Ham radio recommendations & hatting refs, Steve Szmidt & Bruce Saliga

Comm from Steve Szmidt (and Bruce Saliga, below) June 10-12, 2015 regarding recommended ham radios:

(please excuse odd paragraph breaking from cut-and-pasting into WordPress!)

Although it’s easy to say buy this and this, that is not really the best way; there are a lot of details. I, for example, recommend a radio which tells me before battery is used up so that I have predict. That so far appear to only be available on one radio. But you can always buy a couple or a few. Pretty much all disaster work is done on HAM radio (not on Citizen Band). This is where you find “networks” which forwards communication between each other cross country to the final recipient.

There is a certain etiquette and manners, but you learn that when you study your license provided you buy the highly recommended License Manual from ARRL, the national association for amateur radio. It only cost $30. (www.amazon.com/The-ARRL-Radio-License-Manual/dp/1625950136 )


And tests are available from clubs all around the country, usually for $35. Then you listen to how others operate and follow the lead.

Without a ham radio license you are allowed to own and listen to the radio but not transmit. Here are primary links to learn, I recommend watching the videos first:

Technician’s license: http://dcasler.com/ham-radio/training/

(General license: http://dcasler.com/ham-radio/general/ )

Then test yourself with either or both of these: http://www.eham.net/exams/


Your starter license is Technician, which sounds counter intuitive but that’s what it is called. Next you can move up to General and then to Extra. To operate on 144/440 and up you need the Technician, the lower frequencies require a General license.

This means you are not going to be able to reach cross country, in fact 5W only give you a couple of miles standing on the surface, unless you have water in front of you. A $100 chimney antenna can boost that to 30+ miles depending on your conditions. A walkie talkie is on 29MHz can in theory reach further than the higher frequencies. But higher ones, such as UHF (440) can go through buildings better. And sometimes live use does not agree with theory.

Ideally you want to be able to reach each other directly without any intermediate via, such as a repeater, which extends the range according to how that is set up. Could be in a really tall tower with amazing range. Then you might have a situation where many repeaters a linked further extending your range. I’m sure that’s the case in LA.


But know this, if power goes these repeaters are likely to be down as well. This is why you really want to have enough range to reach your people without the repeaters. Then when you get a bug out location that is self sufficient you can coordinate between each ther. And the citizen band is filled with all sorts of idiots. At least you can expect to have a bit of a selection on HAM frequencies.


(question: Is CPG still recommending and using this one, posted on the site awhile ago? )

(Baofeng *GT-3 MarkII* V/UHF 136-174/4​​00-520MHz Ham Two-way Radio Walkie Talkie


Actually there are any number of models, the Chinese are cheaper and of course lower quality but well worth a few tens of dollars. There are various little things that differs between them such as the only one that actually reports battery power is a Pofung UV-82 and it verbally warns you that you are running low. Baofeng and Pofung are the same company. The biggest and longest selling radio is the Baofeng UV-5R and there is a 8W model BaoFeng BF-F8HP for around $70. You can also get a bigger battery for it to get an extended lifespan.


iSaddle BAOFENG Dual Band UHF/VHF Radio Transceiver W/Upgrade Version 3800mah Battery With Earpiece $36 (includes extended battery & earpiece)



BaoFeng UV5R Dual-Band Two-Way Radio, Black $27 (same as above without the extended battery & earpiece)



BaoFeng BF-F8HP ( dual band) $63


Some have the zero button on the right instead of below the 8.
Many have smaller speakers and it can be hard to understand. The UV-82 has a bit bigger speaker, but you can also solve that by having an external microphone (with a larger speaker in it of course). The display is pretty small but the Wouxun KG-UV8D has a larger one that is much easier to read.


Most are able to listen to two bands (144 & 440Mhz) at the same time and play back the one which receives a signal first. All of these cheap radios are software defined radios, which means software defines most of the things of how they operate. Compared to a more traditional radio that is mostly built to work in a certain way because of the parts and does not depend much on software. It is not a factor in your choice but that is how come they are so cheap. Various things on them can break, but at that price… In deciding which is best for you it really comes down to priorities:


Need big display, then Wouxun KG-UV8D.

Wouxun KG-UV8D Two Way Radio (dual band, Cross-band Repeat) $124


Prefer being able to tell that your battery is running low rather than it just dying on you? Pofung UV-82.

2 X Pofung UV-82 (Black) Two-Way Radio(2 pack) $63



apparently same as

Baofeng UV-82 (Black) Two-Way Radio (dual band) $30 (for one)


Prefer 8W over the normal 5W, which does extend your range a bit, though generally you 4x power to double the range.


All of these radios can be programmed by free software such as Chirp, if you want to. We have defined certain frequencies and program our radios after the same model.


re the Baofeng *GT-3 MarkII* V/UHF 136-174/4​​00-520MHz Ham Two-way Radio Walkie Talkie $50 (posted on the website awhile back), I can’t say that there’s a reason for it not to be a recommended one. (Baofeng and Pofung is the same company, btw.)


Which one does not really matter, they are dead cheap and you can simply just buy another if you are not happy. And I think you should get more than one. What probably needs to happen is that a group who have some radios between them and let each person see what works best for them visa vie small keys, small display etc.


There may very well be some models that managed to have all the wrong features and would be less desirable than others but I believe it does not matter a whole lot which one you get. The reality is that you are looking at buying a pretty technical tool that is sold at a bottom price point. High quality is not going to be the mainstay. The manufactures are trying to move volume, and are cutting corners to compete with each other. Volume controls, and components in general, will vary in quality probably all the time. Just based on statistics of products from China.


