Best Handheld Ham Radios for Survival & Emergency Communication

by Matthew Wilson

Are you a friend of a ham?

We do not mean the pink kind you might find at a holiday dinner table. Instead, when we refer to “hams,” we are affectionately talking about the many people of all ages who enjoy the hobbies of amateur radio, which is also referred to as “ham” radio.

While some enthusiasts enjoy using amateur radio for simple companionship and socialization, others rely upon their fellow ham radio lovers in times of survival and emergency communication.

We know that it is important to have the best handheld radio instead of simply a mediocre one. In order to help you decide which of the 10 best handheld ham radios are best for you, we have looked at the features, pros, cons and general reputation among customers.

Whether you are looking for the best handheld ham radio for survival or simply want the best radio for recreational use, this list should help you find the right handheld for you.

List of 10 Best Handheld Ham Radios on the Market Today:

Features
  • Low power: 1 watt
  • Medium power: 5 watt
  • High power: 7/8 watt
  • Lockable frequency mode through software
  • Synchronization of the dual push-to-talk switch
  • User guide that spans 80 pages
  • V-85 antenna
  • Compatible with all UV-82 accessories

 

This amateur radio is considered the best BaoFeng handheld ham radio that you can buy if you are worried about purchasing authorized BaoFeng equipment.

If you are looking for the best dual band handheld ham radio on the market, you may choose this one because it is the only one authorized by Baofeng’s USA distributor.

 

What the Customers Are Saying

Customers love that this radio is the only BaoFeng product that you can rely upon to honor the manufacturer’s warranty.

Even if you are only using the handheld radio for recreational socialization purposes, you can relax with the knowledge that you are covered by a warranty if anything happens to the product.

Pros / Cons
  • Can be purchased for under $63
  • Additional BaoFeng guides and tips can be found through the BaoFeng and Miklor websites
  • Enjoy up to 128 programmable channels.
  • Difficulty in turning off the backlight’s automatic on/off function
  • Customers reported difficulty with durability of radios

Summary

If you are looking for an introductory ham radio that offers terrific features for the price, this BaoFeng product is definitely going to give you your money’s worth.

But if you are planning to use your radio for heavy duty socialization or survival training, you may wish to spend a little more money on a more durable product.

Features
  • The most important feature is the radio’s dual band VHF/UHF 2 Meter.
  • CTCSS
  • DTMF
  • AlphaNumeric Display
  • Ability to scan
  • Reception of 108-999.9Mhz
  • Receives emergency channels
  • Comes with a 14000mA battery as well as a charger, antenna and belt clip

 

The Yaesu dual band handheld enjoys a positive reputation among ham enthusiasts due to its sheer durability. When you purchase this radio, you will be purchasing one that many consider the best 2 meter handheld ham radio due to its ability to withstand damage.

Its ease of programming also makes it a contender for favorite handheld ham radio among many hobbyists.

What the Customers Are Saying

Customers routinely praise this Yaesu model of handheld because it is so easy to program. Customers also report that they have dropped the product multiple times and the radio still works.

If you are planning on using your radio for anything beyond light recreation, the ability to survive traumatic falls is one you should cherish.

Pros / Cons
  • Purchase for less than $170
  • Large coverage for both receiving and transmitting
  • Repeater offsets can be reprogrammed
  • Small yet durable
  • SMA antenna connector does not work for all customers
  • Radio is prone to falling over during use
  • Small keypad

Summary

If you want a durable handheld that is still affordable, this model will be the right purchase for you. This product works well as an introductory radio or as an upgrade from your first handheld.

Features
  • The aspect of this handheld device that are most frequently appreciated is frequency range.
  • This model can handle a range of 136-174 MHz as well as 400-480 MHz.
  • Keypad lock
  • Alerts for lower battery and emergency
  • Large LCD display
  • Tri-color background light

 

One of the best aspects of being a ham enthusiast is the fact that there are radios available to fit almost any budget. This particular BaoFeng product has a reputation for excellence for those who are on the hunt for the best budget handheld ham radio.

Hobby collectors who are looking for a micro-miniature FM transceiver with a range of frequency coverage enjoy the features that this radio has to offer. BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio (Black)

 

What the Customers Are Saying

Customers enjoy the low price of this product. This particular model is loved by HAM enthusiasts who are looking to begin their hobby.

