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Best Handheld Ham Radio Units

Finding the best handheld ham radio isn’t as easy as you might think. You can’t take a cookie cutter approach to this one. There is no such thing as a ham radio that fits every need or occasion.

best handheld ham radio

Some need one for the outdoors, while others need one for indoor use. Some handhelds are best suited for beginners, while others are for more advanced hams. The best unit is the one that suits your specific needs.

Our list below includes some of the best hand held ham radios for beginners, advanced users, outdoorsmen, hunters, premium users, and for people on a budget.

Note that our list below is not arranged in any particular order.

BaoFeng BF-F8HP Dual Band Two-Way Radio

(Best option for under $100)

BaoFeng is another popular name in this industry and it is a huge competitor to the Yaesu brand. The BF-F8HP is arguably one of the best handheld units under $100.

Some might claim that this is the most powerful handheld, but there are those who will be quick to disagree. But for the price, you get a lot of powerful features for this BaoFeng model.

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • Monitors and transmits on all business bands, marine, FRS, and GMRS
  • Features an upgraded chipset
  • Comes with one of the best antennas on the market to date
  • Good sound quality
  • Decent reception

Cons

  • Increasing the power output on this device will not make any noticeable difference so don’t bother.
  • If you want to configure the BF-F8HP, you will have to connect it to a computer using a USB cable.
Sale
BAOFENG BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio (136-174MHz VHF & 400-520MHz UHF) Includes Full Kit with Large Battery
10,109 Reviews
BAOFENG BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio (136-174MHz VHF & 400-520MHz UHF) Includes Full Kit with Large Battery
  • Upgrades from our Previous Generation UV-5R: Twice the Output Power (8 watts up from 4 watts output), New Hardened Durable Radio Shell, 30% Larger Battery, V-85 High Gain Antenna (Twice the Antenna Performance), USA Support + In-depth User Guide Included; A PC03 FTDI Programming Cable is Recommended for Easier PC Programming
  • High / Med / Low Power Settings (8W, 4W, 1W); Frequency Range: VHF: 136-174 MHz(Rx/Tx). UHF: 400-520 MHz(Rx/Tx); Broad (Wide) / Narrowband (Narrow) Selectable
  • The BF-F8HP was designed in the USA and because not everyone is a radio-expert we really wanted to focus on providing an easier user experience! That starts with the new in-depth manual that guides you through the capabilities and customization of the BF-F8HP. On top of that the BF-F8HP also includes exclusive concierge customer help and warranty support. This concierge service is only available on select BaoFeng models such as the BF-F8HP, UV-82HP, and UV-5X3
  • Kit Includes: BF-F8HP, 2100mAh Battery, V-85 Dual Band Antenna, CH-5 Charger, CH-5 110V Adapter, Earpiece Kit, Wrist Strap, Belt Clip, User Manual
  • BTECH is proud to be in the USA, which allows you to have the best available local support for any issue that may arise. BTECH only engineers and develops radio products. That brand focus allows you to have the best available radios and accessories with the most features, with real USA warranty and support.

Last update on 2021-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

BaoFeng UV-5RA

(Best budget option for amateur radio)

If you’re a bit tight on the budget, then the UV-5RA might be a good option for you. It has a good radio frequencies range (136–174 MHz, 400–520 MHz). It also has IP57 weather proofing.

It has an output range of 1 or 4 watts, which is moderately powerful. It comes with a built in LED flashlight and emergency alerts, which comes in handy when you’re outdoors. But you may have a slight problem with the battery life since it is equipped with a 1,800 mAh battery.

Pros

  • A capable radio in its price range
  • It is compatible with amateur radio frequencies

Cons

  • Note that this unit is more like a short range radio.
  • Doesn’t offer drop resistance and waterproofing isn’t reliable

Kenwood Original TH-D74A

(Best premium brand handheld ham radio)

If you have money to burn and you really want one of the best handheld ham radios in the premium range, then the Kenwood Original TH-D74A might just be a good fit for you.

It is built for durability (great for outdoors) and features built in Bluetooth and GPS support. We also love the high-performance DSP voice processing. On top of that it is very easy to operate even if you’re a beginner.

