Finding the best ham radio is key to enjoying this fresh, fun way to interact without the use of smartphones and the internet. With a ham radio you can talk to people in your local town or state or even in other countries of the world. It's a truly unique experience which even in 2021 draws many hardcore and casual users.
Apart from being a joy to use, ham radios can also be a lifesaver in times of emergency. If you are in need of assistance out on the ocean, wilderness or anywhere else, you can rest assured that once you call for help, someone somewhere will hear you.
Numerous types of ham radios have made their way onto the market, which makes it hard to know which ham radios are more efficient than others. This article will provide you with information on ten of the best rated ham radios out there, as well as in-depth ham radio reviews of the top five recommended radios.
With that said, let’s take a look at the best ham radios available today.
The Best Ham Radios
[ Our #1 Choice ]
Ham Radio Reviews
In this section we review the top 5 amateur radios listed in the comparison table above. With the help of these ham radio reviews you should be able to find the best ham radio for your own needs.
The BF-F8HP also sports a brand new battery pack which allows for a long-lasting source of power. With the large 2000 mAh battery you are able to use the built-in flashlight and FM radio to full capacity, and still have enough power left for the rest of the day before recharge.
To ensure you make full use of all it has to offer, the BaoFeng BF-F8HP comes with a handy and informative manual that guides you through customization, and provides comprehensive explanations of its capabilities.
If that wasn’t enough, all the essential extras are included, such as a quality belt clip, a nifty earpiece and a power charger. Crammed with hi-tech features, the BaoFeng BF-F8HP is undoubtedly a flawless and reliable radio, and an optimal choice for all users.
BaoFeng makes another well-deserved appearance with the UV-5R. This unique approach to radio design incorporates a micro-miniature multi-band FM transceiver which allows for extensive receive frequency coverage.
Furthermore, the BaoFeng UV-5R offers local-area, two-way amateur communications, together with superior monitoring capabilities.
This BaoFeng ham radio is highly durable and specifically built to withstand plenty external pounding with its tough metallic casing. The internal parts are thus well-protected, and you are rest assured that this beauty will carry on running considerably longer than other amateur radios out there.
The BaoFeng UV-5R also has a new and advanced auto-band detection that can detect bands automatically, and eliminates the need for using the band button.
Another superb feature, which also comes in handy, is the two-color LED screen. Its high-resolution display allows it to be read easily from any angle.
The Baofeng UV-5R is a perfect example of how hi-tech innovation and durability, when combined, make for radios of unmatched worth and superiority.
The FT-70DR from Yaesu is one of the most compact ham radios you could probably find in the market today. With a height of a little over four inches and a width not more than three inches, this little device can fit easily inside your pocket.
Despite its size, the FT-70DR has a rugged construction that can withstand minor impacts. Additionally, its design keeps it safe from dust and water. You can expect optimal protection for the device even when you’re outdoors.
Don’t mistake its size for weakness because the FT-70DR can provide up to 5W of power. It significantly improves the frequency range of the device. You can also expect it to produce quality audio because of its 700mW output.
That is backed by C4FM operation mode, which filters noises and modifies the sound digitally. By doing so, the overall audio output of the FT-70DR is of top quality.
This ham radio also uses an AMS function or Automatic Mode Select. With this technology, the radio can identify the signal transmission as digital or analog. Once the radio figures it out, it automatically switches the operation mode according to the signal received.
The front of the device has an LED indicator. It will let you know whether the device is currently in analog or digital mode.
However, one downside of this is that Yaesu did not include the batteries on the FT-70DR package. That means you have to find a compatible one for it to function. While you’re at it, make sure that it’s a high-capacity battery to keep up with the 5W power demands of the radio.
The TYT MD-380 is a Digital Portable Two Way Radio and TYT's first DMR digital radio, which utilizes Time-Division Multi-Access (TDMA) digital technology.
This superbly designed radio is compatible with Motorola TRBO Tier I & II radios, including radios manufactured by Motorola, Hytera, Kenwood, and Vertex Standard.
One of the most prominent features of this TYT ham radio is its revolutionary LCD display. This large, high-resolution display is easy on the eyes and includes hi-tech graphics and text messaging.
Coupled with all this are the built-in CTCSS/DCS, channel scan and priority scan. The TYT MD-380 has an impressive 1000 channel capability and its one-of-a-kind DTMF keypad allows full access to a menu of all its vital features. To top it all off, it uses Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) Tier 2 Standard protocols.
The TYT MD-380 has hi-tech features that are made available at a fraction of the cost of other radios of this unparalleled level of advancement. You can’t go wrong with this TYT ham radio and it’s most certainly a wise investment.
