In our digital age, ham radio may seem redundant. It is anything but. We know cell services are not always reliable. Therefore, you need to be certain that you can reach your trusted ones when you absolutely need to.
Ham radio or amateur radio is a communication tool used in areas without mobile coverage. They are wireless, hence, easy to carry around even in rough terrain. Whether you’re stuck in a disaster or hiking in the wilderness, a handheld ham radio will always be handy.
Nature isn’t your friend, and when it’s about survival, you know you can’t have anything but the best. There are so many handheld ham radios out there; how would you know which one to choose. So, below we have compiled a comprehensive list of the best handheld ham radio for survival just for you.
Top 16 Best Handheld Ham Radios For Survival 2021
The three power levels allow you to regulate your radio according to your needs. Hence, it can easily perform well on a low battery as well. It is equipped with a long-lasting 2100 mAh battery. The included antenna increases the communication area drastically.
With two-channel monitoring capabilities, you can listen to FM while waiting for calls. 128 available channels ensure you won’t have to choose from your favorites. But don’t worry; it prioritizes incoming calls, so you won’t miss any calls while listening to FM.
The ability to switch between UHF and VHF gives you control depending on the terrain. This ensures pristine transmission in rural as well as urban settings. Moreover, it has narrowband as well as broadband capabilities. This ensures you can switch to the clearer narrowband bandwidth in situations of heightened emergency.
It is easy to program for a layman, thanks to its extensive guide. However, it requires a programming cable, which isn’t provided by BaoFeng in this kit. Some people have also expressed their dissatisfaction over its lack of waterproofing.
Still, it has a well-designed build with a rugged exterior, which will help it last longer. Coupled with the extensive selection of accessories that BaoFeng provides, makes it an ideal choice for anybody.
The Midland GTX1000VP4 is an excellent choice for regular commercial use. Its lightweight and well-designed build make it ideal for carrying around in urban settings. Easy to use, which helps if you happen to be working with people who aren’t used to hams.
It boasts of long-range capabilities but, according to reviews, could get hampered in long-distance urban areas. However, it works fine in sparsely populated ones without any obstacles. Users have complained about noise, but that should not be an issue if you use it in close quarters.
The battery included isn’t as powerful as the competitors in its price range. It is ideal for a working day environment but could cause problems when needed for longer.
Although advertised with 50 channels, 28 of them are pre-programmed. That gives you an option of 22 channels to use. Even with that limitation, 14 channels only work with 5mW power.
Previous Midland models used to include group calling, but they seem to have discontinued the feature.
In a workplace, liquid spilling is common in handheld equipment. Its waterproof build ensures that you can use it without worrying about that too much. This ensures the longevity of the product.
This is a perfect product for a workplace environment. It does not require high technical expertise and work as intended. Although it has some limited features, it shouldn’t be a problem for simple communication.
The Motorola T260TP is a good choice if you’re looking for the best survival ham radios. Its lightweight design makes it easy to carry around. It does not require much technical knowledge and is incredibly easy to use.
What sets it apart from its competitors is the Micro-USB charging port. This eliminates the need for any extra charging equipment. It also means that you can charge it wherever you have your mobile charger!
It is loaded with 22 channels, which will be more than enough if you aren’t a heavy user. Along with 121 privacy codes, it allows for a decent number of options.
The battery life is more than satisfactory. Whether it’s a road trip or a family outing, it won’t cause you any problems. You can rest assured that your connection won’t be lost.
Most handheld ham radios boast over 20 miles of coverage, but that is only in ideal conditions. When there are fewer obstacles, they transmit further. That is on account of the UHF technology used.
UHF allows for FRS and GMRS communications. Hence, you can set it up according to your needs.
However, the Motorola T260TP isn’t waterproof, which could cause problems in the long run.
The BaoFeng UV-82HP is no outlier in that. This feature-packed ham radio is worth every penny.
Its 1800 mAh battery provides great battery life. With the provided battery pack, it can easily last a day. It also has the capacity to support a 2800 mAh battery for those days when you need some extra juice.
Still, the three power levels allow you to run it even on a low battery. The 8W VHF/7W UHF is much higher than the competitors in this price range. The increased power output increases the range as well as the quality of transmission.
The speaker on UV-82HP is 1W compared to the 700mW equipped in most others. This enables a crystal clear sound even in remote locations.
The VHF and UHF options allow you to switch to VHF in emergency situations. With the FM radio option, you can listen to your favorite channels. It has a total of 128 channels to choose from.
In typical BaoFeng fashion, you can run two channels simultaneously. You just push one to access the first and push twice to access the second channel. Hence, you can easily listen to FM while waiting on calls.
The V85 antenna included in the kit increases your range dramatically. So you know you’re always connected, even when you’re far away.
Its rugged design and well-crafted exterior make it an absolute ideal product for survivalists. You know it will be your companion along the way.
5. BTech UV-5X3
When it comes to tri-band radios, The BTECH UV-5X3 might be the best handheld ham radio for survival. The lightweight and rugged build are perfect for survivalists.
It is equipped with a powerful 1500 mAh battery. At 5W output, the device works for days at a time.
You can run FM radio and listen to your favorite channels no matter where you are. Plus, with the dual-band receiver, you can tune into two channels at once.
The updated firmware allows you to see full information on the LCD screen. So, you could see both channel names and frequencies at the same time.
It is compatible with BF-F8HP accessories and is backward compatible with old BTECH products as well.
It gives a total of 128 channel options. And the 1W speaker makes the transmission very clear.
Included with the kit are the V85 bands. These extend the range of transmission, making sure you never lose contact.
With the help of the latest firmware, you can modify the channels on the handheld ham. This means that you won’t have to worry about connecting it to a computer to modify your scan list.
It is easy to set up from a PC and is an absolute beast when it comes to ham radios.
The BaoFeng UV-5R is a brilliant choice for a survivalist. The rugged exterior protects it from damages in critical situations. The well-designed build ensures perfect performance, even in harsh conditions. Its small and compact size will help you carry it around without it feeling like a burden.
The device is equipped with a 2100 mAh battery. The large capacity lets you run the radio for longer and with more reliability. With the car adapter in the kit, you won’t have to worry about running out of battery.
The three power setting options keep you connected even on a low battery. On its highest setting, it provides 8W of power, as opposed to the standard 5W. Higher power means better reception and transmission as well as longer range.
Dual-band technology allows you to monitor 2 channels at once. This means that you can easily listen to your favorite FM stations while waiting for calls. It prioritizes calls over the FM so that you won’t miss any calls.
A total of 128 channels allow you to have a great range of choices for your communication needs. With both UHF and VHF features, you can choose between either if you need. Broadband and narrowband compatibility seals the whole thing together in a nice little product.
The KOMVOX GT60 is one of the best handheld ham radios for survival if you are just starting out. Its simple design makes it easy to navigate for beginners. Lightweight and compact nature ensure that you can carry it with ease.
With the GT60, you won’t have to worry about the battery because it runs on AA batteries. It has a Micro-USB charging port, so you will not have to carry an extra charger with you on every trip.
22 channels with 121 codes provide a large range of choices. A great range ensures that connectivity stays maintained.
However, it only provides low power FRS/GMRS service. Hence, you won’t require a license to use it.
eVOX technology allows you a truly hand-free experience. Now you won’t have to always reach for your radio every time you need to send out a call.
It has great compatibility with other radio brands as long as both are on the same frequency.
This might not be a good choice for experienced users. User reviews complain of unsatisfactory reception. But it is very easy to use and could be a great learning tool.
The BaoFeng UV-5R5 is a compact and light-weight ham radio. Its sturdy design ensures longevity.
The 1800 mAh battery provides great back up. The battery life is the best you can get in this price range.
The two power levels allow you to regulate in case you are running on a low battery. The 5W power provides excellent reception and transmission as well as an amazing range.
The dual-band option allows you to monitor two frequencies simultaneously. With the added ability to tune into FM radio, you can listen to channels while waiting on calls.
VHF and UHF support allows you to choose according to your needs. It is loaded with 128 channels and 38 privacy codes, outperforming its competitors.
It requires a simple set-up on your PC with the help of a programming cable. However, the programming cable isn’t provided in the kit.
VOX technology helps you have a hand-free experience. You can easily place calls by its automated voice system.
The high gain antenna in the kit increases the range on the device. Hence, you won’t have to worry about going too far.
Coupled with the waterproof build and long-range makes it ideal for survivalists.
The BTECH GMRS-V1 is one of the best GMRS handheld ham radios for survival. It’s compact size, and tricolor backlit panel make it easy to use. Its lightweight design makes carrying it around easier.
It comes with a 1800mAh battery in the kit. The battery backup is brilliant and can easily go an entire day of use without dying. The two power settings allow you to regulate in case of a low battery.
On the higher end, it provides 2W power and 128 channels to choose from. The GMRS-V1 can pick up FM channels, so you can listen in whenever you feel like it.
You can tune into two frequencies with dual-band technology, so you don’t miss out on important calls. And hey, you can even listen to FM while monitoring calls.
It has 8 GMRS repeater channels, so you can easily set it up to transmit incoming GMRS signals. The device allows you to choose between VHF and UHF; however, you please.
VOX helps you to have a hand-free experience. Place calls by the voice-activated system.
You can easily program it from a PC. The range of accessories provided by BTECH makes it an excellent choice which is future proof.
10. BaoFeng UV-82C
The BaoFeng UV-82C is a sturdy, well-built and lightweight ham radio. Its tricolor display makes it easy to navigate, even in dark places.
It comes mounted with an 1800 mAh battery. The battery has a brilliant backup and could work over 10 hours a day and with still charge left.
There are two power levels, i.e., 5W and 1W. Hence, you can switch to the lower power level to conserve battery. The higher level provides great transmission, reception, and range. The reception is clear on the device, and the voices come crystal clear.
Like most BaoFeng products, it has dual-band features. With this, you can listen in on two frequencies simultaneously. With FM capabilities, you can listen to your favorite channels while waiting for calls.
The kit includes a V85 dual-band antenna, which drastically increases the range of the product. VOX technology allows you to control the voice of the device.
Not only do you have the option to use either UHF or VHF but also Narrowband or broadband connections.
Loaded with 128 channels, it is one of the best survival handheld ham radios available.
11. Retevis RT5
The Retevis RT5 is a sturdy and long-lasting handheld ham radio. Its compact design is ideal for carrying. The mounted four-color LCD panel makes it easy to see it even in low light conditions.
It comes preloaded with 128 channels. It allows you to connect to emergency services on the go easily. Supporting both UHF and VHF connectivity, the radio allows you to choose according to the situation. Moreover, you can listen in on FM whenever you please.
The dual-band system gives you the ability to keep up with two frequencies at the same time. The 1800 mAh battery gives 8 hours of continuous support. In case you might need some extra power, the battery is upgradeable to 2500 mAh.
It’s easy to set up with the help of a PC and easy to program. However, the kit does not include a programming cable.
The radio has a 7-watt output, which provides very clear audio. It also covers a longer range owing to its higher power. They can easily connect to radios over 3 miles in an urban setting and over 8 miles in clearer areas.
VOX technology allows for a truly hands-free approach. Narrowband and broadband give you the power to choose.
The RT5 is truly an amazing option for someone looking for the best survival handheld ham radio.
12. Samcom FPCN30A
The SAMCOM FPCN30A is great for survivalist groups. What sets it apart in this regard is the group PTT feature. With this, you can easily address an entire group and talk to group members.
It is also an ideal choice for someone new to ham radios. Many handheld hams require programming from CRISP, but the FPCN30A works out of the box. It can be a great way to introduce ham radio to less experienced users.
It also supports 2-way conversations. With 20 channels available, you have a great range of choices.
The strong 5W power gives clear audio and great transmission. It has a great range reaching 1-4 miles in urban settings and over 8 miles in more open areas.
With 1500 mAh, you can expect anywhere from 8 to 12 hours of backup in one charge. The backlit LCD screen allows you to navigate in the dark. IP54 waterproofing ensures your device’s longevity.
The two power modes help you save battery in critical moments while still keeping connected. The device itself has a sturdy build, so you can be sure that it won’t break easily.
The audio is very clear even when obstacles are present. Coupled with SAMCOM accessories, it will be a brilliant choice.
13. Kenwood TH-D74A
The Kenwood TH-D74A is the best premium handheld ham radio for survival. It is a bulky and sturdy radio packed with features. This device is made for serious survivalists.
The APRS or Automatic Packet Reporting System allows for real-time weather condition updates and Global Positioning System coordinates. The device also comes equipped with a GPS, which allows you to keep track of your position at all times. The D-Star feature helps you send messages, look up someone’s call sign, and much more.
It has four power levels, i.e., 5 W, 2 W, 0.5 W, 0.05 W, so that you can fine-tune your requirements.
The software of the device is very well polished and has a well laid out menu system. The waterproofing has been rated IP55/54 and hence is splash-proof and helps in longevity. Its sturdy design furthers its ability to withstand the harsh lifestyle of a survivalist.
Its range is impressive, often exceeding 10 miles in proper conditions. However, the battery could be hampered a bit when all the functions are running. Depending on the power and the features enabled, it can run for anywhere between 6-15 hours.
It has audio recording capabilities and Bluetooth connectivity for maximal performance. It is an impressively designed device that should be on every survivalist’s bucket list.
14. Yaesu FT-60R
The Yaesu FT-60R is a widely popular handheld ham radio. It is one of the best survival handheld ham on a budget.
What makes this device stand out is the Emergency Automatic Identification. This is helpful in Search and Rescue situations. If somehow the victim is unable to press the PTT button, the team could still identify it.
The device is incredibly easy to program and does not require a PC. Backed by a 1400 mAh, it gives great backup.
Its compact and lightweight design makes it ideal for carrying in dangerous situations. The dual-band technology helps you monitor two channels at once so you don’t have to pick and choose.
It has three power output settings, which allow you to conserve battery when you most need it. Even in the low and medium setting, you get an impressive range.
The audio quality is one of the best you can get in this price range.
It includes both UHF and VHF so that you can configure it according to your needs. The large LCD and backlit keypad make it easy to work on it in the dark.
The device is built with durability in mind. It feels like it could easily survive a drop. According to user reviews, the device has survived 50-foot drops with just a scratch on its glass screen.
This is a bang for a buck device for survivalists and the perfect choice for anyone just starting out their survivalist journey.
15. TYT MD-380
The TYT MD-380 is a well-built survival ham radio. With a huge LCD, it is easy to use it in low light conditions.
It is loaded with a 2000 mAh battery. You can easily run it for 8-10 hours. It has two power options, i.e., 5W and 1W. Hence, you can keep your radio running on a low battery.
However, this device lacks dual-band capabilities. You will only be able to one frequency at a time. It also does not support VHF frequencies.
Programming the device is hard, even for seasoned individuals. The D-star system allows you to send text and look up call signs.
The software in the device is a bit old, but once it’s properly set-up, it does its job well.
The rigid outer makes sure that it can handle some rough conditions. It is compact and easy to carry. You won’t even notice it until you need it.
The antenna provided in the kit works well and helps increase the range of the product. Our analysis of customer reviews has determined that the range of the device is more than satisfactory.
The Mirkit BaoFeng UV-5R has all the accessories you could need in one place. This kit packs that extra punch you always wanted.
The system comes equipped with a whopping 3800 mAh battery. The extreme capacity will last you days. And that comes with a charger for the same. You could charge the battery easily from your car or solar panel.
The kit includes a programming cable for easy programming. This cable tends to be left out of many BaoFeng products, and you end up needing to buy it anyway.
A radio mic is provided, which means that you won’t have to take out your ham every time to answer. You can have a hand-free experience in intense situations.
The lanyard provided keeps your ham safe. You won’t have to worry about losing your ham when it’s around your neck.
Special duty firmware is available for the more seasoned individuals. You can explore more and unlock the UV-5R. All this with the classics UV-5R makes for a great device.
You get 128 channels to choose from. Meaning, you won’t have to worry about running out of channels, ever. Dual-band system that helps you monitor two channels at the same time.
FM compatibility allows you to listen to your favorite channels! Built-in VOX system, you won’t have to worry about your radio being too far out of reach.
The large LCD helps you navigate the device in dark and low light situations. It is mounted with a LED torch for emergencies and an antenna to increase the range. This is the perfect selection of curated products made entirely for your service.
Things You Should Look For In Best Handheld Ham Radio For Survival
In a survival situation, the range plays a big factor. You are never sure how far your next connection would be, so it’s better to be vigilant.
Many manufacturers advertise over 20 or 30-mile connections, but these are theoretical values. Such range is only available when the participants are standing on mountain tops with nothing but air between them.
When you begin to take obstacles into account, the range dramatically decreases. In most urban environments, you would not get more than 3 miles of range. This could be hiked up to 8-10 miles in less populated and rural areas.
In jungles, the trees become obstacles. The deeper you are, the worse the range would become.
