Quick Answer: Best Handheld Ham Radio

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A handheld ham radio could be one of the ten essentials, you should carry with you while overlanding. These radios are also known as ‘amateur radios’.

This device doesn’t need any internet or cell phone network to operate. As a result, in case of emergencies or when you are in the wild, a ham radio could be handy.

It is very easy to communicate using amateur radios, thanks to their powerful specifications and unique features.

Luckily, there is a wide range of handheld ham radios available out there. But, for many, it would not be feasible to discover the best handheld ham radio from all of these countless options.

Because of this, we have compiled a list of the top amateur radios with a detailed buying guide. We will be sharing reviews of each ham radio one by one, in this post.

Best Handheld Ham Radio

SAMCOM 5 Watts Two Way Radio

TIDRADIO TD-H6 Upgraded UV-5R High Power Ham Radio Handheld Two Way Radios

TYT MD-UV380 Dual Band VHF UHF DMR Radio Handheld Walkie Tallkie

Mirkit x Baofeng Radio UV-5R MK3X

BTECH DMR-6X2 (DMR and Analog) 7-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio

Radioddity GD-77 DMR Digital/Analog Two Way Radio

Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner

Motorola Talkabout T460 Rechargeable Two-Way Radio Pair

Best Handheld Ham Radios – Reviews

Review of SAMCOM 5 Watts Two Way Radio

The first product on our list is the SAMCOM two-way handheld radio. This is an FCC-certified radio with premium features, but the price is not that high for the features it offers.

It comes with a frequency range of UHF 400-470 MHz and has 20 channels and 5 watts of power output.

The radio comes with a 1500 mAh rechargeable battery. The battery offers up to 12 hours of backup, and in standby mode the battery backup is up to 50 hours.

So, this could be a great pick if you are looking for a handheld ham radio with good battery backup. Additionally, it has a low power mode to extend the battery backup further.

The SAMCOM has a built-in mic, a speaker, and ear-bud attachments. Meaning, if you are in a crowded place, you will be able to communicate effortlessly. This one comes pre-programmed, so you can use it right out of the box.

The backlit LCD display is a nice addition as it allows the radio to be used in low light conditions. You can add private CDCSS code to each channel to avoid getting irrelevant signals.

Using the ‘Group PTT’ button, you will be able to talk to multiple people at the same time, even if they are not on the same channel. It also has another PTT button with which you can talk to a single member.

The radio measures 1.19 x 1.18 x 11 inches and weighs about only 14.4 ounces, so you can see that it is very portable. It comes with IP54 certification and it can work in the temperature range of -30°C to +60°C.

SAMCOM offers this radio in a few packages. For example, you can buy 1/2/3/6/19 radios in a package. As usual, the more you buy, the greater the discount you will get.

What Previous Buyers Said?

Frankly, almost all previous buyers have liked this two-way radio. They have said that it offers a longer battery backup and clear communication.

It is easy to use and well-built. Some of them even stated that for the price, this is one of the best handheld ham radios.

Pros:

  • Comes with a backlit LCD display
  • It is a 2-way handheld radio
  • Reasonable price
  • Comes with IP54 splash-resistant and dust-proof certification
  • Very easy to use as it comes pre-programmed

Cons:

  • There more powerful options available

Review of TIDRADIO TD-H6 Upgraded UV-5R High Power Ham Radio Handheld Two Way Radios

Are you looking for a complete package of ham radios? Then you should check out the TIDRADIO TD-H6 Ham Radio package.

You are getting 4 ham radios, 8 pieces of 2200 mAh batteries, 4 pieces of high-gain antennas, 4 high-quality mics, 1 programming cable, and so on.

It is a Tri-power radio with 1/5/10 watts of power output and has a 2200 mAh battery with 128 channels. With two batteries at your disposal, you can get up to 96 hours of battery backup.

It also has CTCSS and DCS codes compatibility, 0-9 grades of squelch level, VOX, monitor, and many more useful features.

Some of the noteworthy features of this amateur radio are the busy lockout function, TOT function, Emergency alarm function, PC programmable, voice prompt, CHIRP compatibility, and headphone jack.

