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Basic Ham Questions

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I have considered HAM radio for a while. I have hesitated due to cost and not really being sure how to invest my cash to get something that I could use in my day to day life.

 

How does one get started in terms of licensure and selection of radios?

 

1. I like to hike, geocache, and hunt. I really like the idea of a handheld unit that I could take with me on my trips, but is this really the best way to start?

 

2. If I start with a handheld, what sort of license should I plan on attaining before I can make use of it? Would a basic HAM license cover me?

 

3. Do GMRS radios get picked up on a HAM repeater? (Please no flames, just want to know...)

 

4. Does anyone really use their GMRS radios if they are hiking by themselves?

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BRM,

 

1. I like to hike, geocache, and hunt. I really like the idea of a handheld unit that I could take with me on my trips, but is this really the best way to start?

 

Also a hunter, cacher and hiker. Hunting is one of the main reasons I got into Amateur Radio - now my reasons have changed a bit - but I was unable to reach a cell tower when hunting in the deep woods. I was concerned that I would be lost, dazed and confused without a way to notify my lovely wife. I wanted to be prepared in case of emergency, or if I came across anyone in an emergency situation.

 

My first unit was a Mobile one - 2m band (144-148mhz) Icom 28-H. Two power settings, 5 watts and 45 watts that let me reach a repeater almost anywhere I am. It's still in my vehicle until I can get my Kenwood D700A installed. I'd recommend a mobile first, handheld (or HT) second. I have two handhelds, but realize most handhelds come stock with a crummy rubber duck antenna. I purchased a tri-band antenna for my Kenwood TH-F6A and saw a drastic improvement on what repeaters I could hit. Antenna makes all the difference in the world.

 

Please search on What Do You Use? Parts 1-? and pay close attention to stuff that Desert Warrior detailed about his. Granted, he uses an Icom HT, but I pretty much patterned my 'hiking/hunting' pack and radio system after his.

 

You CAN get an HT and hook it up to the battery of your vehicle and connect it to a mobile antenna - that may be a more portable/flexible option for you. Recognize there's a unspoken standard of 5 watts maximum for HT's, some will go higher, but 5 watts is common. 5 watts will not get me very far out from where I hunt, that's why I have a mobile in my truck.

 

2. If I start with a handheld, what sort of license should I plan on attaining before I can make use of it? Would a basic HAM license cover me?

Basic Ham License=Technician Class AKA Element 2 exam.

 

Just your Technician license to begin with. 35 question multiple choice, get the Now You're Talking book and study it. The book will teach some history, uses, ethics, technical as well as answer a lot of questions for you. Don't forget to search here on this forum for some answers, and if you don't find them, start a new topic. I've found more than enough Elmers here...ham's are friendly folk - most of the time. =)

 

Cost of exam, around $12 here in the Pacific NW. There are many resources out there on the web to help you practice the test.

 

3. Do GMRS radios get picked up on a HAM repeater? (Please no flames, just want to know...)

 

Nope, not normally. GMRS has their own repeaters - different frequencies than are in use by Hams. Some HT's and Mobiles can pick up those frequencies, it is however against FCC Rules and Regs for an Amateur Radio class device to transmit on GMRS frequencies. Since a repeater re-transmits what it receives, it would be an FCC violation.

 

4. Does anyone really use their GMRS radios if they are hiking by themselves?

 

In SAR (Search and Rescue), operators will have many different ways of trying to contact a lost person(s). GMRS is usually a little more powerful than FRS, so will usually be able to reach further in case of emergency. I carry a Rino 130 with me when hunting, and GMRS is enabled as I have a GMRS license. No, it's not the best GMRS out there, but still receives well. My hunting companions each have a Motorola FRS of some model, so I'm able to communicate with them also.

 

Now for the short answer, yes, I use my GMRS/FRS radio even when hiking by myself.

 

If you do choose to get into Ham Radio, you will find it to be absolutely fascinating and enjoyable. It's not that expensive to get your license - but buying all your equipment you 'need' will probably take the rest of your life! If you hunt, you know what I mean.

 

Todd - K7PKT

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Thanks. As with hunting and geocaching, getting all the "needed equipment" seems to be an endless story. Fortunately, I have a loving and understanding wife who likes me to get out of the house, though she does seem to move furniture when I leave. (as long as she doesn't change the locks, I'm OK)

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I'd recommend a mobile first, handheld (or HT) second. I have two handhelds, but realize most handhelds come stock with a crummy rubber duck antenna. I purchased a tri-band antenna for my Kenwood TH-F6A and saw a drastic improvement on what repeaters I could hit. Antenna makes all the difference in the world.

 

You CAN get an HT and hook it up to the battery of your vehicle and connect it to a mobile antenna - that may be a more portable/flexible option for you. Recognize there's a unspoken standard of 5 watts maximum for HT's, some will go higher, but 5 watts is common. 5 watts will not get me very far out from where I hunt, that's why I have a mobile in my truck.

 

Todd - K7PKT

Another option it to get the handheld and use an amp to boast your signal to the moble antenna. I'm able to go from 5w to 30w via the amp.

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VinceD,

 

Yep, thought about that too, but decided I'd rather keep it simple. My Elmer's first recommendation is to get a mobile unit, then an HT. The quality of sound, the power capabilities, the reach, all of those factored into my suggestion.

 

After a bit of research, I decided to buy a cross-band repeat capable Mobile, be able to extend my range with the HT and to remote control it with my handhelds. Just have to get my dual band antenna for the truck and I'm set.

 

Thanks, and still love that Avatar!

 

Todd - K7PKT

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My Elmer's first recommendation is to get a mobile unit, then an HT.

This depends on the area. In flat areas not too far from cities, a handheld may be OK and is far more flexible as you'd have it with you. But deep in a valley way the heck into the boonies, a little HT may not get out. Which to get first - and HT or a mobile is a question best answered by local hams who know the local situation.

 

I decided to buy a cross-band repeat capable Mobile, be able to extend my range with the HT and to remote control it with my handhelds.

An excellent choice, but does have the added cost of needing dual band mobile and HT. A bit steep for entry into the hobby, but a combination that will serve you well for many, many years.

Edited by GeckoGeek

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I got into ham radio after getting into geocaching. I don't talk much, I listen a lot, but I always bring my radio on a geocaching trip. Also, many geocaches in my area are on the top of hills, where the line of sight is very far. Being a very new ham, all I have is a VX-150 for very basic, basic repeater stuff. I'm not old enough to drive and my parents don't want a radio installed in their car, so a mobile rig is out of the question for a few years yet.

 

The Technician class test isn't super-hard. I studied for about 3 weeks off and on before mine. There are also practice tests available free online. You can also look up tests near you online. Here is a place where you can search for upcoming tests in your area.

 

73 de KC2MOK

-Enspyer-

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