The best BaoFeng antenna upgrade for your VHF/UHF handheld (ht) radio such as the UV-5R and BF-F8HP.
Many people have purchased at least a pair of the popular BaoFeng UV-5R (or variants thereof) 2-way radio. Often several sets (or more). The problem is… The stock BaoFeng antenna is less than ideal. If you’re serious about optimizing 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)
See Update Below regarding transmit restrictions on new UV-5R radios (presently, new BF-F8HP radios appear not to be affected – but it could be remaining old inventory – not sure).
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:
Your Baofeng antenna upgrade choice depends on what 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
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)
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. It’s whip is nearly 16 inches long.
There is a newer design of this antenna with slightly less gain (2.25 dbi) but with an extra thin more flexible whip.
Best BaoFeng Antenna Upgrade for FRS, GMRS, MURS
This antenna will function best when operating on FRS, GMRS, MURS, Maritime, or PLMRS bands.
The best aftermarket Baofeng antenna upgrade for these bands:
(view on amzn)
Why? Because the NAGOYA NA-701C antenna is Tx (transmit) optimized for 150-165 MHz and 450-470 MHz.
The exact optimization is 155 MHz and 455 MHz, and has a gain of 2.5 dbi. It’s whip is 8 inches long.
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!
FRS (Family Radio Service)
A set of frequencies near 462 MHz and 467 MHz. You do not need a license to operate here. It’s basically today’s low power “walkie-talkie” band. Note the BaoFeng breaks the rules in the FRS frequencies by allowing the operator to transmit higher power than regulation and to use external antenna.
GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service)
Also a set of frequencies near 462 MHz and 467 MHz (some shared with FRS). It is also 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). Although apparently the FCC has not enforced this requirement that I know of.
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)
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.
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
Announcement: Many new Baofengs are now limited to only transmit on ham radio frequencies in firmware. 144-148 MHz, 222-225 MHz, 420-450 MHz — ONLY
Due to FCC action, new devices seem to be locked to these transmit frequencies in firmware. Be aware of this when purchasing new devices.
That means they cannot be used on MURS, GMRS, FRS, Marine VHF, or Part 90 business frequencies. No LARPing without a ham license.
This cannot be worked around via Chirp programming, AFAIK.
Edit: this seems to apply to USA sold/distributed models only.
Is there another way of unblocking to transmit on FRS, GMRS? No. The microcontroller that has the firmware on it can only be flashed once and never again so you’re stuck with whatever firmware it came with from the factory.
I see BF-F8HPs for sale listing the full range as being transmittable on on websites correctly listing UV-5Rs with the new lock. But maybe it’s just old stock. I’m not sure.
FCC Rule Change
The last part of a FCC rule change from ~2 years ago 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 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 is is the NA-701C. It is the antenna which 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 two aftermarket antennas by NAGOYA that I’ve listed above will have you covered for this particular radio.
Given the new built-in transmit restrictions of new UV-5R radios, one wonders if this is the end of its popularity. With that said, their BF-F8HP model is still being sold on their amzn storefront with the apparent ability to still transmit on these frequencies.
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