Author Topic: How to BOOST your hand held radio for reliable communications  (Read 3448 times)

Offline Carl

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How to BOOST your hand held radio for reliable communications
« on: August 12, 2016, 03:25:18 AM »
  So,you acquired your first hand held radio and suddenly become painfully aware that many people you can hear...can't hear you.
There are several ways to MAXIMIZE YOU RADIO,to improve range and reliability of your Ham or MURS,FRS,GMRS radio.

First thing to get past is HAM is no better or more capable than any other VHF/UHF radio,the difference is SKILL and utilization of equipment.
With Line of sight (UHF/VHF) radio signals travel in straight lines (almost) and you want to be able to SEE the radio or repeater you are talking to.
Get to a higher location for big signal improvement or use a higher antenna, A mag mount or other antenna will greatly improve your MOBILE signal.
A HIGH GAIN antenna is often a waste of money when compared to a quarter wave as 3 DB or so is MINIMAL and often unnoticeable improvement
due to the way FM is detected rarely does 3 DB make a difference,except for your wallet...and HOW does gain happen? Why ,at the cost of signal in
another direction so a GAIN ANTENNA actually LIMITS YOUR SIGNAL in some angles or directions so as to improve the signal in another directional.

Most often this GAIN is due to making the signal travel closer to the earth and often high mountain or building mounted repeaters might not receive
your ground hugging signal so well. Also ,any NON-quarter way antenna is NON-RESONANT and requires a gimmick to make the radio MATCH the
mismatched antenna...often done with a coil or shunt ...both of which can waste some of your all important power.

For a Hand operated radio a gain antenna may help,but due to your body being part of the antenna (capacitive induction) you can do more by adding
a more direct 'ground' side of the antenna system a plug in Microphone or a TIGER TAIL (wire cut to length attached to radio's ground bus) will improve
antenna effectiveness and allow you to hold the radio a bit higher for often impressive improvement.

No matter how TACTICOOL it looks ,a body mounted belt,chest,or other pocket,holding the radio near your body costs you major signal loss as your body
absorbs most of the RF (you are mostly water you know) PROFESSIONAL as FIRE and POLICE can do this because of the density of their repeater network as
often their vehicle also is a repeater..This body mounted radio costs you nearly 20 DB signal loss and you can't make up for that.

NOW what about RADIO output POWER...DOUBLE your power for that often unnoticed 3 DB at the cost of much more radio HEAT and MUCH SHORTER BATTERY LIFE!
Sometimes higher power will help,often it will not help as much as moving to a different or higher location...often a foot one way or the other will do when on the edge..
try counting a few steps and then hope the other person you try to talk to will say FOUR or whatever was BEST...good deal get there and STAND STILL..Motion is
the enemy of your HT's effectiveness when at a distance from your other party.

And last tip,for now,is a better antenna ,like the BIG STICK with a rope ,pulled into a tree or a small BEAM to direct your signal and this is a big improvement
for BOTH transmit and receive that also can aide in your security as more radio signal is directed ONLY at your target and can make it harder to hear for those
not in your antennas path.

Join in ,what has improved your radio range?  I try to promote radio activity..HAM or otherwise, and make your communications more reliable and useful to you
as some day,you life may depend on it as so many found out during KATRINA and other disasters.

Also add some survey tape or bright color duct tape to your KIT ,maybe a mylar 'blanket' or even a flashlight as not all responders carry a radio..even a whistle
can make a big difference in being found. DON'T RELY ON ONE THING EVER...unless it is the only thing.

The BIG STICK  http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=49762.msg656992#msg656992

Great Mobile antenna  http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=58534.msg688966#msg688966

 
« Last Edit: August 12, 2016, 03:34:05 AM by Carl »

Offline DonC

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Re: How to BOOST your hand held radio for reliable communications
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2016, 03:50:23 AM »
Very well put! So much important and much needed information! Many folks in here should read/heed this post. As I've seen several different posts asking about everything you've just typed! KUDOS Carl!

Now, what has worked for me? First lemme say I often times despise QRP!  Why, well, I've been on the receiving end of somebody, who shall rename nameless, who thinks QRP is the only way to go. Everytime he gets on the air, he precedes every call with "am I making the repeater ok?"

We'll, my 1st experience with increased signal was before I even met you, Carl. I hadn't got my license yet, but my little Chinese Baofeng proved almost worthless. So, I spoke with a couple friends (Ed and Larry), and we found the "Tiger Tail." I believe it was a 19" wire we attached to our Baofeng. Bam! I was able to hear so much more from my little $25 radio.

2nd was meeting Carl and building the "Big Stick (home)," buying the sma to SO-239 adapter, and then eventually, my Tram 1185 (mobile)! All worked great!

To gain a little more power for longer use, I had bought the AA extended battery pack. Had I not met you, I probably would've burnt up my radio. (Enter the dummy AA battery).

I always carry several additional items with me. (Fire starter, mini flashlight, whistle, knife, etc. As you stated, radios are a good option, but not necessarily gonna work.

Another good practice would be to have several repeaters programmed into your radio. Let someone know what frequencies you'll be monitoring while out and about. (Wouldn't hurt to program in the tallest repeater as number 1. Also, the big thing now a days is linked repeater systems. I've seen them in my regular travels across 3 states, in all 3 states. They can be a pain day to day. But in an emergency, they could become a friend. So I have a few of those programmed as well.

Also doesn't hurt to plan your trip and pre-program repeaters for the major cities you'll be travelling through. I have 42 repeaters programmed by city name in a Baofeng that I take with me from Bossier City, LA to Altus, OK!

Finally, my last item is my mind! My military career has taught me to remain calm under pressure! So many people will/do panic! But if you take a couple seconds to step back and think, you'll be better equipped to handle most situations. (Yes, I know, you can't always take a couple seconds). All I can say to that is good luck! Believe it or not, breathing exercises do work!

That's a lot of info! Hopefully some of it will help!

-Don

Offline Bandingo

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Re: How to BOOST your hand held radio for reliable communications
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2016, 06:34:29 PM »
Great Mobile antenna  http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=58534.msg688966#msg688966

Excellent write up! Very helpful!
Your link for a great mobile antenna appears to be a link back to this thread?
Maybe I'm experiencing technical problems?

Offline Carl

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Re: How to BOOST your hand held radio for reliable communications
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2016, 10:57:42 PM »
Excellent write up! Very helpful!
Your link for a great mobile antenna appears to be a link back to this thread?
Maybe I'm experiencing technical problems?


Whoopsie!!!

Here is a better link to the TRAM 1185 ,low cost but great quality dual band magnet mount antenna..

https://www.amazon.com/Tram-1185-Amateur-Dual-Band-Antenna/dp/B0045EQUBK/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1472619379&sr=1-1&keywords=tram+1185+amateur+dual-band+magnet+antenna

Offline Sailor

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Re: How to BOOST your hand held radio for reliable communications
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2016, 10:57:48 AM »
Don't ever be tempted with the Tram 1480-81 as a base antenna.  Set screw that holds the aluminum mast to the SS base cracks the AL in that area.  I have seen this with 3 antennas. 

Offline Carl

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Re: How to BOOST your hand held radio for reliable communications
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2016, 12:32:01 PM »
Don't ever be tempted with the Tram 1480-81 as a base antenna.  Set screw that holds the aluminum mast to the SS base cracks the AL in that area.  I have seen this with 3 antennas.

I also have seen this and believe it is due to over torquing of the hardware but that is a base antenna and not the Mobile,Mag mount antenna I suggested above.