Hand Helds with APRS

I am thinking about getting a hand held radio and maybe one with APRS built in.
What are the options out there for a dual or maybe a tri band with APRS?

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Just came back from an activation using this HT. For me it works a charm.


My call is BX2ABT-7 if you are looking it up on aprs.fiaprs.fi.


Important question is if you want to used just position beacons or if you also want messaging (that would be for sending SOTA spots via APRS2SOTA).

So I guess the usual suspects are FT3dr and FT5dr from Yaesu. (I use the FT1xd that is not for sale anymore).

Anytone AT-D878UV Firmware Updates
has the AT-878UVII PLUS (only the PLUS version ! ) with APRS but I recall there was an issue with sending analog ARPS messages. Not sure if this is working in recent firmware versions. (I think via DMR Brandmeister it is working but that will require that you are dialing in to a repeater. Not so trivial on a summit.)
The changelog sound promising for version V2.03

ICOM used to have the best APRS user interface but apparently ft’up in their latest ID-52E as investigated by Richard

I probably missed some options like standalone APRS trackers like the PicoAPRS.

73 Joe


I use a Yaesu VX8 that I bought second hand…has a more rugged feel than the ft5d and ft3d (plus much cheaper!).

I see there is currently one for sale at Lamco https://www.hamradio-shop.co.uk/product/yaesu-vx-8ge-used-12-months-warranty-lamco-barnsley/


I’ve got the same Matthew, had it about 10 years and it’s only had a couple of hissy fits. The time setting seems to have a mind of its own and it stopped sending audio the other day for a few minutes despite me dropping it, soaking it and generally neglecting it.

Funnily enough it picked up @G3CWI on Pillar the other day

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I believe some of the Kenwood HTs have APRS and it works well?

The current firmware for the D878UVII-Plus is v2.05.

It will send and receive positions on analog but it still only seems to be able to send messages on analog (not receive) even though the options are there in the menus and the programming software. Hopefully they will fix this.

On analog, you cannot edit a message once sent i.e. you cannnot take the last spot that you sent to APRS2SOTA and change the frequency/summit/mode - you have to type the mssage in again from scratch which is not good.


With digital (DMR) messaging you can take an old message and edit it, but I haven’t been able to get spotting to work. Position messages work fine and show up on the APRS-IS system if you send to Talkgroup 234999 but like you say, you need to send it to a Brandmeister repeater.


What might work for Brandmeister is if you register for SMSGATE and the SOTA SMS spotting. I haven’t set up SMS spotting, but I have managed to get SMSGATE working. Again, you need to be able to connect to a Brandmeister repeater to do this so not always practical for SOTA.


I purchased the FT5 just for SOTA spotting and beacon positioning. Ugh. I can’t say I’m in love with it. It works, but the whole menu setup seems really kludgy and unintuitive. Why the memory slots are limited to 16 characters is a mystery to me. Forces me to edit prior SOTA messages to spot – if they are still in the queue. I wish Kenwood was still a viable alternative.



Kenwood TH D72. Used it for APRS over PSAT and ISS with free text messaging for two way APRS qso’s. Limited and fiddley but workabel once you get the hang of it. Never used it for SOTA or my usual back packing trips though. No digital modes but full and real duplex thats handy for sat work.


I have a Kenwood TH-D74. RX/TX on 2m, 1.25m and 70cm. It’s a radio with many features but, I use if primarily for APRS spotting and phone on 2m. I was using a Yaesu VX-8G for the same purpose but much prefer the Kenwood for APRS messaging.


There’s no right answer John only opinions. Of course, my opinion is more correct than most :slight_smile:

For me, a radio must be a good radio no matter what other bells and whistles it offers. Sadly a vast number of hand held radios suffer terribly when in proximity to other radio transmitters especially when you fit a better antenna. They become almost unusable. If you want this for SOTA then you will activate from summits with commercial transmitters and you need a radio that is usable still. There are few that really work in all conditions. The other essential is that is should be weatherproof such that you can use it in the rain and carrying in a side pocket of your bag where it will be exposed to the weather.

The requirement that you can use your handy with an external antenna (J-pole, small Yagi, Moxon) etc. renders most of the APRS capable hand helds out of contention. The Yaesu VX6/7/8 all suffer terribly though you can minimise the problems using the attenuator. But then why buy a radio and add a better antenna only to HAVE to use the attenuator to make the radio do what it should do anyway?

Most of the APRS capable hand helds have user interfaces for APRS described by their owners as ranging from unusable to barely acceptable. The last thing you want on a summit when the weather is a bit rough is to have to spend 10mins trying to enter your APRS message to spot yourself. Or maybe that kind of duress floats your boat :wink:

APRS capable hand helds are seriously expensive so it’s essential you try one first to see how good or bad the UI is and then find out whether it really works with an external antenna. As I said, I see absolutely no purpose buying a radio I cannot use every and any time I want.

You may want to consider buying a dumb radio that works well and adding either something like a Mobilinkd TNC (http://www.mobilinkd.com/) or using APRSdroid on an old Android phone. I say old phone because you can find them for peanuts and you wont be tying up your actual phone for APRS. If you have an Android phone you can try APRSdroid for no cash outlay which has to be good.

As I said, no right answers only opinions.

Of course, no response about hand helds would be complete without this
VHF/UHF handheld performance comparison | QRPblog


Another opinion !

Here you can see @F6HBI Gérald climbing F/AM-265 2610m for an TM1SOTA activation
In direct on APRS.FI - hard one :crazy_face:


He use an AnyTone D878UVII-Plus I think

73, Eric


Cheers all for the replies. Certainly a lot of info to get through.

Some reasons;
Tracking for Mrs m0vaz to see when I am up/down the mountain/on way home when lack of phone signal or I forget (also handy on rallies as well)
Send spots
Replace my Albrecht RL-102 (2m only)
A treat/new radio for me :slight_smile:
A hand held for activating

I did have issues on the Great Orme with a handheld and 2m ladder line antenna on a pole. Remove the antenna and HH worked OK

Is the AnyTone from Wouxon ?
I have Wouxon quad band in the car, while it works, its not without its issues.

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In a better list (radios so far)
Kenwood TH-D74 - Dual band 2m/70cm
Kenwood TH D72 - Dual band 2m/70cm
Anytone AT-878UVII PLUS - Dual band 2m/70cm
Yaesu FT3dr - Dual band 2m/70cm
Yaesu FT5dr - Dual band 2m/70cm
Yaesu FT1xd - Dual band 2m/70cm & C4FM
Yaesu VX8GE - Dual band 2m/70cm - Discontinued 2014
Yaesu VX8DE - Tri-band 6m/2m/70cm
Venus HG-UV98 - Dual band 2m/70cm


Yesterday was on F/CR-299 and using the same AnyTone was able to find the DMR TG973 relay on F/CR-007 at 107km +


I have a VX-8 and an FT3. Love them both. I would agree with M0MZB about the VX8 being a little more rugged. As a matter of fact it says on the front “Submersible”. The only thing with the VX8 is the GPS unit is external. I have mine mounted to the external mic (which I would use anyways) so it is a wash. YMMV

I also have an Anytone. Never use it anymore. Only does locating (no messaging) and I find DMR to be more of a hassle than it is worth.

Kent K9EZ

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I think I would rather have the GPS built in, but its an option to have an external. Is that the VX-8GE or VX-8DE?

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I understand. It is the American Version VX-8DR. No difference is my understanding, other than the E version is set for the European 2 M bands.

I always use an external Mic when I run SOTA (radio in backpack, mic on my shoulder strap), so having the external GPS is no big deal for me.

Not my picture, but here is the mic with the GPS unit on the mic.

One small side benefit is the VX-8 will run 6 meter FM.

Kent K9EZ



Mine is the vx8g which has gps built in.

The user interface is atrocious, but i do find it useful for sending spots using aprs2sota

Using it as a tracker can be dissapointing, since you’ll probably be using it with a small antenna while on the move. Works okay on summits and lofty ridges, but once below about 300m I find it rarely gets picked up.

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Thanks for the info M0MZB.

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Seems to have been a bit of confusion when the 878UVII was mentioned, this does do APRS SMS but you need to make sure that you have set it long enough to write the message! Also, APRS SMS is analogue and doesn’t rely on any digital network, what it does rely on is someone putting an APRS iGate on air! On digital there is DPRS but I don’t think it is as functional as analogue