In the event of an emergency, you might not be able to depend on your cell or land-line phones to exchange information between you and your loved ones. The cell towers may be un-powered or completely overloaded. Network coverage may be spotty outside of your coverage area. The internet might be down so no emails can get back and forth. So what can you do? Check out our article about Packet Radio and how to send messages and files via radio waves during a grid-down situation.
The tried and true backup system is also one of the oldest: using radio waves to communicate long distances. You’ve probably heard about it before, its called “Ham Radio” aka Amateur Radio. Regular folks can get a license from the FCC so they can transmit on certain radio frequencies, some of which can allow you to communicate around the world under the right conditions. It’s the perfect answer for bug out communications.
We suggest that the adults and teens in the family get at least their Technician Class License as a Ham radio operator. It’s easy, only 35 questions to answer (26 to pass) and with a few weeks study you can pass it easily. This gives you access to VHF/UHF Amateur bands ( and limited operations in certain HF bands. This is above and beyond standard walkie-talkie frequencies (which are UHF and don’t travel very far.) You can also hit repeaters (assuming they are running) to help move messages around a broader geographic area.
BaoFeng UV5RA Ham Two-Way Radio
Read our review and user-guide here.
UHF/VHF radios good for short distances. Gets FM stations and NOAA weather alerts. FMR and GMRS. Easy to program with computer. You need to have a license from the FCC to transmit.
Must Have UV-5RA Accessories
BaoFeng Two-Way Radio Speaker
These are cheap, and they give you the option of being able to talk and listen to your radio without having to hold it or take if off your belt clip. You can attach the mic to your shirt, etc with the built-in clip on the back.
You can use the belt clip that comes with your HT Radio, or you can use a small pouch to hold it and keep it protected. This one is inexpensive and works great for Yaesu, Icom, Baofeng, and Wouxon.
ExpertPower 14.5″ 144/430Mhz U/V SMA-F Antenna
You can increase the receive and transmit clarity on a hand-held UV5RA with this antenna vs. the stock “rubber-ducky”. Makes it a little less portable but is worth the extra throw if you can deal with it. Smaller options exist too.
Tram 1185 Dual-Band Magnet Antenna
This is a car mount antenna which transmits 2 M VHF & 70cm UHF. It has a 3″ magnet mount which is nice, it ain’t going anywhere once you stick it on. It comes with a 12′ RG-58 Coaxial Cable & PL-259 connector – if you want to use it with the BaoFeng you need to get a Reverse SMA to “PL-259” Adapter Cable – Female/Female.
USB Programming Cable
BEWARE of cheap Chinese clones. This is the cable you want. It’s how you connect your radio to your computer to program in the frequencies for local repeaters, MURS, NOAA, FRS, etc. Use the free program CHIRP to do so.
Yaesu FT-60R Dual Band HT
If you’ve broken a UV-5R then you may be ready to go to the next level. The FT-60R is ruggedized, water and drop resistant, has 1000 memory channels. If you have the dough, this radio is your best bet. Tons of accessories available. Amazing radio.
PORTABLE HF Radios
HF (High Frequency) Radios are the type that can allow for conversations spanning hundreds or thousands of miles by bouncing signals off of the earths troposphere. The effectiveness of this depends on the sun spot cycles and is not always super reliable. They are a little more involved than your handheld radios but function essentially the same way. They run on 12v power, so you will need an external power source to run on of these, be that a power supply or a car battery.
Yaesu FT-857D Portable Radio Transceiver
Packable and small. RX/TX on HF, VHF, UHF. Extremely powerful for its size 100W signal gets you out there. Can be used with a TNC for digital coms. Confused?
Icom IC-7100 Mobile Base Station
Perfect for a Go-Box. RX/TX on HF, VHF, UHF. 100W on HF. Has everything in it you could possibly want in a very small package that can run off a 12v battery. Not as packable as the FT-857D but easier to use with the large touch screen.
HF Radio Accessories
Super Antenna Portable HF VHF UHF
Super compact, easy to setup long-range HF/VHF/UHF. Excellent packable field antenna. Can be used with any radio. Vastly improves your transmit and receive distances. Place as high in the air as possible.
Chameleon Antenna – HYBRID-MICRO
Your standard small dipole which you can hang from a tree or what have you. Frequency: 6M – 160M. Power: 100W SSB. RF Connection: SO-239. Length: 60′.
goTenna Off-Grid Text & GPS
goTenna: Off-Grid Text & GPS
There’s a very cool new product out called a goTenna. It uses radio waves to send messages and location info between users via a cell phone interface. See our full write-up about the goTenna here. An alternative to relying on cellphone networks or busy radio frequencies.
If there was a world wide event that took down our satellites then these products won’t help but for large scale events like a hurricane or super storm then these are great options. Especially useful for those who spend time in the backcountry.
SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger
Price: $150 + Plans
Using GPS and Satellites you can share tracking info to others from almost anywhere on earth. You can send preprogrammed text messages and tracking info plotted on Google Maps. SOS feature will send GEOS Intl Emergency Response Coordination Center your coordinates and info to local response teams.
DeLorme InReach Explorer Two Way Sat Coms + Nav
Price: $379 + Plans
Navigate, create waypoints, log your trip and find your way back. Send and receive text messages. Trigger an interactive SOS. Plan, track and share your trip. 100% global coverage from Iridium. You can also pair it with a mobile device to access topographic maps and U.S. NOAA charts.
MUST HAVE BASICS
These items should be in your EDC or GHB no matter what. Each bag should have at least one whistle, one mirror, a pen and a notepad.
UST JetScream Whistle
122db LOUD. With great power comes great responsibility, so don’t go blowing out peoples eardrums. Must have item and good for the little ones who will know how to use it better than you do. Check out our review of the Mini Jetscream.
Military Glass Signal Mirror
These are considered must have items by nearly all survivalists. Use it to signal great distances, in some cases up to 100 miles. Here is an article about how to use them, and why you need to carry one with you. Handy as a mirror to find things stuck in your eyes while traipsing around the woods.
Fisher Space Pen
These pens are used by Military forces around the world. Writes at any angle, even under water and other extreme environments. Neat! We’re having a hard time figuring out though what someone might need to write whilst under the water…
Rite in the Rain All Weather Pocket Notebooks
Price: $14 for 3
Well if you have a pen that writes underwater, I suppose you need waterproof paper then. Rite in the Rain pads allow you to send love notes to your sweetie in the middle of a tsunami.
Sony ICF-S10MK2 Pocket AM/FM Radio
Not knowing whats going on in the world around you would be extremely stressful, so a good, reliable cheap radio would be priceless during an emergency. This little guy is a work-horse and gets high praise from its users on Amazon and from us.
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