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Ham radio, potentially a bushcrafter's best friend!

Discussion in 'Electronics' started by Pastor Chris, Sep 7, 2017.

  1. Pastor Chris

    Pastor Chris Hardwoodsman #7 Hobbyist Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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    I just became a licensed ham operator this past July. It was fairly easy, given online study tools and study apps for smart phones, to get my Technician level license, which is the basic level.

    I began thinking about this as many of the places we go as bush crafters have no cell service and satellite phones are still quite expensive.

    It is nice to have a safety net. Some might dispute that point and I understand that, but I can only speak for me.

    Small and powerful HT "hand transmitter" or "handy talkie" units have never been less expensive and easy to use given computer software integration for programming and finding repeater frequencies for a given geographical location.

    I have also been listening and talking on the local nightly traffic net on the OEM's local repeater. Just to get experience with communications procedures and language.

    Last week, I was on a motorcycle off road trail ride with a buddy in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. This is perhaps the most remote area of the state, so I had my HT in my tank bag on the bike as I knew we would be without cell coverage.

    I had two fairly significant "offs" in the deep sand. Significant in that both times my right ankle got trapped under my 600 pound bike. The first time was not to bad and I wiggled out easily and "walked it off"

    This is the view from my Geek Pro (cheaper version of the Go Pro) as I walked around a bit winding down and checking my leg.

    [​IMG]Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 7.01.36 PM by Chris Scrivens, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_2469 by Chris Scrivens, on Flickr

    The second off my leg got pinned between the bike and a log and it HURT! My leg was firmly pinned and the pain grew and my only relief was a small pine against which I could push to relieve a bit of pressure, but I could not get the bike of without help.

    Here is the point of this post:

    If my injuries had been worse (I indeed up with a sprain and bruises, two days on crutches, now in a brace for a week or two) or if had been real bone-head and riding by myself (not in this lifetime) I would have been in a very serious situation indeed.

    I did no have to try the HT, but it was right there in reach.

    Ham radio has become a slightly antiquated hobby in the age of modern technology that has shrunk the world quite a bit. But is has lasting usefulness in emergency situations.

    It is true that the FCC allows ham use in emergency situations for unlicensed operators, but these are not walkout talkies or cell phones and require a little bit on knowledge and practice before you can do anything practical with them.

    The top banner of our beloved forum says, "Knowledge, Skills, Integrity"

    I put it to you that for the cost in time and money, this is a worthwhile bit of knowledge and skill to develop given what we do, where we do it, and the tools we use along the way.

    73

    KD2NWM
     
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  2. Pastor Chris

    Pastor Chris Hardwoodsman #7 Hobbyist Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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  3. atlastrekker

    atlastrekker Salty Sea Dog Supporter Bushclass I

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    Just like bushcraft it is a skill that must be learned and practiced. Most people forget that last part.

    I'm glad your ankles survived the trip, but I bet it was still a great outing.
     
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  4. MT_Fin

    MT_Fin Axe'aholic Hobbyist Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I know almost nothing about HAM, though I've used radios extensively in corrections/security/Fire fighting and EMS. Sounds like an interesting and useful endeavor, might have to look in to it.
     
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  5. Bridgetdaddy

    Bridgetdaddy Scout

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    Looks like a good radio. Any links on where to get one? Price?
     
  6. Pastor Chris

    Pastor Chris Hardwoodsman #7 Hobbyist Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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    It is a Baofeng F8HP and goes for about $60 on Amazon. The UV 5RA model is about $25 and fairly well thought of an an intro unit. I chose this one because it has a bigger battery, upgraded antenna, and can transmit at up to 8w instead of 5, but I have been told that is of little practical difference.
     
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  7. Tangotag

    Tangotag Field Gear Junkie Supporter Bushclass I

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    HTs are far from an end all solution, in rural locations watts matter. Yaesu not too long ago made a waterproof radio FTM-10R but discontinued it. The ideal radio for dual sport.
    Don't stop studying, get your General or Extra license. I'm starting a CW class next week.
     
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  8. Pastor Chris

    Pastor Chris Hardwoodsman #7 Hobbyist Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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    Thanks for the encouragement @Tangotag ! Lie anything this can become addicting! I have already been to my first ham fest and am studying for my General for more privileges on the lower hands. I'd love to find a nice packable setup for 6 or 10 meters at some point. Step by step.

    Have fun with CW, I downloaded an app. It haven't gotten too far into it yet.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
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  9. Bhart89

    Bhart89 Tracker

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    I keep my Yaesu VX-5r in my tail bag. I grew up riding in the pine barrens (Wharton).
     
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  10. Sweeneyguy

    Sweeneyguy Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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    I use the older version of that radio for SAR, upgraded whip antenna and I can talk anywhere I need to. Easy to program and cheap. I got a yellow one to stand out a little.

    I might have to look into HAM just because.
     
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  11. central joe

    central joe Guide

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    Wait until you get into QRP. 1/2 watt and pile ups with everyone trying to get a contact from you thousands of miles away. joe
     
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  12. Tangotag

    Tangotag Field Gear Junkie Supporter Bushclass I

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  13. atlastrekker

    atlastrekker Salty Sea Dog Supporter Bushclass I

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    Mine works good, it adds quite a bit of range. I've had it for a couple years now and it still looks the same as the day I bought it. This is a great addition to the kit.
     
