I have worked in all sorts of places around the world. Often I’ve found myself as part of an ad hoc team or needing to work and communicate with other teams or organizations. Mobiles are great in any city in the world. But, when you get into more remote areas it’s all about SATPHONES and radios.
SATPHONES are expensive to buy, expensive to run and often unreliable. I usually save them for comms with home. For all other comms I use a radio.
This has given me a need to have a radio which has a good geographic range; a good frequency range; that is cost effective; and is easy to use. Encryption is not an issue for me.
I also carry one when I’m on the hills. It never hurts to be able to talk directly to Mountain Rescue, or to a search helicopter, should things go south.
After some digging I settled on the Baofeng UV-5R. This was governed by the functionality and cost; but also by the sheer number of available accessories which enhance the device. There are extended batteries; AA battery packs; different size/types of antennae; car antennae; antenna relocation kits; microphones/headsets; covert rigs; USB/12v chargers; and others. As well as a range of colours for the body.
I could give you a ton of geeky gen here which wouldn’t really make much sense unless you are a comms specialist of some kind.
The bit which is important is that it is compatible with most “normal” civilian walkie talkie frequency ranges. It is also compatible with airline/air traffic control frequencies. In the UK you can also listen in to da Po-Po… Which is why most Forces now use encrypted radios. In other countries the Old Bill are still transmitting in clear…
The radio can be set up to run on two frequencies. This is useful if you need to use one chat net and monitor another ;).
You can programme it via the key pad which is a bit of a faff to be honest. Or, you can do it via a laptop using the free software that can be downloaded from Baofeng and a super cheap accessory cable. You should know how to do it manually, to be on the safe side. The plus one here is that there are literally hundreds of YouTube tutorials showing how to do this and get the best out of this little radio.
Warranty is for 1 year and is via the seller. That said, I haven’t heard of anyone having any significant issues with the radio.
Each radio comes with:
- USB Charging Dock
- Belt Clip
- Wrist Lanyard
- Earpiece, PTT and Microphone All-In-One
The final point of note is that due to this radio’s frequency range some countries require a licence to operate it. I have a UK HAM radio licence. I bought a book from Amazon and sat an exam organised by my local Amateur Radio Club. the book was about a fiver and the exam £27.50. So, not a deal breaker. More info here:
I really like this radio. It offers great flexibility and is very affordable. There is a good reason it is probably the most widely used amateur radio.
The accessories are also very reasonably priced compared to those for competing brands like ICOM. Not only that, but there are hundreds of accessories available. It’s better than Barbie!
The biggest seller for me is the geographic range of these radios. You are looking at about 5 to 10 miles in rolling country with a stock antenna. Up your power output and add a better antenna and you’re looking at 20-30 miles. Any two way radio marketed for outdoor use will give you 5 km at best!
All that with staying really compact. They aren’t that much bigger than a PRR.
The fact that they are popular with airsofters means that there are plenty of mounting systems available too.
If you want to pimp the radio out check out these options
Ebay has tons of options for antennae too
If you want a really simple to use and versatile radio you won’t go wrong with one of these. I highly rate them for their affordability and versatility. You could easily pimp out a pair of these for under £100!
•Cost – ££££: £24.95 each, or even cheaper if you shop around Get One Here
• Value for money 1-5: 5 Cheap as chips, versatile and robust.
• Ease of use 1-5: 3 Can be a little fiddly to programme manually, but there are tons of youtube tutorials.
• Construction 1-5: 5 I’ve thoroughly abused mine and it’s still going strong.
• Allyness 1-5: 1 It’s a radio….
This Kit Pest Review was written by Ben O’Toole. Hopefully you enjoyed it and if you have any thoughts or comments related to this article then leave a comment!