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Help me find a ham radio!

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I have an ugly situation. My girlfriend lives 37 miles away from me. In case of a SHTF type of emergency, if the power were to go out, I would have no way to communicate with her. The easiest thing to do would be to move in together but that won't be happening until we finish graduate school (easily 3-5 years depending on some factors). We've been preparing for a SHTF scenario with our BOB but in the likely event that we are not together I'd like to be able to contact her. From my initial and limited research, I've figured out that my only option for a 37 mile distance would be to get a HAM radio.

 

But its not that simple! It never is. From what I've read I would have to get two Ham radios (one for her and one for me) that produce significantly more than 4 watts. I've done some reading and it doesn't look like it'll be cheap, although I stopped researching prematurely because of information overload.

 

I'm hoping someone on this forum can help me figure out a nice frugal system so that I can communicate with my woman in case of a SHTF scenario. I don't have a lot of money to spend but if I have to build up slowly I will do that. Just keep in mind cost is a major factor.

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You would need as a minimum a Tech license for both you and her. And two 2 meter hand held radios. Then it is just a repeater frequency away.

 

Gordan West teaches a class for about $150. http://www.gordonwestradioschool.com/ takes a week end. I am sure there are other class in you local area.

 

You can get 2 meter HTs as low as $90. I like AES www.aesham.com. Then there is the used market and Ebay.

 

And a copy of the local "ban plan". I got this one when I first started "ARTSCI REPEATER MAPBK 15TH ED", but have found locally published manuals cheaper and more accurate.

 

Then get out an practice.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Rosemead Kf6OSK

Edited by Rosemead

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My knowledge on radio comms is limited to military systems and operations throughout the spectrum I personally own an AN/GRC 37 HF selectable sideband transciever operable in the 2 to 25 meter bandwiths so I can talk on the Ham/Mars systems, as well as several VHF and UHF systems still working on a VHF satcomm unit. But I do need to get off my Butt and get my Civilian certs so I can open up my operating choices

Edited by warrior7r

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OK, guys. I've been on the radios instead of the forums - I won't apologize cause I've been having fun. I've talked to 5 continents, 6 nations and over a dozen states in 2 days! My radio club SKCC is doing a special event station and I've been helping. Love the insanity of it - all Morse code by the way!

 

OK, to your questions; I first need to know foot only, car, both? For the high frequency bands is not so important. One of the stations I talked to was in Maine and running less than 3 watts! The guy in France was running 800 watts. I usually run around 100 on HF and 5 to 10 on VHF.

 

OK, basic license is the Technician followed by the General class. With the technician, (assuming you only want voice - I LOVE code but there's no accounting for tastes) you can use voice on ten meters. To explain; CB radios work on 11 meters. Ten and twelve meters (Speed of light (300,000,000 meters/sec) divided by frequency in Hz (28MHz = 28,000,000 Hz) equals wave length ( 10 meters in this example)) are ham bands. You can, and I have, work the world on 10 meters and 5 watts. All depends on sun activity mostly and skip. For close in work, up to 50 miles, 10 meters and 6 meters (50 MHz) are solid. They also get some skip but are usually good for local work. 2 meters is 144 MHz. I have some 2 meter handhelds, again, technicians can use them, are good for 'extended' line of sight. 10 to 15 miles is always solid. With the repeaters, you can cover a state if done right. Of course, after TSHTF, the repeaters may go off line. Before cell phones (yes, I am that old) my wife got her license so we could talk to each other on road trips and such. Much less crowded than CB and during the Rita evacuation the cell phones were jammed but being several miles apart was no problem for the 2 meter handheld radios.

 

Tell my your intent, walk, drive or bug in?

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Im also looking for a ham set up,just like exit I had way to much information to absorb.

It looks like a hand held 2 meter is where I should start,that way I can keep in touch with my lady also.

I will need 2 and after searching a bit they run about 70 to 100 pluss the addons.recharger and mobile antenna extra battery.

I will take ALL ADVICE on this matter..realy da ah

and because I have a mountain near by at 3500 ft,(scenic over look)I could get Texas or any where for that matter.

