Best Handheld Ham Radio For Survival
SavvySurvivor may earn a small commission if you buy something from using affiliate links in this article. Learn more
What is a ham radio and what does it have to do with survival or the outdoors? A ham radio is a radio that is operated by an amateur radio personnel. The FCC–Federal Communications Commission assigns the ham user which frequencies can be used on the radio.
Ham radios can be very helpful in the outdoors or during an emergency. When there are no other forms of communication available, having the best handheld ham radio for survival is essential. During an emergency situation, many traditional forms of communication can be cut off due to excessive usage.
The following buyer’s guide is on the best handheld ham radio for survival we have found available.
In a Rush? The Winner after 19 hours of testing is:
1 BaoFeng BF-F8HP 8-Watt Two-Way Radio
This is an 8-watt, double band, two-way radio made by BaoFeng. It is 136-174 MHz VHF and 400-520 MHz UHF and has a complete kit included along with a big battery.
Double the Output
This radio is an upgrade from the previous model. It has double the power for output–it has 8 watts of power. The shell on this radio is hardened and more durable. The battery is 30% bigger, as well. It also has double the performing antennae that is a high-gain V85.
Power Settings in High/Med/Low
The radio has watts in the 8, 4, and 1 ranges. It also has MHz range frequency of 65-108. The VHF radio is 136-174 MHz and UHF is 400-520 MHz.
Made in the USA
Because we realize not everyone is an expert radioperson, we made the BF-F8HP simple to use. There is a manual provided that gives the user a guide on how this radio operates. This guide takes the radio user through all the customizations and capabilities of the BF-F8HP.
Cost & Value
The value of this radio will prove its value goes beyond its costs. There is also a concierge of exclusive assistance to aid customers and give them additional support. This service is available with the BF-F8HP, UV-82HP, and the UV-5X3 models. This is the top rated by us for the best handheld ham radio for survival.
2 BaoFeng UV-82HP High Power Dual Band Radio
The BaoFeng handheld ham radio is a high powered, double band radio with 136-174 mhz in VHF and 400-520 mhz in the UHF channels. This is an amateur, two way portable radio for Ham radio users.
BaoFeng Manufacturer Warranty
This BaoFeng handheld ham radio is a USA distributor that is authorized to honor the warranty provided by the manufacturer. The claims offered on the BaoFeng warranty does not need anything shipped to China.
Hi/Med/Low Power Settings
This radio has high settings for VHF in 8 watts and UHF is 7 watts. It has a 65-108 MHz range of frequency for VHF and 136-174 MHz in UHF.
Cost and Value
The BaoFeng manufacturer offers its customers helpful tips and guides at their website BaoFengTech.com or Miklor.com. This gives extreme value to your purchase of this handheld Ham radio. The receiver on this radio offers a menu which displays “LCD” on the function display. It also shows “BCLO” to display the channel’s busy channel lock.
3 Yaesu FT-60R Dual Band Handheld
The Yaesu FT-60R handheld Ham radio is a dual band radio. It has a 5W VHF and UHF transceiver. This radio has 70 cm and 2 meter dual band VHF/UHF.
The Yaesu dual band handheld ham radio has a display that is alphanumeric. The receivers are 108-520 Mhz and 700-999.99 Mhz with 144-148 and 430-470 Mhz transmission. To prevent an accidental frequency change there is a mode that locks.
1000 Memory Channels
You get access to thousands of channels, you will get the NOAA channel for weather alerts. Plus, other channels in the emergency ranges in 800-900 Mhz. It has a power output of 5 Watts for high; 2 Watts for medium and 5 watts on low.
Cost & Value
You cannot judge this handheld ham radio by its cost; it will prove its value is far greater than monetary. With a 1400 mA battery, belt clip, antennae, and charger all included you will be pleased with your purchase.
4 BTECH UV-5X3 5 Watt Tri-Band Radio
This is a ham radio made by BTECH. It is a 5-watt, tri-band radio for VHF and 1.25 UHF. This amateur Ham radio has an antenna that is dual band, antenna that is 220, charger, earpiece and many more included accessories.
As the only official distributor for BaoFeng & BTECH. BaoFeng Tech will recognize any official warranty offered by the manufacturer. BaoFeng extends any claims against the warranty without having to send anything to China first. In order to guarantee the complete USA warranty, first ensure you make your purchasing option with BaoFeng.
Tri-Band Range Frequency
All channels on this radio can be removed/or added directly from within the menu for scanning. The frequency is tri-band and has a DTMF frequency display. Monitor range is selectable frequency for stun, revive, inspect, and kill modes for decoding ANI incoming remote display.
Cost and Value
This handheld radio has great value beyond its cost. The kit you purchase has many accessories, including a UV-5X3 hand-held radio, a battery that is 500 mAh, and a dual band V-85 antenna. You will also get a single-band 220 MHz antenna Ch-5 charger, 110V, CH-5 adaptor, wrist strap, user manual, belt clip, and earpiece kit.
5 Kenwood Original TH-D74A
The Kenwood Original TH-D74A comes in 144/220/430 Mhz. It provides the best performance of other APRS or D-Star handheld receivers.
GPS High Performance
This Kenwood radio is a unit with high performing GPS. It also has wideband settings with multi-mode reception and an auto clock. The display is TFT–transflective color.
IF Filtering for Improved Reception
The reception on this Kenwood radio is improved because of the IF filtering for SSB/CW/AM high-performance. It had audio processing and recording which is DSP- based. Bluetooth compliant with standards for micro SD and USB.
Cost and Value
The value of this hand-held radio is greater than its cost. Although its cost may seem a bit high, you get a lot of value for your dollar. You get four TX selections of power (5/2/0.5/0.05W) It also meets all standards for IP54/55.
The bands are the allocated amateur radio stations that are available on the spectrum referred to as short wave. Although many ham radio allocations vary, the bands that are available to them are open for their use.
Many of these bands are the same around the world. However, they can differ according to the region or country the amateur radio user is in.
You want to ensure the battery life of your ham radio for survival is sufficient. You do not want to be out in the field using it and have it go dead in the middle of transmitting a message.
A Ham radio may sometimes be connected to the USB port of a computer; however, they do not connect to the internet. The purpose of a handheld radio is to have communications available during a power/internet outage in an emergency. Ham radios connect via the radio waves and antennas.
This is a very important feature of a handheld radio. One needs good sound quality when trying to communicate to emergency first responders.
When you purchase a handheld Ham radio, you will need a good technical support department. The manufacturer of the radio needs to be available to offer any support that may be required to operate the radio.
Some helpful tips for using a Ham radio:
- If you want to keep RFI away from your shack use wrap some coil dia coax about 6-8 times around the antenna at the point of termination. Do not allow the first wrap to touch the last wrap.
- Do not allow the external tuner to sit right on the top of the rig. Some of the manual aged tuners may cause the audio to become distorted on certain bands. Most of the Z-100 automatic tuners are stored about an inch over the rig (using space that in non-conductive as a spacer). Some of the more present models of tuners may not be presented with this issue, however it is a good idea to keep them separated.
- In order to maintain a cool power supply ensure to have a small fan in the rear blowing on your rig.
- Maintain your laptop at a distance of 2-3 feet from your rig. If you do this, you will not have any problems with RFI. You will also find that this provides a better ground for your rig as well.
- Always ensure your audio and signal cables are stored at a distance away from any cords that supply power. Do not keep them bunched together, as this will create problems.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the meaning of ham radio?
A: Ham radio is another term used for Amateur radio. This common hobby is capable of bringing communications, electronics, and people together. You can use a ham radio to talk to your buddy across town, or you can communicate with people from another continent. You can even have access to talk to people in space. It is all very exciting what you can do without the internet or cell phone assistance. Best of all, a ham radio can be the lifeline in the case of an emergency. Particularly, when all other forms of communication are out.
Q: What does ham in ham radio stand for?
A: The name “ham radio” is a popular term that refers to amateur radio. It comes from “ham” which is a nickname given to an operator of amateur radio. It didn’t become famous throughout the US until about 1920 in which it began to populate throughout the countries that speak English.
Q: What is the best ham radio for a beginner?
A: The BaoFeng UV 82HP is the number 1 best ham radio for a beginner. It is listed as our number 2 Ham radio on the buyer’s guide. Out of the top 5 beginner handheld Ham radios it is rated a 4.5/5.
Q: What is the best ham radio to buy?
A: Three of the best handheld ham radios to buy made our top 5 Buyer’s guide. The number one is the Kenwood Original TH D74A. Number 2 is Yaesu FT-60R and the third best radio to buy is BaoFeng BF F8HP.
Q: How far can a HAM radio stations be from each other?
A: The average between two Ham stations is 18 miles. For a CF it is 14 miles and a MURS is 10 miles.
Q: Is Morse code required for ham license?
A: No. It is not a requirement to know Morse code in order to earn one’s amateur radio license in the United States. The FCC announced they were joining the trend internationally by eliminating Morse code knowledge and proficiency as a requirement for Ham radio licensing.
Q: Can a ham radio be traced?
A: Yes. When you are using a Ham radio your signal can be tracked by way of DF (Direction Finding). Since ham radio transmission is on public record, you can be tracked. Many hams have started a sport named “Fox Hunting” in which they track other users by means of DF.
Q: What is 73 in ham radio talk?
A: This is a telegraphing code meaning “best regards”. In addition, 88 means “hugs and kisses”. There are both terms that belong in the ham radio language.
Q: What do the numbers 5 and 9 mean in ham radio talk?
A: The signal “5” and “9” is signaling that the readability of the signal is a “5” and the strength of the said signal is a “9”. This is the ideal readable and signal strength. In addition, “S-9”is also used to report an extremely durable signal is being received.
Q: How much does it cost to set up a ham radio station?
A: When setting up your ham radio station it can cost as little as $50 to an undetermined amount. You can spend as much or little on the equipment you purchase. You can find fairly low cost Chinese hand-held transceivers that are single VHF frequency on FM. In addition, you can find low budget handheld ham radios that operate on dual bands, usually 2 meters or 70 cm.
Q: What if you use a ham radio and do not have a license?
A: You may be able to use a ham radio as a “guest” without a license. However, the licensed ham radio operator will need to be the “control operator”.
Q: What is the Meaning of HF, VHF, and UHF?
A: HF means High Frequency; VHF means Very High Frequency; and UHF means Ultra High Frequency. These are all names for different sections of a broad spectrum of radio frequencies. The definition of the above frequencies are as follows: (HF) or HIgh- frequency is from 3-30 MHz (VHF) or Very HIgh Frequency is from 30-300 MHz (UHV) or Ultra HIgh Frequency is from 300 MHz to 3 GHz Other sections of frequencies--such as low frequency-- are not really spoken about. This is because this is not a term used for civilian radio. When one thinks about the history of handheld ham radios for survival, it all makes sense. The thought was “this is low or this high.” Frequencies developed through the years which developed higher and higher. From low frequency (LF) to High frequency (HF), Very High Frequency (VHF) and eventually Ultra High frequency (UHF).
Q: What is a Radio Band?
A: A radio band is a block or range of frequencies of radio. Bands are referred to by their frequencies such as a “14 MHz band” or their wavelengths “20 meter band”. When we talk about amateur radio bands, there are 27 of them. The two bands that most beginner’s focus on are 2 meter/144-148 MHz and the 70 centimeter which is 430-440 MHz. The local amateur radio stations use 2 meter and 70 centimeter bands; these are the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, the Community Emergency Response Team, and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service.
Q: What is Radio Frequency?
A: The frequency is how often something happens in a certain window of time. For example, when it comes to the beat of music fast music is a frequency of 120 and slow music is a 66 frequency of beats. When we talk about radio frequency, we are talking about the waves per minute. When you see how one lists frequencies it is “840 KHz” or “300MHz.” The Hz is the abbreviation for Hertz-- which is the meaning for “one wave” of radio frequency. Before the Hz is the k, M, and G-- these letters are for kilo, Mega, and Giga. The k is lowercase and the other letters are uppercase. This is similar to the computer terms Kilobyte, Megabyte, and Gigabyte. One- millionth of a wave is what is called a Megahertz. For example, 300,000,000 waves per second would be 300 MHz frequency.
Q: What is a Wavelength?
A: A wavelength is easy--it is simply the length from one section of a wave (such as the peak) to another similar area of the wave. There is an inverse relationship between a wavelength and frequency. If a frequency is a high amount, there will be a lesser wavelength. For example, if a wave is 60 miles in length, it would be difficult to put 300,000,000 waves into a second of wavelength transmission.