Best ham radio for preppers

Best ham radio for preppers ( Top 3 )

What is the best ham radio for preppers? The best ham radio for preppers is the Ailunce HD1 GPS  as it can be programmed from the front end, has dual-band capability, fully waterproof which means that it works even if it is submerged in water, it has GPS, large UserID database and it is very powerful running at around 10W. As a prepper communication is vital especially in and SHTF situation, currently there are hundreds of brands of HAM radios on the market and most of them are cheap Chinese knockoffs of other brands.

These ham radios can be fairly expensive, although I have found a couple of listings with good prices  Click here to check price on

Best ham radio for preppers

Why do you need ham or amateur radio is a question that most new preppers ask themselves, the answer is simple ham radio allows for local and planet-wide communications when all other forms of communications fail. Today’s world is connected by complex forms of communications namely cellular communications and the internet. These forms of communication are very easy to use but rely on massive infrastructure between two individuals’ communication. Before you go and buy some random HAM radio, make sure you know the ham radio basics.

If one cog in that wheel breaks the whole thing can come crashing down. Conversely, amateur radio relies only on the two parties involved, to be able to communicate just a few things are needed on both ends which are power, radio, and an antenna and depending on the mode of communications maybe even a few accessories. In this article, you will see how the ham radio can be an indispensable tool in any SHTF situation. If you want to use your HAM radio legally you will have to own a HAM radio license, if you want to get your license the fastest way possible check out my article How to get your ham radio license.

Best ham radio for preppers

Things to consider before buying a HAM radio

  • Handheld because if you are forced to bug out it will be too heavy to take with you a base station.
  • Dual Band (UHF/VHF), early on some of the mobile DMR’s were either UHF or VHF but usually, you will find that most of the repeaters are working on both frequencies just make sure if your local area has these repeaters on both frequencies, if not go with the HAM radio which the repeaters in your local area use.
  • UserID Database, you should have the ability to download as many UserID’s as possible and also have attributes that give you about them as much information as possible.
  • Programmable from the radio as in an SHTF even you will not have the ability to program it with your pc.
  • Rich Screen: you should not have to dig through different menus or only get one line of information.
  • Waterproof: This is an essential characteristic for a prepper in a HAM radio as you never know what will happen, just keep in mind that there are different kinds of waterproof levels and you should seek out a HAM radio which has the ability to be submerged in water and still function.

Extras for your HAM radio

  • 3rd party antenna capability
  • External microphone
  • Superheterodyne Receiver vs Direct Conversion: these are usually more expensive but what they do is that they have a layer of filtering which means that if there are other HAM radios in the area transmitting it won’t desensitize your receiver as you will be able to focus in the signal that you want. Direct conversion is a cheaper conversion type and it is very common, the big problem with this is that you can lose the ability to receive
  • Software support for Linux/Apple, good software support will make a common radio into the best ham radio for SHTF.
  • Rechargeable without a docking station: if you can use something as simple as a USB cable to charge it then you can charge it anywhere there is electricity.
  • GPS I would rather have GPS capability then not, even if it costs a little extra.
  • Price, depending on your prepping budget there are fairly good low-cost HAM radios but if you want one with a lot of extras this will cost you more.

ham radio for preppers

Ailunce HD1 GPS


  • Front Panel Programmable (built for HAM radios), this is probably one of the best ham radio for beginners.
  • Dual Band
  • Waterproof
  • GPS
  • UserID Database
  • Ships with programming cables
  • Large community support
  • 10 Watts


  • Comm Port Interface
  • Windows only support
  • Direct conversion receiver
  • Antenna mismatch issue

prepping radio



  • Front panel programmable
  • Dual-band
  • Water-resistant but not submersible
  • GPS
  • UserID Database
  • Ships with extras (programming cable and extra battery)


  • Windows only support
  • Direct conversion receiver
  • Limited community support
  • The new version of Anytone AT-D868UV

bug out radio



  • Front Panel programmable
  • Dual-band
  • GPS
  • UserID database
  • Water-resistant but not submersible
  • Ships with programming cable
  • Large community support


  • Windows only support
  • Direct conversion receiver
  • Older version of BTECH DMR 6×2

The radio spectrum is huge, you can think of it as millions of channels to which you can tune in to. To learn about what is available to you is a lifelong endeavor but learning just a few basics is rather simple.

