What radio to buy? The Baofeng UV-5RA Handheld Radio!

which radio for emergencies and disasters and grid-downI have had folks who are just starting out in prepping regularly ask me a pretty standard question. Then again, many long-time and experienced preppers come to a point where they ask me the exact same question. Many preppers, whether new to it or well-experienced, tend to not give much value to communications. And that it a serious problem.

So what question are these folks asking me that I think is so important?

I get asked, “Exactly what kind of radio and accessories should I buy?”

I have done plenty of articles about radio equipment, but I haven’t done a “buy this” article. That changes as of today because I want to make sure that every prepper, regardless of experience level, knows how to mitigate this very significant risk/threat of poor, or complete lack of communications.

So, the applicable questions are…

  1. What Kind of radio and accessories do I buy?
  2. How do I set it up to work right?
  3. How can I use it to communicate with other preppers?”

Answers galore…here you go!

Nice thing about this article, I am not going to present you with some expensive endeavor to undertake. What I will present to you is very affordable. And each level can be built upon as financial resources become available. I will take it in levels according to meeting increasing needs, or “missions” as I refer to it.

Level 1 –

Mission: To acquire a simple, easy-to-use, basic radio communications capability.

Total Cost (estimate): $26.99 – $76.98

Step #1: Purchase a Baofeng UV-5RA radio. $26 – $27.Boafeng UV-5rA handheld Ham RadioBaofeng UV-5RA radio for sale

That gets you the following equipment:

  1. Radio
  2. Stubby antenna
  3. Rechargeable battery
  4. Charging cradle
  5. AC charging unit
  6. Ear piece

 

Step #2: Purchase RT Systems programming software for the Baofeng UV-5R radio.programming radios with RT Systems programming software

By purchasing the radio unit that I mentioned you now have the capability to communicate via a great little reliable handheld radio. Now, you have a whole lot of communications capability. But to be used effectively it also requires the ability for you to program the radio. Programming is accomplished either manually through the keyboard or via a laptop computer/software. I far prefer the computer method, but it does require software. There is a free software programming software out there. I am not a huge fan of it because I have experienced problems with it in the past when I was testing it. I have chosen to go with a $49 software package that includes the programming cable. This software programming tool has been extremely stable and successful. I am 100% satisfied with it.

Baofeng UV-5r handheld radioOn another quick note, I only recommend the Baofeng UV-5RA radio. There are a lot of variations of this radio, many of them are just fine, some more powerful. I don’t go with any other version for a number of reasons. But, mostly I stick with the Baofeng UV-5RA version because it is very stable, proven, reliable, and entirely capable of meeting the communications mission as I have described it. So let me say it again…I only recommend the Baofeng UV-5RA. I hope you noticed that I emphasized the “RA” part.

Level 2 –

Mission: Extend the usable radio time, increase the range, and increase the reception clarity of the radio.

Total Cost (estimate): $26.98Amazon-PowerMall-3800mAh

Step #1: Purchase a Powermall 3800mAh rechargeable battery. $13.99

By purchasing this battery you now can be recharging one battery while running your radio on the other battery. The 3800mAh battery will last about 3 – 5 days while the battery that comes with the radio will last 2 – 3 days. Of course that will depend on your actual usage, which is mostly predicated on how much time you spend transmitting.

.

 

Amazon-ExpertPowerEliteAntennaStep #2: Purchase an ExpertPower XP-771 Elite 14.5-Inch Dual Band Antenna. $10.99

ExpertPower XP-771 Elite 14.5-Inch Dual Band Antenna (144/430Mhz U/V SMA-F) Boafeng UV-5RThe 14.5” antenna is actually far more appropriate for the 2m and 70cm bands than the little stubby antenna that comes stock with the radio. The longer antenna will increase the range of transmissions to be sure. But, this more appropriate antenna will also improve the reception clarity of the radio as well.

Now, before you find yourself getting too excited at this point I want to completely dash your enthusiasm. Let me start off by reminding you that I am a bit of a perfectionist and a Baofeng UV5-RA 3800 doesn't fitlittle OCD. That being said, the battery has a very slight modification that needs to be made to get it to fit right. It is fairly easy, takes less than ten minutes, and you can do it with almost no problems.