Most people who are brand new to the idea of collecting amateur radios enjoy having the option of buying an affordable product in order to begin their hobby.

Pros / Cons
  • Purchase for under $31
  • Convenient and ergonomic
  • Contains flashlight equipment
  • These radios cannot be used legally in the U.S. due to the FCC standards. In order to operate, you need to buy a license so that you can use GMRS dedicated channels instead of FRS channels. Most ham enthusiasts prefer FRS channels, which can make this product a problem to own and operate legally.
  • Output is only 5 watt

Summary

This radio can be an excellent one for beginners. But the product is not for every beginner, because it is not out of the box friendly. If you live in the US, operating one can be even more difficult to figure out, due to legality issues.

But if you are able to get used to the quirks of the product, you can benefit immensely from purchasing this powerful and affordable introductory amateur radio.

 

Features
  • This radio features three power levels: one, four and eight watt.
  • 2000mAh battery
  • User guide
  • A year of concierge support
  • V-85 antenna
  • Latest N5R-34OA firmware
  • Customizable tri-color display

 

This radio is known for loved for two primary characteristics. First, BaoFeng advertises this particular as being one that can provide a great introduction to the lifestyle of collecting radios.

Secondly, this radio is definitely one that should be on your list if you are searching for the best digital handheld ham radio.

Its digital capabilities make programming the radio easier, especially if you want to customize the options.

What the Customers Are Saying

Customers praise the radio for its ability to be versatile and inexpensive. Customers also enjoy using this brand of radio as an alternative to blister pack radios. They also consider this particular model of BaoFeng to be superior to less expensive BaoFeng models. BaoFeng BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio (136-174MHz VHF & 400-520MHz UHF) Includes Full Kit with Large Battery

 

Pros / Cons
  • Designed for beginner’s use
  • Priced under $63
  • Fully customizable
  • Backed by a manufacturer’s warranty
  • Recommended that you purchase an extra PCO3 FTDI programming cable
  • Must be reprogrammed before use in order to be compliant with the FCC and government regulations

Summary

These radios are more powerful than many other types of introductory radios. Due to this level of power, they do require a level of customization that other radios do not need in order to be used legally.

If you are ready to take on the responsibility of such a powerful radio, this could very well be the best digital handheld ham radio you buy.

5. BTECH UV-5X3 5 Watt Tri-Band Handheld Ham RadioBTECH UV-5X3 5 Watt Tri-Band Radio VHF, 1.25M, UHF, Amateur (Ham), Includes Dual Band Antenna, 220 Antenna, Earpiece, Charger, and More

 

 

Are you searching for a beginner radio? There are several reasons why this BTECH UC-5X may be considered the best handheld ham radio for beginners.

The primary reason that so many beginners are fond of this particular model is the fact that it comes with several comprehensive features which other beginner radios do not include.

Features
  • UV-5X3 radio
  • V-85 dual band antenna
  • 220MHz single band antenna
  • 1500mAh battery
  • Tri-band frequency range
  • Sync in display
  • ANI display
  • DTMF remote decode
  • Selectable frequency range scanning
  • Accessory compatibility with other models
  • 128 Channels
  • Channel, frequency and tone scanning modes
  • Power scale ranges from one watt to five watts
BTECH UV-5X3 5 Watt Tri-Band Radio VHF, 1.25M, UHF, Amateur (Ham), Includes Dual Band Antenna, 220 Antenna, Earpiece, Charger, and More

 

What the Customers Are Saying

Customers love the range that they are able to receive with this handheld. They are particularly fond of how easy this particular model is, and how the newer features are ones that benefit the customer’s overall ham hobby experience.

Pros / Cons
  • Can be purchased for around $60
  • Good for beginners
  • Useful as a second radio
  • Recommended for indoor or vehicle use
  • Support from Btech
  • English instructional manual
  • Includes earphones and charging stand
  • Does not feature a tri-band antenna
  • Some customers report that it is not durable for outside use
  • Not easy to program out of the box

Summary

If having an affordable beginner radio is important to you, this Btech radio might be the perfect one for you. The radio may not perform as well as other models if you are planning on using it outside or for very rugged adventures.

But it will be a perfect purchase if you are just getting started in amateur radio collecting or if you need a second device.

