What is the best handheld transceiver for survival?

For the outdoorsy person, a handheld transceiver is a must. It’s also probably the first radio device a new ham buys to communicate with nearby hams, coordinate local events, or alert during emergencies.

These handheld radios are very flexible, allowing the communicator to use them home, in an open field, on the go or during hunting events.

What makes a good handheld transceiver depends mainly on the type of use, the environment but also cost and battery life.

We will explore together the best handheld transceiver you can count on in any situation that requires reliable communication.

1. Kenwood Original TH-D74A

Kenwood is one of the most well-known manufacturers of professional and amateur two-way radio communications equipment. The company provides portable radios, mobile radios and base stations, and sells its digital and analog radio systems world-wide.

As far as the Kenwood Original TH-D74A goes, it's the ideal handheld transceiver for survival.

KENWOOD has already garnered an enviable reputation with the TH-D72A handheld APRS amateur radio transceiver and with the new TH-D74A, it added support for D-STAR, digital voice & data protocol developed by the JARL, and simultaneous APRS and D-STAR operation. It offers an intuitive operation and rugged IP54/55 weatherproofing and provides a top-of-the-line portable transceiver features such as the built-in GPS, wide-band multi-mode reception, IF filters, DSP equalizer, a transflective TFT color display, microSD memory slot and Bluetooth/USB connectivity.

One of the main features is APRS and this radio doesn't disappoint. The built-in GPS receiver locks on very quickly and the display shows a lot of information about the packets it is receiving. It has a built-in weather alert function and is fairly easy to set it up to access a nearby D-Star repeater. When you add in the FM broadcast receiver, along with the capability to receive the HF bands (AM, SSB, CW), this radio covers it all.

Programming from a computer is pretty easy, using the free Kenwood software. You can also buy the RT Systems software for more flexibility moving channel memories around.

The menu structure is fairly intuitive and allows to program in a couple of FM repeaters from the front panel without consulting the manual.

The manual itself could be better. It's detailed in some areas, while it barely addresses others (e.g.: Wx Alert). Fortunately, there are a ton of great YouTube videos out there that will help you get your radio up and running.

Battery life is OK, when you consider the color display and everything going on in the radio. I keep a spare battery or two on hand when I'm out with the radio for the day.

This is probably the most expensive HT on the market, however, if you want a reliable radio, it is worth the price.

2. Motorola T600

The T600 H2O Rechargeable Floating 2-Way Radio Twin Pack come with a rugged, IP65 waterproof design, emergency features and a range of 35 miles.

The Motorola T600 keeps you connected and protected during extreme outdoor activities thanks to an integrated water-activated flashlight and manually activated red LED light.

The scanning feature allows to see which channels are currently in use and the Eco Smart feature allows it to consume less power during its idle condition.

You can communicate with other FRS/GMRS radios regardless of brand by being on the same channel and privacy code Frequency, and a battery life of up to 9 hours on rechargeable pack or 23 hours with 3 AA batteries Power Source.

3. Yaesu VX-6R

The Yaesu VX-6R Triband Amateur Radio Transceiver has built-in PL & DPL, Alphanumeric, and can receive AM/FM broadcast radio, Shortwave, CB, Police, Weather, Aircraft & marine bands.

It comes with an antenna, HiCap 1500Ma Batt & charger and is waterproof & submersible (rated 3ft for 30 mins).

It offers a security password feature, built-in Morse code trainer, and is compatible with the Yaesu Speaker mikes, chargers & accessories - CD-15A, VC-27, MH-73A4B, VC-24, SDD-13, E-DC-6, CT-91, ADMS-vx6, csc-91, FBA-23.

This is a great little radio that has RX coverage from roughly 0.5 MHz to 1 GHz for AM, FM and WFM modes. It has TX coverage on the 2M, 1.25M and 70cm. It can scan on a list of present bands, or ones that you program into the radio. You don't need a computer to program the radio, but it does make it easier if you have a lot of frequencies to put in. If you want to listen to Ham, Aircraft, weather, public works and commercial bands, this radio is perfect. Most police and fire departments are upgrading to encrypted mode systems. This radio will not work for those encrypted systems.

The Yaesu VX-6R radio is useful in the car on 2-m. The 440 and 220 bands are more susceptible to being blocked by the car metal, so it is best if you use it with an external antenna, like a magnetically mounted one. The advantage of the bulky car radios is that they will transmit at 2-m up to 45 watts as opposed to the 5 watts of this radio. It can also be used on fiberglass boats, where there aren’t many shielding problems and usually a good line-of-site access to the repeaters.

4. Radioddity GA-510

The Radioddity GA-510 radio looks very solid. The antenna and volume knob is reversed (other HTs have the antenna on the left and volume knob on the right).
This display is bright and easy to read and the menu makes the programming easy using the keypad. This radio is compatible with the standard Kenwood 2-plug accessories and SMA-F antennas. The speaker is loud and clear, making it easy to understand QSOs.

This radio power is advertised as 10 watt transmission but measurement show a max of 7.44 watts on High VHF and UHF.

The Radioddity radio is very sensitive for receiving even when transmitting on the antenna it came with. When used with Radioddity RD-771, the radio works better and can transmit up to 25 miles away.

Chirp now supports this radio and Radioddity also provides a basic programming software.


The BTECH UV-5X3 5 Watt Tri-Band Radio is designed and supported in the US. A BTECH label means you are getting a radio with real US based warranty and support.

It’s one the first affordable VHF, 1.25M, UHF Tri-Band Handheld Transceiver and uses all the battery options and accessories that fit the UV-5R or the BF-F8HP. You can use both the AAA and the AA battery eliminators as well as the extended batteries.

Adding the 222 MHz band is a nice feature. The FM commercial broadcast frequencies received go all the way down to the studio to mobile unit communication frequencies band.

It keeps Ham radio users informed during events or in touch during hunting season. You cannot though extend the receive / send frequencies if needed during catastrophes or emergencies.

The BTECH UV-5X3 is the most affordable handheld transceiver for survival.

Choose the handheld transceiver for survival for you

When was the last time you had an emergency or ended up in a survival situation? Whatever the situation was, don't let it happen again.

Do your research on the best handheld transceiver for survival and choose the one that's right for you. You don't necessarily have to buy the most expensive or the fanciest option.

If you want a few more options to look at or you're interested in other ham radios, click here for additional reviews and buying guides.

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