View Full Version : Hand Held Ham Suggestions

12-02-2011, 10:21 AM
Hi guys,
I am new to the ham world. Received my license this fall and am looking for suggestions of what hand held unit to buy. I will use the device mostly while 4-wheeling, for emergency use and for communicating with friends. I don't need the world's best right out of the box but would enjoy getting something at a reasonable price with useful features. That being said your suggestion of useful features would be helpful as well.

12-02-2011, 10:54 AM
Do you have a mobile yet? I ask mostly in case you have a brand preference. Do you have a price point in mind?

A lot of people are running the Yaesu HTs, mostly the VX-8G/R, VX-7R, VX-6R, FT-60R. We have the VX-6 and VX-7, which we like well enough. But if I was going to get a new right now it would be one of the mid-sized commercial derived models, Yaesu FT-270, Icom IC-V80, Kenwood TH-K2AT, etc.

Features I think are important in an HT:
5W output with ability to down select to 0.5W~1W
NOAA Weather RX
Wide band RX that covers FRS/GMRS
Some level of weatherproofness and fairly rugged case (they take a beating)
Large battery (this is something I do not like about the VX-7R, not nearly enough capacity)

12-02-2011, 10:57 AM
BTW, there is a Yaesu VX-8 on the Denver Craigslist right now for about $300. That's not a bad deal if you're looking for a top end feature-wise HT.

12-02-2011, 11:00 AM
I do not have a unit yet as this would be my first so I have no brand loyalty. I would say $400 would be on the high end if it makes sense. That said, if $450 got a much better unit I would consider it. It would be nice to be in the $250 - $300 range.

12-02-2011, 11:09 AM
Got it. Well, personally I would not spend that much on an HT and save the money for a mobile. HTs aren't great general purpose radios, particularly in a truck. Do you want to APRS with it ever? That would be the only reason to spend that much IMVHO.

If it was me, I'd get an Icom IC-V80 (~$150) mainly because they have nice and loud audio and a BNC antenna connector. But it only does 2m, having UHF is handy as much for FRS reception as the ability to use 70cm ham. My second choice would be a FT-270R (2m-only) or FT-60R (2/70). Both of those would also come in at about $150.

12-02-2011, 11:09 AM
for wheeling i'd get a mobile. I use my mobile a billion times more than a handheld and has way more power. For that kind of money you could get a good 1802,1900 or 2900 mobile and ft270 or something similar if you really think you'll be using a hand held out of the truck.

12-02-2011, 11:28 AM
My reason for desiring an HT is for flexibility. During an emergency I would rather not have to try to rip the radio out of the truck to take it on the fly. It would be nice to have the smaller unit for hunting and backpacking as well. I guess that I need to weigh the pros and cons of the HT and the mobile for use in the rig and for other purposes.

12-02-2011, 11:30 AM
I agree with the comments above....

I'd get a decent HT but keep it cheap, then buy a mobile for the truck. you could stay under $400 and have two radios and be a lot happier. Like Wes said, the mobile in the truck is way better and easier to use than the HT. The HT is nice to have when you are walking around outside of the rig or in your house or something.

We usually leave the Mobile in the kitchen. When I'm in the garage me and Allison can chat without a phone call if she needs something since my truck has a radio in it too.

I got a VX-7R and I am just now (after 3 years of ownership) starting to use some of the features it has beyond 2m. I'd have been fine with a cheaper one personally, but now that we have it it is kinda nice.

12-02-2011, 11:34 AM
and budget for a nice antenna for the HT, they help a lot.

12-02-2011, 11:55 AM
I really appreciate all of the helpful suggestions. It is leading me down a different, and I think better, path. So for an HT and a mobile, what would be your top three picks in those categories? Some reasons for those selection would be most helpful too!

