After comparing tons of handheld ham radios on the market, we have found Radioddity GS-5B to be the best overall in terms of performance, versatility, and innovation.
Our findings are based on 15 hours of research, testing, and collecting reviews from customers online.
We took into account several factors that are important to an average amateur radio user, such as supported bands, battery life, size, and speaker quality.
The bells and whistles on newer ham radios can be distracting for a buyer.
By comparing the features and specifications of the top handheld ham radio models on the market, analyzing strengths and weaknesses, you can make the right purchase decision. So, keep reading to find the best handheld ham radio for your needs.
Best Handheld Ham Radios – Our Top 10 Picks
Power / Range / Battery Life / Bands
Best for Marine Use – Radioddity Voyage RV6
Certified with IP67 waterproof rating and featuring the speaker vibration water draining function RV6 is designed for marine use and water exposure. Also comes with NOAA weather scans and alert to keep you safe on the water.
First released in 2020, Radioddity GS-5B is laden with innovative features that many ham radio users will find interesting.
Its bright orange body not only stands out from the crowd but also makes it easier to locate it in low-light conditions.
The bottom of the radio is constructed with soft TPU material that protects it from drops.
Rated IP56, this radio is waterproof and weatherproof.
The battery pack is screwed into the unit, providing an extra layer of protection from water damage.
In optimal weather conditions, you can hit repeaters up to 10-15 miles away with this handheld radio’s 5W power output and stock antenna. The audio output is loud and clear, but you can also use the included earpiece to hear better or when you are walking.
Its full-color screen cleverly displays all relevant information without crowding the display. Plus, it uses an inverted color scheme so that you can read everything at all times without straining your eyes.
GS-5B uses a standard 2000mAh battery that can last about 8-10 hours on standby. compensates for its mediocre battery life by using two charging methods – charging cradle or micro USB. This allows you to use an external power source when you are away from home.
Tech-savvy amateur radio users can set up their GS-5B wirelessly with the user-friendly Radioddity app. Conversely, you can use the included programming cable and tailor-made radio program for an old school approach.
Radioddity GS-5B is the handheld ham radio to beat when it comes to versatility, performance, and convenience. Complete with solid construction and innovative features, you can rely on it to do well in any environment and for any purpose.
|Rugged design and build|
|Multiple charging options|
|Great audio output|
|Short battery life|
Although it was released in 2010, Kenwood TH-D72A still holds the hearts of many amateur radio operators for its resistance against harsh outdoor conditions.
Built according to MIL-STD810 military standards and rated IP54, this radio is water-resistant, dust-proof, humidity-proof, and shock-proof.
The downside is that it weighs about 50-100g more than most newer dual-band handheld radios.
Besides that, the TH-D72A has a lot of useful features like Sky Command II, which gives you access to Kenwood’s designated high-frequency radios.
It also has a built-in high-performance GPS with APRS compatibility that allows you to gather valuable local data, use the messaging system, and more.
It can transmit up to 5W in three power levels, giving you the option to maximize your coverage or conserve your battery. It only has about 6 hours of battery life, but you can prolong the runtime by only using it to share your location.
Thanks to the design of the radio, the TH-D72A is very beginner-friendly. With the backlit keypad and a bright LED screen, you can cycle through the menu items easily. The PTT button and knobs are also well-positioned, even though the PTT can be a bit sensitive sometimes. Despite its advanced features, it is very easy to program with its proprietary Kenwood program.
You won’t go wrong with Kenwood TH-D72A if sturdiness and performance are high on your priority list. At a reasonable cost, you get advanced features like Sky Command II and GPS with APRS-compatibility. It thrives in harsh outdoor conditions, making it one of the best handheld ham radios for off-roading.
|Built-in GPS receiver with APRS firmware|
|Sky Command II|
|Easy to operate and program|
|IP54 – waterproof and weatherproof|
|Sensitive PPT button|
|Mediocre battery life|
Specifically designed for marine enthusiasts and boat owners, Radioddity Voyage RV6 has a slew of useful features that come in handy on treacherous waters.
Rated IP67, this ham radio can be submerged into 3.3 ft of water for up to 30 minutes.
It also utilizes a unique water-draining technology that gets rid of water from the speaker by emitting a vibration.
If you drop the radio, you can find and retrieve it easily by following the flashing red LED at the bottom of the unit.
Depending on your needs, you can use 5W for maximum coverage or 1W to conserve battery. Besides all the basic radio functionality, you can also tune in to all the USA, International, and Canadian marine channels to keep yourself updated on marine activities.
NOAA weather alerts and channels keep an ear on weather conditions to help you react appropriately to weather changes.
