Best Handheld Ham Radio for Survival – Top Reviews and Expert Guide


In a world where all communications mediums stop working in a blink of an eye in emergencies, it is wise to have a backup plan. Let’s find out what are the qualities you must look at before purchasing the best handheld ham radio for a survival situation.  

Communication is super important. It becomes more critical in the event of an emergency. When disasters strike, you might be left with no means to reach out to your loved ones or ask for help. Recently we have seen that all-powerful communication mediums stop working real quickly when they are most needed. It can be a helpless situation when your cell phone signals are gone, there is no internet, and even your landline phone becomes dead. More and more people are now preparing themselves for survival situations. In such an unforeseen event, you would want to maintain communication with your friend and family. 

You may think a ham handheld radio is just a gadget for fun, but it can be a reliable tool for communication when everything else stops working. It is battery operated and not dependent on cell tower signals. If you are serious about being prepared before a disaster happens, you should consider introducing the best ham radio for beginners to your family.

In Rush? Here are our Top 3 Picks

Uniden Bearcat SR30C, 500-Channel Compact Handheld Radio
Uniden Bearcat SR30C, 500-Channel Compact Handheld Radio
9.7/10

Best For Low Budget 

Retevis RT-5RV 2 Way Radios Long Range
Retevis RT-5RV 2 Way Radios Long Range
9.5/10

Best For Long range

Whistler WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
Whistler WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
9.1/10

Best for Survival 

What is a Handheld Ham Radio?

handheld ham radio

Ham radio or more popularly known as Amateur radio are battery run, independent of wires or other support systems. They don’t rely on internet provider services or mobile phone towers. Instead, they use specific frequency ranges established by the International Telecommunications, under the regulation of the Federal Communications Commission in the United States

Ham radio owners can operate their radios on a broad frequency spectrum ranging from high-frequency bands to ultra-high frequencies. If you acquire the right handheld ham radio, you can communicate throughout your town, countrywide or even across the ocean. This is why ham handheld radio is ideal for you if you want to prepare for survival situations. You do not need a cell reception to use them so that you can communicate with another handheld ham radio user in any environment.

To operate a ham radio, you need to acquire a license. The National Association for Amateur Radio (AARL) has complete information about how to get a ham radio license.

The best handheld ham radio for survival must have an effective operating radius, powerful signals, and long battery time, resistance to water damage and abrasions, and clarity of sound for communication among two or more radio operators.

How to Choose Best Handheld Ham Radio for Survival?

best ham radio for beginners

If you are a survivalist or a prepper, your main priority in choosing a handheld ham radio must be from a survival point of view, where your ham is your only source of communication and information. There are several features you would want to consider when choosing the best handheld ham radio for survival. Your ham radio is preferably supposed to stay with you all the time where ever you go. This is because you never know when you are going to need it.        

Durable and Abrasion Resistant 

Ideally, it would help if you carried your handheld radio with you every day. Whether you use a briefcase, an EDC bag or a backpack, your ham radio will go inside it. This will result in some rough handling. Therefore your handheld ham radio must be strong enough to withstand some level of wear and tear and work consistently.     

Easy to Use

There are several handheld hams available that come with a lot of extra features. While it is tempting to get a radio with so many features, you are never going to use most of those additional features when there is an emergency. Such features increase your cost and take up a lot of battery run time. More features mean more complications in operating the ham radio. For survival situations, your ham radio must be as user friendly as they get. This means the best handheld ham radio for survival will be basic, simple with only the most essential features.              

Dual-Band Capability

Handheld ham radios operate on the UHF band and VHF band. When buying your handheld radio for survival, make sure that it works on both these bands. Both UHF and VHF bands have different capabilities which make them desirable in different kinds of emergencies. You must have the option to switch frequency bands when you need.       

Emergency Frequency Monitoring

The particular frequency and bands are set aside by the FCC to be used by government agencies to relay emergency broadcasts. The most popular of such emergency frequencies is weather frequencies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). You want your ham radio for survival to receive these broadcasts.       

Accessories

While it is true that your survival ham radio should be simple with only the essential features, you don’t want to miss out on specific supplements. At the very least, you will need spare batteries. Also, try to get charging adapters that help you recharge the batteries when there is an emergency. For example, you can pack an adapter that can be connected to the power port of your car or a solar adapter.        

Water Resistance

Waterproof ham radio can be a lifesaver in various situations. At times when you are faced with climate changes, where rain and flooding can drown whole towns. Your handheld ham radio would support you in getting help and relaying information. Protecting your device from water damage can a struggle that you don’t want in the event of an emergency.  

Cost 

Cost is an important feature when you are buying anything. You don’t want to break your budget. When purchasing anything, always try to find the best combination of price and features you can get. Luckily the costs of handheld ham radios have dropped drastically with a dramatic increase in the quality of these low priced hams. When looking for the best handheld ham radio for survival, you should develop the mindset of a survivalist. This means trying to deal with all difficulties yourself and being prepared ahead of time for surviving off-grid and under challenging conditions.

