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Old 11-17-2015, 12:00 AM
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New to HAM

I've just ordered one of the cheap-o dual-band hand-held HAM radios for use on the trail. I have a lot to learn, but my first question is very basic - is there any common/best freq to use while on the trail? or is it just like using the CB where someone picks a channel/freq at random?
..and yes, I know, I need a license.. I will be taking the test after the radio arrives..

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Old 11-17-2015, 12:08 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Salton Sea Walker View Post
I've just ordered one of the cheap-o dual-band hand-held HAM radios for use on the trail. I have a lot to learn, but my first question is very basic - is there any common/best freq to use while on the trail? or is it just like using the CB where someone picks a channel/freq at random?
..and yes, I know, I need a license.. I will be taking the test after the radio arrives..
.

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Old 11-17-2015, 12:18 AM   #3
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According to the ARRL 2 meter Band Plan, 146.52 (simplex) is the designated National Simplex Calling Freq. Also, 144.9 to 145.1 are weak signal and FM simplex freq's., along with 146.4 to 146.58 and 147.42 to 147.57.

The remainder of the 2 meter (144-148 mhz) are for repeaters, CW, SSB etc...
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Old 11-17-2015, 12:56 AM   #4
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From another forum (he makes references to another post by someone named bill4long):

Quote:
Originally Posted by experienced California ham radio operator
I can't stress this enough:

FORGET THE ARRL BAND PLAN! (yes I was yelling).

Check with your local frequency coordinator, and other people who actually operate on 2m simplex to find out what's actually in use in your area. Someone coming along and looking at bill4long's list here in California could very well be stomping on someone's repeater input frequency, or some other specialized usage, and they would never even know it.

Examples:

146.400 is the input to the infamous 147.435 repeater.
146.430 is an intercom channel for amateur television and gets repeated over a wide area on television transmitters.
146.460 is a remote base to remote base intercom channel.
146.475 is a repeater input
147.490 is a repeater input
147.505 is a repeater input

Etc. etc. etc.

The ARRL bandplan is COMPLETELY USELESS (yes, I'm yelling again) in Southern California, and many other areas as well.

Please, please, please, find out who your local coordinating group is and get the list that THEY put out for your local area.

Your fellow hams will thank you.

@bill4long... I'm sorry, but I though it important to get the word out. ARRL bandplans are useless if a local bandplan overrides it. This is something that new hams in particular need to understand.
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Old 11-17-2015, 01:11 AM   #5
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I have a lot to learn, but my first question is very basic - is there any common/best freq to use while on the trail?
One thing you'll learn is that amateur radio operators are encouraged to use the minimum amount of output power needed to successfully communicate. If you're in a group of Jeeps on a trail and you have proper** antennas, 5 watts will probably keep you guys in constant communication with each other... which is good, as most HTs only put out 5w at the very most. The upshot to this is that you could likely use the 'national calling frequency' of 146.520; your low output power combined with your remote location means there is an extremely small chance you'd be interfering with any other communication.

If you're in an area where there is likely to be a number of Jeep groups using ham radios--such as at Easter Jeep Safari in Moab--then your group should simply choose a valid simplex frequency for that area and act accordingly. By act accordingly, I mean remember that nobody owns any given frequency, and thus work together if you discover another group also wants/needs to use the same frequency.

**: your handheld radio--commonly called an HT--will undoubtedly come with a short rubber antenna (often referred to negatively as a 'rubber duck' antenna). To be blunt, these antennas offer extremely poor performance. If you insist on using an HT in your vehicle rather than installing a "real" radio (read: one designed for mobile installation and use), at the very least go out and buy a high quality mobile antenna, install it properly on your Jeep, and have it tested/tuned with an SWR meter. In this way, you'll make the most of every (meager) watt your HT can squeeze out.
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Old 11-17-2015, 09:53 AM   #6
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So far you are on a good path, get an HT, get your license. I don't know what the West coast is like, but 440 (70cm) is just not used much on the east coast where I am. I'm sure somebody might chime in and say I'm wrong, but as someone who is a new ham as well, I just don't hear any activity on 440.

