Random Thoughts on the BAO(feng)s

If there was a plan for little green Martians to conquer the earth, they would hide inside the Baofeng (UV-5R) radios and then pop out the same exact moment all around the world.


And those being so popular and cheap are two of the reasons for trashing them around the web. But are they…


Glorified FRS radios or Incentives for new HAMs?


Among the preparedness and survivalist communities the BAOs are prevalent. And I do not think there is anyone that has a second radio and it is not a UV-5R. so even the advanced HAMs among us could not resist the temptation of the cheap and “easy” radio.


Regardless the BAOs are generally treated and used as FRS or even CB radios. That means that with the exception of a better removable antenna and some more power, the use is the same. Sort of a small range cell phone without the provider.

Indeed all the people I know that are not HAMs (Amateur Radio Operators) treat these handheld radios as cell phones, and expect them to work the same (everywhere) and have the same (perceived) range. This is bad use of a communications device, thus there is the strong argument that the people can best be served by the FRS and CB as well.


On the other hand the availability and the low price have lured enough Preppers into acquiring one and then becoming HAMs even if they never go further than the basic Tech level. (SYxxxxx callsign for us Greeks).

You see both the BAO and the Tech ticket are easy to get. No, you cannot make wonders with any of them, but they lure people in the Ham community and with that we make more users that have a little knowledge of the basics, access to the HAM wealth of knowledge,  and –equally important- will behave responsibly.


Baofengs are not complex but they are NOT easy!


I will bet anyone that the manual for the latest Yaesu VX-8DR handheld weighs as much as the Baofeng manual and the Radio itself too. And you should not hand a F1 racer to a beginner driver, ever.

The BAOs are basic in their functions and that is good cos their already cover 90% of the average HAMs and a survivalist’s uses.


On the other hand, they are not easy to use. The no1 question I hear from novice users is “How do I program a repeater?” Then I start telling them that there are 2 different ways, one for the channel (memory) mode, and one for the VFO mode. And I lose them.


Yes I was disappointed that my BAO is not intuitive in its use, but I was not surprised.

Having tinkered with various kinds of Chinese tech devices I already knew that they think differently than the westerners, and this reflects on how the radios are set up and how the menu is structured.

My first radio was a Kenwood TH-F6(7). The second radio that I handled was friend’s Wouxon. And I could not even find my way in the short-writing of the menu!

I do not have to program anything in the TH-F7 to work a repeater. These frequencies are predefined here in the EU, so the radio will automatically add the shift and the tone function for you. And there are only 17 frequencies available anyway.


So I have surrendered my BAO to a secondary FRS like role and keep my Kenwood for the real stuff. Which brings us a real circle around, doesn’t it?


Half the Baofeng power is in the Accessories


When I got a whiff of the BAOs there was already a full range of accessories for them.

And that is good marketing.

And a convenience for any user at any level.

You can have the AAA battery carrier, and also a (larger) AA carrier, and a larger replacement battery that charges itself from the 12V power of a car, which is a nifty feature.

And then there are various types of microphones and headsets, and power adapters, and the list goes on.

And of course the Chinese excelled themselves by using the Kenwood type of plug connectivity.


I just wonder how none offers custom cerakoting designs for the Baofeng cases yet.


An issue NOT to be resolved


The issue if the BAOs are worthy will never be resolved.

It did not ever resolve in any kind of expensive tool and cheap tool faceoff.

Cos a tool they are. And for me they are like those second rate screwdrivers. Which become your beater screwdrivers.


2 thoughts on “Random Thoughts on the BAO(feng)s

  1. I own two BAO’s and treat them as a radio I can loan out and not really care if I get it back. Seriously, the microphone for my Yaesu handheld cost more than an entire BAO!

    I agree the Chinarigs are a pain in the ass to program. I do like that the accessories are really cheap. Of course, you how much can you charge for a spare battery when the radio is only $28 (USD) brand new?

    Unfortunately, a lot of people get their Tech license (the lowest level in the US system), buy a Baofeng, and after fooling with it for a week or two get bored and give up. I bet there are thousands of barely used BAO’s laying in drawers all over America.


  2. Who knows, maybe they would throw a more complex radio in the drawer even faster. I think the issue is not only with the radio but with the effort that people wan to put into their lives. I think the survival community make learning the BAOs a little more easy with 1-hour classes.
    BTW, good catch on the loaner feature of the radio. It completely missed me.

    Liked by 1 person

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