The Best Ham Radios Reviewed in 2019 – Top Emergency Survival Radios

The Best Ham Radios Reviewed in 2019 - Top Emergency Survival Radios

Communication modes including telephone and the internet may be down. In that respect, a ham is much reliable to get your message through. An amateur is a designated non-commercial radio frequency while a Ham is a person who broadcasts over that frequency. The National Association for Amateur Radios ARRL asserts that there was an estimated over 727000 amateur radio operators in the US in 2019. For the last one decade, the numbers of amateur radio licenses in the ULS database have grown by 8% depicting a growing interest in this hobby.

Ham radio enables you to communicate with people and satellites from a distance in space mainly using satellites. With a ham radio, you can convey your information regardless of the location. It is a true definition of convenience and knows no boundaries. While it can be a hobby for many, amateur radios, have also contributed immensely to saving lives. They act as a media for emergency communications for preparedness when regular communications are down or flooded and more.

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Guide to Choosing a Ham Radio

You need to put into consideration several things before settling on any ham radio. They include;

Frequency Level: You gain permission and access to frequencies depending on the licenses you’ve acquired. Three types of licenses currently are technician, general and amateur extra licenses. Be sure to buy a ham radio that offers the frequency you want to access.

User Manual: As a new user, you will need much guidance initially before you get used. Even the ham radio veterans at times will require the manual as it operating the gadget is usually a learning curve. For example, you may experience problems switching modes. Check the user manual first before even purchasing your device.

Memory Slots: An older and smaller ham radios with a few memory slots is sufficient if your communication is local. For national and international communication, weather and other high-end uses, you may need a ham radio with over 100 memory slots.

Programmability: Most units allow you to operate through the keypad and the CB radio display. For more functionality, get a radio that is compatible with the computers. That way, you have access to programming software such that inputting your data becomes easier.

Power: On most occasions, you will find that a lot of amateur radios are restricted to 5 watts. By choosing a base model, you are likely to get one with a higher power. If you decide to settle or a handheld one, check if it has high and low power settings so you can adjust as per your needs.

Dual Band: This feature allows you to monitor two different frequencies at a go. VHF/VHF, VHF/UHF, and UHF/UHF frequency combinations are examples.

Backlit Display: You may need to use your amateur radio at night or in poorly lit environments. Most of the time, emergencies come at night. Besides, there may be a power outage, and you may be left stuck at what to do. As such, you need to purchase a model that allows you to choose between night and day operations so you can conserve energy.

Well, that is just a brief discussion of the considerations. If you want more details, this PDF has it all.

There being many ham radios on the market, we know it can be a daunting task to choose the best. As such, we went out of our way to compare different units. We then compiled comprehensive reviews of what we consider to be the best 10 amateur radios at the moment.

10. TYT UV8000E 10W Dual Band Two-Way Radio

TYT UV8000E 10W Dual Band Two-Way Radio

TYT offers several products including computers and their accessories such as cables. One computing devices in their categories is the TYT UV8000E two-way radio. This is a high power unit offering 10 watts. Everything about TYT UV800E is dual; the is dual display, dual band, and dual standby.

This unit has high and low power settings with 10 watts and 5 watts respectively. With that high power, you can transmit to a maximum of 6 kilometers. Besides, it has 2×128 channels that allow local and international communication as wells as other major applications providing weather alerts and other emergencies.

What more, UV800E has support for both UHF and VHF frequencies. Also, it features selectable wide band and narrow band. Besides, it has frequencies for a commercial radio that can store up to 25 channels. Also, UV800E allows you to scans and search for CDCSS/DCS modes. What’s more, it has a VOX function that allows for a hands’ free operation.

To ensure that you are not caught off-guard when the batteries go low, this HT features a low battery alarm. That way, you can know when to recharge it to avoid inconvenience. What more, it features an emergency alarm which ensures that you can ask for help in case you encounter trouble especially in the world.
TYT UV8000E 10W Dual Band Two-Way Radio

Even more, this HT features a selectable tricolor display that lets you switch color depending on the lighting conditions in the environment in which you are operating. Also, the radio has a lock function that prevents you from accidentally changing the channels and modes which you will find useful. The unit is programmable featuring a USB cable that will allow you to connect to your computer. It is compatible with Windows 10.

