Best Off-Grid HT

SUBTITLE: The Ultimate “Prepper” Handheld Radio

What RADIO should I get for MY “PREPPER GROUP” TO USE DURING SHTF/TEOTWAWKI?

Most often comms question found on Prepper Forums…

Well that depends on how you answer the following question…

Q: Are you willing to learn how VHF/UHF HAM radio waves work and the “ins/outs” of HTs (Handi-Talkies) or not?

If so… stop reading this and go to http://www.arrl.org/getting-your-technician-license and sign up for a class and get it done ASAP!

It’s easy, cheap and you will learn 100 times more about what VHF/UHF can and can not do as well as be on your way to a General License that will get you into HF and long range comms.

If you think, like I did, that you can learn HAM radio without a license and just use MURS/GMRS or even HAM bands illegally when SHTF then this post is not for you.

To be honest, “you don’t know what you don’t know” and will fail in the long run or will eventually see the need to get hands on experience that a HAM License allows like I did.

Don’t worry, you can use a POB for your address to keep your location obscured from “marauders that plan to get guns and ammo from HAMS and food from Mormons” when TEOTWAWKI comes. LOL!

Now that you’ve seen the light and are in the process of getting your Technician’s License let’s continue shall we?


So to answer the question…

What RADIO should I get for MY “PREPPER GROUP” TO USE DURING SHTF/TEOTWAWKI?

A few factors are key in selecting the Ultimate Off-Grid HT or “Ultimate Prepper” HT in my opinion.

  1. It must be field chargeable from 12VDC.
  2. Must have digital mode capability, “Security through Obscurity”.
  3. Ability to scan and use Analog freqs.

Only one manufacturer has created such a radio that I know of…

THE YAESU FT-70DR

The FT-70DR is unique in a few ways that to me makes it the “ultimate handheld” for “Tactical Comms” in SHTF.

PROS:

  • Built by a well established quality manufacturer.
  • Easy to program without software via the keypad on the front of the radio.
  • Analog & Digital capable, which allows you to communicate with any normal HAM VHF/UHF radio or FRS/GMRS/MURS/MARINE radios if you perform a simple modification known as a “MARS Mod”.
  • Digital modes (C4FM or “Fusion” in this case) conceal your messages from ALL analog radios and everyone that are not on your digital channel. I call it “Security through Obscurity” and because the odds of someone around you having the ability to pickup your signal and decode it are practically nil, I consider it’s use in Simplex mode pretty secure, especially when radio discipline and your Comms SOI uses scheduled “channel hoping” procedures.
  • Can be charged from any 12VDC source with one cable, no cradle needed. Onboard charger is slow & will not charge while in use, fast charge cradle has 2.5hr charge time.
  • IP-54 rated for splash proof resistance to water.
  • Automatic switching between Analog / Digital based on signal received. Transmit mode can be either set to analog, digital, or automatic depending on last received signal.
  • Visual indication of Analog / Digital signal with colored lights on face of radio: Green+Green for analog receive, Green+Blue for digital receive, Green+White for data receive, Red+Red for analog transmit, Red+Blue for digital transmit, Red+White for data transmit.
  • Power-on PIN option for added security, protect your channel scheme if radio is lost.
  • Auto-power off ranges from 30 minutes to 12 hours.
  • Programmable side keys for custom function.
  • Weather Alert (USA Only).
  • Two button volume adjustment. This is fool proof way to prevent your volume from getting bumped up and giving your position away or bumped down and missing receives.
  • Compact size.
  • Fast Scanning.
  • Transmitter Time-Out-Timer (TOT) for keeping the undisciplined operator in check and in case of accidental transmission (i.e. sitting on mic).
  • C4FM Group Mode: Beacon-type system that lets you know of others from your group who are within range; can also be used for multi-group digital use on same shared frequency.
  • Battery eliminator available for vehicle use.

CONS:

  • Battery on small side (1800 mAh), buy extra’s.
  • No universal battery pack for using AA Alkaline or Rechargeable batteries.
  • 1W is minimum output level. .25W would be better, signals that stay local can’t be picked up outside of immediate AO.
  • Alkaline battery case not available.

Is C4FM Digital worth it for a Prepper?

When it comes to digital modes on VHF/UHF there are basically three systems competing against each other: DMR / C4FM / D-Star. It’s the Betamax vs. VHF scenario all over again.

They are all competing for the market and it really doesn’t matter who’s tech is superior, it matters how many are using it in the long run, just as VHF became standard over the superior Betamax tech. But tech and popularity are more of a concern when using the systems on repeaters, not simplex like we want to do.

In Simplex, the less compatible the better. The less popular the better. Fusion is the least popular of the three by far in my area and most areas I would guess.

I did consider a cheap DMR as recommended by NCSCOUT because of it’s ability to encrypt it’s transmissions (illegal on HAM bands) but what does that really do for you?

To me it gives you a false sense of security and increases your odds of committing a “bead window” (Last transmission potentially disclosed unauthorized information.) as opposed to getting use to the practice of using a DRYAD or OTP for sending sensitive information.

The reason for the digital option for a Prepper is simply this, your transmits are received by Analog radios (99% of users around you) as “white noise” on most digital modes. That gives you “security through obscurity.”

Watch the video above and pay attention to how DMR stands out compared to C4FM which sounds like commercial systems using P25 (EMS Signals).

So from a sound signature point of view, the C4FM is not as recognizable as DMR and is more likely to be familiar to scanners in the area if your EMS is using P25. A minor point for sure, but worth noting.

If Yaesu was using DMR I would still buy this radio for all it’s other features listed previously. In future posts, I will be cover setting up my pair of FT-70DRs and the adaption of a Comms SOI for them that integrates into my existing Analog setup.

That’s my answer for now, I will have more to add after I get some time on them and hope to show the concepts in action in the field. I’ll close this post for now with a few resources to reference below.

Below are two excellent articles on faceplate programming and software (CHIRP) programming of this rig.

Below are the manuals for the radio:

I highly recommend the Nifty Manual also: NIFTY FT-70DR Mini-Manual

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