Author Topic: Ham Radio for Preppers,my experienced view  (Read 6484 times)

Offline Carl

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Ham Radio for Preppers,my experienced view
« on: August 27, 2015, 10:19:31 AM »
The ideal prepper radio is actually TWO radios, a VHF/UHF radio for local use (eyeball to 6 to 15  miles) and an HF radio for LONG DISTANCE use…the two radios have distinctively DIFFERENT USES and so should be TWO radios ,not one.Also a few hand held
radios will go a long way with a group of preppers.

The VHF/UHF should be a MOBILE radio that runs off or 12 Volts (actually 11 to 15 Volts) and can be powered by a vehicle battery or a power supply. YES, batteries are heavy ,but you need power to have reliable communications and while repeaters are great, they are TALL and rely on COMMERCIAL POWER so they can’t be relied on to be functional during an emergency. I use an inverter and a long
extension cord to run a radio outside of the vehicle and idle the auto if high power and lots of transmitting is needed.

Without repeaters, your HT is usable, if you programmed NON-REPEATER FREQUENCIES in it (you do plan ahead, don’t you?) ..Your handy radio will work from eyeball distance to 5 or so miles unless you or the other party are on high ground. And despite what you think HIGHER POWER hand held radios DO NOT ALLOW SIGNIFICANT RANGE INCREASE…they just eat precious battery power much faster.I have repeater frequencies,and the output of the repeater frequency for talk around capability ,besides many simplex (same transmit and receive frequency) channels in memory.

The typical mobile VHF/UHF radio has about 50 watts , some  are 10 to 20 watts and many offer up to 75 watts …the high power is rarely needed ,but good to have as it is a clue to the robustness of the radio. REMEMBER: LINE OF SIGHT and you will benefit as your mobile  to a similar mobile …is rarely good for more than 10 miles without one of you on a HIGH LOCATION or a repeater as VHF/UHF is line of sight and little RF goes through the EARTH to get to someone who is over the horizon (about 7 miles)

Repeaters sound great for many miles because they have high power….WRONG…
The typical repeater is a 50 watt radio with a set of cavities (filters) to use one antenna for BOTH transmitting and receiving at the same time and due to the losses of the cavities and feed line the typical repeater actually produces 20 watts at the antenna. So why do repeaters command such great coverage of an area? Because they are in a HIGH LOCATION…you can optimize your chances of being heard by thinking and getting to a high location for your VHF/UHF radio.

OK, we covered the basics of VHF/UHF…what about WORLD WIDE HF radio where Hams talk most anywhere in the world? The typical HF radio should be a radio capable of a MINIMUM of 20 watts and better 100 watts and run off of an auto battery or power supply. Why not low power?

Low power ,or QRP (the morse code abbreviation for low power) radios are small, often “CUTE” and use little power, so often internal batteries are used and can, when propagation allows and noise is not high, and someone is listening, and you have a good antenna…be heard at incredible distances. But any one of the above criteria can cause you endless frustration as NO ONE HEARS YOUR CALL.
Little batteries on the radio are often only good for 2 to 4 hours of operation...

If you want to run LOW POWER ,turn the power adjustment down on your 100 watt radio (What a concept) BUT keep the capability of 100 watts as often that is not enough either as HF signals must travel up to the “F” layer (50 to 75 miles up) and bounce back to earth and due to scattering of the bounced signal and the ‘garbage’ in the atmosphere VERY LITTLE of your bounced signal returns to earth …HUNDREDS OF MILES FROM YOU..but not closer.

ANY antenna and any HF radio needs a TUNER ,manual or automatic, internal or external…but you need it NOT too tune the antenna ,but to properly match the antenna to the impedance of the radio to PROTECT THE RADIO FROM HARM ,even if your antenna says it provides unheard of performance…SWR is NOT A SIGN OF A GOOD OR GREAT ANTENNA…it is the ratio of mismatch between the antenna and the radio THAT IS ALL. GET A TUNER,PROTECT YOUR RADIO! And stop cutting your antenna for SWR as to many factors are involved and the TUNER answers them without all the antenna work…the antenna works fine ,whether it is TUNED OR NOT…the tuner protects the radio.

So you can talk up to 10 or so miles with VHF/UHF and hundreds to thousands of miles with HF…but without real skill and a special antenna..YOU HAVE A TWILIGHT ZONE WHERE YOU CAN”T HEAR OR BE HEARD FROM 10 TO THE HUNDREDS OF MILES AWAY YOU CAN TALK WITH HF. That’s right …you can talk CLOSE ,you can talk FAR…BUT RARELY IN BETWEEN…without the skill to build and use NVIS antennas with your HF radio a big hole exists in your capability.

