Gearing up for '07

Well this year was an absolute blast, being my first chase year. My buddy and I managed to nab our first tornado using only our eyes to the sky! Next year, however, I want to be WELL prepared since we are heading south for a week to chase (TX panhandle?). So, with that in mind, I was wondering if anyone could cough up a few suggestions for me. I have dug back deep into the threads from the past but found nothing that answered my questions.

First and foremost would be a laptop. I have been searching and scouring only to find that I know very little when it comes to this. What I am looking for is a reliable piece of eqipment that is Wi-Fi ready, has a very good graphics card, and has a speedy processor. Unfortunately, which is standard issue, I am also on a limited budget. I have also been researching MANY different Wx programs so I suppose it would have to be able to handle a program like that too. ThreatNet Plus seems to have many likable features.

Secondly, we have been through a few weather radios which have turned out to be PURE JUNK. I want something that has very good range/signal. I have been reading up on Uniden BC72XLT (NASCAR scanner) but still unsure if it is what I am looking for. What do you guys normally use?

Thanks for any and all suggestions! 2007 should be a great year.
 
You can get factory refurbed IBM (Lonovo) Thinkpads for about $400. My grandfather swears by them, and he's pretty tough on his lappys.
 
Congrats on your first chase season! The laptop I currently have I purchased on ebay for about $600. I know it is a bit of a risk to buy a used laptop but I love mine and have had it for two years. You don't have to get a laptop with built in wi-fi, but if you don't you need to get a wireless card which is no big deal. I use the Orinoco Gold card I found on ebay that comes with a external antenna that works really good. Another option is a data card from Sprint, Cingular or any of the cell phone networks. Most cost around $60-$80 unlimited but you can go down to the lowest package during non chase months. I have Cingular and it comes in very handy as you are not having to search for any available wi-fi network in a city. As far as radar programs GRlevel3 is very good but requires an internet connection. Threat Net is a very good tool but pricey. I have a scanner from Radio Shack and it works really good. If you get a scanner be sure to get an external antenna for it........these can be found on ebay.

Here is a few pieces of advice. If you are coming for a one week vacation try and pick a week when the models look favorable. I know some people may not be able to do this, but if you can it will sure help. Look for posts on here and people will be discussing in advance if they think a good system in coming in the next week or so. Of course this doesn't guarantee a thing, but its better than coming in during a ridge of non-severe weather. E-bay can be your friend when purchasing equipment- external antennas are good for anything that can have them. A good GPS receiver and Street Atlas is a very important tool. Base out of Oklahoma City as it is close to Texas/Oklahoma/Kansas and not too far from anywhere else in tornado alley with good interstates in each direction to get you to your target area. I guess for starters a good laptop with wifi/cell phone provider card, scanner, radar program, and gps is a very good start. Continue to read as many posts on here about forecasting/equipment etc. and read as much about severe weahter on the internet as possible like what causes storms to initiate and what to look for. This is how I started and next year will be my fourth chase season and I feel really good about what I know and how to chase storms. Another plus would be to find somebody willing to let you follow them or ride along to gain some experience/knowledge of how to chase storms. Any questions just ask.

Chris Wilburn
 
I agree with what Chris W says, look at the models. I havnt been chasing for very long but living on the budget i have and the fact that i have learned so much from just looking at them has helped ALOT! On another hand, my partner that rides along with me just purchased a scanner for us and it is the BC72XLT and i think it performs great. I just ran the external antena wires for it tonight. The antena was like 15$ from radioshack. But using it in the house i picked up the Austin,TX repeater 146.940 from about 20 miles away (how the crow flies). I plan on using it to monitor specific frequencies because my 2m ham gets better range and i have the ability to communicate. Thats another thing i found to be helpful is being an opperator *test isnt to difficult and only costs about $20*

Hope the info helps and run into maybeya on a chase if one leads me a little north!

-Shawn
KE5HHD
 
Thanks for everyone's replies! I have been paying very close attention all year long to this site seeing as how many knowledgable people are on here. I normally don't post very much considering I am relatively new to the Wx world! My buddy (Joel Wright) is basically the brains of the operation and I do most of the driving. I have quadrupled my knowledge, however, over the span of about a year. I honestly cannot follow most of the lingo people use on here, but I'm learning! Once again, thanks to all of the suggestions, I will refer to this post quite often when my budget finally allows me to purchase my equipment lol.
 
If your looking at buying a laptop I would check out Dells Outlet on their web page. I bought mine on there this summer and have been nothing but pleased, it was a hell of a deal to I paid $625 including shipping and taxes it has 80gb HD DVD-RW 1gb RAM and also came with a leather case they charge about $90 for, there are definetly some deals to be had there, and you can avoid the risk of ebay. As for a radio I would get your HAM license (really pretty easy I knew nothing about Radios and studied for a maximum of 2 hours and passed) then purchase a ham radio and a good antenna for a couple hundred bucks.
 
Jeremy,

A lot of good information has already been mentioned. Ham radio, also referred to as amateur radio, requires a license which is fairly simple to test for. A ham radio gives you the ability to communicate over fairly good distances with other chasers on certain frequencies and also enables you to listen to weather radio on other frequencies. As far as radar, G.P.S. and a laptop that can accommodate the two, you're going to end up spending $1000. + sooner or later, it's an investment we've all had to make. Until you are able to get this equipment, I highly recommend chasing with someone who does have these things. It can get dangerous sometimes, and visibility, road options and storm motion become critical factors in safety and storm interception. Good luck in 2007 and don't hesitate to contact me when you're able to chase, I'll probably be out there too.
 
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