New to Ham Radio

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by Kade Illian, Jun 18, 2016.

  1. Kade Illian

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    I am just getting into ham radio and am already very confused on what equipment to buy. I have earned a general license and am waiting on a call sign. I also am not a storm chaser yet, but want to be able to use my ham radio that I purchase to chase in a couple of years. Here are some of the things I need from my ham radio:
    1. Ideally, I would be able to communicate from coast to coast, but I at least need a range of 150 miles.
    2. My price range is anywhere from $0 to $350.
    3. I would like to be able to communicate with other chasers and listen to what they have to say.

    Any advice or recommendations on what ham radio to buy?
     
  2. ScottCurry

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    For storm chasing, 2m is the most popular. Most Skywarn repeaters are on 2m and it's also the most popular for simplex. Ham Radio Outlet (HRO) has a 75 watt 2m Yaesu mobile on sale for just $119 (http://www.hamradio.com/detail.cfm?pid=H0-010078) with free shipping. Add a great 5/8 antenna and strong mount with a good ground plane and you can stay within budget. Range is hard to determine because there are so many factors involved, but the setup I'm recommending will give you one of the best mobile ranges available in the budget you have.
     
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  3. Ben Holcomb

    Ben Holcomb Digital Janitor
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  4. Kade Illian

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    Thanks for the tips/products!
     
    #4 Kade Illian, Jun 20, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2016
  5. TJ Whitt

    TJ Whitt EF1

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    First off, not meaning to offend, but if you got your general class license, then you should know what type of ham radio you'd need.

    For your needs:
    1: Coast to coast or even 150 mile range would need an HF radio. HF mobile use is a entirely different world and more complicated than VHF/UHF mobile.
    You could, however, obtain that type of distance by using linked repeaters or Echolink.

    2: Newer VHF/UHF mobile radios usually go anywhere from $200 to $500. HF radios cost more and can get up to 7 thousand dollars. For spotting and/or chasing, I recommend just a 2m (VHF) mobile. And as always, price depends on features and brand.

    3: There are several chaser simplex frequencies such as 146.55.

    I recommend staying away from the cheap chinese radios as they are not very easy to program on the fly and service/reliability isn't all that. As the old saying goes "you get what you pay for". Stay with the big 3 (icom, Yaesu, Kenwood) I work for Ham Radio Outlet so any questions are welcomed.
     
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  6. Randy Jennings

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    Kade welcome to ham radio and storm chasing. The others have provided some good advice, but let me add my 2 cents:

    1) Get a dual band radio that does both VHF and UHF. It is getting harder and harder to get coordinated VHF pairs for repeaters, so there are more Skywarn nets on UHF frequencies than ever. It will cost a little more, but at some point you will regret it if you only have VHF and can't hear a net on UHF.

    2) If you can afford it, I highly recommend getting a mobile with dual VFOs so you can listen to 2 frequencies at once. This will allow you to have a Skywarn net on one VFO and chaser simplex on the other VFO or to listen to two different nets. Ideally you want to be able to do both on VHF, both on UHF, or a mix of the 2. A bonus is that many of these radios also can receive NOAA All Hazards Radio so you can also listen to that one side (the higher end models often have alerting capabilities so it just turns on weather radio when a new warning is issued).
     
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  7. Kade Illian

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    Awesome. Thanks again for all of the info.
     
  8. Kade Illian

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    Ok, so I have revised some of my requirements for the radio.

    1. Price Range: Under $400

    2. VHF/UHF
     
  9. TJ Whitt

    TJ Whitt EF1

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  10. Randy Jennings

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    You get more radio with that budget. Here is a comparison of the pros/cons of some of the radios TJ suggested and a few others:

    Yeasu FT-7900R: 50 watts VHF, 40 watts UHF, Pros: weather alert Cons: not dual receive, no APRS

    Yeasu FT-8900R: 50 watts VHF, 35 watts UHF, Pros: dual receive, crossband repeat, also 6m and 10m cons: no APRS

    Yaesu FTM-100DR: 50 watts VHF & UHF, Pros: digital (Yaesu System Fusion C4FM FDMA) or analog, APRS (w/ GPS included) Cons: not dual receive; no crossband repeat

    Kenwood TM-V71A: 50 watts VHF & UHF, Pros: dual receive, crossband repeat, weather alert, TNC jack, Cons: No bulitin APRS/GPS (although a ton of folks add it using the TNC jack)

    Icom IC-2730A Deluxe: 50 watts VHF & UHF, Pros: dual receive, crossband repeat, weather alert Cons: No APRS

    Icom ID-880H: 50 watts VHF & UHF, Pros: digital (DStar) or analog, weather alert, TNC jack (although I know of no one who has used it)Cons: not dual receive, no crossband, no APRS, no TNC jack.

