Planning on taking a remote trip this summer? Have you ever thought about buying a solar radio? Solar radios are very practical companions for outdoor adventures and everything that comes along with these adventures.
There are many types of solar radios available. But which one will be best for you? Today we’ll guide you through the process of buying a solar radio, including an overview of the features that are interesting to consider when buying a solar radio, a few radios that are popular, and how to find the best solar radio to fit your needs.
- FosPower NOAA Emergency Weather Solar Radio
- Running Snail NOAA Emergency Crank Solar Radio
- RunningSnail MD-090P NOAA Emergency Solar Radio
- Kaito KA500 NOAA 5-Way-Power Solar Radio
- Mesqool 5000 NOAA 5-Way-Power Solar Radio
Who needs a solar radio?
A solar radio is a radio that is powered by a small built-in solar panel. It’s a good tool to have from a couple of perspectives. It can keep you up to date on the latest weather conditions with a weather warning radio, allow you to listen to AM/FM to stay entertained, and can even charge your phone through a built-in powerbank.
Anyone planning a van trip, going out RVing, or generally heading out camping in their vehicle can benefit from a solar radio.
Our #1 Rated Solar Radio: FosPower Model A1 NOAA Solar Radio (Best Overall Solar Radio)
- Powerbank with 2000 mAh capacity to charge any small tablet or phone
- Capacity to charge using solar energy, hand crank, or AAA batteries
- Two different light sources: A 4-led reading light and a full-power flashlight
- Can dependably receive emergency weather forecasts and emergency news broadcasts from NOAA and AM/FM stations
- Lifetime warranty
In the world of solar radios, the FosPower A1 can be seen as the jack of all trades, but the master of none. It is lightweight, versatile, has a load of useful functions and a battery that is big enough to charge most modern-day phones and small tablets.
The FosPower model A1 has a battery capacity of 2000 mAh. That means that it can charge a phone or a small tablet. This is more than enough for most basic functions and makes the solar radio last for a while.
On the other hand, it is not supposed to be a heavy-duty powerbank that keeps all your phones, tablets and laptops charged. It simply does not have enough capacity to do that.
The FosPower has a decent amount of features: Weather radio with NOAA functionality, AM/FM functionality, two LED light sources to make sure you or your loved ones aren’t left in the dark, and a high-power SOS-alarm that is perfect for solo hiking trips or other outdoor activities.
Weighing in at 10.9 ounces, it is lightweight for a solar radio. Most of the time, solar radios weigh between 8-16 pounds.
The FosPower shines when it comes to ways to charge it. Not only does it have traditional solar charging. It also includes a hand crank and capabilities for AAA batteries.
This makes the FosPower A1 a versatile solar radio that can be used in almost every situation.
Our #2 Rated Solar Radio: RunningSnail Emergency Crank Solar Radio (Best Minimalist Solar Radio)
- Powerbank with 2000mAh to charge any phone or small tablet
- NOAA/AM/FM functionality so you’re always connected
- Improved flashlight (1W)
- Improved SOS alarm
- 18-month warranty
For someone looking for a solar radio that does the job as described without too many added features, you can stop looking. The RunningSnail Emergency Crank Radio is a bit cheaper than others but has most functions that you would expect.
The RunningSnail emergency crank radio has a battery capacity of 2000mAh. This is enough to charge your phone or a small tablet when in distress. It won’t be able to act as a heavy-duty power bank, but in emergency situations it will do the job as expected.
The RunningSnail has a limited set of features. It has quite a powerful 1W flashlight, and radio capabilities (AM/FM/NOAA), but that is where the feature list stops.
Where other solar radios have capabilities for reading lights or are built to withstand water and shocks, the RunningSnail is a bit limited. Even though the features list does not go for too long, it is highly rated for it’s ease of use and sound quality. The perfect solar radio for the minimalist.
Our #3 Rated Solar Radio: RunningSnail MD-090P Solar Radio (Best Powerbank Solar Radio)
- 4000mAh battery, so you can charge multiple phones or a tablet/small laptop
- 7 NOAA emergency radio stations
- Crystal clear sound
- 4000 mAh rechargeable battery, USB-charging, hand-crank charging and solar charging
- Super bright 3-mode flashlight and motion sensor reading lam
If you are looking for a solar radio that can reliably charge up multiple phones while you are out camping, the RunningSnail MD-090P is your champion. It has a 4000 mAh battery, that can be charged or changed when it runs empty. Charging can be done through solar, hand crank, USB, or by swapping the battery out for a charged one.
Being a powerhouse, the MD-090P comes with some handy functionality. It has a 3-mode flashlight, of which the furthest reach is 10 meters.
The 3 modes “Far beam mode”, “Dipped beam mode” and “Far and dipped beam mode” make the flashlight on this solar radio versatile like no other. It has a motion sensor reading lamp, so that you can navigate your way around your camp without waking up your family or travel mates in the process.
With regard to safety, the MD-090P has an emergency SOS signal, NOAA radio connectivity for emergency weather information and AM/FM radio connectivity for normal radio. This solar radio is made for people who need a reliable companion for during their camping trips or other adventures. Or even on a family vacation.
