Best Handheld Ham Radio for Survival: SHTF Prepper Ham Radios to buy in 2023

Emergency situations like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc. call for the most reliable backup communication system.

Since you are already here, you know that the best handheld Ham radio for survival is what you need in these kinds of SHTF situations. These are the favorite of many because of:

      • Highly powerful design
      • Long-distance communication
      • Ruggedness
      • Long battery life

If you are a survivalist or prepper, you might be familiar with a lot of portable Ham radios. But, the problem lies in finding the right emergency Ham radio.

What if I tell you that we have done the job for you?

Well, this article will give you the top 7 survivalist Ham radios in the market. Here, they are:

Best Ham Radio for Preppers

BaoFeng BF-F8HP: Our Top Choice ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • New hardened, durable outer body
  • 30% larger battery giving 24-hour battery life
  • 3 power setting options (high, med, low)
  • Extensive frequency range coverage
BaoFeng UV-82HP ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • High, medium, low power settings
  • 65-108 MHz, 136-174 MHz, and 400-520 MHz ranges
  • Includes flashlight and emergency alarm
  • Supports CTCSS, DCS, and DTMF calling methods
BaoFeng BF-F9V2+ ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • Powerful signals
  • Larger battery (2100mAh)
  • 10 miles long range support
  • Well-made and rugged
BaoFeng UV-5R ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • 136-174/400-480 MHz Frequency range
  • Rugged, durable radio shell
  • LED flashlight
  • Low battery alert and power-saving option
BaoFeng BF-F8+: Most Affordable ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • Noise reduction to deliver crystal clear audio
  • Selectable power options (1W/5W)
  • Expanded frequency range
  • Anti-interference capabilities
Yaesu FT-60R ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • NOAA weather alerts and emergency channels
  • 3 power settings
  • High-quality construction and robust design
  • Receives 108-520MHz and 700-999.99MHz
Yaesu Original FT-450D ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • Built-in automatic antenna tuner
  • Receives 30KHz to 54MHz continuous
  • Excellent signal reception
  • Feature-rich model – good choice for emergencies

Why handheld ham radio is the best for survival?

portable prepper Ham radioI am sure that you might be thinking why people insist on buying the best handheld ham radio for emergencies and survival.

Hiking, camping, and off-road racing are just some of the most-loved adventure hobbies. Despite being exciting and nerve-wracking, the activities can put you in dangerous situations. Harsh weather conditions, medical emergencies, and getting lost are a few to name.

A few years ago, the survival knife was the most sought-after product. However, it will be in no help when you’re stranded in the wilderness. The other most popular option is the cellphone, but what can one do in areas with no reception?

That’s where the handheld ham radio comes in handy!

  • A ham survival radio can benefit users looking for long-range communication. Here are some factors that decide the range of a handheld ham radio. With little tweaks, you can get around 1o miles with these devices.
  • With ham survival radios, you can stay in touch with their exceptional signal reception and frequency range coverage. That is precisely why most users are dropping the idea of mobile phones and are switching to radio transceivers.
  • A significant concern most new users seem to have is regarding the battery. Yes, it would be best if you had the power to charge your device. However, you can plan and opt for one with more abundant battery life. If you have a Ham go box, here is a list of some of the best battery for ham radio go box.
  • The BaoFeng and Yaesu products offer long-lasting radio experience along with variable power settings to conserve battery. They are your best and safest bet at staying connected during disasters.
  • Moreover, modern devices include exciting features that can come in handy in such situations. For example, the built-in flashlight, weather alerts, and emergency updates are just what you need for survival.
  • Besides, the sturdy construction ensures that the device continues to function under all circumstances. In fact, users have found the transceivers to absorb hard falls well, without any damage to the ham radio itself!

Sounds like a perfect choice for hiking and mountain camping! The bottom line is that your SHTF preparation list is incomplete without a handheld Ham radio.

Best Handheld Ham Radio for Survival: Reviews

Based on our market survey and through testing, here are the most reliable survivalist ham radios you can buy:

1. BaoFeng BF-F8HP – Top choice for survivalists

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When it comes to emergencies, you need a ham radio that is a class apart in terms of quality and performance. One device that fulfills this criterion is the BaoFeng BF-F8HP, our top choice! The transceiver has all of the top-notch features you need as a survivalist.

I am sure that you won’t be surprised to know that this is the best-rated ham radio in the market as of now.