What are the Best Handheld Ham Radio for Survival

Comparison Table for the Best Handheld Ham Radio for Survival

[amazon table=”11880″]

Product Reviews for the 6 Best Handheld Ham Radio for Survival

01- Whistler WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio

Features

  • The Whistler digital scanner has a user-friendly programming based menu.
  • All the items on the menu have some helpful text that makes it easy to understand. 
  • You can arrange and group the scan objects the way you want with its scan list feature.
  • It has a lockout function to save the frequency you have found and then continue to search.
  • You can instantly access the weather-related frequencies using its Skywarn storm spotter feature.
  • You can enhance the low volume with its digital AGC. 
  • Easily you can access the police/ fire frequencies by pressing the fire icon button.
  • 21 different scanner configurations to scan with its virtual scanner mode.
  • It operates on 4 AA batteries.
  • Its memory allocation is dynamic and efficient because of the free-form memory organization feature.

Description

The Whistler’s WS1040 is a very user-friendly model with all the must-have accessories included in the package. If you find instruction or terminology on it that you cannot understand, you can check out the tutorial that pops up over it.  Its menu is designed very well, and the programming is Zip-code based, which makes it easy to set up the device.  

Pros
  • The package includes all the must-have accessories.
  • It offers superb sensitivity and clearance.
  • Its large keypad makes its functions more comfortable to access.
  • You can access all its features directly with its touch keys.
  • It operates on fewer number of batteries than other similar models.
  • It offers excellent value for money.
Cons
  • It is on the pricey in the handheld scanner category.
  • It has a small display which is challenging to understand and distinguish symbols.

Best Suited for

If you are new to the ham radio world, the Whistler’s WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner is one of the best handheld ham radio for beginners. It is user friendly and has tutorial pop-ups for anything you can understand.      

Not Suited for

If you have already experienced using Ham radios. In that case, you might find it different than the usual handheld transmitters, and it can take a significant amount of time to get used to its large keypad and nontraditional working. 

Final Summary

Within an unlimited number of channels, the Whistler’s WS1040 will scan and sorts more than 200 hundred channels quick and easy. It will relay both digital and analogue formats and scan the whole frequency range of your area to find transmissions. It comes with 50 hours of storage for audio recording, and it can save around 38000 scan-able items. 

02- Uniden SR30C BearCat, 500-Channel Compact Handheld Scanner

Features

  • Uniden SR30C BearCat covers more than 32000 frequencies. 
  • It has a preset option to listen to your most favourite searches instantly. 
  • It has ten service banks with preset frequencies such as fireplace and police, paramedic and rescue, NOAA climate stories, racing, marine, ham radio, civil plane, CB radio, railroad and (Frs, Gmrs, Murs ).
  • Close Call RF Capture Technology to detect radio transmission near you.
  • You can program the BearCat with your PC because of PC programming.
  • You can scan the channels that you like most on a priority basis with its priority scan function. 
  • The frequencies stay stored in the scanner’s memory backup for a long time in case it loses power. 
  • In two-way communication, it has a delay function so that no replies are missed in a talk. 
  • It has keypad input, key lock function, low battery alert, battery save mode, and earphone jack included.
  • It operates on 2 AA batteries.

Description

The Uniden SR30C BearCat scanner is compact, versatile and easy functioning. It comes with close call RF technology to catch most vital local radio signals. Its memory can store up to 500 frequencies. You don’t have to go through complicated and tedious programming to search for police and other emergency frequencies. You can directly access more than 32000 frequencies.

Pros
  • It has a memory of five hundred channels with ten service banks storing 50 channels each.
  • It automatically tunes in to nearby most substantial-frequency with its close call RF capture.
  • It comes with a “do not disturb” mode.
  • Its design features hand grips on its sides.
  • Its backlight display is dimmable.
  • It offers limited digital features.
Cons
  • Setting up this scanner is not super easy; you will have to read the manual carefully.
  • It does not cover digital frequencies.

Best Suited for

It is most suitable for Auto Racing, NASCAR, Police, Public Safety, EMS, Fire, Civil Air, and Marine. 

Not Suited for

It works on analogue frequencies and will not digital frequencies. The police and fire department in all big cities are going digital. Make sure you have emergency services on analogue frequencies in your area.    

Final Summary

It is a good radio scanner with a vast channel memory. You can listen to the local transmissions with its close call RF capture. It majorly works on analogue frequencies which are more common in towns and rural areas.    

03- Walkie Talkies 2 Way Radio BaoFeng Radio Series UV-5RH High Power 8 Watt

Features

  • The walkie talkies UV-5RH comes with a VHF frequency range of 65 – 108 MHz.
  • Its design is compact with a wrist strap and a belt clip.
  • It has 128 channels of memories for programming repeaters and simplex frequencies.
  • Dual watch functionality that lets you tune two different frequencies and simultaneously monitor them. 
  • It operates on an 1800 mAH lithium-ion battery. 
  • These are very dynamic walkie Talkies that detect not only the usual VHF and UHF frequencies but also GMRS and FRS frequencies.
  • It works on three power outputs High/ Mid/ Low power.
  • It works with a flexible antenna.
  • The package includes an 8.4 volt 600-mile ampere.
  • It comes with a large LED display and a built-in LED flashlight.  

