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Best SHTF Radios for Disaster Communications

When considering the best radios for SHTF situations, the Midland GXT1000VP4 stands out as the top choice. 

This exceptional two-way radio is expertly crafted to meet the demands of ham radio enthusiasts and is specifically designed for emergency communications.

The Midland GXT1000VP4 excels in a range of challenging scenarios, making it an indispensable tool for survival, emergency response, and SHTF conditions. 

Its robust performance and reliability set it apart as a leader in its class.

Continue reading to discover more about the Midland GXT1000VP4 and other radios we highly recommend for critical communication needs.

Best SHTF Radios
A U.S. Marine in the ANGLICO Basic Course, operates an AN/PRC-152 field radio during a radio systems practical application class at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 7, 2023. ABC graduates will depart as technically and tactically proficient Marines capable of making sound decisions in complex operational situations and with a baseline understanding of ANGLICO mission-specific skill sets, regardless of military occupational specialty. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Trent A. Henry)

Things to Consider Before Buying a Survival Radio

Size And Weight

When selecting a survival radio, size and weight are critical factors, especially for outdoor enthusiasts or in emergency situations. A compact and lightweight radio is ideal for portability and ease of carrying in a backpack or emergency kit. 

However, smaller radios might compromise on other features like sound quality or battery life. It’s important to find a balance between a manageable size and functional capabilities. Consider the scenarios in which you’ll use the radio – for hiking, a smaller size is crucial, while for a home emergency kit, a slightly larger model with more features might be more suitable.

Value

Value in a survival radio goes beyond the price tag. It encompasses the quality, durability, and the range of features offered. A higher-priced radio might offer better build quality and more functions such as solar charging, hand crank power, and multiple band reception, which can be invaluable in survival situations. 

On the other hand, a less expensive model might cover basic needs without the additional features. Assess your specific needs and the likelihood of requiring the radio in extreme situations to determine the best value for your investment.

Range

The range of a survival radio is a crucial factor, particularly in remote areas or during widespread emergencies. A radio with a long range will allow you to receive signals from farther away, which could be vital for getting updates on weather or emergency broadcasts. 

However, the range can be affected by various factors like terrain, weather, and obstructions. Consider radios with AM, FM, and Shortwave capabilities, as these frequencies can pick up signals over long distances. Some radios also feature external antenna ports to enhance signal reception.

Best SHTF Radios
A Green Beret assinged to 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) checks equipment prior to starting a training exercise at Muscatatuk Urban Training Center, Indiana on March 13, 2021. 5th SGF(A) constantly trains with partner forces to prepare for overseas operations and contengencies in order to combat threats to national security. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon White.)

Channel Selection and NOAA Weather

Access to multiple channels, especially NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather stations, is essential in a survival radio. NOAA weather channels provide critical updates on weather conditions and natural disasters, which can be lifesaving in emergencies. 

A good survival radio should offer easy access to these channels. Additionally, consider a radio that can scan and lock onto the strongest signal automatically and has a good memory system to save important channels.

Durability And Versatility

Durability is key in a survival radio; it should withstand harsh conditions and accidental drops. Look for radios made with sturdy materials, water-resistant or waterproof capabilities, and robust construction. 

Best SHTF Radios
A U.S. Air Force pilot works a radio during Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training at Poinsett Electric Combat Range in Wedgefield, South Carolina, Sept. 7, 2021. SERE specialists train pilots, aircrew and special operations forces to use radios, GPS and other technology to assist in their recovery. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody Sanders)

Versatility is also important – radios that offer multiple power sources (solar, hand crank, batteries) ensure functionality in various scenarios. Features like flashlights, SOS alarms, and the ability to charge other devices can make the radio a multifunctional tool in your survival kit.

Battery Capacity And Type

The battery capacity and type are critical for ensuring your survival radio remains operational when you need it most. Radios with long battery life and multiple charging options (like solar panels or USB charging) offer greater reliability. 

Consider the type of batteries used: rechargeable batteries are convenient and eco-friendly, while radios that can also use standard AA or AAA batteries provide flexibility in prolonged situations without access to power. Check the battery life span in both listening mode and standby mode to ensure it aligns with your needs.

So, now that we’ve covered all of the details.  What are our recommendations for the best SHTF radios?

FRS and MURS: Best Emergency Radio For Those Who Don’t Want to Get an FCC License

MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service) radios represent a significant step up from the more common FRS (Family Radio Service) radios, particularly for those seeking a reliable communication tool without the need for an FCC license. 

Unlike FRS radios, MURS radios often offer higher power output and better range, making them more suitable for outdoor activities and emergency scenarios where communication clarity and distance are crucial. 

They also tend to have better build quality and more features compared to basic FRS models. While slightly more expensive, MURS radios are ideal for users needing a more robust and reliable communication tool without the hassle of licensing. 

Their versatility makes them suitable for both personal and business use, bridging the gap between consumer-grade and professional communication devices.

Who Are FRS and MURS Radios Best For?

FRS and MURS radios cater to different needs but are both excellent choices for individuals who prefer a license-free, easy-to-use communication tool. 

FRS radios are ideal for casual use, such as short-range communication in activities like hiking, camping, or family outings. They are user-friendly, affordable, and do not require any technical expertise, making them accessible to a wide audience. 

MURS radios, on the other hand, are better suited for users who require a bit more from their radios in terms of range and durability, such as small businesses, community event organizers, or serious outdoor enthusiasts. 

Both types of radios serve as vital communication tools in emergency preparedness kits due to their simplicity and reliability. 

The choice between FRS and MURS largely depends on the specific needs and circumstances of the user, with MURS being a slightly more advanced option.

GMRS: Our Choice For The Best SHTF Radios

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radios are highly recommended for emergency communications due to their superior range, clarity, and reliability compared to other consumer radios like FRS or MURS. 

Requiring an FCC license, GMRS radios are a step up in terms of functionality and power. They can transmit up to 50 watts, offering a significantly better range, which is crucial in SHTF situations where communication lines might be down. 

Additionally, GMRS radios support the use of external antennas and repeaters, further extending their range and making them more adaptable to various terrains and situations. These radios also typically feature more rugged and durable designs, essential in challenging environments. 

For families or groups preparing for emergencies, GMRS radios offer the ability to communicate effectively over longer distances with clearer audio, making them an invaluable tool in any emergency preparedness kit.

Which Brand of GMRS Radio is Best?

When it comes to selecting the best brand for a GMRS radio, it’s important to consider factors like build quality, range, battery life, and additional features. 

Brands like Motorola, Midland, and Kenwood are often recommended for their reputation in manufacturing reliable and durable radios. Midland, in particular, is known for its user-friendly and robust radios, making them a popular choice among emergency preparers. 

Kenwood offers higher-end models with advanced features suitable for more experienced users. Ultimately, the best brand will depend on individual needs, preferences, and budget.

It’s advisable to look for radios that offer a good balance of range, durability, battery life, and extra features like weather alerts and hands-free operation.

Our Favorite GMRS Handheld Radio For Emergency Use

For emergency use, a handheld GMRS radio that strikes an optimal balance between performance, durability, and user-friendliness is ideal. One such model that consistently receives high marks is the Midland GXT1000VP4

Best SHTF Radios
Midland GXT1000VP4 TWO-WAY GMRS RADIO.

It boasts an impressive range (up to 36 miles in open areas), a robust design, and is water-resistant, making it suitable for various emergency scenarios. Its features like NOAA weather alerts, 142 privacy codes, and hands-free operation enhance its functionality in crises. 

The radio’s battery life is also commendable, and it comes with rechargeable batteries and a desktop charger, ensuring it’s always ready for use. 

The Midland GXT1000VP4 stands out for its combination of performance, durability, and ease of use, making it an excellent choice for emergency preparedness.

Best Ham Radio For Emergencies

When preparing for emergencies, reliable communication is paramount. Among the plethora of options available, the YAESU FT-60R handheld radio emerges as a top contender in the ham radio category for emergency communication. This robust device is designed for versatility and endurance, making it an ideal choice for emergencies.