What’s more, it allows for remote operation thanks to the DTMF & remote kill/stun function. That way, you can check the mode and frequencies from a distance without the need to have the ham radio with you.

Unlike other amateur radios that require you to purchase almost all accessories, it comes with a full accessories kit. Included is a large capacity 7.2V 3600 mAh battery. Also, you will get two antennas, a charger, and programmable cable, and desktop charger and user manual. This unit is recommended mostly for those who engage in outdoor activities such as hiking and the like. That is because is because it offers an excellent unit for emergencies.

  • 3 power settings
  • Complete accessories kit
  • Programmable
  • Tricolor display
  • Manual not 100% reliable

9. Tri-Band Yaesu VX-6R Submersible Ham Radio

Tri-Band Yaesu VX-6R Submersible Ham Radio

Yaesu products are known for their high-performance capabilities. Included in their line of products are computer accessories and ham radios. And ranking among the best ham radios this year is Tri-Band Yaesu VX-6R. The HT does not rank among the best by mistake but because of its noteworthy features.

As the title suggests, this HT will not be affected by water. You can immerse the unit up to 3 feet and leave it there for 30 minutes, and not a single drop will penetrate. The last thing you would like experience is damage to your radio when operating in a bad weather. It would be a huge loss to you having set aside some bucks to purchase the unit. You can use VX-6R regardless of the weather and never have to worry that weather will inconvenience you.

Still, on safety, this HT has a security password feature that ensures that your unit remains confidential. Also, it features a Morse code trainer that comes built-in and a black magnesium case.

Yaesu VX-6R features a 1500 mAh durable battery that will keep you operating your unit for hours on end before it dies. The battery is long lasting such that you can turn on the radio and still leave enough power for making calls and other operations. Besides, it comes with a charger so you can recharge conveniently when the battery goes low.
Tri-Band Yaesu VX-6R Submersible Ham Radio

It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is, you need a ham radio that you can operate any time. VX-6R features a backlit keypad that makes it simple to operate in the dark or poorly lit areas. Besides, the LCD is pretty clear so you can track the modes and frequencies effortlessly.

What’s more, it has a whopping 900 memories. That renders this ham radio highly versatile. For one, it allows local and internal calls. And that is not all; it provides weather alerts and other more complicated applications. Besides, it can receive the AM/FM broadcast radio and wideband. It is programmable and allows you to operate not only from the keypad but also on a PC.

You only need to purchase an optional programming software and USB cable, and you are ready to make the operation seamless. Being waterproof and having a solid construction, Yaesu VX-6R is recommended for those who work where they may come into contact with water.

  • Waterproof
  • Sturdy construction
  • Programmable
  • Multiple memory channels
  • Couple of optional accessories

8. Yaesu VX-8DR Quad-Band VHF/UHF Amateur Radio Transceiver

Yaesu VX-8DR Quad-Band VHF/UHF Amateur Radio Transceiver

Rated at 4.4 on Amazon is an upgrade of the version VX-8R which comes with new features, and capabilities. Yaesu VX-8DR features among the top best ham radio on the market for a couple of reasons.

Yaesu has a solid and robust polycarbonate construction that makes it possible to use in the most rugged environment. That renders it a durable amateur radio that you’ll enjoy using for a long time.

This amateur radio comes with an FNB-101 Lithium battery that allows up to 5 hours operation on 144/444MHz and up to 5.5 on 50MHz. To enjoy an extended operation period, you can purchase a battery with a larger capacity. That way, you will make calls and perform other operation for 8.5 hours non-stop when operating on 144 MHz and 9 hours when on 50MHz.
Yaesu VX-8DR Quad-Band VHF/UHF Amateur Radio Transceiver

Also, it offers great audio quality even in noisy vicinities. However, you can also use the regular headphones for much more clarity. Check the top noise cancelling head phones. What’s more, this HT comes with a large LCD that allows you to read the mode, frequencies, and S-meters effortlessly for the bands.

If you want to know your current location, moving speed and altitude, there is an optional GPS editor for that purpose that you can purchase. You can still avoid buying a GPS module and enter the exact location, and it will display the APRS website for you. Even more, there is an optional Bluetooth set that lets you enjoy a hands-free operation.

