Best handheld ham radio: 9 contenders to keep you connected
Radios aren’t just for talk shows and music.
Although much of the popular history of radio focuses on broadcasts, it’s worth remembering there’s a background for this medium in communication too.
Using radio signals, it’s possible to connect with people from miles away without your smartphone.
In wars and times of political turmoil when phone networks aren’t always trustworthy, people still rely on radio for communication. Perhaps the best-known part of this landscape, is ham radio.
The best handheld ham radios offer a quick and convenient way to connect over long distances using satellites and relay towers. Even outside of the military world, handheld ham radios are popular among construction workers and a range of other professions.
Fun, portable, and affordable, ham radios have captured the hearts and minds of countries for decades.
So, how do you decide which ham radio you should buy?
We can help with that.
Today, we’re going to be sorting through some of the best handheld ham radio reviews, to bring you a list of the top performers.
1. Tenway UV-5R Pro (Best 2-Pack)
With an appearance remarkably similar to your average walkie talkie, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Tenway UV-5R radios are toys.
These devices are definitely small enough to be “child-sized,” though that just makes them more convenient in portability terms.
With a standard 1800 mAh battery and power-saving features to extend your battery life, the Tenway handheld ham radios will stand the test of time.
You could even keep a pair of these in your emergency preparedness kit.
The high-quality built-in speakers on these radios provide crystal clear sound in any environment.
All you need to do is press the button to talk, and you’ll be connected in no time.
To make usability even easier, the UV-5R Pro also comes with an individual earbud style earpiece for each radio.
Available in a selection of colors, the BaoFeng UV-5R Plus is almost as attractive as it is functional.
This high-performance dual-band handheld ham radio comes with a durable rugged shell, intended to stand the test of time.
The simple functionality and instructions that come with this product make it easier for beginners to program. You can even access your ham radio on your Mac OS or Windows system and set up channels from there.
With a classic compact design, the UV-5R Plus can go wherever you go.
The full color LED display offers excellent clarity, while the built-in antenna helps you to get the best possible frequency.
This device comes with a hand strap and belt clip for portability, and a complete user manual.
This is the part of our handheld ham radio reviews where we’d usually talk you through the elements to consider when choosing your own radio.
We’ll give you some guidance on that in a moment, but first, let’s talk about how handheld ham radios actually work.
Ham radios are unique because they use a wide selection of frequencies for communications.
Sometimes, a non-ham radio can listen-in to ham radios using scanners and other receivers.
With a ham radio, you can tap into a wider range in the radio spectrum, usually just above the AM broadcast.
Unlike the frequencies usually accessed by FM radio stations and televisions, the short-waves for ham radios usually work on a shorter circuit.
Ham radios can come in many different shapes and sizes, all designed to deliver different benefits.
When you’re choosing your own ham system, you’ll need to think about:
Dual-band or tri-band: Dual-band radios allow you to monitor two frequencies at the same time. Tri-band frequencies mean you can monitor three frequencies. Decide how much functionality you’re going to need before you start shopping for handheld ham radios.
Programming options: Most handheld ham radios can be programmed manually or via software. It’s essential to ensure you get a programming cable with your ham radio, so you can design the system to work however you like. It’s worth making sure the keyboard on the radio is functional for manual programming.
Battery life: Battery is always an essential consideration for any portable radio. Choose a ham radio that’s going to last long enough to suit your needs without having to be constantly recharged. If you can, getting a radio with an extra battery is a great idea. You might also want to look for something you can charge with solar power.
Ease of use: Ease of use is a must-have if you’re a beginner in the ham radio world. You need to be able to figure out how to use your new system. Usually, the best way to ensure you’re going to be well-prepared is to look for a good manual. A detailed instruction guide that’s easy to follow should always be on the top of your shopping list.
Speaker quality: To have full conversations with the best handheld ham radio, you’re going to need good speaker quality. Sometimes, the environment you’re in can affect the sound quality. If you’re too close to other devices, for instance, this can sometimes cause interference. For the most part, your sound quality should be crystal clear.
Extra features: Many of the best handheld ham radios come with extra features to boost their functionality. For example, you might get a belt clip and a lanyard to make your radio more portable. Some handheld ham radios also come with earpieces and extra antennas too.
Which is the best handheld ham radio for you?
Handheld ham radios are an excellent way to stay connected, whether you’re a professional in a busy environment, or a dedicated hiker on the trail.
The best handheld ham radio will be the one that gives you all the functionality you need, at a price you can afford.
For excellent all-around performance, we love the UV-82HP, which comes with FM radio, three power levels to choose from, a dual push-to-talk switch and more. There’s even a flashlight included and emergency alarm for whenever you’re in danger.
If you’re looking for something on a more professional level, then you might prefer the versatility of the Kenwood Original.
Although this is a more expensive ham radio than many of the other options we covered, it has extra features too.
There’s excellent GPS positioning information built-in, and Bluetooth connectivity. You can also rest assured your radio will last longer, thanks to weatherproofing.
For beginners, we’d recommend the extended ham radio starter kit from Mirkit and BaoFeng. The set comes with everything you need to jump into ham radio, including a programming cable, and access to your programming firmware too.
You also get an antenna and earpiece, and 128 channels of memory to work with.
Good luck finding the ultimate handheld ham radio for your needs and remember to check out the other radio reviews here at Radio Fidelity for more insights!