But you knew that, didn’t you?

This is why Ham radio is NOT A THING, but a SKILL, that must be used and practiced for the time you need it . I want to pass these skills to others as my health allows as like many skills needed for independence…these things are often neglected and forgotten as were many of my innovative antennas and skills were actually used and developed nearly a hundred years ago. I can answer most questions, but don’t expect YOUR ANSWER or an easy answer as I gained what little I know with many years of intense study and application …and I am still learning.


Something to read about SWR and antennas ...

http://www.qsl.net/arrlsb/Digest/Pages/Antennas/antennas03.html

Put the verb back in Ham Radio..

Offline Ken325

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Re: Ham Radio for Preppers,my experienced view
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2015, 04:18:19 PM »
This is a big topic but I appreciate the effort.  As a new Ham I think the most useful thing would be if people discuss the equipment choices they made and why.  For example the Baofeng UV5R is not a great radio but I have seen them for $27.  We should consider issues relevant to preppers like cost, size, weight, power requirements,ruggedness and other things.  We should also discuss other equipment like antennas and antenna tuners.  Maybe show pictures like the bug out bag threads.  I am a new inexperienced ham but I will start.

I have 3 Baofeng UV5Rs.  Not the best radio but at the crazy low price of $27 this is a no brainier.  Stash extra ones in your car or at work.  You can give them to less prepared people in your group.  Accessories are cheap as well.  They are a pain to program but you have a ton of online support.  Good first radio.  Once they are programmed they are surprisingly capable.  You can listen to police transmissions like a scanner if police in your area are not using a trunked system.  You can get weather broadcast and program it to work with FRS and GRMS radios (not legal to transmit except in an emergency). I would say even if you are not a Ham, if you have any interest in comms you should have at least one of these.  Get help getting it programmed or follow directions online. Upgrade the antenna, get an extra battery, you can get a battery pack that works with AA batteries. A roll up slim Jim antenna hung high in a tree will do the most for range. http://www.2wayelectronix.com/Dual-band-2m-70cm-Slim-Jim-Antenna-dual-slim.htm http://www.ar15.com/forums/t_10_22/664274_Baofeng_UV_5R_information.html http://www.miklor.com/

Kenwood TM-D710G- I bought this because of good reviews and I got a great deal on it.  This radio frequently goes for $700 and I got it new for $560.  It is probably to much radio for my skills but I want to learn about ecolink, APRS and other features.  I have not figured out all the features, but it seems easy to use.  The optional computer cable that uses a serial port is giving me some problems as I haven't owned a computer with a serial port in 9 years and all the USB to serial converters I have tried are wonky.  I'll comment more on this radio as I learn more about it.  I am currently using a slim Jim antenna mounted in my attic.

Yaesu VX6R- People kept telling me I needed a better HT than a UV5R.  I am very impressed with this so far.  Seems really rugged but the PTT button vibrates when in use.  That probably has something to do with waterproofing.  Anyway the reception on this is amazing.  With a Diamon SRH77CA antenna I can pull in transmissions from as far away as the Kenwood 710.  I can listen to AM, FM and shortwave broadcast.  Short wave works better with a long wire antenna or roll up slim jim antenna but I love having the capability of listening to international news.  Being able to listen to shortwave is a great thing for a prepper in my opinion.  The radio is very menu driven and complicated but everything works well.  I'm impressed. Accessories are  very expensive compared to Baofeng.  This is probably the radio I would take If I was bugging out.  Very Capable.  If I was doing it again I might consider the VX-8R for the few extra features and tri-band transmission.

Uniden HomePatrol 2 scanner:  A scanner is great for gathering intelligence on the situation around you and it can be entertaining to listen to police.  This one is too dam expensive ($420) but you will have to pay about $400 for a scanner that can listen to all the digital and trunked systems.  This one will listen to everything but encrypted military transmissions.  It is very easy to set up and use with included software.  Bonus points for using a common micro USB cable to charge the battery. That is a feature I am looking for in more of my gear as I have AC and DC adapters for USB everywhere, and they are cheap.  Proprietary cables and chargers suck and serial port cables are really stupid.  This is sort of mobile but it is more for desktop use.  Other models are more mobile. The supplied rubber duck antenna works but you need a external antenna to use in a vehicle.  I have a spectrumforce SMA-201S based on recommendations from online.






Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Ham Radio for Preppers,my experienced view
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2015, 04:39:04 PM »
Ken,

We could have distinct conversations for portables (handi/walkie talkies), mobile units (VHF/UHF) and of course HF.

If you attempt to combine it's a bit like debating pocket knife or chainsaw.  I don't want to saw tree limbs with a pocket knife, but I also don't want to carry around a chainsaw.

If I was mentoring new technician amateurs, I could strongly encourage a quality, if basic, mobile radio.  It's so much easier to get started with a little more power, easier to understand menus and programming - and given that there is a fairly high defect rate of the baofengs, using a yaesu/kenwood/icom to get started does give needed confidence.  Otherwise how would the rookie operator know if it was the radio of them?

Don't get me wrong, I own a couple uv5r radios too, and use them.  I have had to returned one to amazon with a bad internal mic.  It's possible a brand new ham might not be as able to deduct the root problems.  Of course YMMV.

Carl taught me some time ago the joys and advantages of home made antennas.  It forces you to understand how things work, is not expensive and actually is an improvement over many commercial offerings.

Offline Carl

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Re: Ham Radio for Preppers,my experienced view
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2015, 05:41:22 PM »
I tend to agree as 'What radio is best?' is more of a matter of what radio you have. I personally say that one should START with a simple 100 watt HF radio and an automatic antenna tuner(actually antenna matcher) and a VHF 50 watt or so mobile...because it can handle 50 watts lends some robustness to it as most often 5 to 20 watts will do the job just fine as the extra power does little for range on FM.
  Next will be a couple of budget ,dual band HT's for Ham or NON Ham use on unlicensed bands as local ,support communications.
While performing emergency comms,I have logged to users,as many as 8 HT's (so I can advise or page for their presence) plus two HF radios and two VHF fifty watt radios...and two PC's for internet and digital communications.

A prepper/emergency operator should be well versed and flexible with ALL deployed gear and modes of operation
and NVIS antenna use ..NVIS is needed to allow for better LOCAL (0 to 250 miles) solid communications and also
works well in hills and valleys where the 'line of sight' VHF/UHF radios fail to give adequate coverage.

Offline Ken325

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Re: Ham Radio for Preppers,my experienced view
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2015, 06:38:06 PM »
Understood but that first post was more of a basic theory on what radios you need based on capability.  As a new ham that is actually not hard, and I understood it already.  I need to learn about NVIS but the rest I mostly understood.  Buying a $1000 to $2000 HF radio is scary if you don't have experience.  I should join a club, but the average age of the club in my area is 80.  Yeah, this is a very big topic.  I still think Youtube reviews and people talking about their equipment has been the most helpful.  I still need to do a lot of research. 

Understood on the VHF mobile being easier.  It is a lot easier, but it is expensive.  A $26 dollar radio to start with is awesome.  When I understood what I could do with a $26 dollar radio, that is when I decided I needed a license.  You can  do a lot without transmitting (fm broadcast, weather, police, GMRS-FRS).  Think about people who have a bug out bag without something like this.  They may have a little crank radio but that is it.  I think a $26 dollar HT radio is a game changer.

Offline Carl

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Re: Ham Radio for Preppers,my experienced view
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2015, 07:18:05 PM »
Understood but that first post was more of a basic theory on what radios you need based on capability.  As a new ham that is actually not hard, and I understood it already.  I need to learn about NVIS but the rest I mostly understood.  Buying a $1000 to $2000 HF radio is scary if you don't have experience.  I should join a club, but the average age of the club in my area is 80.  Yeah, this is a very big topic.  I still think Youtube reviews and people talking about their equipment has been the most helpful.  I still need to do a lot of research. 

Understood on the VHF mobile being easier.  It is a lot easier, but it is expensive.  A $26 dollar radio to start with is awesome.  When I understood what I could do with a $26 dollar radio, that is when I decided I needed a license.  You can  do a lot without transmitting (fm broadcast, weather, police, GMRS-FRS).  Think about people who have a bug out bag without something like this.  They may have a little crank radio but that is it.  I think a $26 dollar HT radio is a game changer.

Don't forget the FLASHLIGHT! 