Besides, it has an inbuilt a barometric sensor that monitors the temperature, pressure, and altitude and displays it. Besides, it allows you to monitor the combination of LED functions such as emergency strobe/beep and busy strobe.

Yaesu VX-8DR allows you to select from the available four transmission powers: (1 watt on 50MHZ, 5 watt on 144MHz, 0.5 watt on 220MHz, and 5 watts on 440MHz). That makes it a quad-band radio although the manufacturer advertises it as a tri-band radio since on 220MHz; it offers an output of 0.5 watts. This HT is best for disaster response and search and rescue operation. That is because it works perfectly even when you are away from the repeater. Yaesu VX-8DR won’t disappoint.

  • Rugged and robust construction
  • Transmits four bands
  • Barometric sensor
  • GPS for location
  • Too many costly accessories

7. Yaesu FT-2900R VHF Mobile Transceiver Amateur Ham Radio

Yaesu FT-2900R VHF Mobile Transceiver Amateur Ham Radio

Yaesu deals in a broad array of high-quality PC accessories, Ham radios and more. Featuring in among the top best choices of ham radios is the Yaesu FT-2900R. Several features make it stand out from the pack.

This mobile two-meter radio operates on VHF frequencies. It manages to transmit 140 MHz-148 MHz and receives 136 MHz-174 MHz. Besides, it has 200 memory channels that allow you to interact with your friends locally and internationally with little or no downtime. Other that local and international communication, you will receive weather alerts wherever you are.

Besides, has a scan and search function that make it easy to scan and find channels with ease. Apart from scanning for UHF signals, it also allows you to search and scan for CTCSS/DCS modes.

It comes with 4 power levels with very high output of 75, 30, 10, and 5 watts. That enables you to adjust the power as per your preferences and depending on the repeater you want to use.
Yaesu FT-2900R VHF Mobile Transceiver Amateur Ham Radio

What’s more, the amateur radio offers quality sound thanks to the quality built-in speaker which guarantees clear sounds on most occasions even in a noisy environment. Even more, it has a backlit keypad that allows you to work with your HT whenever you are regardless of the lighting conditions. Besides, the unit has a microphone w/direct frequency entry.

Included in the packaging is a 13.8V DC power cord that, a microphone and a mount for your gadget. If you feel it’s necessary, you can buy a 2-meter antenna, as it is not included. The design is actually meant for an automobile, as you only need to plug into a cigarette lighter. You can also wire it to the vehicle battery, and you are all set.

If you are a novice at operating amateur radios, this ham radio is your perfect choice. With the clear instructions, you are sure to have an easy time working with this unit.

  • High power output
  • Ease to program
  • Searches and scans for several modes
  • Very strong signals
  • Beginners need the guide

6. BTECH UV-5X3 5 Watt Tri-Band Radio

BTECH UV-5X3 5 Watt Tri-Band Radio

A product of BaoFeng, BTECH UV is a powerful ham radio that won’t disappoint. Boasting of being the first affordable VHF/UHF handheld transceiver, you cannot go wrong spending your bucks on this unit. It will offer you warranty without the need to ship to China, by buying from BaoFeng Tech.

Besides having a keypad, BTECH is compatible with the PC for easy programming. It supports the CHIRP software allowing you to input your data with ease. What’s more, if you have UV-5R and BF-F8 HP accessories, you can use them on this unit without the need to spend more cash like in other brands.

Moreover, BTECH UV has 128 memories which make it ideal for use in not only local but also international calls, weather, and other sophisticated applications. Besides, the HT has 3 power settings leaving you the freedom to set it as per your needs. It offers the low, medium and high (1watt, 4 watts, and 5 watts) respectively.

This ham radio being an upgrade of on the previous versions, it must have some notable new features. To access to as much information as possible, BTECH UV offers simultaneous display such that you can sync the dual display so you can see both the name and the operating frequency. As such, when browsing your memory slots, that synchronizes the displays to that same channel.
BTECH UV-5X3 5 Watt Tri-Band Radio

To ensure that you are connected, it comes with a 1500 mAh rechargeable battery that last you a long time to make your calls. Besides, for signal transmission and receiving, the packaging includes a V-85 dual band antenna.

