A Good Use of an Old Baofeng HT

The old Baofeng HT (UV5R) is the butt of many jokes these days in amateur radio. But right after their introduction, they were the “Xiegu HF rig” of the moment: they mostly worked, were cheaper than many similar products, and hams just had to explore them!

I bought a few, kept one, but gave them to new hams. Heck, I even purchased a case of Baofeng’s to supply the new amateur radio club in my home county of Washington County, GA. They would charge them up, program them for the new repeater, and gift them to newly licensed Techs in Sandersville and there abouts.

What happened to the one I kept? Well, if you have a minute, here it is.

The Jackson MS area had fallen by the wayside in terms of APRS digipeaters. But it really sucked by not having any iGates. A fellow ham who was head of Security at an area hospital installed an iGate serviced by backup power as part of their EmComm effort. That was fine…until the IT team monkeyed with “odd” IP connections and just cut Internet service to it periodically. The turnover in IT kept the Security Head (the ham) busy renegotiating service behind their firewall. So he eventually got them to put it on the guest WiFi sector and it’s been serving the area reliably ever since.

APRS-Direct visualization of APRS system in Jackson, MS area (inset shows K4FMH-10 iGate footprint.

But N5DU and I led the effort to add more digi’s in the greater Jackson area, donating ones to the Vicksburg Club, a tower east of us that the manager (also a ham) gladly installed, a node at a nuclear power plant at Port Gipson, and one down I-55 South near Crystal Springs. But only one iGate to serve them really got in the way of educating the other digi managers to configure the right number of “hops” to effectively get to an iGate.

So I used my remaining Baofeng HT with a small footprint PC (Dell OptiPlex 160 Tiny Desktop, bought for $40 shipped via eBay) and a software modem to create a second iGate in my home (K4FMH-10). As the picture from APRS Direct above illustrates, it’s in the large footprint of the JARC digi installed on a water tower in Madison, MS to the NW of my QTH on the Barnett Rez. (See inset of my iGate’s estimated footprint by APRS-Direct. No, KI5JCL-9 isn’t riding a horse. He just has a sense of humor!)

K4FMH-10 iGate working away to “gate” just the packets from the W5PFC-1 Digi some 3 miles away.

It’s stored in the bottom of a builtin cabinet in my small library / printer closet adjacent to my 2nd floor office. It’s 3 miles from a nearby APRS Digi maintained by the Jackson ARC (my friend N5WDG maintains their repeaters and other digi devices). And, it sits in the supplied Baofeng charger. For over 2 years, working faithfully. Until it didn’t. And that’s the focus of this story.

The higher power battery is a slim-line model. I thought that would be good for this little iGate-robot. (See the picture on the left.) And it has been.

Bobby KG5TGT later added a 2-way iGate to the Southwest of Jackson. It covers several Digipeaters on that side of town: the JARC’s 2nd digi on a broadcast tower, Vicksburg’s Digi (that N5DU and I donated), and the monster on a tower at the nuclear power plant outside of Port Gipson. FB all the way! Until this happened.

Baofeng battery expanded rapidly!

Yep, over a day’s period, the 2 year-old high power battery (Baofeng marketing-speak) hit it’s outer charge limit and expanded several times over the slim size that it was…well, the day before!

All this happened while I was in a recording session for the ICQ Podcast. Unbeknownst to Martin M1MRB and my fellow Presenters, I simply ordered a replacement on Amazon that was delivered in 2 days. The K4FMH-10 iGate was back shipping packets into the APRS network.

The moral? Oh heck. Just check your batteries periodically. While I thought I had, this could have produced a fire. Fortunately, I’m in that small room every day for various things and I look at the iGate system. But this expansion occurred over a 24-hour period. I should take steps to create a more robust iGate unit. But that might mean I’d become Baofeng-free!

Do you have a Baofeng lying around, getting no use? Find a way to put it to some good. But do check the battery from time to time.

Frank Howell, K4FMH, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Mississippi, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

7 Responses to “A Good Use of an Old Baofeng HT”

  • Jan OH2CJI:

    What a great story, Frank!

    I still have a box of fully functioning Baofengs (UV-5R, UV-82, UV-9R+ etc.) lying around somewhere, and you are providing good hints on how to give them a meaningful ‘retirement career’.

    73 from Finland! de OH2CJI

  • John, VK4TJ:

    For precisely the reason above, I turn my Baofengs into mini base stations – removing the battery, whittling a fake battery out of wood, then regulating down from the shack standard 13.8 VDC to 7.2 VDC or thereabouts. You can buy a mobile adaptor for Baofengs that fits the battery tray perfectly, but I’m a tightwad 🙂

  • Frank K4FMH:


    Thank you for the kind remarks!



  • Frank K4FMH:


    Great suggestion! I likely have a DC PS that will deliver 7vdc. I’ve been lazy, of course, but that is my point, of course.

    I’m likely to just get a purpose-built iGate device. The the Baofeng will head to a ham without an HT.



  • Roger K8ROG:

    You can always replace the battery with a battery eliminator. The gets rid of the potential for a battery fire. I have a Baofeng on a battery eliminator I leave on 24/7 in my shop to just monitor our club’s repeater.



  • Frank K4FMH:

    Hi Roger,

    Yes, that a good choice. The inertia of having a cheap HT around and something that “works” is the moral of the story. It can be a bad moral, lol.

    I’ll check on a battery eliminator while I await an appointment with a neurosurgeon to repair a herniated disc. Your suggestion might be the simplest one.

    Thanks for posting!



  • Justin Davis:

    Doesn’t this happen whenever you leave a unit sitting in the charger turned on? Because the charger thinks that it’s actually not charged up enough because some of the current is being used to run the unit so it overcharges the battery

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