What Ham Radio To Get?

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JHrusky

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Hoping someone can guide me in this prepper question:

I am looking for good communications in the event we lose our standard way of communicating such as an 'end of the world' scenario. In case we get hit with an EMP strike, or a massive solar flare, or a rogue government takeover and all cell phones, the internet, land lines, everything gets taken down, how can I ensure I know what is going on in the world and whom to align with (other than those I've already aligned with)?

I have a battery powered Shortwave, digital. I know I'll be able to HEAR anything broadcasting that hits my antenna, but how do I communicate back with them to locate them? Is HAM radio the way to go? If it is, I'm looking for something worthwhile to use frequencies that I might hear. But I know nothing about Ham radio. I realize to get licensed you have to take a test, but I'm told it's pretty common sense simple. Of course, in an emergency such as I mentioned, it'll matter not, but still, I do plan on acquiring that lisence.

So the real question is, what Ham radio do I get? Handhelds are nice if I'm on the go, but if I'm in my home (which is designed somewhat as a defendible fortress), are there good base stations worthwhile?

I like what I read about the IC 718 but I have no idea if it's any good.
I am told the ICOM 705 B/C is excellent but it is a bit pricey at around $1300.00.
Are either of these worth looking into more? Is there a steep learning curve to being able to use them? I'm so used to my old National analog shortwave where I can just tune the dial slowly to come across a broadcast to listen to (I'm an old Tom Valentine listener) a digital tuner may be cumbersome at first.

Then there's the antenna issue -- what do I get? what will work best?

So many questions and I want to do this right.

Constructive advice, please.

Thank you.
 

M0del_31

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First of all, there is a learning curve from where you are starting. To talk on the frequencies bands you seem to interested in, you will need to get a technician license and then a general license. You can test and get both in the same test session. You don't need any license to only listen. Setting up a antenna to transmit is much more critical the only for listening. If you plan on talking some day, then plan on some investment. Buy once and cry once. I recently picked up my rest-of-my-life rig -FTDX-3000 from yeasu. It has since been replaced with the FTDX-10. Waterfall displays are all the rage these days. I got to run now but I'm sure some others will chime in on their recommendations.
 

Captjim_NM

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If you stay with ICOM, KENWOOD, YAESU, they are all good. I don't recomend someone starting out buying used gear. You have enough issues getting your station going not to fight broken radios. The radio is only one part of the issue, you will need a power source and an antenna. You can build you own antennas depending on the area you want to operate. HF work is kind'a hard if you live in an apartment or a HOA restricted area. Right now we are in the low area of the sun spot cycle, 20, 40 and 80 meter bands work best and that means long antennas. The Husler vertical antenna works good if you have damp soil or rainfall often. For power you will need a 25 amp power supply or a 12volt battery with a trickle charger. Find a local club, someone has already invented the wheel you just need to see what works in your area.
There are many paths you can take in amateur radio, what peaks you interest someone else may find dull. There are a lot of preppers in amateur radio, many will not talk about it until you are face to face. Anything and everything you say on the air can to heard by someone, best to remember that. de KA5SIW
 

EricB1970

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What I learned early on is that you really should start out with a 100 watt radio and avoid the QRP stuff like the IC-705. The first radio I bought was a KX3 because it was light, drew very little power, and has one of the best receivers made.

It was a waste, I ended up hating the thing because it only put out 15 watts max and no one ever heard me. So then I bought a brand spanking new FT-DX3000D, which I really liked at first, but sounds so watery that I ended up selling it.

I found, quite by accident, that the older tube radios have the best sound out of all of the one's I've played with and owned. I had bought an old Collins 75A-4, and was totally hooked on all tube radios. I can work on them, and maintain them, the newer radios I cannot.

I sold the KX3 and bought a Yaesu FT-991, and that's now the newest radio I have. I sold the FT-DX3000D and bought an R-390A, and the R-390A is leaps and bounds above the Yaesu for sound quality, at least to my ears. I ended up getting another R-390A, as well as a couple of R-392's and a couple of transmitters to go with them.

The old stuff is EMP proof, but you'll have to figure out how you're going to power them when the grid goes down. A Collins KWM-2 with the mobile power supply that runs off of 12v would be ideal in that situation.
 

firewallsrus

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Just my $0.02 worth:

This will seem like a critical post, but it is not intended to be so. You have a very long road before you should start worrying about which radio to get. It is a bit like asking what vehicle to buy for long distance. Anything from a Harley to a Peterbuilt Semi might fit the bill, but that depends on your needs. As far as specific makes and models, all of the modern built main-stream ham radios have ardent fans. It is rather like asking who the best football team is. The answer is more likely to be based on the location of the respondent than any specific qualities. Yaesu, iCOM, Kenwood are all built in Japan by skilled workers in factories with decades of experience.

