🥇 Most Powerful Handheld Ham Radios (Reviews Updated 2020)

Handheld ham radio is an excellent emergency device, which can be used to communicate from literally anywhere; from your home or car, middle of the ocean, a desert, a forest, or even from a mountain top. Ham radios are no more limited to military men.

People nowadays, are using them as their hobby, recreation, in sports, public events, and even children use them for fun purposes as they work without requiring a connection to the phone lines, Internet, or satellites.

It good handheld ham radio can be used as a GPS as well, as a weather radio or an emergency radio, or even flashlight, depending upon features it has in it!

With the enhancements in technology, a number of handheld ham radios have introduced and the number is still increasing. Thus, it leads to chaos while selecting the best handheld ham radios from a lot of alternatives.

To make this task easy, I’ve listed out 5 best handheld ham radios with their complete specifications that would help you take a clear decision.

3 Best Portable Ham Radio's: A Quick Look-Up

Best Overall

BaoFeng BF-F8HP

Best Ham Radio

Easy To Program

Built In Flashlight

Highly Durable Battery

Premium Choice

TYT MD-380 - DMR/Moto

Best Mobile Ham Radio

Easy To Use Menu

Highly Configurable

Superior Front End Rejection

Most Affordable

BaoFeng UV-5R

dual band mobile radio

Easily Programmed

High Quality Antenna

Online Support Available

7 Most Powerful Handheld Ham Radios

Most Affordable

dual band mobile radio

1. BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band

Key Highlights:

  • This is a dual-band display, dual frequency display, and dual-standby

  • An affordable option

  • 128 channels with 50 CTCSS and 104 DCS

  • Features a built-in VOX function

  • Large LCD display with LED flashlight

  • Comes with a keypad lock

  • Output power: 4/1 Watts

  • Product dimensions: 8 x 4 x 5 inches

  • Weight: 8.8 ounces

The UV-5R is a compact dual band two-way radio that provides 4 watts in the frequency range of 136-174 MHz and 400-480 MHZ. This is a micro-miniature multiband FM transceiver that enables extensive receive frequency coverage, providing local-area two-way communication.

They offer the best amateur communications with unmatched monitoring capability. The BaoFeng UV-5R is an economical HT that includes a special VHF receive band from 65-108 MHz which includes the regular FM broadcast band. check out the first hand review by a real user.

This also supports dual watch and dual reception. Features such as large LCD display, tri-color background selectable light, with 0-9 grades VOX selectable make it more useful.

This Ham radio is a battery saver and shows communication over any 128 channels 50 CTCSS (Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System) with dual-band display, dual-standby and a/B band independent operation. Emergency alerts and keypad lock prove highly beneficial.

Downsides:

  • Good audio with a spectrum analyzer.

  • Warranty could be a bit better.

Premium Choice

Best Ham Radio

2. BaoFeng BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen)

Key Highlights:

  • This is the next generation UV-5R

  • Supposed to be the most powerful handheld ham radio

  • Comes with a 30% larger battery

  • Features a new hardened durable radio shell

  • In-Depth documentation with concierge support

  • Backed up by the full USA warranty

  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 2 x 2 inches

  • Weight: 10.1 ounces

This is another dual band handheld radio that improves on the UV-5R and remains more powerful as based on a new generation chipset. This boasts of a new 2000mAh battery along with three power levels (1, 4, 8 watt) and a high gain V-85 antenna.

Even while using high power the 30% larger battery provides long-lasting radio performance. This offers average battery life:

  • UV-5R High (4W): 18 Hours.

  • BF-F8HP High (8W): 20 Hours.

  • BF-F8HP Mid (5W): 24 Hours.

For using the built-in flash or the built-in FM radio the large battery gives you adequate peace of mind as you have the power to communicate whole day without going for a recharge.

This is a quality product from the United States and the company has designed it to provide ease to the user. With this you also get exclusive warranty support and concierge customer help.

Downsides:

  • Excellent one with no cons as such

Perfect For Beginners

Best Mobile Ham Radio

3. TYT MD-380 - DMR/Moto TRBO

Key Highlights:

  • An entry-level digital radio

  • Broadcasts at up to 5-watts of power

  • Inexpensive and easy to use

  • Broadcasts in analog mode also

  • Comes with two antennas

  • You can program it on the computer

These are the new comers and a good choice for the amateur radio operators.It could be the best handheld ham radio for beginners as it is extremely easy to use and is inexpensive too. Don’t forget to take a quick look at accessories that comes along with this package.

