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#49820 - 09/22/05 03:44 PM HAM radio --2 meter gear
TeacherRO Offline

Registered: 03/11/05
Posts: 2480
Does anyone have experience with using 2 meter
( handheld) gear for communications? Is the range good? Does it need a repeater?


#49821 - 09/22/05 04:14 PM Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear
harrkev Offline

Registered: 09/05/01
Posts: 384
Loc: Colorado Springs, CO
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.
Darwin was wrong -- I'm still alive

#49822 - 09/22/05 04:39 PM Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear
Malpaso Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 09/12/05
Posts: 817
Loc: MA
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
It's not that life is so short, it's that you're dead for so long.

#49823 - 09/22/05 05:13 PM Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear
Schwert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/13/02
Posts: 905
Loc: Seattle, Washington
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:


#49824 - 09/22/05 08:54 PM Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear
paulr Offline

Registered: 02/18/04
Posts: 448
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.

#49825 - 09/23/05 12:58 AM Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear
Schwert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/13/02
Posts: 905
Loc: Seattle, Washington
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:


Edited by Schwert (09/23/05 01:15 AM)

#49826 - 09/23/05 03:08 AM Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear
Ors Offline
Namu (Giant Tree)

Registered: 09/16/05
Posts: 664
Loc: Florida, USA
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.
Memento mori
Vulnerant omnes, ultima necat (They all wound, the last kills)

#49827 - 09/23/05 03:58 AM Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear
paulr Offline

Registered: 02/18/04
Posts: 448
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.

#49828 - 09/23/05 04:10 AM Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear
Schwert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/13/02
Posts: 905
Loc: Seattle, Washington
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.

#49829 - 09/23/05 04:11 AM Re: HAM radio --2 meter gear
philip Offline

Registered: 09/19/05
Posts: 639
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
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.


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