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Author Topic: Ham radio primarily for emergency use  (Read 874 times)

Sun2Retire

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Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« on: July 18, 2017, 11:33:09 PM »
When I was a kid I was enamored by the idea of getting a ham radio license and making contact with others half a globe away. That was back when one had to be able to tap out a passage from the Bible backwards in Morse code. Never did anything about that idea.


Now, I understand the test is easy and the equipment cheap. Still enamored, but I'm also thinking ham might be a good idea for emergencies where there's no cell coverage. Good idea? Will a unit like this be sufficient? If I ever decided to "play" can I do it with one of cheaper units?!
« Last Edit: July 19, 2017, 05:11:26 AM by Sun2Retire »
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John From Detroit

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2017, 06:47:59 AM »
I do have ham radio on board.. And yes it can be useful since the odds of at least one of my radios making contact with another approach 100%.. But many times my cell phones have been "out of range".

But why limit yourself to "Emergency" only use.. Tons of fun for every day use.

Another thing. there are networks you can check into. and if you become a "regular" they sometimes check up on you if they don't hear from you for a week.

Have a smart phone... (Or a windows or Linux computer) Several apps that let you REMOTE a radio belongign to someone else once you are licensed... (Some hoops to jump through first) but I can, for example, operate N4GYN (Near the mall of Georgia) remoteely from most any place using this computer, my phone or tablet.

WITHOUT a license you can listen on many stations,  Just not transmit or control   Look for RCFORB in the play store or Remote Hams dot com
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Larry N.

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2017, 07:33:16 AM »
While the code test is gone, you still have to take a test on some basic electronics and on regulations and radio principles. While it's not horribly difficult, it still takes some time and effort to learn what you need.

That BaoFeng is a nice little handheld, but its range (by itself) isn't more than a half mile to a mile, unless you're on a mountain top or such, probably no more than a CB handheld could do for you. With a repeater in range, though, it can cover more distance, perhaps 15-20 miles or, near mountain areas such as the front range of the Rockies where repeaters are on the mountains, you might get 50-100 miles, under some conditions.

But where repeaters are available you'll generally have cell service, too, though there are a few exceptions to that.

If you're thinking of a ham radio with long range, where you can talk around the world, or at least across the country, you're looking at a more expensive (and a bulkier) HF rig, a bit more of a test to get your General ticket, and needing a rather sizable antenna on your vehicle. Even then, it will depend on propagation at the time, as to how useful it might be. Granted that it's possible to get a "portable" setup on HF, but that's generally a low power backpack arrangement, and you'd have to stop and set up an antenna in order to use it.

So I don't think it's suitable for what you appear to be thinking, and I mention the above so that you won't get your expectations too high. However, as John says, ham radio can be an enjoyable hobby, in and of itself, and there can be rare occasions where it could (given the right equipment) come in handy in an emergency. But the "emergency" where it's really useful is more likely to be where there is power loss to cell (and perhaps landline too) in some sort of disaster.

Keep in mind that where John says, "And yes it can be useful since the odds of at least one of my radios making contact with another approach 100%." that the "one of my radios" is from a whole suite of different kinds of radios and antennas that John has acquired over the years.
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HappyWanderer

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2017, 11:00:09 AM »
We were just on vacation in western Ohio; I brought my HT with me and programmed the local repeaters. I checked into a couple of 2 meter nets and chatted with the local guys.

We had some severe weather come through, and had to evacuate due to a tornado warning. In fact, a tornado touched down about 15 miles away from us. I had been listening to the local Skywarn net, so I grabbed my HT when we evacuated. I checked into the net to advise them of our situation, and was given frequent real-time weather updates. I was also able to report what we were seeing back to the net.

Occasionally, someone would call, "Hey, Whiskey One. How are you doing out there." It was nice that someone knew where we were and let us know what was happening around us.
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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2017, 02:47:34 PM »
 I will recommend  https://www.hamradiolicenseexam.com/try-it.htm  as it was what I used for the Technician and General Exams. If I recall it's $25.00 per class and good for quite awhile if not lifetime, they not only have the current test questions but have training on each subject if needed. As you take the tests it will find your weak spots and tune the training by that. Worked for me.

I have a Yaesu VX-8G with GPS and modem HT and use a very inexpensive Mag mount antenna with excellent results.
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Larry N.

