Your HT (Handie Talkie) is going to be your first important communications purchase. Forget about regular walkie talkies or FRS radios, they are restricted to transmitting on a half a watt only. You can also get paired MURS radios, but this is only a pale comparison to the capabilities you have as you take 1 step up, and enter into the world of amateur radio. Baofeng radios are a great place to start.
Having had numerous debates on this topic, I have found many a die hard radio buff, who will recommend you go for a $200 and up, high quality handheld. If you can afford to spend the money, AND have the inclination to do so, go ahead, there are some pretty nice handheld HAM radios out there, of very high quality between $200 and $400. But here’s my personal experience from out in the field.
First of all, if you’re trying to get a group of motivated dedicated people together that will show up for more than just hanging out at the range and drinking beer, then you have a challenging time ahead of you. When you start putting people together, unless you have the perfect storm, you would be doing well to have 10% of them be reliable.
What I have found is, that if you convince someone of how great that high quality radio is, and it’s more than they wanted to spend, they will end up with no radio at all, and nothing makes your team members more unreliable, than lack of communication. The cheaper radios will still do a Great! job, and I’d rather be able to get in touch with 10 guys using cheap radios, than only 2 guys with super high end radios.
It seems to be that a vast number of preparedness groups rely on the Baofeng UV-5R or variation thereof. Baofeng has several models, but the UV-5R would be your bottom level entry radio that will get you up and running, and you can get them for under $30.
The UV-5R is a dual band 5 watt radio that is capable of operating on hundreds of frequencies, is 10 times more powerful than a standard FRS Walkie Talkie, and has a whole host of add-ons that you can buy to go with it, like extra batteries, head-sets, and antenna upgrades.
This radio is capable of operating on all MURS, FRS and GMRS frequencies but as you start to unlock the tremendous potential of a dual band handheld, there will always be an appropriate corresponding learning curve.
The UV-5r has a variety of sister models that all share interchangeable accessories. These include the UV-5R2, BF-f8HP, BF UV-82, F-9v2. The F8HP and F9v2 are 8 watt versions. I have most of them, and have set up several hundred for people. These radios require some work to program frequencies into, and it seems the best way to get the most out of them, is to use a $5.00 USB cable to connect your radio to your computer, then download CHIRP software for free.
Personally, I tend to also like the Baofeng GT-3TP, it has a nicer and sturdier feel, is an 8 watt radio, comes with the car charger cable and add on hand mic. The GT-3TP, TP Stands for Tri-Power, so don’t mistake it for the GT3, which is not the 8 watt version. The GT-3TP even comes with the new waterproof shell, although I’m not sure I’d take it swimming. This version runs about $60, or $65 with the larger battery. Be advised that batteries and some accessories are NOT interchangeable with the UV-5r series models.
You can find more on additional gear, and setting up a local and regional communications net in the members section on our website.
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