5 Best Portable Radios for Camping Reviewed [Buying Guide – 2021]

A portable radio can add a bit more fun and entertainment during camping. However, a well-equipped camping radio is so much more than a simple radio. Your radio can help you survive during emergencies as well.

The best portable radio for camping holds different meanings to different people. What is best for you may not be best for others. Still, there are some factors you should consider before buying, which are prevalent in most top quality portable radios. Lightweight, durable, good sound and reception quality, power sources, etc. are some things you should check beforehand. So you don’t regret it later after you finished purchasing the radio.

Let’s look at the top 5 portable radios reviews and analyze the buying guide.

5 Best Portable Radio for Camping – The Winner?

Panasonic RF-2400D AM / FM Radio

Panasonic RF-2400D AM FM Radio

One of the most popular portable radios currently on the market, the Panasonic RF-2400 is a simple yet powerful device.

The 80s aesthetic design of this model really hits home with the retro lovers out there. Panasonic equipped this radio with old fashioned features without compromising the quality. The precise tuning and Ferrite antenna can get you the complete FM/AM frequency range. You’ll be able to get excellent reception at any time of the day.

With a 4 inch speaker, this analog radio has impressive sound quality. The tuner display and knobs are large and easy enough to use. Moreover, it has a glow in the dark dial, which comes pretty handy at night. You have two choices regarding the powering options. Whether you power up the radio with an AC adapter or by four AA batteries, that’s totally up to you.

Along with its budget-friendly price, the Panasonic is lightweight, small, and perfect for travel.

Pros

  • Best Selling Portable Shortwave Radio
  • Ferrite Antenna For Improved Signal Quality
  • Carrying Handle Can Be Folded At The Back
  • Two Power Source Options
  • Reduces The Outside Noise In Order To Enhance Listening

Cons

  • Lack Of External Auxiliary Port

Vondior AM FM Battery Operated Portable Pocket Radio

Vondior AM FM Battery Operated Portable Pocket Radio

If you like to camp in peace without distractions and prefer old-school over modern devices, then the Vondior is a great choice to take on camping.

This pocket radio weighs around 3 ounces only and measures just 4.7 x 2.8 inches. Lightweight and compact, you can carry the radio anywhere; thus, it has the portability covered. This outdoor AM/FM radio smoothly runs on two AA batteries only. So you don’t need to worry about running out of power in the middle of your camping and keep on enjoying music.

This portable radio perhaps seems like a transistor radio fit for old times, but it still has enough modern convenient features. It comes with a telescopic antenna for better reception, a mono earphone jack, and a carrying strap for better portability. Moreover, you’d be able to stay connected and get broadcast news in real-time through this radio.

The Vondior may not be too feature-heavy, but considering the affordable price with the rugged quality, you’ll end up getting more value than intended.

Pros

  • Slim And Lightweight Design
  • Clean Reception With Little To No Distortion
  • Easy To Use Controls With Fewer Buttons And Dials
  • Able To Stand On Stable Base
  • One Of The Best Portable Headset Radio

Cons

  • Sound Less Powerful Compared To Bigger Models

Sony ICFP26 Portable AM/FM Radio

Sony ICFP26 Portable AM FM Radio

Sony has already established its name and become a leading brand in the world of electronics.  This radio is no exception to that, having a fine quality product.

The ICFP26 model is the smallest radio on our list and weighs only 3 ounces. However, it’s still capable of a mighty performance regardless of its size and weight. This ultraportable radio incorporates a telescopic antenna to catch radio signals more efficiently and presents you with a variety of channels. The built-in speakers are able to produce great sound. And for your personal listening time, you can use the dedicated headphone socket as well.

Another convenient feature is the LED tuning and battery status indicators. The LED display keeps you updated about the charging. Because when the LED turns red indicates you need to change the batteries. It only requires two AA batteries to offer up to 110 hours of listening time, which adds more value to this radio.

