As someone who mostly relies on their phone on a day to day basis, it is easy to forget about radios and the different features they bring to the table. We’ll go over some of the best bugout radios on the market, but first lets go over some of the features you should expect from the best bugout radios and their uses.
The best bugout radios are more than just a radio.
To talk about the best bugout radios, first we should understand what a bugout bag is. To put simply, it’s a survival essentials kit; which can include emergency first-aid kits, provisional water, long term food, survival tools (such as a knife), and of course, our very own bugout radio(s).
So what makes the bugout radio so special? Well the answer is very similar as to what makes Swiss Army Knives so amazing. They are a compact multi-toolkit with gadgets that make camping easier and help ensure safety.
Bugout bags are the bare-minimum that should be in your belongings when you pack for camping/hiking or in your house in case of emergency. So why is the bugout radio important?
Functional radios vs the best bugout radios
Any radio can look fancy and have add-on gadgets, but the best bugout radios include key survival features and really make a difference when it counts. So what features do we look for on the best bugout radios?
Before we talk about the key features of the best bugout radios, let’s talk about the basic features you should expect.
- AM/FM frequency connection
- NOAA weather radio access
- Some form of emergency signal
- Long lasting battery or some form of recharge
The features mentioned above are the bare minimum your bugout radio should include. Now let’s talk about what makes the best bugout radios really the best.
Aside from including the minimum, the best bugout radios will include additional features and expand or improve their usage. Most bugout radios include lamps; but believe it or not, this one feature can have numerous improvements. Adding a blinking function and a lamp can turn into an SOS signal.
Some radios have more than one power and recharge options. You can choose between using replaceable batteries or the internal rechargeable batteries. Usually you are able to recharge these through solar power, a crank, or just by plugging them in an outlet. What’s important is having different choices so your radio is good to go whenever you need it.
Here is a list of other features that improve or add usage to your radio:
- NOAA weather radio alert
- Two way communication
- Different colored LED lights
- Tri-color screens
- Lamp focus lens to change light intensity
- Extendable or removable antenna
- Water resistance
These are some of the improved features you can expect to find on the best bugout radios. One particularly important feature is access to NOAA radio frequencies, but what is NOAA?
What is NOAA and why do I want it on my bugout radio?
NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is a scientific agency which focuses on the conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere.
NOAA provides information from regular weather forecasts to severe storm warnings. They will provide you with warnings regarding natural disasters such as tornadoes, fires, thunderstorms, floods, earthquakes, etc.
Having access to NOAA on your radio can help you stay safe by helping you avoid this disasters, and keep you updated during ongoing crises.
Handheld and portable bugout radios
Handheld radios are reliable, compact, and easy to use. They usually include two way communication and function like walkie-talkies.
Portable radios are larger than their handheld counterparts, but not by much. For the most part they include the same features; usually they don’t include two way communications. They tend to include other features to make up for it.
Regardless of which is your preference, the best bugout radios are sure to help keep you and your loves ones safe during a crisis. With all of this in mind we can now move on to talk about some of the best bugout radios available.
1st Best Bugout Radio: BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio (Black)
A handheld two-way radio with tri-color digital background. With over 100 channels, emergency alert, and a LED flashlight easily make this radio one of the best in the market. The BaoFeng UV-5R includes:
- 128 channels 50 ctcss and 104 CDCSS dual-band display, dual Frequency
- Tri-color background light selectable: 0-9 grades
- Keypad lock
- Emergency alert
- 136-174 / 400-520 MHz frequency range
- Built-in VOX function
- LED flashlight
- Low battery alert
- Battery saver
- Monitor Channel
You might think little of the tri-color screen, but it really makes it count in the dark. Besides the wide range of channels, it includes Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System to ensure audio clarity.
It also has dual frequency and can change between both with single button. The keypad is back-lit and, if you need to, it can be locked.
While the usually kit includes with desktop charger, the BaoFeng UV-5R radio comes boasts a powerful battery that can last for extended time periods. For even longer use periods, it includes a battery saving mode. The kit usually includes an antenna, a belt clip, a hand-strap, and a push-to-talk earpiece.
With only 0.25 Kilograms, it is a resistant and compact, easy-to-use radio with plenty of functionality. Despite its size, it certainly packs quite the punch, easily one of the best bugout radios out there.
2nd Best Bugout Radio: Motorola Talkabout T280 Rechargeable Two-Way Radio
Weighting less than 0.2 Kilograms, this radio is a small handheld two way communication radio. These are some of its best features:
- iVOX/VOX hands free mode
- Two power options
- NOAA weather channel access and alerts
- 22 channels with 121 privacy codes
Without any obstacles, the maximum range of this radio exceeds 20 miles! Of course, depending on the terrain, the range of your radio might be reduced if there are too many obstacles in the way such as trees. This radio’s wide range really shows on open areas such as the beach or open fields.
As we previously mentioned, access to the NOAA weather channel is a must have, this radio improves that by adding an alert. While you use the commercial or two way communication, this alert will inform you of a NOAA emergency forecast.
You can choose between using the radios rechargeable battery or 3 AA batteries. You can recharge the radio with a micro-USB and can last up to 12 hours. On the other hand, the batteries will power the radio for up to 29 hours. Once more, having multiple options to power the radio ensures its ready to use whenever you need it.
While it doesn’t have as many features, this radio is very reliable and its kit usually comes not with one, but two radios! It usually includes 1 Y cable with micro-USB chargers, 2 rechargeable battery packs, 2 belt clips, a red carry case and an Emergency Preparedness Checklist. This is really is a must have at home.
