Among all the ham radios, the handheld one is the favorite choice of many.
If you are a beginner, I would say a handheld ham radio is the best way to start your journey in the amateur radio world.
You might ask me why. Let me give you some insights:
- Handheld ham radios are a great tool for survivalists and SHTF preppers
- These portable radios are ideal for both experts and beginners
- Very easy to use
- Most affordable choice
- … and many more(You can find more advantages later in the article)
However, I am sure that searching for the best handheld ham radio for beginners(or experts) online has given you a lot of options. You are still confused about which one to choose. This is called the problem of plenty.
But don’t worry. We have found out the top portable ham radios for you.
Best Portable Ham Radios: Our Top Picks
- BaoFeng BF-F8HP: Best for Beginners
- Kenwood TH-D74A – Top Premium Handheld Ham Radio
- BaoFeng UV-82HP – Most Powerful Portable Ham Radio
- BaoFeng UV-5R – Most Affordable Choice
- Yaesu VX-6R – Waterproof Handheld Transceiver
If you are in a hurry, you can have a quick overview of our top choices below:
|BaoFeng BF-F8HP: Top Choice For Beginners|
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|Kenwood TH-D74A Check Price on Amazon|
|BaoFeng UV-82HP: Most Affordable Check Price on Amazon|
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Why Get a Handheld HAM Radio?
An handheld ham radio is a transceiver, small enough to fit into the palm of your hand. It often comes with a battery pack, antenna, belt clip, and all other accessories required to make it come together.
These compact transceivers operate on certain radio bands. The radio band refers to frequencies assigned like UHF and VHF.
You can use the device for socializing like connecting with local users, or solely for work requirements. Some operators rely on it for survival during emergencies. Either way, this versatile device can be pretty useful in all kinds of situations.
Here are some of the advantages of using a handheld or portable ham radio.
- One of the most significant benefits of purchasing ham radio HT is portability. That means you can carry your transceiver wherever you go, even on inter-state travels. You can use them like a walkie talkie.
- You could be communicating from the jungle, desert, or even mountaintop with this portable device.
- They are likely to work in all kinds of weather conditions. Moreover, you can even use them to listen to weather alerts and updates.
- In case of emergency, you can communicate with relief operators using the device. The best part is that they do not require a connection to the Internet or satellites.
- Along with these benefits, price is another essential aspect. The cost is minimal when it comes to portable models and can be perfect for beginners.
- Depending on the brand and device model, you can also find handy features like built-in flashlight, GPS, weather alerts, and emergency channels.
Portable amateur radio devices are practical, durable, and inexpensive. If you wish to try your hands on it, you can consider some of the best-rated brands and models listed below!
Best Handheld Ham Radio Reviews (For Beginners & Pros)
1. BaoFeng BF-F8HP– Best beginner level transceiver
Handheld ham radio doesn’t come better than this! The killer specs, combined with functionality, making it the top choice for beginners.
When it comes to portable ham radios, BaoFeng certainly knows what it’s doing. It has followed up on the UV-5R generation with even more magnificent BF-F8HP. The 8-watt dual-band transceiver is everything you want to master the art of communication.
It has double the power output, longer battery life, and twice the antenna performance.
Here’s why BF-F8HP is the most-sought after transceiver today:
- With its three variable power settings, you will not have to miss any action during a power outage. Moreover, its improved construction ensures long-lasting product life and 100% returns on investment!
- If you’re a newbie in the field with a keen interest in outdoor activities, you must choose the BF-F8HP. It offers ease of operation, with exceptional reception, making it ideal for survivalists.
- Additionally, it also offers an in-depth manual to keep beginners from struggling with the transceiver!
- Trust BaoFeng to come up with unique HTs for most users out there.
2. Kenwood TH-D74A – Premium choice
The high-end performance of the Kenwood TH-D74A makes it a premium choice for many ham experts. Its built-in GPS, weather alert function, and 1000 memory channels are not to be missed!
This Kenwood model is a spectacular ham radio HT. Among many other things, it is APRS compliant and boasts a high-performance GPS unit. Its improved reception, coupled with the DSP-based audio processing, makes it a stellar in terms of sound quality.
