Ham Radios

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Koda
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Ham Radios

Post by Koda » September 23rd, 2014, 4:57 pm

I have no experience with them. We often discuss PLB or communication devices (SPOT, Sat Phones...) which are usually expensive and I don't know why its escaped me until now but... just something I'm curious about, specifically the compact ones, Ham radios. They are affordable and compact enough to consider taking outdoors. Wikipedia says they can be used for private communication, emergency communication and "a variety of voice, text, image, and data communications modes and have access to frequency allocations throughout the RF spectrum to enable communication across a city, region, country, continent, the world, or even into space."

sounds like the perfect device...?

Correct me if I am wrong: don't Ham Radios give the operator an excellent range far beyond cellphone tower range limitations? And if so, would the compact ones reach out the same? Would the compact ones reach out far enough to be reliable at all times all places outdoors? And if so... is there an "emergency" channel?

Yes, I know you need a license to operate one. Side topic: Anyone know the process and how much?

I'm thinking along the lines of one like this for only $40... http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KDRV91E?psc=1

Image

Lastly, I thought about posting this in the gear section but any interest in this would be for emergency use outdoors.
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Lurch
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Re: Ham Radios

Post by Lurch » September 23rd, 2014, 5:13 pm

There is a lot you could do with a legit HAM, and yes you could reach out much further than a normal cellphone.

That said, they require a bit more technical expertise to use properly and get the most out of the unit. We could dive into that if you REALLY want to, and there's probably people on the boards here with far more expertise than me.

You most definitely "get what you pay for" though, a $40 radio will do you just fine running around town with occasional use. It's going to lack in durability and weatherproofness that you may be legitimately wishing for during a survival scenario. That said, having direct communications with a SAR team would be extremely helpful for us! Can't think of a search where anyone was carrying their own coms though (outside of a cellphone).

Overall, unless you have friends that are also HAM's, it would probably be fairly boring unless you plan on getting into the community. The real advantage that you're going to have a lot of places is a fairly well established network of repeaters, that will allow you to communicate far beyond the range of a single handheld. You can also nuture your inner nerd and get into APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) where you can tie you radio into a GPS and it will do burst transmissions of your coordinates. You spend the money for a better handheld and some have a built in GPS and are ready to roll with APRS. That's also what most people use for texting and such. You can take a peak at the local APRS stuff and tap into the dozens of amateur weather stations and more over here: http://aprs.fi/#!addr=portland%20OR

IF you do go that route, and get your license, make sure your friends and family know what freq you'll be monitoring, and what your callsign is.

Lumpy
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Re: Ham Radios

Post by Lumpy » September 23rd, 2014, 6:36 pm

Sub-topics that are germane to this subject:
Amateur radio repeaters
QRP HF operation
APRS
Amateur satellite communications
Amateur radio wilderness protocol
Amateur radio vhf and uhf calling frequencies

I've been licensed since 1995 and hold a General class license. I'm sure there are many HAMs on this forum. Please ask any questions you might have, happy to answer if i can, or I'll try to find the answer.

KC7NOL (hey Adam, guess I'm not so anonymous any more! :))
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Koda
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Re: Ham Radios

Post by Koda » September 23rd, 2014, 6:57 pm

So it sounds like there is definitely potential, if not the ideal application for outdoor use if one of the smaller/compact units can be found reliable or durable enough for the outdoor task!?!?!?

Do the small compact units put out? Just how fragile are the cheaper ones? I figure if they are for emergency or rarely used in the backcountry then they could just stay enclosed in the pack for the most part. Or, if one compared prices to say a Satellite phone or other device (SPOT etc.) then certainly one can find a durable "rugged" compact unit in the same price range? I dont mind spending money on something thats worth it, I'm frugal but not cheap.

