HAM radio --2 meter gear

Posted by: TeacherRO

HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/22/05 03:44 PM

Does anyone have experience with using 2 meter
( handheld) gear for communications? Is the range good? Does it need a repeater?

Posted by: harrkev

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/22/05 04:14 PM

Going strictly HT to HT using the duckies pumping out 5W, you will get a couple of miles. This assumes a typical "suburban" environment, with lots of houses, and flat terrain.

WIth a decent repeater, you can likely hit it from 10 miles or more. OF course, this assumes that the repeater antenna is quite high up (one hundred feet or more). As with everything, your mileage may very depending upon terrain, buildings, and antennas. But this is my experience.
Posted by: Malpaso

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/22/05 04:39 PM

2m is "line of sight" meaning the two parties radio waves have to be in an uninterrupted line of each other. Line of sight in a valley or among large urban buildings is very limited. Hill top to hill top is much extended. Propagation ducting (unusual atmospheric conditions) sometimes referred to as "skip" can allow for transmissions as distant as 1000 miles, although that is extremely unusual.

All that being said, normal HT to HT at 5w would be somewhere in the 10 to 25 mile range.

Check out www.eham.net
Posted by: Schwert

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/22/05 05:13 PM

As already noted comm distance is dependent on terrain, power output and antenna performance, plus local support from repeater groups.

2m is a very good choice generally. A decent longer antenna on a hand-held transmitter can make a huge difference over the standard short rubber ducks supplied. Repeater use can overcome some terrain restrictions and extend communications many times over simplex. We had a local repeater group that ran linked 2m repeaters from Seattle into Montana. Your local ham groups are a great source of information about your area and the frequencies of most use. You can find some of your local groups by looking at the ARRL site here:


Posted by: paulr

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/22/05 08:54 PM

If you want extended range without a repeater, a decent ground plane antenna (1/4 wave (19")) is fine will give tremendous boost compared to the handheld antenna. Simplest is to get a magnetic mount car antenna and plop it onto your car roof, or even onto a cookie sheet.

If you want something that doesn't need a big flat piece of metal, there are various wire antenna designs with radial stubs instead of a ground plane, that can be pretty lightweight. They're easy to set up but it's not like using a cellular phone (walk and talk at the same time).

Finally there are some 5/8" telescoping whip antennas (about 4 feet long) that will still work quite a bit better than the standard "rubber duck" and you can use them while walking. I had one of these (about 25 bucks) but have no idea where it is now. They're a little bit cumbersome (maybe 10" long collapsed) but I'd say worth having in the situations you might be imagining. If you're thinking of getting something like that, make sure your HT has an appropriate connector.
Posted by: Schwert

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/23/05 12:58 AM

I agree with the antenna suggestions. I carry a short Maldol MH-511 stub for general use, a thin Pryme RD-98 which is about 19" long (dual band, my favorite antenna) and a Maldol AH-510R which is just over 3' long extended (tri-band). All of these can be used while walking.

Some of the folks in my emergency group have pocket roll-up J-pole antennas made from TV twin lead and one has a Quad antenna. These need some sort of mount or hang point though.

It is pretty easy to buy excellent antennas and the pocket J-poles are easy to make, cheap, and efficient, especially if hoisted into a tree for a bit of height. You will need to carry a short length of cable to connect it however.

This then leads into the various car and base station antennas which can really improve performance.

Once you have a decent hand-held adding a spare battery (or AA pack) and a gain antenna should be next on the list....really not next but at the same time as the radio purchase. Supplied antennas from most (all) radio manufactures are not usually very good.

This link covers some of the difficulties with using hand-held radios and their limited antennas. It is in the form of a repeater script and seems to be missing the J-pole description but overall some good things to consider when trying to use such limited radios for emergency communications. The Tiger Tail is a good add on.


And the orginal source article from Ed Harris:

Posted by: Ors

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/23/05 03:08 AM

So do you folks in the know think this would be a good bit of equipment for someone who in interested in getting into Ham (reading "Ham Radio for Dummies")?

I'm really interested in learning MC and maintaining those skills, so I figured ham might be the best way to do that. But I'm guessing hand helds don't have MC keys, would that be correct?

I guess I'm also interested in it as a more reliable form of communication in a disaster, as opposed to phones, cell phones, etc. I think some of that comes from watching "Independance Day" too many times! I know, I know, don't believe everything you see in the movies.

I haven't even priced equipment for a home rig, and since I'm still working on kits, I think ham has to be on the back burner. But it looks to be a bit of an expensive pursuit.

Any advice would be appreciated.
Posted by: paulr

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/23/05 03:58 AM

Try visiting arrl.org for study materials and so forth. There's tons of PC programs including various free ones, for morse code practice. Nobody uses morse code on 2 meters (at least the part of the 2 meter band where those handhelds operate) though. Even on the low bands, digital modes like PSK31 make morse code obsolete, though some traditionalists still use morse.

