Best Handheld Ham Radio


Are you on the lookout for a reliable handheld ham radio that serves your communication needs, whether you’re an amateur radio enthusiast or a professional in the field? A handheld ham radio is not just a tool for hobbyists to chat over the airwaves; it’s a lifeline for many involved in search and rescue operations or those who love to remain connected while exploring off the grid.

Our Top Picks

Our #1 Top Pick: Yaesu FT-60R Dual Band Handheld 5W VHF / UHF Amateur Radio Transceiver

The Yaesu FT-60R is a sturdy and user-friendly handheld transceiver that offers excellent performance. With its dual-band VHF/UHF capability, you can stay connected on both frequency ranges, which is an admirable feature for amateur radio operators. Its robust frame can withstand rough outdoor use, and the 1400mAh battery provides sufficient power for extended communication sessions. The backlit LCD display and keypad allow for easy operation in low-light conditions, and the Emergency Automatic Identification (EAI) feature can be a lifesaver in critical situations.

Pick #2: Kenwood TH-D74A

The Kenwood TH-D74A takes handheld ham radios to the next level with its multi-mode functionality. It’s not just an analog radio; this device also features D-Star and APRS compatibility for digital communications, which can be essential for users who need to send data such as GPS coordinates. The color TFT display is an attractive addition that makes navigation through various features easier. With a IP54/55 weatherproof rating, it holds its own against the elements. The TH-D74A is well-suited for aficionados seeking cutting-edge technology and extensive capabilities.

Pick #3: BaoFeng UV-5R

When budget is a key consideration, the BaoFeng UV-5R emerges as a top choice. This affordable two-way radio covers a wide frequency range and offers features usually found in more expensive models, such as dual-band display, dual-frequency display, and dual-standby. Its compact size means it’s incredibly portable, and with the right programming, it becomes a highly versatile tool. For beginners or those who need multiple units without breaking the bank, the UV-5R is a sound investment.

Pick #4: Icom IC-7300

The Icom IC-7300 is a more advanced option, designed for users who want a mix of traditional and modern in their ham handheld radio. It boasts a high-performance RF direct sampling system and a real-time spectrum scope, leading to a more effective and enjoyable experience. Suitable for both experienced users and newcomers who are serious about the hobby, the IC-7300 offers a tactile response with its touch screen interface, which is quite intuitive once you get used to it.

Pick #5: AnyTone AT-D878UV

For those looking to break into the world of digital communications, the AnyTone AT-D878UV is an excellent choice. As a dual-band digital/analog radio, it allows users to operate in both modes, ensuring a wide breadth of communication methods. It features a GPS built-in, a large color display, and programming capabilities that cater to even the most demanding user. Though it may have a steeper learning curve, the AT-D878UV is a sound investment for committed ham radio operators.

What to Know Before You Buy

  • License Requirements: Before purchasing a handheld ham radio, it is important to understand that operating these devices often requires a license. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandates that users pass an examination to obtain this license.
  • Frequency Bands: Ham radios come in a variety of frequency bands, commonly designated as HF, VHF, or UHF. Each band has its characteristics and uses, which can influence your choice depending on the type of communication you intend to perform.
  • Battery Life: Battery life can greatly impact the portability and usability of a handheld ham radio. Look for models with a good balance of power and energy efficiency to ensure long operating times.
  • Antenna Quality: An effective antenna is crucial for good reception and transmission. Some stock antennas may require upgrades for optimal performance, especially if you need extended range or are dealing with challenging terrain.
  • Durability and Waterproofing: If you plan to use your radio in various outdoor environments, you’ll want one that can resist the elements, manifested in ratings like IP65 or IP67. Rugged construction is key for longevity.

