What Ham Radio Should I Get? Part 2, the Final Step – The Radio!
Welcome over to Part 2 answer to the million dollar question, “What ham radio should I get?”. If you missed part 1, go back and read What Ham Radio Should I Get Part 1. Now that you have all of the knowledge about ham radios, and things they can do, and hopefully what you will want to use it for, we get to talk about the radios themselves!
In this section, we will highlight some of our favorite radios. Every HT we highlight below will have a bare minimum of 5watts of power, and 100 memory presets.
Every mobile below will have 50 watts of power, Dual VFO, 500 memory presets, and removable faceplates.
At the end, we will give a couple of good base station options that are simple to use, and can double as a portable/expeditioning radio to take on camping trips to mountain tops.
If you don’t know what functionalities you will want yet, then check out our first radio on the list. Follow the links and get one of those and use it for a while until you figure out what kinds of things you want your radio to do.
Ham Radio Handhelds For The Off Road Adventurer
Our personal favorite ham radio handheld on the market is the Baofeng UV5R. It has 4watts and 1watt selectable output power. It has Dual VFO (2m, 70cm). It has 128 memory presets. And at roughly $25 on Amazon, a great price and comes within 2 days with Amazon Prime. The only downside to this radio, is that it isn’t as durable as other options.
So, if you drop it on a rock, or it gets left out in the rain, it isn’t going to last that long. But for 30$, you can get 4-5 of them before you start reaching the price of other HTs on the market. We have had ours for over 2 years now, out on the Rubicon, hiking in the John Muir Wilderness Area, Desolation Wilderness, and lots of other places and have yet to have any issues. If you take care of them, they will last until the battery goes.
Another reason we love these radios, is, if you add an external magnetic mount ham antenna, this radio works great from inside a vehicle. And if you add an upgraded whip ham antenna, this radio will work just as well as others that are 5x the price. You could also bump up the power to its big brother 8watt BF-8HP Ham Radio Handheld that comes with a slightly more durable case, or go with the BaoFeng GT-3TP Mark III Ham Radio Handheld that is IP54 rated, comes with an upgraded antenna, a hand mic, and a way to charge it in your vehicle… at 50$, this one wins our “Best Value” award.
Our next ham radio handheld is one that is extremely popular in the California Sierras with off roaders: The Alinco DJ 500T. The DJ-500T has an amazing IP54 quality to it. It comes with 200 memory presets, it has dual band 2m and 70cm, and a great dual VFO that allows you to monitor 2 frequencies at once. It will withstand moisture better than the Boafengs, and shock. So if you drop it a couple of times from low heights, you won’t have to get a new radio right away. It has a longer battery life than the Baofeng too.
The only downside to this radio is that it can be a pain in the rear end to program. The menu is difficult to find (function 8!). So, if you plan on getting this and have some issues programming it, head over and check out our Ham Radio Programming Services. If you want something durable, will last forever, is easy to use, and great quality, then this is the radio you want.
The last HT we will cover is an awesome one! The Kenwood TH-D72A is a powerful ham radio handheld with lots of options packed into a small, sleek unit. It can do both 2m and 70cm, Dual VFO, IP54 rating, it has 1,000 memory presets, 5watts power, comes with programming cable and software included, anddddd built in APRS!
If you remember, APRS is one of the best insurance policies for frequent hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers, and campers. Anyone who spends time getting lost in the wilderness, should have some sort of backup plan in case things go wrong and someone needs to find you. This radio has everything an adventurer could want and need. And backed by the Kenwood name and experience, you won’t go wrong.
Check Today’s Handheld Ham Radio Options!
Handheld Ham Radio Option 1: Baofeng UV5R 4-5 Watts Check Today’s Price!
Handheld Ham Radio Option 2: Baofeng GT-3TP Mark III 8w IP54 Check Today’s Price! “Best Value!”
Handheld Ham Radio Option 3: Baofeng BF-F8HP 8w Check Today’s Price!
Magnetic Mount Ham Radio Antenna for Baofeng UV5R, BF-8HP, GT-3TP Check Today’s Price!
Nagoya Whip Ham Radio Antenna for Baofeng UV5R, BF-8HP, GT-3TP Check Today’s Price!
Alinco DJ 500T Handheld Ham Radio Check Today’s Price!
Kenwood TH-D72A Handheld Ham Radio Check Today’s Price!
Mobile Ham Radios For The Adventurer
Our first mobile ham radio is our favorite entry level radio. The TYT TH7800 offers a lot of options in an affordable package. It comes complete with dual band, dual VFO, crossband repeat, 2m, 70cm, over 800 memory channels, removeable faceplate, 50 watts output power, and an extended frequency range so you can get GMRS, MURS, FRS, and NOAA Weather alerts. At right around $200, this feature rich radio is $100-$150 cheaper than most other ham radios on the market in its same class.