You soon get tired of your HT in your Jeep if you use it often. A 440 capable radio so far has been waste of money for me. I got lured by fancy bells and whistles and installed an icom 5100 in my Jeep. Really not needed, but oh well it is a nice radio. In hind sight I might have gone with a simple Yaesu FT-2900r. Get a good antenna to match your use. You really can't go wrong with a Diamond, Larsen or a Comet.

Once you get your license get on some nets. Find a local club. I'm still trying to find one that does not conflict with my schedule.
Good luck on your test. It's not hard. I'm working on my Extra now, just a bit more content, yikes.
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Old 11-17-2015, 11:32 AM   #7
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I don't know what the West coast is like, but 440 (70cm) is just not used much on the east coast where I am. I'm sure somebody might chime in and say I'm wrong, but as someone who is a new ham as well, I just don't hear any activity on 440.
This is a good point. While I won't say you are wrong, I will instead simply point out that 70cm is quite active in my area. Utah has more 70cm repeaters than 2m repeaters, for example. While I admit the repeater I usually monitor is 2m, just last night I was using a 70cm repeater while driving home from work. YMMV

One more unique example: the Rubicon Trail has spotty 2m repeater coverage, but there is a dedicated 70cm repeater covering the entire trail.

OP: start talking to other hams now. Ask them what bands they use (2m or 70cm) and how active these frequencies are. Also, think ahead. Decide where some places are that you want to go Jeeping, then ask other ham Jeepers which frequencies they've used in those areas.

The more you learn up front, the better your ham radio experience will be.
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Old 11-17-2015, 11:47 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Salton Sea Walker View Post
I've just ordered one of the cheap-o dual-band hand-held HAM radios for use on the trail.
Which one did you buy?
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Old 11-17-2015, 12:10 PM
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Which one did you buy?
BaoFeng BF-UV-5RE .. Was also looking at the BF-F8HP which has higher output (8 watts) and more bells and whistles, but from what i'm learning, for trail-use the extra power would just drain the batteries faster and cause more noise for anyone nearby that might want to use the same freq.. although I guess that extra power might have been helpful in an emergency shituation.. I'll also be ordering a better/larger antenna for emergency use.
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Old 11-17-2015, 12:15 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Salton Sea Walker View Post
BaoFeng BF-UV-5RE .. Was also looking at the BF-F8HP which has higher output (8 watts) and more bells and whistles, but from what i'm learning, for trail-use the extra power would just drain the batteries faster and cause more noise for anyone nearby that might want to use the same freq.. although I guess that extra power might have been helpful in an emergency shituation.. I'll also be ordering a better/larger antenna for emergency use.
I have that same HT and it gets the job done. I have several others as well, including the Pofang (sp) that puts out the extra wattage. Wouxun makes a good radio as well. I feel it's a better built radio than the Baofeng but they all work about the same.

You really do need to get the better antenna though. Also, get a cable and some programming software or you'll go nuts trying to program the radio. I like RT Systems software but a lot of people swear by Chirp. The software that the manufacture sends out (if you get any at all) is JUNK, so don't wast your time with it.

Have Fun!
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Old 11-17-2015, 12:40 PM
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That was another question i had: Programming...
if i'm on the trail, and the leader says "lets use 145.500", i just enter/dial it in and go.. what do i need to "program" ?
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Old 11-17-2015, 04:54 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Salton Sea Walker View Post
That was another question i had: Programming...
if i'm on the trail, and the leader says "lets use 145.500", i just enter/dial it in and go.. what do i need to "program" ?
You guy's will probably be using what's called "Simplex" which works the same as a walkie-talkie in that you will transmit and receive on the same frequency. But somewhere along the line you will want to use a repeater. Repeaters are radios that do what their namesake suggests, they repeat what you say.

Repeaters are usually positioned on top of a mountain or tall building and have much larger antenna's than what your HT uses. The signal from your HT can easily reach the repeater, and the repeater then sends your signal out to areas (and other Hams) that you would not normally be able to reach.

To make this magic work, repeaters receive your signal on one frequency and then re-transmit it on another frequency. So you will need to tell your HT to transmit on the frequency that the repeater is listening to and to receive on the frequency that the repeater is transmitting on.