While most of the features we’ve mentioned so far make it a little bit like the FT-70DR from Yaesu, there’s one notable difference between the two. The KG-UV9D from Wouxon includes a 2000mAh battery in their package.
You can also bring this device to your outdoor activities because it has an IP55 rating for water resistance. You must keep in mind, though, that it’s water-resistant and not waterproof. While the radio can withstand a little bit of dust and moisture, completely submerging it in water for a long time will still ruin its electronics.
It also has an automatic keypad lock. If you’re not using the device, it will shut off its keypad function. This feature will prevent you from accidentally pressing buttons while the radio is in your pocket.
Additionally, if you’re not using the device, you can use it as an FM radio. It can receive FM frequencies to receive updates about the weather or hear the local news. Since it’s portable, Wouxun made sure to include a belt clip on the package.
The package also includes a wrist strap to ensure you don’t accidentally drop the radio. Wouxon will also provide you with a desktop charger for easy charging.
Ham Radio Buying Guide
Apart from the actual parts, features and design, there are a number of important things that need to be taken into consideration when you are looking to buy the best ham radio. Understanding these will ensure more productive use of your amateur radio. Below are some significant things to consider before purchase.
Types of licenses
One of the main things to consider when buying a ham radio is licensing. Have no concerns, as the process has been simplified over recent years. It is now easier than ever to get your ham radio license. There are three types of licenses currently offered:
This is an entry-level license and you must pass an examination in order to obtain it. You get access to all frequencies over 30 megahertz, as well as certain HF band privileges. For the most part, you can communicate domestically and locally.
To get this license, passing an examination is also required. Once obtained, you will be permitted to take part in international communication. Keep in mind that a Technician License is a prerequisite.
Amateur Extra License
As with the other licenses, you still need to pass an examination. Upon receiving it, you will have access to all operating privileges on all modes and bands. You need to have a General License beforehand.
For more information on ham radio licensing you should take a look at the ARRL website.
Frequency Access According to License
Know which frequencies you want to use and which are allowed to use with each license. Not all radios work with all frequencies, so make sure you buy one that offers the frequencies you want to access. Something else that must be taken into consideration is the power input and output of the transceiver for the specific terrain that the equipment is used in.
Suits Your Goals
If you purchase a handheld ham radio make sure it has high and low power settings that you can manually adjust. It’s a good idea for beginners to purchase an inexpensive or second-hand handheld transceiver initially. Handhelds do not require antennas or amplifiers, but offer major benefits.
But even if you opt for a cheaper transceiver, don’t compromise on quality. Rather pay a little more for a quality single band device, which is recommended, instead of a cheap multi-band transceiver.
Finally, for some more basic information on ham radio take a look at this excellent introduction video:
Ham Radio Brands
Becoming familiar with all the types of ham radios out there is overwhelming enough, but knowing the various brands is just as important. For your convenience, here are the top brands in the industry. All their devices incorporate the highest standards of quality, and have a long history of consumer satisfaction. Stick to these brands and you will never go wrong.
BaoFeng Ham Radios
BaoFeng has a long-standing reputation as a leader in identifying, marketing and supplying state-of the-art electronic consumer products on a worldwide scale.
BaoFeng ham radios are part of a comprehensive range of products that have passed quality and durability tests many times over. Therefore, only top-notch amateur radios of the highest standards of efficiency are made available to users. BaoFeng radios are highly-effective during times of emergency and have the ability to cover HAM and LMS.
Some BaoFeng ham radios have a LED flashlight, with an enclosed lens and reflector for ultimate focus, and voice transmission is loud, clear, and crisp. BoaFeng is a leading brand in the industry and will definitely continue to be.
Yaesu Ham Radios
Yaesu is a leading brand which manufactures ham radios of unparalleled quality. For over half a century, Yaesu has maintained its superb reputation, and to this day never lets consumers down.
Yaesu ham radios feature built-in digital signal processing functions allowing you to set up memories. They are designed with tough turning knobs, removable front panels and a highly-advanced ergonomic layout. In addition, Yeasu amateur radios receive all AM/FM broadcasts and shortwave signals.
Users have noted that the convenience of easy programming software is one of the main reasons that prompt them into purchasing Yaesu products. With all-important extras there is always the chance of damage. Not with Yeasu ham radios though. They can withstand bumping, pounding and dropping, and still work like a charm.
Yaesu remains a consistent manufacturer of supreme communications equipment.
TYT Ham Radios
TYT has 15-years of radio manufacturing experience under its belt, and is a pioneer of cutting-edge ham radios in particular. Prior to being released, all amateur radios endure the most demanding tests via top-rate testing machinery.
TYT ham radios are portable and lightweight with an excellent ergonomic design. Its radios are made to fit comfortably in the hand and can even be carried in pockets, making it a pleasure to use.
