The most popular radio in the ham hobby is the handi-talkie or H.T. for short.  Most folks first radio is a handi-talkie.  They are versatile, portable and most are relatively friendly to your budget.  From your home, to your vehicle, to the middle of the woods, a handi-talkie can keep you on the air no matter where you may find yourself. 

    Of course they have some drawbacks but everything is a give and take.  Due to their relatively low power, they sometimes lack the ability to work a distant repeater.  If you run them at the highest power setting you will really get into the battery life and they will get as hot as a firecracker leading top thermal issues.  But used correctly they will do more than a person would expect from such a small package. 

    This little Icom T90A is a great little tri-band radio that transmits on 70 centimeter, 2 meters and 6 meters.  This unit receives from 495 kHz to 999.990 MHz excluding cellular frequencies.  You can also listen to commercial broadcast AM and FM stations.  It has 500 alphanumeric memory channels, dynamic memory scan, and 18 separate memory banks of 99 channels per bank.  Another handy feature is its Weather Alert Scan capability.

    It features a die-cast aluminum chassis for rugged durability and is weather resistant.  It operates from 6 to 16 volts, uses a lithium ion battery and has two output power levels of up to 5 watts.  The only confusing thing I have found with this radio is having to enter repeater tones for both the transmit and receive sides.  This radio is very small but seems to have all the performance of most bigger H-T's I have used.  For its price and ability to work 6 meters I have to say this is a real steal of a deal.  The only thing I miss with it is dual watch capability.

   I have two antennas that I use with it. See the center photo above.  The antenna at the bottom of the photo is a Maldol MH510.  It utilizes an SMA mount and and is 20.75 inches tall.  This antenna can handle up to 10 watts and it has a gains of 0/0/.32 dBi respectively.  I generally only use this big monstrosity for working 6 meters.  The skinny little Prime antenna is on the H-T 90% of the time.  I really like the fact that I can tie it in a knot when it is clipped on my belt which keeps it from flopping around and being a nuisance.




   I have spent a good deal of time playing with several Kenwood TH-F6A handi-talkies.  These radios transmit on 2 meters, 1.25 meters, and 70 centimeters.    The Kenwoods are very small, durable and powerful.  They offer dual watch and are weather resistant.  They are probably the easiest to program of any modern radio I have ever used.

   These H-T's have three power levels but seem to be weak on transmit power as compared some of the other H-T's I have used, even at 5 watts.  Even trying three different aftermarket gain antennas didn't seem to really help their performance in the field.  I was perplexed at first because I really expected more out of these radios.

   With a little work and experimentation I was able to remedy this apparent problem.  Attaching a tuned counterpoise or ground radial seemed to really perk the little buggers up.  I used a ring terminal with a 19" wire then attached the terminal between the antenna and the radio.  The effectively turned the factory "rubber duck" antenna into a half wave dipole on 2 meters.  It even seemed to help on the 70 centimeter band.


   Everyone probably has a FMRS or GMRS set of radios somewhere in the house.  Because they are so common and easy to use they also lend themselves to emergency communications work.  Whether monitoring their frequencies for distress calls or handing them out to non ham licensed volunteers they have a multitude of potential uses.