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2017, 06:47:40 PM »
John, how well would that do in emergencies when you're out of range of cell phones, as the Scott asked? I have a VX-8, also, but I don't think it would be suitable for what the Scott was asking. For ham as a hobby, of course, it's one of many possible good choices.
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Lou Schneider

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2017, 08:35:27 PM »
I think expecting to use ham radio just for emergency communications will give you a false sense of security. Yes, hams often gets through when other modes of communication don't, but it takes a fair amount of practice to do this on demand.  It isn't plug and play.

This practice is disguised as the hobby part of ham radio -  the skills and knowledge you pick up while pursuing the hobby will directly determine how well ham radio will work for you in an emergency situation.

If you're interested in ham radio as a fun and rewarding hobby, go for it!  But don't bother if you're planning to put the radio on a shelf and only drag it out in an emergency.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2017, 08:50:11 PM by Lou Schneider »

Sun2Retire

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2017, 09:01:31 AM »
If you're interested in ham radio as a fun and rewarding hobby, go for it!  But don't bother if you're planning to put the radio on a shelf and only drag it out in an emergency.


Understand. And as I mentioned I've been intrigued since childhood with ham radio but, like too many other things ( :( )  never acted on that intrigue. So indeed, practice would be part of the picture.


Having used both HF and VHF radios in aviation I have a general understanding of propagation, and line of sight vs. skip. I recall mention of HF repeaters used presumably for shorter range bands ("2 meter"?). But this very general knowledge doesn't give me any real idea of how operators use the newer radios. I roughly get that one can get a large, powerful radio of the proper bandwidth, attach it to a large longwire or other style antenna, and talk a long way using skip. How are the little radios, such as the highly rated Baofeng I linked to, used? Cross-town, line of sight only? Repeaters? What part of the country are these repeaters located? What sort of equipment and antenna can one use in a mobile/RV setting that, with practice, would offer longer range communications where other modes can't?


So little knowledge, so many questions 😐
Scott
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Larry N.

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2017, 11:58:57 AM »
Quote
I recall mention of HF repeaters used presumably for shorter range bands ("2 meter"?).

There are VHF and UHF repeaters (2 meter is VHF), but I'm not aware of any HF repeaters. Still, there are mechanisms for transmitting on VHF/UHF and having it go out on HF, a repeater of sorts, I suppose, but that's not the normal repeater type. And you have to be in range of the VHF/UHF portion to make this work.

Mostly the radios such as the BaoFeng are used to talk through repeaters (VHF or UHF, it's dual band) to other folks, though it is also used to talk to people nearby on simplex, much as you might do on a CB.

The VHF portion of the ham bands runs from 144-148 MHz (aviation com is 118-142 MHz), so similar propagation. UHF is around 446 MHz, so even more line of sight and more subject to attenuation from tree leaves, etc. The repeaters are generally where ever ham clubs (and a few individuals) have decided to locate them, typically on towers near cities or, in the Rockies, on mountains. There are a very few places (including the central Colorado Rockies and central New Mexico/Arizona) where a linked set of repeaters can let you talk a long ways, say from Denver to Grand Junction or from Albuquerque to Yuma, but those arrangements are scarce.

In addition to HTs, there are a variety of mobile rigs and antennas, covering virtually any portion of the bands, or even the whole spectrum, with enough different pieces. UHF mobiles typically are 40-60 watts transmit, while VHF is typically 50-75 watts and HF mobile is rarely more than 100 watts, though there are some mobile amps available to go beyond that.

A quarter wave VHF mobile antenna will be around 19 inches long, while UHF will be roughly 1/3 that. An HF antenna must be electrically 1/4 of the band's typical wave length, so a 40 meter band antenna (vertical 1/4 wave) will be roughly 10 meters long, electrically, an 80 meter band antenna will be 20 meters long, and so forth. Of course those lengths are not practical when mobile so they've devised various coil mechanisms that make a much shorter (physically) antenna appear to be that electrical length, thus allowing them to be mounted on vehicles (they're still several feet -- as much as 8-10 feet for some).

From the Denver area, when mobile on HF, I've talked to the east coast and west coast (at different times), as well as the midwest and deep south. I've even heard (when conditions are right) South America and Japan.

But all these long haul things are only there sometimes, when propagation conditions are just so. Most days, from an hour after sunrise to late afternoon, I can talk on 20 or 40 meters to areas within a few hundred miles (if they're not too close), with varying results, and on 20 to most of the country, at one time or another, depending on the day.

To go much beyond what I mention above will take some time and study on your part to get more specific. As you may gather, a lot of this is hit or miss, depending on conditions at the time and the specific band (or sometimes even the specific part of the band) you're working. I've barely scratched the surface.
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JFN

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2017, 12:18:58 PM »
John, how well would that do in emergencies when you're out of range of cell phones, as the Scott asked? I have a VX-8, also, but I don't think it would be suitable for what the Scott was asking. For ham as a hobby, of course, it's one of many possible good choices.
Well It is just another tool in the box and being line of sight has its drawbacks, however, Chances are fairly good you could pick up someone on the national call freq of 146.520 MHz, with a very inexpensive external (MHJ 1724B) antenna, I routinely hit repeaters up to 50 miles on APRS which you could talk on if necessary, now if it is a National emergency cell phones will be out everywhere either by loss of power or congestion. So, all in all, I'll take my chances. The main reason for obtaining the ham license was for UHF drone control and transmitting video. 
« Last Edit: July 20, 2017, 12:22:47 PM by JFN »
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pigman

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2017, 11:21:52 PM »
When I was a kid I was enamored by the idea of getting a ham radio license and making contact with others half a globe away.

I have been retired for about 2 years now and recently got my ham radio technical license and then an upgrade to general class.

I think combining the RV life with amateur radio to be a great combination.  I purchased an all band radio (Yaesu 857D) that is capable of HF/VHF/UHF and 100 watts power on HF with a bit less on the other two bands.

For antennas, I just run coax carefully out my slide to my truck mobile antennas for VHF/UHF and another cable to a pair of "ham sticks" which can make a fairly inexpensive HF antenna out of a pair of usually mobile use loaded whip antennas.

I found the process fairly easy by getting the Gordon West books on Amazon and then taking the practice exams available in many places on the web for free.

Not only did FCC drop code requirements, they even will give you the exact questions and answers they will put on your exam.   For Tech and General you will be given 35 questions and you only need to get 26 correct to pass.   Not only that but they pull a single question out of each area so if you find the math or theory questions tough you may still pass by getting enough other questions right.

Here is a recent photo of my TT with the tripod (20 foot) extended and secured to the TT and the horizontal dipole antenna that is somewhat directional by simply rotating the mast by hand.

www.tpigman.com/ham/hamstick.jpg

and inside:

www.tpigman.com/ham/setup.jpg


BTW ... I started with the little Baofeng and still use it mobile in my truck.  It's range is pretty much dependent on the closest repeater as has been mentioned.

I would encourage you to start with that tech license and see if it is something you enjoy.

Neil
K2AMF

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DonTom

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2017, 12:52:32 AM »
When I was a kid I was enamored by the idea of getting a ham radio license and making contact with others half a globe away. That was back when one had to be able to tap out a passage from the Bible backwards in Morse code. Never did anything about that idea.


Now, I understand the test is easy and the equipment cheap. Still enamored, but I'm also thinking ham might be a good idea for emergencies where there's no cell coverage. Good idea? Will a unit like this be sufficient? If I ever decided to "play" can I do it with one of cheaper units?!
In areas so far out that there is no cell coverage, it's unlikely that you will find a repeater or any other communications on VHF or UHF. So the short answer is "no".

What type of emergency are you talking about?  For me being way out of cell range in an emergency is not a problem as far as communications. I am a ham (for 52 years, and Extra Class) but I leave all that stuff at home.

Out of cell range, I can send anybody an email text message. Even from the middle of the ocean, and in the USA, and Canada, I can call for a tow truck where there is NO cell coverage at all.  The best thing IMO, for most common emergencies is either a Spot Messenger or an In-Reach. I have both. Another would be a PLB, but that has NO use other than emergencies. I don't bother with the PLB. But each has their advantages and disadvantages over  the others, so it mainly depends on your needs and wants.

I started in ham radio during the time all the testing (except Novice) was done at a FCC office. That includes the sending and receiving of CW (Internal Morse Code). These days, I notice all the HF CW operators are as old as I am. No young people on CW any more. I think they should at least still have the CW requirement for the Extra Class.

I work HF CW ONLY.  I find it somewhat addicting. So do countless other old timers, who work HF CW only.

