Camping can’t be much fun without some ‘in-tent’ entertainment, right? A simple portable radio that also keeps you informed on breaking news might be all you need to get your daily information, news, and entertainment fix while camping outdoors.
But only the best portable radio for camping would tick all the important boxes in this respect.
However, getting the best portable radio for camping is not as easy as it sounds. There are some specific features you need to be on to look out for.
Two things could happen if you get it wrong: the radio might turn out to be a dud and practically useless or you could spend a lot of money on a gadget that is way more than suitable for just camping.
In the second case, you’d be throwing money at a set with features you won’t use and might never need.
In this guide are five radios that we selected as the best portable radio for camping based on several hours of research. Hundreds of products were evaluated to ensure only the best and most suitable units for you camping needs make the list.
Choosing the best portable radio for camping: Buyer’s guide
If you’ve ever tried to buy a product without a prior idea of what your ideal choice is, that would give you an idea of the frustration faced by many buyers of portable radios.
There are so many beautifully designed units, with awesome packaging and great ad pitches on sale. It is not surprising that many shoppers simply pick a unit based on aesthetics matched by a decent price tag.
To choose the best portable radio for camping, you must look beyond the price and design. Below are some of the most important features to look out for:
Weather-resistant – Though it is inconceivable that you would plan a camping trip during inclement weather, you need to be prepared due to the unpredictability of the weather.
The radio must be weather-resistant in the sense of being resistant to water. It would be nice if you can get a waterproof radio though. Water-resistant radio can withstand moderate splashes of water.
It should also be in perfect working condition after being exposed to dust or snow.
Rugged and durable – Fragile equipment hardly survive the rough and tumble of the outdoors. Camping can be rough on gears no matter how careful you are.
You don’t want a radio that packs up after a bit of rough handling. The five radios in this guide have all been rigorously tested. They easily passed the test of durability and ruggedness they were put through.
Reception quality – When you are in the city, radio reception is unlikely to be a problem due to the proximity of radio stations. In the wilds though, miles from the nearest town, only radios with good receivers would be of any use to you.
If the reception quality is bad, you might just as well have left it back home. It is useless and it’s just taking up space.
Compact and lightweight – Serious campers always strive the achieve the lowest possible gross weight for camping gear. It is important that your set doesn’t add unnecessary extra weight to your gear or take up a lot of space.
Chances are, there would be periods when you have to carry the radio for some hiking. A deadweight hanging from your hand would slow down considerably.
AM/FM – A radio with strong reception coupled with FM capability is a delight while camping. This ensures you get to listen to your favorite music genres from multiple stations. For many, the ability to receive FM transmission is what stops them from packing up and going back home early.
The AM stations would deliver news and info from far off places to keep you in the loop on what is going on. Camping with a radio with AM tuner is a good time to get your AM DXing groove on especially at night because, far from the city center, interference is low due to low-level RF activities.
Power – The best portable radio for camping should have multiple power sources so you’d never run out of juice to power it.
Batteries are the most obvious options. These days, many sets come with solar panels that can charge the in-built battery. Another awesome power source is a crank-powered radio.
With a crank-powered radio, you’d always have power on demand. The smart choice is to always invest in a crank-powered radio if you have to choose between it and other types of radios.
For battery-powered devices, always ensure you pack more than enough extra batteries. You would need them.
Audio quality – This is another important feature that must be considered if you are purchasing a camp radio. If you have a good ear for sound quality, a device with bad audio output would be grating to your ears. You would rather not listen to it.
Fortunately, all five radios in this guide feature excellent audio quality.
Extra features – There are several additional features you might consider in your choice of camping radio. These features add extra value to the radio, but you don’t have to cancel your trip if you can’t afford them. Simply get a set without these features
Some of the features include:
- Bluetooth – If your smartphone is compatible with the radio, you can pair both devices and stream your favorite songs on your smartphone’s playlist through the radio’s speakers
- TFT/microSD card ports- In the absence of Bluetooth, this is another feature to help you listen to your favorable music on the multimedia cards.
- Flashlight/lamp – Offers illumination at night especially when you want to read before sleeping.
Top 5 Best Portable Radio for Camping
#1. iRonsnow Solar Hand Crank Self Powered Radio
This is an amazing camp radio with a clear and amazing sound output that is also suitable for all outdoor activities. The well-built radio is cheap, easy-to-use and delivers on all it promises.
It comes equipped with a hand crank which means you’ll never run out of juice to power your set. Additionally, the 1000mAh battery can be recharged by the integrated solar panels.
