How and Why to Get a Ham Radio License

Amateur Radio, also known as Ham Radio, is a service and very popular hobby where licensed operators, called “hams”, operate communications equipment.  It is also highly favored among preppers for a few reasons.

Even when cell phones and the internet go down, Ham Radio will still operate normally.  They allow you to communicate with people across the street, on the other side of the city, around the world, and even with people and satellites in space.  All you need is a battery, a radio, and a wire – and you’ve got the means to communicate with the outside world.

For these reasons, the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), along with most other emergency response systems, use the Ham Radio system.  It can also allow you to reach the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) so that you can tune into what is happening in your area.  The good news is that anyone (except a representative of a foreign government) can become a Ham Radio operator – you just need to get licensed.  Here’s how.

Before you start buying a Ham Radio and operating on the air, you’ll need to get licensed and know the rules so that you can operate legally.  United States licenses are good for 10 years before you’ll have to renew.  There are 3 license classes, they are:

  • Technician
  • General
  • Extra

Let’s quickly go over each of these 3 license classes.

Technician License

This license class in the entry-level license that most new ham radio operators choose to start with.  In order to earn this license you must pass 1 exam totaling 35 questions on radio theory, regulations, and operating practices.  This license gives you access to all Amateur Radio frequencies above 30 megahertz – which would give the operator the ability to communicate locally and most often within North America.  It also allows for some limited privileges on the HF (also called “short wave”) bands used for international communications.

General License

This license class gives some operating privileges on all Amateur Radio bands and operating modes. With this license, the door to world-wide communications opens up. Earning the General class license also requires passing a 35 question exam.  In addition, General class licensees must also have passed the Technician written examination.

Amateur Extra License

This license class conveys all available U.S. Amateur Radio operating privileges on all bands and all modes. Earning this license is more difficult, since it requires that you pass a thorough 50 question exam. Extra class licensees must also have passed all previous license class written examinations.

With even the simple Technician license, a Ham operator with limited experience can successfully get into contact with others from around the country.  In the event of a massive natural or man-made disaster, having a Ham radio would give you an enormous leg up on the rest of the civilians trying to figure out what is happening.

In the horrible event of a total breakdown of society, when all phone lines, cell phones, and even the internet go down for an extended (or permanent) duration, the Ham radio will still allow you to reach out to others.

For this reason, getting a Ham radio and getting licensed to legally use it is a hobby that many, many preppers invest in.  Also, in case anything does happen to break down society, many of those individuals you will be able to get into contact with through your Ham radio will be other preppers – a valuable resource.

With this tool, you could successfully find out what is happening in your area or in the country, what precautions you should take according to what disaster is occurring, and get into contact with other individuals (including other survivalists and preppers) so that you could gain further intel and even collaborate with them.  You could enlist help and call for backup, or hear the broadcast of a safe zone where you and your loved ones could bug out to.

Whatever your reason, having a Ham radio is an invaluable tool for the modern day prepper.

Now let’s have a little closer look into some Ham radios that you would have the option to buy once you got your license.  Some are only a couple hundred dollars, while others can range up to $5,000 or even more for very complex and advanced setups.  I’ll list several Ham radios from cheapest to most expensive so that you can choose what kind best fit your financial requirements.  Remember though, there are many other radios out there, this is just a brief list showing you what you get with different price tags.

VX-6R – $200-$250

(All Photos below credit

This small, rugged Ham Radio is a 144-430 MHz FM handheld that features a wide receiver coverage, JIS7 submersibility, and a very simple keyboard access to important features.  It also features a 1-touch direct memory recall feature so that you can recall 10 favorite memories, with the single press of a button (similar to your car’s radio).  The VX-6R also comes equipped with a high-capacity 1400 mAh Lithium-Ion Battery Pack.

VX-8DR – $320-$370


This handheld GPS and Bluetooth enabled transceiver is a step up from the previous VS-6R.  It has a “Smart Beaconing” function that allows for position tracking that is automatically adjusted to your traveling speed and location to plot a smoother trace to match your position and movement on a map.  It also has a number of station list memories of 50 and allows 30 APRS message memories.  It has a compass display and your traveling direction is always on the top of the display.

FTM-400DR – $490-$680

The FTM-400DR is the first mobile introduced to be a fully compatible radio partner for use on the YAESU SystemFusion Dual Mode system.  It operates in 3 digital modes and 1 analog mode to suit your needs.  The nice thing about this radio is it’s large, bright display.

FT-450D – $720-$800

The FT-450D is a compact HF/50HMz radio with state-of-the-art IF DSP technology configured to provide world class performance.  It is ideal for new licensees, casual operators, DX chasers, contesters, portable/field enthusiasts, and emergency service providers.  The current model includes illuminated key buttons, 300Hz/500Hz/2.4 kHz CW IF filter, front feed stand, classically designed main dial and knobs, and a dynamic microphone (MH-31A8J).

FTDX-1200 – $1,300-$1,500

The FTDX-1200 provides up to 100 Watts on SSB, CW, FM, and AM (25 Watts carrier) and a rugged receiver circuit configuration for top performance on today’s crowded bands.  It uses 32-bit high speed floating point DSP for proven performance.  A built-in 4.3″ TFT wide, full color, high resolution display with loads of information, providing you superior operability and visibility.

FTDX-3000D – $2,100-$2,400

The FTDX-3000 is member of the long line of top performing YAESU FT DX Series of transceivers. It inherits the design concepts of the FTDX-9000 and FTDX-5000 transceivers that have received high praise from all over the world by those pursuing the highest ideal of Amateur HF communication equipment.  It exhibits amazing multi-signal characteristics and using the 2 signal dynamic range measuring method with 10 kHz signal separation, the FT DX 3000 performance is 108.5 dB, IP3 +37 dBm.

FTDX-5000MP-L – $4,800

Ham Radio 8

The FTDX-5000MP is a premium class of radios with 2 independent receivers, plus many unique options and accessories designed to meet the performance requirements for even the most demanding serious Amateur Radio operator.  Though no longer in production by Yaesu (though Yaesu still supports the FTDX-5000), you can still find them used for sale online.  On the more expensive of Ham radios, this model is recommended for those who who are serious about operating them and who either have experience already or the desire to operate it a lot.

If you are serious about getting your Ham Radio operator license, you’ll find that it is a very fun, and highly useful hobby in the event of a big disaster.  Look up more information online and find what specific radio would best fit your needs.