A lot of people "plan" to have a ham radio packed away for after SHTF when they are not going to need a license as there will be no laws. The fact is that to talk on HF bands (as noted above) requires a lot better fit to the antenna than you are expecting. Without at least a general class license, you are not going to be able to practice prior to SHTF. Without the knowledge and practice, the most likely thing to come from an HF ham transmitter when you key the microphone is smoke. If the right antenna for the frequency is not properly connected and deployed, the power your radio puts out comes right back in and burns your finals

Imagine a child pushing an adult on a swing set. Pushing at the right moment on each pass, a small child can easily get the larger adult swinging high. Pushed a bit early, the child and the adult are going to both get a jolt. As the frequency changes, the time for your radio to "push" changes similar to the swing set and your radio doesn't heal after a big jolt.

It has (rarely) been done, but you are unlikely to gain any proficiency in HF (long distance) radio without someone helping you learn. While pursuing licensing, find a club, find a mentor (we call them Elmers for some reason) and start learning about the hobby. This will help you develop a list of features you want in a radio, so you can narrow your search for best fit. The best radio is going to be something that meets your needs without a lot of bells and whistles that may add weight or rob you of battery power. If it is a gift from your Elmer, what could be better. They all work, but some have more bells and whistles. If you buy used, think about doing so from a brick and mortar store that stands behind it MTC Texas Sized Ham Radio and Electronic Deals | MTC is one such dealer, but there are many.

Some will say you should stick with vacuum tube radios because they are immune from EMP attacks. This is all relative. Most vacuum tube radios run on AC mains power and this may be a concern post SHTF when 12Vdc battery power could be easier to find. (an old alternator and bicycle can charge car batteries if needed). Another concern, a CME called the Carrington Event (google it) in1859 was a solar storm that set telegraph wires on fire across North America and something like this would very likely blow up a vacuum tube system. Everything is relative.

All radios may be burned up, but don't plan on it. Our group trains with paper map and compass because nobody knows if satellites will still be working, but if GPS still works after SHTF, we'll be using it because it could be a tactical advantage (if it works). Some transceivers capable of communicating all over North America have been home-built into Altoids Tins, so even if all the radios are killed of, some people will likely build replacements and be back on the air to receive (and perhaps share) strategic and tactical information.

Not everyone has an interest in radio, particularly long-distance HF radio. Not everyone will want to grow corn or dig latrines, but someone will need to do it. That said, someone in your group should be well versed with lots of practice long in advance. As I mentioned above, the training and experience will give your communications specialist the ability to develop a complete plan of local (tactical) and strategic (long distance) communications for your group.
 

EricB1970

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That's why I say that having a plan to power your tube radio is key if you're going to run one. Here's the Collins 516E-1 12v power supply for the KWM-1 and KWM-2. Lets you run a tube radio with high voltage from a 12v battery.

One catch, this power supply is solid state, so if it's fried, you're screwed just like an all solid state radio.
2DE46C8A-8D8B-4D88-8DF9-626457EC6622.jpeg


Generally speaking, if you've got a well shielded radio in a real Faraday cage, along with a good sized LiFePo4 battery and solar charging system, you'll be leaps and bounds above everyone else. I love tube radios with a passion, but my SHTF radio setup is a Yaesu FT-991 with a Bioenno battery and a Powerfilm rollable solar panel.
5EC3C6D6-14F1-4F90-83F9-86CE45326079.jpeg
 

M0del_31

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Just my $0.02 worth:

This will seem like a critical post, but it is not intended to be so. You have a very long road before you should start worrying about which radio to get. It is a bit like asking what vehicle to buy for long distance. Anything from a Harley to a Peterbuilt Semi might fit the bill, but that depends on your needs. As far as specific makes and models, all of the modern built main-stream ham radios have ardent fans. It is rather like asking who the best football team is. The answer is more likely to be based on the location of the respondent than any specific qualities. Yaesu, iCOM, Kenwood are all built in Japan by skilled workers in factories with decades of experience.