You will like that it comes with a backlit display. Overall, for the price, this is a great package of handheld ham radios.

What Previous Buyers Said?

Most former buyers have expressed admiration for this radio. They have stated that the radio is very user-friendly and have liked that it comes with all the accessories you usually require with ham radio. 

In addition, they have said that it is a very powerful one with long battery life. The Tri-power feature also received lots of positive feedback.

All in all, they say that for such a price, getting 4 radios with lots of accessories is a steal.

Pros:

  • Everything you need on a radio package
  • High battery backup
  • It is a Tri-power radio
  • Durable rugged build quality

Cons:

  • Many found it hard to program the radio with the suggested software

Review of TYT MD-UV380 Dual Band VHF UHF DMR Radio Handheld Walkie Tallkie

This is a dual-band radio with a 6.5-inch antenna. It comes with a multi-colored backlit display and can transmit both in analog and digital modes. It has 3000 memory channels, voice prompt function, CTCSS/DCS, DMR, and many more features.

The net dimension of the TYT MD 380 DMR is 2.3 x 1.4 x 5.1 inches and it weighs only 0.57 lbs. with the battery. It has a frequency range of 136-174 MHz and 400-480 MHz and is equipped with a 2000 mAh li-ion battery. 

Plus, this one comes with additional accessories like the programming cable, driver CD, adapter, and desktop changer for free. If you are new in the world of amateur radios, you can start your journey with the TYT MD 380 DMR.

What Previous Buyers Said?

A lot of previous buyers have specified that it is a value for money. They love that it comes with all the necessary accessories, alongside its solid build. In addition, they have appreciated the inclusion of a 2000 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery. 

They say the audio quality is superb. However, a few buyers have stated that the TYT MD 380 was not very easy to program with the supplied software.

Pros:

  • It has DMR mode and easy to use
  • Comes with a backlit LCD display
  • Dual-band (VHF and UHF) and dual power output radio
  • Comes with a 1-year warranty

Cons:

  • The recommended programming software is buggy

Review of Mirkit x Baofeng Radio UV-5R MK3X

BaoFeng is undoubtedly one of the pioneers in the ham radio industry. They are known for offering top-notch amateur handheld radios for an affordable price.

This amateur radio from BaoFeng comes with tons of premium features. For example, it is a tri-band ham radio device (with VHF and UHF).

It has a 2100 mAh battery. The radio features 128 channels, FM radio, VOX, DTMF, Tone Burst, CTCSS/DCS, wide/narrow bandwidth setting, and so on.

It also has a 6.5-inch high-gain antenna. The net dimensions of the radio are 8x4x5 inches. It weighs about 7.04 ounces and is ergonomically designed to fit your hands perfectly. 

You will like the addition of neck strap lanyard, accessory jack, and supreme build quality of this radio. The call, MONI, and PTT buttons are larger for better accessibility, and it has a backlit display.

All in all, this BaoFeng UV-5R tri-band radio could be a great option if you are looking for an affordable tri-band ham radio device.

What Previous Buyers Said?

A few buyers have said that the price could be a bit lower. Otherwise, most were satisfied with the overall performance of the BaoFeng UV-5R. They have said that it has many useful functionalities. 

Additionally, the battery backup and build quality are supreme. Owners have also said that the FM radio function, backlit display, next strap lanyard, and other free accessories made it a great deal.

Pros:

  • Heavy-duty build quality
  • Comes with a long battery life
  • It is a Tri-band ham radio
  • Comes with a USA-based warranty

Cons:

  • The supplied charger could be of better quality

Review of BTECH DMR-6X2 (DMR and Analog) 7-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio

The next radio on our list is from BTECH. It is a dual-band two-way radio, measures 2 x 1.5 x 5 inches, and weighs about 10.4 oz to 11.3 oz depending on the battery.

Interestingly, it comes with 2 batteries of different capacities. The standard battery has a capacity of 2100 mAh and it can serve you for up to 18.5 hours. 