The AM/FM radio features a powerful LED flashlight, NOAA weather radio to keep you abreast of important weather information, and a port to charge your cell phone.
And you would love the weight too. At just over 7.2 oz, carrying it about either in a backpack on with your hands won’t be tiresome.
#2. RunningSnail Solar Crank NOAA AM/FM Radio
With a bright orange front panel and rugged design, you can tell immediately that this radio is specifically engineered for the outdoors. It is packed with several features you would find useful for camping and other outdoor activities.
Like the iRonsnow above, it is not very expensive and comes with three power sources. The 2000mAh battery can be charged with the in-built hand crank or solar panels. It can also be powered with 3 AA batteries.
The AM/FM radio features NOAA weather stations/alerts; a table lamp and 1W flashlight to light up dark spaces or point the way at night; and an SOS alarm with flashing red light.
The rechargeable battery is capable of delivering 12 hours of light and about 6 hours of non-stop radio time. But with the dual charging options, running out of power would never be an option.
#3. Eton FRX5 BT Emergency Weather Bluetooth Radio
The Eton FRX5 BT is a rugged, all-purpose multifunctional digital device. You would love the unique and sturdy design. It looks like something that would be with you forever.
Like any modern camping radio, it uses either solar power or a hand crank to charge the in-built 2000mAh Lithium battery. Essentially, you’d never run out of power. The battery is linked to a charging port so you can charge you smartphone any time.
Other important features of this AM/FM tuner includes S. A. M. E capability so you can program it for only important alerts; NOAA weather alerts; Bluetooth to link with other devices to stream music or podcast; flashlight, and bright red LED flashlight for emergencies.
The audio output is awesome and crystal clear you’d think there is an in-built amp as well as an equalizer.
#4. Esky ESCR03 AM/FM Emergency Weather Radio
Esky ESCR03 weather radio is so stylish you may be tempted to get one as a gift for a buddy or family member. Don’t let the cute design deceive you though. This is a rugged, multi-functional multimedia device that would withstand anything thrown at it.
The 2000mAh battery can deliver 10 hours of light through the bright LED flashlight or about 8 hours of continuous listening time on the radio.
Don’t fret though, when you are running out of power, you can conveniently charge the battery using a hand crank or solar panels. Other power sources include the 3 AAA batteries and a USB port. Your cell phone also gets the benefit of never running out of power as it can be charged by the radio.
Other features include an SOS alarm, NOAA weather radio and alerts, backlit LCD screen, and a hidden but powerful antenna.
#5. Panasonic RF-2400D AM/FM Radio
If your mind is set on getting a retro and very basic analog radio for your camping trip, the Panasonic RF-2400D would the perfect choice for you. It is a no-frills, rugged device with an amazing sound output for its size.
The AM/FM radio is powered by 4 AA batteries. Due to the basic design, the batteries can power the radio for at least 24 hours of continuous use. However, you should pack extra batteries to be on the safe side.
It comes with the complete FM/AM frequency range. Combined with the ferrite antenna, you are assured of excellent reception at any time of the day.
The audio has an awesome power output of 770 mW. So you’d want to watch that volume knob if you are using an earphone or headphone via the 3.5mm jack.
Troubleshooting AM/FM reception of portable radio for camping
- If your campsite is far from the nearest station, the reception might be difficult. However, make sure the right AM or FM is selected.
- Change the position of the antenna until the reception gets better
- Use fresh batteries. Old, weak batteries affect reception
- Move your portable radio to a different location if that is possible
- If the radio comes with a DX mode, set it to that mode.
- Get a new and better antenna. If DIY is not your thing, look for a technician to recommend and fix the new antenna for you.
Maintenance tips for portable camping radios
- Never leave the batteries inside the compartment when you want to leave your radio in storage for sometime
- Use only the recommended batteries and power cables/cord
- Don’t attempt to open up the radio to repair it if you think there is a fault you could fix. Except you know what you are doing, you would only make things worse.
- Use a clean soft cloth/rag to clean the radio. To remove stains, soak the clean cloth in water, then squeeze it hard to drain excess water before wiping off the stain.
For oil-based stains, use mild detergent or soap solution to soak the cloth/rag before wiping off the stain.
With so many radios to choose from, getting it right the first time you decide you need the best portable radio for camping can be a difficult task.
The products in this guide have been carefully selected to meet the most important criteria for excellent campsite radios. They are all rugged, lightweight and easy to operate.
The audio quality of each one is so good you won’t miss the sound system you left behind at home. And to cap it all, you don’t have to break the bank to get one. They are an absolute bargain.