If you are looking for an awesome off road mobile radio, check out Icom’s IC-2730A. It has all of the basic functionalities that you will want for off roading, at a price that is easier on the wallet than the top-end ID-5100 listed below. Check out our review of the IC-2730A. So far, it earns our top overall recommendation for off roaders looking for a simple, easy to use, radio.
Our next ham radio, the Yaesu FTM-100DR is an awesome option for search and rescue teams. This radio boasts an impressive lineup of 50watts of power, Dual VFO, 500 memory presets, crossband repeat, digital or analog operation, a removeable faceplate, and GPS direction finder and APRS. The great function that makes this radio a good option for search and rescue teams, is the ability for these radios to “check in” with each other. What this means is that the radios are constantly sending out a “beacon” transmission, to keep track of each other. Once a radio leaves the signal range, or enters the signal range, the radio will inform you of who is nearby.
You can see how this would be a massive help for search and rescue teams to keep track of each other. Off road clubs could also use it to help keep track of each other on long overland trips, or out at Moab. Most radios that come with all of those functions built in, will run you around $500-$600, this one comes in at a very affordable $300-$350 and is the most reasonably priced mobile ham radio on the market with APRS built in.
Our last radio is our personal favorite. The Icom ID-5100 comes fully loaded with 50watts of power, 2m and 70cm, dual VFO, crossband repeat, digital and analog operation, APRS, and removeable faceplate. Along with the already impressive list, is a built in altimeter, speed, and course meters. It also boasts a large touch screen LCD screen that makes button and information real estate grand, easy to read, and efficient to use all of the functions.
Our favorite feature of this ham radio is its built in repeater finder! When you program repeaters into the ID-5100, you also add their GPS coordinates. This gives the radio 2 awesome features for adventurers. The ability to automatically pull up nearby repeaters, and the ability to point you in the direction of a repeater if you lose signal from it.
This ham radio also has an optional Bluetooth module. Buying the bluetooth module opens up a whole ‘nother world of abilities. If you have the Repeaterbook App on your phone, you can bluetooth repeater listings into the ID-5100 on the fly. You can also hook up a bluetooth headset for hands free operation, AND you can control the radio from your cell phone.
If you have the budget for this one, it is hands down the best mobile ham radio for the adventurer. Oh, and did we mention that it comes pre-programmed with a limited number of repeaters already for you! We still swoon every time we see one.
Check Today’s Mobile Ham Radio Options!
Mobile Ham Radio Option 1: TYT TH-7800 Check Today’s Price! “Best Value”
Mobile Ham Radio Option 2: Icom IC-2730A Check Today’s Price! “Top Pick!”
Mobile Ham Radio Option 3: Yaesu FTM-100DR Check Today’s Price! “Top APRS Pick”
Mobile Ham Radio Option 4: Icom ID-5100 Check Today’s Price! “Top Digital Radio Pick”
Expedition Ham Radios
Our first radio is a perfect little all band, multiple modes expedition radio. We have used our Yaesu 857D on multiple expeditions on mountain tops. It does way too much for how small of a package it is. We found the button and menu system to be clunky for HF operation, but it definitely got the job done.
We were extremely impressed with the sound quality of this radio. For pumping 100watts and doing 80m all the way through 6m, and being able to do CW, RTTY, and SSB, it is an awesome little package. Lightweight and small package makes this an ideal radio for SOTA activations if you have enough power to run the 100w output. Or for an emergency radio when SHTF. It also makes a great package for motorhomes, RVs, or campers.
We wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the quintessential legend of expedition ham radios, the Icom IC-718. It has just as many features as the Yaesu 857, but because it is slightly bigger, there is more real estate to make everything work better. It can cover all HF bands (which means you need your General License if you want to transmit on HF!), plus 2m and 70cm.. Which means you can use this ham radio as a Technician License on the 2m and 70cm bands.
This ham radio makes a perfect addition to a bug out bag, go box, emergency preparedness kit, or motorhomes, RVs, campers, and other expeditions type uses! What also makes this ham radio legendary is its price tag, check it out below!
Check Today’s Ham Radio Expedition Radio Options!
Expedition Ham Radio Option 1: Yaesu FT-857D Check Today’s Price!
Expedition Ham Radio Option 2: Icom IC-718 Check Today’s Price!
Thank you for reading! Feel free to leave any comments or questions below! If you want to keep in touch with us when we add new content, join our newsletter! We do special offers that only show up in the newsletter, so make sure you sign up below!
You can also join the community forums and ask questions and see what adventures everyone else is up to!
Join the Off Road Ham Radio Community!
Also, if you don’t have your Ham Radio Technician License, head over to our Online Ham Radio Class and study up! Remember, 15% of your class registration goes back to one of our partners!
And, of course, don’t forget to check out our MORRFlate 4 Tire Off Road Inflation Deflation Kit!