The YAESU FT-60R is a dual-band VHF/UHF radio, offering extensive coverage in various terrains. Its durability is unmatched and built to withstand harsh conditions, which is a critical feature in unpredictable emergency scenarios. 

Best SHTF Radios

 

The radio’s intuitive interface facilitates ease of use, an essential aspect when quick response is necessary. Its keypad provides direct access to key functions, and the illuminated display ensures visibility under all lighting conditions.

In terms of performance, the FT-60R excels with its high-power output, which enhances signal strength and range, crucial for maintaining communication over long distances or through obstacles. The radio also supports a wide range of frequencies, making it compatible with many emergency communication networks.

Additionally, its battery life is impressive, offering prolonged usage without the need for frequent recharging. This feature is particularly useful in situations where power sources are scarce. The FT-60R also includes unique features like NOAA weather alerts and an emergency automatic identification system, which can be lifesaving in natural disasters.

The YAESU FT-60R is not just a ham radio; it’s a reliable partner in emergency preparedness. Its robust build, user-friendly design, and superior performance make it an excellent investment for anyone serious about emergency communication.

Get the YAESU FT-60R Ready to go out of the box

The YAESU FT-60R Essentials Kit, available from Radio Made Easy, elevates this already impressive radio to new heights, particularly for tactical communications. This kit is perfectly tailored for those who need a mid-range, robust solution that can be mounted on-body or on a chest rig, enhancing its practicality in field operations.

Best SHTF Radios

Included in the package is the FT-60R Radio Transceiver itself, a testament to durability and dependability. A significant feature of this kit is the MARS CAP Modification, which expands the radio’s transmit capabilities for emergency use, making it an even more versatile tool in critical situations.

The kit also comes with all the necessary factory accessories: a NiMH battery for long-lasting power, an AC charger with a cradle for convenient recharging, a stock antenna for reliable reception, and a manual to guide users through all the features.

Understanding the importance of power flexibility in emergencies, the kit includes an AA Battery Adapter. This adapter allows the radio to be powered by AA batteries, a handy option when recharging is not feasible. For optimal performance, it is recommended to use lithium or rechargeable AA batteries.

Enhancing its functionality, the kit features a Super Elastic Signal Stick Antenna with a BNC Adapter. This addition significantly extends the radio’s range, modularity, and ruggedness, making it an even more reliable tool in various conditions.

Lastly, the kit offers a unique service: FREE Custom Programming. This means the radio arrives pre-programmed with standard frequencies and repeaters based on the user’s location, ensuring it is ready to use right out of the box. This thoughtful inclusion saves time and makes the kit a comprehensive solution for immediate, effective communication in emergencies.

BAOFENG Radios: A Closer Look at the UV-9G and UV-5R Models

When it comes to BAOFENG radios, both the BAOFENG UV-9G and the BAOFENG UV-5R stand out for their exceptional features and affordability. The BAOFENG UV-5R 8W, in particular, is celebrated for its perfect balance of functionality and cost-effectiveness, appealing to a broad spectrum of radio enthusiasts and those seeking an economical communication solution. 

This model shines with its versatility, encompassing a wide frequency range and equipped with dual-band, dual-display, and dual-standby capabilities. Its 8-watt power output is noteworthy, surpassing many competitors in its category and ensuring enhanced range under favorable conditions.

On the other hand, the BAOFENG UV-9G elevates the experience further. Designed for more rugged environments, the UV-9G is the ideal choice for outdoor adventurers and professionals who demand reliability in challenging conditions. 

Best SHTF Radios

Its enhanced durability, superior waterproofing, and extended battery life set it apart, making it a top choice for those who require a more robust and dependable communication tool. The UV-9G also maintains the brand’s commitment to affordability, ensuring that high-quality communication is accessible to all.

Baofengs are Value Packed Radios – But There Are Some Tradeoffs

However, there are some tradeoffs to consider. One of the primary concerns with BAOFENG radios is their build quality. While they are sufficiently robust for casual use, they may not withstand the rigorous demands of extreme outdoor activities or harsh environments as well as higher-end models. 