If the price is not a point of significant concern for you, why would you consider any other model but Kenwood TH-D74A!
When it comes to customer reviews, you won’t find anything but 5-stars on this one. It has earned its popularity with its solidly advanced tech features.
Kenwood TH-D74A also presents a color transflective display. This uber-cool attribute lets view the screen without any trouble in all kinds of light. In addition to that, it also features tough weatherproofing under IP54/55 standards.
3. BaoFeng UV-82HP – Most powerful Handheld Ham Radio
UV-82HP is very well-worthy of your consideration of the best portable ham radio. It is a powerhouse of performance and design with unique specs and features!
There’s no doubt that the UV-82HP is the best when it comes to high-power transceivers. It comes packed with excellent specs and has plenty of additional features to appeal to new hammers. This what makes it one of the most powerful HT ham radios you can ever buy.
Take the dual PTT switch, for example. It allows you to transmit at two frequencies (A and B). Additionally, the updated firmware, hardware, and packing make it quite impressive!
The UV-82HP is one of the most commercialized radios by BaoFeng and here’s what all the versatile radio has to offer:
- It enables CTCSS, DCS, and DTMF calling methods.
- It includes FM radio, flashlight, and emergency alarms.
- The transceiver boasts a tri-color display.
- UV-82HP offers three programmable transmit power levels: high/medium/low.
Most products involve a trade-off of design between functioning, aesthetics, price, and more. The same can be seen with the BaoFeng UV-82HP, which is a powerhouse of performance, comes at an affordable price, but lacks in areas of design.
However, given its outstanding value, we don’t mind compromising on the belt-clip and earpiece quality!
4. BaoFeng UV-5R – Most affordable Portable Ham Radio
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BaoFeng hits the sweet spot again with its range of affordable ham radio HT! The fashionable and well-updated model is one of the best at a bargain price point.
With the BaoFeng UV-5R, you will always be in the know! It is a host of features that are known to appeal beginners and experts alike. It’s quite a task to pick flaws in anything that the UV-5R offers!
The pocketable transceiver works excellently in offering frequency coverage outside of the ham bands. Additionally, its durable casing makes it a good-enough handheld ham radio. Furthermore, it includes a clearly-written, useful manual to help you with the operation.
It has 128 programmable memory channels. Besides, it allows you to add or remove at will. You can also customize the channel names on this device.
Furthermore, it features a full HD color LED display with splendid visibility and clarity. The rugged metallic shell makes it tough, ideal for outdoor operation, and off-roading.
One highlight is that it is compatible with the Radioddity PC001 FTDI programming cable! If we go by customer verdict, the UV-5R is a fantastic investment for the price.
5. Yaesu VX-6R – Waterproof transceiver
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VX-6R is a superb, powerful transceiver; perfect for your outdoor and survival needs. Its one-of-a-kind construction makes it robust and submersible.
With the added versatility and attention to detailing, Yaesu has become a favorite among operators. The highly reputable brand is offering this feature-rich, yet easy-to-use model at a bargain price.
It’s a tri-band ham radio HT that enables you to listen to every frequency between 0.5 to 999 MHz. It transmits on 144, 220, and 440 MHz bands.
- When it comes to construction, it is highly rated for waterproofing.
- Furthermore, it also offers weather alerts, emergency updates, and everything you would need from a survival point of view.
- When stuck in an unthinkable situation, VX-6R triggers your radio and transmits your callsign for help.
Yaesu VX-6R may not be as powerful or capable as the BaoFeng BF-82HP. Nevertheless, it is a solid purchase, given the price and value.
6. TYT MD-380 – Excellent value and performance
If you’re starting with DMR, look no further than TYT MD-380! It is portable yet offers excellent reception, functionality, and performance for a pretty low price.
The MD-380 by TYT oozes power, design, and performance. When it comes to the best handheld ham radios, this one’s an obvious choice!
Besides stylus, you get exceptional audio quality with zero static!
If you’re looking to venture into DMR, without spending $500, TYT MD-380 is the right choice. While it may be slightly challenging to learn, with the tech support from the brand, you will master it in no time. Also, it features a large, bright display, offering you complete ease of reading.
