Real Life Survival Story: Baofeng, the Little Ham Radio That Could

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by Aden Tate

It was a beautiful summer day in Vermont, and Alden Summer Jones was making his way down the Long Trail – America’s oldest hiking trail. It’s a 273-mile trek across the highest mountains in Vermont – across the entire length of Vermont as well – and all without making contact with any cities or towns (though it does cross a few roads).  

After a length of hiking through the trail, Alden’s blood sugar dropped too low. He passed out and began to suffer a seizure. Thankfully, a fellow hiker was nearby who just happened to be an EMT. The EMT rushed to Alden to deliver aid. After Alden regained consciousness, the EMT decided that further aid was going to be needed. They needed a rescue.

Unfortunately, one of the chief qualities that adds to the appeal of the Long Trail – *its remoteness – also meant having zero cell reception throughout many parts of it. That’s precisely what Alden and the EMT realized as they tried to call for help.

*Long Trail is one of the most remote hiking experiences in America.

But Alden had an ace up his sleeve: he was a ham radio operator.

And it just so happened that Alden had brought along his HT (handy-talky) radio with him. Alden’s radio was a Baofeng – easily the most hated radio brand amongst serious ham radio aficionados out there. In a disaster situation, though, Alden proved that even something as scorned as a Baofeng could save lives. Alden tuned in to a local repeater on Mt. Greylock, where he put out a call for a rescue. Two men, Ron Wonderlick and Matthew Sacco, were sitting at home listening to the radio traffic on the local repeater that day and heard Alden’s call for help.

After a brief discussion between Matthew and Ron, Matthew decided to go mobile. He grabbed his radio gear, jumped in his vehicle, and drove off to the parking lot of the Long Trail (after contacting emergency services). Matthew met the Incident Command Leader for the SAR operation at the parking lot, offering his services as a radio operator to help. The rescue operation agreed. Matthew first attempted to contact the Mt. Greylock repeater that Alden had used initially to make his call for help.

Time to get creative. 

Getting a hold of the repeater was tricky, and Matthew knew if he couldn’t reach it, the rescue operation would only have a much more difficult time. He initially tried his HT unit.

It didn’t work. 

Then Matthew tried the mobile radio he had attached inside his vehicle. Mobile rigs have better power and range than an HT (they’re hooked up to a car battery after all), and Matthew stood a good chance to contact the repeater with such.

However, that didn’t work either.

Then, Matthew had to get creative. Grabbing his “radio bag,” he quickly constructed a J-pole antenna, attached it to his HT, and grabbed his fishing pole out of his vehicle as well. A heavy sinker was attached to the fishing pole. Matthew used that to cast his line up and over a tree branch 20′ in the air. From there, he attached his J-pole antenna to the line, reeling it up high into the air. Antenna height is paramount to reaching far-away repeaters. After Matthew connected his HT to this new jerry-rigged setup, he could access the Mt. Greylock repeater. The SAR operation now had outside comms established.

Now, they just had to find Alden. 

An ATV would not be able to drive out along the Trail, so the only option rescuers had was to fly in a chopper. The Mt. Greylock repeater was used to communicate with the New York State Search and Rescue team as they flew a helicopter to Alden’s location.

It wasn’t long until yet another hiccup was introduced into the mix, however. The SAR team couldn’t reach the helicopter with their radios. Why? Because they were using the stock “rubber duck” antennas that came with their radios – a type of antenna notorious for having poor range.

At this point, Alden’s Baofeng was able to assist yet again. He upgraded his antenna with an after-market version and lent his radio to the rescuers (it’s unclear if some of them were already at the scene). Whether they were or not, Alden’s radio was able to establish proper comms with the helicopter, the chopper arrived on site, and Alden was pulled out and brought to safety. 

What can preppers learn from all this?

Baofeng radios are regularly referred to as trash. While I most certainly agree there are better options out there, you use what you have. If all you can afford is a Baofeng, then get the Baofeng. A $200 Savage Arms shotgun can save a life as easily as a $1500 Mossberg. What I am trying to say is the preps one can afford are the ones that save lives. Not the ones that are still sitting up on the store shelves for “someday”.

As a prepper, I believe there are several lessons we can learn from this story. There are so many aspects to this entire rescue operation that one could easily spend a lot of time sifting through the nuggets of wisdom. However, below are what I believe to be some significant points.

Here are some amazing tips from Daisy on spending cuts you can make so you can afford your preps!

Get your post-disaster comms in order and know how to use your equipment!

First and foremost, the prepper should be able to see that post-disaster comms ability truly does matter. In this case, it very well may have saved Alden’s life. If there’s a power outage in your area or if your phone dies or has no coverage, will you have the capability to call for help should you need it?

If you’re not familiar with the world of ham radio, Baofeng models are notoriously difficult to learn. While it’s not clear which model Baofeng Alden was using, I think it’s a good bet to say he was probably using the UV-5R. The UV-5R is the de facto prepper radio, and at $25, these things are everywhere.

Whatever model Alden was using, though, he clearly knew how to use his equipment. Had he not, this story could have very easily ended differently. Shoot, even Matthew exhibited this trait by making an impromptu antenna using a fishing pole. That is knowing your gear. Don’t just buy gear and throw it in a wall locker in your basement. Train with the gear you have. Use it and abuse it as you become well-versed in the equipment. Post-disaster is no time to train. It’s a time to do.

Prepare ahead of time for bug-out situations.

While this may be the low-hanging fruit here, it’s worth pointing out. Prepare ahead of time for BOB situations – of which backpacking is a perfect example. Alden had clearly done some of this already by knowing the frequency to reach local repeaters along his route and by his foresight in packing a ham radio with him.

Don’t forget about the importance of packing food in your BOB. As a backpacker myself, I can attest to the fact that trekking with 40 pounds of gear on your back (if not more) will sap you fast. You have to be refueling your body with both food and water constantly. You will not be in the right frame of mind if you don’t have plenty of those two items with you. So, stuff as many MREs in your bag as you can. Bring two types of water purification systems with you and plenty of water.

You’re going to need them.

What’s in your bag? Check out Fabian’s pdf book, “The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook.” For only $5.49 this 148-page handbook is the ultimate guide to the kits that will keep you alive.

Going off air: Are you prepared?

We can learn a lot from this story, and I hope you take some of its lessons to heart. Post-disaster comms are a vital prep to have at the ready. Sure, it may not be as immediately essential as an adequately stocked larder full of food and water for your family. However, you are going to need the ability to communicate with others post-disaster. And a ham radio is a fantastic way of doing so.

Does anybody else think the concept of a “radio bag” is awesome? Do we have any ham radio operators out there? How about someone with a Baofeng? Share your knowledge with us and the other readers in the comments section. 

About Aden

Aden Tate has a master’s in public health and is a regular contributor to PewPewTactical.com, SurvivalBlog.com, SHTFBlog.com, ApartmentPrepper.com, HomesteadAndPrepper.com, and PrepperPress.com. Along with being a freelance writer he also works part-time as a locksmith. Aden has an LLC for his micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American at Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

Real Life Survival Story: Baofeng, the Little Ham Radio That Could
Aden Tate

Aden Tate

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51 Responses

  1. I literally just bought some baofengs yesterday. Been researching for about a year. This article came just in time to reassure me that I made a worthwhile purchase with what little money I have. Thanks for this great info

    1. I’m still in the infant learning stage with mine, TexasAntigone. I think my problem with it is it’s always late when I try to learn it hence I’m tired and it all just seems like gooblygock and I’m not normally a dummy. Anyone out there want to teach on class on baofengs? I would gladly attend.

      1. Wanda, I was just having the same thought. Perhaps we could have a directed self-study forum on The Organic Prepper for technician ham license exam?

          1. @Wanda and Fina, check out eHam.net at https://www.eham.net/ it’s a great start, for equipment, resources, community, courses, etc.

            I’d suggest you start by reading and learning some basic stuff about PROPAGATION. Once you get the grip of it, the rest is just a matter of mastering the technicals and ethics of radio operation which is not that complex.

            Learning basic HT operation and how to program the frequencies in the HT is pretty straightforward. Save for a few particularities this is mostly common across all models and brands, and frequency/repeater programming can be done by way of softwares and apps.

            Learn the operation procedures and rules (HAM ethics), and also the jargon. This comes with time, but basics are required for taking a license. It’s worth it in my opinion.

            Propagation is more nuanced and a bit more complex, but it’s essential to understand the physics of frequencies, antennas, etc. It’s a bit arid and geeky but not rocket science. One step at a time, a little by day, and in no time you’ll master it.

            We learn a lot by listening, and for that we just need the HT and some really basic knowledge on the operation of the frequencies (input, scanning, repeaters, etc.). There are tutorials for each and every phase, from basic to ultra-advanced. HAM community is a bunch of geeks who love this stuff (yes it’s addictive lol).

            Studying and getting a license is good because otherwise it’s very hard to amass air time and thus build experience that only comes with practice. With a license you’ll have the support and goodwill of the community and grow fast.

            Otherwise, operation (transmission or Tx) is restricted to emergencies only. Listening (a lot) is mandatory but at one point we only advance by making contact and practicing.

              1. @ Fina and Wanda,

                I forgot to mention: check out ZELLO https://zello.com/, it’s an hybrid app which turns smartphones into PTT walk-in talkies. It also allows connecting HAM and smartphones.

                It’s good to enter the HAM world without even having an HT. I’ve found most of the time, users are non-licensed enthusiasts and folks entering HAM, so there’s a lot of information exchange and some helpful folks.

                It also has groups and connects worldwide do there’s a lot that can be done with it. It doesn’t replace HAM but can be used as an entry door, to get started in the communication part of HAM.

                I wouldn’t advise to stop there or get stuck though because HAM radio is much broader and technical and it’s important to learn, grow and improve. The real thing is much more fun and rewarding.

                But to have a taste, make some contacts and start it’s OK. Good luck.

      2. Most of the cheaper portable ham radios are notoriously difficult to program by hand, especially the Baofeng. That said, it’s actually a pretty decent radio for the money. I’ve got a couple of them, as well as some more expensive ones.
        The easiest way to program them is with a programming cable that you can find on Amazon for less than $10,
        With that cable, there’s a program called “CHIRP” that will allow you to enter the repeater frequencies and label them with alphanumeric characters to make something easier to remember rather than the default display of something like 146.880.

        Link to download CHIRP: https://chirp.danplanet.com/projects/chirp/wiki/Home

        Amazon link to program cable: https://www.amazon.com/Baofeng-Programming-Cable-BAOFENG-BF-888S/dp/B00CP0I474/ref=sr_1_4?crid=2XTKSCF8Z25W&dchild=1&keywords=baofeng+program+cable&qid=1630167006&sprefix=baofeng+program+cable%2Caps%2C178&sr=8-4

        1. Excellent tip @No2Gates, CHIRP makes it so much easier and fasterto program the BAOs indeed.

          Also, I’ll suggest downloading the REPEATERBOOK app to get the list of the repeaters in any given area (or anywhere in fact), input them onto the HT with CHIRP and use SCAN to speed up the search because the BAOs are slow to scan frequencies.

          1. I keep a copy of the book with me when I travel, even though I’ve already programmed the repeaters along my route into my mobile and handheld radios.

        2. Definitely go with computer interface and Chirp. Chirp is much better than the Baofeng software. Radio is a real pain to program and setup by hand. Chirp makes it a breeze. Plus you can save the setup and clone multiple radios exactly the same. That makes it much easier if you have to change radios or tell someone to go to another pre-programmed frequency. Also spring for the high capacity battery in addition to the higher gain antenna. You can charge one battery while using the other.

  2. I have had my ham radio license since I was 20 years old (many years ago) and had become inactive during the years I was working and raising a family. However, I did keep my license current, and it was the Baofeng that got me back into being an active ham operator in my retirement. Of course, I quickly moved on to more expensive gear after getting started with the Baofeng, but I must credit that radio with bringing me back to ham radio. Along with a small handheld radio like the Baofeng in my go bag, I would also desire to have a small QRP (5 watt) CW (morse code) transceiver that is very small and portable, along with a portable HF vertical antenna. It is not much bigger than a Baofeng handheld radio, but can transmit over very long distances via morse code on the HF bands. I live in South Georgia, and have been able to be heard up in Canada with my little 5 watt CW/morse code transceiver.

  3. Wow it’s refreshing to read ANY article that supports the truth that you don’t have to spend more then you can afford just to try to survive. Yes that 200 dollar shot gun can protect you as well as a 2000 dollar gun . People need to remember this, while it might not be as good WE all don’t have 1000 dollars for a radio . Thank you all for being realistic, ,, Paul

  4. All of my buddies and I have the UV-5R. Use them mostly at the shooting range. One of us is tech savvy, and had set all of them (30 or so) to the same channel presets, including local police and fire channels, with most of them set so we can’t accidentaly key in to ‘wrong’ channels. Having a whole bunch of the same exact radio (with the exception of battery sizes and extended range antenna) makes everything much easier if one or two of them fail when in use. Just swap ’em out. They ain’t the best, but they work well for us. Heck, I took mine camping a few weeks ago just to listen to the weatherband every couple of hours. They are worth the 20-30 dollars all day.

  5. The UV-5R (at least the older model I have) is pretty much an open radio, meaning it can be used on ham bands, e.g. for using repeaters, though whether or not legally is another question, as its signal “cleanliness” might not meet FCC Part 97 requirements. The other problem the FCC had with it is that is also capable of illegally being used outside ham bands at powers and bandwidths that might not be legal for what were otherwise license-free bands, e.g. GMRS or FRS, and without proper licensing on other radio service bands. The FCC hates these radios. When TSHTF or your life is at risk, you might not be so punctilious.

    When TSHTF, I doubt you’ll want to talk to your non-Ham family and friends through a repeater (assuming they aren’t licensed), especially if all you want is a local net with lower probability of intercept. Baofeng makes decent little channelized BF-888s that you can pick up for around $10 each.

    Having said that, you are responsible for ensuring any of these you might have are operated legally. They do the job, and they are cheap.

  6. The learning curve in programming those Baofeng HT radios seems to be the worst part. Along with the stubby stock antennas. ( better ones are easily found on Amazon, and easily upgraded.)
    In a grid down scenario, you can’t expect to have the 2 meter repeaters operational, or at least only for a short time. So no matter how expensive a 2 meter radio you have, it may not reach out as far as you might expect, when the repeaters go down.
    The real advantage with these radios is the multi frequency capability. Which is better for OPSEC, as it is easier to switch bands and frequencies, to confound anyone who you might not want to be listening in.

    I recommend these radios more for communications within your family or prepper group than contacting the outside world,( but they could be used for that also).
    They have more power output than most retail walkie talkie sets, that you would see in stores.
    This can be an issue on certain bands, as they exceed FCC power output restrictions.
    But once there is no working government, Who cares? Right.
    Survival is what will be most important.

    I find that they fit a certain niche in my preps and my survival plan. They might not be a good fit for every one, but some sort of radio communication ( even a lowly CB radio) should be in your preps.

    1. During emergencies HAM radio booms. In 2019 there was a huge landslide in a mining barrage here (search BRUMADINHO) and the HAM community helped a lot, even weeks after the collapse.

      Sure, if the grid goes down for too long some repeaters will go dead. Some might still work some time on power generators, and a few can go indefinitely on solar and wind. But those would be overwhelmed for sure.

      It could be useful to relay info or provide news cast though, if the community is organized enough for that and can mobilize. It’s a lot of “ifs”, as is the case in most SHTF situations anyway.

      But I agree that having a few HTs and knowing how to operate them can help in a lot of ways. I’d also advise to have a good multivendor receiver with decent SW (short wave) reception, because getting news and gathering info is crucial in any disaster and this can be the only way in a widespread collapse of some sort.

      That, and a small network of HTs (some can work as repeaters and even base stations can help with that if necessary) can do a lot for comms and coordination. And hey, let’s not forget morse code which works in radios, sound and light, even long distance. And it’s fun.

  7. Got my ham license, General, 7 years ago. A Baofeng BF-F8HP has been my go-to radio all that time.

    Recently I realized that in a grid down situation having only UHF/VHF capability on the local repeaters, which probably don’t have permanent backup power, might not be the best idea. So I just upgraded my license to Amateur Extra and am In the process of installing a HF station using the ICOM IC-7300 radio. This will allow me to have regional, if not national and international, comms. HF radios are rather expensive, starting around $700 for a new entry-level radio, but I saved my pennies to get in the game.

    Also, you can get licensed for $0. Plenty of study and practice exams on the internet. And the Laurel VEC offers no cost exams. Most VEC’s charge around $15 though.

    Back to the Baofengs, nothing at all wrong with them. Just please get your license before transmitting on the amateur (ham) bands. You’ll learn a lot studying for the license that might be invaluable in a situation similar to Alden’s.

  8. One thing to remember is that when the SHTF we may have problems recharging the batteries if the grid goes down. Make sure that you have a way to doing that.

  9. I have three Baofengs. Two of them have gone belly up and the third seems to be on its last legs, with lots of problems when I use it. However, I was using the Baofengs as my primary 2-meter rig. I am part of a prepper net on Wednesday night here in Reno and the surrounding area on the SNARS linked repeater system.

    The net is run by Northern Nevada Preppers Group, and has quite a bit of participation. Including me. I would often be on the air for fifteen or twenty minutes over the hour or so most of the nets ran. The Baofengs would get so hot that the metal parts would literally raise a blister if I held it too long. (The metal framework of the case is part of the heat sink for the transmitter components.)

    Two of them failed after about a year or so of use, even with switching back and forth. I got the third one and it seemed to be doing fairly well, even getting as hot as it was. Then it, too, began to have serious problems, even on low power, which I could use by setting up my log-periodic beam in the apartment.

    I went ahead and ordered a Yaesu. I have been using it since I got it, over a year now, and it is still doing fine.

    My point is, the Baofengs are light duty use radiios. Their duty cycle is not that great. When used more than a few minutes at a time, with plenty of time to cool down between transmissions the radio will work well, and have a decent lifespan. Constant use, however, and they will fry themselves.

    For use during an extended disaster situation where a person needs to stay in contact with others, but does not need to be communicatiing constantly to control search and rescue, evacuations where people need to be constantly in communication, and such, the Baofengs will work very well. I know a bunch of preppers that have them and use them for such activities (in training, at least. So far, no major disasters have required their use.

    If you want a radio for occassional use (part of which should be regular training with the radio), but will be using it intermittently most of the time, with very few extended conversations that would heat up the radio, then the Baofeng, due to its price, is a very good choice. Just do not expect it to be a firstline, primary, constant use radio.

    Just my opinion.

  10. We are running the 5 and 8 way and I’ve got the 50 in my truck.
    You can poopoo my gear all day long but I’ve used them hunting, hiking etc and it’s all been safer because of it.

  11. What kind of performance could I expect using a handheld, better after market antenna, but no J-pole antenna, no repeaters (assuming SHTF, grid down), and only a portable solar panel for charging (ahem, some of these portable panels weight 25lbs, but lets say set up outside my BOL), no other external power booster, in a hilly heavily wooded area?
    Not only at the BOL, but on the go/foot?

    1. Dang I wrote a huge reply to try and help you with this and deleted it inadvertently lol. I’ll write it again I have some tips on battery, recharging and also Rx/Tx improvement with antennas and such.

  12. I’ve no experience with the Baofeng UV 5R, but I do have experience with the Baofeng UV-82HP. I own 3 of those units. They’re a little more expensive ($70 @ Amazon), but they’re also higher in power as well as some other features the UV-5R doesn’t have. There are aftermarket antennas that are a big boost over the stock antennas.
    I’ve studied for the Tech license, but held off taking it as our finances are tight right now.

    The Baofengs require programming (BTW, technically they’ve had a name change to PoFung). It’s a pain in the butt to program manually, but a breeze if done from a computer (a couple of HAM group members locally helped me with that).

    IDK, but in a SHTF scenario, having a “license” is going to be the least of our worries I believe.
    Still I plan on at least the “Tech” level license when I’ve got the extra cash.

    I was surprised when I attended the first Ham meeting, at how many experience operators had the UV-82HP and used it on a regular basis.

  13. I am a Ham operator. KG7UTP. We started training Ham operators in 2016 and now we have over 250 Ham operators in our Community. We run several nets working with the Mormons and other groups.
    I own 8 Baofeng radios as well as other radios. I use my Baofeng 8 watt for Search and Rescue missions as well as the recent forest fires we have had here in Bonner County Idaho. Our Elmer’s have loaded the frequencies that we would use most. not just here in North Idaho but across the Country. For what it is and what the Baofeng radio cost, I would not hesitate to go anywhere with it. I do carry other antennas for when I need to reach out and hit a tower on the other side of the mountain. It works for me and what I do.
    The Baofeng is also a dual band radio. 2 Meter Ham on one band and FRS / GMRS / MURS / Business / Marine / and Weather on the other. Out here we have the Channel 3 project which means The FRS / GMRS / MURS and CB Radio we run nets for those who are not Ham operators. Very cheap safety net.
    Best Regards,
    Ranger Rick -KG7UTP
    Automatic Survivor Training Group
    North Idaho

  14. Thanks everyone for the radio tips. I’ve started to get into ham radio, and there’s a lot of good stuff in these comments. I hope we get soon some article about how to get started with ham radio.

  15. I have my General license now, though previously I had only my Technicians (Ham radio operators will know what I mean). Previously, I owned only 2 Baofeng units – one an 8 watt VHF/UHF dual-band, the other a 5-watt tri-band (2m, 1.25m, 70cm). Now, I also have a small, low-power HF radio that I picked up on HFSignals (a guy in India sells kits). With a portable power supply and antenna (both of which I have), I have a lot more comms capabilities than I did before.

    I put together a list of Ham radio exercises that I’ve been meaning to do (things like making contact on all frequency bands available to me, etc.), now I need to get to them. And you reminded me of an excellent point – program your Baofeng with repeaters where you intend to be BEFORE you go there. For instance, I live in Kentucky, but if I was taking a road trip to Florida, I should program the repeaters along the route and at my destination before I leave. Then I could just dial up one on a pre-programmed channel and be in business.

  16. Gotta to love it. I have owned one for years, and have one of the early 8-watt hand held with extended battery option, can still program it, and make it work as intended. Don’t understand the lets spend a lot of money on a hobby crowd for something per the rules you only need sufficient power to complete a communications exchange.

  17. I have 2 Baofeng radios and was really into learning how to use them and prepping to get my license–especially when it was on line only.
    Then a friend warned me to make certain I knew what I was signing on for by getting my license– namely NO APPOINTMENT SITE INSPECTIONS! (He’s a long time Ham operator.)
    From The FCC’s Inspection Fact Sheet ( https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/guides/inspection-fact-sheet ) Be sure to read the last one!
    Q: Why must operators of radio frequency devices allow the FCC to inspect their equipment?
    A: The Commission must ascertain essential facts pertaining to the operation of a station which may be vital to the resolution of a number of questions, including interference problems involving public safety. For this reason, the FCC must be able to check all covered equipment that have the potential to emit radio frequencies. Section 303(n) of the Communications Act gives the FCC this authority.
    Q: What happens if I do not allow the FCC agent to inspect my equipment?
    A: Failure to allow inspection forecloses the opportunity to resolve the problem. Thus, refusal to allow inspection is a serious challenge to the Commission’s authority to inspect radio stations and is a violation of the Rules. Such a refusal may lead to revocation of a license, maximum monetary forfeiture, or other Commission sanctions.

    Q: The FCC Agent standing at my door does not have a search warrant, so I don’t have to let him in, right?

    A: Wrong. Search warrants are needed for entry involving criminal matters. One of the requirements as a licensee, or non-licensee subject to the Commission’s Rules, is to allow inspection of your radio equipment by FCC personnel. Whether you operate an amateur station or any other radio device, your authorization from the Commission comes with the obligation to allow inspection. Even radio stations licensed under a “blanket” rule or approval, such as Citizen’s Band (CB) Radio, are subject to the Commission’s inspection requirement.

    Yeah, so now I learn but without any intention of getting a license. While the appearance at the door of little ole me is highly unlikely–with the way the country has been going, I don’t want to give anyone carte blanche to enter my home uninvited.

    Just be aware–I wasn’t until a few months ago.

    1. Great information 1M Bach
      You can still use the Baoefung and listen to ham and use ham in emergencies without the license

    2. For SHTF you don’t need a ham license … you need comms. You are correct that getting a ticket puts you on the radar. If I was unlicensed, I’d simply buy a six-pack of Baofeng BF-888s for $65 or so and a programming cable and choose the frequencies you want to use, e.g. FRS or GMRS or whatever. Once they are programmed, I’d hand them out to the spouse, kids, friends and decide on a channel of the day for your local net.

      Depending on the terrain and structures, you’ll be good for a couple hundred meters to a kilometer or two without any special antenna. In a SHTF situation, do you really want to be heard all over the place?

  18. Interesting article and discussions. I’d be interesting in learning about ham radio. I don’t know of any ham radio operators around my area.

    1. I like seeing someone sayinv rhe cheaper option is better than nothing. Not everyone fan afford everything they’d like to have.

      After years of wanting that expensive MSR stove I still don’t have it. I do have a single burner propane stove, a decent single burner liquid fuel stove, a twig stove, an alcohol stove and a hobo stove or two.

      If I ever do get that expensive MSR stove I’ll still have all the other ones.

      Sometimes you just have to make due with what you can afford until your finances allow you to upgrade.

      I have a Baofeng in the metal garbage can with my other electronics. Even a lowly short wave radio will get you information on what is going on out there.

      If you’re going to have radios, even just shortwave learn a bit about antenna theory and making your own antennas. They’re fairly simple and there are books and websites with information on making them.

      My plans for radios lean more towards listening to see what is going on and short range communications. Cheap hand helds and even CBs will fill in those roles.

      Without batteries there is no radio communications, and any long term situation or permanent situation will eventually outlast your batteries. I have a couple of solar short wave and crank radios so I will at least have something over the long term… at least until they break.

  19. Don’t let anyone tell you that Baofengs are junk. They are inexpensive and could save your life. In addition to using the programming cable and chirp to set it up you should also learn how to program it manually. More importantly get licensed. There are numerous resources, many of which are free to prepare for testing. The more you practice the better you’ll get. I started eight years ago with a UV5R. One thing I can say is that it can become an addicting and expensive hobby. That being said it’s up to you how far you want to take it

  20. As I learned in the military, “If its stupid, but works, it isn’t stupid!” Same goes for the Baofeng.

  21. Nobody sees a problem with this story line? Ham heads? Nothing? Let me help you out. No baofeng is going to talk to a medical chopper. The highest aviation frequency is 137.whatever. Baofeng can’t transmit below 138. Unless you set your baofeng on fire and send smoke signals, your not communicating on aviation frequencies. And save your what if’s. I just had annual training 4 months ago with med chopper from our state capitol. They don’t have any other radios on board. Aviation freqs only.

  22. Let me preface this by pointing out that I am no fan of government licensing, regulation, inspections, etc. However, when it comes to the radio spectrum if there weren’t rules governing who can use what frequencies, bandwidths, power, etc., it would quickly become a free for all that worked for nobody. I’ll give a couple examples below. When it comes to ham radio, the FCC is largely hands off and operators have great latitude in how and where they can operate and this is largely because they are a self policing and responsible group.

    In order to be effective in your communications, you need to know how to use your equipment. The way to achieve this expertise is by practice and the best way to practice is to get your ham radio license and get on the air. The study materials are free and the cost to take the test is nominal, typically $15 or less (you can take all three tests for one fee in one setting). Some resources include the “No Nonsense” guides, such as this one: https://www.kb6nu.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2018-no-nonsense-tech-study-guide-v1-1.pdf There are also websites like hamstudy.org and hamexam.com where you can practice with flash cards and take practice tests.

    Those that are avoiding getting their “ticket” and getting Baofeng radios with the idea that they’ll have communications should a SHTF event are going to be in for a rude awakening. At best, they will have local communications for their group within a few mile radius and at this point they might as well get a couple of Motorola GMRS/FRS radios that will work just as well and be a lot simpler to use.

    There have been several comments about programming the radio using Chirp, etc., but this is only part of the equation. Do you actually know what those settings do? Do you understand what a “tone code” is and how it works on both receive and transmit. Could you go to the repeater book website while travelling and quickly configure your radio to work with a new repeater? Also, keep in mind that if you don’t have a ham license, and the other operators will figure this out pretty quickly, reputable operators aren’t going to talk to you or give you the time of day unless you’re calling about a bona fide emergency.

    As I said above, without having some basic rules in place things would become a free for all, which is possible, if not likely if everyone decides to start using their radios for the first time post emergency. One of the reasons for this is because of what is known as capture effect, or “doubling”. In short, it does not take much (transmit) power to cause other transmissions on that frequency to become a garbled mess that sounds like a lot of buzzing. This is also why certain entities get very upset about out of band transmissions because it really is possible to shut down communications by transmitting on these frequencies.

    I’ll give you another, non ham, example. In many areas the first responders use an radio system called VIPER. It is a digital, multiple user, talk group, controlled radio system. Often times when there is an emergency, everyone grabs their radios, keys down, and tries to talk. Instead, what happens is the red light comes on and the radio goes BONK and in response everyone tries keying down again, making things worse. What is going on is that everyone has now queued up several hundred transmit requests in the system and the main controller has to try to parse through all of them. In other words, when things go sideways, knowing what your doing is really important.

    In an event, the repeaters that are operable will likely be taken over to use in a controlled net to pass traffic. There are protocols and procedures that govern how these nets operate because it is important to convey and relay information correctly. Again, if your not a ham operator, and even if you are and you try to but in incorrectly you will get yourself a very rude reception.

    In reality, your best bet is to go with HF. As was pointed out, however, it isn’t cheap as a starter HF radio will run you $700+ and you can expect to spend over $1,000 by the time you add in an antenna, a tuner, and a power supply. Running an HF radio is also as much art as it is science and there are a multitude of modes, including digital (computer), and bands each with different effects in terms of propagation.

    As an example, using HF, I have carried on conversations with friends that are about 50-60 miles away as well as talked to people thousands of miles away using a wire strung up in the trees and a radio signal with less power than an incandescent light bulb. A handheld radio (VHF/UHF) is simply not going to do this.

    A few years ago, when the hurricane struck PR and obliterated the infrastructure, and I mean there were no cell phone towers, there were no land telephone lines, there was no grid electricity, the ARRL and the Red Cross for the first time activated an agreement and sent 50 volunteer HF operators to PR to establish some degree of communications, because at that time, they had NOTHING. When the SHTF and everything is down, being able to communicate with a wire and a tree can be invaluable.

    Even now with the hurricane Ida hitting the gulf area, a number of HF radio nets have been activated to provide backup communications to that area. They are able to make use of things like a program called Winlink, which operating over HF radio can send email and other official forms to receiving stations far outside of the disaster zone where they are then relayed through the Internet to the intended recipient.

    I will close with one final example. One evening, while driving home from work, I had my radio linked to the local repeater using a protocol called DStar, which is a digital control and talk protocol. I repeat, you need to know how to use your equipment and you only get that with practice. Anyway, driving down the road, I was talking to a guy in Tanzania – literally on the other side of the planet – who was likewise driving down the road.

    1. This right here.

      The radios being discussed here are not simple devices. I bought a nice TYT radio kit and ended up selling it as I didn’t have more time to mess with it after researching how to program it. Downloaded chirp, etc and no go. I would have gladly paid an expert to do it but the time involved for that is not something i have either.

      The cost for entry level Ham is not a barrier, but be prepared to invest a lot more time than you may have to learn Ham basics.

  23. I’ve had my Ham tag since 2018 and just upgraded to General for more HF options. VHF is what likely use most and it’s worth getting your Tech if only so you get a feel for how things go/practice. You might a few friends too. Other than local simplex coms, VHF/repeater coms is not going to become some kind of free for all if SHTF. They’ve got emergency protocols down pretty well, so it’s worthwhile to get used to them. In an actual emergency any form of contact (beyond band rules) is allowed, but otherwise one it’s better to know a thing or two. I’ve got two UV5R’s with upgraded antennas (do it, world of difference) and it’s true, the menus are hard to work and remember how they work – especially under duress. trying to dial in an unknown repeater is a serious pain. but with RepeaterBook app on a smart phone, you can preplan/program your trip or at least have them handy

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