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Thread: Where to start...

  1. #1

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    Default Where to start...

    All,

    As the title says, I am not sure where to start. I don't have my license yet and should be getting the ARRL study guide in the mail today. My general goal is backcountry and emergency communications. I like to do a fair amount of solo camping and off roading. It seems like there is a big social component around amateur radio, but for me (at least right now) in it and of itself doesn't hold interest as a hobby. Thoughts on the best approach given my goals?

  2. #2

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    The only advice I would have is that if you don't have a love of radio for radios sake, you are probably only looking for an appliance to use in an emergency. A sat phone or a PLB might be the way to go. Because no matter what the various entities representing amateur radio might say, ham radio is not going to be a silver bullet to save the day.
    Last edited by WZ7U; Tue 27th Aug 2019 at 09:50.

  3. #3

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    I would say, based on your post, that there are better ways to accomplish what you want. It does not appear that amateur radio is going to work for you.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator 5B4AJB's Avatar
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    You best initial approach is to try and find a local club and have a chat with the members there, maybe they can set you up for a course and exam to get your ticket.
    Visit your local library and look through the engineering/radio section - they will have one no matter how small the library...

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5B4AJB View Post
    You best initial approach is to try and find a local club and have a chat with the members there, maybe they can set you up for a course and exam to get your ticket.
    Visit your local library and look through the engineering/radio section - they will have one no matter how small the library...
    This is great advice. See if ham radio is truly what you are looking for. By talking with some of the "players", you can get a better idea of what is out there. I don't want you to think I'm driving you away from ham radio, but I don't want you to get into it for the wrong reasons.

    Best of luck with whatever you end up doing. Maybe I will hear you on the air someday!

  6. #6

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    Ham radio can be fairly inexpensive, or it can be the most expensive thing you do. For ham radio be for emergency communications only, you would likely be leaning towards a smaller investment. Sticking with a tech license, you could make use of an inexpensive Chinese handheld and local repeaters (assuming there are repeaters in the area you camp). If there are no repeaters, you will likely need an HF radio and a general class license. With the former option, you look to spend about $50 total, about $15 taking the test and $35 on a handheld radio. If the latter is the case, you are now in the realm of a few hundred dollars and far more studying (if you expect it to save your life). If you intend to use it for emergency communications only and have no interest in it as a hobby, I would first look into the local repeater coverage.

    There are non-ham options for emergency communication, as WZ7U stated in post 2. Those, however, come with service plans and are often equally cost prohibitive as a high-end HF setup, although far more reliable. The best thing one can do when heading off in the woods alone is to let someone know where you are going and when you are expected to return.

    Aside from that, I like to recommend a 5mW green laser pointer (with lithium batteries in cold weather) as those are very cheaply purchased online. These can be seen from miles away and are very effective at getting distant peoples attention or having pilots call in your location. OK, lets stop here for a bit of common sense:
    #1 - I am not advocating the use of lasers unless your life is in danger.
    #2 - Beam divergence will both lessen the intensity with distance but also result in you hitting things you do not think you are aiming at.
    #3 - The distance at which a 5mW green laser is a serious distraction hazard for pilots is within roughly the first mile and (with typical 5mW green lasers) becomes nearly indistinguishable from background lights (in a town) at about 12,000 feet (per wikipedia). Keep in mind some lasers have better optics and higher power than others!
    Those things known, it should be easy for you to determine when and where to safely aim your laser to effectively and safely get someones attention at night. Done responsibly in a life threatening situation, you would likely avoid fines or jail time (which would still be better than death anyhow).

    A laser saved my butt once, which is why i like them! Good luck!

  7. #7
    Super Moderator 5B4AJB's Avatar
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    Not to mention communication between lasers, providing you have line of sight.

    Video, images, text, voice, pretty much anything can be sent down a pulse of light, which I don't believe you'd need a license for.
    Although, you might as well have an Amateur ticket as most of the technology is radio...

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5B4AJB View Post
    Not to mention communication between lasers, providing you have line of sight.

    Video, images, text, voice, pretty much anything can be sent down a pulse of light, which I don't believe you'd need a license for.
    Although, you might as well have an Amateur ticket as most of the technology is radio...
    Sorry for the very minor left turn but I feel excitedly obligated to add that... being lasers are above 275GHz and a tech license comes with essentially free range above 275GHz, it would seem to me that an amateur license would cover high power lasers. Ok, fun-fact detour complete

  9. #9

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    Hahahaha... Now all I can think about is laser beams and sharks.... (btw I do have one in my kit)

    I agree that ham by itself is not a universal communication device. Nor as pointed out the other devices for emergency communications. To me ham could be a way to get help without having a full out SAR. On a back country road and ran out of gas, broke a CV axle, stuck in a ditch, etc. SAR is not really the type of response I would want and AAA is not going to come and help me. I have also noticed that a lot of the off road groups (at least in my area) are stating to move away from CB and more towards amateur radio for trail comms.

    There is a local club that does offer classes a couple times a year. Unfortunately the next one coming up is on a weekend I am not available. So I think I will just do the self study method with the ARRL book and some youtube videos. I did happen to pickup a used FTM-400 from a friend of a friend who decided it wasn't or them. It did come with a dual band comet antenna with an integrated mag mount which I will need to replace since I my 4runner is too tall to park in my garage with it on....

    Having ran the radio for a couple days just listening to my local repeaters I can see how people enjoy the social aspects of it. I could even see myself chewing the fat while mobile. Just not really into the whole club thing and talking with lots of people outside my local area.

  10. #10

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    I guess the system ate my reply to this post an at least one other. Sorry it has taken so long for me to reply. Looks like I am off moderation and hopefully multiple posts wont be an issue anymore.

    Yes I agree that an amateur radio is not a silver bullet in an emergency situation. To me it is another tool in the toolbox. Yes things like a SPoT or my cellphone certainly have a place. But they also have their limits. Like a SPoT is not going to help me find a local recovery company if I am in some backwoods area that AAA wont service or it is not a big enough issue that I need a SAR. And I guess I should clarify the hobby aspect. It's not like I don't like to tinker and improve systems. I am just not a "club" kind of person.

    Also, as for the laser idea, I do keep one in my kit.

    Don

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