What Is The Optional Dc Cable For The Yaesu Ft-70dr Congratulations! You’ve successfully passed your FCC Technician Class exam. Now, the big question looms: What’s the best ham radio for getting you on the air quickly and effortlessly? In this guide, I’ll recommend the finest ham radio options for beginners, ensuring you can engage with local and worldwide communities without delay. But if you’re still working on your ham radio exam, don’t worry—check out outdoorcore.com for valuable resources to help you prepare.
One fundamental rule of survival bushcraft is “the tool you have is better than the tool you don’t.” When it comes to ham radios for beginners, opinions abound, but here’s my sage advice: the best ham radio is the one you currently possess. If it can connect to your local repeater, it’s your best choice. Avoid being overly captivated by the latest and greatest radio gadgets; your radio collection will expand over time.
Another essential principle is that “your pack may be full,
but there’s always room in your head.” Many novice ham radio operators overestimate their needs, gravitating toward expensive radios with numerous features. Unfortunately, they often struggle to use these complex devices effectively and ultimately abandon them. The top ham radio for beginners aligns with their skill level, prioritizing ease of use over advanced functions. In the end, hands-on experience is more valuable than a feature-laden radio. Complex radios become expensive paperweights. Enjoyable, user-friendly radios enhance your skills. As your proficiency grows, upgrading your gear will become more evident.
Most of us in the Valiant Outfitters community prepare for worst-case scenarios, where simplicity is paramount. The more complex a piece of equipment, the more potential points of failure it presents. In a crisis, these vulnerabilities can be life-threatening.
For effective two-way communication, all you need in a radio are a receiver, transmitter, and antenna—only three potential failure points. Adding extra components like a TNC, GPS, external microphone, touch-screen, etc., introduces more failure opportunities. Although these enhancements offer extra functionality, our goal here is to identify the best ham radio for beginners—simple, easy-to-use radios that serve basic communication needs at a reasonable price point.
Caveat: This post provides a brief
overview without delving into in-depth explanations of various radio features, technologies, and specifications. It aims to provide advice on selecting the best ham radio for beginners. Radio technology is generally straightforward and comprehensible to any ham who has adequately prepared for their license exam.
Curious about the “Best Ham Radio for Preppers?” Check out my guest blog post on Creek Stewart’s Willow Haven Outdoor website.
The Best Ham Radio for Beginners Yaesu FT-70DR
For those who prefer drama-free decisions, here’s my choice for the best ham radio for beginners: the Yaesu FT-70DR. All factors considered, it’s an excellent starting point for novice ham radio operators.
Beginner hams typically have VHF/UHF privileges, with limited access to HF, particularly on 10 meters, which isn’t currently very active due to low sunspot numbers. The FT-70DR is an ideal choice for beginner hams because it covers the essentials of utilitarian VHF/UHF communication within your local area while offering a taste of international ham radio without the added cost and complexity of HF. While it may not be true DXing, that can come later with more experience and investment.
The FT-70DR is a versatile and affordable radio. It boasts a 5-watt, dual-band transmitter (144 – 148 MHz & 430 – 450 MHz), a wide-band receiver (108 – 579.995 MHz), and rugged durability with an IP54 rating, making it suitable for various tasks. It covers all the frequencies necessary for local emergency communication, NOAA WX radio reception, scanning first responder VHF frequencies, and even working with satellites. All of this comes at a price point under $200, which is quite reasonable. However, these characteristics are not unique to the FT-70DR, as most dual-band ham handheld radios share similar capabilities.
What sets the FT-70DR apart is its C4FM (Fusion) capability. While some may argue that this adds a potential failure point, I’m recommending the FT-70DR as the best ham radio for beginners, not necessarily as the ultimate prepper/bugout/ecom radio. Would I include it in a bugout bag or go-kit? Absolutely. In fact, I own one and would have no hesitation deploying it. (Full disclosure: I don’t use it for deployments; I rely on older dual-banders that I don’t mind treating as “disposable.” However, my FT-70DR will eventually become an “older” radio that I won’t mind losing.)
The added value of C4FM allows beginners to experience DXing without excessive complexity. With Fusion system radios, you can access the world using WIRES-X (Wide-coverage Internet Repeater Enhancement System). It’s not true DXing and doesn’t count toward DXCC, but it’s a gateway drug to the extended HF privileges of General and Amateur Extra class licenses. Once you’ve had a conversation with a ham on the other side of the world, you’ll likely find local 2-meter repeater conversations less satisfying.
Fusion also provides the option of adding a Fusion hotspot to your home radio shack. This allows you to grill steaks in your backyard with your trusty FT-70DR in one hand and your favorite beverage in the other while chatting with someone Down Under. Your radio communicates with the hotspot, which then connects to the internet—DXing lite.
Why choose Fusion over D-Star? Fusion offers better sound quality and is more intuitive. Additionally, Fusion radios tend to be more budget-friendly. Choosing Fusion over DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) is a bit more nuanced. While I appreciate DMR’s affordability, Fusion wins in terms of sound quality and mixed-mode repeaters. These repeaters recognize the signal as either analog or digital and re-transmit accordingly—a feature D-Star lacks entirely and DMR has with limitations.
What do I dislike about the FT-70DR as the best ham radio for beginners?
Firstly, setting the volume requires two hands, which can be inconvenient. Secondly, the programming sequence can be a bit cumbersome, akin to finger Twister. The menu system isn’t the most user-friendly, but this issue is prevalent among most radios. Be sure to download the “Advance Manual” in addition to the hard copy operating manual.
Finally, the FT-70DR experiences a minor battery drain while turned off. If you charge the battery for immediate use, you’ll have no problems. However, if you charge the battery and leave it in an unpowered FT-70DR, it will drain within a few days.
In terms of programming, Yaesu advises against using CHIRP, so you’ll need their ADMS10 programming software, which is free. Unfortunately, ADMS10 doesn’t work in Wine, so Linux and OSX users may encounter challenges with computer programming.
Caveat: If there’s no Fusion repeater in your area, you’ll need to add a hotspot to your shack to access the WIRES-X capabilities of the FT-70DR.