12-02-2011, 12:01 PM
Unless you have someone that you know you can reach with an HT in the backcountry you will still possibly be limited with an HT. They only have 1-5w and that doesn't go far with a rubber ducky antenna. Then you're going to pack a yagi as well? probably not. I thought the same thing and the reality is I just don't use it ever for that (unless all your hunting buddies use ham and you talk in the woods and check in with each other) and you should still practice the same emergency preparedness. If your are truly worried about this you would get a mobile unit and set up crossband repeat. That way you can use your ht to get to your rig and then use the 50+ watt to get a repeater or another user for help.

my .02

problem for backpacking and hunting the larger units (which give more power) are heavier. If you are going to carry it I wouldn't go with a FT series. I'd go the vx and either a 7 or 8 r so you get 5w. with the 8gr that is on craigslist you get gps which is nice for coordinates if you really had to relay your position. The 3r is super lightweight but you only get 3w. You should probably take a trip over to HRO and look and feel. :)

12-02-2011, 01:19 PM
The VX-3R is only 3W with an external 6V battery, on internal batteries it's 1.5W.

12-02-2011, 02:25 PM
Mobile 2M single band, I'd check out the Icom IC-V8000 or the Kenwood TM-281A. Both of those are rugged and have nice loud front firing speakers so you don't have to buy an external. I'm a Kenwood guy myself, but only because that's what my first radio was, and I've gotten used to the menu systems and everything. You'd be good with anything from Yaesu, Kenwood, or Icom.

If you want something with a remote mountable face plate, you've got to get into the dual band game, and the Yaesu 7900 is a good place to start.

12-02-2011, 03:16 PM
Wow! All real good info and it kind of starts to make your head spin. So many choices and of course you want to put your hard earned dollars toward the "right" unit. Thanks everyone. Sounds like I have a bit of research still ahead of me.:eek:

12-02-2011, 03:51 PM
Wow! All real good info and it kind of starts to make your head spin. So many choices and of course you want to put your hard earned dollars toward the "right" unit. Thanks everyone. Sounds like I have a bit of research still ahead of me.:eek:
Don't worry, any of the modern Japanese radios (Alinco, Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu) will work fine. If you want to save a few buck some of the Chinese radios (Wouxon) seem to work fine, too.

If you can, head over to Ham Radio Outlet on east Illiff in Aurora (hamradio.com) and to get a sense of their size and how well they're made. Ham gear tends to retain a decent value compared to most electronics. If you spend $150 now, you can recover $100 pretty much any time in next few years.

12-05-2011, 02:31 PM
I recently got my license and bought equipment. It funny to read here all and the same questions that went thru my head. This forum has been very helpful to me.

My recommendations are to get a mobile rig and learn to use it. The HT has too many limitations as the main radio. In additions you may not get to use it often enough to learn communicating with other hams. Driving around and using Ham is lots of fun. I had one trip to Moab without Ham and one with Ham. I enjoyed hamming in Moab alot. The terrain and activity lend itself for radio communications.

Installing a separate face plate will be easier and more versatile. You can install the radio where it is convenient to pull an antenna out. It is easier to run the connecting cable from the radio to the face plate, than running the antenna cable thru the car.

Don't install anything permenant until you drive and use it for a while. You most likely change you mind about the mounting once you use it.

I have Yasae for 2M and Kenwood for HF. The Yaseu plastics seems to be less robust than the Kenwood. After a year+ in the car, you start to notice the difference in materials, even if the features and the electronics are the same.

If I would to buy a 2M again, I would get the Kenwood for that reason.

APRS is very nice, but increase the cost. I would get it again.

Hope this help, not very technical answer but hopefuly helpful.

Yaesu 350
Kenwood 480HX

12-05-2011, 03:59 PM
I have Yasae for 2M and Kenwood for HF. The Yaseu plastics seems to be less robust than the Kenwood. After a year+ in the car, you start to notice the difference in materials, even if the features and the electronics are the same.
What sorts of problems are you noticing? The FT-8800 I've got in the truck is going on 5 years old, last 4 years of it in the truck, just wondering. In my experience all of them have built various duh moves. Kenwood has occasionally cheaped out and not bypass and block their filters correctly (the TM-D700/D710 is notorious), so they have electro-migration issues. Shrug. That's why we're hams, sometimes you gotta break out the iron and 'improve' your rig...

12-05-2011, 10:58 PM
.. So for an HT and a mobile, what would be your top three picks in those categories? Some reasons for those selection would be most helpful too!