If you’re looking for a portable, dependable and affordable radio without sacrificing the sound quality too much, then you should go for the Sony ICFP26.

Pros

  • Vertical And Compact Design With Flat Base
  • Integrated AM/FM Radio Tuner
  • LED Indicators For Radio Signal And Battery Status
  • Great Channel Selection Sensitivity
  • Built-In High-Quality Wrist Strap

Cons

  • Telescopic Antenna Placement Not Ideal

Sangean PR-D5BK AM/FM Portable Radio

Sangean PR-D5BK AM FM Portable Radio

The Sangean PR-D58K Radio is a high-quality digital radio with loads of features. For those looking for a multifunction travel radio with a well-built design, the Sangean PR-D5BK will be a suitable match.

The PR-D5BK has two speakers that deliver an excellent stereo sound, which is not much common in portable outdoor radios. The radio also uses two different antennas for tuning. The ferrite antenna provides high-quality AM reception, and the adjustable telescopic antenna provides great FM reception.

It comes with 10 Memory Preset Stations (5 FM, 5 AM), radio alarm function, sleep timer, and battery power indicator. The LCD contains a backlight, so viewing in low light won’t be a problem. The rotary tuning knob is adjustable and easy for switching channels. There’s also an auto seek option, so you can search through channels without turning it manually.

Along with an earphone jack and a mono/stereo switch, an external AUX input also available on the device. You can connect your smartphone or other devices to the radio and enjoy the sound. The lightweight yet rugged radio can be powered by an AC adapter or six CC batteries.

Pros

  • Superb Stereo Audio Performance From Dual Speakers
  • Alarm With Three Modes
  • PLL Synthesized Tuning System For Reception
  • Radio Data System (RDS) For Text Function
  • Great Combination Of Portability, Performance, And Power

Cons

  • Slightly Expensive

RunningSnail Solar Crank NOAA Weather Radio for Emergency

RunningSnail Solar Crank NOAA Weather Radio for Emergency

The RunningSnail Emergency Crank Radio is the most feature-packed and impressive among all the portable radios listed here. No wonder, this is the best value for emergency radio in the market.

This newest design MD-090P has been upgraded to a much larger 4000mAh Li-ion battery, which can be powered up in four ways. You can charge up the radio with the built-in rechargeable battery, hand crank, the large solar panels on top, and micro USB. Through the micro USB, you can also charge your smartphone during emergencies.

With the NOAA weather alert system, you’ll be notified of severe weather conditions like storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. In case of emergencies, you can even send warnings using the SOS alarm system. The three modes flashlight has a lighting range of 20m, so you never have to be in places without lights. Also, a reading lamp with a motion sensor is there to help you navigate at midnight without disturbing the others.

The RunningSnail Solar Crank Radio may not be a pocket-sized model. Its rugged and durable build with the largest rechargeable battery makes it more suitable for outdoor and camping activities.

Pros

  • Offers 7 NOAA Channels To Get The Latest Weather And Hazard Information
  • Equipped With Two Powerful Front-Facing Speakers
  • Electricity Label And External Antenna For Emergency Radio
  • Bulkier Reading Light Automatically Turn Off After 30 Seconds
  • Auxiliary Input Jack To Connect To Other Devices

Cons

  • Big in Size

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Portable Radio for Camping

Buying Guide – How to Choose the Best Portable Radio for Camping?

Portability

When looking to buy a camping radio, portability should be your first concern. As you’d be out walking/hiking and carrying your radio, you need to consider the size and the weight of the radio. It should be small enough to put inside your bag or pocket and light enough, so you don’t get tired carrying the radio for a long period.

However, ultralight models wouldn’t be very sturdy or durable. Make sure the radio is lightweight and compact without compromising its build quality and functionality. Carrying a handle or strap can be a great addition in this regard, as you can carry your radio easily by keeping your hands free.

