Whether you’re looking to ‘enjoy the tunes’ while relaxing around the campfire with friends and family or simply looking for an option to stay up to date on the latest weather forecast, portable radios have long been considered important camping gear. Today, I’m going to share the key features to consider when choosing a camp radio along with my recommendations for the best portable radio for camping at every price point.
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There is no denying that music can have an incredible impact on our emotions and well-being, helping us to relax, bringing about positivity and giving us a fun motivational boost when needed.
With an increased interest in streaming services such as Spotify and Amazon Music, you may be surprised to hear that traditional AM/FM radio is still considered to be one of the most reliable ways to enjoy your favourite music on the go.
Before we dig into how to pick the best radio for your needs, I want to address one of the biggest complaints that I see in the online travel communities that I belong to… The correct and respectful use of radios while camping.
Often, you will see people discouraging the use of the radio as they believe that camping is best experienced without the additional noise.
The truth is that camping can look different from one person to the next. One person may enjoy backcountry camping with nothing more than the gear that they carry on their back while, to another, camping involves staying in a travel trailer or RV with all the amenities, and that’s okay!
If you do enjoy music while you are camping, be sure to be respectful of those around you that may prefer the stillness and quiet of being out in nature.
What does this mean? Consider your neighbours when deciding on the appropriate volume for your music.
Furthermore, pay careful attention to the noise-related rules and regulations for the park or campground that you are staying at. There may be set ‘quiet hours’ where the use of a radio is not permitted, or areas that have been deemed ‘radio free’.
With the popularity of camping on the rise, we need to be more diligent than ever to remain aware of those that are around us. Ontario Parks has reported an increase in reservations of over 200% on March 1st, making it the highest volume they have ever seen on a single day!
If there is any question as to whether or not your radio use is disturbing those around you, consider turning it down or asking your neighbour if they are bothered by your music.
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What to Look for in A Portable Radio
When you are on a mission to select the best portable radio for camping, there are a few different factors to consider beyond just looking at the price tag.
Going back again to the statement that camping can look different from one person to the next, so too can the perfect radio!
If you’re a backcountry camper, you may be on the search for a small radio with the ability to quickly check in on the news and weather forecast while also being portable enough to tuck in your pack. Alternatively, a car camper may be looking for something that can hook up to their phone to listen to their favourite playlist.
Here are 5 factors to consider when deciding on which portable radio is best suited for your needs…
Charging Methods and Battery Life
There are a variety of different charging options available on the market today. Take a second to look at your camping style and which option (or combination of options) will best suit your needs. This includes both the ability to charge your radio as well as the battery life.
Do you prefer camping on an electrical site, plugging your radio in? Don’t overlook this point! You never know when you may find yourself in a situation where the power has been knocked out. In fact, those might be the moments that you want to check in with what’s happening the most!
The most popular charging methods available include AC/DC charging, disposable batteries, USB charging, solar power and hand crank.
If you’re looking for a radio to tune into local stations, checking the news or weather in the area, you want to make sure that you can actually pick up AM/FM radio stations! This means that you want to choose a radio with solid and reliable reception.
Look for a radio with a telescoping antenna which will give you more flexibility to pick up the various stations available.
Are you going to be in situations where your radio may be exposed to the elements? If so, you may want to consider selecting a waterproof unit for your adventures. Make sure that you get to know the IPX rating system. A radio that is rated IPX3 is designed to withstand a light rain, while a radio that is rated IPX7 can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes.
Additionally, you may need to consider the ability of your radio to stand up to being dropped or knocked around. This is especially true if you are camping with young children!
A radio isn’t always just a radio! In fact, there are a number of additional features that you may wish to consider when deciding on the best portable radio for camping.
Many ‘emergency radios’ include built-in LED flash-lights, SOS signaling and USB charging for smaller devices, like a cellphone. Meanwhile, larger radios like ‘jobsite radios’ may have a large enough battery capacity to charge or power something larger, like a laptop.
Another feature to consider, depending on how you wish to use your radio, is whether or not you have the ability to use headphones. This could include either the use of a headphone jack for wired headphones or Bluetooth capability for wireless. This is a great option if you would like to enjoy some music at a time or place where it may not be permitted.
Another important factor to consider is the ability to transport your radio as necessary during your adventures. For some people, this factor isn’t all that important. If you are packing all of your gear in an RV or travel trailer, a larger radio can easily sit inside while you are on the way to your campsite.
However, if you are someone that enjoys ‘walk-in’ style sites or backcountry camping where you have to hike or paddle to access your campsite, you may need a smaller radio that can be tucked into a pocket or backpack.
My Recommendations: The Best Portable Radio for Camping
Budget Radios (Under $25)
Esky Emergency Portable Solar Radio
Sony ICFP26 Portable AM/FM Radio
Prunus AM/FM Pocket Radio
Mid-Range Radios ($25-$100)
FosPower Emergency Solar Crank Portable Radio
RunningSnail Solar Crank NOAA Weather Radio
Panasonic Portable Radio
Eton American Red Cross Emergency NOAA Weather Radio
Kaito KA500 Voyager Emergency Radio
Luxury Radios (Over $100)
Bosch PB360C-C Power Box Jobsite Radio
ION Audio Raptor Portable Speaker/Radio
What factors do you consider to be the most important when selecting the best portable radio for camping? Do you have a radio that you love? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments!