If you find yourself stuck in emergency situations while exploring the outdoors and you need to call for immediate help or backup, you’ll need the best handheld ham radio for survival.
Also known as Amateur radios, ham radios are powerful, mobile and compact enough to hold in your hands or clip to the waistband of your pants if you prefer. They also offer you the peace of mind, comfort and security of knowing that no matter how deep into the wild you venture alone, contact with other humans is just a click away.
To make things easier and more effective, ham radios can operate without a reception, although you may need to obtain a license before you can use them.
Ham radios are very popular, and the multitude of types and choices offered by different manufacturers does not make it easy for you to select the one that’s perfect for you. That’s why we’ve painstakingly studied the market and drafted this list of the best survival handheld ham radios.
As usual, our selections are based on personal experience and have satisfied our rigorous requirements while being pocket friendly. Continue reading to find the best device that meets your requirements perfectly.
1. BaoFeng UV-5R EX 5WTwo Way Radio
The BaoFeng UV-5R EX 5WTwo Way Radio is a handy gadget that offers enough quality to be effortlessly functional and with the capacity to receive FM stations, also doubles as an entertainment outlet on slow days.
This radio has a dual-band feature, with a frequency range of VHF (136-174 MHz) and UHF (400-520 MHz). The radio also comes programmed with 128 memory channels, and it offers you the freedom to add or remove channels, or even rename them. The dual watch feature also enables you to receive two channels simultaneously without interference from each.
Weighing 1.2 pounds and sporting a portable design, this radio is easy to carry about and a belt clip and wrist clap, in addition to the VOX mode makes it ideal for situations where you need the use of both hands. Its tri-colour LCD display is also backlit, which makes it ready and really easy to access at any time of the day.
This radio is powered by a 1800mAh large capacity battery can last up to 48 hours standby. Battery life can be optimised by switching between high, medium and low power settings, with the Auto Power Saving Mode and Low Power Alert also helping to extend battery life.
On the flip side, the backlight cannot be switched on and off manually, and this may cause the battery to drain easily. Further, the radio’s design may make it prone to accidents, especially in the hands of awkward preppers. Nevertheless, with a 1 year and 6 months warranty, plus a 60 days no reason return window, this product is still a pretty solid bet.
2. Tri-Band Yaesu VX-6R Submersible Amateur Ham Radio
Boasting a cool array of impressive features at a reasonable price, this radio is built to survive the harshest conditions and help you survive them too.
Sporting a black magnesium case, this radio is exceptionally lightweight and compact, and can fit your hands and pockets perfectly. An LCD display and a backlit keyboard also enhance accessibility. With the JIS7 waterproof rating, this ham radio is impressively waterproof, able to survive submersion in a depth of up to 3 meters for 30 minutes unscathed.
This tri-band radio is able to transmit on three ham radio bands: 144, 220, and 440 MHz, and offers as many as 900 memory slots. Along with 5 watts of power, this radio makes transmission and reception a smooth and flawless process. The multicolour LED plus a luminous LCD screen is also great for receiving important information such as weather alerts and battery life. This radio also comes equipped with an antenna, a charger, HiCap 1500 Ma battery, and a USB cable.
The VX-6R also offers serious security features to guarantee your maximum peace of mind and protection. The Emergency Automatic Identification (EAI) feature enables other users to contact you if you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re unable to call for help yourself. A password security feature also protects your gadget and data from unauthorized personnel.
This radio is one of the pricier ones, and its battery is not the strongest, but its amazing features can make the price feel like a bargain.
3. BaoFeng BF-F8HP 8-Watt Two-Way Radio
The BaoFeng BF-F8HP 8-Watt Two-Way Radio is a third-generation device that offers beginners a seamless survival adventure. Packed with awesome features and great power, it is the ultimate budget-friendly experience.
A tri-colour display makes for easy operation, and a built-in flashlight offers you guidance and protection from the dark. Belt strips and a hand strap are included in the package, enabling easy and effortless mobility. A very comprehensive and detailed manual is also included, to help you get the best out of your new gadget. Other items included in the package are a power adapter, headphones, an antenna, and a charger.
This radio offers a vast array of frequency ranges, with FM radio, VHF (136-174 MHz), and UHF (400-520 MHz). Its dual-band feature also enables long-distance communication. The radio offers limited self-programming facilities, but with a computer, up to 128 channels can be programmed. A nifty voice-operated function can also be programmed. You can also monitor two frequencies simultaneously, on different bands.
