Portable Weather Radios Buying Guide – Top Ten Things to Consider When Buying Portable Weather Radios
Digitalnerds blog is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. we never accept free products from manufacturers.Learn more.
If there is one piece of camping gear that is required all over the world, regardless of the tie of the year, it is probably a weather radio. The weather, as everyone knows, can be extremely variable and, especially when you are out in the wilderness, it can be extremely important to keep track of what is going on so that you can make plans and stay safe. That, of course, is where a portable weather radio will come into play.
With a portable weather radio you can always keep track of what the weather is going to be doing and you can easily carry it with you during all of your activities. This means that you can have one on your hip whether you are going out to do some white water rafting, hiking through the woods, or going camping. If you are planning to go camping then it will behoove you to bring along one of these devices just, if for nothing else, to be safe on your trip.
Weather radios, of course, are very different than most of the consumer radios that you would be likely to find on the market. The reason for this is simple: they are being used for an entirely different purpose. Most radios are simply meant to act as a form of entertainment, not to hold up to rigorous use or be relied upon in times of crisis. This means they do not have the same standards of creation that weather radios might. Of course, there are other distinguishing factors, but the different usage requirements forms the basis for most of those as well.
What Makes Portable Weather Radios Distinctive?
Portable weather radios have a few features which make them distinct from other common radios. Generally, they are meant to be used out in the wild, so they will not have the same power capabilities of other, normal, radios. These will usually either feature a hand crank which can be used to charge up an internal battery or they will feature solar panels for charging via the sun. Often, they will have both. Sometimes, you will also be able to use batteries in these or, at times, they will even come with an AC adapter that you can use to charge it. Obviously, though, using an AC adapter is not going to work out in the forest.
The usefulness of weather radios also only goes as far as the sturdiness of the devices go. If the radio breaks as soon as a gust of wind knocks it over, it will be useless. In an emergency or when you are out in the field doing some camping, then you are going to have to rely on the device more than you would if you were simply sitting cozy in your home. That means you will want a radio that is going to stand up to some tough use. This could be anything from having a stronger outer shell to having something in it like a waterproofing seal. With that being said, you also need to make sure that the internals of the device are just as useful as everything outside of the device.
Of course, there are many other things to consider as well. Fortunately, this article will summarize many of them for you. A lot of these might seem like common sense, but they are also easily overlooked because they seem so obvious. Look over this list before you actually start looking for radios and then go back through the list for each radio you decide to look seriously at. Consider it something like a checklist. Anything having a good 7+ of these is going to get a passing grade. With that being said, of course, anything with 9+ is going to be an excellent choice. It is all subject to your own choosing, depending on your needs, however.
Things to Consider When Buying Portable Weather Radios
Here are some things to consider when you are looking to buy a portable weather radio:
1. Power options – This may not seem like a big deal when you are first going to buy a radio, but it really is. You are going to want to have a slew of options for powering your radio. Just having one or two will not work. Obviously you will want solar and a hand crank at minimum. The issue with just having solar is the, very real, fact that if it gets cloudy or dark your radio will basically cease to function (should the charge run out). Having the ability to pop in loose batteries will also alleviate this. The inclusion of AC adapters as a charging option is nice, but ultimately it is not really going to be that helpful for this purpose, if for no other reason than the fact that you won’t have access to power in the field (and if the power is on, you will have other options for finding out the weather anyway).
2. Range – This is something which is extremely important, but most people look for this when they are buying radios. It bears repeating anyway. Most radios will be decent as far as range is concerned. If they pick up the NOAA band then they will have a better range and will usually have some different internal electronics than the ones that do not. With that being said, you will never know until you try it. Make sure you read some reviews about the range (the actual range) that the device will get in the field. You honestly can’t put much faith in whatever the manufacturer writes on their radios, because they will great exaggerate the practical range that you are likely to get when it comes time to use the radio.
3. NOAA capability – This should be a given with weather radios, but there are frequently multiple models that are provided for most radios and some do not include NOAA bands. Look for a radio that prominently features the NOAA band. If there is more than one model, it is likely that the more expensive one is going to be the one which has NOAA bands included on it. This is not something that would be easy to overlook, in any case, because it is usually listed as a major selling point.
4. Durability – The best weather radios will have a thick plastic shell on the outside. The hand crank, if the radio has one, is not going to be something that can just be broken right off. You want the crank to stand up to any beatings it might take either from yourself, from heavy use, or from dropping it onto the floor. The case should also be strong enough to protect the internal electronics of the device from any damage that it might sustain during the normal course of use as well. Regardless of your reason for purchasing the radio, it is extremely important to look at durability when making a purchase.
5. Weatherproofing – Weatherproofing is something that is not always going to be useful. You never really know when you are going to be hit with a rainstorm, but it pays to prepare in advance. If you are caught out in the wild or you are stuck outside in bad weather, then that is going to be one of the times when you will want to be able to hear emergency information on your radio. Of course, if your radio is not working because it got soaked in the rain then you won’t be able to get much useful information out of it. A good radio is going to be good in light rain and it will be alright, at least to a point, if it is dropped into a puddle or something similar. With that being said, it will drive the price up to find something that is truly waterproof.
6. Reviews – Price might be one of the last things that you actually need to consider, but you certainly don’t want to cheap out and end up with something that does not work the right way when you need it to. Check the wide range of prices for your chosen radios and then check some of the reviews that you find online for them. Make sure that it has a good reputation on the market. Look for reviews that are by people using the device in the same way that you would be using it. That way you can be sure that, whatever your intended use for the radio is, it will still function in the way that you need it to.
7. Additional functionality – Little added benefits might add additional value to your purchase. Look for things like headphone jacks, extra functions in the digital readout, or clips to attach the radio to your body somehow. Fortunately, these won’t be hard to spot either. Usually, you can see them right in the product image. Of course, if you can’t see them in the image, then you will see them in the features list. Often, these are used as a selling point.
8. Color – Portable weather radios and other cool camping gadgets have a habit of getting lost once you set them down. Everything that is made for camping use, it seems, has to be camouflaged. Unfortunately, this camouflage works on you as well. If you set your radio down in some brush and can’t see it, you will forget it when you start moving again. Find a radio that is bright in color so that it will stand out if you drop it or set it down. That way you can always be sure that you will have access to it when you need it.
9. Display – Make sure the display has a colored backlight and is easy to read. Being unable to read it during low light conditions (or even normal conditions) can really hamper your ability to use the radio at all when you need to. Check the product images and look to see if they show how the readout looks (they will often show the color of the backlight on these images as well). If the picture is blurry, check some reviews and see what people have to say. One way or another, you need to find out how the display might affect the usability of the radio prior to purchase.
10. Weight – Last but certainly not least, comes weight. You are looking for a portable radio, of course, so you will want to make sure that it is something you can carry easily without it hampering your movement. Added stress, especially in the field, can be a nightmare, and being weighed down by extra gear or excess weight can be a killer. So you want to check the weight on your radio. Even if it feels like when you first hold it in your hand, it might become a problem in times of extended usage. Make sure you can handle the weight and make sure that you can handle it for more than a short period of time. Along with this, you should also be considering how you will carry
it. Something attached to your belt is going to weigh you down differently than something which is attached to your backpack or held in your hand.
There are a whole lot of things which you could reasonably look at when you are trying to choose a good portable weather radio. Looking over this list is going to be helpful in choosing radios. Beyond that, it will also be helpful when you need to narrow down choices from the radios that you have close access to. Whatever you do, make sure that the radio you finally choose meets at least 7 of these criteria pretty well before you decide to buy. Otherwise you will likely end up with a radio that will let you down in the long run.