Ham Radio Handheld Units (Under $250)

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Our Top 5 Handheld Ham Radios

One of the most popular Ham Radio devices is the Handheld option. This is mainly due to the fact that they are easy to use, simple to set up and need no external power packs to run them.

These units are very popular with people who work out in the open, drive for a living or simply want to start the hobby without too much fuss.

The affordable price levels also play a part in choosing Ham Radio equipment.

Most handheld ham radios are available for under $250 online and come with everything you need to take part in this wonderful hobby.

Ham radios seem confusing to start with, so we wanted to simplify your first purchase and give you our Top 5 Handheld Ham Radios to help make the process simpler for you.


Most Powerful

BTECH DMR-6X2
We love this unit because it's very easy to set up and use. The tuning software is simple to use and the instructions included were very helpful. The BTECH handheld radio had one of the most user-friendly interface we found which made is perfect for a beginner to program and use. The sound quality was also amazing.

Top Seller

BaoFeng BF-F8HP
This is one of the most popular selling models online and you can see why. Utilize the CHIRP software and you'll be able to easily program your radio automatically as opposed to manually which is a big plus for us. High / Med / Low Power Settings (8W, 4W, 1W) with a good solid antenna

Budget Model

Editor's Choice

Starter Kit

Starter Kit Mirkit Baofeng
Used by many police forces around the world thanks to its durability, performance and built quality. All that you need in one box! Handheld ham radio kit. Baofeng 8W Max Power with additional 3800mAh battery + USB charger cable, speaker mic, programming cable, and Lanyard. Easy to use straight out of the box. Perfect kit for beginners

Buyers Guide: What to Look For 

License

Unless you find yourself in a life-threatening emergency, you need an ARRL license to broadcast on ham radio. The study guide and test will cost a little over $60.

Though you don’t have to join the ARRL after obtaining licensure, it is highly recommended, even considered mandatory for many experienced hams. That will cost you about $40 a year.


Transceiver

A transceiver is a combined radio transmitter and receiver in one. This gives it the same function as a two-way radio. Transceivers are more advanced and compact than two-way radios, though, making them ideal for ham radio enthusiasts. There will be three different transceivers to choose from.

1. Handheld

For those who want a radio they can carry around and walk with, the handheld transceiver will be the best option.

Handheld transceivers look much like a walkie-talkie, but they are more powerful and long lasting. The most popular handheld transceivers operate on 5 to 8 watts of power, often a rechargeable battery.

For optimal operation, select a handheld with a “dual-band” label, meaning an option that accesses two bands.

Handheld radios are pretty affordable. You can find a good beginner model that costs between $40 and $60.

2. Mobile

Mobile transceivers are great for adventurers who want to keep their radio in their car. They are bigger and less portable than handheld options.  

These transceivers are often strapped to a dashboard, glovebox, or seat. For it to work, you attach an antenna to your car.

Hobbyists enjoy a magnetic mount to attach the antenna for mobile transceivers. Most likely, the mic will be corded and attached to the transceiver.

Mobile rigs cost much more than handheld radios. A new mobile setup should cost anywhere between $500 and $800.

3. Base Station

Most hobbyists enjoy base stations. Base stations are normally within a home. This option will require multiple parts, like antennas and additional cables. Expect to pay close to $1,000 for a home base station.


Power Supply

Ham radios are nothing without their power source. The power source will be determined by the type of transceiver you select.

Handheld radios are the most straightforward. They will often come with their own rechargeable battery for power. You shouldn’t need to buy additional items for your handheld radio’s power source if it comes with rechargeable batteries.

Mobile radios will be connected to your car for juice. Most likely, you will connect the ham radio to your car so that the car battery charges it.

Base stations will need more juice and appliances. Ham radios need DC to operate. Some radios will have a built-in converter that converts AC to DC. These options will be heavy and bulky, making them unsuitable for some stations.


Antennas 

The antenna is arguably one of the most important aspects of a ham radio. It is the antenna that gives the radio its signal. Without the antenna, the radio couldn’t intercept the radio wave power and produce an electric current.

