It is no news that cellular technology is the predominant means of communication in this era. But what happens when mobile phones let you down when you need them the most? This is a highly probable scenario, especially when you’re in a fairly elevated area such as a hill station or deep underground or during harsh weather conditions or even deep into a forest with no cell reception.
These are the times and places where you might lose your sole connection to the outside world. But what if I tell you that there is another device that enables you to talk to anyone in your town, your country, or even space? Got excited, right? Well! This is the job of a Ham Radio.
What is Ham Radio?
An Amateur Radio or a Ham radio is a little device used for communication across regions, countries, continents, and even space! Ham Radio was first introduced in the 20th century and is mainly used for non-commercial communication.
One does not need to have a license to possess or use a ham radio. The word ‘Ham’ itself means ‘unskilled’ or ‘unprofessional’. Even a novice could purchase an instrument like ham radio and learn to use it. Therefore, it could even make a good toy for you and your group.
Besides the communication, Amateur radio also performs a few functions of a regular radio such as keeping you informed of the general news and weather condition. If a natural disaster is about to strike the city, ham radio will inform you of that before-hand. Hence, having this extremely useful device would be characterized as wise. If not anything, you could just make it a hobby.
However, with the availability of innumerable radio manufacturers and models out there, the question remains of which one to choose. Some radios may have a specific feature that the others won’t.
This article is meant to bring you knowledge from ignorance when it comes to Ham Radio. I have listed the Top 10 Best Ham Radio with the intent of enlightening you on this topic. The list consists of the best ham radios for beginners, so even if you’re completely clueless about these instruments and wish to know, this is the place for you.
Review of the Best Ham Radio for Beginners in 2021
1. Midland GXT1000VP4 - Best Ham Radio for Beginners
Overall Rating - 4.75/5
An epitome of perfection for people who are just getting into the hobby of ham radio, this production of Midland is the best choice. Now you can communicate easily with your pal in the wilderness or out exploring. The 36-mile range allows long-ranged communication with hardly any impediments. The reception is as good as it can be, and the sound is clear and loud.
These Walkie Talkies not only facilitate communication but also has multiple radio channels for entertainment. You will remain updated about all the happening around your region and the world. The news is broadcasted 24 hours round the clock. The entertainment services include FM and AM, along with all the 7 NOAA channels.
The scanning system of this Midland ham radio is efficient; thus, you will be able to scan through hundreds of channels with ease. So, you will get a profusion of things from just one little gadget. This needs to be recharged only once, and then you can get the full usage out of it or a whole day as the battery is very long-lasting.
Since this is a beginner’s choice of the best ham radio, you will not face issues while trying to get the hang of its operation. It offers various features that you will be delighted to know.
2. Uniden SX377-2CKHS - Best All Round Ham Radio for Beginners
Overall Rating - 4.5/5
With easy operation, this Uniden ham radio facilitates the free flow of communication between individuals when out for camping, hiking, exploring, etc. The scanning program of this entry level ham radio allows you to search for other users in your county. The channels scan system is also very fluid, and you will find no impediment whilst using it.
It keeps you in touch with the party at the other end with little or no obstruction. This Uniden ham radio is especially good for long-range communication. There are little or no disturbances, and the sound quality is top-notch.
If you are operating it on an elevated area, there may be some interactive obstructions, but these are minor enough to overlook. Because the ham radio is easy to use, these can also be given to children if they’re taught the basic operation of it.
The SX377 beginners ham radio operates on industrial-standard frequencies, which enables even the people who are using different brands and models to communicate with each other. It has a 14-hour battery life and is powered by rechargeable AA NiMH batteries.
3. BaoFeng UV-5R - Best Ham Radio for Beginners Under Budget
Overall Rating - 4.4/5
BaoFeng Amateur Radios goes a little easy on your pocket. If you’re completely new to Ham radio, this is an ideal choice for you. In spite of its low price, it offers various features which can make up for the best ham radio for beginners. It has a fairly wide range of communication and can be used for basic communication.
UV-5R Ham radio comes with an LED flashlight feature, which will be a guiding hand to you when you are operating the instrument at night or in the darkness. The built-in VOX feature facilitates hands-free voice activation.
You will have a total of 128 channels at your disposal. Meaning, you will be up to date when it comes to virtually any subject. Whether it be weather-related, political, sports, or any other major topic, the news will be given to you 24 hours round the clock.
From my personal experience, all I can say is this Baofeng UV-5R is the best ham radio for beginners who like to go on outdoor trips frequently. The reception is phenomenal, and the sound quality is good enough. It is very light and compact and can easily fit in your pocket.
4. Motorola T100TP - Best Handheld Ham Radio for Beginners
Overall Rating - 4.4/5
Motorola T100TP is one of the most basic models of compact ham radio for beginners, which can be used by children and adults alike. Whether it be out in the park, playground, or a long-planned adventure trip, this ham radio can help you communicate with your partner easily.
The communication range of this ham radio is comparatively less than other brands and models, but the sound quality can make short distant communication very easy. It can be given to the young ones of the family who are out and about in the playground and need to let their family know that they are safe and will be back by evening.