That's a great question, Loren. Not sure I can come up with 3 but I'll do two of each. caveat this with my recommendations are for what I do, which is a lot of small wheeling runs, larger club runs, Cruise Moab, yakking around town. I don't do any HF stuff so my answers are biased to 2m only.

Top HT pick:

1. Yaesu VX-3r. It's small, lightweight, fits in your buddy's cup holder for him to monitor the trail run and the battery lasts all day, even 2-3 days if it doesn't do much transmitting. It's also cheap, relatively speaking compared to the "good brands," and it's got a cryptic yet eerily intuitive OS if you have experience with other Yaesu brands (personal preference). It saves your money for another radio. It's really easy to "lock" and "unlock" so you don't change the frequency or volume setting, and heck it can go in your shirt pocket at parties. Don't let this be your only radio though, only get it if you also get a mobile rig.

2. Yaesu VX-7r. Also small, but so packed with features you'll never learn them all. So lots of entertainment value if you really get into the hobby. Take the radio, a spare battery pack, and the manual on a 14-day backpacking trip.. 2 weeks later you still won't know how to use the thing completely. But what you'll know is how to listen to normal radio (yes, music) on one band while monitoring another in the garage, how to monitor two ham bands (simplex, repeaters, doesn't matter), and how to change output and squelch. Combine that with water resistance and a ton of available accessories, plus its resale value that's within 10% of retail most times, and it's a good choice, and is enough radio if you could only have one, but I wouldn't recommend it.

one comparison point: The VX-3 does not receive as well as the VX-7. For a lot of practical purposes (like runs we do) this doesn't matter, since you're usually talking to solid mobile rigs 5 miles away or closer. But in my basement you can hit the 145.310 on the VX-7r, but not the VX-3r, using the same antenna. Just thought that bears pointing out.. don't go bush for a month with a VX-3 as your only lifeline, borrow someone's 7.

Top Mobile pics:

1. Yaesu FT-8800: Dual bands are clearly the way to go.. if you can drop $350+ on a mobile rig don't even think twice about it. Monitoring a repeater while the run is on simplex, monitoring two simplex, being the interpreter for others who are too far apart or who can't monitor 2 bands... examples are numerous. on Rubicon for example I had one channel on our group, the other on NorCal. At CM you can have a literal field day with that other band, yet still not lose communication with your group. And after a year or so, navigation actually gets pretty easy on the thing, I can do just about everything I need to do from the hand controller.

2. Yaesu FT-2900: Don't actually have one, but I do have the 2800.. same thing just older and less power. this is a straight up, no nonsense, high power when you need it, 2m radio. Secondary benefit is there are a lot of these around, so tech tips are generally easy to come by.. like when you "beep" before each transmission, odds are good someone else on the run knows how to turn that off. Plus you could take it out of the truck and use it as a leveling block for your camper- the cases are silly strong.

Most disappointing radio: Yaesu FT-7800. Of all the trucks I've ridden in with this radio, I've seen this one pretty consistently used- a single channel, 2m radio with a remote faceplate. My personal bias is spend a little more for dual bands (8800), or spend quite a bit less for a solid 2m rig w/o the removable faceplate (1802, 2900, etc.) The ability to "scan" is nowhere near the same as the ability to monitor two frequencies, it's like two phones compared to call waiting.

that was fun.. hope that helps! :cheers:

12-06-2011, 06:30 PM
Thanks Tim,
That was a lot of really good information. Dave I really appreciate your input as well. I think that I am starting to narrow things down a little. As with most things, cash may be the deciding factor.

12-06-2011, 07:02 PM
Put me in the "scan" camp. I like to monitor more than two freqs frequently.

12-06-2011, 10:53 PM
Yaesu FT-2900 is a great radio. The only downside is that the faceplate is not removable. I use the older 2800 version of this radio as my base station set up at my house, connected to a J-Pole mounted on the back of my house at the roofline.

I have the Yaesu FT-7800 in my 80 and it has been a good choice for me. I can see the advantages of the 8800 that Nakman mentions, but these have never been enough to sway me into selling my 7800 and buying an 8800 (even though the installation swap would be easy). In Moab it's been rare that I have more than a handful of hams on my runs, so we usually just sit on the main channel and chat with the other runs.