Having a ham radio license is a GREAT idea for your survival. In the event the power grid ever goes down, HAM radio is the way to communicate with other people in your area and long distances.

Most preppers take the time to invest and study the handheld ham radio course. You can easily earn a ham license with just a few study guides, ARRL.org is the site to check out to get that started. 

Once you have your license, you need a great radio to get yourself started. A handheld HAM radio, also known as a handie, is the starting point. 

The best handheld ham radio for survival is one that has a long battery life, strong signals, ease of use, and waterproof. You will never know what the condition's outside might be when you need it most. These types of radio might be your last resort of communication, as phone don't recieve great reception in the wilderness. 

Top Outdoor Two Way Radios in 2021

Product Name

Price

Rating


Pofung UV-82 Dual Band Radio

$

Tenway Ham Radio

$

HYS -TC High Power HAM Radio

$$

Baofeng UV- 5R5

$$

TD Radio 8-Watt Ham Radio

$

Kenwood TH-D74A Triband Radio

$$$$

Yaesu FT-70Dr Handheld Transceiver

$$$

Alinco DJ-MD5GTP Dual Band DMR

$$$

1. Pofung UV-82 Dual Band Radio


Overall Rating:

5 / 5

Pofung UV-82 Dual Band Radio is the same great radio as Baofeng but rebranded. You can get two radios in a pack for one great price. There are 128 memory channels on the radio, so you can store all your favorite repeaters and then some. 


The handheld ham radio also has a low battery alert feature and has a great wall charger you can use to keep the battery charged up and ready. It is a larger and easier to hold version of the Baofeng that is reviewed later on this list and feels great in your hands.

Pros

  • Buttons are decently sized
  • Better build quality than UV 5R
  • Can be programmed even without CHIRP software

Cons

  • Manual is hard to understand.

2. Tenway UV-5R Dual Band Radio


Overall Rating:

5 / 5

Tenway is a two-pack handheld ham radio complete with a handheld mic, two longer antennas, and a programming cable. The sound on these radios is crystal clear, and you can operate on high power (puts out 8 watts) all the way to low power where just one watt is produced. 


Low battery alarm advises when it is time to change the battery. There are also earbuds included in case you have to keep things quiet for your two way radio.

Pros

  • Warranty included
  • Two radios for one great price
  • Handheld mics included

Cons

  • Instructions are hard for absolute beginners to understand

3. HYS TC-5899 High Power Radio


Overall Rating:

5 / 5

Here we have the HYS-TC high power handhald ham radio which is a ten-watt radio complete with an excellent LCD display. The shell is nice and hard and will keep your radio in good shape even if it is accidentally dropped. 


You can operate this two-way radio at 10 watts, 5 watts, or 1 watt to conserve power. There are 128 memory channels in this great little radio, so wherever you roam, you can save the repeater for future use.

Pros

  • Lightweight and same size as a phone
  • Durable body
  • 1-year warranty

Cons

  • Antenna is low gain. Extra antenna not included

4. Baofeng UV- 5R5


Overall Rating:

4.5 / 5

The antenna is the key to hitting local repeaters where two-way ham operators gather and share information, and this radio has a high-gain model not found on other models by this brand. 


You can operate this Baofeng UV-5R5 on low or high power, depending on how close you are to the repeaters. It even has a flashlight included for added safety and long battery life.

Pros

  • Exceptional quality for the price
  • Different colors to choose from
  • Flashlight included

Cons

  • Programming this radio is difficult

5. TIDRADIO TD-F9GP


Overall Rating:

4.5 / 5

The TIDRADIO TD-F9GP Radio comes with all the accessories you could want, even an additional battery. It makes it very nice to take with you in a bug out bag or backpack. Like the other radios, you can operate simplex or on a repeater with this. 


There are 128 memory channels and an LED flashlight included. A longer, higher gain antenna is also included with the purchase, and with 8 watts of power, you can easily hit all your local repeaters and stay in the know.

Pros

  • Excellent starter kit for beginners
  • Can be programmed with CHIRP as a Baofeng BF8 -HP
  • Batteries last a long time.