Here is what makes BF-F8HP the best in the business:

      • 8-watts power output
      • New durable radio shell
      • Larger battery
      • High gain antenna
      • In-depth user guide
      • Made in the USA
      • Easy programming using the PC03 FTDI programming cable
      • Includes earpiece, belt clip, and hand strap

For an adventurist, one essential feature is portability. Fortunately, this handheld transceiver is compact enough to fit into your pocket without compromising on the performance. If you want better frequency coverage, you can swap the default antenna for an external one.

However, the existing antenna is just as good at providing the right coverage.

When it comes to power usage, this model is capable of transmitting at up to 8 watts. While this can drain the power, the 2000mAh battery can take care of it!

Moreover, the device boasts three power settings for you to adjust according to your usage. You can use the BaoFeng BF-F8HP at a higher power setting and still be able to use it for an extended time without a problem!

2. BaoFeng UV-82HP – Best overall

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If you’re on the search for one of the best BaoFeng models, look no further! This device is the second generation of the classic BaoFeng UV-82 Series. It’s built, keeping in mind survival needs – the handheld transceiver is compact, rugged, and durable!

If you’re wondering what makes it different than the other BaoFeng models, then the difference is in the firmware and hardware. These features make it a good Ham radio to use in SHTF situations.

This updated model features 128 memory channels, and you are free to add or remove channels. No, the UV-82 is not as complicated as it sounds, you can use the free computer software for convenient programming.

Are you still wondering how it replaces any other emergency tool? Well, this is the perfect alternative as it includes FM radio, flashlight, and an emergency alarm. In addition, it also supports CTCSS, DCS, and DTMF calling methods.

The best parts about the UV-82HP are its larger buttons and double PTT switch, which enhances user experience. When you are stranded and in danger, all you need is the ease of communication, which this model offers.

3. BaoFeng BF-F9V2+ – Best value

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The third prepper ham radio in our list is the BF-F9V2+. You must consider investing in this deal as it offers a complete package. The bundle includes all the necessary accessories like the microphone, wrist strap, belt clip, and more!

If you’re serious about quality communication and user-friendliness, here’s why you should consider BF-F9V2+:

      • 128 memory channels
      • User-friendly manual
      • 8-watt power output
      • Variable power settings
      • Powerful signal
      • High gain dual-band antenna
      • 2100mAh battery

Another primary reason why you should opt for this model is its durability. Most customers have had their device for over five years, with little to no problem with performance. It adds value to the price that you pay for the ultimate ham radio experience!

Additionally, the enhanced signal reception lets you connect to those around you in emergencies. BF-F9V2+ came in handy for one user during a tornado who used it to stay updated with the weather conditions. That is precisely why you need a prepper ham radio!

And, what better than this BaoFeng model with all the right features?

4. BaoFeng UV-5R – Classy and durable

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We haven’t seen a better-looking handheld transceiver than the UV-5R. Along with its rugged design and sturdy built, what makes it so stunning is its range of colors. The model is available in five color options!

Who says you have to compromise on appearance for better functioning?

This portable ham radio for survival has all the features that most other BaoFeng models can offer. However, what is different is its affordability, appearance, and power setting.

Most importantly, the versatile and lightweight model is not just for situations with impending danger. You can also use it for entertainment and informational purposes!

Apart from its color range, the coolest feature of the UV-5R is its HD color LED display!

This BaoFeng amateur radio can be a top-choice for operators looking for a device with lesser power output. This particular model has a maximum power capability of 5-watts, which is sufficient. Besides, it also means lower battery usage and extensive usage!

The UV-5R is a great option for first-timers in terms of user-friendliness and budget constraints. Gives its durability and high-functioning – you won’t find a better beginner radio than this.

5. BaoFeng BF-F8+ – Pocket-friendly

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Disasters are inevitable but what makes it manageable is a reliable tool for communication. In fact, this is one of the top portable ham radio you can use for survival.

There are several brands that manufacture excellent ham radios but BaoFeng is a class apart! The BF-F8+ is one such stellar from the reputable brand and here’s why:

      • Selectable power settings – high/low (5W/1W)
      • Expanded frequency range
      • Noise-reduction feature
      • Time-out timer
      • Selectable frequency
      • Voice operated transmission
      • Channel lock
      • Easy programming

Why we love BF-F8+ so much is because of its clear audio and strong signal reception. That is what you need when you’re looking for important information like evacuation orders or weather conditions.

The only hiccup we found on this model was its backlit display which doesn’t dim but rather goes off completely. It can be a little problematic when you are scanning channels in an urgent situation. Thus, you may want to look at alternatives or stick to it, given its economical price!

Besides, where can you find top-class features like these for a price so low?

When stranded with zero power, you can be at complete ease knowing that it will function for an extended time. Its in-built flashlight is also something that can come in handy in such a situation!