The 1500 mAh battery can last 24 hours on standby but sadly loses its charge very quickly when transmitting on high.
Radioddity Voyage RV6 is a simple but efficient marine ham radio. With a unique water-draining feature and emergency communications, it earns its place as one of the best handheld ham radios for marine uses.
|Rugged and durable design|
|Vibration Water Draining|
|Quick access to CH16|
|Small battery capacity|
With a 20-hour battery life on the highest power setting, BaoFeng BF-F8HP has one of the longest run times among handheld ham radios on the market.
It can transmit up to 8W in three power settings. Even when faced with unpredictable terrain and weather conditions, this BaoFeng radio can reliably broadcast up to 10 miles with minimal feedback disruptions.
It shares the same accessory connector as BaoFeng UV 5R, so you have a huge pool of accessories to choose from if you need a more effective antenna.
Besides that, this BaoFeng ham radio offers many thoughtful features, like channel tracking and a two-step channel storage system that prevents accidental scanning.
It is also extremely easy to program with the CHIRP software and a programming cable.
The BF-F8HP is one of the only handheld radios that offer exclusive concierge support. You can also tap into BaoFeng’s huge community of amateur radio users and its well-written user manual to solve your issues. This is especially important since this radio does have a slight learning curve.
There is a memory channel conflict between VHF and UHF bands since you can’t assign the same number to your saved channel even if they are on different bands. You can fix it easily by connecting it to your computer, but you can avoid this issue altogether by coming up with a system for channel storage.
For an affordable price, the BF-F8HP takes care of all your communication needs with its 24-hour battery life and outstanding performance. You can rely on its huge community and customer support to help you, which is why this handheld ham radio gets a spot in this article.
|24-hour battery life|
|Great range across most terrain|
|Comes with many accessories|
|Packed with features|
If you are looking for excellence with an economic price tag, the BaoFeng UV-82HP is the way to go.
It has three power settings – 8W (7W in UHF), 4W, and 1W.
It can reach an average of 10 miles, but you can get much more range on clear days.
The audio quality is decent, but it tends to distort a little in urban areas if you transmit on high.
Like BaoFeng BF-F8HP, you can expand your coverage with a wide range of compatible accessories instead of using the stock antenna.
The highlight of this dual-band BaoFeng radio is a dual PTT button. Using the rocker switch, you can toggle and transmit between two frequencies. When one of these frequencies is not in use, you can use the other as a scanner for channels, frequencies, and DTS tones. You can also synchronize the button to use it as a single PTT button.
It is also quite easy to program – all you need is a computer, the CHIRP software, and the included programming cable. If you ever get stuck, the detailed instructions manual will walk you through the whole process.
If you are stranded in the woods, you can use the many emergency features included in this amateur radio, like an emergency alarm and a built-in flashlight to get help. Despite having a keypad lock, the power switch seems to be easily triggered.
BaoFeng UV-82HP is one of the best handheld ham radios in its price range for its excellent performance, range, and usability. Compatible with many BaoFeng accessories, this two-way radio is highly customizable for whatever you need it for.
|Can transmit over two frequencies|
|Solid and well-built|
|Selectivity is mediocre in high-traffic areas|
|Mediocre stock antenna|
Yaesu FT-65R is cleverly designed to not overwhelm its users as a follow-up to the discontinued Yaesu FT-60R dual-band radio.
For starters, the revamped menu allows you to access useful features like WX ‘severe weather alerts’, priority channel scans, and VOX hands-free operation in just a few clicks on a button.
Besides that, you can also customize the 200 memory channels with alphanumeric tags by pressing the keys like an old cell phone.
With adjustable tri-power capped at 5W, you can opt to get a wider reach or conserve battery for communications that matter.
Performance-wise, this handheld radio doesn’t make many frequency errors.
It also has great selectivity and sensitivity, delivering static-free sound even in high traffic areas.
The handheld radio is small, compact, and just right for an adult hand. The placement of buttons is optimized for left-handed radio users, which is unusual for a ham radio.
That being said, the angled PTT button ensures long-term comfort no matter what your dominant hand is. The buttons also have sound and haptic feedback that elevates the user experience.
Yaesu FT-65R highlights simplicity and comfort, as seen from the intuitive menu system and ergonomic design. It presents just the right learning curve while offering some progression opportunities, which makes it the best ham radio for beginners.
|Sturdy and rugged|
|Easy to operate and learn|
|Good sound quality|
|Good battery life|
|Not a lot of advanced features|
Radioddity GD-77 is designed to take away some of the difficulties you might face when transitioning to DMR radios.
The first thing that stood out to us is its ease of usage. You can check all your input/output frequencies on the easy-to-read LCD screen.