There are two basic types of communications in the ham universe which are short-range and worldwide communications. In ham speak, I am referring to VHF and HF communications or very high frequency and high frequency. If you are a new prepper thinking of how you will communicate in any SHTF situation you may have no idea what VHF and HF means but I will explain it below.

Short-range communications

Let us say that you need to keep in contact with friends, family members or even local emergency responders, you are going to need to use a certain portion of the radio spectrum that is conducive to local communications. A portion of that spectrum that offers clarity, reliability and possibly good portability. A proven solution to local communications has always been the very high-frequency portion of the spectrum or VHF.

VHF communications

VHF is used by the police, air traffic, FM radio, TV and businesses. There is a nice section of the band that is carved out for preppers also. The term VHF refers to the frequency which is 30-300 MHz, as amateur radio operators our little slice of the pie is right in the middle from 144-148 MHz. As on how the communication between two radios work is basically two low powered radios with small antennas tuned in the same MHz.

As for how the radio works is dependent on the laws of physics and it is directly tied to the characteristics of VHF frequencies. While VHF is mostly unaffected by atmospheric noise, giving you clear and reliable communications it is restricted to line of sight communications. Simply put a line of sight communications means things like mountains, hills, large buildings and most importantly the earth itself can disrupt the signal. There are a lot of localized prepper radio frequencies, these frequencies are different from place to place so you will have to make some research.

How does VHF radio work?

For example, two people standing on relatively level ground, because of the curvature of the earth there is a limited distance that these two can have a line of sight before the earth itself gets in the way. In the case of these 2 radios, the antennas are 6 ft above the ground and the distance where the earth starts blocking the signal due to the curvature is 3 miles and this is called the radio horizon.

For the other individual, the distance is also 3 miles, added together two people with radios can theoretically talk to each other from 6 miles apart but in reality, if you have trees, buildings, small hills or other terrains you are probably going to be limited to just a mile or two.

What are repeaters?

While a mile or two is more than enough to your own property and your own neighborhood what do we do to extend this coverage yet still use these convenient handheld radios?

Dotting the landscape around the world are repeaters that take the signal that you transmit, received it and then repeat it. Generally speaking, these repeaters are publicly available to licensed HAM operators and are run mostly by preparedness-minded individuals. Lots of these repeaters operate on back up power for use in emergencies and some are perpetually powered by solar or other renewable forms of backup. The local repeaters will also determine your handheld ham radios range.

These repeaters are most often located in ideal locations that are as high as possible, the higher the antenna the further the radio horizon. Combined with the fact that the antennas are really efficient they can help the range of your handheld radio to go from a few miles to 50 miles or more.

There is a third option for the preparedness-minded individual which is to set up your own repeater. Mobile radios usually have a feature called cross band repeatin normal operations these types of radios operate just the same as your handheld but you can also permanently install a bigger antenna. The radios also have more power and you can choose to back up that power with a system that you control.

The function of cross-band repeat allows them to receive on one band and simultaneously transmit on another, effectively creating your won repeater. Keep in mind that the performance of this system is dependent on your antenna, its hight to the terrain around your location and so on but it should greatly enhance the range of the communication system that you own and control.

HF communications

High-frequency communications are the type of communication an outsider to outsider an amateur radio might imagine. HF communications allow you to talk to the world, this consists of different frequencies compared to VHF between 3-30 MHz and these frequencies have different characteristics. For example, some of your signals when you key up on the radio actually radiates directly out into outer space, HF is different as the radio waves actually bounce off the ionosphere which is called skip propagation allowing for communications that are not limited to line of sight.