3rd Best Bugout Radio: Midland – ER310, Emergency Crank Weather AM/FM Radio
This compact radio includes several features and provides several alternatives on how to do some tasks. Here are some of the most relevant features this radio includes:
- Multiple power sources
- Emergency flashlight
- NOAA scan + alert
- External device charging station
- Ultrasonic dog whistle
So what are these multiple power sources? Well the Midland ER310 has 3 power alternatives. You can power this radio with its rechargeable batteries, a solar panel, or a crank.
The first are its rechargeable batteries, these can last up to 32 hours of use. This radio also comes with a solar panel. While it takes a while to completely charge this way, it can greatly extend the running time further.
Last but not least, on the back of this radio there is a crank you can manually turn to provide energy to the device. You don’t need to turn it for too long to provide the device a good amount of energy.
As mentioned, this device does include a flashlight with an intensity adjuster. Besides the flashlights, you can enable the secondary bright CREE LED light to signal for an SOS message. This light signal flashes a Morse code for SOS to any one that can see you.
Like before, you can toggle the option for NOAA emergency transmission alerts, while you listen to other frequencies. This radio will scan all 7 NOAA frequencies and lock unto the strongest one on your location. The radio also provides you with both AM and FM frequencies.
The Midland ER310 special features
Now here’s something you didn’t see on the previous devices; this radio provides you with an external device charger. That’s right, you can charge your smartphone or tablet on the go! Combined with the crank and solar panel, this features provides you with a convenient charging station when outside of home.
Lastly, the Midland ER310 provides you with a dog whistle feature. What is a dog whistle? Just like it sounds, its a loud whistle but only dogs can hear it; the best part is that humans can’t hear it. Why would I want this when I don’t even have a dog? Have you ever heard of the Saint Bernard tundra rescue dogs? Rescue parties often include animals such as dogs to track lost travelers, and this whistle can help them find you in the wilderness!
This is certainly a kit you can expect of some of the best bugout radios. While it lacks two way communications, it certainly makes it up to you with the amount of expanded and additional features it includes. Weighting under 0.5 kilograms, the ER310 offers you a compact, portable bugout radio with plenty of tools despite its size.
4th Best Bugout Radio: American Red Cross Emergency NOAA Weather Radio
A radio whose design and color let you know this is an emergency Red Cross radio. This is another portable bugout radio which offers you plenty of features:
- Multi power sources
- Weather alert function
- AM/FM/NOAA device with digital display and clock
- External device charging station
Like with the previous portable radio, this one offers you multiple power alternatives. The radio includes a solar panel on the top handle and a crank you can use to power the device manually. You can also plug the device to a USB charger on the back. As an alternative, you can use 3 AAA batteries.
Similar to the previous portable radio, you can use this one to charge external devices. You can of course connect to AM/FM frequencies as well as all 7 NOAA frequencies. An extendable antenna on the back will help you achieve the best possible signal.
While it seems to be standard for this devices to include LED lamps, this one actually offers you two of them, along with a third red colored one for aiding with SOS signals. You can also use this lamp as a flashing beacon.
Overall this is a fairly standard radio compared to the ones evaluated up to this point; but a long lasting and easily rechargeable battery, as well as several other features makes it one of the best bugout radios available.
5th Best Bugout Radio: FosPower Emergency Solar Hand Crank Portable Radio
This is the last item we’ll be talking about; a handheld solar hand crank NOAA weather radio. This device offers features we’ve already talked about on the previous devices. However, offering these features to you is already enough to include this item on this list. The FosPower Emergency Portable Radio offers you the following features:
- Power charging station
- 3 power sources
- LED flashlight
- LED reading light
- NOAA weather radio access
- Water resistance
You can make use of the power bank with a USB cable as with the previous devices. As for the power sources, there are of course the usual suspects: a handheld crank and a solar panel. Additionally you can use 3 AAA batteries to power the device.
The LED flashlight offers you an alarm system to signal for SOS along with a siren. So far it sounds very similar to the previous radios, so what makes this one special? Well for one this radio provide you with a reading light separate from the flashlight. It also offer you water resistance, which can be very handy while outdoors or camping. I should clarify however, that the device is not waterproof, so don’t go taking it for a sim on a pool or river!
Aside from this features, this device boasts very light weight to you, barely exceeding 0.30 kilograms. It’s also worth mentioning that the device has a very nice and compact design, while it still remains very sturdy.
So if it has very similar features and usage than the previous radios, why did we rank this device lower? Well there are some minor complaints with this one. Some users claim the battery alone lasts for up to 7 hours. This is not too big of an issue however, as the solar panel and crank can make up for it. Should it be necessary, only 3 batteries are required as a backup source of energy.
Another complaint you might hear, is the reading light located under the solar panel. Every time you wish to make use of the solar panel, the reading light turns on. For some reason the manufacturer did not think of including an off switch on it.
While you may find these small issues with the device inconvenient, they are do not represent a flawed device. The device is widely popular, even more than some of the higher ranking devices on this list! This is mostly due to its design, weight, size, and very accessible pricing. Sure, it might miss out on more advanced features, but it covers the bare minimum and stands out from other regular bugout radios. For this, we believe the FosPower Emergency Portable Radio earned a place on our best bugout radio list.
The best bugout radio for you.
Ultimately it comes down to your own preference. Ask yourself “what kind of tools am I looking for?”; a dog whistle might not have much use at sea. Maybe a reading light would come in handy inside your tent. Perhaps you need a way to remain in contact with your group while you go fishing a couple miles away.
We’ve ranked these devices for you based on their features and user feedback. But sometimes less is more, and too many features might make our number one look more like a 5 if you have no need for them!
Regardless, our aim is to present you with some of the best options available; and hopefully aid you in finding the most adequate device for you.