And that is where the programming comes in. You can program all of this into the HT by hand but it's much easier to do it on a PC and then download it to the HT. Clear as mud, yes?
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Old 11-17-2015, 05:03 PM   #13
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Old 11-17-2015, 06:14 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Salton Sea Walker View Post
That was another question i had: Programming...
if i'm on the trail, and the leader says "lets use 145.500", i just enter/dial it in and go.. what do i need to "program" ?
It's not as complex as it would seem from some of the posts. If someone says let's go to 145.5, there's no programming needed. Most radios let you simply key the frequency in directly via the keypad, which the BaoFeng allows. I've seen some who can turn answers to the simplest questions into essays.

And so far as a common offroad frequency goes, there really isn't one. Unlike the CB's finite 40 channel limitation which can make some channels more common for 4x4 use, the 2m band has enough frequencies in use by offroaders to fill a notebook. Once you get your BaoFeng, you'll find it's relatively easy to get it on whatever frequency the group is running.

My larger permanent mount 2m radio in my Wrangler has probably 100 local repeaters programmed into it but in all the years of offroading with it, I don't think any small group I've been in used a repeater... all used simplex. It seems it's mainly the larger organized 4x4 events that make some use of repeaters which radios have to be programmed for.
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Old 11-18-2015, 09:31 AM   #15
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As far as 2M vs 440 or getting a dual band versus a single band radio.

I think CA has a decent amount of 440 activity, so it should be worthwhile.

The major advantage of the dual band is most of them have detachable heads. Mount the main body of the radio someplace out of the way, then you just have to mount the smaller control head on the dash. Usually easier than trying to hang another radio up front.
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Old 11-18-2015, 11:16 AM   #16
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I had a dual band radio here in SOCAL but I sure never noticed any 440 MHz activity, I stopped buying dual band radios.
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Old 11-18-2015, 08:13 PM   #17
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Only reason I have a dual band radio is the Rubicon Trail is covered by a 440 repeater.
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Old 11-18-2015, 09:11 PM   #18
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I'm planning on putting a radio scanner in my jeep. It has a feature called "close call" where it will tune to any frequency that is in use "nearby", displaying the frequency and any privacy code in use on the screen. It also auto find repeaters and figures out the offset if someone uses the repeater. This works not only on the ham bands, but also on FRS/GRMS, MURS, CB, and law/fire bands.

It will help me figure out what folks are using in the area around me.

A scanner does not transmit so it isn't a replacement for a good radio.
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Old 11-19-2015, 01:26 PM   #19
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Anyone who buys any version of the Baofeng UV-5Rx needs to bookmark this web site:

Baofeng Pofung Information Site UV5R GT3, Ham Radio

On top of that, I have found this $6 laminated 'cheat sheet' to be a valuable thing to take with you (it easily fits in your wallet) if you are using a UV-5Rx radio:

Baofeng UV-5R Series Tri-Folded Reference Card

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Came here for a vegetarian's awakening, left confused.
If I contributed to your confusion, I apologize. How can we clarify things for you? What else would you like to discuss? Please, do feel free to speak up.

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I've seen some who can turn answers to the simplest questions into essays.
I am certain I have been guilty of this on occasion. It is easy for me to get excited about a topic which is important to me, and then I express my passion by rambling on and on about it. So--again--I apologize to one and all if/when I make things sound more complex than they really are.
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Old 11-19-2015, 02:02 PM   #20
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If someone says let's go to 145.5, there's no programming needed. Most radios let you simply key the frequency in directly via the keypad, which the BaoFeng allows.

Once you get your BaoFeng, you'll find it's relatively easy to get it on whatever frequency the group is running.
Jerry is completely correct here. If you're "tuning in" to a simplex frequency (ie, one where you are not using a repeater) then switching to that frequency is just like changing channels with your TV or satellite remote control--press the number buttons in the correct sequence and you're there. Easy peesy; no programming is required.

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Originally Posted by Jerry Bransford View Post
in all the years of offroading with it, I don't think any small group I've been in used a repeater... all used simplex. It seems it's mainly the larger organized 4x4 events that make some use of repeaters which radios have to be programmed for.
This, too, has been my experience. Even at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, at the meeting point for each day's run the hams in the group would congregate briefly, choose a simplex frequency, key it into our radios, and off we went. That's it.

It can still be handy on the trail to have local repeaters programmed into your radio.

