Ambient Weather WR-335 Adventurer 2 Weather Radio
There are a lot of emergency radios around that can provide a basic charge through hand cranking or solar cells, and some of them will charge your cell phone enough to make an emergency call. Most of them are adequate for an emergency where grid power is unavailable, but they leave plenty of room for improvement.
The WR-335 Adventurer 2 is Ambient Weather’s top of the range emergency radio, and it has pretty well everything that smaller portable radios lack, including access to Weather Radio Alerts.
It’s of moderate size, has a powerful rechargeable Lithium Ion battery that can be replaced off the shelf when it eventually runs out, can be charged in 6 different ways, and can provide a reasonable charge to almost all cell phones and a lot of other small devices as well.
It includes a flashlight, and can be used as a weather alert radio whenever it is plugged in to an AC source.
With a weight of about one pound (450 gm) it is light enough to go into an emergency pack, or to be included on a hiking or camping trip. In these situations, charge can be maintained from 3AAA backup batteries, a small solar cell, or hand cranking.
With good reception and sound quality, as well as the huge range of features, it is around double the price of smaller radios that will do a similar job, but not as well. The price difference is mostly related to its much more powerful battery, its ability to give a reasonable charge to cell phones and other devices, and the convenience of digital control of AM, FM, Weather Band and Short Wave Radio.
Overall, this appears to be a very good radio for both home and emergency use and the price is reasonable when you consider its capabilities. Buyer reviews at sites like Amazon support this view, with ratings in the highest bracket.
So let’s look at the Ambient WR-335 Weather Alert Radio in more detail.
The WR-335 is a solid 6x2x3.25″ in size and weighs about a pound (approx 450 gms)
The radio itself is digital, and includes AM, FM, Weather Band and Short Wave. Being digital rather than analog may not be a great difference, but you will have the convenience of search, and being able to store up to 5 stations or frequencies for each band. FM is mono rather than stereo.
The Weather Band will receive all 7 NOAA frequencies in the USA, and you can program those which have the clearest signal in your area.
Short Wave is there for major emergencies. It’s where the amateur Ham Radio people hang out, and they may be the only people on air during a catastrophe.
Short Wave is received best at night, and you can pick up a signal from almost anywhere in the world. The manual which comes with the WR-335 contains a list of the main international SW stations and their frequencies.
Weather Alert Radio
One of the best features of the Ambient WR-335 Adventurer 2 is the inclusion of the NOAA Weather Alert service. This works best when the radio is on standby and plugged into an AC source, so it is for before the emergency develops rather than during it. Once grid power disappears, the Weather Band will keep you up to date with the situation in your area.
The Weather Alert is accessed by tuning in to the station on the Weather Band with the best reception, then pressing the Mode button until the ALT symbol is displayed. This will silence the radio until there is a weather statement, watch or warning, when the alert light will flash (this is the flashlight), the siren will sound, and the radio will start broadcasting the local weather station. The siren is reasonably loud, but at night the best place for the radio in Alert Mode would be on a table beside your bed.
The alert mode can be disabled by pressing the power button.
Filters available on some desktop weather radios, which can allow selection of warnings only, are not available on the WR-335.
Another of the main distinguishing features of the Ambient WR-335 Weather Radio is the presence of a powerful 2200mAH Lithium Ion rechargeable battery. This battery is almost four times the power of the batteries in other Ambient weather radios, as well as most models of other brands, and allows longer broadcast and flashlight time, as well as providing greater charge to cell phones and other devices.
The battery is good for about 2000 recharge cycles, and when it finally expires it can be replaced off the shelf for less than $10 (2014 figures). Many alternative radios have purpose built batteries which are difficult if not impossible to replace.
The Battery can be charged by
1. AC through a USB port on a computer or phone charger.
2. Direct AC from a wall switch through an adapter supplied with the radio. Ambient recommends that the radio normally be connected to an AC source. This will keep the battery fully charged (it can’t be overcharged) and will make it easy to enable alert mode.
3. DC or car charger – cable not included.
4. Back up batteries – 3AAA batteries can be installed in a compartment in the radio – they are not included
5. Solar through a small panel on the radio. The panel will not fully charge the radio’s battery but will slowly add charge while in sunlight and will maintain the charge at a near maximum level. A solar bag with a larger panel is available from Ambient Weather as an extra
6. Hand Crank. The best policy with radios like this is to try to maintain a reasonable charge level. The hand crank is best for adding small amounts of charge to the battery rather than trying to totally recharge it.
Normally one minute of cranking at two revolutions/sec will provide 15 – 20 minutes of radio at moderate volume, 70 minutes of flashlight, and up about 3-5 minutes of talk time on a cell phone.
Over cranking can damage the radio – crank for no more than two minutes at 2 revs/second, then stop for at least one minute before resuming.
