When disaster strikes, essential services like the internet and phone network are usually overloaded. With the 911 line overloaded and the possibility of extended power outages in some areas, how do you communicate?

If you are someone who likes preparing for the worst, you will be better off using the best handheld Ham Radio available for effective communication at all times.

This device can be extremely useful in times of emergency and even when all the systems fail, you can rest assured to keep in touch with the rest of the world.

Want to know how to get your hands on one? Read on to find out.

Top Survival Ham Radios in 2020

This guide is aimed at making things easier for you when it comes to picking the perfect ham radio.

In that regard, we have compiled a list of the top-rated handheld ham radios in the market today. This should help you make a wise and informed choice.

Product Name

Price

Rating


Whistler WS1040

$$$

Baofeng

$$

Greaval

$

Yaesu Dual-Band

$$

Yaesu Tri-Band

$$$

AnyTone

$$$

TYT MD-380

$$

Icom ID-51A

$$$

Baofeng Mirkit

$$

Kenwood TH-D74A

$$$$

1. Whistler WS1040

This is a lovely mid-range digital scanner that’s loved by advanced users and newbies alike. One thing we adore about it is that it provides a generous storage capacity all thanks to its dynamic storage options


Moving on swiftly, this device is quite compact and highly portable. Its LCD screen and keypad are backlit for ease of use even in dimly lit conditions.


On top of that, the WS1040 provides you with a 25 to 1300 MHz coverage. And since it detects signals in DCS, AM, FM, CTCSS, P25, and NFM, you can bank on it to provide you with a wide range of channels.

Pros

  • User friendly
  • Portable
  • Impressive battery life

Cons

  • Bulkier than other popular Ham radios

2. Baofeng

Wouldn’t it be great if you could monitor two channels at the same time? Well, this is what the Baofeng UV-5R upgraded radio offers.


With this device, you get a pretty decent battery life all thanks to its 2000MaH power storage capacity.


Plus, thanks to its dual band functionality, you can use it to operate in different frequency bands. That equals more convenience and reliability.


To top it all up, this radio from Baofeng is quite easy to program all thanks to its user-friendly menu function and computerized programmability. 

Pros

  • Power saving function
  • Voice command
  • Easy to program

Cons

  • Wish the battery could last a little longer

3. Greaval

You will appreciate that this particular ham radio is easily programmable. This means that you can use either the programming cable or keypad to set up radio frequencies to match your needs.


Besides that, it also comes with an extra back-up battery which can come in handy during periods of extended power blackout.


On top of that, this ham radio comes with a soft flexible antenna that can endure much more roughness than a stock antenna can. What’s more? It does all that while significantly stabilizing your radio’s signal no matter the prevailing conditions.

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • Lightweight
  • Extra batteries for backup

Cons

  • Radio frequencies do not cover all fire and police agencies

4. Yaesu Dual Band

This Yaesu ham radio is among the best portable radios for beginners with its output of 5 watts. Its battery comes with a capacity of around 2200mAh which means that you get to spend less time charging the device, and more time using it.


It also comes with a built-in antenna that has a superb GPS receiver. You never have to worry even if you get lost if you happen to own this particular radio.


Its GPS not only avails APRS information, it also provides your location in real time. Along with that, this device comes with a tiny camera positioned close to the microphone. This allows you to take snapshots for future use.


The only thing you may dislike about this device is that it does not support FM radio transmission.

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Great battery life
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Does not allow FM radio broadcasting

5. Yaesu Tri-Band

The first thing you want to know about this ham radio is that it is user friendly. Plus, it boasts a total of about 900 alphanumeric memory channels and an output of 5 watts.


We are sure that you will also appreciate the fact that it comes with wide receiver capabilities and a triple band functionality. With it, you can transmit in 144, 220 and even 430Mhz frequency bands.


Other features you will get to enjoy when you purchase this device are a weather alert system and its waterproof abilities.


However, its keypad is a tad bit smaller and this may put some people off.

Pros

  • A high-quality wide receiver
  • The battery performance is not so bad
  • It is easy to program

Cons

  • The keypad is a bit too small 

6. AnyTone D878UV

If user-friendliness is your top priority, this ham radio from AnyTone might be worth checking out. It can be programmed both from its user-menu and through any Windows computer.


What’s more, this ham radio works quite well with both the UHF and VHF bands. As such, it can accommodate more than 4000 channels.


We also like the fact that it’s compact and rugged. Its screen might seem too small at first but it somehow is user-friendly and all its text is easy to read.


And to top it all up, you get an optional GPS functionality which can come in handy when you find yourself in remote areas.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Easy to use
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Not Compatible with CHIRP and RT systems software.

7. TYT MD-380

The TYT MD-380 digital radio comes with a single band combined with dual mode capability. Its receiver is among the most sensitive ones on the markets currently.


It has high-quality audio compared to similar devices with incredible frequency response. That said, the unique thing about this device is its multi-color display with impressive resolution.


Its speaker is not only clear, it is loud enough as well and is driven by 5-watt transmitter that is more than enough.