With broadcasting of up to 5 watts of power this band allows this handset to work as GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) also. The MD-380 has the ability to broadcast in analog mode as well, and you may miss the text messages then.

With two antennas, the smaller one gets in the way while the high-gain antenna gives you more range. Comes with good programming in the box. The plastic shell is not weatherproof and can’t withstand the rigors of the outdoors.

Downsides:

  • It is non-waterproof

  • Single band

Best For Survival

Best Handheld Ham Radio

4. BTECH DMR-6X2 (DMR And Analog)

Key Highlights:

  • A dual band smallest ham radio

  • GPS-enabled and capable of sending APRS

  • Includes two batteries

  • Product dimensions: 2 x 1.5 x 5 inches

  • Weight: 1.8 pounds

  • Display offers multiple modes

  • Groups can easily be added

A dual-band digital ham radio that can broadcast up to 7 watts. Others can track you as this is GPS-enabled. One 2,100mAh and the other 3.100mAh battery is included with the radio. It is wise if you use a smaller battery as a backup and the larger one for most purposes.

With the multiple mode feature you can set for daytime/night time by making use of the vibrant blue or contrasting black settings. The display is pretty busy but usable too. Click here to know how many people recently bought this product.

It is the best ham radio for preppers as groups can be easily added and the quick replies can be done on the screen. It comes with a programming cable and you can program the radio on your computer. While you are on the swim don’t take it out and keep it intact in your jacket as this isn’t waterproof.

Downsides:

  • Non-waterproof

  • Does digital repeat but not analog

Best For Hiking

yaesu handheld comparison chart

5. Yaesu FT-60R Dual Band Handheld 5W VHF/UHF

Key Highlights:

  • Includes wider receiver coverage

  • One thousand memory channels

  • Water-resistant portable ham radio

  • Durable with a good battery life

  • Inexpensive and easy to use

  • Product dimensions: 2.28 x 1.18 x 4.29 inches

  • Weight: 13.1 ounces

Unlike others the Yaesu FT-60R is a portable, water-resistant, and a good handheld radio model that features a plastic frame and comes with a robust aluminum case. The material isn’t flimsy and won’t crack if dropped. The most authentic user review by one Henrick, after using this product for 1 month.

This comes with a good battery life and can last for about 3-4 days with a single charge. This is inexpensive and one of the best hand-held ham radios available. This offers 5 watts of raw power, different modes of scanning , and has an audio-alarm that alerts you whenever the battery goes low.

The receiver has a wide coverage and along with this the Yaesu FT-60R impressively receives about 1000 memory channels. The password feature restricts unauthorized access and a backlit keypad comes with an alphanumeric display.

Downsides:

  • The stock antenna could be a bit better

Largest LCD Display

dual band ham radio

6. Wouxun KG-UV8D Plus Dual-Band

Key Highlights:

  • Gives the user a comfortable feel

  • Big screen LCD display

  • Voice commander

  • Can be stored and retrieved 20 sets of frequency

  • Power-on message editable

  • Backlight intensity can be adjusted

  • Scrambler

  • Weight: 2 pounds

The Wouxun KG-UV8D is an impressive dual band radio that fits well in the arms and provide you with optimum comfort. While in use the radio had the capacity to last for 12 hours as this top of line radio is powered by a 7.4V 2600mAH rechargeable battery, alternatively it can be power by a car battery as well otherwise used to power up electircals/car amplifiers.

The battery last6s longer and efficient with the battery saving feature of the radio. The model KG-UV8D is designed such by the Wouxun that it looks stylish, cool, and functions the same way. Also find out reasons why some users had negative reviews about this product.

As already mentioned, this comes with a big LCD display screen, high illumination flashlight, and a hands-free operation feature. So more catchy features such as the 999 programmable memory channels, a detachable antenna, a stopwatch make it more useful.

Downsides:

  • Manual could be a bit better

  • Annoying display during sunny days

Best Frequency Coverage

best mobile ham radio for the money

7. BaoFeng UV-5R EX 5W

Key Highlights:

  • Exhibits a high-quality display where there is no source of light

  • Durable and sits firm in hands

  • Advanced auto-band detection

  • Wider compatibility

  • Provides better squelch (9-level)

  • Product dimensions: 2.36 x 1.18 x 4.71 inches

  • Weight: 1.15 pounds

The UV-5R EX 5W comes with a multiband FM transceiver and enables huge frequency coverage that supports two-way communications. A tough metallic casing is a part of it and this assures enough security for all the internal parts if accidentally dropped.

