The further away you get from dense urban areas in New Jersey, the more you can tell there are residents who have a definite survival mentality and lifestyle. One obvious example is how people have tons of firewood in storage.

So we figured we’d share some preparedness information that you might find interesting.

Compact Survival Radios

by Pat Cascio

Today, I’m describing some of my experiences with compact survival radios: Both the good and the useless.

To start, I should mention that I don’t have a landline home phone any longer – just a phone line for my Internet service. I’m fine with that, because 95% of the calls I got on my home phone were people trying to scam me or sell me something. So, I don’t miss a hone phone line. When I was 25-years old, I lived for the phone, because l was dating three girls – all named Cindy. (True!)

My wife and I both have cell phones, and to tell you the truth, I could live without mine. Once again, lots of calls from telemarketers, and people trying to sell me something – so I can live without the cell phone, if I don’t know who’s calling me, I don’t answer it any longer – if it is important, the caller will leave a voice mail for me.

Our big screen television is on several hours a day, but it is in the living room, not my office. I have it on for some background noise, other than my German Shepherds barking when the UPS driver goes by, or when a driveway alert goes off. I rarely watch (or listen) the mainstream “news” on the television – they all read from the same script these days. In my pickup truck, I have a stationed that plays a lot of “Oldies” music – from the mid-1960s onward. Personally, I believe the best music ever was from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, but that’s just me and my generation. We have two Christian radio stations in our area, and I tune into them once in a while, but their playlist is very limited – get tired of hearing the same 40 or 50 songs all the time.

Communications are important if you are a Prepper – you need to know what is going on in the world, in your state and your community. Of course, we can get some second-hand information from our friends on the cell phone – but it is usually unreliable or exaggerated when we hear it. So, I tune in to the radio, or the Internet for the real news. Communications come in several forms, for most people it is the cell phone, however we really need to have radios to stay on top of the news.

We’ve all seen comapct  “survival” radios, and these have been around for quite some time – they usually have AM and FM bands. However, many today have a weather alert system, that I find we all can benefit from. It’s a good idea to know if a bad weather front is coming our way – it can make the difference between life and death – do I bug out or stay bugged in when the weather turns bad. Good to know this stuff – if a tornado is coming your way, it’s probably not a good idea to jump into your truck and hook-up your travel trailer – you might just get blown away to Oz.

Of you want a serious survival radio, you need one that operates off of batteries, solar power or wind-up power. Of course, as already mentioned, you need an AM/FM reception and a weather channel is fantastic. If you can find one with an extra shortwave band, then snap it up. You’ll be surprised by the news you can hear from the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) about events in the US that you don’t near locally or nationally – but you should know about. The BBC is really on top of events happening in the USA.

Some survival radios also have lights on them. However, when you use them, you really use-up your battery power, so use those lights as little as possible.  Also, having an external radio antenna on these radios helps pull in distant stations. Some radios have external antenna and ground terminals and some do not. So look for those, before you buy.


I first want to issue a warning on the ubiquitous “Nippon” survival radios. These have been around for 30 years. The provide AM/FM radio reception and have a solar panel on the top, and a crank on the side, so you can crank it and charge-up the battery inside of it. I’ve seen these radios advertised all over the place in survival-type magazines for years – one was American Survival Guide, and I wrote for them for a good many years, until they got politically correct. Let me make this really clear: do NOT buy these radios. They are junk – I’ve owned a number of them, and it would be hard to tune in a radio station if they operated next to your house – terrible reception. The solar panel on top – don’t think they ever worked. Worst of all, the hand cranks on the side break off in short order, and when they briefly did work, if you cranked it for 20-mins – you might get 30 mins of radio reception from all your hard work. These radios still sell for $19.99. But they aren’t even worth the shipping.


I have a pretty decent survival radio from the local small box store, and it’s made by Midland – on-sale they are usually $29.97 – and well worth the money. This radio has the AM/FM as well as the weather alert – several different stations. (Midland also makes dedicated weather alert radios.)  The Midland brand compact radios seem to change case designs often, but I suspect that their internals don’t change much. Their latest model is the ER-102.

There is an alarm built into my Midland radio, as well as an air temperature reading– but that just for the air temperature in the room. So that is only useful when you are camping. Plus we have a built-in light that is bright, and it operates from batteries, solar, or the hand crank on the side. For the money, it is a great little radio – I’ve had it for years, next to my bed. When the power goes out, I simply unplug it from the wall, and the battery power takes over. Where we live, we are just about in a dead spot for radio reception – I can get one or two AM stations – and more often than not is the 50,000-watt nighttime Clear Channel KBOI out of Boise, Idaho – and when it comes in, it comes in clear as a bell. Boise is more than 400-miles from where we live, but Effective Radiated Power (ERP) matters! The other station is out of the small town near is, and on the best of nights, it is just “okay” when it comes to reception.


The last survival radio I want to discuss is the Eton, and they make a number of different models, this one is their FRX5-BT – it was a gift from my friend, Jeff – thanks, buddy! It’s hard to pin down the price on this particular model, but I’ve seen them from as low as $44.00 all the way up to $99.00 – for essentially the same radio, so be sure to shop around on the Internet for best prices. Take note that Eton makes quite a few different models and they are also sold under different brand names. One of their current variants is sold in part as a fundraiser for The American Red Cross. Check to see which model suits your needs.

The Eton has a nice big solar panel on the top carry handle that actually works – it will give your radio’s batteries a really good charge. Of course, there is an antenna that works great, and a light on the side of it – and it helps in the dark – it’s not super bright, but that’s a good thing if you ask me. This one is kept in our living room, near a window, so it always is taking a charge when the sun is out.

We have the AM/FM feature and a Bluetooth feature and the weather alert channels. What I like about this radio is that it is very well made and it is small enough to be carried to the beach, or a nice quiet hike in the mountains if you want to hear a little music as you hike or camp. The hand crank is right in the front of the radio, and it’s heavy-duty. It would take a lot to break off this one. Thusfar, it has worked great and I’ve had it several years now.


So, that’s just a look at three survival radios – one of them isn’t worth owning at all. And the other two are really decent deals and priced affordably. You don’t always need your cell phone, two-way Family Radio Service (FRS) transceivers, or other walkie-talkies. But you do need a way to hear what is going on in the world, or your own backyard in an emergency, and sometimes if the power is out, you can’t watch your television, or you don’t want to get your generator going if the power is out for a short time. You grab your survival radio, turn it on and tune-in to your stations and catch the news.

I have several generators, one is fairly small, but I don’t like to get it powered up if the power will be back on, but I still want to hear some news, or just to break-up the silence, I’ll turn on a radio and it doesn’t make being without power such a bad thing…we’ve eaten by candlelight, or camp lanterns, with music playing the background while having a romantic meal. Life is good, when you’re prepared!

About the author


NJroute22 (site admin) is an avid traveler along NJ Route 22 (and almost all of central New Jersey!) Family man, pet lover, and property owner who has a natural curiosity for everything around.