Just passed Ham radio exam. Anyone running one while adventuring?

Discussion in 'Pacific Northwet - Where it's green. And wet.' started by tunus, Aug 8, 2016.

  1. tunus

    tunus Been here awhile

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    I've been meaning to get a ham radio license for a while and finally got around to doing the test this weekend. I actually passed the technician and general exams in one sitting and it wasn't hard at all. My studying strategy involved reading the No-nonsense study guides (both about 40 pages long) reviewing the study flash cards on hamstudy.org and doing a few practice exams. Overall the technician exam was fairly easy, while the general required a little more in-depth understanding of radios and electronics.

    Now that I am licensed, I'm looking to add a ham radio to my tool set when I'm out adventuring. Anyone else running a ham radio while riding? I'd appreciate any tips on radios or entire setups that has worked for you.

    73
    #1
  2. sprocket3

    sprocket3 Been here awhile

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    Congrats! Welcome to circa 1952 chat rooms!

    I got mine about 10 years ago. Most of the people that are active users are sitting in their radio room waiting for someone to ping the local repeater they monitor. The conversations usually involve the weather, what radio they like, or health aliments. It got boring after 1 beer. When you're mobile you spend all kinds of time trying to find local repeaters and checking in with people. This is as distracting as texting while you drive and I would say about impossible on a bike in any safe way. I had it in a 4x4 I just sold and didn't use it in the last 4 years at all, it went with the 4x4.

    I would not invest in any mobile gear unless you have riding buddies that are going into it as well. I don't think it's good for a safety net at all, it can't be counted on. I had a decent antenna on the 4x4 and every repeater in the state programmed. So many places I went there was zero coverage. I've put my money on Verizon before Ham. Get Spot if that's what you want it for.

    What I would buy is a nice unit for the house that runs off 12 Volt and back up power to have something when the zombies take down all the cell towers.
    #2
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  3. BlueSmokeWrench

    BlueSmokeWrench Been here awhile

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    Congrats on getting your ticket!

    I haven't actually taken the plunge to install one to use while riding. Having an ICOM IC-7100 in the truck and having used it extensively during last winter's Alcan 5000 I find it will definitely take attention away from the job at hand. I do throw a cheap-ass Baofeng 8W radio with an antenna upgrade in the luggage on the bike. Along with my Delorme in-reach. The cheap radios are unlocked on all frequencies so might be better in an emergency on alternate frequencies. But that also is slightly not kosher for a ham operator to be on. But hey, if it's an emergency...

    73
    K1GTL (General Class Licensee)
    #3
  4. tunus

    tunus Been here awhile

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    Appreciate the comments. I already have the Delorme Inreach traveling with me for real emergencies and that has worked well. My intention is not to use a radio while riding, but to have another communications tool in my toolkit. Since I don't really know what I'm doing yet, I'm thinking of starting with a cheap vhg/uhf Baofeng and upgraded antenna just to learn the basics before investing in anything really.
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  5. Dan Diego

    Dan Diego Long timer

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  6. sprocket3

    sprocket3 Been here awhile

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  7. PapaWolf

    PapaWolf When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

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    Congrats! I got my Tech license earlier this year too, but havent had time to get properly set up and operating yet. The girlfriend and I did each get a Baofeng UV-82HP with the Nagoya NA-771 whip antenna upgrade.

    Our initial impetus to get our licenses was to have a way to establish comms during a disaster, assuming we are not in the same part of town, or if I am out of town for work. As we started looking into it more, there is a lot of use for amateur radio in disaster response in general (international and regional/statewide for her, local/community response, and soon to be state, for me).