TYT radios include wideband antennas as well. Furthermore, TYT features the notable DMR digital radio, which utilizes Time-Division Multi-Access (TDMA) digital technology. This breakthrough in radio technology enables several users to share the same frequency channel, by dividing the signal into different time slots.
Exclusive and ultra-reliable, TYT ham radios will guarantee that you have a safe journey, as well as a pleasurable one, every time you head out.
ICOM Ham Radios
ICOM is a brand that offers a diverse range of hi-tech communication products for land, sea and air. ICOM ham radios are equipped with valuable extra features, all of top-quality.
ICOM radios have GPS receivers that add functionality on their advanced dual-band capabilities. In addition, this enables more information to be received at your current location. ICOM amateur radios also are compact and dual-band, which enables them to receive two transmissions at once. Another remarkable extra is the astounding 1304 channel alphanumeric memory system and memory card Micro SD card slot.
ICOM ham radios also contain built-in CTCSS/DTCS encode/decodes for analog FM, as well as independent AM and FM broadcast receivers. Not many users know that ICOM actually helped pioneer the development of Digital Signal Processing (DSP) equipment.
Wouxun Ham Radios
Wouxun ham radios are synonymous with customer satisfaction and innovation. Since their establishment, they have always manufactured ham radios with a focus on the user. Wouxun has kept its promise of developing and manufacturing the best wireless ham radios and accessories in the radio industry.
What makes the brand so successful is that many products are improved and upgraded as a result of consumer feedback. By understanding consumer needs, Wouxun is able to deliver the most efficient products.
Wouxun ham radios feature two independent receivers, for both UHF and VHF, allowing users to listen to different bands simultaneously. They are also equipped with high-capacity memory banks enabling you to assign channels to multiple banks. A well known hi-tech addition is the high-resolution, colored screen. Its innovative design makes for a versatile and clear user experience.
It would be safe to say that Wouxun have been as consistent with its high-standards, as it has been with maintaining their renowned reputation.
What are Different Types of Ham Radios
Users have their own preferences. Depending on where you are and the type of vessel you are travelling in, ham radios are custom-made to meet each user’s specific needs. Each type of amateur radio provides different benefits and advantages. Knowing the specifications of each one will assist you in obtaining the best ham radio most suitable for you.
Base or Fixed Transceiver Ham Radio
Fixed transceivers are used by ham radio enthusiasts who want to reach a wide range on a daily basis, and individuals who are serious about getting the most out of their ham radio equipment.
A base transceiver is designed to stay in one place. It is among the more powerful transceivers available, and offers many useful features. A base transceiver is usually large in size and heavy, therefore it utilizes more standby battery power than other transceiver types.
Fixed transceivers and base stations are considerably more expensive and shouldn’t be considered initially if you are on a tight budget. Some manufacturers also offer portable base stations that are smaller and more lightweight. A portable base station is ideal for camping or canal boating, when one is away for lengthy stretches. They can offer good value for money for someone looking for transceiver portability, along with flexibility.
Handheld Ham Radio Transceivers
Handheld ham radios are small, lightweight, portable, and a great deal less expensive than the other types. Handheld transceivers are designed to transmit and receive while the user is on the move. However, they do not offer as much power or signal range as other transceivers.
Light emergency use, local public service use, and local communication are more suited to a portable ham radio. They allow for ease-of-use and can be carried in the hand, securely around the neck, or clipped onto a belt.
Handheld amateur radios transmit on VHF and UHF bands, and run on small rechargeable battery packs. They can switch between a low and high power setting.
Often, you’re only going to find a maximum wattage of 5 watts on handhelds, so be certain that they have different power settings. This will ensure you have a handheld that can function well on GMRS and HAM wattage, but that can also dial down for operating on MURS frequencies without violating any FCC laws.
Mobile Ham Radio Transceivers
Mobile ham radios are used by amateur radio operators who plan to broadcast from a vehicle. They usually transmit FM voice on either VHF or UHF bands, and also offer more power and range than handhelds. For the ham radio enthusiast just starting out, a mobile transceiver may be a good option.
A mobile ham radio can be used together with an antenna, which can be mounted on the vehicle, ensuring fully functioning mobile radio stations. Their ability to pull in extremely weak signals make mobile transceivers ideal for emergency communications and long conversations between radio operators. However, if one wants to reach a wide area, a repeater or echo-link mode may be necessary, otherwise a base transceiver might be a better option.
There you have it. All the information you need on the best ham radios out there on the market today, as well as tons of tips and guidelines, ensuring that you only purchase an optimal amateur radio that meets your preferences.
There’s no need for endless searching online, or reading through tons of “How To” books, as everything is right here. All that’s left for you to do is to get your hands on the ham radio that you like best. Take care out there and stay connected!