What Is The Best Ham Radio For Preppers?
by Aden Tate
The interest in ham radio has absolutely skyrocketed ever since the beginning of 2020. It seems as if people value the ability to communicate with one another and gather information when they’re placed in uncertain situations.
For those who are just delving into the world of ham radio though, it doesn’t take long to realize you’re being swept away with a whirlwind of questions:
- What’s the difference between VHF and UHF?
- Is getting into HF really worth it for my situation?
- How do I communicate as discretely as possible?
These questions and more are the ones that flood the mind of the newbie ham. But perhaps one of the most daunting questions to answer is this: what is the best ham radio for preppers?
Let’s see if we can shed some light on the situation.
Best Ham Radio for Preppers on a Budget
This is going to make me a lot of enemies out there in the ham radio world, but I still believe that the best ham radio for a prepper on a budget is the Baofeng UV-5R.
It’s simply hard to beat ham radio capabilities for all of $30. To my knowledge, nobody else out there even comes close.
Here are the reasons this is the best ham radio for a prepper on a shoestring budget:
This is the chief thing this radio has going for it.
If you’re a college student, are in between job transitions, or are generally just living paycheck to paycheck but want to get on the air, this is the radio for you.
Let’s face it: the world of ham radio can quickly grow to be prohibitively expensive. Baofeng has put emergency comms abilities into more Americans’ hands than likely any other brand out there.
They Are Everywhere
I’m not even sure it’s possible to find a prepper out there without a UV-5R.
Seriously, that’s how popular these things are. And why is that good?
Because it means you’ll have no problem finding somebody who can show you the ropes with your new radio pre-disaster, and should you run into another radio post-disaster, it’s liable to be a UV-5R.
This means that by learning the UV-5R now, you’ll be much better prepared for the eventual contact with one or its user you’ll have post-disaster.
The UV-5R Will Get You On Air This Week
This is tied in to the low price, but I still believe it’s worth mentioning. For many, ham radio is something they’ll “get to eventually”. Part of the reason for this is the price of the great majority of radios they see out there on the market.
Convenience matters, and because saving money for something they’re not even sure if they’ll enjoy is hard, they never end up getting on the air. In the aftermath of a Hurricane Katrina situation, that proves to be an issue.
Just like buying a new Glock and never practicing with it does you little to no good for a WROL situation, so does never buying a ham radio help you in a post-disaster situation. The ability to get quality weather forecasts, local news and more can be very important in a grid-down world – perhaps even life-saving.
Getting a UV-5R today and then not being afraid to practice and put it through your toughest training will be what will help you to know what to do when it counts. You’ll already have the skillset. With a more expensive radio, you may be afraid to use it and it’ll just sit on the shelf and collect dust.
You don’t have to worry about this with the UV-5R. It’ll get you on the air this week, and should something happen to it, you’re only out $30.
Cons of the UV-5R
By no stretch of the imagination is the UV-5R a perfect radio. It’s not durable enough to take heavy whacks, its stock rubber duck antenna doesn’t transmit worth a hoot, and the user manual it comes with is virtually worthless.
Best Digital HT
The UV-5R is an analog radio. That’s great for a lot of what you’ll hear out there, but the world is gradually moving towards a digitized amateur radio world. For such, I recommend the Yaesu FT3DR.
I discovered this radio via Ham Radio Crash Course, and I’ve got to say – it’s awesome.
Are you going to spend more on this HT than others? Yep. That’s just the cost of getting into digital. It’s a lot pricier than analog.
This is one of the first really cool things about this radio. There are devices out on the market which utilized Bluetooth to let your HT send and receive packet radio broadcasts.
Seeing that the FT3DR already has Bluetooth capability built in, makes it so it’s that much easier to get involved in these highly efficient messaging systems.
This capability also means that you could use a Bluetooth headset or earpiece while you’re using this radio as well. For EDC options, that’s a huge game changer when it comes to being discrete. If you’re on the move for a bug-out journey or the like, it could make things exponentially easier as well.
A Huge Reception Ability
This radio will let you listen in on a huge swath of the radio spectrum. Whether you’re interested in shortwave, the air band, or regular 2m, you can do just about everything (minus HF) with this radio. That’s a lot of radio for your buck here.
Cons of the Yaesu FT3DR
It’s hard to really hammer anything down for cons here. Yeah, the price could most certainly be considered an issue, but when it comes to digital radio, this is a pretty fair number to ask for. The thing is pretty tough too. So really, I don’t see much to complain about here.
Best Base Station Ham Radio for Preppers
Perhaps you’re not as interested in an HT and are looking for a good quality base station to set up in your apartment, condo, or house.
If this sounds like where you’re at – if you’re looking for something with a little more oomph, and that you don’t have to worry about getting moved about all over the place – then I think you need to get an HF base station.
Getting into HF is expensive, but I think if you’re going to do it, why not get the most bang for your buck.
That’s why I think the best base station ham radio for preppers is the Yaesu Original FT-991A.
It Does Everything
You can do everything with this radio:
HF/UHF/VHF/UHF, it’s all there. This means you can pick up just about any signal out there another prepper with a radio is sending out.
