The importance of communication in preparedness cannot be overstated. If it all comes crashing down and normal methods of communication are thrown out the window Ham radio is one solution. Ham radio has been as mystifying to me over the past several years as trying to read hieroglyphics off an Egyptian pyramid wall. Talking to a lot people, reading a few articles, and watching a ton of video’s has helped a lot. It is all starting to come together. Search the ‘net and you can find tons of information on Ham radio. I am no expert and still have a lot to learn.
Baofeng is a name that is extremely popular with Ham operators as they provide inexpensive, entry-level radio’s starting at around $30. Yes – a license is required to TRANSMIT on most any frequency but listening is not a problem.
Out of the Box: My out of the box impression of the Baofeng GT-3 Mark II Handheld Ham radio was very positive. Build quality appears to be first rate. Everything fits, turns, and operates as it should. The included accessories are quite impressive at this price point – charging stand, belt clip, wrist strap, high performance antenna, combo mic/earpiece, and a car charger.
Programming: If you are unfamiliar with programming frequencies into a handheld it can be very intimidating. YouTube and the website miklor.com can be a huge help. Following manual programming steps can be tedious – but once learned is not that difficult.
Most all of the programming I do is using a laptop along with special software and a programing cable. The software can be downloaded HERE. Again – Youtube has been a huge help and once I programmed a few Baofeng radios it was a breeze. By the way – I use the exact same cable and software on the GT-3 as I do my other Baofeng UV-5R’s. I have had no issue with compatibility which is a huge benefit.
What am I programming in these radios? There are several local repeaters I have programed into the GT-3 as well as all FRS/GMRS, MURS, Marine, and a few other frequencies specific to my locale. A total of 128 channels can be stored.
Antenna/Performance: The included SainSonic antenna that comes with the Baofeng GT-3 is a huge improvement over the Baofeng standard antenna. To put this in perspective I have a group member that lives approx 25 miles from our local repeater. With the standard Baofeng antenna he needed to find the tallest spot on his land and actually hold the radio up a couple feet to obtain clear transmission with the repeater. During comm checks the GT-3 with the antenna SainSonic antenna he was able to reach the repeater 25 miles away without a problem without holding his radio up in the air.
The GT-3 has upgraded internal electronics that are intended to allow it to communicate clearer and further.
25 miles. Not bad for a handheld with a “short antenna”. SainSonic makes some other antenna’s including THIS ONE I am wanting to try.
LED Flashlight: Certainly having nothing to do with communication but it is a feature of the radio is the inclusion of an LED flashlight at the top between the volume knob and the antenna. Redundancy is something relished by myself and other survivalists and having another option for illumination is certainly not a bad thing. The light on the Baofeng GT-3 is an upgrade over the UV-5R. It is plenty bright enough to walk the dog or make your way through the house in a power outage.
Antenna Mount: The GT-3 has a standard SMA female connector. This provides a huge assortment of antenna options including one of my personal favorites the Nagoya UT-106 UHF/VHF Mobile Antenna.
Many antenna’s are available and are relatively inexpensive.
Belt Clip: I played with the notion of leaving the belt clip off but to be honest it comes in handy. I never carry any of my radios on a belt however I do clip it to pack straps, my pocket, as well as numerous other spots of convenience. It mounts with two small Phillips-head screws securely to the back of the radio and the spring loaded clip is very strong.
Battery: The battery life of the Baofeng GT-3 simply awesome. I have left the radio on for a couple days by mistake and it still had power to receive and transmit. The battery is a 7.4V 1800mAh lithium-ion which provides this performance. Extra batteries are inexpensive at around $11.00.
The battery is removed from GT-3 by pressing down on the button just above the clip and then pushing the battery downward.
Placing the battery back in the radio is a breeze. With the clip installed it needs to be moved out of the way while the battery is slid into place. The battery’s are not heavy or large. Carrying an extra one of two would be no problem.
Call Button – Pressing the Call Button quickly turns on the FM radio. Yes – it has a built-in FM radio. Guess I didn’t mention that. Again – redundancy is in play here. It simply works. Pressing the Call Button and holding it down sends out an annoying ALARM. It’s there but I never use it.
MONI Button: This is the Monitor button. Pressing the MONI button quickly turns on the flashlight. Pressing it again turns on a strobe function to the flashlight. Pressing it again shuts it off. Pressing and holding the MONI button down will release the squelch on whatever frequency your “monitoring”. This feature I never use.
Push to Talk: The black Push to Talk button is located on the left side and is obviously what you push to transmit.
Ports: On the right-side of the GT-3 are the speaker and microphone ports. Standard earphones can be plugged into the speaker port. The included earphone/microphone headset also plug into these ports.
The protective cover stays attached so as not to be lost. I removed it to take the picture above.
Speaker: One of the improvements the Baofeng GT-3 has over the standard UV-5R is the speaker. The sound is clearer and louder. It just flat out sounds better than the UV-5R.
Keypad: The keypad just has a better feel to it than on the UV-5R. Not a big deal really. It also lights up differently than the UV-5R. The keys light up as well as a small area around the keys. On the UV-5R only the keys light up. Not a big deal – but I like the GT-3 better.
Feel: The GT-3 feels good in the hand. Without the belt clip on it is a little slick. SOme friction tape would solve that. Since I always leave the clip on this is a non-issue. The shape of the radio being wider at the top and narrow on the bottom conforms to my hand better than the Baofeng UV-5R. The UV-5R feels like I’m holding a small piece of 2×4. The GT-3 is so much better.
Display: The display is an area of controversy to many users of the radio. It looks phenomenal when you first turn it on as well as receiving and transmitting. When the radio sits idle the “backlit” display goes dark.
As can be seen in the picture above – when the display goes dark the information can be seen, but it not easy depending on the light. If I could change one thing with the GT-3 it would be to have an option to leave the backlit display on constantly or just change it to the UV-5R display.
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FINAL THOUGHTS: Costing around $45 the Baofeng GT-3 Mark II Handheld Ham radio is a bargain. The radio has many more features to it not mentioned including its dual-band capability and dual output (4 watts/1 watt). For those looking to get into Ham radio and do not want to spend a fortune this is the way to go.
Back up communications should be an integral part of any preppers plans. I highly recommend getting a few Baofeng GT-3 radio’s and learn how to use them. Don’t forget – to transmit legally a license must be obtained.