The distinguishing feature of T100TP Ham Radio is its long-lasting battery life. Once charged, it will easily last for about 18-20 hours. You can not only count on it for fluid communication but also various weather and entertainment channel services offered by it.
Apart from NOAA channels, it also gives regular news and sports updates along with the good old AM and FM service. All these additional functionalities make this device one of the best ham radio for beginners on this list.
5. eSynic zESY66 - Best Ham Radio for Beginners to Travel
Overall Rating - 4/5
Unlike other ham radios, this launch can penetrate through solids such as trees, buildings, and paves the way for clear communication. It can function well in forests also, and the sound quality and reception are excellent. Its UHF waves don’t let solid objects obstruct the communication between the concerned parties.
Apart from the easy flow of communication, zESY66 amateur radio comes with fascinating features such as the LED flashlight, which enables the user to meet his needs even in the dark. This product can prove itself to be a worthy companion during camping trips where you can be in touch with your partner at all times, and a few other functions will also facilitate your survival out and about. Because of these features I listed this device the best entry level ham radio for travel.
It can be charged with a USB cable and power bank. The USB port will also allow the instrument to be charged through Laptops and Computers. It needs to be charged after 8-9 hours of continuous use. It can be used at Supermarkets, construction sites, mountaineering, factories, etc.
6. Rivins RV-7 - Best Starter Ham Radio for Beginners
Overall Rating - 4/5
The RV-7 by Rivins starter ham radio offers easy operation, and so, if you’re new to the game of ham radios, it is advisable to start with this product. The LCD screen gives you all the relevant information such as battery life, signal status, etc.
But what’s really fascinating about this launch is the feature of Voice operated transmit or VOX. VOX enables you to operate the ham radio without the use of your hands. It also includes the feature of call tones, wherein if you contact another device, it will ring before your voice that can be heard by the other person.
7. Baofeng UV5R5 - Best Ham Radio for Beginners to Easy Communication
Overall Rating - 4/5
This two-way Handheld ham radio lubricates communication between people with excellent sound quality and hands-free communication. The range of this model may comparatively be less than other models, but it offers various features, which makes it hard to turn your back towards, including extremely strong signals within the range.
The model comes with a Waterproof Backlit display, Dual frequency, auto squelch, and Dual-standby. The volume can be adjusted as per the need of the user. There is an inbuilt LED flashlight to sustain visibility in the dark so you can find your companion even at night.
8. Radioddity GD-77 - Best Mobile Ham Radio for Beginners
Overall Rating - 3.9/5
Be it personal use or commercial use, this ham radio serves in endless scenarios and promises more than what you bargained for. From factories, businesses, Industries to playgrounds, and backyard, this product with phenomenal audio quality have disturbance-free transmission, which makes personal and professional tasks go smoothly.
There is a promiscuous mode available, which enables the listener to hear different groups talking and not just the one he is a part of. It supports regular FM and DRM systems. It has a quick dial; hence you can reach the required person quickly and with ease. Whenever there is a software or firmware update, it automatically becomes available in GD-77.
9. BTECH GMRS-V1 - Best Compact Ham Radio for Beginners
Overall Rating - 3.7/5
A production that is compatible with any given brands of FRS and GMRS radios, this ham radio is very light and pretty simple to operate. It allows the user to scan through different channels and enables them to add or remove any channel from their list.
It offers VOX and enables hand-free operation. The high-quality LED torch light up your way in pitch darkness. Users have highly appreciated it for its good quality and great battery life. I hope they’ve been impressed by the easy setup and easy operation of this ham radio. Also, it is an ideal choice for amateurs.
10. TIDRADIO TD-UV5R - Best First Ham radio for Easy Operation
Overall Rating - 3.65/5
TIDRADIO TD-UV5R Ham Radio is an upgraded version of the UV-5R product by Baofeng, so it is pretty much self-explanatory than the previous model. This product is made by keeping the beginners and their needs in mind. Hence, its operation is not nearly as complicated as its name.
It comes with a tri-color backlit LCD display, LED flashlight and emergency alarm which comes in handy when you’re out hiking or trekking. It can be connected to your PC, and the basic settings can be reprogrammed. With this pricing, this exceptional product is a treat! Unlike the Baofeng UV-5R, it supports the Keyboard program and PC program.
Buying Guide for Ham Radio Beginners
Factors Need to Consider Before Buying a Ham Radio for Beginners
Once you decide to purchase a ham radio, the question of which ham radio to buy crops up; there are a few factors that need to be considered before buying a ham radio. I have listed them below for your convenience. You can read through it and then make a final decision.
1. Ham Radio Operator License:
While some basic types of ham radio do not require an operator license, some models do. The licenses can be classified into three categories; these are Technician, General, and Amateur Extra. You need to take exams to possess these licenses, and only then you can purchase some advanced-level models.
You have to check with the manufacturer whether the radio you are looking into requires a license or not. Those who don’t require a license can be purchased without stepping out of the legal bounds.
The range of coverage of a Ham Radio varies from model to model. The minimum coverage you could hope for is 20 miles which can go up to 100 miles and even more. There can be minor interruptions as the distance between the two parties increases, but the link remains intact even if you move apart but keep within the range.