Conversely, the additional battery comes with a capacity of 3100 mAh, which offers an estimated backup of up to 35 hours. This amateur radio comes with a wonderful 1 watt speaker.

You can easily adjust the volume. The display is backlit and you can adjust its color. You will also love that the BTECH comes with a built-in GPS and audio recorder. It is compatible with DMR Tier 1 and 2. 

This radio arrives with 4000 channels. It has a 7-watt output power on the VHF band. On the other hand, you can adjust it between 1 watt, 2.5 Watt, 5 Watts, and 6 Watt in the UHF band.

The frequency range of this radio is 136-174 MHz and 400 to 480 MHz. It comes with all the necessary accessories like the programming cable, charger, adapter, 2 batteries, lanyard strap, and more.

What Previous Buyers Said?

According to many buyers, it is an expensive ham radio. However, they say that the price is justified as it comes with tons of useful and unique features, and they praise the build quality. 

In addition, they have also said that it comes with all the necessary accessories. The variable power settings also got the attention of many buyers.

All in all, they recommend this high-quality, dual band, two-way amateur radio.

Pros:

  • Comes with GPS and recording function
  • It has a USA-based warranty
  • You can set custom backgrounds and adjust the color of the display
  • It is a dual-band DMR amateur radio
  • Variable power settings

Cons:

  • A bit expensive

Review of Radioddity GD-77 DMR Digital/Analog Two Way Radio

This is another feature-rich ham radio with a budget-friendly price. The Radioddity GD-77 comes with a 2200 mAh battery, which can offer 10 to 15 hours of backup while operating.

It has Promiscuous mode and both digital/analog mode. It is a dual-band ham radio with up to 5 watts of output power. 

In standby mode, it can offer you up to 24 to 36 hours of battery backup. The net dimensions of this amateur radio are 5.51 x 2.23 x 1.14 inches and it weighs about 1.6 lbs. It has a maximum range of up to 5 kilometres. The frequency range of this radio is 420 to 450 MHz.

The Radioddity has 1024 memory channels, a dual time slot, expert mode, large backlit LCD display, emergency button, SMS function, and is programmable via PC.

So, you can see that it could be a great purchase if you are looking for a powerful ham radio without breaking the bank.

What Previous Buyers Said?

This is one of the most popular handheld radios among past buyers. First, they have said that it is very reasonably priced for its specifications and features. Secondly, they have liked that it comes with a free programming cable. 

They have praised the overall build quality and battery life of this as well. In addition, most buyers have also said it is very easy to program.

Pros:

  • Comes with a 1-year warranty
  • It has a backlit display
  • All the settings can be programmed
  • Easy to use ham radio
  • Works with hotspot/repeater

Cons:

  • Nothing major to mention

Review of Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner

If budget is not an issue for you, then you should check out the Uniden Bearcat BC125AT. It has a modern, ergonomic design, with a rugged build quality.

The overall dimensions of the radio are 4.33 x 2.17 x 7.28 inches and 14.4 ounces. It has a multi-color backlit display and up to 10 hours of battery backup.

This scanner comes with 500 alpha-tagged channels. All these channels are divided into 10 storage banks for easy accessibility.

You can also organize the channels to your liking, although this radio comes with pre-set channels.

It can receive channels on various radio frequencies such as 25-54 MHz, 108-174 MHz, 225-380 MHz, and 400-512 MHz. In addition, it has ‘Close Call’, ‘Weather Alert’, and ‘Do not disturb’ functions.

It has both UHF and VHF (low/high) radio bands. Simply put, this is more than a ham radio with all these features and powerful specifications.

What Previous Buyers Said?

According to the majority of former buyers, it is one of the best ham radios in the market, in this price bracket. They have said that if it would charge while it is turned on, then it would undoubtedly be the best option. 

Previous buyers have liked that it comes with Alpha-tagged channels and that it had ‘Close Call RF’ and ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode. In addition, users say the battery life is decent. Some buyers also praise the backlit display.