The range is mostly affected by two factors – antenna and power output. The antenna allows your device to intercept signals even in low signal areas. A good quality antenna such as the V85 could be a game-changer at the last minute.
The higher the power output, the larger the range. Hence, if you’re looking for the best handheld ham radio for survivors, then a good range is a must.
A durable device is a must for a survivalist. It is very much possible to break a weak device because of the survivalist lifestyle.
There are many brands out there who have labeled their products as survival but are actually geared towards teenagers and children. These devices tend to be made of cheap plastic. Higher-end products have more durable cases that could survive falls from great heights.
Make sure while picking out your product that you are getting a strong material.
The battery on a handheld ham radio is everything. You wouldn’t want to be left abandoned in an obscure corner of a desolate sector.
If a device has a higher power output, then the consumption would be large as well. Consumption also increases with antenna attachments. If you’re going for a device with higher output than 5W, ensure that the battery is higher than 2000 mAh.
Some manufacturers tend to allow expandable battery capacity. Meaning, you bought the device with 1800 mAh but could use a 2500 mAh battery as well.
Battery consumption increases when more accessories and features are added. Keep it in mind while making your choice. Things like GPS and APRS are heavy consumers, so make sure you have ample charge before using these kinds of devices.
Many manufacturers don’t include waterproofing. Still, it is an essential requirement of the device.
You never know what kind of thing you might run into. If by some chance, you end up spilling water over your ham, you could lose connection.
There are many options to choose from. Many high-end products tend to be waterproof.
Often splash-proof rating tends to do the trick just fine. But if you think you will be dealing with some heavy onslaught of water, make sure to get a properly rated device.
5. VHF and UHF
VHF stands for Very High Frequency, and UHF stands for Ultra High Frequency.
VHF has a lower frequency than UHF. Most devices have UHF only. It is the UHF range where the FRS and GMRS stations are present.
But sometimes, you might need the VHF signal too. The VHF channels are home to various emergency services. VHF has a longer wavelength, which means that they will travel long distances. As opposed to UHF, which has a shorter wavelength and hence shorter distance.
The ranges of many devices get hampered because of the use of UHF. But, VHF is particularly susceptible to obstacles.
There might be critical situations where you absolutely need to reach someone. In such cases, a UHF might fail you. However, a VHF compatible device might fare much better because they could reach further.
6. Power Output
Higher power output is ideal. However, that should be coupled with a good battery. If you have a high power output with lousy battery backup, your ham might die sooner.
A high power output means that the audio quality transmitted as well as received will be better. It also means that the range of the device will increase.
What’s your pick?
There are many options for the best handheld ham radio for survival. Some that stand out are BTECH and its subsidiary BaoFeng. They regularly produce great products with amazing features for their price range. Their BF-F8HP is one of the highest-selling ham radio.
Another one that comes in the spotlight is Kenwood. With its high-end product, it is an absolute must for someone who takes survival seriously. Its jam-packed features absolutely take the cake.
On the opposite end but still standing out is Yeasu. More geared towards beginners, it is an amazing choice as well. The features are superb for their price range, and the learning curve is easy to overcome.
The ham radio community is huge in the US. You can easily look up guides, ask people on your favorite forums about their preferences, and make an informed decision. Make sure to get your license, though!
For a survivalist, everything is essential. One needs to make sure what they are carrying is precisely what they need. Therefore, look and decide which is the best survival ham radio for you.
FAQs on Handheld Ham Radios For Survival
Q1. What Is The Most Powerful Handheld Ham Radio?
Kenwood TH-D74A is one of the most powerful handheld ham. Having a great range and multiple power settings with a great battery backup makes it an absolute beast.
Q2. How Far Can A Handheld Ham Radio Transmit?
Depending on the device you’re using and in which setting, it can range anywhere from 2 to 20 miles.
In places where there are more obstacles, like an urban environment, the radio might only work for <2 miles. But in rural settings, this number increases drastically.
Q3. What Is The Best Ham Radio For Beginners?
For someone just beginning, the Yaesu FT-60R is the best option. It is effortless to program, and you get a wide variety of channels.
Its sturdy design helps you get used to ham radios, so it won’t break if you drop it a few times.
Q4. Can I Own A Ham Radio Without A License?
You would not need a license to monitor calls, but you will need one to transmit. That is an FCC license and can be acquired by going through some tests.