$40.00 Radio

Hello, Frank here.

Hope everybody is well. In my last radio post, when I gave you the new Romanchik Technician manual, I told you that you could get into ham radio for around $40.00. The radio I’m going to talk about is the Baofeng UV-5R Plus. But I’ve also seen that the company is changing it’s name, it is now called Pofung UV-5R Plus. It is the same radio.

This radio is an HT or handy talky. It operates on UHF and VHF. It puts out about 5 watts on VHF and 4 watts on UHF. It comes with a charging cradle, a battery, antenna, manual and occasionally they will have packages that include other assorted gizmos. At the site that is provided, this radio retails for about one penny short of $39.00. 

This radio comes blank, no frequencies programmed into it at all. This radio is not a ham radio, per se. It is a commercial radio. This means the frequencies on UHF and VHF are much wider than your traditional ham radio. Okay, you can program this radio to operate on all of the ham VHF/UHF frequencies. It will transmit simplex, which is radio to radio, or duplex, which is radio to repeater, back to another radio. It will do offset, PL tones, CTCSS and everything that your basic ham radio will do.

Okay. Follow me now. Being a commercial radio, you can also program other frequencies, which include police department, fire department, Wal-Mart, and many other frequencies that you should not transmit on. But, if you do search and rescue and you have the authority and permission to operate on, let’s say, the fire department, then these little radios will perform that function also. They will function on MURS, GMRS/FRS. So, as you can see, they can be handy little radios. They also have a scan feature. But, remember, this is a transceiver that will scan. It is a slow scan. It’s not like some scanners that will do 300 channels per second.

You will need to program this radio yourself. You can do it by hand manually, or you can buy the programming cable for a few dollars more and use the provided downloadable program on your computer. There is also a computer program called Chirp, which is free. There is also a programming system called RT Systems. It is not free, and for about $45.00 to $50.00, you get the programming disc and their programming cable.

There are some things this little radio will not do. It will not cross band repeat, but then most HTs don’t, but some do. You cannot listen on one frequency and transmit on another at the same time, and it does not have the greatest transmit and receive qualities. But it is more than adequate. This is a $40.00 radio, not a $150.00 radio, or $300.00 radio. If you are wanting to get your Technician license and transmit and receive on VHF and UHF, this radio will do the job.

Now, things to consider. If it is pouring down rain outside, then you may not be able to reach that repeater that you can on a nice pretty, sunshiny day. But this is true of all handhelds. If you are inside of a metal building, or inside your car, then you might have trouble reaching that same repeater. But these are standard characteristics of any handy talky. There are things you can do to increase your transmitting range, and I covered these in detail in other posts, but I will mention them briefly here.

If you want to put a mag-mount antenna on your car, with the appropriate adapter you can connect your radio to this antenna. You can attach a handheld microphone, and for power, you can use a battery eliminator. All this does is replace the normal battery in the radio, and it plugs into your 12 volt outlet. So, what you have now is an external antenna, your power is now supplied by your vehicle, and you can use your microphone instead of having to hold the radio up to your face. This will extend your range dramatically. There are many people that use this type of setup. 

But, this article is about a $40.00 radio. The basic radio comes with a battery, an antenna and a way to charge that battery. This is all you need. $15.00 to take your Technician’s test. So, for right around $55.00, you can play with ham radio. Or, you can help search and

rescue. Or, if you really want to show your friends and neighbors how really stupid you are, you can transmit on the police and fire frequencies. Don’t do that. They can find you, and they will. Because if you get on your radio and you interfere with fire department transmissions, and a fireman dies because you were trying to prove how stupid you are, then you might go to jail. Do not do it. Now, if you are a volunteer fireman in little town America, and you have permission to transmit on these frequencies, then good for you. If you don’t, then don’t. You can program the radio to receive only on the frequencies that you shouldn’t be on. 

By the way, this little radio will transmit and receive on the marine band frequencies. You can also receive weather transmissions from the National Weather Service. These are handy, handy radios. They are not illegal, they are 100% legal on the ham frequencies, and they are legal to transmit on any frequency that you have permission. Remember, it is legal to listen to any radio transmission, so you don’t have to worry about getting into trouble listening. 

