Best Camping Radio’s:A Comprehensive Guide

best camping radio

A good camping radio can ensure an enjoyable and safe camping experience.

Buying the best camping radio is very subjective to one's needs. The family camper’s needs are vastly different than that of a serious survivalist who needs a hardcore emergency radio and there are makes and models to serve every camper's needs. There are some factors that every camper must consider before they purchase the best radio for their needs.


Power requirements are probably the most important factor for any camping or emergency radio.

It obviously goes without saying that a camping radio must be able to run on batteries and must be conservative on power usage. Most modern radio’s sip power if it's not loaded with a host of functions and should really be lasting a weekend on battery power alone (think around 25-30 hours).

However if you are buying a radio for the outdoors, you will be silly not to look for a unit with additional power source capabilities.

AC-adapter/Car charger: There are very few camping radios that do not have a built in AC charger port. Although your campsite might not have power, a car charger or solar panel will keep the music or weather report alive.

Solar power: Camping and emergency radios are very efficient on power and if you have a built-in solar panel your radio will be charged for continuous use. We have found that having a radio with a built-in solar panel is one of our musts in buying a unit. Not having to consider battery supplies or conservative usage of the radio is a major factor for us.

Crank/Dynamo radios: It's very common to find a crank on any emergency radio. This is obviously a very handy feature and is great for redundancy. Keep in mind however that it takes a fair bit of cranking for the dynamo to charge the battery for usage. Although the models differ greatly on this, it's fair to say that 2 minutes of cranking will provide 4-6 minutes of usage on low volume.

As you can imagine cranking the night away to listen to music is not ever going to work and will only be for emergency situations.

camping radio

Reception quality:

Having a radio that you have to hang halfway up a tree or fit with an external antenna is pointless.

An FM signal is mostly non-existent and good AM reception is important. There is no real measurement for signal reception so you will have to do some research on customer reviews on your chosen unit.

NOAA/Public Alert/S.A.M.E

Good emergency and camping radios should have a NOAA or Public Alert logo on it. NOAA and the National Weather Service broadcast weather warnings and information on dedicated channels and radios with these logos are enabled for it. The Public Alert logo is especially good, because it ensures that the radio adhere’s to certain specific technical requirements, are alert and tone enabled and can accept certain external devices like lights for the hearing impaired.

S.A.M.E stands for Specific Alert Message Encoding. All it means is that you can enter a specific zip or area code and you will receive alerts for your specific area and not a large county or area.

Optional Features:

Once all the basics are covered you can pick some additional features if you want. Remember, the more features, the more power it will use, so only pick the features you think you are going to use. A common add-on is a built in flashlight, but extra functions can be from programmable stations to 2-way radio capability.


Another option you might be interested in is to have satellite radio(Sirius/XM) or SSB capability.

Satellite radios are great for the wide variety of channels and music, unfortunately I have not been able to find a rugged outdoor satellite radio ( and that's not due to lack of trying).

SSB is for the HAM radio hobbyist or the truly serious survival enthusiast

So which is the best camping radio?

There are so many makes and models for all kinds of budgets, but here are a few radios that keep being mentioned and reviewed and they are:

best camping radio

This budget radio comes with all the necessary functions at a low cost.It's a compact radio that can run on batteries, AC power, solar power or charge via the crank handle. 1 min of cranking will deliver 5 min of play time, 30min of flashlight or 5min of talk time for your cell phone. It's got a build-in micro-USB cellphone charger, a bright 3 LED flashlight and is NOAA weather radio enabled.

emergency radio

Eton is a high-end manufacturer of solar and emergency radios and it won't be the only time you see their name on the list.

The Eton FRX ticks all the boxes for a great camping radio. It's able to accept all 4 power sources ( batteries, AC,crank and solar). Tests have shown that 2 minutes of cranking can deliver up to 12 minutes of operation. It's NOAA/S.A.M.E. enabled and have a built-in bright LED light.

To top it off as a great survival radio it has a morse location beacon and a high-pitch alert for others to find you. This radio is also sold under a Red Cross label, whereby donations go to them.

best camping radio

This is the multi-tool of camping radios.This palm-sized unit comes with a host of features.It's rubberised outer shell makes it splash proof and it is completely solar powered for up to 30 hours of usage. It's got a built in flashlight with an altimeter, a barometer and even a bottle opener. With an installed Carabiner clip you can attach it to outside of your pack to continuously charge it. It also has a built-in USB port to charge other devices. The Eton Scorpion is the slightly less tricked out radio, however it does have a crank handle for emergency power.


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