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Im also looking for a ham set up,just like exit I had way to much information to absorb.

It looks like a hand held 2 meter is where I should start,that way I can keep in touch with my lady also.

I will need 2 and after searching a bit they run about 70 to 100 pluss the addons.recharger and mobile antenna extra battery.

I will take ALL ADVICE on this matter..realy da ah

and because I have a mountain near by at 3500 ft,(scenic over look)I could get Texas or any where for that matter.

 

Ham Radio doesn't exactly rely on elevation as much as it does on repeaters. As long as you can hit a local repeater, you're good.

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OK, guys. I've been on the radios instead of the forums - I won't apologize cause I've been having fun. I've talked to 5 continents, 6 nations and over a dozen states in 2 days! My radio club SKCC is doing a special event station and I've been helping. Love the insanity of it - all Morse code by the way!

 

Is Morse code hard to learn? All that sounds like fun!

 

OK, to your questions; I first need to know foot only, car, both? For the high frequency bands is not so important. One of the stations I talked to was in Maine and running less than 3 watts! The guy in France was running 800 watts. I usually run around 100 on HF and 5 to 10 on VHF.

 

I have only the faintest idea what you're talking about lol but to answer your question I'd like to be able to walk with my Ham radio. I don't want a home set up.

 

OK, basic license is the Technician followed by the General class. With the technician, (assuming you only want voice - I LOVE code but there's no accounting for tastes) you can use voice on ten meters. To explain; CB radios work on 11 meters. Ten and twelve meters (Speed of light (300,000,000 meters/sec) divided by frequency in Hz (28MHz = 28,000,000 Hz) equals wave length ( 10 meters in this example)) are ham bands. You can, and I have, work the world on 10 meters and 5 watts. All depends on sun activity mostly and skip. For close in work, up to 50 miles, 10 meters and 6 meters (50 MHz) are solid. They also get some skip but are usually good for local work. 2 meters is 144 MHz. I have some 2 meter handhelds, again, technicians can use them, are good for 'extended' line of sight. 10 to 15 miles is always solid. With the repeaters, you can cover a state if done right. Of course, after TSHTF, the repeaters may go off line. Before cell phones (yes, I am that old) my wife got her license so we could talk to each other on road trips and such. Much less crowded than CB and during the Rita evacuation the cell phones were jammed but being several miles apart was no problem for the 2 meter handheld radios.

 

Tell my your intent, walk, drive or bug in?

 

I intend to walk/drive. I need something I can take with me wherever I go but that is good for 40miles... so based on what you say... operates on 10 meters or 6 meters...

 

Any suggestions? I'm trying to figure out whether I'll be able to afford something like that.

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OK,

You might still want to think about a home setup at your BOL. More power, especially in VHF is good.

 

Go to http://www.aesham.com/ (amateur electronics supply) for new gear listings. If you have a local club, those guys can help you find what you need.

 

6 meter car installations run around $300.

http://search.cartserver.com/search/search.cgi?bool=AND&cartid=a-6994&category=newprices&maxhits=600&keywords=6m+xcvr&go.x=22&go.y=7

 

A two meter used unit can run from $70 to $150 dollars for a hand held. Those will be 5 watt output. You can get higher power (up to 25 watts for car mounted units but these will cost a tad more used).

 

Something to be aware of is the antenna. Physics is physics and there are NO FREE lunches. Normally an antenna must be a fraction of the operating frequency wave length. For VHF that is not too bad. A 2 meter radio must have about a half meter or about 2 feet of antenna for best results. You can play games with loading coils to use more or less, but that is for the transmitter. What counts is what the signal sees as it is trying to leave the antenna. A 10 meter rig needs about 2.5 meters of antenna. Think in the neighborhood of 8 feet. Getting hard to carry, not bad on a vehicle (even a bicycle) but tough to walk with.