Description

The Luiton walkie talkies by Baofeng is a high power radio operating on 8 watts on 400-480 MHz and 136-174 Mhz frequencies. Its unique VHF band works on 65-108 MHz. It has a dual reception, and your FM radio band is supported by it. It has a channel memory of 128 channels. There are three batteries usage options for optimal usage, i.e., 8 watts on high, 4 watts on medium and 1 watt on low battery settings. 

Pros
  • The luiton walkie talkie has 128 channels.
  • It has dual reception and a dual watch letting you monitor two-channel simultaneously.
  • It has a large LCD for a vivid user experience.
  • Its in-built LED flashlight comes in handy in the dark.
  • Its battery offers a long battery time.
  • There is a flexible antenna use in the package.
  • It is made with a compact wrist and belt.
Cons
  • Its coverage range is low.

Best Suited for

This is the best ham radio for beginners because of being dual-band, easy to carry, and program. It has a low coverage range letting you experiment with different Ham radio, frequency bands including VHF and UHF as well as GMRS and FRS.   

Not Suited for

Radio amateur who has no way of recognizing a counterfeit product when they see one should avoid buying this model as they might end up with a refurbished or fake item.     

Final Summary

The walkie talkies UV-5RH is Baofeng ham radio with VOX channel to facilitate hand-free mode. You can avoid accidental dials by its key padlock functionality. The ins built flash line give risk-free night time operations.

04- Retevis RT-5RV 2 Way Handheld Ham Radios

Features
  • Dual-band (VHF/UHF)
  • Durable firmware and New chip
  • Unique steel mesh design
  • Easy to set
  • Long-range two-way radios with a strong signal
  • High power and high-gain antenna
  • Strong signal
  • LED display
  • Easy to operate
  • Compatible with other UHF/VHF walkie-talkies
  • 1400mAh large capacity battery
  • Scanning function
  • Monitor function
  • Battery voltage display
  • Channel name display and editing function
  • Low battery alarm
  • Power saving
  • Emergency Alarm/TOT
  • Shortcut menu operation mode
  • VFO & Memory channels scan
  • PTT & ANI ID
  • Wide/Narrow Band(25kHz/12.5kHz)
Description

The Retevix, 2-way radio, long ranges with 128CH VHF/UHF dual-brand rechargeable ham radio. This radio is featured with long-distance walkie talkies with high power RT5RV. The high gain antennas expand the transmission distance, making the sound crisp and loud without being distorted. The 1400mAh battery provides a 6-12 hours high power operating system. Moreover, it features with UHF/VHF dual band handheld radio equipped with a manual setting keypad and LCD backlight screen; you can directly input the dual-band frequency via keypad following the voice prompt. 

Pros
  • It dramatically improves the conduction of sound
  • Easily input the frequency
  • Enhance signal processing
  • Greatly prolong the service life
  • Ensure long-distance talk in urban & mountainous survival
  • High power and high-gain antenna
    Strong signal
Cons
  • High Price
  • Tough functionality

Best Suited for

This is an affordable two-way handheld ham radio for people who want to prepare ahead for a survival situation on a budget that can easily go in their bug-out bag.  

Not Suited for

It is not suited for anyone who lacks technical functionality. 

Final Summary

This radio with earpiece and mic provides excellent reception in a noisy environment and provides an easy and inconspicuous way to transmit. For survival situation, it considers as one of the best handheld ham radio on the market. 

05- TYT MD-UV380 with GPS Dual Band Handheld Two Way Radio

Features
  • Remote kill/stun/activate
  • Voice prompt
  • Power-on protection
  • Color LCD
  • Text messages in digital mode
  • Encryption function
  • Built-in CTCSS/DCS
  • Priority scan
  • Complying with digital protocol ETSI TS 102 361-1, -2, -3
  • Compatible with Mototrbo Tier T&U
  • DTMF decoding and encoding
  • Updated software available for new features
  • Private call, group call, all call in digital mode
  • Operate in both Digital & Analogue mode; easily migrate from analog to digital
  • Provide clearer voice communications in digital mode throughout the coverage area
Description

The TYT-MD-UV 380 is a full-highlighted handheld Ham radio. It also incorporates many new advanced ham radio highlights that are getting increasingly more famous among Ham radio administrators. In case you should have DMR computerized capacity, this is likely the radio you ought to consider for your endurance handheld radio requirements. 

DMR is an abbreviation for Digital Mobil Radio. This innovation bridles the most recent advancements in consolidating ham radio innovation with the web. When you approach a DMR repeater station, you can speak with other DMR radios around the planet. Your radio transmission is changed over to advanced signals and sent over the web to the wide range of various DMR stations in the net, where it is rebroadcast over the radio. 