The flashlight is bright enough to find your way around and to locate items in the dark, but it would be a good idea to pack a more powerful one in your emergency kit. It uses very little power and a few cranks will give you plenty of light.
Cell Phone Charging.
Cell phones and other appliances can be charged by a dump from the battery (recommended) or by hand cranking. Because the battery is quite powerful, a reasonable charge can be given to your cell, but the idea is to give you power for emergency situations rather than talking to friends or checking the internet. Because of the focus on emergency use, but also to provide the charge more quickly, the radio will be disabled when cell phones are being charged.
The best way to charge a cell is to turn the radio off, hold down the power button for about 3 seconds until the display reads “Phone”, attach the correct plug to your cell phone, then attach the other end to the USB jack under the rubber cover on the end of the radio.
A dongle with 10 leads is included with the phone, and most devices can be connected once you identify the right cable. Some smart phones, such as the iPhone 5 will have their own USB to micro USB cable for charging and this can also be used.
When charging, a red LED light will be visible. Charging will continue until the charge in the cell battery is equal to that in the radio, so a full charge is not possible. Extra charge can be added by cranking – crank for no more than two minutes at no more than 2 revs /sec, then wait for one – two minutes before cranking again. You may get a warning message from your device but damage is most unlikely.
The crucial step in charging cells etc is to switch the radio to the phone mode. I suspect that some reviewers who have been critical of the charging capacity of the Ambient WR-335 may have missed this step.
The WR-335 comes with an octopus like attachment with 10 connections suitable for a large variety of cell phones and other devices. There is also a USB to mini USB cable for charging the radio battery from an external AC source, and an adapter for an AC wall plug. A very clear and well written manual is included (Hooray!), as are warranty details.
A one year limited warranty is available which basically covers defects in parts and labor during the manufacture of the radio. Should you have warranty or other problems you will need to contact Ambient Weather’s help desk, which has a very good record for prompt advice and service.
The Ambient WR-335 is at the top of the range sold by Ambient and is also it’s highest priced emergency weather radio. Prices can vary from day to day, but something around $70.00 seems common. Check freight costs to get a total amount.
Those buyers who have reviewed the Ambient WR-335 Weather Radio have generally been pleased with it. The rare examples which have not worked have been replaced quickly, and other criticisms mostly relate to cell charging or sound quality.
I suspect that a lot of the instances of poor charging may be due to incorrect setting up of the radio – it must be placed in “Phone” mode for cell phone charging to happen.
Reception of all bands seems to be generally good, and while sound quality is not superb it is around the level you would expect from a small battery operated radio. Reception will also vary with your location and station strength, and short wave reception is rarely good during daylight hours.
Bear in mind that plasma TVs can badly affect radio reception. If you have reception problems and your plasma TV is on, try again when it is not working.
The case is rubberized but probably would not stand up to a drop onto a concrete path, and while it has some water resistance through the rubber cover over the input and output jacks, it is by no means waterproof.
Another possible weakness is the antenna, which is quite thin and not strongly attached. Be gentle with it, and carry some copper wire as an emergency aid.
There are a few other criticisms, but keep in mind that this is a radio designed to help you out in an emergency, so if it doesn’t have stereo and doesn’t scan stations as well as a car radio, it could be forgiven if it does it’s main job of warning you and keeping you up to date in an emergency.
Most emergency weather radios sold in the USA are strong and reliable, and the Ambient WR-335 is no exception, with a case and crank that seem stronger than most. But it’s a very competitive market, with a very tight balance between quality and price.
The Ambient WR-335 ADVENTURER 2 Weather Alert Radio appears to be a very useful radio which provides the transition between home use as a Weather Alert Radio and a battery operated source of information in an emergency.
Its strengths are in the powerful rechargeable battery which provides much better charging of cells and other electronics than many of its competitors with a much smaller battery that is not always replaceable from off the shelf.
The backup AAA batteries are also a good idea and are not often included in radios of this type. Keep plenty on hand, and at $10-00 or less for the main battery, a spare or two would make a lot of sense.
The numerous options for charging the radio mean that it should always be functional provided it does not get wet, and the digital tuning and reasonable sound quality mean in normal times it can double as a recreational and weather alert radio around the home.
So keep it fully charged on AC power at home, and switch it over to emergency mode if you lose power or have to evacuate. It is also small enough to put in an emergency pack or bug out bag – just remember to charge the battery up every few months.
Overall, this radio is well designed, well made, with some very useful features, and manufactured and supported by a highly regarded company.
You can find out plenty more about the WR-335 here, including quite a number of good customer reviews. You should also find a competitive price, so check it out now to see if there are any discounts.
Ambient Weather is a major manufacturer and supplier of weather radios, home weather stations and related equipment, and their website is always worth a visit
Other fine weather radios are described elsewhere on this site, including the American Red Cross FRX2 Hand Turbine Weather Radio, also known as the Eton FRX2