And again, the antenna “fix” is no big deal. Actually, if you don’t want to perform the fix, the Baofeng UV-5R antenna repair fixradio and antenna will be just fine. I just found this minor flaw for rainy weather and wanted to show you what I did to fix it. If you try to find an antenna that doesn’t have the flaw that I mentioned above…don’t waste your time. I spent a bunch of time looking for a “flawless” antenna…it doesn’t exist. This ExpertPower antenna is a great antenna. My “fix” makes it a more solid and also a rain repellent piece of equipment.

A word of caution – There are other brands of 3800mAh batteries out there. Actually, all of those batteries are probably made by the same company in China. But, there are some differences. All of them require the minor modification that I referred to. However, I bought a couple different name bands for testing. They were slightly different in design and wouldn’t fit the radio without extensive modification with a Dremel, etc. Stick with the Powermall battery. And if by chance you would get a bad battery from them (i.e. won’t hold a charge) they are super good about taking care of customers.

Level 3 –

Mission: Allow additional battery charging capability and significantly improve radio transmission performance.

Total Cost (estimate): $48.61 – $56.63

Step #1: Purchase a Radioshop888.com 12vDC charger. $12.00Baofeng UV-5RA Radioshop888 12vDC vehicle adapter

By purchasing the Radioshop888 12vDC charger adapter you now have the ability to recharge your batteries from any 12vDC source. Examples would be; vehicle cigarette receptacle, solar charger unit, portable power pack, etc. This enables you to maintain power to your radio when normal 120vAC utility power is not available.

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Amazon Tram1185 AntennaStep #2: Purchase a Tram 1185 magnetic mount dual-band antenna. $22.14

The Tram antenna is the solution for radio operation in a vehicle. Even with the Tram 1185 Amateur Dual-Band Magnet Antenna Baofeng UV-5RExpertPower 14.5” Tram 1185 Amateur Dual-Band Magnet Antenna Baofeng UV-5R antenna on car roofantenna on the radio, the reception and transmission capabilities of a handheld radio are greatly diminished due to the vehicles metal body. Getting the antenna outside of the vehicle’s body makes a huge difference. And the vehicle’s roof is also usually higher than a normal person holds a radio so you get the increased antenna height as well.

Step #3: MPD Digital antenna adapter cable. $10.50

The antenna mentioned above comes with a cable that is long enough to reach inside the vehicle but you need to connect that cable to the radio. That takes a special adapter cable to connect the antenna cable to the RF coaxial cable SMA female to UHF SO239 PL259 female RG58 radio itself. There are other cables out there, some less expensive. But I like the MPD Digital cable (RF coaxial cable SMA female to UHF SO239 PL259 female RG58 20 inches). They are well-built, quality materials, and made in the USA.

Now you have that improved transmission/receptions capability, especially during vehicle operations, you are now probably wondering why I included a speaker microphone in this “level.” There is a natural “weak point” when using the UV-5RA for vehicle operations. To Baofeng UV-5RA SMA connectionmake the larger vehicle antenna work with the radio to have use the adapter cable because you are transitioning from a larger PL259 connection on the antenna cable to a much smaller SMA connection on the radio. The adapter cable makes that transition. However, there is more stress now on the radio’s connection point. What you want to do is not move that radio around to keep as much stress off that point as possible. No, it is not super fragile, but I want to reduce chances of failure wherever possible. And you do that by following Step #4.

Step #4: Purchase a speaker microphone. $3.97 – $11.99Amazon - Speaker Mic

Baofeng UV-5RA speaker microphone The speaker microphone is the other piece of gear to round out this operation. There are Retevis 2 Pin Mini PTT Handheld Remote Speaker Mic For Baofengseveral different speaker mics out there. The actual Baofeng speaker mic works just fine and is very reasonably priced. The Retevis speaker mic is smaller, lighter weight, and has better reviews than the original Baofeng. I am in the process of testing a Retevis but have no conclusions yet as to whether is a superior piece of equipment or not. It is three times the money, I haven’t proven that it is worth the additional money yet or not.

Whichever way you decide to go, even if you are not operating your radio in a vehicle, you will get the added bonus Mini Communications center with two baofeng UV-5r handheld radiosof being able to keep your radio on your belt or vest and still be able Mini Communications center with two baofeng UV-5r handheld radiosto speak and hear more easily. I like that option.

And there is one additional benefit as well. For a more fixed-position operation you can use two of these little Baofengs as a “mini-communications center.” And it really makes sense to have the speaker mics for that application.

WARNING – Do not use the Etekcity vehicle charge adaptor! It has no voltage step-down and will burn out your charging cradle and maybe your battery and/or radio. Only use the Radioshop888 unit.

Level 4 –

Mission: Another power option and carrying capability.