This is an extraordinary innovation from various perspectives. Yet, this innovation doesn’t acquire you much in a genuine crisis, mainly if the web is down or you don’t approach a DMR repeater. Be that as it may, the TYT MD-UV 380 is undoubtedly justified regardless of a put on our rundown. With a full element list, mechanical ability gets the TYT MD-UV 380 a put on our rundown as the Best Digital Survival Handheld Ham Radio.

Pros
  • Clear voice communication
  • You can do private call, group call, all call in digital mode
  • It includes DTMF decoding and encoding
  • It is compatible with Mototrbo Tier T&U
  • You can do text messages in digital mode
Cons
  • Single-frequency operation

Best Suited for

The TYT MD-UV380 is excellent to use on emergency rescue and other events like road trips and car racing. It is ideal for the outdoors. As it is sturdy, versatile, and lightweight, the digital protocol ETSI TS 102 361-1, -2, -3 plus is excellent for the outdoors.       

Not Suited for

People who tend to hook their ham radio on the backside of their belt loop can accidentally let it fall, resulting in damage to the device.

Final Summary

It offers a great frequency range for the reception. With the priority scan, you can do everything smoothly. While it has preset repeaters offsets but you can also program them manually for uncommon pairs. It operates in both Digital & Analogue mode; easily migrate from analog to digital.

Buyers Guide for the Best Handheld Ham Radio for Survival

best handheld ham radio for survival

What is your Purpose of Buying a Ham Radio?

The answer to that question will reveal what kind of activities you are interested in. You may want to use ham radio for emergency communications, casually talking to friends or members of a club or share digital data. Once your purpose is determined, then you will think about an estimated range where you plan to make contacts and what kind of station you plan on using.

How far are your Contacts Situated?  

This question helps determine what bands you will need for your radio. The table below shows the different ranges that are supported by other bands. Think of your desired activities to determine where you will have to make contacts. 

Bands and Typical Distances
RangeBands
NearbyVHF/UHF
RegionalVHF/UHF (via repeaters) and HF (direct contact)
Country-wideHF
World-wideHF (direct contact), VHF/UHF (Internet links)

Since as a survivalist, your main purpose is to engage in emergency communication. You can operate via easily accessible repeaters or contact across very short ranges, using a dual-band (VHF/UHF) handheld ham having minimum 50 channel memories and output power from 3 to 5 watts. The must-have accessories are a spare pack of rechargeable batteries, one AA or AAA battery pack, a car adapter and a desktop charger.

If you want to operate without repeaters, or if the repeaters are located far away from each other when you are moving or are in a remote location, you should add one more VHF/UHF portable radio with 25 or more watts output. And a mobile whip antenna that is dual-band quarter wave. Most ham operators do have one radio of each type.

Where you want to operate from?

ham radio frequency

If you have an idea of the circumstance where you want to operate your radio and the ranges of frequency you’re likely to make contact, it will help find the right device for you. Powerful radios are usually fixed or base stations. Their size is significant, and they need higher standby power levels. The makers of base-radio manufacturers also offer portable radios for use in vehicles or hiking and camping where power is available in limited amounts. 

Portable ham radios are not as dynamic as base stations. On vehicles, most portable radios operate in the VHF and UHF bands on FM voice. Handheld ham radio is designed for use while moving, usually powered by rechargeable batteries, and have lower wattage FM voice transmitters o the VHF/UHF bands.

Antennas

Your choice of antennas plays a significant role in how effective you can communicate with your radio. For handheld radios, the antennas are usually flexible and stubby like a rubber duck, directly attaching to the radio. These are not as efficient but have a decent amount of sturdiness. The once that comes with the radio usually are not super-efficient, and you can get better results by upgrading the antenna with the right adaptor or connector that goes with your radio. For safety stations, you can attach the mobile antenna to a metal base.

There are efficient and longer antennas that can replace your rubber duck antennas as well. If you wish to communicate via FM voice and repeaters, your antenna orientation should be vertical to send and receive signals from other ham radios and repeaters. You can mount mobile antennas on the outside of your vehicle using magnets as temporary mounts.

Special features and Accessories                              

The antenna is the most crucial accessory for portable radios. Antennas together with batteries make or break the performance a handheld radio. 

  • Battery chargers— large pack batteries can take several hours to recharge via wall-based supply. They take so long to recharge that keeping a spare battery pack is helpful. You can use a smart charger or a quick charger to minimize the charging time. You might get one included in the package of your ham radio. There are desk chargers (drop-in) that conveniently hold the radio upright when it has been charged.          
  • Detachable front panels —with some radios, the front panels are detachable. You can put the radio out of sight and mount the front panels at a suitable position for it to operate. You’ll need a cable to keep them connected. In some radios, you have to the microphone has to be connected to the radio instead of the control panel. So, before mounting a radio, make sure you know what goes where. 
  • Smart microphones— you can get an intelligent mic for your handheld radios that are miniature front panels of their own. 
  • Headsets— there are hand mikes included with the base station radios, but you can increase the quality of transmission audio with boom sets which are a combo of mic and headphones. They cancel out noise and offer voice clarity. 
  • An RF power meter or SWR bridge is a nice to have accessory to monitor and perfect your antenna tuning.