Cons

  • Earpiece provided is rather weak sounding

6. Kenwood TH-D74A Triband Radio


Overall Rating:

4.5 / 5

It may be a radio only those in the HAM hobby may wish to purchase thanks to its large price tag. However, Kenwood is known for exceptional quality for a two-way radio. This unit has a GPS built-in, auto clock setting, and is good for multiple modes of radio such as APRS. 


This handheld ham radio is also weatherproof and features IF filtering for better receiving and transmission of CW, SSB, and AM. You can access FM, CB, AM, and of course, the two-meter band, which most beginner hams use to communicate locally. 


This radio is very advanced and is an excellent choice for those who are looking to get into HAM radio beyond a survivalist standpoint.

Pros

  • GPS functionality included
  • You can record conversations on an SD card
  • Bluetooth capable

Cons

  • The price is very high for most individuals

7. Yaesu FT-70DR


Overall Rating:

4.5 / 5

Yaesu FT-70DR is a radio engineered to guard against dust and water. It can transmit anywhere from 144-148 megahertz and430 to 450 megahertz also. This handheld ham radio also comes with a mini USB so you can easily keep track of the memory channels and update software as necessary. 


The stock antenna is not so great, so be ready to buy another if you would like to hit further away repeaters.  Programming software comes directly from Yaesu, or you can program without a computer (recommended, as outdoors, you won't have computer access).

Pros

  • Durable for outdoors use
  • Provides 5 watts of power
  • Programming is easy once you get the hang of it

Cons

  • Battery life is not so great-lower than some of the cheaper models we reviewed!

8. Alinco DJ-MD5GTP Dual Band DMR


Overall Rating:

4.5 / 5

The coolest thing about this Alinco handheld ham radio for survival is the vocoder, which helps you get crystal clear signals even in busy places like parks, construction sites, or events. 


The LCD display is brightly colored and easy to see in the dark. GPS positioning is included. There are 4000 memory channels, so you will never run out of room to store your favorites.

Pros

  • Stock antenna is very strong
  • Small, compact and easy to carry
  • 36-hour battery life on standby

Cons

  • The instruction manual does not teach you how to program it manually
  • The radio is not waterproof.

Buying Guide For Handheld Ham Radios

Handheld ham radio refers to a portable radio transceiver, it allows you to communicate with two different frequencies at the same time. The dual-band feature is great for communicating with other when you're on a solo mission or don't want to be heard by others.

They are the perfect communication tool for survival situations. How do you determined the best qualities for handheld ham radio, these are some of the factors to look out for:

Types of Radio Sets

There are 3 different types of radio sets: handheld radios, mobile units, and base stations. There main differences is how far they can transmit.

Handheld ham radios are for short distances, mobile units are great for distances up to 20 miles, and base stations are for long distance communication. You can always attach an antenna if you want to communicate long distances.

Programming

Some radios allow you to manually program through your device, which is usually helpful if you intend to utilize this frequently. If this interests you, we suggest you make sure the programming cable and keyboard's are intact.

Rechargeable Batteries

Handheld ham radios need to be recharged every few hours, which is why you should consider buying multiple batteries or look for one that provide you extras.

Instead of waiting for it to finish charging, you can easily swap it out and let the dead battery sit. Another option is to carry a few in your backpack, so you don't have to move back and forth.

Frequently Asked Questions About Handheld Ham Radios

Do you need a license for ham radio?

You need a FCC license for a ham radio in order to transmit frequencies in the US. However you don't need one to purchase or listen to.

How far will a handheld ham radio transmit?

A handheld ham radio will transmit 1-3 miles depending on the terrain. It will travel further and clearer on flat ground, vice versa.

Can a ham radio be traced?

A ham radio can be traced through direction finding because the amateur radio license are public records.

Bottom Line

Once you have gotten the hang of using and understanding how to use a handheld HAM radio, it becomes a skill that needs to be practice often. That way, it will always come in handy during a survival situation or even if you just like being prepared.

Our favorite option for overall use and functions for the best handheld ham radio for survival is the Baofeng UV- 5R5 because it is reasonably priced and will put you into contact with other local hams, all without spending a huge sum. Go check it out for yourself and get on the air!