    I havent taken my radio on my bike yet, although I think I will for the WABDR trip I am doing later this month, see what repeaters I can hit...
    #7
  8. AlH

    AlH Long timer

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    41 years a ham here- General. Used to be very active and owned a number of repeaters.
    To me it has somewhat outlived its usefulness- I still carry an Icom 24-AT for backup when traveling or 4wd exploring- don't bother on the bikes, too loaded up already with phone/gps/Inreach.
    Ham radio isn't what it used to be for sure- just like society in general it seems to have become overpopulated with morons or morans if you prefer.
    Just my 2 cents worth.
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  9. K7MDL

    K7MDL 2015 Tiger 800XCx

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    When you get more into it, you can try weak signal VHF+ contests from high places. Multiple time per year, lots of people to listen for you as you move around as a rover.
    K7MDL June 2009 VHF-CN98-4.JPG K7MDL June 2009 VHF-CN98-1.JPG K7MDL June 2009 VHF-CN98-6.JPG
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  10. K7MDL

    K7MDL 2015 Tiger 800XCx

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    PICT2169.JPG PICT2174.JPG
    Or a simpler setup.
    PICT0905.JPG

    The Maxi and Micro Rovers Posing.
    IMG_0002.JPG
    #10
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  11. MikeFromMT

    MikeFromMT Dark Web Dangerous

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  12. tunus

    tunus Been here awhile

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    I came across some of your posts when searching the forums for ham posts. This KLR setup looks interesting and overwhelming to someone new to radio. High places contesting sounds entertaining. Do you have a preferred sources a newb can research on the topic?

    #12
  13. Sinnergy

    Sinnergy Mostly Harmless

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    I've been licensed since '80. I used to carry a HT for communications while riding, but between the Spot and cell phone, not so much anymore. Usually, when I ride alone, I bring along a QRP rig and portable HF antenna for the evenings. I often end up in out of the way places and the county hunters and grid square hunters like it a lot. My current weapons of choice are the Yaesu FT-817nd (same rig as K7MDL shows above) and either a 'Miracle Whip' or Magloop depending on conditions.

    I really like having the HF receiving side at night, and it has become a bit of a security blanket. Not motorcycle related, but my 'never leave home without it' story comes from my uncle who was hunting in Alaska in fall of 2001. The airplane was supposed to fly in and pick him up on Sept. 13th, but didn't show up. He spent four days in the bush completely unaware of what had happened and that all flights were grounded. He was figuring on starting to walk out the next day through 400 miles of rough terrain to the closest city. If he'd been able to listen to an occasional news story, he'd at least have known it was all aircraft waiting, and not just that his pilot had lost him.

    My other favourite for keeping it compact is the Kenwood TH-f6a. It is a very small VHF/UHF transceiver that also has MF and HF receive in AM and SSB. I have a 50' length of 22ga stranded wire that rolls up quite small, and can be tossed into a tree or suspended over a few sage brush bushes, and wrapped around the interal bar antenna for pretty decent SWL.
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  14. K7MDL

    K7MDL 2015 Tiger 800XCx

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    My setup was fairly exotic for sure, but you can choose a level that is right between 1 and 100 and move it along over time as interest, purpose, resources and time allow. http://pnwvhfs.org/ is one source for weak signal radio. Otherwise tons of web resources, hard to point you to anything without knowing you better though. Too much to point too. :-) A lot of new hams start on VHF repeaters and never try other modes, others HF and never VHF. I have moved though phases of the hobby following it into the digital era, but started on HF and FM repeaters like most, then packet radio networks, onto VHF satellite, Meteor scatter, moonbounce (EME digital and CW), terrestrial weak signal (JT65, SSB, CW), VHF+ contesting, then added microwave band equipment to my arsenal for more contests. Most of the microwave stuff has to be built with surplus or home brew parts so it is fun and challenging. I have used constests as a deadline to get my stuff built and tested and an excuse to get out to distant places, often choosing a new route each time. I have write-ups on my projects and several contest rover reports that I have published over time, including a VHF radio propagation analysis seminar for an Emergency Communications Conference several years back.