What is Handheld Ham Radio Used For?

With the help of a handheld ham radio, you can stay connected with other ham radio operators, from your home, while driving your car or even while hiking on a mountain top, without requiring any phone network or internet. While this is useful in your day to day activities, it mostly is helpful to stay in touch when no other communications channel is working encase of a disaster.

They can even work together with the local disaster management agencies to communicate with each other. This has been witnessed during the tragedy of 9/11 when the Amateur Radio services helped the New York City authorities stay connected even after the command centre was broken down. Its usefulness has also been proven during the hurricanes which had hit various states of the U.S during the past few years. 

Other than voice communications, you can also connect the ham radio with a computer or a smart gadget to share text, images, or even Morse code, which can be highly useful. Ham radios are also used to get in touch with astronauts on the International Space Station via one of the many satellites in space or even send signals to the moon and back.

Why Ham Radio is Popular among Survivalists?

Survivalists are experts in dealing with all kinds of scenarios with not only stocked supplies but also skills to face any difficult situation where they get cut off from the rest of the world. Reaching out and communicating is super vital in such cases. 

Ham radios let the operators broadcast their intended message and listen to other operators’ broadcasts. This is especially useful when you are off the grid deprived of all other means of communication. This is why survivalists depend upon amateur radios for staying connected.

For survival situations, you cannot rely on the FRS/GMRS handheld radios. It would help if you had something independent of networks. An FCC license is required to be able to operate a ham radio. You don’t only get a legal right to use the ham radio with the license, but you also get connected to a big network of radio clubs specialized in survival preps.  With the help of ham radios, people can connect with not only across town but also throughout the country and beyond. Survivalist relies on ham hand radios to communicate with the world and find out the situation of other areas when there is a disaster.

Fact Is

People who want to stay prepared for any unforeseen calamity, not only buy ham radio for their survival kit but also use them to get their friends and family in practice of staying connected off-grid. Being battery operated and independent of any cell phone tower or internet, handheld ham radio is ideal for protecting your friend and family by staying connected.

Hand indeed held radios are not as powerful in terms of signal range as fixed radios, but their advantage is that they are portable and lightweight. Their design allows you to use them on the go. They operate on rechargeable batteries which helps. Their FM voice transmitter works on low wattage using VHF and UHF bandwidth.

Types of Ham Radios

There are different types of radios, and the FCC has established ranges of frequencies that civilians can use to connect and listen to the public airwaves in the U.S. 

Let’s name of the most popular types of radios and discuss ham radios in detail: 

  • Ham radios operate on 1.8- 1300 MHz having gaps in between.    
  • Citizen’s Band (CB) 26 – 27 MHz (HF), 11-meter band, 40 channels.
  • Family Radio Service (FRS) 462 – 467 MHz (UHF), 22 channels
  • General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) 462 – 467 MHz (UHF), 22 channels
  • Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) 151 – 154 MHz (VHF), five channels
  • The government dictates how much power you can use to transmit a signal, what kind of antennas and equipment are allowed, the usage of repeaters, frequency, etc.        

Amateur “Ham” Radio

The non-commercial radios are known as amateur ham radio. You are not allowed to use it for commercial purposes. Running a nonprofit radio station is counted as a commercial activity since the broadcast is meant for the general public and not a person to person communication. 

People often call other types of radios like FRS and CB personal radio. Amateur radio is non-commercial but very broad and powerful. Personal radios usually work best for truckers in heavy traffic or families going hiking.  Fixed ham radios can be operated up to 1500 watts legally. A handheld ham radio operates on five to eight watts.

How Does a Ham Radio Work?

All ham radio operator has to pass an exam about basic radio operating principals to get a license from the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The licensed operator can use their ham radio on the frequency is decided by the FCC called “Amateur Bands”. Whether they use Morse code, communicate via voice on handheld radio or transmit computerized messages through satellite, all ham radios use a radio signal to connect with the world. Ham frequency start about AM broadcast band and go up to the microwave region in GHz range. In daylight, a good band is from 15 to 27 MHz for communicating long distance. At night time, 1.6 to 15 MHz is considered ideal.

These are known as short-wave bands.  Some hams use Morse code which is more dependable, and others use voice. The chances of Morse code getting through are higher than voice signals. Ham radios do transmit signals in all directions, but they are usually used for two–way communications with one or more other ham radios. The other hams can be located in a different town, state, or country, for their frequency and timings. Some ham radios use (RTTY) where the computer screen is used instead of the old teletype machine that use to make so many noises.

What are the Top Brands for the Best Handheld Ham Radio for Survival?

The most popular brand for the handheld radio is a Chinese company is named BaoFeng that some radio amateur love and others don’t like it much. Their radios are high quality and low price as compare to other brands. They continuously keep improving their products to give a better user experience. It is because of BaoFeng that the costs of hang radios lowered and now everyone can afford ham radio.  With that said, their accessories are not as right as their radios. It is best to get a better Antenna and charger when you buy a BaoFeng hang radio.