A lot of people "plan" to have a ham radio packed away for after SHTF when they are not going to need a license as there will be no laws. The fact is that to talk on HF bands (as noted above) requires a lot better fit to the antenna than you are expecting. Without at least a general class license, you are not going to be able to practice prior to SHTF. Without the knowledge and practice, the most likely thing to come from an HF ham transmitter when you key the microphone is smoke. If the right antenna for the frequency is not properly connected and deployed, the power your radio puts out comes right back in and burns your finals

Imagine a child pushing an adult on a swing set. Pushing at the right moment on each pass, a small child can easily get the larger adult swinging high. Pushed a bit early, the child and the adult are going to both get a jolt. As the frequency changes, the time for your radio to "push" changes similar to the swing set and your radio doesn't heal after a big jolt.

It has (rarely) been done, but you are unlikely to gain any proficiency in HF (long distance) radio without someone helping you learn. While pursuing licensing, find a club, find a mentor (we call them Elmers for some reason) and start learning about the hobby. This will help you develop a list of features you want in a radio, so you can narrow your search for best fit. The best radio is going to be something that meets your needs without a lot of bells and whistles that may add weight or rob you of battery power. If it is a gift from your Elmer, what could be better. They all work, but some have more bells and whistles. If you buy used, think about doing so from a brick and mortar store that stands behind it MTC Texas Sized Ham Radio and Electronic Deals | MTC is one such dealer, but there are many.

Some will say you should stick with vacuum tube radios because they are immune from EMP attacks. This is all relative. Most vacuum tube radios run on AC mains power and this may be a concern post SHTF when 12Vdc battery power could be easier to find. (an old alternator and bicycle can charge car batteries if needed). Another concern, a CME called the Carrington Event (google it) in1859 was a solar storm that set telegraph wires on fire across North America and something like this would very likely blow up a vacuum tube system. Everything is relative.

All radios may be burned up, but don't plan on it. Our group trains with paper map and compass because nobody knows if satellites will still be working, but if GPS still works after SHTF, we'll be using it because it could be a tactical advantage (if it works). Some transceivers capable of communicating all over North America have been home-built into Altoids Tins, so even if all the radios are killed of, some people will likely build replacements and be back on the air to receive (and perhaps share) strategic and tactical information.

Not everyone has an interest in radio, particularly long-distance HF radio. Not everyone will want to grow corn or dig latrines, but someone will need to do it. That said, someone in your group should be well versed with lots of practice long in advance. As I mentioned above, the training and experience will give your communications specialist the ability to develop a complete plan of local (tactical) and strategic (long distance) communications for your group.
^^^This right here ^^^
Don’t get discouraged. Find a local amateur radio club and get started.
 

JHrusky

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Just my $0.02 worth:

This will seem like a critical post, but it is not intended to be so. You have a very long road before you should start worrying about which radio to get. It is a bit like asking what vehicle to buy for long distance. Anything from a Harley to a Peterbuilt Semi might fit the bill, but that depends on your needs. As far as specific makes and models, all of the modern built main-stream ham radios have ardent fans. It is rather like asking who the best football team is. The answer is more likely to be based on the location of the respondent than any specific qualities. Yaesu, iCOM, Kenwood are all built in Japan by skilled workers in factories with decades of experience.

A lot of people "plan" to have a ham radio packed away for after SHTF when they are not going to need a license as there will be no laws. The fact is that to talk on HF bands (as noted above) requires a lot better fit to the antenna than you are expecting. Without at least a general class license, you are not going to be able to practice prior to SHTF. Without the knowledge and practice, the most likely thing to come from an HF ham transmitter when you key the microphone is smoke. If the right antenna for the frequency is not properly connected and deployed, the power your radio puts out comes right back in and burns your finals

Imagine a child pushing an adult on a swing set. Pushing at the right moment on each pass, a small child can easily get the larger adult swinging high. Pushed a bit early, the child and the adult are going to both get a jolt. As the frequency changes, the time for your radio to "push" changes similar to the swing set and your radio doesn't heal after a big jolt.

It has (rarely) been done, but you are unlikely to gain any proficiency in HF (long distance) radio without someone helping you learn. While pursuing licensing, find a club, find a mentor (we call them Elmers for some reason) and start learning about the hobby. This will help you develop a list of features you want in a radio, so you can narrow your search for best fit. The best radio is going to be something that meets your needs without a lot of bells and whistles that may add weight or rob you of battery power. If it is a gift from your Elmer, what could be better. They all work, but some have more bells and whistles. If you buy used, think about doing so from a brick and mortar store that stands behind it MTC Texas Sized Ham Radio and Electronic Deals | MTC is one such dealer, but there are many.