I really wish someone would make a complete, portable, 20 meter psk31 transceiver in a box. It would have the radio, keyboard, display, batteries, etc. all in one unit, rather than make you plug all kinds of computers and junk together. It would look like one of those ruggedized palmtop computers like the UPS guys carry, but maybe the size of a hardcover book, weighing a couple pounds. It would be a great backup or alternative to a satellite phone.
Posted by: Schwert

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/23/05 04:10 AM

Most hand helds are FM voice bands and do not use code in the traditional sense. You can transmit code on this frequency with one but that is generally a specialized aspect of their use. Larger radios using longer wavelengths is the more likely place to use morse code.

That given though, I do think a 2m handheld is a good entry point....just not a very good entry point if CW is your desired communication form. Your first license allows the use of this band, and it generally can introduce you to your local emergency groups.

Ham can be expensive if you buy your gear, but many of the early hams built all their equipment using some fairly lowly items. Some hams still do this...many do it for antennas.

It costs little to study and take the exams, so you need not back burner that. Try and find a ham group locally to assist with your studies and building projects.

Check out the ARRL link I posted above.

Posted by: philip

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/23/05 04:11 AM

Louise and I are hams. The Technician Class license allows you to use 6 meters, 2 meters, 70cm, and higher frequencies, and Morse code is not required. You cannot operate on HF frequencies as a Tech without Morse code (that's 10 meters, 20 meters, and on out longer). That takes a General or Extra license, and Morse code is required (at the moment -- that may be dropped next year; stay tuned, as they say).

I'd suggest looking for an amateur radio club (try 2 or 3 to find one with compatible people) after you get your license and before buying a radio. You'll get some good advice from long-time hams on radios and stuff.

Posted by: KG2V

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/23/05 11:50 AM

IF you decide to go and get a ham radio (or 2,3, or in my case, a dozen or 2 - yes I have too many) look up you local ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) group - you do NOT have to join - but it'll be a GOOD thing to know what frequencies they plan on using, for 2 reasons 1)They USUALLY know the local repeaters that will work "better" in disasters (better coverage, backup power, etc) and 2)If they ARE on the air, they often get the skinny before it hist the press - in fact, they are often helping report it to the powers that be
Posted by: Malpaso

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/23/05 12:40 PM

Morse Code (known in HAM language as CW or continous wave) is far from obsolete. In the worst conditions, it is often the only mode that can be transmitted through atmospheric noise. Granted, the newer digital modes are more popular, but they require computer equipment, which is not always available during an emergency, especially when power is at issue. I have gone around the world on 5w with CW, and made over 1000 contacts in a 48 period. CW is not outdated, nor is it dead.
Posted by: jshannon

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/23/05 03:46 PM

Paul, what about this setup for psk31?

Posted by: paulr

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/23/05 04:40 PM

PSK31 is more effective at getting through noise than CW ever was (and where PSK31 won't get through, there's PSK10 and even PSK5, but those are rarely used since they're not needed). Yes, it needs a computer but every radio these days has a computer built in. What seems to not exist yet is a radio whose built-in computer supports PSK31 without needing an external computer (i.e. a complete PSK31 station in one box, about the size of an FT817, with a keyboard and display). It's really time for someone to make something like that. Better still would be a spread spectrum mode which needs no tuning.

There was a very good article by Phil Karn KA9Q a while back about how Morse is nowhere near as channel-efficient as people seem to think it is. I'm not able to find it right now (I just Googled for a few minutes) but maybe it will turn up.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/24/05 01:24 AM

This may be an incredibly simple minded question, but is there not a computer sub-program that converts plain text to morse, and morse to plain text? Why could not such a thing run on a palmtop? I'm not into radio, I'm just curious.
Posted by: paulr

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/24/05 01:57 AM

Programs like that exist, but if you've got a computer you might as well use a digital mode, even RTTY, rather than Morse. Morse was designed to work with extremely primitive equipment, no computers, no microphones even, just an on-off switch that you flip on and off. There is a traditionalist excitement in using it that would be lost if you had a computer do everything. I remember finding a beautiful RAF telegraph key in a junk shop many years ago and I had to buy it even though I had no use for it. But I have no idea where it is now.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/24/05 06:16 AM

Thank you Paul. I suppose that the quick answer is that there is nobody around to receive the signal. Too steep a curve, so to speak, after everybody is used to voice. To me, as a novice, it seems kind of too bad, as a simple pulse signal can be transmitted over so many bands so simply.

I'd find that old key, if I were you. If you don't want it, I like old gear.
Posted by: paulr

Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear - 09/24/05 07:13 AM

I don't want to give the wrong impression. Lots of hams are still using Morse code, but they're doing it the traditional way, without computers, because they enjoy that or because they don't have computer equipment, or because they want to stay connected to old-time ham culture that still uses Morse. Morse will still be with us for quite a while even though in pure technological terms it doesn't make much sense any more.

There's no chance of my finding that telegraph key--I've moved several times since then.