1. Wire Antenna

The wire antenna is simple, easy to install, and affordable. This makes them the most popular antenna type. This antenna is so simple, in fact, that you will likely be able to make it at home.

This one is a versatile antenna that can go with you anywhere. Available on Amazon here.

2. Dual-Band VHF/UHF Antenna

The dual-band VHF/UHF antenna covers the basic bands for ham operation. It will be more expensive than the wire antenna, but it will lead to a notably better reception. Serious hobbyists will want this antenna type.

The Bingfu portable dual-band antenna is a perfect choice. Tough and versatile and can handle all situations. Latest prices here on Amazon

3. Directional Antenna

Directional antennas, or beam antennas, are the most powerful antenna types for ham radios. They are also incredibly expensive.

Unless you have an extra $5,000 to spend on the antenna alone, you should opt for a different antenna. Ham hobbyists really don’t need an antenna with this much power.

This one from RCA has a remote control for easy to tune functions. It's available on Amazon here.


Mics

Microphones enhance the sound quality and ham experience. Though you may be tempted to use a speaker, a microphone will be the best option for sound quality purposes. You can get a basic and affordable mic for around $20. 

The Baofeng mic is perfect for beginners. Latest price on Amazon here.


SWR Meter

Some radios include a SWR meter built-in. If yours does not, you need to get a separate SWR meter. The point of the meter is to calibrate and measure the standing wave ratio of your transceiver or two-way radio.

Ham radios should be tested for SWR. Once you know the SWR level, you can adjust your antenna to optimize the reception.

Beginners may be tempted to select a budget SWR meter, costing below $100. Since the SWR meter is so important, it may be best to splurge on it. SWR meters that are over $100 will enhance the reception dramatically. Plus, it will last a long time, so why not splurge?

The Astatic PDC1 100 Watt SWR Meter is just fine. Not very expensive and does the job. Available on Amazon here.


Coax Cable

In order for the SWR meter to work, you need a coax cable. It is best to select a long coax cable that is at least 20 feet. Make sure the cable is 50 ohm, low-loss for best results.

To find the best coax cable for your needs, select a cable you can afford with your specific need in mind and lowest loss available. Coax cables are really affordable.

A RG 49 is a cost-effective cable perfect for most home setups. Check the latest price on Amazon here.


Log Book

Keep track of conversations with a log book. You will need to track of the operation and station you contacted.

Record the date, frequency, mode, power output, station call sign, contact time, signal report, name, and location. Logbooks are normally around $10.


Editors Choice

We could pick between the MirKit UV-9R or the Kenwood TH-D74A is our handheld pick of the bunch. Granted they are in two totally different price brakets but both are wonderful units.

The Kenwood with it's three bands to play with and great reception and audio quality, is worth the extra bucks. It has Some cool features included are: easily programmable and connectible to your computer, compatibility with D-STAR and APRS digital protocols, plus Bluetooth makes it a great first choice.

But we totally get that price is always a factor so the MirKit UV-9R is another great choice that is more affordable.

Kenwood Original TH-D74A 144/220/430 MHz Triband with Ultimate in APRS and D-Star Performance (Digital) Handheld...
  • APRS compliance using packet communication to exchange real-time GPS position information and messages Compliant with digital/voice mode D-STAR digital amateur radio networks
  • Built-in high performance GPS unit with Auto Clock Setting Wide-band and multi-mode reception 1.74” (240 x 180 pixel) Transflective color TFT display
  • IF Filtering for improved SSB/CW/AM reception High performance DSP-based audio processing & voice recording Compliant with Bluetooth, microSD & Micro-USB standards
  • External Decode function (PC Decode 12kHz IF Output, BW:15 kHz) Command / Control Protocol (ARFC, PC, Smartphone) Data Import / Export, (Digital Repeater List, Call sign, Memory Channel)
  • Four TX Power selections (5/2/0.5/0.05 W) Weatherproof IP54/55 standards

Final Thoughts

Amuerur radio is a fun way to spend your free time. Especially if you like chatting to friends and meeting new people.

It may seem a little complicated to get started but trust me it's not.

With a nice little handheld unit you'll be chatting to people from far and wide very soon.

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