Besides, it allows you to scan for frequency thanks to the Frequency scanning function. You don’t need to scan the full frequency band when in Frequency (VFO) mode, which can be time-consuming. Just enter the range and the frequency steps you wish to scan, and you are set.

Also, notable is channel skip capability that allows you to add or remove a channel from the list quickly after scanning. The previous members of BTECH family were able to send ANI (identification). It, now, features ANI updates that allow you to enable the decoding on display.

Also, this ham radio is responsive to remote commands. You can send DTMF tones from a distance allowing you to disable all functions on the radio. Through the same functionality, you can revive your radio remotely too.

What’s more, the remote command allows you to switch on the microphone ‘monitor’ or inspect if the radio is within the expected range. Besides, it supports CTCSS and DCS.

  • Programmable
  • 3 power settings
  • Affordable
  • Remote commands
  • Lower power output

5. Retevis H-777 Walkie Talkies

Retevis H-777 Walkie Talkies

Retevis is a well-known company that deals in a wide range of products including toys, gaming equipment, ham radios and more. Retevis H-777 is a result of their innovativeness when it comes to the production of quality consumer-oriented products. Various features make it rank among the top choices on the market.

It is programmable allowing you to connect it to the computer via particular software. That lets you modify the available 16 channels with frequencies ranges between UHF 400-470 MHz. H-777 can transmit and receive 5 watts and 4 watts respectively which at least the average power. Even more, it has support for two languages thanks to the Chinese and English prompt that allows you to choose your favorite language.

It comes with a durable 3 Li-ON1500mAh battery that lasts long when in use. What’s more, it has a power saving function that ensures the battery does not drain fast for extended usage. On regular usage, it can last you approximately 14 hours. Also, Retevis H-777 has scanning function that allows you to scan various channels or privacy codes within a channel such that you can locate the conversations within that channel.

Featuring is a built-in LED torch that allows you to use it in poorly lit or dark environments. As such, you will not experience any inconvenience regardless of the hour. You will agree that most emergencies occur during the night. If your radio has no flashlight, then it will be challenging to operate in the dark. Check our top 10 best rope lights.

Programming some radios can be quite hard even with the user manual. But that is not the case with Retevis H-777. Featuring a push-to-talk (PPT) and easy to press button regardless of the weather. Besides, irrespective of your age, you will be able to use this unit with much ease thanks to the soft button.
Retevis H-777 Walkie Talkies

What’s more, it is possible to spend an eternity on a single channel. To prevent that, H-777 features a Time-Out-Timer (TOT) that prevents a situation where you occupy a channel for an extended duration.

This radio comes with an emergency alarm button for your safety. In case you face some danger, you simply press the button to call for help. Even more, Retevis backs this unit with a one year warranty and a 30-day return policy. That is a clear indication you will be dealing with a quality product.

  • Programmable
  • Simple user manual
  • TOT
  • Channel lockout
  • Volume a little bit low

4. Baofeng Yellow BF-F9 V2+ Two-Way Radio

Baofeng Yellow BF-F9 V2+ Two-Way Radio

BaoFeng features yet again with an upgrade of UV-5R V2+ with now an additional Tri-power functionality to bring the next level ham radio is BF-F9 V2+. It gives a power of 8 watts which is among the highest on the market.

It has a new chipset with noise reduction features that allows it to filter out sounds that are as a result of intensity changes. Besides, every time it is transmitting or receiving signals between 50Hz-55Hz, there is tail tone elimination.

For ease of reading, it has a tricolor display that makes it easy to take readings on the bright LCD. Besides, that allows you to track all the data that you input including knowing the current mode.

Besides, it has 3 selectable power settings which is an improvement from its counterparts with only two selectable powers. You can select the power from low, medium and high (1watt, 4 watts, and 8 watts).
Baofeng Yellow BF-F9 V2+ Two-Way Radio

When upgrading to a new version, you will find other brands of ham radio will require that you change accessories like antenna and microphones since they are not compatible. That would be a waste of time and money. BaoFeng radios are exceptional, and you don’t have to purchase any accessories as it comes fully compatible with all the accessories in UV-5R.

