The Best Mobile Ham Radios of 2019: Top Picks and Features

No matter where you are in the world, if you are a fan of communication then the ham radio is the perfect device for you. It’s a multi-purpose item that allows people of all ages to get in touch with other individuals from around the globe. You can use a ham radio to learn about a certain topic, become part of a worldwide community, or even invest in a new hobby.

That’s not all, these radios can be extremely vital during a disaster. Even when different communication methods are down, the ham radios will provide a helpful medium especially if there’s an emergency.

It’s necessary to distinguish between the handheld ham radios that are made to be portable and the mobile options that can be moved around but are usually designed to be installed at home or in a car.

Similar to to all other devices, you should have a general understanding of the product before making a purchase. Read on to discover the important features that should exist in a ham radio and which models are better and more popular.


What is an Amateur or Ham Radio?

You might be familiar with the term Amateur Radio since it’s the same as Ham Radio. These gadgets allow you to communicate over specified frequencies known as “amateur bands” for non-commercial and private purposes. 

Of course, you can use speech to transmit messages but these radios have other means of communication such as PSK, image transmission, packet, Morse code, and packet.


Different Ham Radio Types: Base, Mobile, and Handheld

There are 3 types of amateur radios and you should understand the difference between them to know which one fits your needs.

Base Ham Radios

As the name indicates, these devices are installed in a single place such as a desk at home or at work. They’re fixed so you should make a decision where you want to put them.

Mobile Ham Radios

Similar to the Base models, you also install these in a specific location but they can be easily removed and transported which makes them the best choice for vehicles.

Handheld Ham Radios

Fully portable radios that can be carried around from one place to another with ease. You don’t even have to hold them in your hands at all times since most of them are equipped with a belt clip.


Who can use a Ham Radio?

The best thing about these devices is that literally anyone can use it since it’s user-friendly and multi-purposed. Moreover, you can operate a ham radio no matter where you are in the world.
Some individual might consider it a hobby, others might view it as a learning platform. People of all ages and social backgrounds can become a member of this international community.


Where and How to use your Ham Radio?

Now that you’re aware of the different types of ham radios, you should think about how you plan on using one when you buy it. The main thing to consider is that some models give you portability while others are more powerful. That being said, if you plan on moving around a lot then the handheld type is the way to go but if you’ll be safe inside your house or hiding in a bunker during a crisis then the base model is what you need.


Getting a Ham Radio License

For some reason a large chunk of the population is unaware of the fact that you need a license issued from the FCC in order to use the ham radio. As mentioned previously, this communication method is highly effective during an emergency which is why the Federal Communications Commission believes that users should be ready to play an important role if a crisis hits.


Three Types of Licenses

You should familiarize yourself with the different types of licenses before you think about applying. You’d be happy to know that the FCC has made the process clear and relatively fast.

  1. Technician License: the first among the three and it involves an exam containing 35 questions. Once you pass it, you’ll be able to use all frequencies over 30 MHz as well as some HF band privileges.
  2. General License: another 35-question exam that gives you access to international communications.
  3. Amateur Extra License: after you’ve acquired the previous two, you can apply for the third one. You will undergo another exam with 50 questions this time and when you pass, you’ll be able to access all modes and bands.


Different Types of Bands

Once again, you should think about your purpose for buying a ham radio in order to know which bands are best for you. Generally speaking, a combination of different bands such as UHF, HF, and VHF is the best pick since it allows you to transmit messages on regional, national, and even international levels.

  • VHF and UHF bands: the best choice for short-range communication. For emergency transmissions, a radio with 5 watts of power should be enough but if you plan on taking your activities to a local or a regional scale then you’ll need more than 20 watts of power. These bands are also useful for home communication.
  • HF: this one is great for portable operations when coupled with VHF bands. It’s also the best option for home communication as well.


Doomsday Preppers and Mobile Ham Radios

Viewers who are familiar with the hit show know the importance of being prepared for an emergency if (or when) a it hits. It’s been mentioned several times that these radios can be highly useful communication methods but the fact remains that portable options are the optimal choice. However, mobile models can also do the trick if nothing else is available.


Important Features in a Mobile Ham Radio

As you’d guess, there are some necessary functionalities that should be present in a mobile amateur radio to make it beneficial and fun to use.


Frequency and Bands

Not all radios cover the same bands which is why you should conduct the necessary research on which bands you want to tap into before buying the device. Some models have a general coverage which gives you access to AM/FM and TV bands in addition to the regular frequencies. Moreover, there’s a useful feature called dual band that allows you to check 2 frequencies at the same time.


It goes without saying that the higher the power, the wider the range of the ham radio. The spectrum is usually between 5 to 50 watts but there are different options as well.


There are different types of scanning options such as full scan, priority scan, memory scan, among others. The more you have, the easier and faster your search will be.


Of course you’ll need to program the radio to fit your preferences so check how you can do that before placing a purchase. Most models allow you to do so manually using the device itself however, other devices can be hooked to a computer for an easier process.

Memory Channels

The best picks would be the radios that have hundreds of memory channels on which you can store different frequencies for faster use.

LCD Screen

This might not seem as important as the other features but with a backlit, easy to read screen you’ll be able to use your radio during a power outage which makes it perfect for emergencies.