What are the Other Alternative Radio Options?

Are HAM radios not perfect for you? Let’s examine a few alternatives. The three most promptly accessible radio choices are GMRS or FRS radios, CB radios, and of course ham radio as we covered.

GMRS/FRS

These survival radios are great for small distances with minimum territory obstructions. It used as pagers/communicators inside a camp or a building, GMRS/FRS radios offer low-cost & ease of use. Compact and straightforward to carry, GMRS/FRS radio family’s most significant downside is their extend and their battery life. A few of the producers report that these survival radios will work up to 35 miles, but that’s 35 miles over a level surface with no obstructions. Once you begin putting trees, hills, houses, etc. within the way the run drops drastically. Whereas fair as a short-range gathers communications apparatus, they don’t have the capacity of medium or long-range communications.

CB Radios

Around for a few a long time as a branch of Ham Radio, CB does not require a permit, and as opposed to ham radio, it may be used for trade as well as personal communications. These became popular within the mid-seventies and are promptly accessible nowadays, CB radios are still the most short-range communications preferred option for truckers.

You’ll be able to discover CB’s reasonably cheaply at eBay, craigslist, yard deals, and flea markets. Categorized as low power gadget under the FCC rules, you can get a greater range when you combine with a signal amplifier or “Linear” Amp. It isn’t recommended to use a linear amp, but the restrictions in place aren’t enforced much unless your illegal radio station starts interfering with other radio services. 

You can make a long-distance call when climatic conditions allow. CB radios come in numerous diverse shapes, extending from lawful 40 channel/4 watt models to a grey-area sort of “export radio”, that skirts lawfulness by being built for ham radio usage but are effectively adjusted for the CB band. Working inside the 10-12 Meter HF Band, CB radios require a longer antenna as compared to GMRS/FRS or UHF/VHF radios.

Things to Keep in Mind about Communication

It has been detailed that Hurricane Katrina, text messaging was the only dependable way of communication. This can be good to know to prepare beforehand for another crisis. While everybody else is frantically attempting to call, you may well be able to get your messages across by texts. We suggest planning as if SMS will not work and on the off chance that the emergency prolongs into numerous weeks it will eventually come to the point that the service will stop working, but this is still essential data to know.

EMP Blast/Solar Event Considerations (Electromagnetic Pulse)

Since our topic is electronics and two major scenarios which survivalists plan for is an EMP type explosion or the more probable scenario, a Solar Storm Event like 1859 Carrington Event. Because these are genuine possibilities, you must keep your essential electronics in a protective case. One way to stay safe is to keep your survival radio and other vital gadgets in a Faraday cage. You can find ways to build one on the internet in video tutorial forms.

Remaining in touch with family and companions when each type of communication is inaccessible could be a circumstance that requires arranging and preparation. Having survival communication equipment and the information to ensure that communications will work is a part of being prepared. The ideal way for anyone to start that planning is to buy the proper radio, get the right permit, and after that, prepare with that radio regularly.

Do I need a License to Operate a Handheld Ham Radio?

Yes. The Federal Communications Commission requires you to study and pass an exam about ham radio operations and get a license if your device consumes more than 0.5 watts of power. Luckily, the new rules for licensing are so easy that anyone can get a license and become a ham radio operator legally. 

It is so easy to clear the exam and get licensed that you won’t want to operate a ham radio without a license illegally. The studies for the license allow you to find out the right way of using your ham radio. This way, you won’t get into any legal repercussions.  

How to Get a License to Operate a Handheld Ham Radio?

License is a legal requirement; it helps you lawfully know the rules for transmissions. In the US, the license is valid until ten years, after which you can get them renewed. Anyone can get a license for ham radio operations as long as they aren’t a foreign government representative. 

Technician License

This is the entry-level license of choice for most novice ham radio administrators. To gain the technician license, you need to pass one exam. You have to answer 35 theory-based questions practices and regulations for operating ham radio. The permit gives access to all ham Radio frequencies over 30 megahertz, permitting these licensees the capacity to communicate locally and most regularly inside North America. It moreover allows for a few constrained benefits on the HF (also known as “short wave”) groups utilized for worldwide communications.

General License

The General license gives a few operational benefits on all Ham Radio bands and all radio operations modes. This permit opens the entryway to global communications. Winning the General license requires you to pass a 35 question examination. General licensees must have passed the Technician license examination.

Amateur Extra License

The Amateur extra category permit passes on all free U.S. Beginner Radio working benefits on all frequency bands and all modes. Gaining the permit is tougher; it requires you to pass an intensive 50 questions examination. Extra class licensees also need to have passed all past written tests of the technician and general class examinations. The technician class is the most common license that ham radio operators hold throughout the U.S. Since you are not allowed to use ham radio for business purpose, people seeking extra privileges move on to other radio categories. Ham enthusiasts, however, do apply for the general class and the amateur extra class license for the privileges as well as bragging right. 