The bottom line is, it is a spectacular purchase with all the right specs at an affordable price. We bet you wouldn’t want to pass on this easy-to-use digital transceiver!
7. BaoFeng UV-82C –Killer specs and user-friendliness
BaoFeng has packed all kinds of tech in this handheld ham radio yet kept it beginner-friendly. It’s worth investing in as your next portable transceiver.
BaoFeng UV-82C is of the UV-82 generation, an ideal choice for those just starting in on ham radios. Why?
- It offers a selectable dual PTT or single PTT by software.
- The UV-82C is affordably-priced.
- It features 128 programmable channels alongside three power settings.
This is another powerful handheld ham radio you can add to your inventory if you are looking for a powerful beast.
Most notably, this BaoFeng model matches the likes of Yaesu and TYT, but at 1/3rd of the price. Its sturdy build quality is hands-down impressive.
Why would you look elsewhere when you have the BaoFeng UV-82C?
Handheld Ham Radio Buying Tips for Beginners
If you have read our article on best ham radio for beginners, you might already know how good ham radios are for the starters. Most of our top choices in that list are handheld ones. This means you are in the right path.
Once you delve into the handheld ham radio scene, you’ll be overwhelmed to find an array of brands and models.
Here’s how to shortlist a device with the advanced features to look for in a handie-talkie:
First and foremost, you need a powerful radio that suits your communication needs. The more power that you have, the more efficiency you get out of it. Hence, doubling the wattage of your HT can help get you excellent range coverage.
However, to maximize the range, you want to add in an external antenna instead of the rubber duck. It can provide better performance without draining your battery life. I suggest you to read our article on top ham radios antenna here: https://xroadgps.com/best-ham-radio-antenna/
Portable ham radio transceivers tend to have a better battery life than that of typical walkie-talkies. With the advancement of technology, you find these HTs with battery-saving modes. It can come in handy when you’re out of power and are looking to extend its life.
As a newbie, you should focus on the battery life and the battery-saving features the transceiver has to offer.
Having a larger battery can make any lightweight handheld ham radio bulkier. However, this difference can save you from always having to recharge the device.
Before adding any device to your cart, always check if it has an external DC connection. It makes recharging easier and makes sure that the HT has plenty of power at all times.
Always go for a brand that offers user-friendliness alongside quality products. The learning curve with most new products can be steep, especially for a newbie. Having a detailed guide can make operation straightforward and convenient.
Moreover, it can also provide details on how to program the transceiver in the shortest time.
Purchasing a portable amateur radio is the first step in venturing into the Ham radio world. What follows includes mastering the skills involved, like programming.
You program the typical HTs through programming software using your PC. Alternatively, you can also perform the task manually. However, we recommend going the software way to keep things simple.
If you’re planning on the same, you may want to check if the package includes a programming cable. If not, you will need to purchase one separately, one that is compatible with your particular transceiver.
Different device models transmit at different frequencies. If you’re looking to receive and transmit at the same band as your buddy, you must take ranges into attention.
Additionally, many transceivers broadcast at frequencies that may be illegal. However, it shouldn’t be a concern as it can come in handy for emergencies.
Having a dual-band ham radio HT allows you to monitor two different bands simultaneously. It also gives you the freedom to select the frequency you wish to transmit on.
If you’re looking to add an external antenna to your transceiver, ensure that it is dual-band compatible.
Another element worthy of consideration is weatherproofing.
A portable device can then be carried anywhere you go, and can survive through a storm as well! Moreover, having a waterproof one means you won’t have to worry about any impending damage.
Found the Most Powerful Handheld Ham Radio?
Finding the best handheld ham radio can be quite a daunting experience for a beginner. There can be so many crucial factors to consider!
Hopefully, by now, you may have found answers to all your questions and can now pick the right device for your needs.
If you’re starting up on ham as a new hobby and need something inexpensive, BaoFeng is a pretty cool choice. You can find some high-quality gadgets without hurting your pocket! For digital, you can try out TYT as it is inexpensive, but DMR-capable device!
There’s something for everyone!
Last update on 2021-11-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API