Some will say you should stick with vacuum tube radios because they are immune from EMP attacks. This is all relative. Most vacuum tube radios run on AC mains power and this may be a concern post SHTF when 12Vdc battery power could be easier to find. (an old alternator and bicycle can charge car batteries if needed). Another concern, a CME called the Carrington Event (google it) in1859 was a solar storm that set telegraph wires on fire across North America and something like this would very likely blow up a vacuum tube system. Everything is relative.

All radios may be burned up, but don't plan on it. Our group trains with paper map and compass because nobody knows if satellites will still be working, but if GPS still works after SHTF, we'll be using it because it could be a tactical advantage (if it works). Some transceivers capable of communicating all over North America have been home-built into Altoids Tins, so even if all the radios are killed of, some people will likely build replacements and be back on the air to receive (and perhaps share) strategic and tactical information.

Not everyone has an interest in radio, particularly long-distance HF radio. Not everyone will want to grow corn or dig latrines, but someone will need to do it. That said, someone in your group should be well versed with lots of practice long in advance. As I mentioned above, the training and experience will give your communications specialist the ability to develop a complete plan of local (tactical) and strategic (long distance) communications for your group.
Thank you. I found your post quite helpful. I am rethinking this just a little bit. I am understanding there is quite a learning curve to do this properly and wondering, as a Prepper, if I am just better off using a shortwave to listen what is occurring should SHTF.

I have two shortwaves, a Tecsun PL880 which I store in a faraday cage and a vintage National NC-173R radio that I love. I'm assuming any transmissions after a SHTF event would be available via shortwave. I can charge the Tecsun and run the National via my solar generator if I need to. The only downside would be the inability to communicate with others.

I just now have to find a good shortwave forum. FWIW, I'm an old Tom Valentine, WWCR, fan. Loved his shows and wish there was someone similar out there -- Alex Jones doesn't cut it :)
 

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Clyde

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Just my $0.02 worth:

This will seem like a critical post, but it is not intended to be so. You have a very long road before you should start worrying about which radio to get. It is a bit like asking what vehicle to buy for long distance. Anything from a Harley to a Peterbuilt Semi might fit the bill, but that depends on your needs. As far as specific makes and models, all of the modern built main-stream ham radios have ardent fans. It is rather like asking who the best football team is. The answer is more likely to be based on the location of the respondent than any specific qualities. Yaesu, iCOM, Kenwood are all built in Japan by skilled workers in factories with decades of experience.

A lot of people "plan" to have a ham radio packed away for after SHTF when they are not going to need a license as there will be no laws. The fact is that to talk on HF bands (as noted above) requires a lot better fit to the antenna than you are expecting. Without at least a general class license, you are not going to be able to practice prior to SHTF. Without the knowledge and practice, the most likely thing to come from an HF ham transmitter when you key the microphone is smoke. If the right antenna for the frequency is not properly connected and deployed, the power your radio puts out comes right back in and burns your finals

Imagine a child pushing an adult on a swing set. Pushing at the right moment on each pass, a small child can easily get the larger adult swinging high. Pushed a bit early, the child and the adult are going to both get a jolt. As the frequency changes, the time for your radio to "push" changes similar to the swing set and your radio doesn't heal after a big jolt.

It has (rarely) been done, but you are unlikely to gain any proficiency in HF (long distance) radio without someone helping you learn. While pursuing licensing, find a club, find a mentor (we call them Elmers for some reason) and start learning about the hobby. This will help you develop a list of features you want in a radio, so you can narrow your search for best fit. The best radio is going to be something that meets your needs without a lot of bells and whistles that may add weight or rob you of battery power. If it is a gift from your Elmer, what could be better. They all work, but some have more bells and whistles. If you buy used, think about doing so from a brick and mortar store that stands behind it MTC Texas Sized Ham Radio and Electronic Deals | MTC is one such dealer, but there are many.

Some will say you should stick with vacuum tube radios because they are immune from EMP attacks. This is all relative. Most vacuum tube radios run on AC mains power and this may be a concern post SHTF when 12Vdc battery power could be easier to find. (an old alternator and bicycle can charge car batteries if needed). Another concern, a CME called the Carrington Event (google it) in1859 was a solar storm that set telegraph wires on fire across North America and something like this would very likely blow up a vacuum tube system. Everything is relative.

All radios may be burned up, but don't plan on it. Our group trains with paper map and compass because nobody knows if satellites will still be working, but if GPS still works after SHTF, we'll be using it because it could be a tactical advantage (if it works). Some transceivers capable of communicating all over North America have been home-built into Altoids Tins, so even if all the radios are killed of, some people will likely build replacements and be back on the air to receive (and perhaps share) strategic and tactical information.