Another consideration is the learning curve; they have a more complex interface and programming process than some of its competitors, which might be challenging for beginners. 

If the idea of programming such a radio feels daunting, you might find Radio Made Easy, a company that not only sells the BAOFENG UV-5R 8W but also delivers it pre-programmed for your area, ready to use straight out of the box, a convenient option. Aside from the programming they also upgrade the battery and antenna to further enhance the capabilities of the UV-5R.

Best SHTF Radios

While BAOFENG radios offer impressive features for their price, users should weigh these against their build quality, ease of use, and legal compliance requirements. These radios are best suited for those who need a versatile, cost-effective solution and are willing to navigate a steeper learning curve.

You’ll Need a Backup Power Source For Emergency Radios

In emergencies, having a reliable backup power source for your radio is as vital as the radio itself. Emergencies often bring power outages, and in such scenarios, your radio becomes a critical lifeline, providing updates and information. Therefore, ensuring that it remains operational is paramount.

The Goal Zero Sherpa 100AC and Nomad 50 Solar Panel are your reliable companions in such scenarios.

The Sherpa 100AC is not just a power bank; it’s a portable powerhouse. With 95 watt-hours of energy, it ensures your phones, tablets, and laptops remain charged. Its standout feature is the 60% faster USB-C charging capability, a significant upgrade from previous models. This means less time tethered to a power source and more time mobile.

Best SHTF Radios

What sets the Sherpa 100AC apart is its integrated 100W AC inverter, bringing the convenience of a wall outlet directly to you, wherever you might be. It’s the ultimate power solution for keeping essential devices like laptops and cameras charged. Additionally, its wireless charging capability is unparalleled, offering up to 15W – three times faster than its predecessors. This feature alone makes it indispensable for keeping your phone powered throughout the day.

Durability is key in emergency gear, and the Sherpa 100AC doesn’t disappoint with its robust aluminum unibody construction. Coupled with a leading 2-year warranty, it offers peace of mind for those who work remotely or embark on rugged adventures.

Charging the Sherpa 100AC is versatile and convenient.

One of the most effective ways is pairing it with the Goal Zero Nomad 50 Solar Panel. This solar panel, with its 50-watt capacity and four monocrystalline panels, allows for rapid charging of power banks and power stations. It can recharge the Sherpa 100AC in as little as 3 hours under the sun, making it ideal for prolonged outdoor activities or emergencies.

Best SHTF Radios

The Nomad 50 is not only powerful but also portable, folding down into a compact profile with a protective casing. Its built-in charging cables and integrated 8mm cable offer compatibility with various devices and the option to chain additional solar panels for even faster charging.

The Sherpa 100AC can also be recharged using a 65-watt USB-C charger or from a vehicle’s 12V outlet, ensuring you have multiple ways to stay powered up. In an emergency, having a reliable power source like the Goal Zero Sherpa 100AC, along with the Nomad 50 Solar Panel, can make all the difference.

Wrapping it Up!

Selecting the best radio for SHTF and emergencies is a critical decision that can significantly impact your preparedness and safety. 

The Midland GXT1000VP4, with its exceptional range and robust features, stands out as a prime choice for emergency communication. The YAESU FT-60R, with its comprehensive Essentials Kit, offers a dependable and versatile option for those needing a durable, tactical communication tool.

The BAOFENG models, UV-9G and UV-5R, provide affordable yet functional alternatives, each with their unique strengths to cater to different user needs. While they offer great value, it’s essential to consider their build quality and the potential learning curve involved.

Remember, in emergencies, your radio is your lifeline. Therefore, considering factors like size, weight, value, range, channel availability, durability, versatility, and battery life is crucial in making an informed choice. Also, having a reliable backup power source, such as rechargeable batteries and solar panels is essential to ensure continuous operation.

Ultimately, the right radio for you depends on your specific needs, whether it’s for casual outdoor activities, serious emergency preparedness, or tactical applications. Evaluate your requirements and consider our recommendations to choose a radio that keeps you connected when it matters the most.