One great thing about the BaoFeng upgraded version is the new advanced auto-band detection feature that eliminates the need to use a band button. This allows easy change between the high and low transmit power.

High-quality Led display is offered by the two-color LEDC screen. This hand held ham radio comes with unmatched superiority and longevity due to its high-tech features as compared to its competitors. The private code allows you to do group calling with a party too.

Downsides:

  • Unable to access some stations without authorization

  • Only 2 frequency ranges

What Is Ham Radio?

There is a funny story behind this. Ham is the deception of the word amateur.

So, in other words Ham/amateur radio is used for non-commercial activities such as socializing, fun, communication experimenting, and emergency situations.

Ham radios are not only handheld but tabletop too. But most commonly the walkie-talkies commonly known as hand-held ham radios have gained more popularity due to their convenience.

Many of the users love it as a hobby and that has given birth to many amateur clubs out there.

You know these people are known as ‘hams’ and they range from young and amateur enthusiasts to the seasoned experts (with decades of experience in radio communications).

Process To Get A Handheld Ham Radio

Licensing Requirements

The FCC (Federal Communication Commission) is in charge of all Amateur Radio license issuance in the US. Licenses renewal by the FCC are free, however; certain private individuals administering license examinations may require applicants to pay a fee to cover up their expenses. Renewal requests by applicants are commonly done through telephone.

Licenses are divided among levels, with the Technical Class license being the lowermost and the Amateur Extra Class license is the topmost level. Each class of license also has certain privileges depending on its level.

License examinations usually consist of multiple-choice questions with varying difficulty.

Technician License

The entry-level license is given to applicants who passed the 35-question written examination. It is the most basic of all licenses and the easiest to obtain because it only requires a basic understanding of radio communication. Earlier, Morse code knowledge was required to get the licenses but it is no longer needed now to learn Morse code. Obtaining this license allows an individual to operate in very high frequencies (>30 MHz) but limited operations in high-frequency bands (3-30 MHz).

General License

The level next to the technician class, obtaining this license also requires answering a 35-question written examination along with passing the technician test.

This license will grant individuals with privileges of being able to operate on all amateur radio frequency bands as well as access to almost 83 % of high-frequency bandwidth. However, long-distance communications band segments are not allowed to be used by a Generally licensed ham.

Amateur Extra License

The top of all license classes. It is the hardest to obtain because it requires the most knowledge and understanding of radio communication compared to other licenses. Obtaining this license requires the passage of the General Test as well as a 50 item multiple-choice examination usually about theoretical motions about radio communications. It grants privileges that allow an individual to operate on all amateur bands.

What To Look For In Perfect Long Range Handheld Radio?

Choosing a portable ham radio is more profitable as its portability allows it to be used anywhere, and it just requires a battery to operate. Also, handheld radios are easily accessible.

However, there are two main factors in choosing a radio. First, the bandwidth that you are privileged to use and the second one is your budget. Do not only focus on these two factors though there are also other factors to consider such as frequency range, users manual, memory slots, programmability, power, dual bands, and backlit display.

Frequency Level:

Different radios have different receive and transmission frequencies, choose the radio that has the most appropriate frequency depending on what bandwidth you are allowed to operate. Obtaining a radio with frequencies that are different from your appropriate bandwidth will be illegal to use because a ham’s license indicates the allowed bandwidth usage.

User Manual:

A new ham radio user will require an immediate understanding of the radio. This is done through the user manual which should be already supplied along with the radio. You could download the online user manual to check if the manual has good quality. An informative user manual should be able to help the new ham radio operator in having the appropriate knowledge required to operate the radio, not to further confuse the user.

Memory Slots:

Only a dozen memory slots are needed if you are communicating locally. However, 100-200 memory slots are needed for national and international use.

Programmability:

It refers to the ability to manually program the radio. Most radios use keypads and buttons to input commands while newer models can be connected to a computer by the use of a cable to make programming easier.

Power:

Five watts of power is enough for an average ham radio operator. Make sure that your radio has high and low power settings to suit your needs.

Dual Brand:

A radio capable of dual bands is essential for amateur radio users because it allows for long frequency range communications.