    Not being dual receive is a deal breaker for me. That leaves the Yeasu FT-8900R, Kenwood TM-V71A, and Icom IC-2730A Deluxe for me to consider. Although I am a Yaesu owner meself (ftm-350ar), I would go with the Kenwood TM-V71A at this price point because it has a useable TNC jack. You can easily later add APRS or use with UiView or another APRS client and you can use Winlink via the TNC jack. Yaesu doesn’t get the TNC jack right on even its high end mobile. The Icom IC-2730A doesn’t have a TNC jack.

    One major word of advice – antenna matters. The more gain the better.
     
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  11. Michael.Merchant

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    I use a 2M/70cm Talkcoop KT-8900. Chinese radio, yes difficult to program but the range is perfect. I trip several repeaters from the little valley I’m in. It does everything I need it to except cross band repeat. The range "coast to coast" is not practical spotting, its more of a desire than anything else and your antenna would have to be setup and tuned for transmission and then removed for movement. Mobile spotting has no real need for HF with that range. Base spotting HF is ideal, you’re not playing with an antenna all the time. If you’re looking for information from another state have someone monitor the HF and send you information. Now if you have tornadoes in the area, HF might go down if your antenna is damaged, but you should be in a shack for that event.
     
  12. Sarah B. Wood

    Sarah B. Wood Lurker

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    A word about antennas - gain is everything. The higher gain antennas can be a bit pricey though, so put that in your budget considerations. I would recommend either a Comet or Diamond mobile antenna.
     
  13. Sarah B. Wood

    Sarah B. Wood Lurker

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    I got a Yaesu FTM100 DR for Christmas. Although it doesn't have dual VFOs I do like the fact it does APRS.
     
  14. Michael.Merchant

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    Also spend the extra money and get a mobile radio that’s a repeater. It’s helpful and nice to have.
     
  15. Drew T

    Drew T EF4

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    If you're anywhere near the DFW area, Ham Radio Outlet has a store in Plano (I'm going to guess that's the store @TJ Whitt works at). I'm in OKC and it's well worth the 3 hour drive when I have an idea of what I want but I'm not 100% sure)

    I've always been big on Yeasu radios personally. They've never let me down, although I wish I had gone with the 8900R so I could get dual receive. I may buy one anyway and toss the 7900R into my off road rig.

    I'm not sure about Texas, but in Oklahoma there are a couple of rather large linked repeater systems that cover a very large portion of the state. I believe one of them (that primarily covers the NE part of the state) is all 2m, whereas the one that covers the OKC are and points west and south run some 2m repeaters and some 70cm. For that reason alone, I would recommend a dual band 2m/70cm radio for chasing. For long range DXing, you'll have to go HF, as others have said. There isn't a ton of use for HF storm chasing, but there plenty of hams on HF who love to talk.
     
  16. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    I have been using two Motorola commercial radios, a pair of XTS3000 portables with RF adapters. It allows me to use 2 XTVA mobile converter units with handheld control heads, which is a huge space-saver in my car. Both are fed into a diplexer, to a single dual-band antenna. The down-side is that there's no VFO on commercial radios at all. They have to be programmed before heading out with all the channels you think you might need. I have the software and cables for them, so that's not a problem for me, but if you go further than you intended to go, it could be a very big problem if you don't have your programming kit with you.

    My car also has a digital trunking scanner on the dash, and a remote-mount CB radio. It's perfect for pulling information from public safety agencies while you're out, as well as hearing the truckers on CB19. The truckers will let you know something's up locally before any SAME tones ever hit the NOAA radio, as they are very attuned to what the weather is doing. Really bad weather? Trucks don't roll. Trucks don't roll? Money not made.

    I've been considering an Icom IC-2730 though.
     

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