Total Cost (estimate): $13.99

Step #1: Vehicle Power Supply $8.99Amazon - Vehicle Power Supply

Tenq® Baofeng Vps-001 Vehicle Power Supply Dual Band Car Battery Eliminator Simulator for BaofengThe vehicle power supply unit is a very handy piece of equipment. This option allows you to run the radio directly off of a 12vDC power supply. You remove the rechargeable battery from the radio, slide this unit into the radio where the battery normally goes. Then connect to a 12vDC power source via a cigarette adaptor and you are up and running. This type of operation would be very convenient for vehicle operations or while using the radio as part of the “mini communications center.”

Word of caution – Only use the unit mentioned above. There are other units out there put I haven’t tested them. The unit must step down the 12vDC voltage to the 7.4vDC that the radio uses. If there is no step-down you will burn-up your radio. The Tenq has that step-down and has worked reliably for me since I bought it.

Step #2: Flash-bang pouch $5.00Military surplus flashbang grenade pouch used to carry a Motorola Family Radio

The flash-bang pouch is a really convenient way carry the Boafeng UV-5RA radio. It is a perfect fit and the pouch’s flap provides additional protection from rain. You won’t accidentally drop or lose your radio while it is secured in the pouch. The flash-bang pouch is MOLLE II compatible and the same attachment can be used to secure it to your belt as well.

Purchase Links –
Note –

I believe very strongly in the absolute need for radio communications during emergencies, disasters, and especially during any grid-down situation. I think it is imperative to be able to communicate with your family and group members. Without that ability to communicate you are severely limited when it comes to mitigating a long list of risks and threats.

I want you to be able to communicate!

Baofeng UV-5RA radioTo accomplish that, in couple of weeks I will be posting a new part of the website, it will be devoted to the Baofeng UV-5RA radio. It will have all the reviews, technical information, downloadable information documents, and programming files for you to use.

< click here to go to the new Baofeng UV-5RA information page >

Finally –

First, I have every confidence that the majority of folks reading this website article can accomplish all of the above. But, I want to offer an option if you need some help…

Over the last couple of years I have had a number of people ask for my help programming their radios, finding repeaters in their area, developing a Communications Plan, and even purchasing radio equipment. I have always answered that call…and I am going to do so again.

If you find this whole idea of buying and assembling your radio communications equipment a little overwhelming, or would like to save some time and work…I have a solution for you!

Baofeng UV-5RA radios for saleIf you are interested and need the help I will put together the radio equipment mentioned above in a complete package for you. I will modify the 3900mAh battery and make the “fix” to the 14.5″ antenna. Then I will program the radio for you with the appropriate frequencies, channels, repeaters, etc. I will do one radio for a single person, four radios for a family, fifty radios for a large prepper group, or whatever your needs are.

So here is how it will work –

Basic Radio Set-Up:
  • Includes everything in Level 1 and Level 2.
  • I will make the modification on the Powermall 3800mAh battery.
  • I will do the “fix” on the ExpertPower 14.5” antenna.
  • I will program the radio(s).
  • I will check everything to make sure it all works together.
  • I will include the radio programming file and the ComPlan.
  • USPS Priority Mail shipping to anywhere in the lower 48 states included.

Cost for 1 radio         = $155.00 (first radio)

Cost for 2 – 5* radios = $ 70.00 (each)

< click here to go to the ordering page >

Advanced Radio Set-Up:
  • Includes everything in Level 1 and Level 2.
  • Includes everything in Level 3 and Level 4.
  • I will make the modification on the Powermall 3800mAh battery.
  • I will do the “fix” on the ExpertPower 14.5” antenna.
  • I will program the radio(s).
  • I will include the radio programming file and the ComPlan.
  • USPS or UPS to anywhere in the lower 48 states included.

Cost for 1 radio        = $220.00 (first radio)

Cost for 2 – 5* radios = $150.00 (each)

< click here to go to the ordering page >


* If you want more than 5 radios I will price that the best I can. It should be cheaper than the “2 – 5” price but I’m not sure until I know what you want.

** If you want to use the free CHIRP software, I will include the CHIRP file but you are responsible for obtaining and configuring the software. If you choose to use CHIRP and not to use RT Systems software you can subtract $40 from the price for one radio.

If you want anything customized or special let me know and I will see what I can do.

Use the contact form below to let me know what you’re thinking.

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10 thoughts on “What radio to buy? The Baofeng UV-5RA Handheld Radio!

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