You can also customize the side keys to access your favorite features quickly. If you ever get stumped, the well-written operating manual can walk you through any problems.
The seamless transition between analog and DMR mode helps it stand out from the crowd.
It has a dual-wait feature, which allows you to monitor a digital station while talking to your friends in analog mode. DMR also offers impeccable digital sound processing that delivers crystal-clear transmissions.
The GD-77 has up to 5W of transmission power available in two steps. Depending on environmental obstructions and weather conditions, it can transmit and receive within a 3 to 5-mile radius conservatively. It also comes with a decent 6.5″ stock antenna.
Like most portable ham radios in its price range, it has the standard frequency range: 400-470 MHz on UHF and 136-174 MHz for VHF. With a 2200 mAh battery and battery-saving features, this radio can last anywhere from 12 to 14 hours.
VFO was also added with the latest firmware upgrade, allowing you to choose any frequency you like. Besides adding new radio features, you can also set the radio to automatically receive updates to fix common bugs. This is especially important since DMR radios are notorious for software bugs.
Radioddity GD-77 helps make the journey into DMR ham radios less daunting with its intuitive layout and easy-to-use features. With solid construction and constant software upgrades, you can expect this amateur radio to last you for years to come.
|Easy to use|
|Solid and durable|
|Great audio quality|
|Battery conservation features|
|No support for channel programming on Mac|
|LCD brightness is not adjustable|
At first glance, Yaesu FT-3DR impresses its users with a full-color 320 x 420 pixel LCD touchscreen – a feature that many ham radios don’t have.
But at its core, this Yaesu dual band DMR radio is made to be as intuitive as possible.
It adopts a user-friendly interface, like displaying selected bands on a bigger font and setting icons.
In digital mode, it displays both TX and RX numbers in a simplified layout so that you can see everything in one go.
The large display is also readable under any light conditions.
It offers a reliable 5W power output in 4 steps and a wide frequency range. Wires-X functionality expands your reach even more as it links you with home stations around the world via the Internet for global communication.
You can also use this amateur radio as a node station by connecting it with a computer and running the necessary radio software.
Using two independent receivers, this radio allows you to listen to two different or the same bands simultaneously. It is also possible to store up to 900 memory channels in up to 24 memory banks for easy access, including preset memory channels like NOAA weather radio, marine radio channels, and international shortwave broadcasts.
FT-3DR offers a wide range of analog and digital features, like Group Monitor Function, GPS with ARPS compatibility, and Automatic Select Mode. It also has built-in Bluetooth that supports VOX hands-free operation.
Thanks to integrated battery-saving measures, it can last about 4 days of on and off usage with the 2200mAh battery pack.
Yaesu FT-3DR is jammed-packed with analog and digital features that scale very well with experience levels. It can be a bit difficult to learn because of its complexity, but you can count on the large LCD touchscreen and intuitive user interface to make the process easier.
|Full-color touchscreen LCD|
|Intuitive user interface|
|Built-in GPS with APRS capabilities|
|Sophisticated memory system|
|Slight learning curve|
|Average sound quality|
Measuring just 2.3″ by 1.1″ by 3.5″ and weighing a bit less than 3 pounds, the Yaesu VX-6R helps you stay connected without adding bulk to your backpack.
This tri-band Yaesu radio is purpusely built for survival and is rated JIS7 for waterproof, dust-proof, and being submersible.
It also sports an ergonomic design with a great button layout. With a bright multi-colored LCD and backlit keypad, you can check all settings during the night with ease.
You can share information with your party easily with its wide frequency range, 5W power output, and the ability to transmit across three bands.
Better yet, this radio holds up against dense forests and weather conditions to deliver punchy and loud transmissions.
In case of the unlikely emergency, the new Emergency Automatic ID (EAI) function will automatically cause your VX-6R to transmit your callsign and engage your rig’s microphone, even if you are disabled and unable to press the PTT switch.
You also get a ton of channel options, including maritime channels, NOAA weather radio, and AM aircraft reception. It allows you to save over 1000 channels to help you plan for your trip to the backcountry.
The VX-6R compensates for small battery capacity with automatic power-off and TX battery saver. It is also password-protected, which prevents accidental button presses and protects your privacy.
Yaesu VX-6R has plenty to offer as a tri-band ham radio – wide frequency range, big memory storage, and a ton of channel options. It makes up for its small battery capacity with effective battery conservation technology. But its top quality is its solid and waterproof construction, making it the best handheld ham radio for survival.
|Solid and lightweight JIS7 plastic housing|
|Large LCD and backlit keypad|
|Huge memory bank|
|Battery conservation features|
|Mediocre battery life|
As Retevis’ first flagship dual-band DMR ham radio, Ailunce HD1 is built to impress seasoned ham radio operators.
