The inexpensive analog Baofeng radios, made in China, and coming with a you-get-what-you-pay-for reputation, are at least reliable enough to justify owning one (or several), to stow in various places for emergencies (glove box, trunk, Get-Home-Bag, office desk drawer) — or to use as your daily rig until you maybe upgrade to a more expensive radio capable of digital.
I’ve added an extra-capacity battery for the ‘5’, and programming cables for both radios. All told, for two radios and accessories, I’ve popped for just over $100 of ham radio fun. Compare that to when I was a teenager (30 years ago), and my father spend more than $400 for one radio (‘HT’, hamspeak for ‘handy-talkie’, or what non-hams refer to as a ‘walkie-talkie’). Time is kind to technophiles; or at least to their wallets.
There is software that comes with these radios; but it isn’t very respectable compared to another application that is available as open source, which I highly recommend, called ‘CHIRP’. It can be found, with instructions, here: http://chirp.danplanet.com/projects/chirp.
The software is easy to use; the harder part will likely be getting the driver software for your programming cable (goes in your USB port). Some tips can be found here, though if you still have trouble past this you may have to rely on Googling up information about your particular cable, in conjuction with the search term ‘baofeng’: http://chirp.danplanet.com/projects/chirp/wiki/MacOS_Tips.
The driver that finally worked for me (I tried several) was this one, because the chipset in my programming cable is the Prolific variety: http://www.prolific.com.tw/US/ShowProduct.aspx?p_id=229&pcid=41.
I used the CHIRP software to make queries against online resources that already know what repeaters are in my area (by choosing, by county, which areas I care about). So now I have a file, called ‘CentralINandPurdue.img’ that includes all the repeaters in Marion County, and all surrounding counties. And since I have someone asking me who will be going back to school at Purdue next fall, I also included Tippecanoe County (and surrounding counties).
Get the file here: CentralINandPurdue.img
If you get CHIRP installed, and the correct driver for your programming cable, you can upload the file I created to add these channels to your radio without a lot of manual labor on your radio’s keypad.
Once you import this file into your radio, you may notice a lot of noise on channels you don’t want distracting you every time it scans up the channel list. There are two ways to deal with this… one is to delete that channel in CHIRP, another is to tell your radio to ‘skip’ that channel when scanning, which is already done for you on the NOAA channels in this file — just look for the ‘S’ in those rows, and you will see where you can do the same thing for other channels that you want to pass over.
Program a Baofeng Radio with CHIRP (geekprepper.org)
Tips on How to Best Configure and Use Your Baofeng UV-5R (codegreenprep.com)
Guide to Using the Baofeng UV-5R (essexham.co.uk)
Baofeng UV5R Menus (Miklor.com)
Baofeng UV Squelch FAQ (Miklor.com)
Program your VHF/UHF Transceivers for Disaster Preparedness (radiofreeq.wordpress.com)
How to Set Up a Ham Radio (1) (backdoorsurvival.com)
How to Set Up a Ham Radio (2) (backdoorsurvival.com)
2014 No-Nonsense Tech Study Guide v2.0 (kb6nu.com)