Sunspot cycle is near the bottom now, HF band conditions are very  lousy, but I still have no problem on HF CW communicating every early morning (usually around midnight) with Japan, eastern Russia, Australia, New Zealand, South America and more on 40 meter CW.  However, I am more of a rag chewer than a DX chaser, and I have much better QSOs with other hams a few miles away. However, often just after midnight I hear more signals form  across the Pacific Ocean than from anywhere in the USA. 40 (7.0 Mhz) CW.

73, -Don-  AA6GA Reno, NV
-Don-   AA6GA

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DonTom

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2017, 01:18:36 AM »
https://www.qrz.com/db/K2AMF
I just looked at your logbook there and found this:

"W7SOB     2017-07-24     40m     FM     CN82jm         United States     RICK L MEAD"

"40M  FM" ?

73, AA6GA/7  -Don-  Reno, NV
-Don-   AA6GA

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Arch Hoagland

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2017, 03:52:36 AM »
Assume for a minute I buy some ham radio equipment and go on the air broadcasting with absolutely no licenses at all. 

Who is checking for that and who enforces the rules and regulations? 


 
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Sun2Retire

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2017, 04:34:18 AM »
Thanks everyone for your contributions to this thread and answers to my questions. I'm sure I'll have more questions but for now have decided to start studying for the exam, which alone will be interesting.
Scott
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Larry N.

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #15 on: July 27, 2017, 06:40:13 AM »
Assume for a minute I buy some ham radio equipment and go on the air broadcasting with absolutely no licenses at all. 

Who is checking for that and who enforces the rules and regulations?

Many hams love a "fox hunt," which is chasing an unknown signal. There are some who have done what you propose, but they eventually were caught by groups of hams finding them, then reporting them to the FCC (big fines, or worse). So it's not completely dependent on the gov having the resources to chase you down.
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DonTom

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #16 on: July 27, 2017, 11:43:09 AM »
Assume for a minute I buy some ham radio equipment and go on the air broadcasting with absolutely no licenses at all. 

Who is checking for that and who enforces the rules and regulations?
The FCC. The way it usually works these days it's  other hams who figure it out and then work with the FCC. Your first problem would be what would you use for a callsign? Usually other hams can figure out who it is, where they are sending from, etc. if they put in the effort.

Needless to say, it doesn't happen on CW. And I think it's quite rare on any ham band in any mode.

-Don-  AA6GA/7  Reno, NV

-Don-   AA6GA

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pigman

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #17 on: July 27, 2017, 12:00:19 PM »
I just looked at your logbook there and found this:

"W7SOB     2017-07-24     40m     FM     CN82jm         United States     RICK L MEAD"

"40M  FM" ?

73, AA6GA/7  -Don-  Reno, NV



HAHAHA .. ya good catch you may know that when you make a new contact QRZ fills in the blanks with pretty much the last entry.   I guess you could use Narrow band FM on 40 meters as long as you do not exceed normal bandwidth's that one is allowed with AM or DSB.

I fixed my log as of course the contact was made on LSB. 
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pigman

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #18 on: July 27, 2017, 12:21:26 PM »
Thanks everyone for your contributions to this thread and answers to my questions. I'm sure I'll have more questions but for now have decided to start studying for the exam, which alone will be interesting.

Something that helped me ace the exams was to combine study with taking practice exams and using "flash" cards that helped you realize what material you were steady on and what material you needed further study.

The ARRL has some great study material:

http://www.arrl.org/licensing-education-training

I also used

https://hamstudy.org/tech2014

https://hamexam.org/

http://aa9pw.com/

I hope these study links help you.   If you have any local ham radio clubs in your location any member of that club would help you.   Just Google up "VHF radio club" or "Ham Radio Club" and add your city.

Most hams enjoy bringing folks into the hobby.

73

Neil
K2AMF

Pigman
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DonTom

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #19 on: July 27, 2017, 01:42:15 PM »


HAHAHA .. ya good catch you may know that when you make a new contact QRZ fills in the blanks with pretty much the last entry.
Well, then I can never get the mode incorrect. You will see why if you check my logbook.

That's because I only work CW! 100% of my QSOs have been on CW since I started my two logbooks (AA6GA & AA6GA/7) on QRZ.com.

73, -Don-  AA6GA/7  Reno, NV
-Don-   AA6GA

2000 Fleetwood Tioga 24D, 7.4L

Eight motorcycles:
Original owner of:
1971 BMW R75/5
1984 Yamaha Venture
2002 Suzuki DR200SE
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2016 Versys 650 LT
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2017 Zero DS ZF6.5
2017 Zero SR 13 w/pwr tank

Arch Hoagland

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #20 on: July 27, 2017, 01:49:57 PM »
I was an ET stationed at NSS, in Annapolis Maryland from 1963 to 1967. We were a transmitter site that broadcast to ships and submarines at sea around the world.