(Here comes more info and a story)

On the day I ran The Pickle at this year's safari, I happened to be the only ham in the group... so I left my ham radio off. That afternoon we were at an easy part of the trail near the end of the run and I was getting a little lonely--I had no passengers--so I decided to turn on my ham radio. I switched to memory mode and selected one of the Moab repeaters (which I had pre-programmed into my radio back at home). I called out and made contact with a total stranger who was driving his car in the Salt Lake valley, nearly 250 miles away. This was possible because that Moab repeater is part of a linked system. That guy needed to stop our conversation after only a couple minutes, but lucky for me one my friends back home was monitoring the linked repeater close to him and heard my conversation. As my chat with the stranger ended, he came on the radio and we spoke for a while. It was nice to hear a familiar voice and catch up with each other, and it was comforting to know I could reach a friend back home even though I was in an area without cell phone coverage.

Ham radio can be a neat thing.
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Old 11-19-2015, 03:04 PM   #21
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If I contributed to your confusion, I apologize. How can we clarify things for you? What else would you like to discuss? Please, do feel free to speak up.
"New to HAM" I couldn't resist making a funny (to me). As an electrical engineer I'm not actually confused.
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Old 11-19-2015, 04:11 PM   #22
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"New to HAM" I couldn't resist making a funny (to me). As an electrical engineer I'm not actually confused.
I admit I did enjoy the vegetarian dig.

Since you're an EE, does that mean you have an amateur license?
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Old 11-20-2015, 10:31 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by n00g7 View Post
"New to HAM" I couldn't resist making a funny (to me). As an electrical engineer I'm not actually confused.
I admit I did enjoy the vegetarian dig.

Since you're an EE, does that mean you have an amateur license?
No, I have no need for one, just understand the principals of operation. If I do any communications stuff for work it's digital.
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Old 11-24-2015, 06:39 PM   #24
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I had a dual band radio here in SOCAL but I sure never noticed any 440 MHz activity, I stopped buying dual band radios.
There are several in the area....
Escondido, San Marcos, Fallbrook, Poway, Mt Woodson are to name a few...
I talk quite often on them since they are not near as busy as the 2m repeaters.
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Old 11-24-2015, 06:53 PM   #25
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There are several in the area....
Escondido, San Marcos, Fallbrook, Poway, Mt Woodson are to name a few...
I talk quite often on them since they are not near as busy as the 2m repeaters.
Yes they're around, I have a repeater book too. But you made my point, they're not used enough to be considered busy. There are many repeaters out there, more than there are users... but they're worthless if there are few hams monitoring them as I found when I programmed them into my previous dual-band radio.
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Old 11-24-2015, 07:10 PM
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Yes. thank you .. this has all been very helpful to the HAM novices...
/sarcasm
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Old 11-25-2015, 01:20 PM   #27
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Generally when we are in the back country; we decide upon a simplex frequency which is usually 146.520 or 146.560.
If everyone in group have dual band radios; we go on 446.100 and 446.500.
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Old 11-25-2015, 03:50 PM
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If everyone in group have dual band radios; we go on 446.100 and 446.500.
Is there any advantage (range, etc?) of using the 446. band over the 146. band?
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Old 11-25-2015, 05:23 PM   #29
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If you are in the desert with no mountains at all, & flat land, 2 meters will give better range. If however, you are in a metropolitan downtown area with tall buildings, 440 will have better penetration & work better.

Most dual band radios are 50W on 2M and 35W on 440. 2M should have a little more range simplex.

Depending on where you are 2M could be crowded (usually never is) 440 might have more room.

More hams have 2M radios over 440 rigs.

In practice, generally no real advantage.

If you are buying a single band radio get 2M. If you can afford more the dual banders have some added features that are nice. Remote mount of the body, cross band repeat, dual receive, (listen to two frequencies at the same time), some have very wide receive frequency capability.
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Old 11-25-2015, 05:54 PM   #30
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One nice advantage of 440 (70cm) over 2m is the antenna size.
You can get more signal (db) gain with a 440 antenna over a 2m antenna using the same length antenna.
Not sure where you explore trails, but our group has found there are a lot of 2m frequencies are used or that bleed over due to close proximity of the frequency. Granted we are fairly close to the Mexico border which may be part of the problem.
Every group is different.... so stick with what works for you.

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