Weather radio

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.

This winter we prefer to frolic in the snow when we choose, rather than get stuck pulling a trailer through unexpected snow and black ice.


  1. insightout says

    “We….have wind, ice, snow, hail, fire and thunderstorms that can quickly build and roll”

    The radio information is very helpful, exemplifying the boy scout motto refrain, “be prepared”. However, I sense a hint of Pinocchio in your message as I’ve never met a San Diegan who moved there anticipating “ice, snow, and hail”.

    Really, dressed in a Panama hat and a Hawaiian print short sleeve shirt, staring quizzically at a battery-powered, hand-held piece of Chinese technology, the caption to the last picture would read……( first, imagine the cartoon style bubble drifting in the wind)….”Now why did I buy this thing ?”

    Keep up the good writing, and when you are ready to retire the little radio, send it to northern Indiana where we have actual weather.

  2. says

    You’re right… San Diegans not only don’t anticipate rain, etc., many forget how to drive in it.

    But we do have occasions of snow in the mountains and high winds, so the radio will continue to be employed to help us decide whether to go over or around the mountains when traveling to and from the desert.

    It’s good to know, though, that the radio would be appreciated and well used in northern Indiana!

  3. says

    Hail in Scottsdale? I guess the apocalypse is upon us. But normally the weather in southern AZ is so polar (either damp and cool, or hot and sunny) that we don’t need weather radios. A simple two-color semaphore system would tell us everything we need to know.

    Doc, don’t be so hard on Bill. Sure, San Diegans think fog is a severe weather situation, but they need to feel that they have “real” weather; it helps them alleviate the guilt of NEVER going back east again! (I won’t tell Bill that you winter in southern Arizona where the big weather event is swarms of Mexican drug-runners.)