Features
  • 136-174
  • 220-250
  • 400-470
  • 1800 mAh Li-ion battery
  • 220MHz single band antenna
  • 128 channels
  • Power range up to 5 watts
  • Multiple calling methods, including: CTCSS, tone burst, DCS and DTMF

 

In the search for the best handheld ham radio, you might wish to consider this BaoFeng X radioddity model. The UV-5rx3 model continues the classi design found in the 5r-plus that customers loved, such as the glossy shell made of metal.

But in additon to that design, the UV-5rx3 features the accessories that are loved from the UV-5R plus model. Radioddity x Baofeng RD-5R Dual Band Dual Time Slot DMR, VHF/UHF1024 Channels FM Radio Rechargeable Long Range Walkie Talkies Compact Ham Amateur Radio, Programming Cable & Remote Speaker

 

What the Customers Are Saying

Customers praise the affordability of this BaoFeng product. They also take special interest in the fact that the radio can be programmed into a device that is even easier to use.

Radioddity is also praised for their ability to respond quickly with high quality customer service to any problems that customers might have had.

Pros / Cons
  • Priced under $50
  • Includes two antennas
  • Radioddity includes 1.5 years of warranty
  • Comes with several accessories, including adapter, earpiece, wrist strap and belt clip
  • Programming can be difficult to figure out, even with manual’s help
  • May have to use third party software to program

Summary

If you are too much of a novice to tackle programming, you might wish to purchase a different type of radio. But this BaoFeng product is a great choice for you if you are willing to utilize third-party software in order to program the radio.

7. TYT UV8000E 10W Handheld Ham Radio High Power Dual BandTYT UV8000E 10W High Power Dual Band VHF UHF Two-Way Radio Ham Walkie Talkie with Cross-band Repeater Function & 3600mAh Battery Transceiver, with Car Charger, 2 Antennas, Cable

 

 

When you begin looking for a good handheld ham radio, it can be difficult to find one that is both affordable and powerful. But this TYT UV8000E device receives praise from customers for its immense power while still selling for a price that most amateur collectors can afford.

This handheld radio may be overpowering for a beginner, but is an excellent choice for an experienced ham collector.

Features
  • The most impressive features are the 3600mAh battery and the power levels that range from five watts to 10 watts.
  • Dual band
  • FM radio receiver
  • Channel spacing
  • CTCSS and DCS encoding/decoding
  • Dual display
  • Alarms for emergency and low battery
  • ANI function
  • Frequency of 76-108MHz
  • Dual standby
TYT UV8000E 10W High Power Dual Band VHF UHF Two-Way Radio Ham Walkie Talkie with Cross-band Repeater Function & 3600mAh Battery Transceiver, with Car Charger, 2 Antennas, Cable

 

What the Customers Are Saying

This device enjoys a favorable reputation among radio collectors due to their durability and capacity for power. Customers who prefer this level of handheld radio are typically already experienced in collecting.

But beginners have also noted that the sturdy device was beneficial to them, thanks to simplicity of the functions.

Pros / Cons
  • Frequency is locked to help you avoid violating FCC requirements
  • Programmable using a Windows PC
  • Has a cross-band repeater feature for extended range
  • Costs less than $90
  • Difficult to directly add or delete channels to scan list
  • Programming from radio reported to be difficult
  • May not work with Chirp software

Summary

If you are looking for a more durable handheld, this product is the one you want. The extra power that comes from the battery and 10 watt power level allow you to have a strong radio that will serve you well, whether you are using your handheld inside, outside or for survival training.

 

Features
  • FM radio frequency range of 65-108MHz
  • Dual band display
  • Dual frequency display
  • Dual standby
  • High gain 7″ antenna
  • Alerts for low battery
  • Keypad lock

 

For newcomers to handheld radio collecting, buying the best cheap handheld ham radio is often their primary goal.

If you want to test the waters of collecting before you splurge on a more expensive product, this BaoFeng walkie talkie is the best choice for a device that will introduce you to the joys of ham radio for a low price. Two Way Radio, Baofeng Walkie Talkie UV-5R5 5W Dual-Band Two-Way Ham Radio Transceiver UHF/VHF 136-174/400-520MHz,65-108MHz FM with Upgraded Earpiece, Built-in VOX Function,Battery,Charger

What the Customers Are Saying

Customers compare these BaoFeng devices to other affordable two-way radios and typically prefer the BaoFeng product. For customers, the deciding factor in quality can be found in the ability much further than comparably priced competitors.