Pros

  • Weather proof
  • Software is easy to use
  • ARS compatibility
  • Great battery life
  • Comes with a large color display
  • D-STAR features
  • Well-structured menu and easy configuration options

Cons

  • The cost—be ready to spend some serious cash
  • Bulky design
  • The user’s manual is confusing (you’re better off watching tutorial videos on the internet).
Kenwood Original TH-D74A 144/220/430 MHz Triband with Ultimate in APRS and D-Star Performance (Digital) Handheld Transceiver - 5W
128 Reviews
Kenwood Original TH-D74A 144/220/430 MHz Triband with Ultimate in APRS and D-Star Performance (Digital) Handheld Transceiver - 5W
  • APRS compliance using packet communication to exchange real-time GPS position information and messages Compliant with digital/voice mode D-STAR digital amateur radio networks
  • Built-in high performance GPS unit with Auto Clock Setting Wide-band and multi-mode reception 1.74” (240 x 180 pixel) Transflective color TFT display
  • IF Filtering for improved SSB/CW/AM reception High performance DSP-based audio processing & voice recording Compliant with Bluetooth, microSD & Micro-USB standards
  • External Decode function (PC Decode 12kHz IF Output, BW:15 kHz) Command / Control Protocol (ARFC, PC, Smartphone) Data Import / Export, (Digital Repeater List, Call sign, Memory Channel)
  • Four TX Power selections (5/2/0.5/0.05 W) Weatherproof IP54/55 standards

Last update on 2021-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Yaesu FT-60R Dual Band Handheld Ham Radio

(One of the best budget outdoor ham radios)

If you’re looking for a unit that is easier on the budget and is great for the outdoors or for survival scenarios, then the Yaesu FT-60R might suit your fancy. It is compact and light, plus it features good battery life, which are essential features for any outdoorsman.

Note that this is a dual band and both bands have 5 watts output. This is a great unit for people who have disabilities. This is due to the Emergency Automatic Identification Feature.

At 144/430 MHz, it easily covers a wide area. It is also password protected so that no one can just pick it up and use it. This unit is also very easy to program and use.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Very easy to program—you don’t need a complex program and a computer to set it up
  • Even if you put it on low or medium power settings, this ham radio still has a pretty good range
  • Very good battery life

Cons

  • Doesn’t have a memory mode
  • You need to get a better replacement antenna if you want to give this radio a boost

BaoFeng UV-5R

(One of the best budget options for beginners)

This dual band handheld BaoFeng is one of the best if you’re looking for models that are rather inexpensive. Yes, it is slightly different from the UV-5RA mentioned above. The UV-5R is pretty popular, especially for beginners and amateurs. It is one of the first handhelds that people have ever owned.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • It has a good 5 to 15 mile frequency range
  • Interface is basic and the unit is very easy to program
  • It comes with a proprietary software that helps you setup your handheld rather easily
  • Supports group tones
  • Features a dual watch receiver
  • There’s plenty of help available in case you’re just starting out and you want to learn how to use the UV-5R
  • Comes with an FM radio

Cons

  • This unit is very commonplace that other users who also own it may cause interference.
  • Channel selection is slow.
  • No copy memory channel
  • Scanning is also a bit slow.

Yaesu VX-6R

(Best suited for outdoorsmen)

The VX-6R is a tri-band receiver and it can also transmit on three ham radio bands. It can listen to every frequency within the range of 0.5 to 999 MHz. It also transmits to 144, 220, and 440 MHz.

This is probably the best handheld ham radio for the outdoors and for hunting. It is durable, water proof, and submersible. It can be submerged in 3 meters of water for 30 minutes, and it will still work after. The emergency automatic identification (EAI) feature allows other hams to trigger your radio and it will automatically transmit your call sign.

Pros

  • Very wide range
  • EAI feature is very useful when you’re outdoors and your hands are busy

Cons

  • The Yaesu VX-6R has a complicated menu, which is not suited for beginners since it can be quite confusing

Tytera TYT MD-380 DMR

(Best indoor use ham radio)

The VX-6R mentioned above is more for experienced users. But if you’re looking for the handheld ham radio for beginners, you might want to consider the TYT MD-380 DMR.

It’s not a good choice if you plan to take a radio outdoors since it is outfitted with an ABS shell. On top of that, it lacks survival features. Think of it as an entry level but well capable handheld radio. It comes with two antennas, with the longer one being the high gain antenna.