What is the Meaning of HF, VHF, and UHF?

When using a radio within the field, getting the finest out of your device depends on understanding what is the finest communications gadget to utilize in a given circumstance. High frequency (HF) and Very High frequency (VHF) transmissions are a crucial part of strategic operations, particularly where the landscape isn’t favourable, or areas aren’t accessible. Guaranteeing your communications aren’t hindered or interrupted is imperative for superior safety.

HF Radio

HF Radio

High frequency (HF) is the ITU assignment for the extend of radio recurrence electromagnetic waves (radio waves) between 3 and 30 megahertz (MHz). The HF band makes up the major portion of the shortwave band of frequencies. As a result, communication at these frequencies is regularly called shortwave radio. Universal shortwave broadcasting stations use the band (2.31–25.82 MHz), government time stations, aviation communications, climate stations, ham radio and citizens band administrations, and other uses.

VHF Radio

VHF Radio

The basic model of proliferation for VHF radio waves is via direct waves. These travel in a straight line, getting to be weaker as distance increases. Transmitting and accepting receiving wires must be able to ‘see’ each other for communications to be successful, so receiving wire stature is essential in deciding the range

VHF works at the next recurrence run than HF, more often than not between 30-300 MHz. These transmissions, due to their higher recurrence, enter through the Ionosphere, with small or no refraction. VHF proliferation is ‘line of sight’ in nature. And is limit to shorter-range communications. Earthly transmissions make VHF the idealize medium for communications between field administrators and other ground squads.

UHF

uhf radio

Ultra-High Frequency.” The FCC moreover decides who can work in each band and who has needed if more than one client is operating. Ultra-High recurrence (UHF) is the ITU assignment for radio frequencies within the frequencies between 300 megahertz (MHz). And three gigahertz (GHz), too known as the decimeter band as the wavelengths extend from one meter to one-tenth of a meter (one decimeter).

Radio waves with frequencies over the UHF band drop into the Super-High Frequency (SHF), or microwave recurrence run. Lower recurrence signals fall into the VHF (Very High Frequency) or lower groups. UHF radio waves proliferate primarily by a line of locating; they are blocked by slopes and huge buildings even though the transmission through building dividers is stable sufficient for indoor gathering. UHF is usable for TVs broadcasting, cell phones, and adherent communication counting GPS.

Frequently Asked Question On Best Handheld Ham Radio for Survival

Are ham radios dangerous?

Research has been going on about the potential harms of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) to the bloodstream of the people exposed to the rays. There are voluntary guidelines by the American National Standards Institute to limit your exposure to the RF energy. It is best to keep a distance with the device and not keep it near your skull or vital organs for prolonged durations.

Is ham radio still popular?

Ham radio is still popular among a specific group of people. Many people hold their licenses, and usually, the bands are active. Radio amateurs often attend meetups called hamfests where they can buy and sell old and new ham radios.   

How far can a handheld ham radio transmit?

Depending on the wattage of the ham radio and other factors, a handheld amateur radio can transmit from 2 to 15 miles. The town-wide and countrywide and even global transmission is now possible with the use of repeaters and satellites.   

How much does a good ham radio cost?

You can find a good Ham handheld radio anywhere between 20 to 80 dollars. A fixed or base station ham radio costs around one thousand dollars. Earlier ham radios used to be very costly. But now, with the advent of the Chinese mass products maker firm Baofeng, all others had to bring down their prices to keep up with the competition. Now everyone can afford to have a survival radio in their emergency kit. 

Are BaoFeng radios band?

The BaoFeng UV-5R and UV-92 that can transmit on GMRS and FRS frequencies. The United States of America has not made it legal for use in GMRS or FRS.

Baofeng has been a game-changer for the ham radio world by making efficient handheld ham radios at low prices and dumping them in the market for bulk. It could have challenged the existing players in the ham radio market. It can be one reason why US authorities find ways to put restrictions on their products. But since ham radios are essential for survival situations and more and more people are becoming aware of it and the threat of disasters increasing day by day with climate change. Baofeng has made it possible for the common person to afford a ham radio and have a sense of safety. 

Is a ham radio traceable?

Ham radios signals are traceable. The process is known as Direction Finding or DF among radio amateurs. There is also a whole sport of tracing ham radios which is Fox Hunting. In the United States of America, your ham radio can also be tracked down via your licensed because it is a public record.

All hams have to periodically identify themselves. Unless if something doesn’t add up, red flags are raised. So being legal is the only way to go.            

Can a Ham Radio talk to a CB radio?

Technically it is possible to talk to a CB radio with ham radio. The radio operator who has the license can only communicate with someone who also has the ham radio license unless there is an emergency.  Therefore if you try to contact a CB radio with ham radio, you are breaking the law of FCC and can get into legal trouble.       

Can I use a ham radio as a walkie talkie?

