Solar radios have a variety of uses. You can use them while you’re camping, fishing, trekking, sunbathing on the beach, or gardening.
Solar radios are also very useful when there’s a power cut or in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster. Many solar radios come with additional survival features like a flashlight or a siren for use in emergencies.
One benefit of solar radios is that you’ll save money on batteries and will reduce your carbon footprint by not using so much mains power.
While the idea of being able to power your radio using just the sun sounds amazing, don’t expect to be able to use a solar radio all the time if you live in the UK. Solar radios usually require direct sunlight, which isn’t always available in our notoriously rainy climate.
However, you won’t be limited to only using your radio in direct sunlight as most solar radios offer a range of powering options. Often, you will be able to charge the radio by winding it up or plugging it into a computer or other USB power outlet.
Here’s a roundup of 5 of the best solar radios available in the UK in 2019.
The Duronic Apex is slightly more expensive than the Duronic Hybrid Radio reviewed above. Like the Duronic Hybrid Radio, it can be charged by solar power, a wind-up handle, or a USB cable.
One of the Apex’s additional features is a flashlight which can be used for up to 6 hours on a full charge.
Can be charged via solar, hand crank or USB
Can be used to charge a phone
Battery lasts up to 9 hours
Clock and alarm
Dimensions: 15 x 7.5 x 5.5 cm Weight: 381 g
Solar charging works well, and the red light will show you when it’s charging.
Winding it up for a minute gives about 30 minutes of use
Sound quality leaves something to be desired
Aerial is quite flimsy
The Duronic Apex is a great radio to take with you on camping trips or to use in other situations where you might need the torch feature. The built-in speaker doesn’t sound very impressive, but you wouldn’t buy this kind of radio for the audio quality anyway.
One of the best things about this radio is that you can use it to charge your phone when you’re off-grid.
The Roberts Digital Solar Radio is one of the few solar-powered radios to offer DAB radio as well as FM.
As it’s larger than radios like the Duronic Hybrid and can be powered using mains power, this radio is more suited to using around the house than taking on camping or fishing trips.
Can be powered by solar, mains or AA batteries
Solar and battery level indicators
Saves preset stations
Dimensions: 20.2 x 14 x 7 cm Weight: 621 g
Station name is displayed on both DAB and FM as it uses RDS on FM
Choice of power sources: solar, AA batteries or mains power
Excellent sound quality
Requires a consistent amount of sun to stay charged when relying on solar power
Battery cover rattles when the volume is turned up very loud
The Roberts Digital Solar Radio is ideal for using in the garden or on a sunny windowsill where you’ll be able to use it for days with minimal mains charging.
This radio is larger than many of the others reviewed here, so it’s less suited to camping. However, it has better sound quality and lets you listen to DAB digital stations as well as FM. Read our full review of the Roberts Digital Solar Radio here.
The Degen DE13 is a very versatile solar-powered radio. In addition to solar, you can power it using a hand crank, USB cable or with 3 x AAA batteries. It also has a flashlight and is the only radio on this list to have a shortwave radio receiver.
4 power options: Solar, hand crank, USB or 3 X AAA batteries
Can be used to charge a phone
Dimensions: 13.3 x 6.2 x 4.7 cm Weight: 256 g
Good value for money
Lots of features
Long battery life
Small yet robust
Has shortwave radio
Instructions are quite poorly written
This radio feels quite robust and well made for something so small and inexpensive. Being able to pick up shortwave radio means you will be able to listen to international stations you wouldn’t get on a regular AM/FM radio.
You can also use it to charge a phone if you’re stuck with no battery in the middle of nowhere.
As long as you buy a quality solar radio, the solar panel will work and will charge the internal battery. However, you need to leave the radio in a sunny place (outside or on a windowsill).
You may need to supplement the solar charging with winding the hand crank, using batteries or plugging the radio into the mains some of the time, especially when the weather is cloudy.
Will a solar radio work abroad?
Yes, the radios reviewed above will be able to pick up local and national stations when used abroad, but not UK stations. You should be able to pick up some international broadcasts on shortwave radio using the Degen DE13.
Can solar radios be used to charge other devices such as phones?
Some, but not all, solar radios allow you to charge other devices such as phones and tablets via USB. Smartphones are quite power-hungry, so you might not be able to charge your phone more than a few percent unless you’re prepared to spend hours turning the hand crank! However, a few percent battery could make all the difference in an emergency situation.
A solar radio should be able to pick up a signal fine in the car, though solar charging will work best when the radio is outside in direct sunlight.
How long can you listen to a solar radio for before the battery runs out?
Solar-powered AM/FM radios usually have a built-in battery that lasts for about 8-10 hours on a full charge. However, it might be difficult to charge it fully using sunlight alone, especially in the UK! You can supplement solar charging with USB charging or winding the hand crank (if the radio has one).
No, solar radios usually have a built-in rechargeable battery, so you won’t need to buy batteries separately.
Some radios, such as the Degen DE13, let you add regular rechargeable batteries as well, which is useful if you need power quickly and don’t have time to wind the hand crank or leave the radio in the sun to charge.
Are solar radios waterproof or splash resistant?
Not of the radios reviewed here are described as splash resistant by their manufacturers, let alone waterproof. It’s hard to find a water-resistant solar radio, which is a shame as solar radios are usually used outside, exposed to the elements.
Solar radios often have added features that would be useful while camping or in survival situations. These include the following:
Hand crank – A hand crank lets you charge the radio’s battery by turning a handle. The kinetic energy gets transformed and stored. Most AM/FM solar radios have a hand crank, but DAB solar radios rarely do.
Phone charger – Some solar radios have a mini USB socket which can be used to charge a phone. This can be useful in emergency situations, though you shouldn’t rely on a solar radio to keep your phone charged up for long periods of time as they usually don’t have enough power to fully charge a phone, at least not quickly.
Flashlight – This could be very useful when camping or in the event of a power cut. A flashlight and a hand crank is a great combination as it means you can use a torch in the dark without having to worry about the batteries running out.
If we had to pick just one of these radios to recommend, it would be the Duronic Hybrid Radio due to its dependability, compact size and reasonable price. It’s has lots of useful features which would make it ideal for camping, emergency situations or for keeping in a “go bag”.
For some more options to consider, see these articles: