Are you a friend of a ham? We do not mean the pink kind you might find at a holiday dinner table. Instead, when we refer to “hams,” we are affectionately talking about the many people of all ages who enjoy the hobbies of amateur radio, which is also referred to as “ham” radio.
While some enthusiasts enjoy using amateur radio for simple companionship and socialization, others rely upon their fellow ham radio lovers in times of survival and emergency communication.
We know that it is important to have the best handheld radio instead of simply a mediocre one. In order to help you decide which of the 10 best handheld ham radios are best for you, we have looked at the features, pros, cons, and general reputation among customers.
Whether you are looking for the best handheld ham radio for survival or simply want the best radio for recreational use, this list should help you find the right handheld for you.
Handheld Ham Radios: My Top Picks
Baofeng UV-5R Two Way Radio Dual Band
In the search for the best handheld ham radio, you might wish to consider this BaoFeng X radioddity model. The UV-5rx3 model continues the classic design found in the 5r-plus that customers loved, such as the glossy shell made of metal. But in addition to that design, the UV-5rx3 features accessories that are loved by the UV-5R plus model.
Customers praise the affordability of this BaoFeng product. They also take special interest in the fact that the radio can be programmed into a device that is even easier to use. Radioddity is also praised for its ability to respond quickly with high-quality customer service to any problems that customers might have had.
If you are too much of a novice to tackle programming, you might wish to purchase a different type of radio. But this BaoFeng product is a great choice for you if you are willing to utilize third-party software in order to program the radio.
- Includes two antennas
- Radioddity includes 1.5 years of warranty
- Comes with several accessories, including an adapter, earpiece, wrist strap, and belt clip
- Programming can be difficult to figure out, even with manual help
- We May have to use third-party software to program
BAOFENG BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio
This radio is known for love for two primary characteristics. First, BaoFeng advertises this particular as being one that can provide a great introduction to the lifestyle of collecting radios. Secondly, this radio is definitely one that should be on your list if you are searching for the best digital handheld ham radio.
Its digital capabilities make programming the radio easier, especially if you want to customize the options.
Customers praise the radio for its ability to be versatile and inexpensive. Customers also enjoy using this brand of radio as an alternative to blister-pack radios. They also consider this particular model of BaoFeng to be superior to less expensive BaoFeng models.
These radios are more powerful than many other types of introductory radios. Due to this level of power, they do require a level of customization that other radios do not need in order to be used legally. If you are ready to take on the responsibility of such a powerful radio, this could very well be the best digital handheld ham radio you buy.
- Designed for beginner’s use
- Fully customizable
- Backed by a manufacturer’s warranty
- Recommended that you purchase an extra PCO3 FTDI programming cable
- Must be reprogrammed before use in order to be compliant with the FCC and government regulations
BaoFeng UV-82HP (RED) High Power Dual Band Radio
This amateur radio is considered the best BaoFeng handheld ham radio that you can buy if you are worried about purchasing authorized BaoFeng equipment. If you are looking for the best dual-band handheld ham radio on the market, you may choose this one because it is the only one authorized by Baofeng’s USA distributor.
Customers love that this radio is the only BaoFeng product that you can rely upon to honor the manufacturer’s warranty. Even if you are only using the handheld radio for recreational socialization purposes, you can relax with the knowledge that you are covered by a warranty if anything happens to the product.
If you are looking for an introductory ham radio that offers terrific features for the price, this BaoFeng product is definitely going to give you your money’s worth. But if you are planning to use your radio for heavy-duty socialization or survival training, you may wish to spend a little more money on a more durable product.
- Additional BaoFeng guides and tips can be found on the BaoFeng and Miklor websites
- Enjoy up to 128 programmable channels
- Difficulty in turning off the backlight’s automatic on/off function
- Customers reported difficulty with the durability of radios
BTECH UV-5X3 5 Watt Tri-Band Radio
Are you searching for a beginner radio? There are several reasons why this BTECH UC-5X may be considered the best handheld ham radio for beginners.
The primary reason that so many beginners are fond of this particular model is the fact that it comes with several comprehensive features that other beginner radios do not include.
Customers love the range that they are able to receive with this handheld. They are particularly fond of how easy this particular model is, and how the newer features are ones that benefit the customer’s overall ham hobby experience.
If having an affordable beginner radio is important to you, this Btech radio might be the perfect one for you. The radio may not perform as well as other models if you are planning on using it outside or for very rugged adventures. But it will be a perfect purchase if you are just getting started in amateur radio collecting or if you need a second device.
- Good for beginners
- Useful as a second radio
- Recommended for indoor or vehicle use
- Support from Btech
- English instructional manual
- Includes earphones and charging stand
- Does not feature a tri-band antenna
- Some customers report that it is not durable for outside use
- Not easy to program out of the box
BAOFENG UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio
One of the best aspects of being a ham enthusiast is the fact that there are radios available to fit almost any budget. This particular BaoFeng product has a reputation for excellence for those who are on the hunt for the best budget handheld ham radio.
Hobby collectors who are looking for a micro-miniature FM transceiver with a range of frequency coverage enjoy the features that this radio has to offer.
Customers enjoy the low price of this product. This particular model is loved by HAM enthusiasts who are looking to begin their hobby. Most people who are brand new to the idea of collecting amateur radios enjoy having the option of buying an affordable product in order to begin their hobby.
This radio can be an excellent one for beginners. But the product is not for every beginner, because it is not out-of-the-box friendly. If you live in the US, operating one can be even more difficult to figure out, due to legality issues.
But if you are able to get used to the quirks of the product, you can benefit immensely from purchasing this powerful and affordable introductory amateur radio.
- Convenient and ergonomic
- Contains flashlight equipment
- These radios cannot be used legally in the U.S. due to the FCC standards. In order to operate, you need to buy a license so that you can use GMRS-dedicated channels instead of FRS channels. Most ham enthusiasts prefer FRS channels, which can make this product a problem to own and operate legally.
- Output is only 5 watt
TYT MD-380 – DMR/Moto TRBO Ham Radio
Any list that offers ideas about the best handheld ham radio would not be complete without the TYT MD-380. For those who prefer DMR over Dstar or Yaesu Fusion, this handheld device offers a solid choice for business communication or amateur radio.
Many DMR radios can cost up to $500. Collectors love this radio because it is an affordable way to become introduced to the world of DMR. Customers also praise the range and sound quality that come with this handheld.
It is unlikely that you will find a more affordable option for including DMR devices in your handheld collection. This powerful and programmable device allows you to grow your collection while also offering brand-new ways of communicating.
- Easy to use out of the box
- Can be made even more impressive through custom firmware
- Easy-to-read station ID, name, and call signs
- Cannot be programmed without a Windows PC
Yaesu FT-60R Dual Band Handheld 5W VHF / UHF Amateur Radio
The Yaesu dual-band handheld enjoys a positive reputation among ham enthusiasts due to its sheer durability. When you purchase this radio, you will be purchasing one that many consider the best 2-meter handheld ham radio due to its ability to withstand damage.
Its ease of programming also makes it a contender for favorite handheld ham radio among many hobbyists.
Customers routinely praise this Yaesu model of handheld because it is so easy to program. Customers also report that they have dropped the product multiple times and the radio still works. If you are planning on using your radio for anything beyond light recreation, the ability to survive traumatic falls is one you should cherish.
If you want a durable handheld that is still affordable, this model will be the right purchase for you. This product works well as an introductory radio or as an upgrade from your first handheld.
- Large coverage for both receiving and transmitting
- Repeater offsets can be reprogrammed
- Small yet durable
- SMA antenna connector does not work for all customers
- Radio is prone to falling over during use
- Small keypad
AnyTone AT-D878UVII Plus – Dual Band DMR/Analog
When compiling the list of the best handheld ham radio reviews, the AnyTone AT-D868UV has to make the list. This handheld is best enjoyed by those who have experience with using handheld radios, due to the level of programming and power available.
Owners of this radio praise it as being one of the very best DMR radios they have ever used. Owners emphasize that being able to program a DMR is an essential tool that you need to have in order to get the best out of this particular radio.
At a certain point, a collector truly wants to get serious about his or her hobby. They need to move on and obtain the best possible radio for their needs, and this is that handheld device. If you have moved past the beginner stage, this AnyTone device is your best possible choice for a handheld.
- Long battery life
- Ability to use both analog and digital
- Must be programmed using a Windows PC
- Audio is not as good on the low-end
- Incompatible with third-party software, such as Chirp
Factors to Consider
So you have gotten the urge to buy your first handheld ham radio, and you want to know what type of tips you should keep in mind when purchasing a new radio.
First, decide exactly what you want to purchase the radio for because that will guide you exactly what you need the handheld to have.
It is important to really think about how you are going to use the radio because handhelds can be used for a variety of purposes.
Some people use them only for emergency communications, while others simply enjoy being able to talk to someone clearly across the world without the benefit of the internet.
If you want a device for emergencies, you will want to make sure that your radio is durable, for both inside and outside weather. The best handheld ham radio for beginners does not have to be as durable.
You should also decide on a budget and stick to it. There are handheld devices that are available regardless of what budget you might have. This list has included ones as affordable as $27, and there are some that are more than $500.
Making the Decision
Now that you have a list of the best handheld ham radios, you are fully capable of making the right decision. You know what you want to use your radio for, and you know how serious you are about the hobby.
With this knowledge and this guide to help you, you are fully capable of buying the best handheld ham radio in order to begin your amateur radio hobby today