 

If you are interested in learning Morse Code (CW in ham slang - for continuous wave - it is how most rigs create code) it isn't tough. There are some neat programs out there to help you learn. As I type I have a Zane Gray book being 'read' to me through my earphones in CW. My kids think I'm a geek but it is good practice. A great group (shameless plug follows) is the "Straight Key Century Club" at http://www.skccgroup.com/ a lot of great guys there to help. Also your local club can help and can help you find good deals locally on gear. I'd stay away from eBay until you know what you're looking at. The photo of the Swan would interest me but I like old boat anchors (tube type radios). I recommend new guys stay away from them unless you have someone who is skilled at using them. Do something wrong and you ruin a hard to find tube. Do something really wrong and all of the tube sets (even "low" powered ones) contain lethal voltages. They are also heavy so not very portable.

 

Matt has a good idea - get with a local club. If you wish, send me a private email with your location (general city area is enough) and I'll help you find leads on a club. Repeaters on vhf are good as long as they are up. Depending on how deep into TSHTF things are, they may not be available. 6 meters "foot" mobile is possible but the antenna requirements can be awkward. Always tradeoffs.

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I'm willing to go with a car set up if thats what it takes. At least with a car set up the HAM its not dependent on grid power.

 

We got hit by a hurricane not so long ago and everyone lost power. Communication was difficult at best (lan lines still worked). Now that my girl lives 37 miles away I definitely need a mobile alternative.

 

I'll PM you my info, I'd definitely be interested in joining a club to get me started. I need guidance because I have A LOT to learn.

 

Thanks to everyone who has contributed :)

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Thanks also.

After talking with the Misses we will be going with a hand held for me and a car mounted unit for her that she asures me she can hook up in the house as a semi base station.Ok she has a 2 years Elect. Engr. degree.

luv them tecks.

Edited by 101matt

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Is Morse code hard to learn? All that sounds like fun!

 

Nope, not hard. Lots of folks do it. I find the computer training aids very useful. I like K7QO's teaching method. Go to http://www.skccgroup.com/links.htm for a bunch of training aids. The SKCC (Straight Key Century Club) is a bunch of CW nuts ( I belong, by the way B)) who enjoy the use of manual keys.

 

They will be glad to help. Once you get a technician license (code not required for any license) you can then play with the code on the HF bands once you learn it. I was privileged to be the first code contact for a couple of kids. It is a thrill to talk to a 9 year old girl via code. Feels good. I've also talked to New Zealand when the static was so bad that voice would never have worked.

 

Good luck and if you decide to go forward with code, let me know. I'll help if at all possible.

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If you're going to use amateur radio, first thing to do is get an amateur license. Not too difficult so far, just get the license manual and study for a month or so. Radios can be had for not too much (plan on at least $100 for an entry-level handheld). 5 watts with a good antenna system should do 37 miles, as long as there's not too much high ground in between. Chances are better than average that there's an active ham repeater nearby that you can access.

 

Another thing to check, if you don't want to take a license test, is GMRS. It operates on a UHF band similar to the ham 70 cM band, and requires a license, but no test. It also allows for repeater stations, which extend your communications range.

 

Even Citizen's Band should do 37 miles with decent antennas, but you have to put up with all the "good buddy" garbage, and a lot of other stuff that's not fun to listen to.

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If you're going to use amateur radio, first thing to do is get an amateur license. Not too difficult so far, just get the license manual and study for a month or so. Radios can be had for not too much (plan on at least $100 for an entry-level handheld). 5 watts with a good antenna system should do 37 miles, as long as there's not too much high ground in between. Chances are better than average that there's an active ham repeater nearby that you can access.

 

Another thing to check, if you don't want to take a license test, is GMRS. It operates on a UHF band similar to the ham 70 cM band, and requires a license, but no test. It also allows for repeater stations, which extend your communications range.

 

Even Citizen's Band should do 37 miles with decent antennas, but you have to put up with all the "good buddy" garbage, and a lot of other stuff that's not fun to listen to.

 

Do 'repeaters' need power? I'm not really sure what a repeater is... although I assume it repeats the signal giving you longer range... I'm just wondering if a hurricane came and knocked out all local power if the repeaters would still function

 

But I don't know what it actually _is_ and who sets them up and how to use them.

