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Old 07-19-2020, 05:01 PM   #1
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Amateur radio

I am thinking if getting my ticket and taking a handheld ham radio on the road this fall/ winter. Does anyone have or use one of these? Would it add any benefit to carry one?
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Old 07-19-2020, 08:03 PM   #2
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A radio with an external antenna and a repeater directory or phone app and you'll have communication capabilities where there isn't phone service.
The inexpensive Chinese HTs work pretty well for $30 and a lot of hams carry them. Just be careful with them because they can transmit out of the Amateur bands.
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Old 07-19-2020, 09:32 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by nmDutchstar View Post
I am thinking if getting my ticket and taking a handheld ham radio on the road this fall/ winter. Does anyone have or use one of these? Would it add any benefit to carry one?
Yes, a ham license is useful to an RVer... you will find a number of the inhabitants of IRV2 are hams... and a large percentage at Quartzite every year are hams...

I'm a licensed amateur radio operator AKA "ham", and also one of the crazies that give the ham tests. You can find a local test by going here: http: // www.arrl.org/exam_sessions/search
Just plug in your zip code and select a radius in the adjacent box.
Local clubs can be found here: http: // www.arrl.org/find-a-club

The license is easy - there is no longer a need to know the Morse code to get it. There are three levels of license and the lowest level is 35 questions. You get 27 correct and you are a licensed ham for 10 years. The license itself is free, the local examiners can charge up to $15 for the test to cover their costs. The license renewal process is also simple... you go to the FCC web site and essentially wave your hand and say "hi, I'm still alive". And you're good for 10 more years.

Now to your question:
A handheld is very useful, and a cheap chinese one is from $30 to $150 depending on make / model and features. If you want a better quality / more featured one you can go as high as $450... but I tell people to get a cheap $30-$50 one to start and learn all you can about it, then decide what features you really want and then go get the one with those features.

But handhelds do have the problem of low power (4 watts or less), a poor antenna (the "2 meter" band, the most popular, requires a 18 inch antenna, and all of the handhelds have a compromise antenna... 6 inches if you are lucky) and relatively poor receiver performance.
Translation: a handheld inside a car will not have good results. You will receive much better than you can talk... A magnetic mount antenna and a cable that plugs into the handheld helps but is inconvenient.

I tell people to get a cheap handheld but to not expect much... AND to get a mobile of at least 25 watts. You will be MUCH happier with the mobile as far as it being a useful communication system. It seems that everyone has Baofeng UV5 only because of price - the radio, a battery and a drop-in charger totals about $40-$45. A programming cable is another $30.

The most common brands are Yaesu, Kenwood, and Icom... sometimes referred to collectively as YaeComWood. Other lesser-known brands are Baofeng, Alinco, TYT, Hytera, and AnyTone.

Be careful - a lot of the chinese radios will program up on police and fire frequencies. You DO NOT WANT TO GO THERE. Just stay on the frequencies you are authorized for and you will be OK. It's fun to listen there but some jurisdictions have laws against that. Locally most agencies have gone to digital or encryption or both... they are no longer listenable.

Most modern radios can be programmed with a desktop or laptop computer... that's much easier than keying the channel information in through the tiny buttons on the front panel. So get a USB programming cable with it - they are cheap. There is a free program called "Chirp" that works with a huge variety of radios and allows you to have the same set of frequencies in multiple radios. For example, I have a mobile that is being used as base station in my workshop, another mobile that is being used as base station in my office, another mobile radio in my car, and there are handhelds in my car and in a charger by the back door (which the wife and I grab when we go shopping). All are different makes and models, but all have the same channel set thanks to Chirp...

Ham radio is fun. I got my license in the mid 1970s... my dad got interested, my mom liked the idea of having a family radio intercom, they got their licenses, I put surplus taxi radios in all the vehicles but rebuilt to ham channels (they were only $15 a piece).

I've seem mobile radios go from the size of a suitcase and mounted in the trunk with a control box up by the driver to where the whole thing is the size of a paperback book.

I've seen portable radios go from "hernia talkies" (the size of briefcases) and 15 pounds to "luggie talkies" (lunchbox size and 5 pounds) to "bricks" (the size and weight of a red brick) to ones the size of a deck of playing cards.

