What do you have in your prepper radio shack?

Radio room

This will be my last general column on prepper radio (or not, depending on how long it goes). No doubt the amateur radio folks will be glad to see me off.

This week I’m going to describe my radio inventory and radio shack setup, and explain my rationale for the equipment I own and use. Because radio fan(atics)s are much like sports fans, I expect there’s going to be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over my choices and recommendations. Be aware, I enjoy it.

Before we get to the equipment, and especially if you’re new to this radio stuff, let me recommend the book, “Ham Radio For Dummies.” The author writes about radio communications in a clear and easily understood manner, and obviously loves his hobby. While I’m sure he’d be aghast at my take on radios, he does make the basics very understandable; and even if I do/do not already have a license, he’d be the guy I’d want to talk if I needed clarification on some aspect of radio communication.

So let’s start small and work our way up.

Family Service Radios (FRS)

I make no distinction with regards to FRS radios. I buy them like paper towels: they’re cheap and disposable.

Collect a lot of these. You can find them online at sellers like eBay or Goodwill. (Be advised, Goodwill rarely guarantees or even tests the electronics it sells, and my luck with getting working radios runs about 60/40. On the other hand, they often sell FRS radios so cheaply that the right deal can get you a radio for $5.) Hit the local thrift stores in your area and make sure you carry some AA and AAA batteries with you to test the units. Don’t buy any FRS radio that uses a proprietary battery system unless it can also handle off-the-shelf rechargeables.

Is prepping the right thing for to do for Christians? Or should we just be trusting in the Lord? Learn about that balance in “Be Thou Prepared” by Carl Gallups – “Equipping the Church for Persecution and Times of Trouble.”

Make an estimate of the number of folks who will be showing up at your gate if the lights go out, and then figure you’ll want two FRS radios per person, because sure as sunrise, someone’s either going to lose the one you gave them or drop it in the outhouse.

Create a map of your Area of Interest (AO), and then get out there and map the FRS transmission and reception limits (they can be very different depending on the model). You can easily find combined FRS/GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radios out there; get them preferably, but only if the price is still cheap.

CB radios

Purchase at least one radio for each of your pepper vehicles; and, if you can get them cheaply, as many handhelds as you think appropriate. Bear in mind that while CB radios have much greater transmission power than an SRF radio (four watts vs 0.5 watt), both are still pretty much line-of-sight. Plus all that extra transmission power means that you’ll need many more batteries in a hand-held.

Perform the same AO mapping project with your CB radios as you did with the FRS radios. If at all possible, have at least one CB with SSB (single side-band) capabilities (more is better).

Used CB radios are for sale all over the place where I live, and every thrift store in my area has stacks of them. But because they all run on 12 volts DC, testing at the store can be problematic. On the plus side, with a bit of dickering you can snap them up for about the same price as a used FRS radio and if, after getting them home and testing them, you find you’ve got a klunker, consider it a charitable donation and try again. Make sure you use an antenna when you test for transmission. Attempting to transmit on a radio with no antenna means you’re trying to pump out power that has nowhere to go. Not a good idea. My home-base CB radio is a Galaxy DX959.

Marine VHS radio/MURS (Multiple Use Radio Service)

I’m grouping these two classes together simply because I don’t have either of them. There’s nothing wrong with these radios and lots of preppers I know think they’re the way to go; but even used, these are a lot more expensive and they don’t perform any function for me that’s not already covered by my other radios. And if I need to, I can listen in on these bandwidths with my scanners.

Two-meter and 70-centimeter radios (handhelds)

There’s been an explosion in the availability of handheld radios that can accommodate either one or both of these bands. A lot of these radios will also receive and transmit above and below the official two-meter and 70-cm bands so as to include those frequencies used by emergency services such as police, ambulances, hospitals, fire, search and rescue, and the like. My personal favorites are sold under the Baofeng brand. They are inexpensive, packed with extras and pretty robust.

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Now, I know that a bunch of folks out there are dismissive of Baofeng radios. I read one review that said they can’t take a drop from three feet onto a concrete floor, to which I reply, “Then don’t drop them.” And I further invite naysayers to check out this video of “extreme testing” of a radio:


My favorite model is the Baofeng UV-5R. You can get a UV-5R on Amazon for about $25, or you can buy them in a 10-piece set on eBay for around $210, including shipping. I own 20 of these radios.

The UV-5R is computer programmable, which means I can quickly program multiple radios with the same frequencies. They can scan in both bands (albeit slowly). They can be programmed to transmit and receive separate channels for duplex repeaters with PL (private line) tones.

The one thing I’ve changed on my UV-5Rs is replacing the stock antenna with Nagoya NA-773 telescopic antennas. On a good day with a replacement antenna, I can converse with someone out to 20 miles. When I’ve connected my UV-5R to a portable J-pole antenna at 30 feet, I have gotten about 35 miles out of the radio. And if I attach the radio to my four-element scanner antenna, I can hear cop-shops 50 miles away. Not bad.

Two-meter and 70-centimeter radios (base and mobile)

Hands down, I like and use a Yaesu FT 2900R. You can find a new one on Amazon for around $190 including shipping.

This is a quite powerful, portable and programmable two-meter radio that can crank out an impressive 75 watts. With a simple J-pole antenna, I have conversed with folks out at 70 miles simplex. The FT 2900R will transmit over a range of 144 to 148 MHz and receive over a range of 136 to 174 MHz, which allows for monitoring those emergency-service users above the nominal two-meter band. The FT 2900R has a large-frequency storage capacity, and lots of bells and whistles.

Want something a little cheaper? You can find used two-meter radios in good shape for $50 or less on eBay.

I have two power transformers to take my wall juice from 115 volts AC to 13.8 volts DC. This means all of my radios can be quickly transferred from my “shack” to my vehicles. For power backup I have a 115-watt solar panel, charge controller and two deep-cycle batteries dedicated specifically to the radio room.

In addition to the transceivers above, I run a Radio Shack Pro 96 digital trunking scanner attached to a switchable exterior scan antenna and a laptop that’s been set up for SDR (software defined radio) that’s attached to the same antenna.

Finally, I use my trusty old Grundig G5 SSB, also connected to an exterior antenna, to keep abreast of the goings on in Zaire.

This is my stuff and I’m pretty well satisfied with it. Your tastes may (and probably do) vary. Whatever you’re looking for, I highly recommend you spend some time at eHam on the equipment review page. If you’ve got something in mind, they’ve reviewed it. If you don’t know exactly what you want, this site can guide you. I’ve avoided a lot of mistakes by simply checking here before I spent the cash.

So far, you’ll note that everything I own is easily translated to a mobile platform. That’s necessary and intentional because I have a prepper mindset.

Unfortunately, I’m going to have to extend my personal radio survey for another week because I’m already way over word count and I haven’t even talked about two of the most important parts of radio coms: coax cables and antennas.

So just one more column on radio. I mean it this time.

Until next week, get prepared.

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What do you have in your prepper radio shack?
Source: WND