Weather Alerts

Another essential functionality during a crisis, weather alerts will notify you of dangerous changes in the atmosphere by giving you the opportunity to receive messages from channels like NOAA. This may be more useful if you’re on the move and have a handheld radio but it wouldn’t hurt to stay updated even with a mobile model.

High-quality Design

All devices face tough situations at times which is why you’d want a radio that can withstand shocks and not malfunction if dropped.

Squelch Feature

The purpose of this functionality is to keep all transmissions as clear as possible by eliminating all unnecessary interference and noise.

DCS & CTCSS Encoder/Decoder

It’s essential to keep different conversations separated if you’re having them on the same frequency and here’s where features like the Digital-Coded Squelch (DCS) and Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System (CTCSS) come into play.


Two-Way Signal Reviews the Best Mobile Ham Radios

Now that you’ve acquainted yourself with all the information regarding these items, it’s time to check the radios chosen by TWS as the best models on the market.


Kenwood TM-281A FM Transceiver

Kenwood is famous for its high-quality products and the TM-281A is one of the best radios in terms of structure and power. It can withstand the worst situations and at the same time offers great power output which offers great communication range.

Pros of the Kenwood TM-281A

  • Strong design: it’s not easy to be classified as a military grade radio but this one met the U.S. Department of Defense standards.
  • Small and Compact: even though it’s robust, this radio remains relatively small which allows you to install it almost anywhere.
  • Great Power Output: if you happen to need additional range then you can amplify the power up to 65 watts. You can also reduce that setting if you plan on saving power.
  • Backlit screen: benefit from the LCD screen and illuminated keypad that allows you to easily use this device at all times.
  • Additional features: there’s a wide range of built-in features such as hundreds of memory channels, different scan functions, DCS and CTCSS encoder/decoder, and much more!

Cons of the Kenwood TM-281A

The only downside to this radio is the fact that it’s relatively hard to program. You’ll need to learn all about it and take the time to set your preferred settings.

ICOM 2300H 05 Amateur Radio

Probably the best pick for beginners! The ICOM 2300H has the best price to feature balance since it’s equipped with all the advanced features but has a relatively low price compared to other radios.

Pros of the ICOM 2300H 05

  • Durable Structure: just like the previous model, this radio is highly durable and can withstand strong impacts.
  • High Power: it can also reach 65 watts which is more than most people will ever need.
  • Great Sound: this model is known for its high-quality audio.
  • Numerous Memory Channels: you can benefit from more than 200 memory channels built into this radio.
  • Easy Setup and Programming: as previously mentioned, even beginners can enjoy this radio since they can quickly set it up and program.

Cons of the ICOM 2300H 05

This device only covers specific frequencies which may not be a bad thing for people who are not looking to expand their activities.

ICOM IC-2730A Dual Band Mobile Radio

Another device from ICOM, the IC-2730A is not intended for new users but experienced radio enthusiasts who will use all the advanced features found in this device.

Pros of the ICOM IC-2730A

  • Different Output Power settings: depending on your needs, you can switch between the power-saving 5 watts or boost your range with the 50 watts option.
  • Dual bands: this radio offers VHF/UHF receive capability.
  • Numerous frequencies: you can communicate on a wide range of frequencies such as 118-174 MHz and 375-550 MHz.
  • Thousands of Memory Channels: this device includes 1052 channels with 50 scan edges and 2 call.
  • Large display: frequencies and channel names are shown in a clear manner and the white backlight can be really useful.

Cons of the ICOM IC-2730A

Some users reported that they’re having trouble installing this radio in certain places due to its large size which is why you should consider this fact before buying it.

BTECH Mobile UV-50X2 Mobile Radio

A really popular choice in the ham radio community, the UV-50X2 has a relatively cheap price but at the same time contains all the necessary features that beginners could benefit from.

Pros of the BTECH UV-50X2

  • Different Power Settings: switch between high and low settings, from 50 watts to 10 watts.
  • Multiple radios in one: watch up to 3 different frequencies while you use the radio with either 144 MHz or 430 MHz as the main TX/RX band.
  • Auto Scan Feature: conduct an easy search for the required channels.
  • Expanded Frequency Range: you can benefit from up to 520 MHz.
  • Numerous Included Accessories: there’s a built in speaker mic, mounting hardware, user guide, and much more.

Cons of the BTECH UV-50X2

Even though this radio is a great pick for beginners it might not be the best choice for advanced users since it  lacks features that could come in handy.

BTECH Mobile UV-50X3 Tri-Band Amateur Radio

Another fine device from BTECH, the UV-50X3 bolsters features that make it perfect for all individuals. The price might be a bit high but that won’t be a problem once you discover all of the included options.

Pros of the BTECH UV-50X3

  • Multiple Power Settings: go from low (5W) to mid(20W) and all the way to high (50W).
  • Numerous Memory Channels: 1000 channels and 2 separate memory banks.
  • Wideband Receiver: the radio can receive beyond the transmitting frequencies on VHF/1.25M/UHF.
  • Crossband Repeater: not just a radio since it allows you to connect or extend the range of your other devices.
  • Adjustable Backlight Colors: the LCD panel can be set to 8 different colors.

Cons of the BTECH UV-50X3

Some users reported an issue with the FN radio phase cancellation while using the jack but that shouldn’t stop you from buying this amazing device.


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