Mike
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Old 07-20-2020, 09:12 AM   #4
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When you get an HT, get the programming cable and program from RT Systems for your specific model. With this you can program in repeaters easily using the computer and downloading the program to the radio.

Repeater directories are available on line.

Look on the ARRL website to find a local ham club near you. Some have license classes to help get the license.

If you are getting the Technicians license, go ahead and study a bit more and get the General class license. This will also give you access to the HF (high frequency) bands for long distance communications.

Ken
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Old 07-20-2020, 12:37 PM   #5
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I agree with the others about equipment limitations and alternatives. Well said.

Another reason for a hand held (HT) is when you leave the RV and do some hiking. I monitored a search and rescue a couple of weekends ago via ham radio. The hiker has injured and couldn't hike back to the car. He reached another ham probably 70 miles away, which is quite a distance for a hand held. That ham notified search and rescue who then put out a call to other hams to monitor the frequency, determine the hikers condition and to ask him to switch to a specific repeater. He was able to relay his exact GPS position and arrange for S&R to meet him the next morning. I did pick up the contact the next morning after he was safely helped back to the trailhead.

Kind of a long tail, but a real life example of what can be done with ham radio.

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Old 07-21-2020, 08:45 AM   #6
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You all have given great advice and lots of ideas. I think I will start with a good handheld then work my way up as my interest grows. Ham radio has had my interest for years. I guess it's time to jump in. Iv been looking at the yeasu radios.
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Old 07-21-2020, 09:34 AM   #7
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I have a Yeasu all band, all mode radio in the truck, 100 Watt radio, with a Tarheel screw driver that cover 6m through 80m and a VHF/UHF dual band antenna. For the HT, I use a dual band Waouxun. it is not the best, but it works fro my purpose.

In the RV I use a Kenwood TS480HX with a Alpha HD FMJ antenna.

For your HT use, I would suggest getting a magnetic mount dual band antenna for use in the vehicle. You can get a Comet J-pole to use on the RV when stationary. The radio will most likely have a SMA antenna connector and will need an adapter to connect to a mag-mount or a J-pole.

With an HT you can also get into DMR, D-Star or other modes if the radio is capable.

I still recommend finding a local ham club and contacting them. I know the club I belong to in Houston has weekly nets and is not having club meetings except on Zoom.

Good luck and good studying.

Ken
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Old 07-21-2020, 09:51 AM   #8
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If youíre thinking of Yaesu, I would suggest you consider spending a wee bit more and go to Icom.
I purchased a Yaesu hand held aviation as a backup and had the Lithium Ion battery last less than 2 years.
Contacted Yaesu (who if I remember correctly is Horizon) and they would do nothing.

Just wanted to let you know my experience.

Good luck
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Old 07-21-2020, 09:55 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnotherMike View Post
Yes, a ham license is useful to an RVer... you will find a number of the inhabitants of IRV2 are hams... and a large percentage at Quartzite every year are hams...

I'm a licensed amateur radio operator AKA "ham", and also one of the crazies that give the ham tests. You can find a local test by going here: http: // www.arrl.org/exam_sessions/search
Just plug in your zip code and select a radius in the adjacent box.
Local clubs can be found here: http: // www.arrl.org/find-a-club

The license is easy - there is no longer a need to know the Morse code to get it. There are three levels of license and the lowest level is 35 questions. You get 27 correct and you are a licensed ham for 10 years. The license itself is free, the local examiners can charge up to $15 for the test to cover their costs. The license renewal process is also simple... you go to the FCC web site and essentially wave your hand and say "hi, I'm still alive". And you're good for 10 more years.

Now to your question:
A handheld is very useful, and a cheap chinese one is from $30 to $150 depending on make / model and features. If you want a better quality / more featured one you can go as high as $450... but I tell people to get a cheap $30-$50 one to start and learn all you can about it, then decide what features you really want and then go get the one with those features.

But handhelds do have the problem of low power (4 watts or less), a poor antenna (the "2 meter" band, the most popular, requires a 18 inch antenna, and all of the handhelds have a compromise antenna... 6 inches if you are lucky) and relatively poor receiver performance.
Translation: a handheld inside a car will not have good results. You will receive much better than you can talk... A magnetic mount antenna and a cable that plugs into the handheld helps but is inconvenient.

