I’m always happy to see a piece of camping gear cross over into my emergency preparedness kit. For example, a major part of any emergency plan should be communication. The more you know about what is going on around you, the more likely you are to survive any situation. Ideally every family should have the equipment and experience needed to run a ham radio, but there is a huge investment of time and money needed to master that skill (not to mention licenses and red tape). Even a family with a tight budget can own a radio receiver that will allow them to listen to the news or emergency alerts without electricity on their home, particularly with the FRX series of radios from Etón that we previewed after Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. Of course, seeing a product for 10 minutes on a busy trade floor and getting to use it in real situations are two different things, which is exactly why we got our hands on an Etón FRX1.
The entire FRX series has been designed to be as valuable and easy to use in as many different situations as possible, and the FRX1 is no different. While the simple flashlight on the top of the unit is probably not going to be your first choice for lighting, it is certainly good enough for most situations, and the glow in the dark strip around the LED flashlight makes it easy to find when you need it. Of course, the FRX1 is primarily designed to be used as a radio, and Etón didn’t skimp in that department. The dials (which seemed to be intentionally made to work even with thick gloves) allow users to scroll through channels on AM, FM, and all 7 weather bands. Add to these features the sturdy exterior and you have a pretty nice piece of gear, but Etón have taken it a step further. Supplementing the ability to charge the internal Ni-MH battery using a mini USB with a high-efficiency hand crank system, they have ensured that you will be able to listen to the news no matter how long you are without power. 5 minutes of cranking will provide power for 10 minutes of low-volume listening or up to 2 hours of light. Overall weight is low, as well, coming in at 8 oz.
For those who aren’t too tech savvy, there’s no need to fret over the FRX1. It’s ready to use the second you open the box, no assembly required. Reception has been pretty good wherever it has been tested in our area, although it isn’t perfect (no radio ever is – especially handheld ones). Using the hand crank is fool-proof as well: simply flip the handle out of the housing and start spinning either way (yep, they remembered all you lefties). All of the dials turn easily and smoothly, making it cake to find the channel you’re looking for, even with gloves on. Everything on the FRX1 works exactly as I expected from the quick view of it in January, except finding your favorite radio station is even easier than anticipated. Usually something with this much utility and a good assortment of features would be fairly expensive, but the FRX1 is incredibly budget-friendly, with an MSRP of $25.
Having one of these in your emergency kit will help you be better prepared for almost any emergency that could occur, from natural disasters to social unrest (even the zombie apocalypse). As long as the emergency broadcasts continue, you will have the information you need to make decisions to keep you and your family safe. If you’re super paranoid like I am, having an extra FRX1 stored in a steel ammo can could protect it from an EMP blast. Just sayin’. [Rolls eyes - Ed.] At $25, there really is little reason not to have one of these in your camping gear, home emergency kit, and maybe even one in your car. If you like the look of the FRX1 (available in six colors), there’s even more to love in the FRX2 and FRX3, which can be found on the Etón website.