Backlit Display:

A radio with a backlit display that can be toggled on and off is a must. It will be helpful for emergencies and scenarios where a source of light is limited.

Benefits of the Good Handheld Ham Radio

While modern technology has seemingly surpassed portable ham radios in terms of capabilities, there are still a lot of advantages in having a handheld ham radio.

  • Emergency Awareness – Knowing about an emergency beforehand will enable you to make a decision based on it. Right handheld ham radios excel at this because you will be able to know emergencies reported by other hams right at your fingertips.

  • Independent From Other Communication Services – When various disasters strike, a huge percentage of communication infrastructures are destroyed, rendering common communications useless. Handheld ham radios are unaffected by this, however, because these radios operate at different frequencies than the other communication devices.

  • Inexpensive – A handheld ham radio is much more convenient and inexpensive compared to traditional radios.

  • There Is A Community – The ham radio community is friendly, offers assistance, considerate and will conduct contests for ham radio operators to add excitement in user experience. They also hold discussions about various topics where hams can participate.

  • For General Communications – Having a supreme handheld ham radio is extremely useful even if you are using it for a hobby only. You can contact other operators as well as non-operators (if they have a working radio; they are not allowed to operate it as other hams do though) by just transmitting messages at varying frequencies.

How To Get A Better Signal Out Of Your Hand-Held Radio?

You all including me must have confronted such a situation in the process of getting the best signal out of our handheld radio. Weird contortions, slowly swiveling around, and standing on our tippy toes…. we do all for best outcomes for getting the signal…. Isn’t it!

These portable gadgets have a limited range, but repeater systems are known to extend their range. Unluckily if you are on a bad spot it won’t help either.

For better reception and stronger signals, we have some tips for you:-

1. Get The Radio Off Your Belt

You are aware of the limitations, low transmission, quality, and other compromises done by this device.

The rule of the thumb is, holding it properly makes a difference and how well it transmits.

Your body doesn’t absorb the signal, and the antenna may be pressing against your body, and this may turn out to be a great disadvantage if you are not getting the signal.

So, waist mounted and indoors, this will prove useless.

best ham radio

2. Hold It Right And Tight

Holding your handheld ham radio in the right way is all that matters. You should hold it upright with the antenna away from your face. One should speak clearly and nicely by keeping your mouth positioned 3-6 inches away.

With more closeness with the mic you will be much heard and clear in noisy environments. Some people make a mistake by holding it horizontally and covering the mic with hands and this makes the signal horizontally polarized.

A good repeater may prove of help but not always. The punch line is hold it right and swivel your body in the right direction for best quality signal. You may get a scratchy signal sometimes, so try to get an S-meter on your display.

Even in the woods I have tried that position has helped a lot in those situations.

3. Aftermarket Accessories

Handie talkies (HT) come with the features that you may like but with time would like to change a bit or add any different accessory. Usually the antennas may be 3-inch or so and prove less useful with either 0 or a negative gain.

An aftermarket antenna can be opted by you for increasing range. A higher gain antenna will be the wisest thing to do. Even I prefer to carry adapters to connect to my HT. Even a fresh battery matters a lot as after discharging they lose their volts.

Keeping a spare battery also proves of immense use. changing of battery may lead to better signal reception and gain.

Faq’s

How far will a handheld ham radio transmit?

Handheld ham radios are similar to mobile towers and work usually when they receive network signals. The handheld units basically transmit to 1 to 2 miles.

Is it possible to own a ham radio without a license?

Yes, you can own a ham radio without a license but with restricted uses. Without a license, you can just listen to local radio, FM, and other updates such as weather broadcast. So you can just listen without transmitting.

Can ham radio pick up cell phones?

Ham radios do not allow to communicate and even listening because it’s illegal. Communication can only be done if there is an emergency.

Do you need to know Morse code for ham radio?

Earlier it was required to know Morse code to earn a license, but now it is no longer required in the USA. FCC announced the deduction of Morse code in the test for a license.

How much ham radio license costs?

To get a ham radio license, you need to give the exam first which costs around $15. This cost is basically charged for printing the exam papers etc. and you cannot avoid this fee.

Conclusion:

It could be unnerving sometimes to choose the best one out of so many models in the market while most of them appear similar. Along with the design, the frequency range, antennas, programmability, and many other things should be taken into consideration.

Get the handheld ham radio that satisfies you as a beginner, survivor, or if you are on a limited budget. Purchase the one that offers you the best features ever and pursue your hobby.

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