I guess I will learn all this stuff along the way... first I gotta get licensed...

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Thanks also.

After talking with the Misses we will be going with a hand held for me and a car mounted unit for her that she asures me she can hook up in the house as a semi base station.Ok she has a 2 years Elect. Engr. degree.

luv them tecks.

 

Nice! I love it when things work out easily..

 

Nope, not hard. Lots of folks do it. I find the computer training aids very useful. I like K7QO's teaching method. Go to http://www.skccgroup.com/links.htm for a bunch of training aids. The SKCC (Straight Key Century Club) is a bunch of CW nuts ( I belong, by the way B)) who enjoy the use of manual keys.

 

They will be glad to help. Once you get a technician license (code not required for any license) you can then play with the code on the HF bands once you learn it. I was privileged to be the first code contact for a couple of kids. It is a thrill to talk to a 9 year old girl via code. Feels good. I've also talked to New Zealand when the static was so bad that voice would never have worked.

 

Good luck and if you decide to go forward with code, let me know. I'll help if at all possible.

 

Will do Bart! I'm going to focus on getting the basics down first. If I decide to learn Morse code later I'll definitely ask you some questions for guidance later. That's pretty cool that a 9 year old was using CW, I would have never guessed.

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A repeater is a radio set mounted as high as possible. It receives your signal and retransmits it on another frequency. They can be set up and maintained by any Ham, but are usually owned and operated by a club. There is one in Los Angles Co that is owned and operated by the Sheriffs office. All of the repeaters I know of have back up power and can be expected to run a week. This all goes to earth quake preparedness.

 

The Santa Catalina repeater is my favorite:

http://www.qsl.net/catalina/Island%20Repeater%20Pictures.htm

 

It is 26 miles from the coast, and a 3000 feet. It reaches all of the Los Angles basin and down to San Diego and north to Santa Barbra. With multiple frequences.

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Do 'repeaters' need power? I'm not really sure what a repeater is... although I assume it repeats the signal giving you longer range... I'm just wondering if a hurricane came and knocked out all local power if the repeaters would still function

 

But I don't know what it actually _is_ and who sets them up and how to use them.

I guess I will learn all this stuff along the way... first I gotta get licensed...

 

Rosemead is correct. Hams, usually clubs but not always, own, license and operate the repeaters. They receive on one frequency and retransmit what they receive on another. On 2 meters it is usually 600 Khz difference but not always. Sometimes it is cross band. To use a repeater most (all newer) 2 meter radios have a built in "split" function. They receive on one frequency and transmit on another. The local repeater at the Johnson Space Center (owned by the JSC HAM CLUB) uses 146.640. They transmit on 146.640 and receive on 146.040. To use the repeater, I set my hand held to 146.640 and -600. That means receive 146.640 (W5RRR's transmit frequency) and transmit on 146.040 ( W5RRR's receive frequency). Using that system I can talk over a distance of better than 30 miles.

 

Repeaters that have a role in emergency plans almost always have backup power. Most hams have backup power of some form and clubs like to see to it that their repeaters do as a public service. They don't have to so it is hard to know. Some repeaters (fewer since the advent of cell phones) have 'auto-dial' that lets you get into the phone system. Last time I was involved in a traffic accident I used the W5RRR repeater to summon police and EMT help.

 

You, as a licensed ham, could set up your own repeater. It is just a paper work drill. The units are not cheap but they are also no more expensive than a good rifle.

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Well just came back from breakfast with the local "Hamm" club.They even bought me breakfast.Great people and one man in club gives the test.It was a good morning with very good people.Down loading test today and test is Feb,11th.Only $15 to take test.They gave me more understanding of what to use and lots of common cence and understanding.To join its $15 a year.The club has 5 repetters in the area and works with the local 911.They use the old goverment stuff when 911 gets fed money to update.3 repetters have generators on them.

Oh yes I joined.

For any ham operator out there..call sighns of club member..

WG8D..Doug

KD3NQF...Dee

KC8LGR...Roger

WD800R...Don

Will post mine when I get my "hamm"..

Again Thanks for all the great imput on this..

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