6. Yaesu FT-60R – Excellent all-rounder

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If there is one brand, other than BaoFeng that excels at making amateur radios, it is Yaesu. It offers value for money, along with excellent coverage and signal reception. That’s what makes it customer favorite when it comes to crisis management.

The 5-watt, the handheld transceiver, has 1,000 memory channels. In addition to that, it also provides NOAA weather alerts and receives emergency channels at 800-900MHz.

Like many of the BaoFeng models, the Yaesu FT-60R, too, offers three variable power settings. It allows you to conserve battery for longer life.

Wait till you hear more!

It also includes a 1400mAh battery charger, antenna, and belt clip.

The abundance of positive reviews that FT-60R gets from its users is proof of its high-functioning. Though pricier, the transceiver is pretty straightforward to use. It has broader frequency coverage on the receiving end, which makes the default antenna excellent.

However, the knobs are close together, which means that users may find it difficult to operate in some cases. Overall, the sturdy construction makes FT-60R an ideal choice for traveling and backpacking!

7. Yaesu Original FT-450D – Powerful base transceiver

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Although most survivalists opt for a handheld transceiver, a base ham radio is also nothing short of sophistication. Are you a survivalist, and on the lookout for an emergency ham radio with superior power capability? You are in safe hands!

Yaesu FT-450D has a 100-watt power output, more abundant than what any other model in the list has to offer! Need we say more?

Apart from packing up a ton of power, here’s what the FT-450D is known for:

      • 6 to 160-meter amateur radio
      • Automatic antenna tuner
      • Digital signal processing technology
      • Illuminated keys
      • Exceptional sound quality

When you compare the price of the handheld transceivers and this base radio, there is a stark difference! However, the FT-450D is worth paying for in terms of the quality you get in return.

The frequency coverage, signal reception, and power output are all matchless!

Keep in mind, if you’re a complete beginner, the learning curve on this model will be quite steep as it is not everyone’s cup of tea.

How to Buy Emergency Ham Radios

As I told you before, buying the best survival ham radio is not an easy business. Yeah, of course, you can get one amongst our top picks listed above.

However, if you want to buy one your own, you need to understand what makes a Ham radio best for emergency situations.

Here is a small guide to help you:

Handheld vs. base

When traveling, you will always need a device that is portable and can fit into the hand. A handheld radio, therefore, is the best choice for you as it takes up no more space than a cellphone.

The only drawback is that it connects you to users within a radius of 1 or 2 miles. It is a fantastic pick for users looking to communicate with team members in emergencies. The BaoFeng range and Yaesu FT-60R are some great choices!

On the other hand, if you’re a survivalist and are searching for more power than the Yaesu FT-60R, Yaesu FT-450D is a better option. The compact base transceiver has better frequency coverage and comes in handy when looking for long-distance communication.

However, bear in mind, the latter will be pricier for its advanced audio system and frequency coverage.

Power Output

On average, handheld ham transceivers ham no more than 5 watts of power output. If you’re looking for a survival ham radio, 5 watts are more than enough. Plus, it saves battery, so it lasts longer to provide you disaster-management services when you require it.

Long Battery life

Due to the multiple technological features, transceivers often drain out batteries quickly. In this case, a power-less survival ham radio will be of no use! It is essential to opt for a device with adequate battery life to prepare for the worse.

Moreover, modern gadgets are now available with variable power settings. Adjusting the radio to a lower mode can help preserve the battery.


When hiking or climbing, falls are inevitable. Falling with the ham radio can leave you with unworkable broken parts. That’s where durability and robust construction comes in!

Having a prepper ham radio with a sturdy body can survive falls and collisions with no problem at all! As a survivalist, it gives me the guarantee that the transceiver will function regardless of the impact.

Weather Alerts

In a situation where your goal is survival, it is critical to have a feature-rich model that can come in handy at all times. What better than a ham radio capable of providing NOAA weather alerts?

A timely forecast can undoubtedly save you from getting stuck in a deserted area with no help! Yaesu FT-60R is an excellent option for users looking for this feature.

Backlit display

Another feature to keep in consideration is a well-backlit display. You may be wondering why this made to this list, but we have an answer for you. When you want to operate the radio at a faster pace without making any errors, this is what will help.

Preferably, look for a lit keypad as well to allow you to use the amateur radio much more quickly. But, you may need to note that this feature can also cause your battery to drain much faster. However, you can always turn it off when not in use to save some power!

Speaker quality

The environment you are in can play a significant role in the audio you receive. In a noisy and busy location, you will find it challenging to understanding what the radio is delivering. In a situation that requires urgency, you would want the audio to be crystal clear and noise-free!