I could possible have interest in this if the whole licensing thing isn't a huge cost or burden to do, can you tell me about that? Does the license last a lifetime? One of the things that turns me off to other PLB devices is paid subscriptions for the service.
Lurch wrote:You can also nuture your inner nerd and get into APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) where you can tie you radio into a GPS and it will do burst transmissions of your coordinates. You spend the money for a better handheld and some have a built in GPS and are ready to roll with APRS. How much more does this cost? That's also what most people use for texting and such.
can you give me an example of a unit that is capable of this, average price?
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n.bumppo
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Re: Ham Radios

Post by n.bumppo » September 23rd, 2014, 7:35 pm

I have an amateur radio license and have have friends with licenses. We have used radios in the woods with mixed success. Our last attempt on Mt Adams was unsuccessful. We left for the mountain at different times and planned to connect with radios to help with the rendezvous. We did eventually got to the same campsite. We never did communicate with our radios. Handheld radios operate on frequencies that require line-of-sight communication. The hills and valleys in the mountains interfere with the radio signal.
Dave

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Koda
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Re: Ham Radios

Post by Koda » September 23rd, 2014, 7:57 pm

n.bumppo wrote:I have an amateur radio license and have have friends with licenses. We have used radios in the woods with mixed success. Our last attempt on Mt Adams was unsuccessful. We left for the mountain at different times and planned to connect with radios to help with the rendezvous. We did eventually got to the same campsite. We never did communicate with our radios. Handheld radios operate on frequencies that require line-of-sight communication. The hills and valleys in the mountains interfere with the radio signal.
this is something I'm curious about. Do the portable (compact) Ham radios perform much better than the typical GMRS radios in the terrain (hills and valleys)? Or is it about the same?
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Lumpy
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Re: Ham Radios

Post by Lumpy » September 23rd, 2014, 8:38 pm

Depends. FRS radios are illegal to modify, even to improve the antenna. HAMs can do any modifications they like as long as the modification isn't a flagrant violation of the law (somewhat difficult to understand) and keeps the radio operating within amateur radio rules (even a terrible modification that has the radio operating within amateur radio rules and doesn't cause any illegal interference will likely not be bitten by a law.)

The antennas that come in the box with most radios are terrible. However, there are more aftermarket antennas available than fleas on a dog, and you can make your own. You don't have this option with an FMRS radio, it's simply illegal. Throw in that it is legal (not necessarily safe or easy) to use more transmitting power and communications over long distances and varied terrain is more possible. I have a radio in my car that has cross-band repeat built in, and that is very helpful. I can run it off a battery other than the one that starts the engine so no fear of getting stranded.
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Lumpy
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Re: Ham Radios

Post by Lumpy » September 23rd, 2014, 8:40 pm

I have a Yaesu VX8 with APRS built in, gps receiver is extra, and it works well. You could search for vx8 and see what prices come up. Most folks rig up aprs to attach to their radio gear, but built in aprs is available.
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Lurch
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Re: Ham Radios

Post by Lurch » September 23rd, 2014, 9:39 pm

Yeasu's are nice, but they're going to be spendy.

I think you're going to mainly run into the durability problems if you're out *using* it all the time. If you're keeping the radio secure for emergency use only it would probably do you just fine.

You wattage is going to play a factor in your reach, that example has a low power mode, and high power is 5w. It gets hard to find things much higher than 7w. Higher wattage is going to be a trade off between range, and weight, size, and battery life. Antenna quality and tuning are another key factor there.

A license is "Free" but taking the test and submitting the initial paperwork costs. I believe testing sessions are around $20ish these days and last for 10 years, they can be renewed for free through the FCC, basically saying "I'm not dead yet!" and they re-issue it. There are a number of websites you can take practice tests on and study for free.

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Waffle Stomper
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Re: Ham Radios

Post by Waffle Stomper » September 24th, 2014, 7:51 am

You can get quality hand held units, remember you do need to get a license to operate. It's not that difficult to do. Remember they are limited by obstacles blocking the radio signal and they are limited by their short antennas although there are ways to add antenna power. There are many ham radio groups in the area. I would recommend you attend a meeting or two. I have found them to be very welcoming. The downside of them is knowing what frequency is being monitored in the area you are in.
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