We had about 100 high power transmitters from VLF to UHF. Most were 40 KW with directional antennas and a couple flat tops.

Once a year they allowed ham operators to come on base and use the 20KW transmitters.  Those guys were ecstatic!! 

 
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DWJoyce

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #21 on: July 27, 2017, 07:26:49 PM »
The FCC provides documents that have all the test questions with answers. If you have any sort of memory you can easily pass the technician class exam.

https://hamstudy.org/

pigman

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #22 on: July 27, 2017, 08:29:15 PM »
Well, then I can never get the mode incorrect. You will see why if you check my logbook.

That's because I only work CW! 100% of my QSOs have been on CW since I started my two logbooks (AA6GA & AA6GA/7) on QRZ.com.

73, -Don-  AA6GA/7  Reno, NV

Interesting Don,

Have you thought of exploring the new digital radio world? It takes some special understanding on how the internet works but with prop conditions being what they are I am pleased that we have that option.

I learned code as a military radio operator and see a place for it but for me I want to explore all the modes.  I am happy for you that you found your niche and enjoy CW contacts.

My first radios were Heathkit transmitters and receivers.  Not much beats building your own equipment.

Pigman
2010 Sportsmen 202SRB
2008 5.7L V8 Tundra
Msgt, USAF, Ret (71-94)

DonTom

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #23 on: July 28, 2017, 02:00:11 AM »
Interesting Don,

Have you thought of exploring the new digital radio world? It takes some special understanding on how the internet works but with prop conditions being what they are I am pleased that we have that option.
What type of "new" digital radio are you referring to?

I learned code as a military radio operator and see a place for it but for me I want to explore all the modes.
Well, I knew the code very well before I got drafted. So after we had our army testing and I did better than anybody else in my company, of course, the army put me in the infantry and sent me to Vietnam where I had nothing to do with radio.
My first radios were Heathkit transmitters and receivers.  Not much beats building your own equipment.
My first transmitters I designed and built myself. Mainly from parts from old tube TV sets. I also built a few HeatKits, DX60, DX100, etc. But these days it's way too easy for me just to buy everything already built.  Even my antennas! (DX Engineering portable vertical dipole, DXE-TW series here in Reno, a G5RV dipole in Auburn, CA. My rig at each places is a Yaesu FTdx1200.

When I was a teenager, I had more time than money. That has reversed over the years. I now  have trouble finding enough time for my many hobbies as it is.

73, -Don-  AA6GA
-Don-   AA6GA

2000 Fleetwood Tioga 24D, 7.4L

Eight motorcycles:
Original owner of:
1971 BMW R75/5
1984 Yamaha Venture
2002 Suzuki DR200SE
2013 Triumph Trophy SE
2016 Versys 650 LT
2016 Moto Guzzi Stelvio
2017 Zero DS ZF6.5
2017 Zero SR 13 w/pwr tank

gregbart

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Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #24 on: August 26, 2017, 09:10:12 AM »
Hi,
  I have a dual band in the truck and an all mode portable station with me.  I enjoy the occasional conversation while driving.  There is usually someone monitoring 146.52
  One thing cool about ham radio is all the different modes that are available.  You can use the traditional over the air, or you can hit a local digital repeater and talk worldwide from your handheld.
   I tend to do quite a bit of psk-31 on HF.  It's power to distance ratio is outstanding. 

73
Greg
KB6M

voyaginator

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  • Posts: 16
Re: Ham radio primarily for emergency use
« Reply #25 on: September 01, 2017, 01:56:12 PM »
Now, I understand the test is easy and the equipment cheap. Still enamored, but I'm also thinking ham might be a good idea for emergencies where there's no cell coverage. Good idea?
Yes, no more morse code exam, yes very cheap equipment now, and yes perfect when no cell coverage (plenty of rescue cases in remote areas) and much better than cb limited legally to 4 watts   ;D
My recommendation, get a cheap handheld such as a baofeng https://goo.gl/BYjavH  listen to Hams in your areas, study the very easy test for a Technician license   ;) Then, talk on the air to fellow Hams in your areas, get the General licence which is very easy to get. Then, get a better radio and talk to friends all over the world   8)

 

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