can power it with an AC adapter, USB port, batteries or the sun. It also comes with seven NOAA weather stations and SAME alerts, which are notifications specific to your county. In our tests, we found it has the loudest speaker and the best reception available. Whether you're camping high in the Rocky Mountains or you live in Tornado Alley, it's an invaluable tool for emergencies.
The Eton FRX5-BT produced an average of 13 minutes of battery life with just two minutes of cranking the generator. We tested the battery life with the volume turned all the way up, so it may be much longer if you use the radio with the volume on low. The FRX5-BT’s crank beat out the next-best one by four minutes, and it produced almost 10 minutes more power than the average for our test group.
Its overall battery life is also exceptional. The radio took five and a half hours to fully charge when plugged into a wall, which is average, but it played continuously for 15.5 hours at full volume. This was the second-longest battery life in our test. When you consider that the FRX5-BT also has the loudest speaker by a significant margin, the longevity of the battery is impressive.
In addition to the dynamo hand crank, you can power the FRX5-BT five other ways. The large solar panel on the back is an excellent option when you're outside and have direct sunlight. It's efficient enough to keep the radio charged while you're out on a hike or lounging by the pool. You can also charge it using a USB connection with your computer, a wall plug or a car charger. The radio has USB and micro-USB ports as well, and you can use them to charge your computer and mobile devices. This is an excellent option if your phone battery dies during a power outage and you need to call someone for help.
The Eton FRX5-BT received the highest-possible grade in our AM and FM reception quality tests, and it received an A- in the backcountry tests. This means you’ll get clearer reception on this radio than on any other model we tested. In addition to picking up the full spectrum of AM and FM frequencies, it can receive severe-weather alerts from all seven NOAA weather stations. This is essential if you live in an area where severe weather, such as tornados, hurricanes and flash floods, is common. You can also receive alerts from the Environment Canada weather radio broadcast.
This emergency radio comes with ports that are both practical and fun. Through its auxiliary input, it can connect to an MP3 player so you can listen to music instead of the radio. You can also use this input to connect a microphone and use the speaker to amplify your voice, which is an excellent way to attract attention if you need help, provided you have a microphone in an emergency. In addition, this is the only crank radio we tested that has Bluetooth, so you can transmit wirelessly and don’t need to add an auxiliary cable to your emergency preparedness kit or backcountry hiking pack.
The FRX5-BT has a durable, hard plastic case that can handle the bumps and drops of a campout. You can also strap it to your backpack when you go out hiking, and the jostling won’t damage it. This is one of the few weather radios with an IPX4 water-resistance rating, which means it can handle splashes of water from any direction – you can take it out in a downpour or even whitewater rafting, something you can't do with most crank radios.
The maximum volume, measured at 1 meter from the speaker, was 90.3 dB. That is 3 dB louder than the second-loudest crank radio and almost 10 dB louder than the average. For comparison, 90 dB is about as loud as a motorcycle, while 80 dB is about as loud as a vacuum. A loud speaker is a valuable survival tool because it's more likely to attract people if you need help. In addition, a higher maximum volume means you're more likely to notice an important weather alert when the siren activates.
One of this radio’s best features is its SAME alert technology. These are similar to NOAA weather alerts, except they are specific to your county. For example, instead of receiving weather information for the entire West Coast, you can get alerts for your area only. This helps you better determine your course of action in severe weather.
As you would expect from an emergency radio sponsored by the American Red Cross, the FRX5-BT is loaded with survival features. It has a siren and a red flashing beacon to attract help as well as glow-in-the-dark rims around the solar panel so it's easy to find in the dark. There is also an LED flashlight to help you get around in a power outage. However, it doesn’t have a compass, one of the most valuable survival tools if you get lost in the backcountry, or a thermometer.
Since Eton is a leading manufacturer of emergency preparedness electronics, its support team is exceptionally knowledgeable. The FRX5-BT has a one-year warranty, which is the industry standard. If you need help, you can contact support through phone, email and social networks. The website is also a great resource, with a FAQs page for each product, manuals, and a user forum for likeminded users to share ideas and concerns.
The Eton FRX5-BT is the best crank radio because it has the most efficient hand crank, the clearest reception and an exceptionally long battery life. With its SAME alerts, you receive severe weather information specific to your county. If you find yourself caught in a severe storm, it has a flashing beacon, flashlight, siren and water-resistant casing. All in all, it is an excellent addition to your emergency preparedness kit or camping gear.