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  1. #1
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    Portable Comms gear

    Over the last few years I've been a bit of a prepper, mostly for the tornadic and other storm emergencies , flooding etc.. Most of my supplies are common sense stuff, with meals got for 25 years and canned goods, both will outlive me by a long shot.

    I plan to hopefully shelter in place, with it's own set of problems, but the long and the short of it, except for a potential war with some of earths neighbors that dream about such a thing, most sheltering in place would be a natural disaster and waiting for a couple of weeks or so or until FEMA finds me.

    The question here is that I want a 2 way ham hand held radio. They seem to hover in price from around 150 to 200 bucks. Problem is that I don't know squat about them. Can someone give me a short schooling on the hand held models, what does what better, etc..etc...

    Thanks ahead,
    FT
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  2. #2
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    My SSB knowledge is really dated (form the late '80's), so I'm sure there's some advancements, but the basic science is still the same. The first thing you need to determine is what range do you want and do you want to just listen or do you also want to talk. Historically, handhelds were for 2 Meter (waveform) comms, which used repeaters. I don't even know if they still exist now, but this would allow you non-line-of-sight comms with someone (as long as you had LOS with the repeater), much like police/EMS radios.

    If you want to reach out farther, you're going to need some sort of significant antenna setup, be it a long-wire, tall whip, or an actual beam antenna. You will also need power to get the signal out. If you're in a terrestrial environment, especially around a city/town center, you'll need more power to get out from the noise and a better antenna setup to receive over the noise.

    There's also knowing which bands to use for range. FT, I'm guessing you're savvy on this, but just to recap, smaller wavelength equals shorter distance/skip. 7 Khz will get you to FL, maybe. 14 Khz will get you to the Carribean and maybe farther. This is a little different than ELF, which obviously goes around the world, but has very little bandwidth (and needs lots of power).

    Lastly, to be legal on some bands, you need a license. On other bands you don't. Marine Maritime doesn't require it, but that doesn't help you.

    I'm just not smart on hand held units nowadays to know what they're capable of and on what band.

  3. #3
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    The range of a hand held varies widely. A few months ago I did a test and for my setting it can reach out about 5ish miles. That said 'range' is dependent on terrain. If you are in the salt flats it will go substantially farther. If you are in the mountains it can potentially go substantially shorter. My area is sort of hilly and heavily forested.

    Keep in mind that there are two ends to things...who is transmitting and who is receiving. There may be situations where you can hear but can't talk back to anyone. Also if you are actually inside of your car the distance is greatly limited. If you stop, pull over, and get out it will be better and have better reception and transmission range. The same thing is true inside your house.

    My overall view is that a hand held is good for certain things. Say for example there is a forest fire, or someone gets lost in the woods it will be great for coordinating with others in a given area. If you are going to be out and about, mostly on foot it is great. If you don't plan on walking around and hiking through the woods or whatever there are better options.

    Another downside is the battery life of a hand held is not optimal. Even if you just put a fully charged unit in your car and leave it, you will find dead batteries and be in need of a recharge. In other words you have to be really proactive about carrying it in/out of the house and keeping it charged up.

    What I did (and I think is a better option) is to go the next level up. I have a setup with a Kenwood radio that can be put inside a car. I have the power cables connected up to a cigarette lighter plug so I can move it from vehicle to vehicle in about 2-3 minutes. Plus in general you won't run out of battery (unless you are talking for a long time just on car battery alone).

    I also purchased a power station that can plug into the wall outlet at home. I can plug my station into that and have basically a home based station from the comfort of my A/C. About the only thing I need to do extra is run the antenna wire out the window or something.

    Not to mention that these units can talk maybe ten times that of a hand held. Instead of a 5 mile radius, you might get 50 miles (again depending on the terrain and other factors). None the less if something crazy happens like a hurricane or something I can reach out quite far and hit repeaters or whatever from my car.

    If it really gets messed up I can use my car unit as a self contained repeater. So if I go to an area that has horrible reception on a hand held, I can talk to my car unit and amplify my signal out. That all being said the way I have my stuff set up is far more practical than just having a hand held. 90-95% of the time I won't be far from my vehicle, especially in a 'situation'. Basically I have never used my hand held for anything other than testing or whatever. That said, if you plan to be on foot then get a hand held.

    The way I have my car unit set up, like I said, I can put it in or take it out of a car in like 3 minutes. If the power is out at home I can put it in the car and communicate away. It has a whole lot more utility doing it that way and way less limitations.

    You will need the same license to use either. I would suggest studying for and taking the test first, then start shopping around for equipment.

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    Alamo, is that a Recreational license or a General? Or did they finally merge everything into one license? I suppose I could Google the answer, now that I ask it.

  5. #5
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    I am pretty sure all I have is the Technician level. It was such a long time ago since I took the test, but I am pretty sure that's it.

    License Restructuring

    In December 1999, after a lengthy review of the Amateur Radio licensing system, the FCC began issuing major changes. In April 2000, the number of license classes dropped from six to the current three. In addition, in February 2007, the FCC discontinued requiring Morse code proficiency tests. The FCC issued these new regulations to streamline the licensing system and bring the Amateur Radio service into the digital age. While the new license system might not make it easier to get into Amateur Radio, licensed operators can move from the beginner to expert level more quickly.

    The Technician License

    The Technician class license is the entry-level license of choice for most new ham radio operators. To earn the Technician license requires passing one examination totaling 35 questions on radio theory, regulations and operating practices. The license gives access to all Amateur Radio frequencies above 30 megahertz, allowing these licensees the ability to communicate locally and most often within North America. It also allows for some limited privileges on the HF (also called "short wave") bands used for international communications.

