Warning: If you TRANSMIT on frequencies reserved for HAM radio without a license you will be considered a “Pirate”. This is against FCC regulations and they can find you, fine you and take all your radio equipment.
Having reliable communications is always important but it is essential during times of crisis. I think it is imperative that you and your family have reliable communications in times of an emergency or disaster. If the power goes out and the landlines and cell towers are disrupted having the ability to communicate and gather information prevents you from feeling isolated and hopeless.
Keeping the above in mind and also wanting to price out a budget friendly starter package for the beginning ham radio enthusiast or SHTF emergency contingency I recommend the following. It’s cheap, works well and it is easy to add more radios as needed.
- Baofeng UV-5R UHF/VHF (HAM) Radio – $32.23
- ExpertPower 7.5″ Dual Band Two-way Radio Antenna SMA-Female – $14.99
- Baofeng BF-S112 Two Way Radio Speaker (Handheld mic) – $6.59 or the Pro Two Way Radio Earpiece Headset – $19.97
- Spare Baofeng 7.4v 1800mAh Li-ion Battery for UV-5R – $10.29
- Car charger cable – $3.91. This plugs into the charging cradle and not the radio directly.
- Genuine Baofeng Programming Cable – $20.46
- Chirp – Free Open Source Radio Programming Software. Chirp Emergency Radio Config IMG file here and Emergency Radio Config CSV file here. List of frequencies further down the post.
- Baofeng UV-5R Programming With a Computer (3 part video walk through on using CHIRP to program this radio)
So after ordering several of the items listed above I have:
- 2 Baofeng 2-way radios.
- 2 Expert Power 7.5″ antenna upgrades. These are flexible and will not snap like the antennas that come with the radios.
- 2 Handheld Mics. Good for clipping to your shirt.
- 2 Spare batteries.
- 1 Car charger. This plugs into the charging cradle and not the radio directly.
- 1 genuine Baofeng programming cable
For a total of $152.57 I have two radios with upgrades and accessories which is less than one Yaesu FT-60R handheld.
In order to get you started on obtaining your HAM radio license here are two excellent resources. National Association for Amateur Radio and eHam.net Practice Exams. The test is relatively easy to pass and just reading the Ham Radio License Manual published by the ARRL will be enough. You can cram for the test by reading the Q&A’s in the back over and over till you get them down.