I read somewhere that the Chinese government started electronics company BaoFeng to sell radios and electronics at prices at or near cost solely to disrupt sales for Japanese makers.
I’ve had the BaoFeng UV-5R+ for a couple of years now, and while I’ve fiddled with it a bit, I’ve never had occasion to really use it for anything. I just added it to my modest collection of items for when/if the SHTF.
This weekend we went camping, and the boys have a pair of inexpensive MidLand radios, with 21 channels. But the BaoFeng doesn’t do just walkie bands, it also does shortwave (you can even connect a more powerful antenna) and FM bands, and the menu system (while a bit clunky now that we’re all accustomed to using smart phones) offers a wide array of options and features. I’ve used it to scan LEO/fire/emergency bands, and I’ve managed to tune some shortwave frequencies too.
I googled the manual for the boys’ Midland radios so I could tune the frequencies for the channels, and voila, my BaoFeng is a glorified walkie talkie, with better range and reception. Mrs. Q took the kids down to the beach, while we’re a mile or two up the shore fishing, and we’re still in touch. The rechargeable battery lasted the entire weekend without a charge, and the radio includes an LED lamp (solid, or blinking) that provided another light source for getting around in the dark.
The boys loved using call signs and talking in code, and since we also had to take two cars to schlep all of our stuff (and the two dogs) it was great to communicate back and forth and coordinate things like bathroom stops.
Overall, it’s a well-built, sturdy little unit, and a bargain at the current price. My grandfather was a career radio operator for the selective service, and I loved going into his radio room and playing with his CB. I was lucky, because no other grandkids got to even sit down there. He would never have believed that the day would come that a person could purchase a digital shortwave TRANSMITTER for less than $31 from a Chinese company.
I still remember the way it smelled when his radio equipment was warm and running, with the dust and hot vacuum tubes. I was never allowed to touch the HAM stuff, but I loved watching him get on the radio and rattle of callsigns and tap out Morse code faster than the Western Union. Remember the Battle of Yavin in Star Wars? Those radio transmissions sounded eerily similar to what would come through on his radios, with the slightly strident vocal distortion. The sound engineer for LucasFilm must have run the dialogue through a HAM radio.
I can imagine that with a few UV-5R+’s (or similar, there are a range of different units) in our community, we’d have a backup method for communicating if phone/cell networks ever go down.