It’s an indoor radio for newbies. It’s programmable, but you need to use a computer running Windows. The good news is that it comes with its own cable, so you can connect it to your PC which is a big bonus.

Pros

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Motorola TRBO Tier I and II compliant
  • Comes with two antennas—high and low gain
  • Easily programmable
  • Well suited for beginners

Cons

  • Lacks any sort of weather proofing
  • Single band system
TYT MD-380 - DMR/Moto TRBO Ham Radio
277 Reviews
TYT MD-380 - DMR/Moto TRBO Ham Radio
  • TYT MD-380 UHF Analog/Digital DMR Radio + USB cable
  • USB Programming Cable and software
  • AC Charger, 2000 mAh Battery, Belt Clip, Antenna, English Manual

Last update on 2021-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

BaoFeng UV-82C Dual-Band

(Best battery life)

This is one of the more affordable units, but it boasts of optimum performance. It is equipped with a v-85 antenna, which speaks volumes, and it comes with a PTT switch. It also has FM broadcasting capability.

It also has 128 programmable channels. You can program the channels through its software or you can also do it manually. It also has multiple power settings from 1 to 7 watts. You get a lot of value for your money with this BaoFeng model.

Pros

  • Easy on the budget
  • More than enough power output
  • Better antenna
  • Great battery life
  • Lots of useful features

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a clock
  • If you prefer alphanumeric programming, then you will have to use the software
Sale
BaoFeng UV-82C Dual-Band 136-174/400-520 MHz FM Ham Two-Way Radio, Transceiver, HT with Battery, Earpiece, Antenna, Charger
470 Reviews
BaoFeng UV-82C Dual-Band 136-174/400-520 MHz FM Ham Two-Way Radio, Transceiver, HT with Battery, Earpiece, Antenna, Charger
  • High / Low Power Settings (5W/1W); Frequency Range:VHF: 136-174 MHz(Rx/Tx). UHF: 400-520 MHz(Rx/Tx); Broad (Wide) / Narrowband (Narrow) Selectable
  • Features: VOX Talk Around Mode Busy Channel Lock-Out (BCLO) Transmission Time Out Channel Receive Only (TX OFF) Frequency Reverse Squelch Tail Elimination (STE) Work Mode (Selectable VFO/ Menu Lockout) Alpha Numeric Channel Storage PC Programmable
  • FCC Part 90 Certified. The UV-82C is a UV-82 that has initial limitations applied in order to make it FCC approved. The radio will have a Part 90 label manufacturer applied. Requires programming via a PC for initial use. Software is available free from BaoFengTech. The PC03 FTDI Cable is recommended for easy computer programming - Uses CHIRP Software
  • Kit Includes: UV-82C Radio, 1800mAh Battery, V85 Dual Band Antenna, CH-8 Charger, CH-8 110V Adapter, Earpiece Kit, Wrist Strap, Belt Clip, User Manual
  • BTECH is proud to be in the USA, which allows you to have the best available local support for any issue that may arise. BTECH only engineers and develops radio products. That brand focus allows you to have the best available radios and accessories with the most features, with real USA warranty and support.

Last update on 2021-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Retevis RT82 DMR Radio GPS Dual Band

(Best beginner premium handheld ham radio for hunting/outdoors)

This is a more expensive beginner’s handheld ham radio. Considering the fact that programming it requires some practice, this is a unit for beginners who have more experience.

It has 3,000 channels and is equipped with survival features such as an emergency alarm, loner worker function, and a record function. The lone worker function is very useful when you’re out hunting. It has IP67 weather proofing too.

The RT82 will automatically call to let others know that you may be in danger. This function will kick in if you haven’t used your radio in a while, which may be the case when you have had an unfortunate accident out in the woods. The recording function, on the other hand, creates an audio trail, which will be useful for rescuers when they try to locate you.

