If you had to pick an HT (Handi-Talkie) for your “Tactical Comms” radio, what would it look like feature wise?
I started asking myself this questions recently as I’m in the market for more HTs for SHTF.
I currently only have two (TYT-UVF1) radios that I would consider field worthy and while they are nice radios, there has been a lot movement in the area of reliable cheap HTs from China as well as offerings from some of the Big 3 in the 6 years that have passed since purchasing them.
Bret over at survialcomms made a great argument for the Yaesu VX-3R and while I may have been willing to give up criteria point #3 on my list for this nice little radio, they are now discontinued.
So I’ve been spending days online researching several radios and only one (1) has ALL of the features I was looking for.
Only one met all the criteria listed below, the Yaesu FT-70DR.
PERFECT PREPPER HT CRITERIA
1. Dual-Band VHF/UHF
It’s got to be able to be used with a cross-band repeater, period. A dual-band repeater is such a multiplier that it’s a non-starter to consider a single band radio.
Repeaters give you access to resources out of line of sight. The few examples below are just a start.
- Neighbors who you have given a handout radio to that are located at the start of your community road but out of LOS.
- A MAG (Mutual Assistance Group) Reaction Team.
- Neighboring communities.
- Extended comms when needed for long patrols.
2. External power source capability
If your HT can only use rechargeable batteries, then you are dead in the water when they are.
Having the ability to connect to any 12vdc source is huge IMO for a radio. It opens options for alternate battery sources as well as the common vehicle cigarette lighter as a source of power.
Taking an extra battery is a great idea, but if they only last 8-12hrs it gets expensive real fast having to purchase several extra batteries @ ~$30-40 ea.
AA replacement battery packs make a great alternative if you have rechargeables and a small portable solar setup to keep them charged, but sadly very few radios have this option.
One must have is to be able to transmit at full power while the external source is being used.
My thinking is that if you are down to a secondary source of power, things might be bad enough that your cry for help needs to have it’s best chance at full wattage to get through.
3. Semi-Secure Comms
When I say “secure” I mean not easily heard by Bubba’s Raiders with thier $20.00 BaoFeng UV-5R radios.
In SHTF you are going to have “raiders” because they did not put food away or prepare and are left with only one option and that is to take from those who did.
Sadly, there are many who feel having guns and ammo will be all they need to secure what they want in SHTF, as time after time has proven in the last 20 years during small localized events, when Rule of Law is removed by an over taxed Policing System, people take what they want.
Now imagine a grid-down scenario lasting a year!
The first level of semi-secure comms… would be simple voice inversion like many China radios (my TYT-UVF1 included) offer. It’s illegal to use, but then so are those UV-5R radios on HAM Freqs and the FCC coming to hunt you down during an event is the last thing anyone is going to worry about.
The second level would be… using a DMR (Digital Mode Radio) like the TYT MD-380 to easily knock out 99% of all that might be listening in. The exception of course is going to be another DMR user, but it’s unlikely that you will both be on the same privacy codes or even know you are around each other.
There is the SDR operator though… While most SDR dongles like the RTL-SDR are not by default setup for DMR, anyone getting into SDR is going to know about DSD software which will allow a $25.00 investment and standard computer to capture all your signals. But, then again… that guy’s name is not Bubba!
Considering the SDR operator, how many do you think are setup for solar power of their rigs and will be spending time listening when SHTF and they are without food?
A few for sure, myself included, but then again we are talking about true prepper’s now and they have food put away and are not a threat to others because they don’t need to go raiding other people.
4. Ability to use low output
Having a radio that will output down to 1W or less means longer battery life and added security by a decreased footprint of your signal.
The SDR guy can’t intercept your signal if it’s line of sight and limited in range.
5. Weather proofing
This one is pretty low on the list because you never know what a sample of one is going to prove.
I previously owed a Yaesu VX-6R that was suppose to be bullet proof but died from one 3ft drop to concrete. A trip my cheap China TYT-UVF1 radios have made many times without incident.
Still, there is that BaoFeng UV-5R standard which I consider a no go. I’ve owned (3) of them and all broke within a year.
7. Scanning ability
The ability to monitor the FRS/GMRS freqs while on patrol is something that any HAM radio can do, so it’s not high on the list, but the speed at which a HT can scan is a consideration.
My TYT-UVF1s are slow scanners compared to my previous VX-6R, I’m hoping the FT-70DR will be of equal or faster speed than it’s analog only brother.
A cut above the rest…
The one thing the FT-70DR does that no other radio does, is allow a non-HAM to know which mode is being used instantly at a glance (BLUE/ORN LEDs) and not have to change settings to convert between DMR and Analog.
There are others that will work on DMR and Analog, but Yaesu has hit the perfect blend with this model IMO, allowing DMR security and the ability to communicate with analog users in Simplex as well as Cross-band repeater mode at a bargain price of $199.95 from retailers.
Purchase is imminent, standby for more…