HAM Radio Upgrade

Nathan Parker

Aug 31, 2021
Hot Springs, Arkansas
I recently passed a General-class HAM radio license exam. I'm a newbie HAM radio operator (callsign is N5PKR). I picked up a cheap Baofeng GT-5R and a Diamond antenna just to get on the air, plus I'm dabbling in EchoLink. Eventually, I need to invest in another rig or two. I need equipment that can do HF, VHF/UHF. I'll heavily use my HAM gear for severe weather purposes, but I may also interact with local clubs, plus I'd like the ability to interact with people around the world. I'm in the process of joining my local clubs, joined the online club that administered my exams (Aurora), and I joined the ARRL. I have the ARRL Operating Manual, Handbook, Antenna Book, Grounding Book, Digital Modes Book, and Storm Spotters Book.

What would be a good rig or rigs to invest in for my purposes? I've heard the Icom IC-7300 is a popular model for HF. I see Midland also offers an affordable VHF/UHF rig. Also, what do I need to look for in an antenna, and what grounding would I need for it? I do have a mounting tripod in my backyard my Davis Vantage Pro 2 is mounted on with a ground rod into the ground next to it. I have a wire drop for the Vantage Pro 2 (when I had a cabled model) that I could also use for the antenna feed line.

I'll probably order from DX Engineering when I go for it.


Drew Terril

Staff member
The Icom 7300 is certainly a fine radio, as are the current Kenwood and Yaesu offerings. With that said, there are a number of older models that you can pick up for much less money that will operate perfectly well, assuming the antenna is adequate. For example, I still work with a Yaesu FT-840 that I picked up shortly after I got my general. I have not attempted a mobile setup for HF, but there are a couple of smaller models floating around that can be had. I forget the model number, but there's a Kenwood out there that has a remote head. We're already seeing 10m and occasionally 6m open up, and it's early in the cycle, so something that does 6m-80m (or 6m-160m) would be good. Beyond that, there are endless options.

For VHF/UHF, you need to consider whether you're looking at FM only, or AM/SSB, or if you want to operate on one of the digital voice modes that are available. Whether or not you would utilize APRS is another consideration. Much of that will depend on what's there in your area. There's a lot of DMR in my area, so that's been one of my focuses along with APRS. Once you've narrowed down what you need in a VHF/UHF rig, it'll be much easier to give a recommendation.

For an antenna, anything from Comet or Diamond will be reliable on VHF/UHF. Some do not require a ground plane. HF will be dependent on what kind of room you have available, or if you even have the option to have an outdoor antenna.