Pros

  • Easy enough to use even for beginners
  • Survival functions
  • Weatherproofing
  • Durable handheld radio

Cons

  • Some of the functions (like programming) will require a bit of a learning curve
Retevis RT82 DMR Radio,GPS Dual Band Waterproof IP67 Digital 2 Way Radio,Group Call Record SMS Alarm 3000 Ch 10000 Contacts (1 Pack)
56 Reviews
Retevis RT82 DMR Radio,GPS Dual Band Waterproof IP67 Digital 2 Way Radio,Group Call Record SMS Alarm 3000 Ch 10000 Contacts (1 Pack)
  • GPS dmr radio with dual frequency range;up to 3000 channel and 10000 contacts list; 2200mAh battery enable it normal use for about 8-12 hours;standby time for about 150 hours
  • Dual watch supports to monitor 2 frequencies at the same time; dual time slot for point to point give you chance to experience two group calls in one channel under direct mode
  • Group call match make you call freely without the group restrictions; recording function up to 8 hours support you to record enough important call content and listen to each other repeatedly call content
  • Digital analog mode switchable radio is compatible with Motorola Tier 1&2; 100% IP67 waterproof and dust-proof support water-immersible in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes
  • Software upgrading for new functions life-time-free

Last update on 2021-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

TYT MD-380 – DMR/Moto TRBO Ham Radio

(Best affordable outdoor use ham radio)

If you like the outdoor and survival features of the Retevis RT82, but you need a unit that is easier on the budget, then the TYT MD-380 is a good competing brand.

Yes it is a single band radio, but it also has dual mode capabilities as well. It also has one of the most sensitive receivers compared to other ham radios, which makes it useful when you’re out hunting.

It also features super frequency response and also has very high quality audio (perhaps one of the best if not the best audio on our list). In short, the speakers are not only loud but voices come out clear as rain.

This radio is also equipped with a high res multi-color display. It is relatively easy to program. It is lightweight yet durable.

Pros

  • High quality audio
  • Great for outdoors
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Easier to use especially for beginners
  • High res multicolor display

Cons

  • Programming takes some practice
  • Battery life
TYT MD-380 - DMR/Moto TRBO Ham Radio
277 Reviews
TYT MD-380 - DMR/Moto TRBO Ham Radio
  • TYT MD-380 UHF Analog/Digital DMR Radio + USB cable
  • USB Programming Cable and software
  • AC Charger, 2000 mAh Battery, Belt Clip, Antenna, English Manual

Last update on 2021-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Yaesu FT-65R

(Best suited for amateur radio)

Yaesu is one of the trusted names when it comes to amateur radio equipment. The FT-65R offers more than just the basic features. It is highly programmable with a menu that is easy enough for beginners to use.

Pros

  • Superior front end rejection
  • Voice compander filters out background noise
  • Bank system allows user to organize channel storage

Cons

  • Low battery life
Yaesu Original FT-65 FT-65R VHF UHF Dual Band Rugged & Compact Handheld Transceiver
16 Reviews
Yaesu Original FT-65 FT-65R VHF UHF Dual Band Rugged & Compact Handheld Transceiver
  • DualBand 2M / 440 Amateur Transceiver Features Three Selectable TX Power settings (5 W (High)/2.5 W (Middle)/0.5 W (Low)) - Supplied with 1,950 mAh Li-Ion Battery pack , 3.5-Hour Rapid Charger Included - Quick Recall Key,Four User Programmable Keys for Quick Access to Favorite Functions!
  • Compact Design, Measuring W 2.1” x H 4.1” x D 1.2” (52.5 x 104.5 x 31 mm) - Rugged Construction; Meets IP54 Rating For Dust/Water protection! MIL-810-C,D and E - Very Powerful Audio Output and Clear Audio from the Big Front Speaker - 5 Watts Output!
  • Large Built In White LED Flashlight, Alarm and Quick Home Channel Access for Emergency Signaling - Versatile Scanning Capabilities : Programmed VFO Scan, Memory Scan, Priority Channel Scan, Weather Alert Scan - WX Channels with "Severe Weather" Alert !
  • FM Broadcast Receiver Also Built In - ARTS (Automatic Range Transponder System) - DTMF Operation - CTCSS/DCS Operation Busy Channel Lock-Out (BCLO) - Battery Saver Function - Automatic Power-Off (APO) Feature Too!

Last update on 2021-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Conclusion

Remember that the every handheld ham radio will be different for everyone. Some people want budget options, while others prefer more features. Users will have different needs and the best one will be the ham radio that suits their budget and requirements on the field.

Featured Image Source: Flickr @Andria

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