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Discussion Starter #1
(I'm sure this has been asked a few times before but I'm not getting great hits in a search and also looking for more up to date info re options, apologies if OI missed anything obvious in my search)

I'm reading up in order to get my ham technical license and will be investing in a ham radio/antenna for my JLU.
Can any of you suggest good options for a radio for general off-road use?
I'm in Southern California and most of our exploring is in the desert, often alone (I know, but note that we are very careful and responsible about what we do, have lots of supplies etc) so something with some reach is desired, so we can keep in touch with people further away than a group and it's also something to be used in any emergency here in earthquake country.

Thanks.

B.
 

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I've had a couple radios in my Jeeps and the one I like the best is from Yaesu. I'm running the 75 watt Yaesu FT-2900R which works well for our SoCal deserts. I used to have a dual-band radio but I never used or needed anything but 2m so I just went with a good quality 2m for my last purchase.

My main antenna is a Hustler SF-2 5/8 wave that gets out well when I have to run simplex or repeaters are a long ways away. But surprisingly, I have a tiny 2m antenna that is only 15" high that gets out so well that I seldom even mount the much taller Hustler SF-2 antenna. It works for all events but King of the Hammers that spreads people out long distances and my checkpoint I run is always way out in the boondocks so I run the Hustler out there where we operate simplex.

ICOM is another good brand but having had an ICOM before my present Yaesu, I think the Yaesu's user interface is a little more intuitive. And when setting up a new radio for repeater use, an intuitive user interface can eliminate a lot of frustration.

This is my setup, I have my Uniden CB attached to the bottom plate of my Yaesu. That's an Arizona Rocky Road radio mount, it attaches without any drilling on Wranglers. The cables are hidden inside it so it makes for a clean install.

First pic shows the little 15" 2m antenna, it works better than it has a right to with its small/short stature. It's also short enough that rough bumpy trails don't faze it. The Hustler is 51" tall so it sways around a lot which is why I seldom mount it while doing desert trails. Yes it's on a different color Jeep, my previous TJ (stolen) was red. I use the same mount for the 15" antenna as I do the Hustler.

Good luck on your Tech license test but by now you have certainly discovered it's not a hard test. Let us know when you get your callsign!

N6TAY
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Much thanks Jerry, very useful indeed and I appreciate your time and effort.

And yes re the test, I'm from the UK and after living here 25 years I still can't get it around my head that they often actually give you the answers in tests over here! :)

- been using CB but as you know it's not of much use a lot of the time out there.
 

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Stay with the major brands: Yaesu, Icom, Kenwood, Alinco. They will do you well.

Single band (2M) will take care of your needs and they are usually easier to setup.
One advantage of the dual band radios are the remote heads. Mount the larger radio body out of the way, the head is smaller and easier to find a place for it.

If you are lucky enough to have a ham store near you, by all means visit. Hands on is better than looking at pictures. HRO is in Anaheim, Burbank, Oakland and San Diego.

Find a club in your area. Talk to the members about their mobile setups. Interested visitors are always welcome.
 

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I have used Yaesu dual radios in the past but have switched to Kenwood as my ham brand of choice. I find Kenwood radios to be slightly easier to program and use. I have never liked Icom because they are more difficult to program. However, that being said, you can't go wrong with any of the three major brands.

I would avoid the temptation to save a buck by purchasing one of the cheap Chinese radios such as Baofeng or BTech. However, if you simply must go with a Chinese radio you might consider Wouxon, sometimes sold as a private label brand. Although not the quality of the Japanese radios, it is better than Baofeng and BTech and is FCC compliant. (The FCC has recently dropped the hammer on the importers of many of the cheap Chinese radios because the cheaper radios do not comply with FCC regulations.)

The Kenwood TM-281A is a good choice for a 2 meter radio. It is available at Ham Radio Outlet for $132 and has a front firing speaker and the same rugged chassis as Kenwood's highly regarded commercial VHF radios. I currently have one in my jeep because I don't have much need for the 70cm band.



For a dual band 2m/70cm radio I recommend the Kenwood TM-V71A ($347 at HRO), which can be upgraded to Kenwood's top of the line dual band radio with the purchase of Kenwood's RC-D710 control panel



As for antennas, I am partial to Larsen. The Larsen NMO 2/70SH (18") and Larsen NMO 2/70B (34.5") are excellent dual band antennas. For 2 meter I recommend the NMOWB150B 5/8 wave (cut to 38.5") and NMOQW144B 1/4 wave (cut to 18").

The attached photos show the following:

Radio mount (Arizona Rocky Road), with Kenwood TM-281A on top and Uniden Pro520XL CB underneath:

Antennas - 2' Firestik II CB antenna on the left and Larsen 1/4 wave 2 meter antenna antenna on the right. I use Teraflex taillight brackets, a Breedlove CB stud mount with all brass antenna quick disconnect and a Breedlove NMO ham antenna mount. This allows me to quickly change between short and long antennas as necessary. The last photo shows my 4' Firestik Firefly CB antenna and a 6' whip/flag for use in the Samoa dunes (ham antenna not in view).
 