It comes with a robust 7.4V 1800 mAh Lithium Ion battery that provides power for this unit to keep you connected for long hours before recharging. Also included is a battery charging dock which works with the DC/AC power supply.

Since not everybody is a ham radio expert, accompanying the unit is an English manual that even the veterans will find useful. It is very elaborate and easy to follow and will come in handy in your quest to become a professional in ham radio operation.

Just like its family members, BF-F9 V+ has a frequency scanning capabilities but not as powerful as in the previous versions. Just like its counterpart, UV-82, BF-F9 V2+ has had its frequency expanded. It can scan memory channels and part or all bands. However, it does not perform the CTCSS or DCS scan like the UV-5R members.

This unit has a robust body, a feature that makes it suitable for just any harsh environment. Besides, that aspect makes it durable. What’ more, it features advanced noise offering clear audios. For the best experience and wider range of over 10 miles, we recommend that you purchase another powerful antenna.

BaoFeng believes in their products and are ready to stand behind them all the time. Foscam Digital Technologies is the distributor of this ham radio. The body offers a one-year domestic warranty.

In operation, this is a handheld unit that you place on your palm. For a better grip to avoid slipping, it comes with a hand strap allowing it to remain in place. Besides, when you are through with your business, you need to find a better and convenient way to store. That’s why it features a belt clip so you can attach it in a secure and easy-to-reach place.

  • 3 power settings
  • Programmable
  • Tricolor display
  • User-friendly guide
  • Battery relatively hard to remove

3. BaoFeng UV-82HP Dual Band Radio

BaoFeng UV-82HP Dual Band Radio

The UV-82 series has a high power second generation ham radio made with pride by BaoFeng known as BaoFeng UV-82HP. It retains the compatibility and some of the features in the older version but does not fail to add a few remarkable features worthy your attention.

Unlike in the older generation, UV-82HP comes with 3 selectable power levels so you can adjust the power freely. Simply switch the power levels with one toggle button operation. You can choose any power level from low power (1 watt), medium power (5 watts) and high power (7 watts).

When in transit, it is possible for the frequency mode to change. That is no longer a challenge with this unit as VFO/MR frequency mode can be locked via CHIRP software preventing accidental changes.

What’s more, since not everyone is a guru in ham radio operation, accompanying it is a detailed user guide. Veterans and amateurs alike will benefit a lot as they learn their way to becoming experts at operating ham radios.

Even more, it comes with a new and high gain antenna that helps to boost your performance as compared to the counterparts in its series. Besides, UV-82HP can transmit both on a narrow band and wide band.

Also, when compared with their UV-5P counterparts, UV-82HP has a louder speaker (1 watt). Further, the BaoaFeng uses the latest chipsets with a long range and stronger than all the previous versions.
BaoFeng UV-82HP Dual Band Radio

Unlike other brands in the market that change every aspect of their radios, that is not the case with this amateur radio. While you might be thinking it is a good thing, it actually is a disadvantage. As such, you don’t have to purchase new accessories for this HT as it is compatible with UV-82 accessories.

It has support for tone with multiple selectable tone options including 1000 Hz and 2100 Hz. You can access them from the new user menu it comes with. UV-82HP has 128 memory slots that allow not only for the internal communication but also international communication and the other primary applications like the weather. That way, you are free to program it as per your needs. By using the computer software, you can scan and remove channels very easily.

  • Has 3 power settings
  • Louder and clearer.
  • Programmable
  • Supports multiple tone options
  • Hard to program without user manual

2. BaoFeng BF-F8HP 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio

BaoFeng BF-F8HP 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio

You will note that BaoFeng has managed to rank a few of its ham radios among the top. They take the top 4 positions. That should speak volumes about the quality of their products. Ranking at number nine is the BaoFeng BF-F8HP two-way radio. This is an upgrade of the UV-5R radio reviewed below. Being an upgrade means more power and more applications. Here are a few features it exhibits.

It offers twice the output power of its predecessor with 8 watts up from 4 watts in UV-5R rendering it more potent.

What’s more, no need to worry about breakages or anything as this new generation features a hardened radio shell. That allows you to use it even in the harshest areas ever.