    Deciding what you want to do first can be tough, it is a lifetime hobby with lots to explore, even in the cell phone age because it is not always about the exchange of words, but the means of challenging mother nature to exchange data or words. In our contest we can make hundreds of contacts (QSOs) and only exchange a few words or letters for each such as call sign, grid location, acknowledgement, and best wishes, done in less than 10 seconds. Or a rag chew that goes on for hours on HF or a repeater or 222.1MHz SSB for example - acting much like a local intercom to friends.
    #14
  15. tacosupreme

    tacosupreme Been here awhile

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    I just pirate the GMRS/FRS freq's with a BF-FV92+ Baofeng. Technically not ok (too many watts), but where I ride there is no traffic to disturb and it's nice to be able to ride some distance apart (out of the dust) and know that if you blow a turn you can reach the other rider. The best thing is, you can hand one to anyone you're riding with, and the china radios are cheap enough to get several to pass out. I've also found HAM freqs to be largely useless, at least in my neck of the woods. In Southern California/Mexico they are great.
    #15
  16. Sinnergy

    Sinnergy Mostly Harmless

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    @tacosupreme; I don't mean to be judgy, but why not just jump in and get the gmrs license? It's only $65 for five years, and only one person in the group needs to have it for the whole group to be legal. I use it for hunting and the whole crew can use radios up to 50w without worrying about big brother. For years, I used gmrs for bike to bike comm, but Sena is my new friend.

    If you want to jump into type-accepted; my old Kenwood with Ram mt., and helmet set could be had cheap cheap...

    @tunus; I completely agree with K7MDL... spend a little time figuring out what parts of the hobby intrigue you, and play with that for a while. At different times over the years, I've been big into DX, vintage radio, mountain topping, QRP, homebrewing, and much more. Each sojourn has been its own adventure.
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  17. tunus

    tunus Been here awhile

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    Thanks for your valuable insights. The sheer number of different ways to go about exploring radios is overwhelming.

    My initial motivation to get licensed was to add another way to communicate while hiking, bdr trips, ect, but some of these other applications and activities sound interesting too. I want to learn the basics of finding and hitting local repeaters, programing and manually operating the radio, listening and learning the etiquette. I'd like to try HF down the road as it requires more equipment and maybe explore the digital modes at some point. I don't have a ton of free time, but at least want to be proficient at the basics.
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  18. K7MDL

    K7MDL 2015 Tiger 800XCx

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    So having overwhelmed you with choices, often the best way to get grounded is to find someone local and visit with them, see their ham shack if they have one, mobile setup, ham club, ... What is called "mentoring" normally is called "elmering" in the ham radio hobby. It is one of the most effective ways to see and learn about the options. Lots of hams (and some clubs) around Portland, most are more than happy to host a visit and help you get started. Part of the fun. Even cub scouts and boy scouts get together with radios and elmers for radio direction finding hunts (aka fox hunts). We are everywhere.....:-). Find the club websites or email forums and introduce yourself, ask for a visit.

    The VHF Society link I provided is one such regional organization, small groups often meet at local restaurants and we have an annual conference at a location that moves each year around the PNW. Many ham clubs have annual flea markets. The ARRL has bigger events. A lot of these have seminars, gear for sale, and lots of people there. At our VHF society annual conference, we have a flea market and operate microwave gear in the parking lot or maybe across a local lake. Over 500 members from Alaska to Texas on tap with a simple email. Similar groups across the continent.

    Ham Radio Outlet store in Portland may have some local info as well. Check out this page for a large list of upcoming events. http://www.n7cfo.com/amradio/hf/hf.htm. There is a web page we rovers use and update with mountaintop radio location info that can be useful for us adventure riding types as well.
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  19. orangeradish

    orangeradish Been here awhile

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    I bring a handheld 2m/70cm when I go out for something to tinker with in camp. Most of the guys I ride with use spot beacons, and I'm probably going to get one soon, so the radio is not really for emergency use. I just like fiddling around with it.
    #19
  20. Scott_PDX

    Scott_PDX Leisure Engineer

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    I love it when Motorcycling integrates with other hobbies. Know nothing about Ham (Other than I like swiss with mine), but is interesting to read what you guys are doing.
    #20
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