You can use a hand radio instead of a walkie-talkie. Walkie-talkies have many similarities with the CB radio, such as they work on low wattage. A handheld radio also operates in just 5 to 8 watts of power. Ham radios are connectable to walkie talkies.    

What is the best ham radio for a beginner?

If you are new to the ham radio world, the Whistler’s ICOM 2300H 05 144MHz Amateur Radio is one of the best handheld ham radio for beginners. It is user friendly and has tutorial pop-ups for anything you can understand.   

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How far can HAM radio stations be from each other?

2 meters. Technically distance should not be a problem as long as the frequencies do not collide with in the same radius. However, 2 meter is a safe distance to avoid noise and formation of the electromagnetic field when both radios are active.  

Is Morse code necessary for ham license?

Morse code is a coding method based on dots and dashes denoting text character. After the invention of the telegraph by Samuel Morse it named. It is no longer mandatory to have expertise in Morse code to get a ham radio license in the United States of America. 

What is 73 in ham radio talk?

In ham radio language, 73 means “best regards”. It has been in use on CW as well as a phone at the end of a conversation. 73 was first used in April 1857 in The National Telegraph Review and Operators’ Guide. During that era, 73 used to mean “My love to you”.     

How much does it cost to set up a ham radio station?

If you are new to ham radio and want to establish your ham radio station, you will have to allocate at least 100 dollars. In this budget, you can get a basic short distance ham radio with low power and give your license exam and buy study books. You can even consider buying second-hand equipment initially. For 400 dollars, you can get a good condition shortwave transceiver and a basic antenna.         

What if you use a ham radio and do not have a license?

Using a ham radio without a license is not wise as your activity will get you traced. Hams have to identify themselves from time to time. If you don’t do that, you will arouse suspicion immediately. This happens because most users log their contacts and look for the call signs of people they frequently talk to. So when a call sign seems made up or inconsistent with the records, it raises a red flag. This is especially true in the case, you’re using the call sign of some active ham, and they notice that others have logged that they conversed with you when in actual they haven’t.

It is quite rare that people fraudulently use ham radios. This is the reason it is non-recongnizable and bit difficult to report. And the authorities also won’t bother rigorously coming after an illegal ham unless they become a nuisance. Then they will impose heavy fines.

It is best to get a license for the greater good for yourself and the whole ham community and operate legally. Or if it seems too much of a hassle to you, choose a radio service that doesn’t need licenses.         

What is Radio Frequency?

When charged particles undergo acceleration, it generates radio waves like time-varying electric currents. Astronomical objects and lightning emit radio waves produces naturally. Transmitters generate radio waves artificially that radio receivers receive with the help antennas.       

What is the Wavelength?

By definition, the wavelength is the distance between two successive crests or two successive troughs of a wave. There is an inverse proportion between wavelength and frequency. This means that if the wavelength is longer, the frequency will be lower. Similarly, if the wavelength is shorter, the frequency will be higher.    

Our Recommendation for the Best Handheld Ham Radio for Survival

If you want a budget-friendly and best handheld Ham radio, go for Uniden SR30C BearCat, 500-Channel Compact Handheld Scanner. It is my favorite handheld Ham radio and is one of the best handheld ham radios for survival. In an urgent situation, ” I will hand them out to pals and acquaintances therefore that I could hand to keep the lines of communications available.

The price cost tag of the modest radios tends to make it potential.

You can get those radios on Amazon at under $116.15. That isn’t any less costly way to get into a handheld Ham radio. Just as they’re inexpensive does not signify that you must provide additional features, dependability, or functionality. 

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Final Words 

Survivalists are well aware of ham radios and their usage in emergencies. To survive and safe lives in any unforeseen event, you need to maintain communication. When all else fails, ham radio can be a lifesaver for you and your loved ones. The best handheld ham radio for survival has to be reliable, easy to use, have long battery life and should receive and transmit across a wide range of frequencies. BaoFeng has designed highly efficient ham radios at really low prices. You can get a good bang for your buck if you get an efficient handheld ham radio and upgrade its batteries and antenna for more extended battery timings and better coverage. Hope after reading the full guide you will get the best handheld ham radio for survival.

Alix Johnson Romi

Alix is the Co-founder of Easy Trip Guides. She started with Michael to share her love for the outdoors with people from all around the globe. She started as an outdoor lover while skiing and snowboarding in the backcountry of New Zealand with her future husband, Antonio. They shared a dream to see the world, so in 2013 they set off to cycle from California to Argentina. The freedom of the open ice route, living close to nature, and the total annihilation of her comfort zone fueled Alix's desire to keep exploring long after the bike trip was over. Her adventure addiction has taken her scuba diving with hammerhead sharks, hiking to the K2 base camp, kiteboarding in Sri Lanka, and kayaking in Antarctica. Through these experiences, she has developed a strong belief in the power of adventure to reconnect people to nature, provide meaningful jobs to impoverished communities and promote the conservation of wild places and animals. At Easy Trip Guides, she covers snowing, skating, snowboarding, and skiing as she loves to do these outdoor adventures a lot.

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