Looking for a transceiver with an excellent, noise-canceling technology will save you from the hassle!


What is the best type of radio for survival?
The answer to this depends on your specific needs. However, if you ask us, our top-choice and customers’ favorite is the BaoFeng BF-F8HP for its multiple features!

How long does a handheld ham radio Work?
On average, a handheld ham radio works for anywhere between 8 to 12 hours. However, one way to extend battery life is to turn off the backlight. Additionally, setting the variable power setting to low can allow you to operate it for about 24 hours.

What are the benefits of ham radio for survival?

As mentioned above, the ham is the top choice when it comes to communicating in crisis situations. If radio communications pique your interest, you must consider this type!

If social service is something you look forward to, this device can be pretty useful. When all else fails, you can use the ham to communicate and to coordinate rescue operations.

Moreover, unforeseen natural disasters can isolate individuals, putting them in considerable danger. Such was seen during the 2017 Puerto Rico hurricane Maria.

Most networks fail to work during disasters like flash floods, tsunamis, and tornados. At a time like this, ham radio can relay a connection and provide you with the support that you need.

Moreover, you don’t only need a ham radio during emergencies. It can come in handy when organizing group trips or large-scale events.

Is handheld ham radio waterproof?
The ham radios listed above are not waterproof. Moreover, a waterproof handheld transceiver may be a rarity as not many manufacturers offer this feature! If you are worried about weather damage, you can purchase a cover case separately that provides adequate protection.

Who do you call on ham radio for an emergency?

When an emergency occurs, you will need to make a distress call on a prime emergency frequency. The distress call can be heard by the marine service net or wide-coverage repeater frequency. To prepare beforehand, we recommend storing the channel in your device’s memory.

For emergency assistance, the voice signal is MAYDAY, and the Morse code is SOS.

How to broadcast on ham radio in emergency?

In case of an accident or fire, you can report the situation over your ham radio. Turn up your device power to its limit and clearly announce “Break Emergency”. Once the frequency is clear, report the emergency.

Next, activate the autopatch system by stating that you are making an emergency autopatch. Dial 911 and provide the required details and follow directions. Once done, announce and release the autopatch.

What are emergency ham radio frequencies?

It is best to refer to a frequency guide to get a hold on the emergency frequencies for your locality. However, there are standard nation-wide frequencies like 34.90 that the National Guard uses during emergencies. You can also reach Red Cross (United States) at 47:42.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency channel for disaster relief operations is 138.225. Lastly, 162.40 offers NOAA weather updates and bulletins.

How to set up Prepper HAM radio?

If you’re new to the world of amateur radios, here’s a brief guide on what your first steps should be:

As explained earlier, to operate an SHTF prepper, you will require an official license. There are three types of licenses that an amateur radio operator can opt for:

  1. Technician
  2. General
  3. Extra

The easiest to obtain, and the one that acts as an entry-level license, is the first one. The technician license gives you the legal right to communicate on local frequencies. Once you receive this, you can move on to the next, the general permit.

This permit expands the frequency ranges that you can transmit or receive at depending on your device.

Lastly, the extra license grants all users to communicate at all frequencies through all modes. Remember, you need to obtain the first two to receive the extra license.

All ham radio operators need to attempt exams for every license type to become an official user. Study manuals are available online to help you clear these examinations. Alternatively, you can also join a local club for additional assistance.

Once you receive the license, the next step is to find the right device for your needs. Make sure it has enough coverage to allow you to communicate with operators within your distance. Also:

      • To operate a ham radio, you will need to charge its battery. However, in most disasters, the power supply is the first to get disrupted.
      • In this case, you will need a backup in the form of solar panels, an emergency generator, or extra batteries.
      • Lastly, you will need some practice and skill to perform long-distance communication with confidence. It would be best if you have an awareness of when and how to use the ham radio. Especially when to either ask for help or to assist those in need.

Remember, having the right knowledge and quick thinking will get you and others out of such situations!

Ready to Get an SHTF Ham Radio?

Survivalists go for none other than ham radios when it comes to communicating in emergencies. It can be a valuable source of information in such situations.

A prepper ham radio is trustworthy and reliable and can help a great deal in making crisis decisions. It helps to increase your odds of surviving.

Before finalizing on one, always be aware of its features and limitations to make the right decision. Some forethought and planning can make a whole lot of difference when the world goes silent!

A good handheld, two-way amateur radio can enable long-distance communication. It can also provide you with the necessary information timely. The BaoFeng and Yaesu range of transceivers are perfect in this case!