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Jerry has given you lots of good information, of course. I do differ from him in that I'm a firm believer in dual band radios rather than 2m-only setups, in part because I use the 70cm band at least once or twice a week, every week without fail. (Our local CERT uses 70cm, plus I participate in a weekly net on 70cm.) But since Jerry doesn't have any personal need for a dual band radio, I understand why he sticks to 2m only.

I admit I use 2m when Jeeping much more often than I use 70cm, but there have been times when I've needed/used 70cm while Jeeping outside of cell phone coverage. I like having options, and a dual band radio will always give you more options for making contact than a single band radio.

Stay with the major brands: Yaesu, Icom, Kenwood, Alinco. They will do you well.
Excellent advice. I love my Yaesus, though I wouldn't steer you away from Kenwood or Icom if any of their products appeal to you.

One advantage of the dual band radios are the remote heads. Mount the larger radio body out of the way, the head is smaller and easier to find a place for it.
This is another advantage of higher-priced radios, and I love how I've set up the Yaesu FT-7900R in my TJ with the faceplate attached to the windshield frame above/behind the driver's sun visor.



Be advised: not every dual band radio on the market has a removable faceplate. If that's a feature you'd like to have, make sure it's there before you fork over your cash.

As for antennas, I am partial to Larsen. The Larsen NMO 2/70SH (18") and Larsen NMO 2/70B (34.5") are excellent dual band antennas.
As much as I love my Yaesu radios, I love my Larsen antennas even more. The NMO2/70B is my go-to recommendation, even for a single band radio. It is well-proven as a rugged, durable, high performance antenna well suited for a variety of locations and uses--in town, out in the plains, up in the mountains, just about everywhere. I've seen a lot of antennas that are cheaper than the NMO2/70B, but I've never seen one that was a better all-around performer.

I have mine mounted on the left front fender.
 

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And yes re the test, I'm from the UK and after living here 25 years I still can't get it around my head that they often actually give you the answers in tests over here! :)

That’s pretty much how most wide breath exams are in the US, be it drivers license, pilots license, SAT, GRE, etc. The amateur radio exams don’t really teach theory, which is a shame, instead they promote memorizing the answers to 700 questions. But, it does, I think impart a good starting point to do more exploring and learning.
 

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That’s pretty much how most wide breath exams are in the US, be it drivers license, pilots license, SAT, GRE, etc. The amateur radio exams don’t really teach theory, which is a shame, instead they promote memorizing the answers to 700 questions. But, it does, I think impart a good starting point to do more exploring and learning.
Not true on a pilot's certificate exam. You actually have to learn the subject very well to pass the in-depth written FAA exam you qualify to take only after successfully completing ground school. My FAA examiner even grilled me on all of that for an hour before he would take me up for my final check ride.
 

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Not true on a pilot's certificate exam. You actually have to learn the subject very well to pass the in-depth written FAA exam you qualify to take only after successfully completing ground school. My FAA examiner even grilled me on all of that for an hour before he would take me up for my final check ride.
I don't know what to tell you. I took the written exam in 1980 and had a study book with questions and answers. My instructor was well seasoned and said it was the first time he ever saw anyone get 100% on the exam.

And there's this from an Amazon.com book description: "Pilot license candidates studying for the Private and Recreational Pilot FAA Knowledge Exam will find sample questions for every question in the Federal Aviation Administration exam database along with their answers and explanations."

https://www.amazon.com/Private-Pilot-Test-Prep-2018/dp/1619545209
 

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Discussion Starter #10
This is all great info guys and very much appreciated.

I've started going though everything above and its going to really help me make some informed decisions, thanks to all.

Btw, I am making the effort to learn some basics rather than just memorize answers, don't see the point of the latter.
- and I was bemused how easy it was to get my US drivers license.
 

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I run a Kenwood TMV71a with a 34" Larsen 2/70 antenna. This combination works the best for me as Some places i wheel have a 2m repeater close by and some have better 70cm coverage. I also really like the ability to monitor 2 frequencies, something my Yaesu FT7900 could not do.
 

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I’m in Arizona and We have lots of similar terrain here. My radio of choice is a Yaesu FTM-400. It has a built in GPS and APRS which I find to be a plus for off-roading. You might want to consider APRS, especially if exploring solo. Just my 2 cents.
 

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Seconded the TM-281, though its only one band 144-148MHz. and I would swear by the Comet SS-680-NMO antenna, Great propagation, so long as you get it above the roll bar.

Here is an alternate position for your radio if you want to try something different.
 

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