When it comes to emergency communications there’s a lot of advice out there on what types of emergency radios you should carry in your bugout bags. But sadly, the recommendations are usually coming from people who have little to no experience in emergency communications – and most of them have no experience with ham radio.
I’ve been a Licensed Ham Radio operator for over 20 years now, I’ve had numerous radios and talked to people from around the globe; I’ve done so on equipment that ranged from high-tech top of the line gear to cobbled together radio parts and antennas that looked like some sort of mad science fair project. I’m not telling you this to brag, I just want you to know that when I recommend a product, or in this case tell you to stay away from a product, I do so from experience.
The Preppers Radio: The Infamous Baofeng Ham Radio
Baofeng Radios are infamous in the prepping community. Go to almost any prepping website and you will see read an article from someone telling you how you need these little radios in your bag, claiming they are the perfect prepping radio: BULLSHIT!
Buying Preparedness gear isn’t something that should be taken lightly, and counting on some cheaply made Chinese crap is only asking for trouble.
Listen, I really wanted to like these radios; I mean who wouldn’t want a radio that often times sells for a tenth of the price of the big boys? But when it comes to preparedness, price is often a reliable indicator of what you can expect.
Baofeng Review from a Real Ham Radio Operator
I planned on doing a couple of videos showing real-world tests, showing you what you can expect from these radios during an emergency; but why bother? When you are shipped multiple units that won’t even reliably hold the battery pack without duct taping it to the radio, is there really even a point to going any further? Is that a radio that you would really trust in an emergency situation?
Baofeng has some of the worst quality control issues that I have ever seen. The radios are mass produced in China, and performance is really a crapshoot from radio to radio.
- The radios suck as transmitters and the power output widely varies from radio to radio. (Transmit power is rated at 5 Watt; according to my meter it’s putting out about 3)
- The receiver filtering is BAD! In A/B testing against other brands (Yaesu, Icom, & Kenwood) with identical power and antenna setups, you quickly realize how little the Baofeng actually picks up.
- Factory Antenna if Horrible! I knew that going in so I ordered a Nagoya Whip Antenna which did help.
- Baofeng Battery Packs are apparently notorious for not fitting the actual radios! Even during normal operation, the battery will not stay in the radio tight enough to maintain constant power. There are actually websites dedicated to modding the battery pack so it will fit, but again, why bother? If you have to mod a brand new battery pack to fit the radio, is it really a radio that you can count on during an emergency? And because I noticed a few people in the comments claim this isn’t a manufacturer battery — IT IS! The battery came directly from Baofeng, sealed in the box with the radio. I’ve had 3 factory batteries that would not fit right without shaving them down and rigging them to prevent them from falling out during a hike.
Baofeng Alternatives: Ham Radios that Preppers can actually count on!
When it comes to buying a radio that is specifically for preparedness purposes I recommend sticking with the big three: Kenwood, Yaesu, or Icom. Yes, the radios are more expensive, but the quality control doesn’t get much better. I also recommend looking for something that is specifically made for outdoor use in the elements, like the below Yaesu Radios.
- Yaesu VX-6R Submersible Amateur Ham Radio Transceiver (144/222/440)
- Yaesu Original FT-65 – I own these radios, and these are my go-to bug out bag radios!
For more information on Ham Radio and Emergency Communication, check out these articles:
- Prepper Radio: The No-BS Ham Radio Technician Exam Prep Guide Your Key to Passing the Amateur Radio Technician License Test and Taking Your Emergency Communication Skills to the Next Level
- Emergency Communications When TSHTF
- Ham Radio Cheat Sheet
- Situational Intel: Knowledge is Power during a Crisis
- Ham Radio FAQs
- The ¼ Wave Droopy Ground Plane 2 Meter Antenna