It can be a bit overwhelming purchasing radio gear, especially if you are new to Emergency Communications. We created a ‘Shopping List’ and grouped it in terms of priority. Note: Priority 1 is considered the absolute minimum needed to communicate effectively. In fact, at the level 1, an extra spare of each is highly recommended. Congratulations, you are on your way to having your COMMS UP!
Link to radio bag pictured above: Shoulder Backpack Pack
Note: Higher priced handheld radios and gear ARE noticeably higher quality. If you are on a budget, the Baofeng radio(s) are a great way to get a decent beginner ham radio in your hands.
TOP PRIORITY, GET YOUR HAM LICENSE (TECHNICIAN LEVEL)
There are free self-learning sites which can help you study and memorize the answers for your license, but Ham Radio License Exam is very good in actually teaching you the material, and it has adaptive study and practice tests to strengthen the areas where you need additional help. With just an hour or two of nightly study, you should have no problem in being ready to take the exam in a couple weeks. Do an internet search for ham radio clubs in your area for testing times and locations, and don’t forget to bring $15 in cash for the exam fee. Additional Ham Radio Study Tools
PRIORITY 1, MUST HAVE ITEMS:
DUAL BAND HANDHELD VHF/UHF HANDHELD RADIO
If you’re on a tight budget, the Baofeng is a way to get a decent beginner ham radio that is affordable:
Baofeng UV-5R dual band HT radio: I recommend the original, plain UV-5R model. Other models such as the UV-5RA model has the same internals and capabilities but the cases are slightly different and causes incompatibly issues with accessories, such as extended life batteries.
Two extended life batteries: Having two on hand will allow you charge one, while using the other. I recommend the ExpertPower band listed here as they are confirmed to work well. I’ve had problems with other brands such as Tera, which suffered from RF interference shutdown. Not good for your radio to shut off when you need it most.
If you are able to spend more, Yaesu FT-60R Dual Band Handheld 5W VHF / UHF Amateur Radio Transceiver
PRIORITY 2, VERY USEFUL ITEMS BUT CAN FUNCTION WITHOUT THEM
Baofeng Programming cable: You can program your radio via the keypad, but it’s a real pain. You can program it on your PC with the free and easy CHIRP program if you have a programming interface cable like this one. Make sure the cable you purchase has the “FTDI” USB to serial conversion chip and not others like the “Prolific” chip.
14.5 inch whip antenna: This flexible antenna is a full quarter wave and will give you much better reception and transmission than the stock Baofeng antenna. Get the 14.5 inch, not the 7 inch. This is is identical in performance to the popular Nagoya NA-771 antenna, but is a couple dollars cheaper and is just as well built. Throw away the stock antenna and replace it with this one for general use.
Nelson roll-up J-Pole antenna: This is a great full size j-pole antenna which rolls up and fits in a bag or pocket. It will give you the greatest reach and with the right placement and conditions, your 5 watt Baofeng can reach across the county!
PRIORITY 3, NICE TO HAVE ITEMS FOR EXTENDED CAPABILITIES OR REDUNDANCY
USB 5 volt charging dock: Allows you to dock and charge your Baofeng from any 5 volt USB source, or even a 12 volt cigarette lighter adapter.
Nagoya UT-72 magnetic mount quarter wave antenna: The UT-72 antenna is a great antenna for using your Baofeng while in your car, as it gets the signal out of your car. Almost the same performance as the Nelson roll-up J-Pole antenna. Plus it can handle 50 watts if you decide to use your Baofeng with an amplifier. The Nelson is rated at only 35 watts (the stock Baofeng is 5 watts). Includes PL-259 to SMA pigtail adapter.
Mobile amplifier: Speaking of amplifiers, this mobile amplifier will boost your 5 watt Baofeng to almost 50 watt powers (same as $350-$450 mobile radios). It works well with the Nagoya antenna above. It is meant to work with a 12V source such as a car battery or deep cycle marine battery, but you can also use this amplifier with household AC current with a 13.8 volt power supply rated 25 amps or higher…..Read more about amplifiers and boosting HT power.
Simple solar charging setup for Baofeng: This works for charging other small electronics as well. The Anker Astro E7 is one of the largest capacity 5V power bricks and charges great from a folding solar panel.
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Thank you [code name] Tango-05 for compiling this shopping list!