Not everyone has an interest in radio, particularly long-distance HF radio. Not everyone will want to grow corn or dig latrines, but someone will need to do it. That said, someone in your group should be well versed with lots of practice long in advance. As I mentioned above, the training and experience will give your communications specialist the ability to develop a complete plan of local (tactical) and strategic (long distance) communications for your group.
Spot on, and great advice! Thankfully I never released the coveted smoke from any of my radios.
 

firewallsrus

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The only downside would be the inability to communicate with others.
FWIW: I would not suggest an eventual ability to transmit HF over moderate to long distances isn't going to be important in the long term. At some point, those of us remaining must regroup if just to prevent a foreign power taking over. An EMP or even a solar CME isn't going to take out the whole world.

In the short term after a disaster, I think the ability to monitor close as well as long distance communications will be vital for planning. Even though you can't trust the content, you will be aware of what rumors are out there.

As time goes by, the need to "hole up" will likely be replaced by a need to re-establish trade within your area. Things wear out, oversights are discovered, etc. Linking up an area defense group may be advantageous as well since most of the time of a subsistence farmer is spent farming, not guarding and patrolling.

With the passage of time, communications will come back on line throughout the region, and being able to eventually communicate both ways may help ease the way to normalized trade relations. As has been noted in other threads, it might not be good to simply walk into a neighboring homestead or town, loaded with trade-goods without any advance communications.
 

Arcticdude

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Eventually I plan to get a ham radio. There's a lot of good information here on hams. But for now I'm looking for something that will just reach across our property. For now I have a couple cheap GMRS(?) radios, they are good for about 2 miles. I need something that will work for at least 5 miles, 10 would be better and would cover most of our property. Years ago i had CB radios but their range seemed limited too. Would a SSB radio reach out to 5 to 10 miles? I plan on getting 2 hand helds and a base unit for the house. I don’t mind spending good money on something that will work.
 

firewallsrus

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I need something that will work for at least 5 miles, 10 would be better and would cover most of our property.
The problem here is one of physics. You simply cannot push radio frequencies through dirt. Not without extremely low frequencies and miles long antennas in which case you are inductively coupling the earth rather than sending radio waves.

With a lower frequency, there is a bit more diffusion at the horizon (RF bending), but this is never going to be more than 15% or so. It doesn't matter whether it is a ham radio or a GMRS radio. There are children using 5 Watt handhelds to speak with astronauts on the International Space Station. There are lots of hams using the ham satellites above to make contacts. These little 5 watt radios (with specialized antennas) are fine for LINE OF SIGHT.

Bottom line is you can't push radio signals through dirt.
hill blocks view.jpg
 

Illini Warrior

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good start is to look for locals that are already into it >> just this AM a local guy FB posted for any locals that could get him going in the right direction ....

only thing I'd advise - keep your OPSEC intact - get to know anyone you connect with >>> not everyone is a prepper and righteously minded just because he/she is a gear geek ....
 

Arcticdude

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The problem here is one of physics. You simply cannot push radio frequencies through dirt. Not without extremely low frequencies and miles long antennas in which case you are inductively coupling the earth rather than sending radio waves.

With a lower frequency, there is a bit more diffusion at the horizon (RF bending), but this is never going to be more than 15% or so. It doesn't matter whether it is a ham radio or a GMRS radio. There are children using 5 Watt handhelds to speak with astronauts on the International Space Station. There are lots of hams using the ham satellites above to make contacts. These little 5 watt radios (with specialized antennas) are fine for LINE OF SIGHT.

Bottom line is you can't push radio signals through dirt.
View attachment 13990
Thats kind of what I thought. The purpose for my question isn't for idle chat with someone but for my wife and i to stay in contact with each other here on the ranch. She gets worried when I'm working in some remote area and she can't contact me on our cheap hand held radios. On a good day they're good for maybe 3 miles, bearly enough to reach the mail box.
 

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Here in Australia we have a UHF CB Band, with up to 5 Watts output power. Fixed rigs are commonly used for 4x4 driving communications and are good for about 15 miles range with a vehicle mounted antenna. 5W Hand helds are also available.

Like the USA, we also have the 27MHz CB band, that works on both AM and SSB, and can reach vast differences. I heard conversations from Oregon while travelling south of Perth, Western Australia, also had a conversation that same day with a friend in Melbourne Victoria.
Again an elevated antenna is the way to go.

Unfortunately I don't know about GMRS or FRS, but looking at the advertising for FRS the claim is for 20+ miles.
However it is "Advertising" which can be vastly different from the truth.
 

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