Although some say “It Never Rains in Southern California“, we who live here know that it pours. We also have wind, ice, snow, hail, fire and thunderstorms that can quickly build and roll over our mountains. We often find ourselves experiencing varying weather conditions as we travel along the coast and through our local mountains and desert.
Knowing weather conditions and forecasts is important to us before and during camping outings, and often becomes critically important in deciding the safest way back home to avoid possible local conditions of dense fog, rain, snow or high winds. For the past three years we depended on the Eton FR300 Emergency Crank Radio, but the weather band failed earlier this year.
So the search was on for the best weather radio to meet our needs. I learned that some newer radios come with SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) technology that allows users to program codes for their designated area of interest, rather than the entire broadcast area. Specific Area Message Encoding is the protocol used to encode the Emergency Alert System (EAS), put in place in 1997, and NOAA Weather Radio‘s Public Warning System, which broadcasts continuous weather information from the National Weather Service (NWS), an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
There are many forms of weather radios available. In selecting one that was right for us, I was able to eliminate the larger or desktop ones and those that were loaded with gizmos that I did not need (such as a built-in flashlight, flashing warning/location light, and siren). What I wanted was a small, easily transported weather radio that used minimal power and was dependable and got good reviews. I chose the Sangean DT-400W AM/FM Digital Weather Alert Pocket Radio.
This radio is powered by 2 AA batteries and easily fits in my shirt or vest pocket. Although it has a built-in speaker, I found that it is ideal (and saves battery power) to listen to its excellent sound through earphones (which also act as the antenna to receive FM and weather radio signals). It comes with earphones, but I found that my iPod earphones (enhanced by ear jams by Griffin) work best for me. Earphones also allow me to enjoy the radio without disturbing others. (Some campers do not realize how easily sound can travel and be disturbing.)
Although this radio does not have the SAME alert programmable feature described above, it does have all 7 NOAA Weather channels, including the new NOAA Weather Alert Emergency Channel that can sound a loud audible tone when an extreme weather condition is imminent.
My typical camping morning now starts by relaxing in a folding chair outside the Safari and sipping freshly brewed coffee, while listening to the weather followed by a NPR program or local jazz station. We bring extra batteries (of various sizes) so that we will not be caught by surprise by weather changes.