Pros:

  • Comes with a 1-year warranty
  • It has alphanumeric channel programing and labeling
  • Heavy-duty build quality and portable
  • Comes pre-programmed with the most popular searches

Cons:

  • Only charges when the device is turned off
  • Doesn’t support the DMR function

Review of Motorola Talkabout T460 Rechargeable Two-Way Radio Pair

Motorola is a well-known brand in the technology industry all around the world. From them, we have this two-way radio pair. Yes, in this package, you are getting two radios. The weight of the radio is 6.72 oz and the net dimensions are 1.37 x 2.26 x 7.54 inches. 

It has a battery life of up to 8.5 hours and comes with a built-in LED flashlight, which will come in handy in cases of emergency. There are 22 channels, each with 121 privacy codes. In addition, it is also IP54 certified. 

You will love that it comes with an emergency alert button, PTT power boost function, iVox/VOX hands-free function, and more. According to Motorola, it has a range of up to 35 miles. So, if you are looking for a basic radio without hurting your wallet, you could check this out.

What Previous Buyers Said?

This radio has received mixed reviews from previous buyers. First of all, they have stated that it is not a top-quality radio, but when you look at the price, you can see that it is a great value for money.

On the other hand, most buyers have said that if you need a basic radio for communication or for weather alerts while you are outdoors, this could be a good option. Some of the notable features they have liked are the flashlight, NOAA weather channels, PTT power boost, and its great battery backup.

Pros:

  • Very cheap price for a pair of radios
  • Comes with an LED-backlit display
  • It has an emergency alert button
  • It is IP54 weatherproof
  • Comes with NOAA weather channels and alerts

Cons:

  • The speaker, mic, and overall functionality could be better

Buying Guide – Best Handheld Ham Radio

Things To Consider Before Buying a Handheld Ham Radio

When buying a handheld ham radio, you should consider a few factors so that you can choose the best option out there. For instance:

Band Selection

Typically, you will see that most high-quality ham radios come with dual bands (VHF and UHF). Some more feature-rich radios even come with triple bands. Normally, the UHF band is known for better audio quality and bandwidth within its capacity range.

On the contrary, the VHF band is known for experiencing less interference over a very long range. So, if you want to communicate over a longer distance, then you will need the VHF band.

Whereas, if you want crisp and clear audio within your radio’s range, then the UHF band is the way to go.

You can see that having a dual-band radio is extremely vital as you will be able to switch between the bands easily. So make sure you are getting a handheld ham radio for survival with at least two bands. Better yet, try to get a triple band radio.

Programming

Usually, most handheld ham radios are programmable. The best ones already come pre-programmed, so you can use them right out of the box.

However, if you want to maximize the potential of your particular ham radio, then you can try to program it further. 

In that case, you will need a programming cable and PC to do so. Of course, for detailed instruction, you should follow the instruction manual that comes with your amateur radio.

A well-arranged User Manual

Speaking of the user manual, most well-reputed brands offer a detailed instruction manual with their radios. However, it is also possible that there is no user manual at all with your ham radio for survival.

In that case, if you are a beginner, it will be very difficult to use the radio to its highest potential. So make sure that you are getting a handheld ham radio that comes with a well-arranged user manual.

Size

As we are talking about handheld ham radios, most of these devices usually would be very compact and lightweight. However, depending on the size, one would be more portable and ergonomic to use than the other model.

So it is very important to consider the size of the ham radio you are going to buy.

Rechargeable Battery and Battery Life

This is one of the most important aspects you should be concerned with before deciding on your next handheld ham radio. Normally, most handheld ham radios would come with a rechargeable li-ion battery.

As usual, the battery backup of your radio will depend on your usage. At the same time, the capacity of the battery has a role to play in this as well. 

In short, try to get a ham radio with a higher battery capacity. At least 2000 mAh capacity would be a good spec in offering you about 10 hours of battery backup.

Another great idea is to buy a spare battery and keep it with you, so that you can keep using your ham radio even if the primary battery dies. It is also better to go with a ham radio that has power-saving modes.

Display

Almost all the high-quality ham radios would come with a display. However, the display size and specifications will vary based on the model.

