We get a lot of questions on ham radio and what people should buy for survival purposes, so we are going to start looking at everything from the basics on up to everything you need to build your own emergency preparedness communications infrastructure to keep you going should things go really bad.
There are a ton of prepper websites that talk about Ham Radio, but when looking at that information and the radios that they recommend I want you to really be careful who you listen to. Ham Radio is a complicated subject, and most radios require a certain amount of knowledge to use them correctly.
Unfortunately, most of what is out there on the internet is just copy and paste stolen from other sites or reviews pulled directly off of Amazon. I’ve been a Ham Radio operator for over 30 years, so whenever I talk about a radio or emergency communication on this site it is coming from my own personal experience.
Radio communication, Antenna Theory, and electronics are complicated subjects – I will be the first to admit that I don’t know everything, so if you are looking to get into Ham Radio or buying a radio for emergency communication purposes, please take the time to at least understand how the radios work, how to set up antennas, and the basics of ham radio and emergency communication.
A Radio for Local, State and Nationwide Communication: The Yaesu FT-65R
Today we are going to look at a radio that is part of our personal setup for short-range local communications, the dual-band Yaesu FT-65R.
I personally use this radio – it’s actually sitting on my desk monitoring stations as I write this review – so everything in this review is coming from my own personal experience. That being said, and in the honor of full transparency, I did not buy the radio. I actually won it in a Raffle at the Ham Radio Reception during the NAB Show in Las Vegas. But damn am I glad I won!
The Yaesu FT-65R is a small, handheld, Dual Band Ham radio that covers the 2 Meters (144 MHz to 148 MHz) and 70CM (430 – 450 MHz) radio bands. It comes with a 1950 mAh Li-Ion battery pack that gives you about 8-9 hours of operating time.
It can usually be found for around $100…
Now before we jump into the radio review, I’m going to jump off-topic a bit for a moment, because on almost every other prepper site, you are going to see people with very little ham radio knowledge recommending the Baofeng UV-5R. I WILL NOT BE DOING THAT!
Listen, I own the radio, I use the Radio, and I experiment with the Baofeng radio – it is part of my Ham Gear, but I own it for the hobby sake of owning it and being able to experiment with a cheap ass radio that I don’t have to worry about killing. If you want to use it to experiment with and learn from, have at it! But from a preparedness standpoint, I am not going to trust my life to some $30 Chinese piece of crap that may or may not be a knock off, depending on where and who you bought it from! Rant over!
Now back to The Yaesu FT-65R
This is one solid little radio; something that I feel I can depend on even if it takes a beating. I have no problems throwing it into a bugout bag, keeping it inside my Truck, or using it during bad weather conditions.
From a performance standpoint, at this price point you will be hard-pressed to find a better handheld dual-band radio. Now I’m going to warn you, you are probably going to see some reviews from people who bought radio bitching about reception and transmission — it’s a HANDHELD RADIO not a high-power vehicle mobile rig or a home station that can pump up the power and utilize better antennas. If you understand that, and you have a basic knowledge of setting up antennas, this radio will do the job!
RANT – Most of these people probably are not Hams, many don’t understand how repeater offsets work so they will never be able to send or receive anything on any radio, and I doubt many of them can build their own Antennas – RANT OVER!
Anyways, this is a great little starter radio for those just getting into Ham Radio, one that can also serve as a primary hand-held Emergency Radio.
Here are a couple of the things we liked about the Yaesu FT-65R radio:
- It’s easy to program both simplex and repeater frequencies in the field, even without a programming cable.
- Solid construction – The IP54 Rating for Dust and Water protection, and the MIL-810-C,D and E standards make this a great radio for those who plan to be in hard environments.
- Battery life, even with the stock battery is pretty damn good out of the box!
- Not a lot of frequency error, as we’ve seen in a lot of radios under $100.
- The price point isn’t bad for a starter radio.
What we don’t like about the Yaesu FT-65:
In our opinion, Yaesu is trying to hard to compete with the Baofeng and should have stuck to the FT-60 design and features. Yes, the FT-65 is a hell of a lot better than a Baofeng, but when compared to the FT-60, which could be one of the best HTs ever built, it just doesn’t stack up.
That being said, if you are on a strict budget the FT-65 is cheaper, easy to use, and will make a great first radio!
For the most part, the radio should be good to go right out of the box. That being said for emergency preparedness purposes we do recommend having these add-ons.
The stock antenna provides decent performance across both bands; but like with any other handheld radio we recommend upgrading the antenna to something like the MFJ 1717sf quarter-wave antenna.
Hopefully, you already have a higher power mobile rig in your vehicle (these give you more power and better performance than a handheld radio), but if not, I recommend at the very list having a mobile mount antenna that you can then hook this handheld up to while you are driving for better transmission and reception. We recommend something like an MFJ-1729 Magmount antenna.
The radio is actually pretty easy to program, but it’s even easier to program with the RT Systems Programming Software and USB-55 Cable . This software gives you a spreadsheet layout that interfaces with things like the RFinder-Worldwide Repeater Directory to program all of your local repeaters – it also allows you to quickly reprogram the radio if you plan on traveling or bugging out to a new location.
If you are part of a group, or family that plans on using multiple radios to communicate with each other during an emergency, then we also recommend getting the Yaesu SCU-36 Cloning Cable – this will allow you to clone all of your radios so they have the exact same frequency setups and channels designations. During a SHTF situation, you can easily just tell your group to head over to a certain channel instead of having to give away what frequencies you will be communicating on!