You will also appreciate that this device is programmable hence allowing you to scan all available channels.

Pros

  • Portable
  • Impressive battery
  • User friendly

Cons

  • Not as advanced

8. Icom ID-51A

The Icom ID-51A is a portable ham radio that features built-in GPS for precise geo-location. It can also store up to 1304 channels.


The device has a maximum power output of 5.5 watts that supports dual band frequencies. It comes with four different power output modes. 


We are certain that you will love the radio’s large LCD display that can only be compared with that of a mobile phone.


The device is IPX7 rated. What does that mean? Simply that the radio will not die on you even if exposed to water.


This radio’s digital mode functions under the D-star protocol and as you can imagine, digital ham radios come with numerous advantages over analog ones. However, this device does not support GSM.

Pros

  • Great audio quality
  • Comes with GPS
  • Portable

Cons

  • Does not support GSM

9. Baofeng MirKit

Most people who have purchased this radio agree that it delivers a lot for its price. Perfect for your ham collection or even for the bug-out bag, this tiny HT comes with more power than most of its counterparts.


You may have to put in more effort to learn how to program manually with the keypad but you will surely reap the benefits once you master the art.


That said; you need to keep in mind that it is illegal to use this radio without a technician license from the FCC. It also covers illegal frequencies to all apart from Aviators.


You can listen to airband but never transmit on it because you will in trouble with the law. This device does not come with earphones though so you have to buy separately if you need a pair.

Pros

  • Decent battery life
  • Great sound quality
  • Large LCD display

Cons

  • Does not come with earphones

10. Kenwood Original TH-D74A 

Kenwood TH-D74A fulfills APRS standards for GPS communication. This portable ham radio is capable of exchanging real-time GPS data. 


What you will love most about this radio is that it supports both digital and analog modes. It utilizes D-STAR protocol to broadcast digital signals. Of course, digital radios come with better performance when it comes to audio quality.


Besides, it supports data export and import as well as PC decoding. That said, this device is quite costly and that may turn some people off.

Pros

  • User friendly
  • Bluetooth
  • GPS

Cons

  • Quite costly

Handheld Ham Radio Buying Guide For Beginners

As you prepare to purchase the most suitable portable ham radio, there are some serious features you need to consider such as:

1. Dual Band

If you are one of those people who would like to monitor two different frequencies at the same time, you will appreciate this feature. 

Dual band makes it easy when it comes to choosing the frequency you want to broadcast on. However, you should examine the antenna that comes with your device carefully.

While authentic antennas present no problems, the ones that come with ham radios are sometimes incompatible with the dual-band function.

2. Manual or Automatic Programming

As you decide on which ham radio to purchase, you should find out whether the one you want is programmed through software or manually.

If it is programmed via software, you want to ensure that it comes with a programming cable that functions properly.

For manual programming, ensure that a functional keyboard is available.

3. Battery Life

Just like any electric device, ham radios run out of power after several hours of use. In that regard, you want to get one that can be recharged or one that comes with additional back up batteries.

Even with that, you want your radio to come with a battery that will give you a decent amount of use before the battery requires replacing or recharging.

5. User Friendliness

Simply put, you want to get a ham radio with an easy to understand manual. This will come in handy when the device is new and you have not mastered everything about operating it.

You need to be able to go through your manual within the shortest time possible and understand its content any time you need to refer to it.

6. Audio Quality

Sometimes the state of the environment directly affects the audio quality of ham radios. This is particularly true if you will be listening to your radio in a busy street or a noisy market because you will be unable to hear whatever is being said.

For that reason, it is imperative to get a radio with a quality speaker and an earphone slot. This will come in handy when you are in a noisy place because you can simply plug your earphones and shut external noises out.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We believe you may have a few questions you want answered on this topic. However, we cannot address all of them here.

We have tackled a few below that may be of help.

How much does a ham radio cost?

The price of a handheld ham radio is determined by two factors. First, you have to consider the fees you will pay to get a license and this is set and paid to the volunteer examiner coordinator.

Although the amount is usually not much, you have to factor this in. Sometimes, the VEC will not even require you to pay anything.

Once you are done with that, you want to list the features you want in a radio and pick one based on your budget.

That said; you can get a ham radio for as low as $23.

Do I require a license to operate a ham radio?

You do not need a license to buy a ham radio or to monitor and listen to the numerous amateur radio frequencies.

However, you will need licensing from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to broadcast on unprofessional radio frequencies in the USA.

Licenses come in three levels for amateurs and you simply need to pass simple multi-choice questions to get yours.

Final Thoughts

A top pick in this list would have to be the Whistler WS1040 - Handheld Scanner Radio. We picked it because it is user friendly and perfect for beginners.

The device comes with an impressive battery life that will give you ample run time before running out of power and it is affordable which means it can fit many budgets.

As you can see, it is important to pick a portable ham radio that meets your expectations and fits your budget as well. We have done our part by putting this guide together, and it is now up to you to make the right choice.