First of all, it is very important to get an amateur radio with a backlit display, because an illuminated display will help you work at night or under low light conditions. 

Plus, it is better if the display light or color can be adjusted. In addition, the bigger the display the more information will appear on it. Then again, it will also increase the overall size of the ham radio as well as the price.

Speaker and Mic Quality

If you want to have a great experience using your ham radio, it should come with a good quality speaker. Besides, the microphone should also be of high-quality, so that it can always pick up your voice, even if you are in a crowded place. 

You will also love your ham radio if it has an earphone jack. That way you will be able to plug an earphone and communicate more effortlessly and smoothly.

Build Quality

Evidently, you will take your handheld ham radio in the wild. So it will have to handle severe weather conditions or harsh environments. As a result, it should be well-built.

In addition, it will be better if the radio comes with any water/dust/weatherproof certification. Of course, the ham radios with such specifications will be a bit pricey compared to the normal ones.

Types of Licenses for Ham Radio Operators

For the record, a ham radio can be up to 375x more powerful than a CB radio. So, you cannot use an amateur radio without a license. There are several kinds of licenses. 

The Technician License

To attain this license, you will have to pass only one exam. After passing, you will be able to use amauter radios with radio frequencies over 30 MHz. If you are a beginner, you should opt for this license.

General License

If you want to up the ante, then you can go for the General License. To acquire this license, you will have to already have the ‘Technician License’.

Then, you will need to pass an exam of 35 questions. Passing this exam will grant you access to all amateur (ham) radio bands and modes.

The Amateur Extra License

If you don’t want any limits, then you can get the ‘Amateur Extra License’. Admittedly, this is more of a higher-level license. With this license, you will be able to use any ham radios with all types of modes and bands. 

However, first, you will have to acquire both of the previously mentioned licenses, or at least pass those exams. Then, you will also have to pass an exam with 50 questions involved, for the ‘Amateur Extra License’.

All the information and reading materials associated with acquiring ham radio licenses are available online for free. However, you will have to pay a small amount of fee to sit for the exams.

FAQ

What Is The Most Powerful Handheld Ham Radio?

Many brands are manufacturing various ham radios with different specifications, so it is difficult to single out the most powerful handheld ham radio.

Normally, FCC has capped the output power of ham radios at 1500 watts. The most powerful handheld ham radios we have reviewed above come with 10 watts of output power at best.

What Is The Range of a Handheld Ham Radio?

A good quality, powerful, and portable ham radio would come with a range from 2 to 20 miles. However, depending on the specification and model of your amateur radio, it could have a higher range.

There are ham radios that can communicate over hundreds of miles as well, but these are with powerful base stations and large antennas.

Do You Need a License for a Handheld Ham Radio?

Yes. You will require a license for using a handheld radio in the USA. However, you don’t need a license to simply buy a ham radio or to listen or monitor on the ham radio frequencies.

But the moment you are thinking to transmit using ham radios, you will need to get your license from the FCC.

What Is The Best Ham Radio to Buy?

There are tons of options to choose from when you want to get the best ham radio. Based on their requirement and budget, everybody’s best ham radio will vary.

In our opinion, the Mirkit x Baofeng Radio UV-5R MK3X is the best ham radio to buy from our list.

Wrap Up – Best Handheld Ham Radios

Like an off-road GPS, a handheld ham radio could be a lifesaver while outdoors. But finding the one that would be the best option for you is a complicated task. To solve this issue, we have provided reviews of some of the best handheld ham radios in this post. 

You can see that we reviewed radios from a variety of brands, from different price ranges, and of different qualities. So, we hope everybody will find the most suitable device from the list above.

Still, if you have not found yours, you can go with the Mirkit x Baofeng Radio UV-5R MK3X. This is a well-built radio packed with high-end features. Also, the build quality, battery backup, audio quality, display quality, and warranty make it one of the best options out there.

On the other hand, if you want a budget-friendly ham radio package, then you should pick the TIDRADIO TD-H6 Upgraded UV-5R High Power Ham Radio. You are getting 4 ham radios with all the necessary accessories and premium features at a very reasonable price.