Go back and read the posts about GMRS and MURS under Frank’s Radio Communications. Pay attention to safety. Safety is always first. These radios don’t put out enough power to do damage. If you want to put one in your car with an added mag-mount, great. If you want to get your

Technician license, all of the information is provided under Frank’s Radio Communications. You’re going to hear people in the ham world criticize these little $40.00 radios. But I know lots and lots of ham radio operators that have these little radios, especially if they’re going to be out doing a dirty job. $40.00, and they work. Some small town fire departments use them, because sometimes fire fighting can be a nasty job. You’d rather lose a $40.00 radio than a $400.00 radio. These little radios are changing the ways people see the world. If you’re interested give one of them a try. The site I provided here shows all of the options sold with these little radios, just scroll down. They also come in pretty colors, too. 

Here’s an example. You know those little GMRS and FRS radios you use during hunting season? These radios will do the same thing. Make sure you read up on the rules and regulations, and of course I’ve got to put this in here, do not transmit on frequencies that you are not licensed to transmit on. Take care.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

10 thoughts on “$40.00 Radio

  1. Go to this website and you will find a connector. It takes two radios. I've never used this technique, but this might be of interest to you. Good luck.Frankhttp://www.radioddity.com/us/home-radio-accessories/rpt-2d-two-way-radio-repeater-box-for-two-transceivers.html

  2. There are several articles on the net and youtube on how to set up a Baofeng up as a repeater. I have not tried it yet to vouch its operability.

  3. Hi Steve. I'm glad that these worked for you. As far as maximizing the battery life. One, I would use the radios everyday, then they become part of your routine. It's kind of like putting your keys in your pocket, if you get in the habit, you will always take it with you.Let the batteries drain before recharging. I know that this type of battery advertises it does not develop a memory, but it does. If you keep them fully charged all the time, then you will have much less battery life. If you're using the internal battery pack that came with the radio, you can remove it and put four AA rechargeable batteries in it that will charge in the cradle, and sharply extend the transmit and receive time. If you're going to be out all day, like sitting in a tree stand, charge the battery that came with the radio, take it out, put it in your pack and keep it as a back up.My best advise is to not keep the radio in the charger all the time. For a long time I would always charge the radios on a Friday night. Then I would have well charged batteries that would last me a week. Make sure you wear the ear piece when you are hunting. Because I, on more than one occasion, have listened to hunters chat between each other whispering. There is always some clown who will make a loud noise in the radio, like a duck or coyote call. Some people think that's funny.No joke, though, don't keep your radio in the charger all the time. It will shorten your battery life tremendously. Hope all this helps, and I'm glad the radios worked out well for you.Frank

  4. Frank- I went ahead and got the Midland GXT 1050 radios you mention in the post on GMRS/FRS/MURS. Tried it out in the barn, other places, and excellent reception all around. I might even take one up in the tree stand this November and wear the ear piece. Any comments on maximizing the NiMH battery life? For now, I plan to keep them in the recharge cradles unless we are using them, which may not be a lot till we develop the habit more.As you and Fern say many times, until you have actually DONE something, you have no idea how it will really go down. In this case, it worked out fine, but we have many other tasks in front of us as we work to improve our self sufficiency. Thanks again for the time you two put in to sharing. After a couple more seasons on our small farm, maybe I will be able to share with the wider world what we have learned as well.