Like a true dual-band DMR radio, it acts like an FM analog transceiver and Tier II DMR digital radio at the same time.
The VHF frequency range overlaps public service frequencies so you can check in on emergency announcements at any time.
You can even pause your FM radio transmission when you get important calls.
It offers up to 10 watts of power output in three power levels.
The stock antenna does the job well, but you can also choose from Retevis’ wide range of compatible accessories should you wish to extend the range even further.
However, the receiver tends to be easily desensitized when competing with nearby devices on high power. Front panel programming enables you to set up your DMR features without a programming cable. It also has an intuitive button layout and two customizable buttons below the PTT to give you quick access to all your most-used features.
Moreover, HD1 has many interesting features not found in other handheld DMR radios, like a promiscuous mode that allows you to listen to other talk groups freely.
It can also display the names and callsigns of the people talking if you have them saved in the 10,000 DMR ID storage. Powered by a large 3,200mAh battery, it can last you up to a week without charging.
Besides the extremely impressive power output and battery capacity, Ailunce HD1 is also loaded with robust DMR radio features that appeal to seasoned amateur radio operators. However, we would recommend that you stick to medium or low power when in urban areas since this radio’s receiver is easily-desensitized.
|10-watt power output|
|Huge battery capacity|
|Front panel programming|
|Sensitive stock antenna|
Amateur Ham Radio – Buying Guide
We would recommend Radioddity GS-5B if you are looking for a versatile radio that can handle almost any environment. Besides being sturdy and waterproof, this ham radio also offers tons of value with its innovative features.
Kenwood TH-D72A is one of the best handheld ham radios for off-roading for its rugged design. Yaesu VX-6R is the best handheld ham radio for survival for its emergency preparedness, durability, and reliability. If your priority is battery life, you won’t find a better handheld ham radio than BaoFeng BF-F8HP.
Radioddity GD-77 is the best portable ham radio for you if you are venturing into DMR radio as it can slowly ease you in without overwhelming you. However, we would recommend Yaesu FT-3DR to seasoned DMR radio users for its feature-packed feature list.
Why should I get a Handheld ham radio?
A handheld ham radio, which is ultimately a two-way radio transceiver is much easier to use since you can start using it as soon as you take it off the shelves. But because these radios are so commercial, the FCC crippled their functionality by limiting the power output.
With ham radios, you can reach more people and go further. This is because most of these devices have a high power option that greatly boosts their range. Not only that, but you can also tap into more channels, like emergency alerts or weather updates. It is also very multi-functional. Some people use it to communicate and listen to all bands of radio transmission, like FM radio, SSB, and CW.
In emergencies, handheld radios can be the difference between life and death. Not only can you use the high power option to seek help, but you can also use the emergency features on these radios to increase your chances of survival. Some radios even allow you to send text messages, go online, or operate without using your hands.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it called ham radio?
There are many versions regarding the origins of the name. Wikipedia states that this term is used as a derogatory term (‘ham-fisted’) to describe the incompetence of amateur radio operators by their professional counterparts. Some people think “ham” represents the initials of radio pioneers “Hertz-Armstrong-Marconi”.
Although the exact reason for what ham radio is named after is not known, ham radio operators have embraced this term proudly since the beginning.
What are the different ham radio types?
There are three types of ham radios – base radio station, mobile ham radio, and handheld radio.
Base radio stations, also known as repeaters, are designed to be in one, fixed spot. They are the biggest and heaviest type of ham radios.
Mobile ham radios are designed for vehicles or a ham radio shack. These radios strike a balance between portability and power since they can reach further than handheld radios but lighter than base station radios. They are typically powered by a 12V power adaptor or your car’s cigarette lighter.
Handheld ham radios are small and lightweight – perfect for outdoor excursions. These radios typically have a power output of 5W, but you can also attach an external antenna for more reach.
How do I get a ham license?
First of all, if you just want to listen to broadcasts, you don’t need a ham license. However, if you want to use it to transmit, you need one.
There are three tiers to a ham license: the technician license, general license, and extra license. These licenses unlock how many frequencies you can listen to. The general license, for example, allows you to access all UHF and VHF bands as well as most HF privileges.
To get a ham license, you can head to your local amateur radio club as most of these tests are conducted there on a quarterly or monthly basis. You have to pay a small fee – usually $10 to $15 – and sit for a written exam.
The volunteer examiners grade your test on-site. If you pass, your license and call sign will be mailed to you in one or two weeks.