Pros / Cons
  • Priced at below $27
  • Flashlight can be used during emergency situations
  • Can achieve distances of up to 10 miles
  • Not compatible with Chirp software
  • Scanning only performs at 3 frequencies per second

Summary

If you have been contemplating buying a handheld for a while but have avoided doing so due to the price, this is the best cheap handheld ham radio available to solve your problems.

For under $27, you will be able to purchase a beginner handheld that will introduce you to the reasons why people fall in love with them.

 

Features
  • 2-slot communication capability
  • Usable with MOTORBO Tier I and Tier II
  • Encodes and decodes DTMF, 2TONE and 5TONE
  • Emergency alarm
  • GPS data transmission

 

When compiling the list of the best handheld ham radio reviews, the AnyTone AT-D868UV has to make the list. This handheld is best enjoyed by those who have experience with using handheld radios, due to the level of programming and power available. AnyTone AT-D868UV GPS Version II updated firmware Upgraded 3100mAh battery Dual Band DMR/Analog 144 & 480 MHz Radio

 

 

What the Customers Are Saying

Owners of this radio praise it as being one of the very best DMR radios they have ever used. Owners emphasize that being able to program a DMR is an essential tool that you need to have in order to get the best out of this particular radio.

Pros / Cons
  • Long battery life
  • Ability to use both analog and digital
  • Must be programmed using a Windows PC
  • Audio is not as good on the low end
  • Incompatible with third-party software, such as Chirp
  • At more than $190, the price may be out of your budget

Summary

At a certain point, a collector truly wants to get serious about his or her hobby. They need to move on and obtain the best possible radio for their needs, and this is that handheld device. If you have moved past the beginner stage, this AnyTone device is your best possible choice for a handheld.

Features
  • Time-Division Multi-Access digital technology
  • Compatible with Motorola TRBO Tier I and II radios
  • USB programming cable
  • 2000 mAH battery
  • Includes: belt clip, antenna and manual
  • Frequency range of 400-470MHz
  • 1700 mAh Li-ion battery

 

Any list that offers idas about the best handheld ham radio would not be complete without the TYT MD-380. For those who prefer DMR over Dstar or Yaesu Fusion, this handheld device offers a solid choice for business communication or amateur radio. TYT MD-380 - DMR/Moto TRBO Ham Radio

 

What the Customers Are Saying

Many DMR radios can cost up to $500. Collectors love this radio because it is an affordable way to become introduced to the world of DMR. Customers also praise the range and sound quality that come with this handheld.

Pros / Cons
  • Easy to use out of the box
  • Can be made even more impressive through custom firmware
  • Easy to read station ID, name and call signs
  • Cost under $100
  • Cannot be programmed without a Windows PC

Summary

It is unlikely that you will find a more affordable option for including DMR devices into your handheld collection. This powerful and programmable device allows you to grow your collection while also offering brand new ways of communicating.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Handheld Ham Radios

So you have gotten the urge to buy your first handheld ham radio, and you want to know what type of tips you should keep in mind when purchasing a new radio.

First, decide exactly what you want to purchase the radio for, because that will guide exactly what you need the handheld to have.

It is important to really think about what you are going to use the radio for, because handhelds can be used for a variety of purposes.

Some people use them only for emergency communications, while others simply enjoy being able to talk to someone clear across the world without the benefit of the internet.

If you want a device for emergencies, you will want to make sure that your radio is durable, for both inside and outside weather.

The best handheld ham radio for beginners do not have to be as durable.

You should also decide on a budget and stick to it. There are handheld devices that are available regardless of what budget you might have.

This list has included ones as affordable as $27, and there are some that are more than $500.

Whatever your budget, you can find a handheld that is right for you. If you use a walkie-talkie on a camping trip, do not forget to bring a hand-held spotlight with you, it can come in handy at night.

Making the Decision

Now that you have a list of the 10 best handheld ham radios, you are fully capable of making the right decision. You know what you want to use your radio for, and you know how serious you are about the hobby.

With this knowledge and this guide to help you, you are fully capable of buying the best handheld ham radio in order to begin your amateur radio hobby today

You may also like