The radio’s capacity of 2,000 mAh is more than sufficient for its 8watt output. Depending on your preferences, this can also be adjusted to improve battery performance.
On the other hand, you might have to guard this radio really jealousy from water, as it’s not water-resistant.
4. BTECH DMR-6X2 7-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio
The BTECH DMR-6X2 7-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio’s durability and versatility makes it a firm favourite among seasoned outdoor campaigners.
The radio’s compact display offers you the flexibility to customize and optimize it for various situations. Its innovative Store and Forward Repeater’ mode enables the radio to store and forward conversations on the same band or as a cross band repeater. The radio’s built-in recording chip supports this feature, enabling you to record conversations and forward them when needed.
The radio also offers a handy self-programming feature, making it quite simple to scan for channels. You can access up to 250 channels in a zone, and up to 4000 channels on the radio. However, if you’re more inclined to program the radio with a computer, a nifty programming cable is included in the package.
This radio is able to operate at VHF and UHF and is also GPS enabled, making sure that you never get lost. Two batteries also make sure that you are never shorn of its services. One of the most appealing properties of this ham radio is its practical indestructibility. It can withstand both water and dust, making it suitable for any terrain.
On the flip side, this radio requires considerable levels of expertise to operate, and may not be suitable for beginners.
5. AnyTone AT-D868UV GPS Version II Radio
With a sleek design and impressive features, the AnyTone AT-D868UV GPS Version II Radio combines the grace of a ballet with the power of a heavyweight champion.
A sturdy case makes it possible for this radio to survive accidents, and its weight of 282g is pretty manageable. It also features an easily detachable battery. An inbuilt GPS also makes absolutely sure that you never get lost in the wilds. This radio is a dual band, meaning it supports both UHF and VHF frequency ranges. With a maximum output of 8W, communication is very smooth and clear.
Impressively, this radio offers a pretty monstrous battery capacity. This battery, when fully optimized, can offer you a standby time of up to three days before you need to recharge it. An enormous 3100mAh battery is able to cope with all the functions of this radio easily.
It comes equipped with a USB cable and programming software, which makes programming this radio a breeze. It offers enough storage for over 200,000 contacts, ensuring that help is never out of reach when you need it. You can also access 4000 channels with this radio.
The major drawback with this radio is that it is not budget-friendly, so it may be out of reach for some. Further, it is very particular about programming, it does not support anything apart from a Windows PC.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR WHEN PURCHASING A HANDHELD HAM RADIO
Different handheld ham radios offer different power outputs, with 5watts appearing to be the average. Power determines the range of the radio. Be wary when dealing with this particular feature, as the more power a radio offers, the more strain it puts on the radio battery.
You should consider choosing a radio that lets you adjust the power setting, as increased wattage does not significantly improve your effective range. A radio with a 5watts output should be capable enough to support you.
Your handheld ham radio can be a lot of things to you in the wild. In addition to its basic functions, it can also keep you entertained and help keep your mind sharp. Essentially, it can be the difference between survival and disaster. Which is why you should consider buying a handheld ham radio with as large a battery as possible. It may increase the weight of the radio, but the extra life it offers should not be discounted.
Additionally, you can purchase extra batteries, or carry along with you an emergency power source.
Generally, most radios are a dual band or triple band. Your choice would depend on your needs. Would you be communicating over a long distance, or would you be in regular contact with a close-range partner?
UHF (Ultra High Frequency) and VHF (Very High Frequency) are the most common bands and therefore the most popular among newbies. Further, they don’t need as much power as other bands, making them easy to handle for any radio. Most radios are dual-band, but you may be best served selecting a triple band radio.
It’s pretty rare to find a handheld ham radio that offers protection from water. Nevertheless, some models feature protection class 1P57. Such radios can survive water depth up to 3 feet for 30 minutes. However, this is only necessary if you’re going to be adventuring somewhere close to water.
You should select a radio built with tough materials and that offer a sturdy case.
Most handheld ham radios have to be programmed before they can function. Radios that offer a keypad can make the process smoother and easier.
If you’re a beginner, you should also consider buying a handheld ham radio that is not too technical for you to understand, and that comes with a manual that helps you get acquainted with the radio.
The choice of the number of memory slots depends on the trip you’ve planned. Ideally, anything above 50 slots should be adequate in survival and emergency situations.