NVIS or Near Vertical Incidence Skywave is an imposing name for the way you arrange your antenna
to bounce the HF signal off of the "F" layer (50 to 75 miles) above the earths surface...
If your antenna is 1/4 wavelength above the ground you have a low to medium angle and the signal will be heard
from ZERO to 10 Miles or so and ,after it reflects off the "F" layer can be heard again from 250 to thousands of miles away..
We want to be heard in the VOID in between and so we change the bounce angle by lowering the horizontal antenna
to 10 to 15 feet above the ground.

NVIS is a radio skill more than an antenna ,and it is far easier to do than the name suggests.

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Ham Radio for Preppers,my experienced view
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2015, 10:55:36 AM »

Offline Chemsoldier

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Re: Ham Radio for Preppers,my experienced view
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2015, 11:32:48 AM »
My inexperienced view on HTs...

The baofeng is so bloody cheap everyone should buy a couple.  I don't care if you are licensed or not.  However, they are awful to learn how to use radios on, especially if you are not electronically inclined.  They continue to be frustrating to me to the point of I would rather not operate than figure out how to change settings on the thing.  When I have time and CHIRP available, no problem.  But if I get away from my home territory and need to change repeaters and do not already have it programmed...screw it.  I would rather hang out on national simplex calling or listen to a podcast.  That may be the wrong answer for a ham, but it is what it is.

Many of the more expensive, major brand HTs have far more intuitive menus. I had an unlicensed buddy bring his Motorola HT he bought in to the office and a few minutes with the factory manual we programmed it and walked outside and hit the local repeater.  So I guess there is something to be said for "better" radios.

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Ham Radio for Preppers,my experienced view
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2015, 11:59:47 AM »
There are many scenarios where leveraging your local repeaters could save your (or someone else's) bacon.

There are also many cases where the repeater infrastructure won't be available.  I highly recommend folks learn where they can hit their local repeaters from.  I do this routinely when mobile in my truck. If I'm in a different location, like a river valley, I'll throw out my call and see if I can hit it.  Likewise you should have an idea of your simplex range as well.

For example, from the second story of my house with my baofeng at 5 watts I can reliably reach 10 miles since I'm up on a hill with clear line of sight into a valley.  With 50 watts and a jpole 15 feet higher in my attic, I have reached as far as 70 miles, but can do 40 miles reliably where there's only sea water between stations that are on hills.

It may be worth your time to study topographical maps of your area.  You might only be a few miles from a higher elevation that doubles your VHF TX range, or perhaps a different angle gets a hill on the receiving end out of the path enough for a good signal.

Assuming you know how to program/operate any radio that's available, I'll always take the highest ground and best antenna available before a fancier radio.  Once you get that sorted out, you can choose if having a bunch of Baofengs, a fancy HT or a mobile rig will serve you best.

Offline SCWolverine

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Re: Ham Radio for Preppers,my experienced view
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2015, 02:26:14 PM »
http://prepperrecon.com/shemitah-comms-readiness/

Ham Radio for Preppers...hey, I just talked about that.  ;)

Offline Carl

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Re: Ham Radio for Preppers,my experienced view
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2015, 03:06:02 PM »
What I hope is that I am saving them from the mistakes I made in the last 25 years of finding out what works.
It pains me to see people throwing money at something when a simple fix is available or trying to do, with radio ,what can't realistically be done.Like SMURF,when I told him to get a mobile radio FIRST and later a handy talkie so he could better understand the capabilities of both. And while QRP is a great FUN RADIO,for emergencies you want MORE POWER to be heard and save the low power for fun weekend adventure. Like rappelling with a string......often my advise is not understood as the hard earned wisdom that it is.


Now I will listen to what Cale has to say... :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn:

Offline armymars

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Re: Ham Radio for Preppers,my experienced view
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2015, 06:04:36 PM »
  Unless you are into CW or PSK31 100 watts makes a whole lot more sense. The reason some people are into QRP for emergency radios is many QRP rigs have very low power consumption on receive compared to bigger radios. Or because of there low weight for back packing. In most cases you'll find they run CW. If your in the wilderness and in trouble and don't care who you talk to for help this will work. If you need to talk to a certain someone and can't wait till dark when the bands are often at there best you want power and a good antenna.
  For any operation make sure you have a good antenna. It can make or break you. So often in Mars I've worked on other peoples antennas to improve their signal. At my own house when I installed a remote antenna tuner my signal jumped 1 full S unit. When the other station has an S9 noise level this make a big difference.
  Last learn about propagation. On HF this is so important. Read up on VOCAP. When the internet is down it's the best we have to find a good frequency.