Everyone who is prepping should be concerned about communications for a post-SHTF scenario.
After the SHTF it’s too late to decide that you want to learn about HAM communications.
Budget Ham Radio – BaoFeng UV-5R
I’ve been toying with budget ham radio (aka economic Chinese Radios). I own a handheld TYT UFV1 Dual Band radio which cost me around $115. It does have all the features that you find on other handheld radios that cost many hundreds of dollars and works like a champ, but $115 is still a decent wad of money for someone with a family.
Recently I started tinkering with the BaoFeng UV-5R Plus Dual-Band 136-174/400-480 MHz FM Ham Two-way Radio. This thing has all the features of the TYT for less than 1/2 the cost! That’s right, I got this radio for about $55 from Amazon.com. The prices have dropped down to the mid $30’s for these!
The Bands these cover (Not all of these are legal to broadcast on, but listening should be fine – see FCC Part 95 Rules)
- 2 Meter
- 70 cm
- FRS (Family Radio Service)
- GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service)
- MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service)
- Marine VHF
- Public service Frequencies
- NOAA Weather Band
- FM radio (listen only)
That is quite a list of frequencies.While it’s not legal to transmit on all these frequencies if your not a HAM or if the device isn’t approved on the FCC Part 95, that really won’t apply after SHTF. I’d take an FCC fine over death any day!
I have other radios (TYT UVF-1, Yeasu FT-7800R), but I always find myself reaching for my BaoFeng when it’s time to head out! I’ve added a few accessories to this great budget ham radio to make it even more awesome and versatile.
The 12v power adapter is essential. It plugs into your charging base for auto and mobile use.
There is another 12v solution, the Baofeng VPS-001 Vehicle Power Supply / Car Battery Eliminator, this swaps out with your battery, so you run your BaoFeng directly from your auto’s 12v current, allowing you to save your battery.
Lb-75n Battery Case, uses 6 AAA batteries to run your handheld, very nice, if you have rechargeable batteries!
Radio Battery Case for Baofeng, this one uses 6 AA batteries.
I’ve been testing out some aftermarket antennas, that really give my BaoFeng a nice boost in transmit and receive. Post on BaoFeng Antenna Upgrades.
I decided to expand the range and allow myself the ability to use this in my car. Sure it would have worked in my car using the rubbery ducky antenna, but a car is essentially a large metal box, not the greatest thing for radio waves.
Another cool thing I can do is use this without my car, by placing it on a large metal surface (cookie sheet) and use it for a “base station” antenna. I was able to hit a repeater (70cm band) about 25 miles away, without line of site. We’re talking hills and trees, and rain in my path.
Cable Adapter for external Antenna
I needed a way to connect the PL-259 connector to your SMA antenna connection on the BaoFeng, so I grabbed the Reverse SMA to “PL-259” Adapter Cable – Female/Female for Wouxun Baofeng. This is the one that fits perfectly on the BaeFeng.
Note: The TYT UVF1 uses the exact opposite, male SMA fitting (“SMA” to “PL-259” Adapter Cable).
Mobile Microphone for Auto use:
I was unsure of the quality of the BaoFeng UV-5R Plus Dual-Band 136-174/400-480 MHz FM Ham Two-way Radio, but after buying it and using it, I fell in love. I like it so much that I bought 2 more, just in case I dropped mine or it was stolen.
I mentioned this radio last night at a local Ham Club meeting and one of the other members pulled this exact radio out of his coat pocket to show everyone. They are gaining in popularity which means the price might start going up.
$55 to get some Ham experience is priceless in my mind!
I must be honest with our readers, there was a dual band, hand held, budget ham radio before the BaoFeng. It was the TYT TH-UVF1 and it’s a story worth telling.
Budget Ham Radio – TYT TH-UVF1
Before I owned a BaoFeng UV-5R Plus, I bought the TYT TH-UVF1. The TYT TH-UVF1 is a Handheld Deluxe VHF/UHF Dualband Amateur Radio (2M/70cm) Transceiver with a Twin Display. It also can put out a full 5W of power.
I still own this radio and I still use it daily. I am a little more careful with this one, because unlike the BaoFeng UV-5R Plus ($40ish), the TYT TH-UVF1 tips the dollar scale at a whopping $115 USD. This still falls into the range of the budget HAM radio, but as a prepper I like a bit of redundancy. For the price of 1 TYT TH-UFV1 I can have 2 BaoFeng radios.
Not to lessen this radio, it’s awesome, just like the BaoFeng and has a myriad of really cool accessories. It also comes standard with the 12v cable and the standard AC power cable, a nice perk.
One difference to note is that the SMA antenna connector is female on the TYT TH-UFV1, so if you want to connect to an external antenna (mobile or base station) you’d need a cable like this one: “SMA” to “PL-259” Adapter Cable.
The female SMA antenna connector also comes into play if you opt to purchase an aftermarket handheld antenna for this radio.
The TYT TH-UVF1 has a female antenna port, which means your antenna connection accessories must be SMA-Male!
- ExpertPower 14.4″ Dual Band Two-way Radio Antenna SMA-Male for a great increase in
distance for transmit and receive.
- ExpertPower 7.56″ Dual Band Two-way Radio Antenna SMA-Male
- “SMA” to “PL-259” Adapter Cable – For connecting to base station antennas or mobile antennas.
This radio suffers from horrible documentation. The translation from Chinese to English is terrible. Luckily there is a TYT TH-UVF1 Manual Wiki page, written by some enterprising owners of these handy radios, that can help you with the basics of programming.
There is also a handy and Foldable pocket reference pdf you can download and print out. I have mine folded, and taped into a nice little package that I can stick in my wallet or backpack for quick reference.
I’ve used this radio for a couple years now and really liked it. I’ve used it many times to check in on “nets” and talk to other HAMS via repeaters. The only issue for me is that the economy price of the BaeFeng makes me worry less about breaking it, so it get’s tossed in my backpack and the car much more often. If you want something a tad larger than the BaoFeng and don’t mind spending a few more bucks jump on one of these TYT TH-UVF1‘s.
Links to help you get up to speed on Budget Ham Radio Gear: