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BaoFeng UV-5R ham radio

baofeng uv-5rat Amazon for $30 – $45

is one of the great bargains in radio communications today. Older models are still available just over $30, while the new ones with nice, but non-critical upgrades are about $45.

As an entry-level amateur radio, it is incredibly affordable for new FCC ham radio license holders. For all licensees, it offers an inexpensive hand-held that can be used in risky environments where its low replacement cost is a major benefit.

It gets excellent reviews and works in both the 2-meter baoefeng included accessories and 70-centimeter bands, easily toggling between them with the push of one button. Included are battery, charger, antenna, ear-piece/mike, belt clip and lanyard.

It can operate in the FRS (walkie-talkie) frequencies as well as the GMRS, but the latter operations are only for emergency use according to FCC regulations (Why is that??? ). FRS radios have fixed antennas where the Baofeng has a removable, replaceable one. FRS radios operate at 500 miliwatts where the UV-5R can transmit at 4 watts (8 times the authorized power).

The BIG CAVEAT with these is:
Do Not try to program them yourself.
Find someone with the software and adapter to program them. After that, they are easy to use. This radio uses much simpler hardware, with software doing most of the work. That is how it can be offered so inexpensively. It also accounts for some of the limiting factors.

You do not get a $250 Motorola or Yaesu for your forty bucks. But you do get a radio that will send and receive on the legal ham bands quite nicely. It can be programmed to operate through repeaters to easily extend your radio communications range to anywhere the local network goes. In the case of the Bitterroot Valley, that means from north to center, with line-of-sight below that … all from a little hand-held.

Extras that I bought and recommend for your consideration include the two-way radio speaker as an alternative to the supplied ear-bud/mike, an extra battery, an adapter cable to connect the radio to an external antenna and a magnetic-mount antenna for my car roof.

I also bought a programming cable, but suggest you might share that tool with someone who has the software and know-how to do the programming (maybe bribe them with money or cookies).

Many hams call the supplied “rubber duckie” antenna “junk”, while others say it is just fine. Replacement rubber duckies are inexpensive.

Extra-large batteries are also available, but I find no problem with the more compact size, in fact I haven’t wished for my spare battery yet, though I have very little use on the radio at all.