Power Source

Most portable camping radios specifically target emergency use, so you need to consider the charging methods they come with. Based on how they are powered, camping radios can be divided into different types, including:

  • Battery-powered camping radio – Radios that are powered by batteries are the most common camping radio type out there. The battery type can be rechargeable or disposable, both having advantages depending on which you prefer.
  • Solar-powered camping radio – Some radios feature solar panels that are capable of transforming solar energy into electrical energy. For camping, especially during summer, solar-powered radios would come in handy.
  • Hand-cranked camping radio – These types of radios are more of a traditional type. They are powered by manually pulling it, spinning a mechanical crank. The advantage is that you’d always have power available.

You should look for a radio that operates using multiple power sources. Nowadays, most portable radios offer two or three different methods of charging. That way, you’d never run out of power during camping. However, if you only have access to a single power source, then go for battery-powered radios. Rechargeable batteries are much more energy-efficient, and you can easily replace disposable batteries when you run out of power.

Durability

As an outdoor activity, camping can be pretty demanding. Don’t forget your radio will be exposed to extreme weather situations and has to endure wear and tear as well. Moreover, portable radios suffer a lot more than regular radio. Because there’s more chance of dropping, bumping, water damage, etc. and so they need to be well built.

For that reason, many portable radios come with weather-proofing features to be used outdoors without being easily damaged. Sturdy and high-quality material makes a more durable product, and it won’t break even if it falls accidentally.  The roll cage is a great feature for shock proofing as it’s made of durable plastic and includes shock blocks to absorb shocks.

But how would you know you’re getting a quality product? The trick is to get your radio from a reputable company or brand you’re familiar with. Another good idea is to check user ratings and reviews. This will give you the idea of whether the radio will last or not.

Waterproofing

Camping radios should be able to withstand unpredictable weather. There’s a high chance of getting caught in the rain or accidentally spilling liquids over the radio. For that, a water-resistant portable radio Is needed as it can withstand water splashes. Most water-resistant radios are also dustproof and can work perfectly fine even after being exposed to snow or dust.

Sound Quality

Sure, you can’t expect the same quality as the home surround sound system, but you also shouldn’t neglect the sound quality of your portable radio. You need to make sure the radio has a decent speaker.

The sound quality depends on three factors: the size of the speaker, the quality of the speaker, and the radio’s ability to pick up a signal. The speaker’s size greatly affects the volume of the radio, but it’s not always a negative cause. Good quality radios from reputable brands ensure the built-in speaker is of high quality despite being small-sized.

When looking at the audio quality, check for the volume range as well. Make sure it’s high enough so that you can listen to the radio clearly while you’re outdoors. Any radio with a peak volume of at least 80 dB should be good. You should also pay attention to other features it comes with. For instance, some models come with preset EQ settings and adjustable antennas. These will help you control and adjust to get the sound of your choice.

Reception Quality

When you’re choosing the best camping radio, make sure it has excellent reception quality. Radio with a minimal frequency range won’t help you get emergency alerts in a very remote area. It’s more difficult for radios to pick out signals in the woods or wilderness, so you need to consider portable radios with high range.

Check for both AM and FM ranges if you plan on receiving both signals. FM transmission can help you listen to your favorite music genres from multiple stations. The AM stations can deliver news and info from the outside world to keep you in the loop. Therefore, a portable radio with a strong reception coupled with AM/FM capabilities should be your priority.

Alert System

The best camping radio should have a Public Alert or an NOAA logo on it. It means the radio features an alert system that can Send and receive weather broadcasts or warnings. The Public Alert logo on the radio means it has alerts and tone enabled. There’s also certain provision like emergency lights for the hearing impaired.

Another great feature is called S.A.M.E, which stands for Specific Alert Message Encoding. This feature sends alerts depending on your specific destination. You’ll get notifications for emergency alerts only for your specific area, and not for the whole country.

Having the alert system on your radio is a lifesaver during emergency situations.