Our #4 Rated Solar Radio: Kaito KA500 5-Way Solar Radio (Best Heavy Duty Solar Radio)
- Battery with 600 mAh capacity to charge phones and other devices
- Can be charged using solar energy, hand crank, USB input, AAA batteries, AC/DC input and a built-in NIMH replaceable and rechargeable battery pack
- Multiple light sources: a 5-LED reading lamp, a LED flashlight, and a red SOS beacon light
- Can receive emergency weather forecasts and news broadcasts from NOAA and AM/FM stations
- Made of strong premium impact-resistant and water-resistant ABS material
The Kaito KA500 “voyager” is the perfect solar radio for adventurers. Because it is water- and shock resistant it is the perfect companion to take with you on every possible journey you can imagine. Where other solar radios would quit on you if you were trekking through the rainforest, this one is built to survive.
When looking at the battery capacity, you might be surprised to learn that it is only 600 mAh. This is a lot less than the capacity of the models that we discussed before. However, this is made up for by the numerous charging options available to you. Not only does it have the capability to charge through solar energy, hand crank, and AAA batteries, it can also charge through USB wall plugs and by using replaceable and rechargeable (NIMH) battery packs.
So even though it might seem weird that the battery capacity of the Kaito ‘voyager’ is only 600 mAh, it is explained by the functionality. It is recommended to get multiple battery packs which you can then switch out when necessary.
Besides the number of ways to charge it, the Kaito has some other exciting features. To start with, it has a 3.5mm headphone jack for you to connect your headphones to. It has AM/FM, NOAA, and shortwave radio connectivity.
A 5-led reading lamp will ensure you don’t get blinded just before falling asleep, whereas the big LED flashlight comes in handy when underway. Besides that, there is a red SOS beacon light for when the situation calls for it.
If that is not enough, the Kaito is water and impact resistant.
It might have a bit higher of a price tag, but the additional features and sturdiness you get for that money are definitely worth every penny.
Our #5 Rated Solar Radio: Mesqool 5000 Solar Radio
- 5000 mAh battery to charge multiple phones or a tablet
- Can be charged using a hand crank, solar panel, AAA batteries, AC adapter, and Micro-USB adapter
- Bright camping flashlight and LED reading light
- 7 pre-configured NOAA weather alert stations and AM/FM capabilities
- Comes with a compass, wrist strap, and carabiner clip for easy carry
If you are looking for a somewhat cheaper alternative to the RunningSnail MD-090P, the Mesqool 5000 is definitely worth taking a look at. Its most significant advantage is the battery capacity. With 5000 mAh, it’s the biggest of all these radios. This size battery allows this solar radio to charge multiple phones or a full-size tablet.
When looking at other functionality of the Mesqool 5000, most of it is pretty basic: A full-power flashlight for camping, a reading light, AM/FM and NOAA radio functionality, and things like an emergency cell phone charger and a loud SOS alarm. This feature list is not the best we’ve seen of all the solar radios discussed, but it is very well-rounded.
For charging functionality, the Mesqool has more than enough functions. When the 5000 mAh battery dies, it can be recharged using a hand crank, AAA batteries, an AC adapter, a micro-USB adapter, and of course solar charging.
What’s nice is the attention to detail with the Mesqool. Included in the package are an extra compass, wrist straps, and a carabiner clip. These are a significant improvement to the ease of use, and Mesqool seems to be the only manufacturer that includes extra goodies like this.
Overall the Mesqool is a solid choice. It’s right below the price of some higher-end models, but it comes with many of the same features and has a massive battery.
Solar Radio Buying Guide
Picking out the best solar radio for your situation can be tricky. Below we cover the key factors that you should consider before making your purchase.
Solar radios have built-in batteries to listen to the radio, charge your phone, or receive weather alerts. Base models often have less battery capacity (0-2000 mAh), while higher-end models have a larger capacity (2000 mAh+).
When buying a solar radio, it is vital to consider the situations in which you will use it. If you are going to be in a place with little to no sunlight, go with a solar radio with a bigger battery or one with extra ways to charge it.
There are a few features that are universal for solar radios, but what about extras? Base models often don’t go much further than the basics, while more luxurious versions have extra functions such as flashlights, SOS radio signals, or even alarms to wake you up in the morning!
Knowing what kind of features you’ll need your solar radio for is essential. For one person, waking up to radio in the morning is the most important reason for owning a solar radio. For others, it might just be the basics like weather alerts.
Let’s be honest: price is one of the deciding factors when deciding whether to buy anything. The same counts for these devices.
If you are going on a wild camping adventure, you’ll probably be okay with spending a bit more money, while if you are not doing anything extraordinary, you’ll probably want to spend less money. Models that are a bit more expensive often have more features, while the cheaper variants are equipped with the basic features. It all depends on what your preferences.
Then… How do you decide which solar radio is the one for you? It does really depend on the demands that you have of your radio. I divided the discussed radios into three price categories, so that you can make the best choice based on your budget.
In the category $45-55 there are 2 contenders for “King of the solar radios”: The Kaito KA500 Voyager, and the RunningSnail MD090-P. Both of these solar radios are heavy-duty, waterproof, shock-absorbent radios with about every feature that you could ask for.
The biggest difference between the two is the battery capacity: The Kaito has 600mAh where the RunningSnail has 4000mAh. This seems like a discerning difference at first, but the Kaito has the ability to switch out the battery packs. This allows for immediate recharge.
On the other hand there is the RunningSnail, which will be more reliable when you only have 1 battery pack. For this reason I would definitely recommend the RunningSnail as the “King of solar radios”.