The best BaoFeng antenna upgrade for your VHF/UHF handheld (HT) radio such as the UV-5R and BF-F8HP.
[ Editors note: I recently purchased a VSWR / power meter with a design enabling direct connection to the Baofeng for testing upgrade antennas for various bands (frequencies). I am updating this article’s recommendations, given my results, discussed below. ]
The best upgrade antenna depends on intended operation (the legality of which is your own due diligence). Recommendations listed below are not only based on their specifications, but my own VSWR testing as well.
While many antennas may receive well enough outside their Tx optimized frequencies, it is important that the antenna you choose is tuned to TRANSMIT within the band(s) you’ll be operating on!
- Ham (Amateur Radio) radio bands (VHF & UHF)
- Commercial business band (VHF)
- Maritime radio band (VHF)
- MURS (VHF)
- GMRS & FRS (UHF)
Many people have purchased at least a pair of the popular BaoFeng UV-5R 2-way radios (or variants thereof, like my favorite version, the BF-F8HP). Maybe several sets (or more). The problem is… The stock BaoFeng antenna is less than ideal. If you’re serious about optimizing the potential for transmit distance, the specific BaoFeng antenna upgrade choices listed below will help, a lot!
First. Why the BaoFeng brand? Sure there are better radios. But,
- Price vs Features. BaoFeng found an inexpensive sweet spot.
- Wide frequency range for Transmit (Tx) and Receive (Rx).
- Easy to program with free ‘CHIRP’ software.
- No technical restrictions to transmit on any frequency of the radio’s capabilities. (Though there are Legal restrictions)
Best Aftermarket BaoFeng Antenna Upgrade
With that said, there are a ton of these BaoFeng radios out there. I too have several sets (among other brands). So I wanted to share with you my recommendation for a BaoFeng antenna upgrade that will perform better on your radio. I have them for all my BaoFeng radios.
BEST BAOFENG ANTENNA | NAGOYA
Okay, enough already! What about the best antenna for the Baofeng UV-5R (or BF-F8HP)?
I don’t want to get all technical here. But to an extent, I do have to dip into it.
Depends On Which Bands You Intend To Use For Communications:
This is an important consideration! It matters. Your Baofeng antenna upgrade choice depends on the frequencies where you intend to operate. Antennas are designed for specific frequencies or range of frequencies. Therefore operating (transmitting) on a frequency outside the antenna’s design parameters will produce poor results. It could even damage the radio!
BaoFeng Antenna Upgrade For Ham Radio Bands 144/440
The Ham Radio bands within the functionality of the BaoFeng do require a license to transmit. They are as follows:
VHF (Ham band) 144-148 MHz (2 Meter band)
UHF (Ham band) 420-450 MHz (70-centimeter)
The best Baofeng antenna upgrade for these Ham Radio bands:
(view on amzn)
It’s a 15.6 inch dual-band whip designed for Ham radio.
The NAGOYA NA-771 antenna is Tx optimized for 140-150 MHz and 420-450 MHz.
The exact optimization is 144 MHz and 430 MHz, and has a gain of 2.5 dBi.
My SWR tests indicated the NA-771 performed better than the Diamond SRJ77CA that I happened to also have.
There is another design of this antenna if you’re looking for a very flexible whip. Nagoya says, “Most notably the alloy whip is vastly improved for flexibility and durability.”
Best BaoFeng Antenna Upgrade for GMRS, FRS
This antenna will function best when operating on GMRS / FRS channels (frequencies / ‘band’). Again, the FCC rules for transmitting on GMRS are beyond the scope of this article.
The best aftermarket Baofeng antenna upgrade for GMRS:
NAGOYA NA-771G (15.3″ whip)
(BTECH on amzn)
Best SWR obtained on the NA-771G
I used the Surecom SW-102 for measurements. Although I have a really nice Daiwa SWR meter, this one enables direct connection for handheld radios. I’m not claiming it’s perfect. There are lots of variables while attempting to measure HT antenna SWR, and other better and more expensive ways to test. However it’s reasonable to use for comparison purposes from one antenna to another.
NAGOYA NA-701G (5.5″ whip)
(BTECH on amzn)
The NAGOYA NA-771G and the NA-701G antenna are Tx (transmit) optimized for the GMRS / FRS channel frequencies.
The exact optimization (at least where they specify ‘gain’) is 462 MHz.
The NA-771G has an incredible gain of 4.75 dBi. However it is 15.3 inches long, and may not be best suited for pocket carry or belt-clip wear. But it sure does perform very well.
Depending how the radio was held, SWR measurements ranged between 1.04 and 1.25 : 1 which is excellent!
It’s little brother the NA-701G with it’s 5.5 inch whip and 2.15 dBi gain didn’t perform quite as well as the tall whip (to be expected), but was still very good.
I keep both model antennas because they each have their advantages and they both perform well!
Difference Between NA-771G and NA-701G
The NA-771G has a significant gain advantage. My measured SWR is excellent for this antenna with essentially 100% of radio power being used (negligent reflected power). But as you can see in my photo above, that antenna is going to get in the way of things under some uses and circumstances. Although there are other uses and circumstances where this won’t be a particular problem. You WILL get more range from this one.
The NA-701G is the best choice antenna for normal use with GMRS. The antenna will not get in the way, and it still performs very well for any normal expected communication distances that one might expect from these radios.
With that said, a most important factor for VHF / UHF transmit range (distance) is height above ground level. The higher up, the better.
GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service)
A set of frequencies near 462 MHz and 467 MHz (some shared with FRS), popular and often shared on FRS/GMRS “bubble pack” radios. Transmitting on GMRS-specific frequencies does technically require a “no-test” license (good for the whole family, and for 10 years. $35 as of this update). Although apparently the FCC has not enforced this requirement that I know of.