Extra Features

Nowadays, portable radios are equipped with additional features and options. These features add extra value to the radio, without you having to pay extra for them. Not having these features isn’t a deal-breaker per se, rather your camping trip would get a lot easier if your radio has them. Below is a quick overview of some extra features you may consider.

Display

Not all camping radios include a display, But it’s a convenient feature to have. LED display shows the FM/AM channel frequency, volume, time, and other useful information. It’ll help you operate your radio easily even when there’s low visibility.

Flashlight

This feature can be found on portable radios made for outdoor use. It’s very useful during nighttime. Most emergency radios come with a flashlight as it’s an essential survival tool.

Bluetooth

It’s not pretty common, but some portable radios have mobile compatibility. If your radio is capable of connecting with your smartphone, then you can pair both devices. And then stream playlists from your mobile storage.

USB / microSD card ports

USB ports and MicroSD card slots offer additional connectivity options. Portable radios with built-in ports can be easily connected to your smartphone or tablet and be used as speakers. Additionally, you can plug your flash drive or SD card and listen to the stored songs or podcasts.

Attachments

Small portable radios with attachments such as a belt clip or a carry strap are pretty handy. When you’re running or jogging, you can wear the radio on your body using a belt clip. Or attach the carry straps on the radio and move easily with your hands-free.

Alarm Clock

Usually, smaller AM/FM radios do not come with an alarm clock, but portable radios with digital displays are more likely to have this feature. Some models offer one alarm, while others offer dual alarms, depending on the model and manufacturer.

Telescopic Antenna

Radios require antennas for coverage and reception. Besides internal antennas, some radios use telescopic antennas. They boost up the strength of the signal and provide extra stable coverage and better sound quality.

Maintenance Tips for the Best Portable Radio for Camping

No matter how tough your portable radio is, a little bit of care and maintenance adds more longevity to its use. Here are some maintenance tips for portable radios:

  • You should clean your camping radio frequently, so the dirt and grime don’t settle on top. Use a clean piece of soft cloth/rag to wipe the radio after every camping trip. If there’s an oil-based stain, soak the cloth in mild detergent or soap solution, then wipe off the stain.
  • Read the user manual thoroughly before using the radio. Every radio comes with a user manual, and you should utilize it rather than keeping it in the box forever. Manufacturers include useful instructions and safe methods of using the product, so the manual comes in handy.
  • Do not leave the batteries inside the compartment for a long time. Batteries can leak acid and damage the radio battery terminals. So remove them when not in use and regularly check and change the batteries if needed.
  • Only use the batteries and power cables/cords recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Ensure proper ventilation to prevent overheating. Most radios have mini vents to pass air through the internal components. Make sure the vents aren’t blocked by dirt or grime and don’t cover them yourself either.
  • Do not leave your radio outside for too long and never expose it to extreme heat/cold/heavy rains. You should keep it in a bag or safe case when not in use. Store the radio in a safe space to avoid damage.

Troubleshooting AM/FM Reception

Even the best portable radio can have problems with reception sometimes. If you’re having issues with reviving AM/FM, you can try troubleshooting to improve reception quality.

  • Choose a better location. Shift your portable radio to a different location, if possible, to make sure no obstacle is between the radio and the transmitting tower.
  • Change the station. If your campsite is located at a far distance from the station, the reception could be weak and difficult to connect.
  • Change the position of the antenna. You can try adjusting or readjusting the antenna until the reception gets better.
  • Use fresh, new batteries. Weak, old batteries affect reception negatively.
  • Reconnect the antenna. Check the antenna to make sure it’s properly connected. If the antenna has difficulties picking up any signals despite being connected, get a new antenna of better quality.
  • Reset the radio. If your radio suddenly stops receiving AM/FM signals, try resetting your radio to fix this. Consult the user manual for the procedure if needed.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve reached the end, choosing the best portable radio for camping should be a lot easier. Just remember the features you want and find the model that suits your needs the most. Hopefully, this review can serve you well, and you can choose the right one for you.

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