What you want us to “recommend” is a moving target. When you read reviews you see that people have all sorts of interesting problems. A person needs to make an educated decision based on the options and be aware of the potentials. To keep things simple, above are some currently suggested models. But others may work just as well or better. To look for quality you go with a company such as Kenwood who might be the company to beat. But your price instantly jumps to $300+. Now you get military spec radios.
The next step up from a hand held would be a decent radio that can be used in a car, or as a base.


For that I think the very best choice is the Kenwood TM-V71A typically retailing around $360. It has 50W, covers both bands and is very friendly to operate. Being a Kenwood it is a high quality item. Moving up from there you start looking at lower frequencies from 50MHz down, which carry much much further. In fact you could go worldwide with them. For such a radio you need to start looking around $750-1,000 for cheaper stuff and of course it goes way up to really nice equipment.

Just to give you a bit of an orientation. Roughly speaking antennas range from $10 in parts if you learn how, to $100 to 300 to $600 as you start covering more and more bands.



I know the above seems like a long winded reply to what really was desired to ideally be a single line. However, long before typing the reply up I had evaluated the complexities and practicalities of educating others on radios. It’s true that it’s nice to be able to only know a single thing that you do without having to understand what you are doing. It is however not very practical, indeed you will have a hard time with anything technical including auditing without the background to have a concept of what you are doing. Which I know you all already know. This includes pretty much operating anything technical. My goal is not to get you to become technical but have just enough KRC to be able to function independently without hand holding. Since it’s easy to get into that situation. Finally, there is no single optimum radio in this price class. Does not exist.




The hand held radios all look similar and work similar. Minor differences. An hour or two and you know what you are doing. It’s then easy to switch and learn another with just a simple inspection. (When you look at a new subject it of course requires confront to get started, and you need to get over that hump. My long write-up gives a decent overview of the playing field. And it’s not actually that much.)




What is the purpose with the radio? To facilitate communication under dire conditions. Who wants to approach this vital tool without a good enough understanding to use it properly? I chose a radio based on predictable availability. I need to know ahead of time that my radio is not going to be usable, to allow me to take counter measures such as notifying others who might be depending on me that I will have to change batteries, radio or what have you. Most of these radio’s have three bars to indicate battery life. Except they are not three separate bars but a single image with three bars on it. And it simply goes from three full bars to none and your radio is dead just like that. And you may not even notice when it does if it is just sitting there and you are waiting for a message to come in. The Pofung UV-82 not only give three working bars but also audible warnings in good time to take action. That is a pretty important feature in emergency conditions.


At this point each one of us already have different models. If you have poor eyesight and the normal radios are illegible then you cannot pick “my” radio. You will need to go with the Wouxun KG-UV8D.

Wouxun KG-UV8D Two Way Radio (dual band, Cross-band Repeat) $124


While on the road, coordinating over the radio might become critical, here the stronger transmitter of the BaoFeng BF-F8HP *might* be critical as well. BaoFeng BF-F8HP ( dual band) $63



As you can see in this price class you cannot say we only recommend this one model. Ideally we all have 2-3 of them for redundancy and applicability.


Then a stronger one for the car, which can also be a relay point for when you are out of the car on a hand held. The car can use its stronger transmitter to relay your weaker signal from the hand held that would not be reachable from the hand held.


Batteries vary as well. One won’t fit the other. However there’s a simple solution to that. Spare batteries are available for all models as far as I can tell. Utility power is likely to be sparse or not at all available, thus solar power from small foldable solar cells can provide that power. And those could easily be made to work for all.


I will put together a complete list of all the little extras that can interact with any radio.

Steve Szmidt

Community Preparedness Group

From Bruce Saliga, CPGI


In my opinion, for those who are new or are just getting into the HAM game, it is best to take things on a gradient. And the first radio one buys does not have to be the one and only radio they ever buy. In fact, HAMs rarely have just one radio. They have different radios to use depending on the circumstances. To the point, I recommend low cost and simplicity for new or soon to be Technician licensed HAMs.
And the Baefeng UV-5R at $30 is hard to beat. Low cost, compatibility with extended battery packs and other options (antennas, hand-held microphones, earplug-microphones etc.) And if something happens to it, no big loss, buy another! (I have five I bought in bulk from Amazon along with lots of options.)


iSaddle BAOFENG Dual Band UHF/VHF Radio Transceiver W/Upgrade Version 3800mah Battery With Earpiece $36 (includes extended battery & earpiece)



Same as BaoFeng UV5R Dual-Band Two-Way Radio, Black $27, but this one doesn’t have the extended battery and earpiece:


The 8 watt version is good too, but it is designed slightly differently and I believe it is not compatible with the extended battery pack. So not quite the battery life you can get with the UV-5R with the extended battery pack. And a nice thing about the extended battery pack on the

UV-5R is that because it is longer, it makes the radio even easier to grab and hold on to (IMO). I prefer it to the shorter battery pack. And later on, once a new HAM gets familiar with the hand-held radio and functionality, they can purchase another car mobile or desktop HAM radios to use. These are more expensive ($300 to $2000), but they provide much more functionality across a wider range of radio frequencies. So I suggest (1) start with a “Handi-talkie” (HT) hand-held radio, (2) then later on, after a bit of experience using the HT, consider a car mobile radio and/or (3) then consider a desktop HAM radio “rig”.
Regards, Bruce

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Categories: 1-Communications Devices.