You don’t have to worry about buying one radio for VHF/UHF, another for HF, a dedicated scanner, and so on.
The FT-991A is truly a one-stop-shop when it comes to a base station for ham radio.
A Spectrum Analyzer is Attached
I really like the real-time spectrum scope as well. What this does is take out a lot of the guesswork for finding where the chatter is.
If you’ve ever turned on your radio, hit the ‘scan’ button, and have not been able to find anything, you know how frustrating it can be. You don’t have to worry about that with the FT-991A. It’ll tell you exactly what parts of the radio spectrum are experiencing traffic, meaning you can tune in as quickly as possible.
No guesswork, which is beautiful.
Cons of the Yaesu FT-991A
There are two main cons with this radio: the price and learning how to use it.
For starters, this rig normally runs around $1500. By the time you add an antenna, coax cable, a DC power supply, and so on, you’re going to be well into spending two grand. That can be prohibitively expensive for many.
Secondly, there’s a bit of a learning curve with this radio. It can do a lot, and so you need to learn a lot. Yaesu has some pretty good instruction manuals, but you’re going to need to do quite a bit of online video learning as well.
Best Overall Ham Radio for Preppers
I think if we’re going to nail down the qualities of the best ham radio for preppers we would end up with the following list:
- Good shock resistance
- Ability to handle rain without getting fried
- Easily portable
- Dual/Tri-band capabilities
- User friendly
- Easy to program
- Economically friendly
The radio I think easily hits the mark with all of these traits is The Yaesu VX-6R.
If you are looking for just one radio to purchase – if you want to make your comms investment once and get it over with – I can’t recommend this radio highly enough.
Great Shock and Rain Resistance
A post-disaster world is uncertain, and so you need a radio that’s going to be as tough as nails. It can get bumped and jostled about as you jump for cover, hike through the rain, and so on. Notice that inherent to these two needs are the understanding that the radio is portable.
While massive base stations have their place, the radio you’re liable to have available to you when disaster strikes is a handheld radio (known as an HT, for handy-talky).
To add a dash of irony, right after I got up from working on this article I (accidentally) dropped my VX-6R off of the kitchen table and then spilled an entire bottle of water on it. I wasn’t happy. But the VX-6R was none the worse for wear, and still functioned great!
The Yaesu VX-6R is technically a tri-band radio – being able to access 2 meters, 70 cm, and 260 cm – but due to its not being able to access the full range of the 260cm band, Yaesu can’t advertise it as a tri-band. It’s not just that which sets the Yaesu VXA-6R apart, however.
Aside from your being able to talk on two of the most common beginner ham bands out there (2m and 70cm – 260cm isn’t used very often), you also gain access to a host of other pre-programmed frequency ranges.
- You want to listen to pre-programmed mariner frequencies? Check.
- You want to listen to the aviation frequencies? Check.
- NOAA weather forecasts? Check.
- You want to listen to Voice of America, as well as similar broadcasts internationally? Check.
- Regular FM country music broadcasts? Yep, it can get those too.
That’s a massive amount of information that you can have at your fingertips within a moment’s notice in a post-disaster world.
As User Friendly as Possible
While I do recommend that you go ahead and purchase the programming software at the same time you buy the radio (it makes things easier), the Yaesu VX-6R is actually not bad to work with from a manual standpoint either.
Pretty much any radio out there is easier to work with via computer programming than it is to use the touchpad though, so I think that’s something of a given.
The real test is when it comes to having to quickly input a new frequency when you’re out in the field. For this, you have to know how to do so in the first place, and a good manual is key to this.
If you’ve purchased several radios in the past, you know that not all of them out there have quality instruction manuals.
The Yaesu VX-6R blows a lot of the other ones I’ve seen out there out of the water. It truly is a joy to use, and I think you’ll find so as well.
You’re looking at all of $300 or so to get everything you need for this radio to operate. That’s relatively affordable and gives you a lot of radio for your money.
Cons of the VX-6R
To date, I haven’t noticed any. This little radio has been an absolute workhorse, and I’m thoroughly enjoying using it.
If you’re looking for a ham radio, I can’t recommend this one highly enough.
See You On the Air
Wherever you find yourself amongst this list, hopefully it has helped to prove of some service to you. Ham radio is confusing, and the greater majority of writings out there for such were obviously written by engineers and from a highly technical standpoint.
For me, that made getting into ham radio rather scary. I suppose my main issue was that I was nervous I was going to buy an expensive piece of junk that I would never learn how to use.
It took a lot of research a lot of asking around, and a lot of experimentation, but these are the conclusions I’ve come to. I hope they are of some benefit to you, and that you’re able to use them in your own prepping journey.
This article was first published on “Ask A Prepper”
Related: How to Obtain Your Amateur Radio License
The views, opinions, or positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions of Redoubt News. Social Media, including Facebook, has greatly diminished distribution of our content to our readers’ newsfeeds and is instead promoting Main Stream Media sources. This is called ‘Shadow-banning’. Please take a moment and consider sharing this article with your friends and family. Thank you. Please support our coverage of your rights. Donate here