  5. Hello Steve. Great questions, and I can see some thought has gone into the issue.Number one. I would borrow a couple of GMRS radios and see if they will work from your house to your barn. This would be, beyond a doubt the cheapest way to go. An example. Our barn is metal, our house has a metal roof, the barn is about 500 feet from the house, and from inside the house, to inside the barn, we have absolutely no problems with intelligibility, or volume. There is a small rise between the house and the barn. I can see the upper half of the barn from the house.Following this same theme, the corner of our property, from corner to corner is about 1500 feet. There is no line of sight, and that is due to a hill in between, not a big hill, but still, no line of sight. With this scenario the transmission has a little bit of noise, but is still intelligible.Number two. If for some reason, number one does not work for you, an external antenna might be your answer. That means your radio will have to be connected to the antenna, which certainly limits your mobile factor. But, if you do use this type scenario with an external antenna, depending on your setup, you can talk for miles. If I were guessing, I would guess that number one will be your best answer.Number three. A repeater. A true repeater can get expensive and complicated. It has to have a constant power supply. Now, there are ham radios and commercial radios that function as cross band repeaters. I have never attempted this technique. What cross band means is you have a two band transceiver, one channel is set on VHF, the other channel is set on UHF, and through internal programming, it will broadcast and receive on each of these frequencies. Again, I have never used this technique, but they advertise that it will work. You're looking at $350.00 for this dedicated radio, a power supply, an antenna, but according to the manual it will work.I would either borrow or buy two real cheap GMRS radios, everybody has them. They may not know they have them, but the things their kids play with, that's what they are. An external antenna for your home is easy to make, and will extend your transmit/receive range sharply. In some of the other radio posts I talk about external antennas. Of course, I would like for you to read all of the posts. Try the two handhelds first. If you decide on the $40.00 radios, great. You will need a programming cable, unless you want to do it the old fashioned way by keypad entry, which can be done. I use the RT system and it works for me.One last thing to consider. No matter what frequency you use, somebody can hear you. Hope this helps. Enjoyed your blog, by the way. Take care.Frank

  6. Frank- first off, thanks so much for the time you and Fern put in to sharing good information and just real life results of learning homesteading skills.My question is on repeaters. Our home is partially earth sheltered, with most of the main floor cut in to the hillside. And of course, the garden, barn, and workshop where I am most likely to be when my wife and I might want to communicate, is uphill, the barn with metal walls. So, I am thinking I may well need a repeater to make things work, but am very early in my research. If I were to get the Baofeng/Pofung radios in this post, or something similar, what type of repeater would I need, and are they very expensive? I would most likely buy the radios first, to see if I even need the repeater, but would like to know now what the hit might be if one is needed.Are there different repeaters for different bandwidths, or are there some repeaters with features that might be of benefit if I decide to move on to ham or CB?Thanks again for your efforts.

  7. F.B. Thank you for the nice comment. A hand held radio is a hand held radio. Sometimes called walkie talkies, or in the ham world, they're called HTs, handy talkies. The new and improved radios may not give you any farther distance. Remember these are line of sight communication. Now, if you put an external antenna up, that means your line of sight goes higher. And if your friend down the road does the same thing, then you have a much better chance for communication. But if you have a hill in the way, line of sight is line of sight. Now, there are some minimal exceptions to the rule. But, overall, your antenna has to be able to see their antenna.A few minutes ago, I was listening to my CB radio, that has upper and lower side bands. This is the type of radio that you can buy at any store, like Wal-Mart online, or any CB shop, or many truck stops. I have a nice outside antenna, and I was listening to 2 guys talk in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and I'm in southeast Oklahoma. Yep, I've got my ham radio license, but I spend as much time listening to my CB radio, up around channel 38 & 39, on lower side band. I don't talk much on either one, ham or CB, but I enjoy listening.If you have the time, read the other posts under Frank's Radio Communications. They're all in plain English. There is a lot you can do with radio. Again, thanks for the nice comment.73, Frank

  8. Hello Frank. We have the Baofeng basic commercial radios that at the time a couple years ago were running about twenty bucks. I bought the cable and downloaded the program onto the laptop, but I never did program them as no one was ever on any of the preprogramed channels. Out here in the woods, we don't have anyone nearby operating on these frequencies, whatever they are. I have since pondered about the next level radios that include Ham, but like most novices was too indecisive. This synopsis of this particular model is great and just what I was looking for. I think I'll pull the trigger on a couple soon. We have friend that live several miles past the range of our current radios and we'd like that option to go live. I appreciate the time you took to write this very informative article and look forward to reading the rest of your work. Regards to Fern.

  9. Fiona, thank you for reading and thank you for the comment. We have a couple of these hand held radios. They are smaller than most HTs, lighter in weight, and they have a great, long lasting battery. If you do a Google search, you can also find other dealers and suppliers. You can get shorter antennas and longer antennas. On our radios around the farm here, we use the 2 inch stubby, flexible antennas. They work good for short distance, and they don't get in your way. Fern uses a microphone on hers, puts the radio on a side pocket and clips the microphone closer to her face. You do know you will have to program these radios. Hope they meet your need. How about a ham radio license to go with it? Opens up one more realm of communication. Take care.73, Frank

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