Besides, featuring is a robust, powerful 7’ antenna that performs twice as much. The antenna has a higher transmission range and higher signal receiving ability. You could be interested in HDTV antennas.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a veteran or not. BF-F8HP comes with a comprehensive and easy-to-read user guide. The user guide will lead you through the capabilities and customization of this unit. That is not all; the guide is accompanied by an unmatched customers’ support and even warranty.

Featuring are 3 power settings that allow you to adjust the power depending on what you prefer. There is low (1watt), medium (4 watts) and high (8 watts). BF-F8HP support commercial FM radio reception, UHF, and VHF. Further, you can select between the narrow and wide band.
BaoFeng BF-F8HP 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio

As you will discover, UV-5R comes with a 1500 mAh battery. To increase the battery life, its upgrade, BF-F8HP has a battery bigger than its older version by 30 percent. Not only that. The battery’s capacity has increased to 2000mAh. And the best part; it still retains the full compatibility of its predecessor. So, if you had UV-5R, there is no need to replace the batteries, microphone, and antennas like in other brands out there. While UV-5R at 4 watts lasted 18 hours, BF-F8HP at an output of 8 watts lasts 20 hours, which is a clear indication of an improvement.

Even more, it has a tri-color display, a feature that was not available in the UV-5R generation of ham radios. That makes it simple to use and see effortlessly.

Also featuring is a built-in flashlight that comes in handy when using it outdoors in dark places or poorly lit vicinities. Talking of lighting, here are our top ranking spotlights. Besides, there is an inbuilt FM radio. With a long-lasting battery, you are comfortable to use them and still get enough power to communicate the whole day without recharging.

BF-F8HP is programmable. As such, you will need a PC03 FTDI Programming cable to connect to your computer. That helps to make your data input easier. Besides, it offers more functionality as compared to using the HT solely. Aside from the battery pack and the antenna and user manual, the packaging also contains a hand strap, earphone and belt clip.

  • High power
  • Adjustable (power settings)
  • Programmable
  • Powerful antenna
  • Get a better antenna

1. BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio

BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio

BaoFeng is located in the US and has a reputation for top quality manufacture of ham radios and their accessories. And they have formulated internal policies that ensure that they used on the latest firmware. What’s more, they are bold enough to stand behind their products by offering unparalleled customer support, after-sale services, and even warranty. So relax as you are just a few steps away from grabbing the top rated amateur radios from the experts only.

Proudly taking position one is BaoFeng UV-5R dual band two-way radio, a product of BaoFeng. Several features make Baofeng top this list.

It is programmable such that you can switch between high and low power from the settings at will. When you turn on the low power, you get 1 watt, while at high power, it offers 4 watts. Aside from using the keyboard, you can connect it to the computer via a programming cable to work with a free software so you can feed your data quickly.

Even more, it works with both UHF and VHF frequencies. It also supports dual and dual reception to enable you to monitor two frequencies simultaneously. Besides, it allows you to choose between the narrow and the wide band with the narrow band including splinter channels. It also allows you to access FM radio thanks to the frequency range of 65-108 MHz.

What’s more, it offers up to 128 memories, which is an improvement from the small and traditional units that have limited memory slots. That allows for sophisticated applications such as international communication and weather monitoring. Besides, you can save your most accessed frequencies.
BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio

Upon purchasing, this handheld transceiver comes with a 1500 mAh Lithium-ion battery that is durable and long lasting. Featuring is a battery save function that saves power to lower the battery drainage rate.

To receive and transmit, UV-5R has DSP which enhances your audio ensuring that it is much clear. For example, if you happen to shout, your voice gets attenuated to a lower but clear level.

Also featuring is an inbuilt flashlight which comes in handy when working in the dark. Moreover, there is a key lock feature with ensures that you don’t accidentally press the various controls especially when moving. Worth mentioning is the volume button with the integrated power switch such that it eliminates accidental key presses. The fact that UV-5R has an intuitive display makes it a perfect option for novices and veterans alike.

  • Programmable
  • Lower/high power
  • DSP
  • Backlit display
  • No tone support


As you must have noted, amateur radios are not just a hobby; they offer more than that. Apart from just communication with friends, they allow you to communicate emergencies and also keep track of the weather patterns. Do not hesitate to select the ham radio you consider to bear the features you want.


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