Productions by Uniden are appreciated for their wide range of coverage. An average model of Uniden can give a range of about 50 miles, which is more than what is offered by other ham radios in the same league. As you are new to operating ham radio, it is suggested that you start with basic models as even they offer the key features of advanced ham radio.
Ham radios are expected to be highly compact so that they can easily fit into your backpack or pocket when you are out and about. Some ham radios can easily fit into a pocket, which makes communication easy as you can communicate with your family or friends from anywhere.
Such compact ham radios make wonderful companions when you are going hiking, trekking, mountain-climbing, etc. The information about the portability of the instrument can be gathered from the reviews of the verified purchasers. Reading reviews is important as it gives you a deeper insight into several products.
The amount you should be investing in ham radio is linked with the question of why you need a ham radio. If you want a ham radio just for a hobby, you should invest in the basic models as even the most basic models cost around $100.
On the other hand, if you’re planning on opening a shack or something, then get ready to splash thousand dollars bills. Safe to say that even the inexpensive models offer the key features of ham radio and facilitate the free flow of communication.
An ideal ham radio should withstand damage to a large extent; otherwise, it is futile to own such an instrument. A strong exterior with some protective covering is essential to ensure that it can endure harsh conditions. Many ham radios come with rubber protection, these are highly durable, and it is these instruments that you should be looking for.
6. Power Source
It is essential to choose a product that can be charged from multiple sources. Although all ham radios require a battery to function, some have a built-in USB port. It can be charged by connecting it to your laptop or computer via a USB cable.
So, even if you run out of battery while you need the ham radio, you will not be left vulnerable as you can still get it to charge through the USB port. It is, therefore, essential to look for a model that can also be charged via USB. eSynic productions, for example, have a USB port for charging, and they also have a lot of fascinating features that are hard to resist.
Even though cell phones have emerged as the top device for communication, they can still be rendered useless in specific scenarios. Instead of losing touch with your family and friends if that happens, it is better to be prepared with a backup option. Ham Radio is an important instrument to own as it can also be given to children for entertainment or to communicate with you in times of need. For the safety of your family, a ham radio is an essential instrument.
Frequently Asked Questions Ham Radio for Beginners:
1. Why do Ham Radio operators need a license?
A conversation over the radio is not private. There are only some certain frequencies over which you have control. The rest of them are what you call “reserved frequencies”. This is because many official conversations take place over RFs. To avoid interruptions, only those who have special knowledge about the operation of a Ham Radio get to use them.
Once you get a license, you are allotted a band space. Obtaining a Ham Radio operator license is easy as you only have to pass a simple exam. However, there are yet some frequencies, which can be done without obtaining a license. Nonetheless, if you want to get into the hobby of Ham Radios, it is advisable to obtain a license.
2. Can I use a Ham Radio without a license?
The answer to this is both yes and no. Yes, because you can listen to the radio; for instance, the AM and FM broadcasting services are available to anyone who possesses a Ham Radio. These people can also hear the weather, sports, national news channels.
No, because although you can be on the receiving end of these signals, you cannot transmit signals without obtaining a license. Meaning, if you want to have a conversation with someone over ham radio, you need to have a license for that.
3. Can a Ham Radio be tracked?
The signals transmitted by your Ham Radio are traceable. The mechanism responsible for the tracing is known as Radio Direction Finding. Through this, the direction of a radio from which a transmitted signal has been received can be traced.
4. Why is it called “Ham” Radio?
The word HAM is said to be an acronym by some and just another word for “amateur” by some. There are still some people who believe that the word is just another way of saying Hobby.
The definite reason as to why it is called a Ham Radio is not known. Some say it’s the acronym for “Home Amateur Mechanic”, while others believe it is named after the people who pioneered the use of Ham Radios.
5. When and where can I use a Ham Radio?
Ham Radios can be used in a lot of situations. Ham Radios can function as a walkie-talkie or just a regular radio. You can communicate with your group while on a trip or just use it as a radio and listen to AM/FM broadcast, weather news, sports news, National news, etc.
In other words, ham radio is a highly versatile device that can be employed in several situations. Most importantly, they can come in handy during emergencies. You can connect to several authoritative bodies over a radio signal.
As to the question of where, well, ANYWHERE, you can set up and operate a Ham Radio from anywhere you want. Even the people in space communicate over radio signals.
There are multiple factors that can influence your choice of ideal ham radio. Hence, it is necessary to take all the particulars into consideration before moving forward and buying one. These factors include needs, price, features, and whether the product is fulfilling your expectations or not. To avoid committing an error while making a choice, it is necessary to study prominent models available in the market. This article intends to ease your efforts in precisely that sphere.
About the Author
I am Tim, a weather enthusiast who loves to watch hurricanes and all other harsh weather conditions. I studied B.Sc(Meteorology) at the University of Miami. With excellent knowledge of Weather Forecasting, Meteorology, and Environmental Science, I am currently working in San Francisco as a Meteorologist. Also, I am a member of The Weather Channel and AccuWeather. In this blog, I will write a detailed review of Weather instruments that you need for survival and other activities.