This skip can allow interstate to intercontinental communications. Communicating with the states around you can be relatively reliable and depending on the conditions of the bands you can talk to the world. With modest prepper radio setup, it is like you are firing a signal out there which bounces off the ionosphere and wherever it lands. The most important fact as a prepper that you have to remember is that there is nothing that exists between your radio and theirs.

No infrastructure to rely on, you control it and nobody can shut you up. HF radio will be the defacto mode of communications in a regional, national or worldwide disaster. The downside to HF is that the equipment can be quite expensive, while I would expect that every prepper should have a licensed radio keep in mind that HF radio takes a little more knowledge, a general license and a bit more equipment.

If you consider buying a new HF radio the cost of entry in the HF world is going to be around $1000. With an HF rig in addition to the radio, you will need a power supply, antenna, and an antenna tuner. Also, the antenna might not be what you picture in your mind as an antenna, the most popular type of HF antenna is the dipole which is two pieces of wire that are spread horizontally as opposed to vertically, this requires you to have some real estate and a place where to hang the antenna.

SHTF Communications

As far as I am concerned the most important thing any prepper should have is a receiver type radio from where you are going to get your information and transceivers with which you are going to communicate with people.

Multiband scanners

The most important thing for any sensible prepper to have is going to be a multi-band capable handheld scanner. This could be a typical handheld scanner such as the RadioShack ones, you can pick these up at flea markets for cheap as dirt. In my opinion, this is one of the most important things in terms of communication to have as a prepper is a good scanner so you can gather all the outside information that you need,

With these handheld scanners, you can get police, fire, rescue and most of these have the amateur radio VHF and UHF bands and almost all of them have a weather service.

AM/FM Radios

These are extremely cheap and very versatile so every prepper should own at least one of these radios.

Weather Radios

The modern weather radios have an automatic alert system built in them.

Shortwave Radio

The short wave radio is going to tell you what is going on in the world, it is really important if there is a local SHTF situation. You can find these in a portable form some are powered by batteries and some even hand-cranked versions. Something as simple as a wire dipole would greatly enhance your receive capabilities.

FRS Radios

Most preppers are familiar with the Family Radio Service (FRS) and these are very good for communication altho their range is around 1-3 miles depending on the terrain. These do not require a license and you can find these powered by battery or hand-cranked.

GMRS Radios

These do require a license because they have more power but you can get the license fast as you can simply mail in an application.

CB Radios

Citizen band radios are still used by a lot of people and you can buy a small handheld 40 Chanel CB radio very cheap. You can also add an external microphone and antenna on it, CB radios use very little power but their range is also limited. CB radios are limited by law to less then 5 Watts but it is still useful especially if you are bugging out with a group. Just keep in mind that while using CB radios you are not going to have privacy, even if they do have some kind of privacy mode that doesn’t mean that others won’t hear what you are saying.

Marine Band Radios

These are especially useful for people living near the coast, these use VHF bands and most boats and coastal areas are outfitted with these Marine Radios. Even if you are inland boating on a lake you can still use these.

HAM Radio

Usually, these need a license and you will have to study to take some tests, you should not use a HAM radio without a license as you could get fined. There is a big difference between a HAM radio and a CB radio as while using a HAM radio you need to be much more disciplined and able to use the correct protocols. For sensible preppers that are considering to get into HAM radio, you should do some research on the amateur radio relay league website which is a great resource to learn about HAM radios.

In conclusion

The answer to the question of which is the best ham radio for preppers depends on a lot of factors, such as your budget, local terrain, local repeater frequencies and if you have or have not an antenna. It also depends on the SHTF scenario which could be local in this case a short-range radio will do but on a larger scale SHTF like in a statewide scenario you will need a lot more power and a lot longer range.

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