Factors to Consider Before Buying

  • Intended Use: Will the radio be used for casual conversation, emergency communication, or something else? The intended use can dictate the features you should prioritize, such as GPS, weather resistance, and range capabilities.
  • Size and Weight: A handheld radio should be comfortable to carry and hold. Larger radios may offer more features but consider how the size will affect its portability and how you intend to carry it.
  • Memory Channels: More memory channels mean you can program and store more frequencies for quick access. This is particularly useful if you monitor or communicate across various channels regularly.
  • Power Output: More power generally means greater range, but also results in shorter battery life. If you need to communicate over longer distances, a higher power output may be necessary.
  • Accessories: Available accessories can enhance your radio’s functionality. Options like extra batteries, better antennas, and compatible headsets can make a significant difference in your experience.

Why Trust ChooseRight?

Here at ChooseRight, we’ve painstakingly reviewed a multitude of handheld ham radios. We understand that proper communication equipment can be critical, and that’s why we’ve dedicated hours to researching products, poring over thousands of customer reviews, and soliciting feedback from seasoned professionals. Our goal is to provide you with the most reliable and current information, so you can make an informed choice that aligns with your communication needs and preferences.

Finishing Thoughts

Selecting the best handheld ham radio is a personal decision that hinges on many factors, from the user’s level of experience to the specific requirements of their communication endeavors. Whether it’s the durable Yaesu FT-60R or the budget-friendly BaoFeng UV-5R, each option on our list has been chosen for its merits and value to different users. By considering what to know before you buy and the factors to consider, along with trusting the thorough vetting process from ChooseRight, you can feel confident in making a selection that will keep you connected when it matters most.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a handheld ham radio?

A handheld ham radio, also known as a handheld transceiver or an HT, is a portable device that amateur radio operators use to communicate via radio waves. These devices are small, battery-operated, and can often fit in a pocket or clip onto a belt.

Why would I need a handheld ham radio?

Handheld ham radios are a popular choice for amateur radio enthusiasts who want to communicate while on the move. They are also useful in emergency situations when other forms of communication are unavailable. Outdoor enthusiasts, such as hikers and campers, also use them to keep in touch with others while off the grid.

Do I need a license to operate a handheld ham radio?

Yes, in most countries you are required to have an amateur radio license to legally operate a handheld ham radio. Licensing involves passing an examination that proves you have a basic understanding of radio theory, regulations, and operating practices.

What should I look for in the best handheld ham radio?

When searching for the best handheld ham radio, consider factors such as frequency range, power output, battery life, durability, ease of use, and available features like GPS, water resistance, and emergency alerts. Your specific needs—whether for casual communication, emergency preparedness, or hobbyist activities—will determine which features are most important to you.

Can I communicate internationally with a handheld ham radio?

While handheld ham radios are primarily designed for local and regional communication, it is possible to reach international distances under certain conditions, such as through linked repeater systems or by taking advantage of atmospheric conditions that extend the range of radio waves.

How do I choose the right antenna for my handheld ham radio?

The antenna is one of the most critical components for improving the performance of your handheld ham radio. Choose an antenna that’s compatible with your radio’s frequency range and intended use. Upgrading to a higher-gain antenna can significantly improve your radio’s ability to transmit and receive signals.

Are handheld ham radios expensive?

The cost of handheld ham radios can vary widely based on features, brand, and quality. Basic models may be quite affordable, while those with advanced capabilities can be more expensive. For most hobbyists, a mid-range radio offers a good balance between cost and functionality.

Is it difficult to program a handheld ham radio?

Programming a handheld ham radio can be a straightforward process, especially on modern radios with user-friendly interfaces. Some radios can be programmed manually, while others may require software and a connection to a computer. The ease of programming often depends on the complexity of the radio and the user’s familiarity with radio operation.

What is the typical range of a handheld ham radio?

The range of a handheld ham radio can vary from a few miles to tens of miles, depending on various factors such as the radio’s power output, antenna efficiency, geographic terrain, and atmospheric conditions. Using repeaters can extend the range significantly.

Is there a difference between dual-band and tri-band handheld ham radios?

Yes, dual-band handheld ham radios typically support two frequency bands, commonly 2 meters (144-148 MHz) and 70 centimeters (420-450 MHz), while tri-band radios include an additional band like 1.25 meters (220-225 MHz) or others depending on the specific model. The choice between the two will depend on the bands you plan to access regularly.

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