FRS (Family Radio Service)
A set of frequencies near 462 MHz and 467 MHz. You do not need a license to operate on FRS ‘channels’. It’s basically today’s low power “walkie-talkie” band.
Best BaoFeng Antenna Upgrade for PLMRS (commercial/business), MURS, Maritime (marine radio)
MURS (Multi Use Radio Service)
A set of five frequencies near 151 MHz and 154 MHz. There are a wide variety of radio products that use MURS frequencies beyond just voice communications. Transmitting on MURS designated frequencies does not require a license.
The Marine radio band falls on frequencies within the spectrum between 156 and 162 MHz. Mariners and boaters use the Marine band to communicate. In the case of recreational boaters, for the most part, no license is required.
PLMRS (Private Land Mobile Radio Services)
The ‘commercial business’ band within the spectrum between 150 and 174 MHz. It’s also generally known as the business radio band. Transmitting on these frequencies does require a license.
(BTECH on amzn)
The NAGOYA NA-701C antenna works best for the three aforementioned bands. It is Tx (transmit) optimized for VHF frequencies 150-165 MHz.
The exact optimization is 155 MHz. It has a gain of 2.5 dBi and a whip length of 8 inches.
Note: Their specifications for this antenna indicate that it will also perform in the UHF band (450 – 470 MHz), which would in theory cover GMRS / FRS. But not so fast, hold your horses..
My SWR testing indicates this not to be the best case, at all, with poor SWR. This may be the reason they’ve developed the 771G and 701G as described above. For this reason, I no longer recommend the 701C antenna for GMRS / FRS.
- The 701C tuned the best (commercial bands) between 153-155 MHz (essentially a perfect SWR)
- MURS channels SWR ranged from 1.8 to 2.4 : 1, which isn’t bad
- Maritime (marine band) SWR ranged from 1 to 1.7 : 1
Why Are BaoFeng Portable 2-way Radios Popular?
Why do preparedness-minded people purchase 2-way handheld VHF/UHF radios like the BaoFeng UV-5R or BF-F8HP?
Excellent features and technical capabilities versus price.
Because these radios fulfill the need for local 2-way communications and relaying information. This will become especially important following a disaster, or worse. Today’s conventional modern methods of communications may fail. As a result, cell phones, internet, and other digital communications may become inoperable without grid power.
Portable 2-way HT handheld radios will enable a local community to communicate with each other (for example). This will also provide serious advantages for local security. Similarly, 2-way radio communications will enhance one’s personal / home security.
I recommend the following model choice (if you’re going with Baofeng). It’s a step up from the original UV-5R. And new purchased radios can (apparently) still transmit on FRS/GMRS/MURS/Marine bands (see update below).
New UV-5R no longer allows 450+MHz transmissions?
Update: Apparently new Baofengs are now limited to only transmit on ham radio frequencies. 144-148 MHz, 222-225 MHz, 420-450 MHz — ONLY
Due to FCC action, new devices seem to be locked. Be aware of this when purchasing new devices.
That means they cannot be used to transmit on MURS, GMRS, FRS, Marine VHF, or Part 90 business frequencies.
Edit: this seems to apply to USA sold/distributed models only.
Update: Apparently there is a way to unlock / unblock / jailbreak the transmit frequencies on the newer Baofeng UV-5R radios so they function just like they used to. I’ve not tried it because all mine are already capable. You might simply search online for the ‘how-to’.
Again, FCC rules are beyond the scope of this article.
FCC Rule Change
The last part of a FCC rule change went into effect September 30, 2019.
Why the fuss? The reasons are somewhat technically complicated among the FCC rules and regulations. However in short, in my interpretation,
- Because it is essentially an ‘open’ radio and can (could) transmit anywhere between 136-174 MHz and 400-520 MHz without restriction.
- Because it can transmit at higher power levels on bands / frequencies with existing FCC power restrictions.
- By FCC rule, a FRS-capable radio cannot accept an external antenna.
The following text is excerpted from the FCC (PRS reform).
Sales of FRS combination radios prohibited
Effective September 30, 2019, no person shall sell or offer for sale hand-held portable radio equipment capable of operating under this subpart (FRS) and under any other licensed or licensed-by-rule radio services in this chapter (devices may be authorized under this subpart with part 15 unlicensed equipment authorizations).FederalRegister.gov – Personal Radio Service Reform
No person shall be permitted to manufacture or import, sell or offer for sale any radio equipment capable of operating under both subpart B (FRS) and any other service, other than part 15.
The Commission grandfathered the operation of any existing combination radios as set forth above, and reminded operators of such existing devices that fit within the reclassified GMRS category that they must obtain a license before operating a GMRS device.
In summary, as of this writing and according to the FCC text above, it evidently applies to the existing BaoFeng UV-5R radio variants (or any other similar radio which may fall outside FCC rules and certification).
However it is not illegal to operate them, provided that you operate within the constraints of FCC rules.
The Future of the UV-5R?
The purpose or use-case scenario of the typical inexpensive Baofeng UV-5R radio has not been for the Ham radio bands (though a capable entry level radio). Ham operators will often have more expensive radios, given the hobby.
That leaves the other bands which I’ve listed above. FRS, GMRS, MURS, Maritime, and the PLMRS Business band. The best aftermarket BaoFeng antenna upgrade for these bands are the NA-701C and the 771G (and 701G). These are the antennas I’ve purchased for my BaoFeng radios.
Legal operation is your responsibility.
Now if you consider post-collapse SHTF, you might say that “legality” of transmitting on frequencies which require license, may be “out the window”. Either way, the aftermarket antennas by NAGOYA that I’ve listed above will have you covered for this particular radio.
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