Handheld UHF radio is a handy tool when four-wheel driving and the Aussie-made Oricom UHF5500 is one of the best on the market.

Most keen four-wheel drivers will have a UHF radio fitted somewhere handy in their vehicle. After all, a UHF is the best way to conduct short-range vehicle-to-vehicle communications, while performing recovery operations, travelling in a convoy or even communicating with other road users such as truckies or caravanners.

But when would you need a handheld UHF radio? How about when spotting for a driver who’s trying to negotiate a tricky section of track, or while directing a complex recovery operation from outside the vehicle. Handhelds can even come in handy (excuse the pun) when you wander away from camp to go for a walk or to collect firewood, allowing you to communicate with those back at basecamp where the vehicles are parked.

I regularly use a handheld UHF radio for the reasons outlined above, as well as to communicate with drivers when taking photos and video footage, and when driving test vehicles that are not equipped with an in-vehicle UHF radio.

For the past few years I’ve been using an Oricom UHF5500 model, which has proven extremely reliable and robust, and also provides clear and effective transmission and reception. Oh, and at $199 with included battery and 12V/240V charger, it’s bloody good value for an 80-channel 5W handheld, and it has more features than I’ll ever need.

The Oricom UHF5500 offers 80 narrowband channels and three programmable instant channel buttons. It also has a Duplex function that allows you to transmit and receive over longer distances where repeater stations are available. Five Watts is about as good as it gets for handhelds, and this UHF offers excellent line-of-sight range, bettering many other radios I’ve sampled with similar specifications.

Some of the features I really like about the UHF5500 include its backlit LCD display, channel scan, keypad lock, simple rotary volume control and adjustable squelch.

The back of the UHF5500 is all battery which, I guess, is why it lasts so long. The battery itself is an 1800mAh Li-ion unit and I generally get a couple of days of operation out of it between charges. And when it needs charging, I can just drop it in the charging pod while driving, which in turn plugs into the vehicle’s 12V DC power outlet. Alternatively, the pod can be plugged into a 240V AC wall outlet.

There’s a handy belt clip and a wrist strap, and the removable antenna is flexible enough to cop a beating without breaking. Speaking of which, I’ve dropped my UHF5500 more times than I care to remember, and it shows few signs of the hard life it’s endured. I’ve also used it in all weather conditions without any issues. It’s extremely well built with a diecast metal chassis and a tough plastic body, and the 2.5mm jack (for an optional headset or speaker mic) has a waterproof rubber cover. Oricom claims an IP54 dust and splash resistant rating for the UH5500.

The basic operation of the UHF5500 is quite straightforward, with a rotary on/off/volume knob on the top, channel-up, channel-down and scan keys on the front, and a traditional thumb-operated transmit button on the side. When delving into some of the less-used features of the UHF5500, I often have to refer to the user’s manual. But hey, who really needs three programmable instant channel buttons or 38 CTCSS and 104 DCS privacy codes? Not me…

Oricom backs the UHF5500 with a three-year warranty, but I doubt anyone ever needs to make a claim. My UHF5500 has been going strong for more than four and a half years, and the battery life is still impressive. I reckon it’s without a doubt one of the best value handheld UHF radios on the market.


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1 comment

  1. Can you give me a rough indication of the effective range?
    I’m thinking of fairly flat on-road terrain.

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