    The General License

    The General class license grants some operating privileges on all Amateur Radio bands and all operating modes. This license opens the door to world-wide communications. Earning the General class license requires passing a 35 question examination. General class licensees must also have passed the Technician written examination.

    The Amateur Extra License

    The Amateur Extra class license conveys all available U.S. Amateur Radio operating privileges on all bands and all modes. Earning the license is more difficult; it requires passing a thorough 50 question examination. Extra class licensees must also have passed all previous license class written examinations.


    https://www.arrl.org/ham-radio-licenses

  6. #6
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    I thought I remembered hearing something about streamlining the process. This seems much more reasonable in this day and age.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by gatordev View Post
    I thought I remembered hearing something about streamlining the process. This seems much more reasonable in this day and age.
    I did my test right about 2007 so I didn't have to learn morse code or anything like that. That said you really do have to study for the test. It's not long, and it's not easy. If you just show up expecting to breeze through you will most likely fail it. That said there are some really good resources online that are free where you can study for it.

    That all being said I almost never use my HAM radio. I am glad that I have it but I am very rusty on a lot of the technical stuff. If an emergency breaks out though it is a valuable tool to have. I have a little 'cheat book' that I bought that has every single function of my radio written in simple but concise language. I definitely recommend getting one of those books. Unless you use the radio all the time it's difficult to remember all that stuff.

  8. #8
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    FT, take a look at the Yaesu VX-6R its a great radio. I use it at home to chat with the locals and a few guys said they couldnt beleive the clarity I was sending on a hand held. Its actually part of my comms setup for my PC, Disco32 sells a great PTT for it and their VMAS works well for a low profile PC setup.

    Bought mine here: https://www.dxengineering.com/search...g&keyword=vx6r


    https://www.disco32.com/collections/...talk-for-yaesu


    https://www.disco32.com/collections/...ick-detach-bnc
    The best way to survive a violent encounter is to be the one inflicting the most violence.

  9. #9
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    The best way to survive a violent encounter is to be the one inflicting the most violence.

  10. #10
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    The best way to survive a violent encounter is to be the one inflicting the most violence.

  11. #11
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    Smile

    Thanks to all for the valuable info. During my military career, the divisions that i was a part of relied on satellite phones as well as related fixed operation comm equipment, so I personally never had any training on operating ham radio, or the associated gear. I did have a good friend who was in to it as a "hobby".

    Now days you can take the test online, and sans the Morse code requirement. I would guess that would make the test easier as it basically makes the test "open book". I'm not too worried about passing a test, as except for just listening, who in the hell is going to prosecute me for using it as a life saving device? Don't know if any of you remember the horrendous flooding in Eastern KY about 4 months ago, but they are still trying to go though house's looking for cadavers and possible survivors. Good luck with the "survivors" and missing persons though, although I hate to say that.

    Anyway, I will learn the info and take the test for at least the basic level operator. I would like to be able to listen across a large chunk of the U.S. for updates from FEMA and other govt. agencies for updates to SHTF situations, and be able to talk a fairly long range for possible help and assistance. Now that N. Korea has long range nuclear rockets capable of striking anywhere in the U.S. even the "rational" world is getting to get a little concerned about that cowardly little fat mentally ill dictator over there, and in other countries.
    Didn't mean to make this post so long, but all of that in total makes me want a two way capable radio and a method to recharge batteries. If you have a better solution, feel free to let me know.

    FT
    Last edited by FortTom; 21 November 2022 at 13:02.
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  12. #12
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    I wouldnt worry about NK to much... We have 2 subs parked at their front door with 28 nuclear warheads each and if the midget so much as sneezes in the wrong direction we will remove them from the map... Not to mention shooting down anything he might have launched.
    The best way to survive a violent encounter is to be the one inflicting the most violence.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stone View Post
    I wouldnt worry about NK to much... We have 2 subs parked at their front door with 28 nuclear warheads each and if the midget so much as sneezes in the wrong direction we will remove them from the map... Not to mention shooting down anything he might have launched.
    Seriously, I don't really worry about that. I am concerned, jus a bit, about a "dirty" bomb, much more than a nuclear war. Hell, I don't trust Biden with his hand on the "football". Would probably think he was playing a video game. Seriously, I'm much more concerned about natural disasters, and domestic terrorists, with natural disasters at the top of my list. I would like to be able to get "news" from a pretty good distance though. Again, thanks for the help.
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  14. #14
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    If all you want to do is listen you don't need to take a test. If you want to talk to people then you will need to take it.

    Yes, there is no Morse code anymore but don't fool yourself into thinking it will be a breeze. People that try that fail it and wind up trying to take it multiple times. It's best to prepare and pass it on the first time.

    Again it all depends on what you want to accomplish with this stuff. If all you want to do is monitor stuff then skip all the other stuff and just buy a cheap radio and yes buy spare batteries if you can and a portable car charger. With that though learning how to program it will be key. Some radios are way more complicated than others.

  15. #15
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    I am considering getting my Technicians license through Ham Radio Prep. They have a BF sale going on at $79 which will get you through all three levels and a lifetime membership and a 100% guarantee you will pass the tests on your first try. Kind of like a one stop shop and IIRC the test costs are included but I would double check on that...

    https://hamradioprep.com/all-access-pass-black-friday/


    The best way to survive a violent encounter is to be the one inflicting the most violence.

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