  14. Macrosill

    Macrosill Scout Bushclass I

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    Congrats on getting your ticket. There is a lot more to the hobby than VHF HTs. The General test is not much harder than the Tech and gets you more privileges. I have a Yeasu VX-7R but much prefer the Baofeng UV-5R.
    73,
    NG2S
     
  15. Seacapt.

    Seacapt. Supporter Supporter

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    One of my MFJ Cubs is always with me for over nite canoe/camp sailing, IOTA/SOTA or just plain woods bumming but like in my vehicle if I was on a motor cycle, other 4 wheeler type UTE, snow mobile I would depend on a CB set as most every remote camp/cabin owner, land/air SAR units, local LEOs, Warden Service, Logging ops/truckers are equipped and monitor them here in the deep Maine woods anyway. Either 5 watt CB HTs or small paperback book size base units with a mag mount antenna to set on gas tank take up little room in a saddle bag or back pack. Popular Midland and Cobra brand CBs run $79-$120.00 and can be seen for motorcycle use by Googleing " CB radio use on motorcycles". Long range cross county, state, country coms via relay without infrastructure requirements.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
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  16. Pastor Chris

    Pastor Chris Hardwoodsman #7 Hobbyist Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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    Thanks for the antenna recommendation @Tangotag and @atlastrekker , I just ordered one!

    Good advice on the CB universality @Seacapt. Something to look into for sure.
     
  17. MiamiC70

    MiamiC70 Tracker

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    I wish HAM would get out of the 90's with the radio interfaces and software. Little OS X software available, most iOS apps suck orvare non existent, computer software mainly on windows some actually requiring ancient versions of Windows with interfaces to match.

    I would love a HAM radio with smart phone interface.
     
  18. Tangotag

    Tangotag Field Gear Junkie Supporter Bushclass I

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    I'm with you but, getting Apple to sign off on apps with comms interfaces is the bigger issue. Developing for Windows and Linux is much easier and the reason why they are used more for Amatuer radio.
    My daily web crawlers are an iPhone and iPad. I tried a Linux MintBox solid state mini 12volt for my Ecomm ham machine but ended up with a Win Panasonic Toughbook for compatability. Keep in mind my daily job is to manage Linux servers from command line.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2017
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  19. Seacapt.

    Seacapt. Supporter Supporter

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    Are you a licensed "HAM" now?
     
  20. atlastrekker

    atlastrekker Salty Sea Dog Supporter Bushclass I

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    Digital radio is happening now. My d-star radio interfaces with my phone. Plus there are smart phones with built in uhf/VHF radios coming to market now as well.

    http://qrznow.com/ham-radio-smartphone-outfone-rangerfone-s15-android-vhfuhf/
     
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  21. J Stephens

    J Stephens Tracker

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    Ham radios are a poor choice for backcountry emergencies. I would not faith in them. A far better and more reliable choice would be a PLB of sorts.

    Delorme inreach has the ability of two way texting with loved ones, as well as the rescue center and operates worldwide. albeit there is a monthly subscription fee (can be as low as 15 dollars a month), the reassurance you're in direct contact with a rescue monitoring station and can ping friends and family back home more than makes up for the fee... You can not even come close to getting that with an HT. In addition, with a Spot, DeLorme, and resqlink, etc, your coordinates are sent to the rescue center, so they know where you're at even if you have no knowledge of where you're at. Sure a satellite based locator can run two or three hundred dollars, even more, but so can HTs but again offer far less security.

    I was a ham op for years. I basically took it up for the same reasons you did, but I quickly learned how impractical they are for backcountry emergencies.

    I'd much rather press a button and sit back until SAR gets there, than to have to look for a station, hope I can hit it, and hope someone is monitoring it. In addition, I'd like to contact my loved ones back home, even if they are on the other side of the country.
     
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  22. Lichen

    Lichen Supporter Supporter

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    Most of the people in my off-road club have switched to the Baofung UV 5R in place of CBs. They are so much better and really inexpensive.
     
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  23. b yond

    b yond Scout

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    1st, congrats on getting your Tech license. I got mine a few months ago too and have been absolutely obsessed ever since.

    2nd, the BF F8-HP is a great choice for a beginner Handheld Transceiver. Can't beat the value for an 8w HT. Look at the Nagoya NA-771 and NA-771R antennas if you want a little more reach. adding a wire counterpoise will increase your range too for free (if you have a 19.5" length of wire laying around).

    3rd, if you're into getting out in the woods with your HT, look into APRS. It was one of the driving forces that got me into amateur radio, and you can get into it with little additional investment. It will allow you to send your position to the internet in areas without cell service by linking your smart phone with your HT. You may need to buy an APRS to K2 cable, or you can make your own. I use APRSDroid on my Android smartphone and I'm sure there's an iOS alternative if you're on an iPhone. I use this when backpacking solo so my wife knows I'm alive by checking my location and comment on https://aprs.fi.

    4th, save your pennies. If you're anything like me the F8-HP is a gateway drug, and you're going to want more antennas and a more powerful rig real soon.

    73
     
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  24. bigfoot

    bigfoot Tracker

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    Congrats on the new license! And glad you made it home in one piece, more or less! :dblthumb:
     
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  25. bigfoot

    bigfoot Tracker

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    @J Stephens Would add more "likes" to your post if I could. :)

    Ham is just another tool in the toolbox. Ideally, somebody would have it, along with an EPIRB, PLB, sat. phone, and backup chargers & batteries. Throw in some signaling gear (mirror, signal panel, strobe, flares, whistle, glow sticks, etc.), and I think that might just cover most situations. :D
     
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  26. Pastor Chris

    Pastor Chris Hardwoodsman #7 Hobbyist Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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