I tell people to get a cheap handheld but to not expect much... AND to get a mobile of at least 25 watts. You will be MUCH happier with the mobile as far as it being a useful communication system. It seems that everyone has Baofeng UV5 only because of price - the radio, a battery and a drop-in charger totals about $40-$45. A programming cable is another $30.

The most common brands are Yaesu, Kenwood, and Icom... sometimes referred to collectively as YaeComWood. Other lesser-known brands are Baofeng, Alinco, TYT, Hytera, and AnyTone.

Be careful - a lot of the chinese radios will program up on police and fire frequencies. You DO NOT WANT TO GO THERE. Just stay on the frequencies you are authorized for and you will be OK. It's fun to listen there but some jurisdictions have laws against that. Locally most agencies have gone to digital or encryption or both... they are no longer listenable.

Most modern radios can be programmed with a desktop or laptop computer... that's much easier than keying the channel information in through the tiny buttons on the front panel. So get a USB programming cable with it - they are cheap. There is a free program called "Chirp" that works with a huge variety of radios and allows you to have the same set of frequencies in multiple radios. For example, I have a mobile that is being used as base station in my workshop, another mobile that is being used as base station in my office, another mobile radio in my car, and there are handhelds in my car and in a charger by the back door (which the wife and I grab when we go shopping). All are different makes and models, but all have the same channel set thanks to Chirp...

Ham radio is fun. I got my license in the mid 1970s... my dad got interested, my mom liked the idea of having a family radio intercom, they got their licenses, I put surplus taxi radios in all the vehicles but rebuilt to ham channels (they were only $15 a piece).

I've seem mobile radios go from the size of a suitcase and mounted in the trunk with a control box up by the driver to where the whole thing is the size of a paperback book.

I've seen portable radios go from "hernia talkies" (the size of briefcases) and 15 pounds to "luggie talkies" (lunchbox size and 5 pounds) to "bricks" (the size and weight of a red brick) to ones the size of a deck of playing cards.

Mike


Wow!!! Mike, thanks so much! Thatís just exactly what I needed!

Iíve been thinking about getting my license for the same reason the OP mentioned but didnít know where to start....now I do!

Thanks!
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Old 07-21-2020, 10:10 AM   #10
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Wish I could be a "ham." But unfortunately, I am deaf. Thomas Alva Edison, believe it or not, was deaf. However, he became an expert telegrapher and later "wireless" operator. He was able to do so because all radio back then was done in Morse. Today, Morse code is dead!
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Old 07-21-2020, 10:47 AM   #11
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Wish I could be a "ham." But unfortunately, I am deaf. Thomas Alva Edison, believe it or not, was deaf. However, he became an expert telegrapher and later "wireless" operator. He was able to do so because all radio back then was done in Morse. Today, Morse code is dead!
Don't let that stop you. There are several digital modes (PSK31 for example) that are keyboard to keyboard. They also require very little transmit power compared to other modes. Check it out.
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Old 07-21-2020, 11:47 AM   #12
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We had a deaf ham in our club. He used all of the digital modes with a computer.
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Old 07-21-2020, 12:50 PM   #13
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I carry a cheap Baofeng HT with the optional extra long antenna. Before a trip I program in repeaters in the area. As previously mentioned these HT's are nearly impossible to program with the supplied CD and cable. Buy the RT software and their cable (actually contains circuitry). Then adding frequencies is simple using your computer. (Most trips the HT just sits in the cabinet as I prefer HF)

Repeaters are often boring and devoid of activity. There are too many of them, and their coverage varies. As a first radio, an HT can sour your impression of ham radio.

I carry a small HF radio about the size of a cigar box and a Hustler whip antenna which I snap onto my ladder with a Hustler quick disconnect. HF is much more enjoyable, and there are always interesting people to listen to from all over the world. There are also several RV nets to check into on the HF bands.

You will alway be thankful for getting your ham license!
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Old 07-21-2020, 01:00 PM   #14
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Amateur Radio

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I am thinking if getting my ticket and taking a handheld ham radio on the road this fall/ winter. Does anyone have or use one of these? Would it add any benefit to carry one?

Yes it would be but remember it's not a CB radio. Ham operators are very helpful to others and are always respectable too. I hold my General ticket and my call sign is KC1JXI . Roger
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