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HAM Radio for Preppers Explained.

HAM radio


HAM Radio for Preppers Explained.

The HAM radio field day has just ended (click here if you missed it).  Since this is probably the most important day of the year for amateur radio operators, we thought we would make one last call out to other preppers as to why you NEED HAM radio to be included in your preps.  I had many questions, even after I got my General Ticket (Hamspeak for General License).  Those questions included, “why do I need a HAM radio?” , “what HAM radios do what?”, and “what equipment do I need besides the radio?”.  To help the person whose interest has been peaked, we put together this very short explaination of the two modes of operation we see to be appealing to fellow preppers.  In a nutshell, here are the two modes of survival communications, what you can do with these modes, and what basic equipment is needed:

HAM radio ICOM IC-7200 in Multi-cam

ICOM IC-7200 in Multi-cam

Worldwide Communications- Let me explain this in basic terms for the folks who are just peeking into the hobby.  With a HF HAM radio, that is one that operates on “high frequency” (160m-10m), it is possible to talk to other states, regions, and across continents.  Folks are no longer mesmerized by worldwide communications simply because of phones and the internet.  What you may not realize is that this is an intricate web of equipment is between you and the person with which you are communicating. Anything can happen to this grid, from natural disasters, to hackers, to EMP’s. The difference with HAM radio is there is nothing between you and the person with which you are talking.  On one side you have a powersource, radio, and antenna, on the other side you have a power source, radio, and antenna, only the atmosphere is in between.  They can’t shut it off or block it, once licensed, you control the airwaves. To operate an HF radio you will need what is called a “General” license.  This is the second of three licenses (Technician, General, and Extra) and as a new person, the General is the license you should be aiming for at the very least.  The only downside to HF radio is that it costs a bit more to get into, but once you are in, you are in.  Probably the best entry level radio on the market is the ICOM IC-7200.  It is not the least expensive HF radio, but one that offers some features you will desire of more expensive radios. You can go cheaper, like the IC-718 but you may shortly be wishing for more.  Beyond the radio, you will need a power supply, tuner, some coax, and an antenna.  With this basic station you can talk to the world.  I tell you, there is nothing like contacting folks in other countries knowing that you control your communications destiny.  It’s a load of fun as well.

HAM radio Yaesu FT-8800R

Yaesu FT-8800R

Local Communications- Imagine a world where all communications are down.  Now imagine leaving home to go to a market, out to the woods to hunt, or even work the fields.  Once your home is out of sight, you are all alone.  You cannot call for help nor can your family call back to you.  No cell phones, no Internet, not even a pay phone (remember those?). This is where the 2 Meter and 70 Centimeter bands come into play.  These “bands” or “frequencies” offer you reliable and ultra-portable communications, like walkie talkies, only better.  The reason radios in this band offer more than the Walmart walkie talkies comes down to this; more power, better antennas, and better electronics.  HT’s (Handy Talkies) as they are called by HAM’s can transmit up to 5 watts, they also offer interchangeable antennas.  Without going into a bunch of science, the antenna is the most important item on any radio.  The short stubs you find on commercial walkie talkies are horrible.  With a better antenna and more power you can actually have a useful range, but wait, there’s more.

There is also a second mode you can utilize with 2M, one that I suggest you should look into, is a feature of some radios called cross band repeat.  In everyday use, 2 meter radios enjoy the fact that there are repeaters all over the world.  A repeater is exactly like what it sounds, it repeats your transmission.  This is very important to understand. You are on the ground and your signal is limited by what is called the radio horizon, limiting HT to HT transmissions to just a few miles at best..  The antennas used on public repeaters are generally much higher in the air, extending the range of your HT to a much greater range.  If you were to mimic this setup, you too could have your own personal repeater with a range of 10, 20, 30 or more miles.  To do this, you need your technician’s license, a radio with cross band repeat, a power source, and an antenna mounted high in the air.  Many “mobile” radios can perform this function, but the Yaesu FT-8800R and Kenwood TM-V71A are two of the more popular choices.  These, coupled with a power supply, antenna, and coax will get you up and running.  This mode will get you HT to “repeater” to HT functionality.  So someone working in a field can talk to someone headed into town by first sending the signal through the repeater (this all happens automatically).

You can also increase your range with HT to base communications less expensively by choosing a “mobile” without the cross band repeat functionality.  You will still need the aforementioned power supply, antenna, and coax, but you can use a radio like the Yaesu FT-2900 (only $137.00 at the time of the article).  Again, this will allow HT to base, or “out to town” to home communications but not repeated to someone else with an HT.  Keep in mind, not everyone will have this setup in your area of operations.  The good news is you can allow your neighbors to use your “repeater” without much inconvenience to you.

HAM radio HAM AUTHORIZEDNow that you know how HAM radio can help you in anything from a natural disaster to a total grid down scenario, what is next?  Well, getting your license of course!  I know there are some in the community who feel a license is unnecessary, but I beg to differ.  If you plan to toss a bunch of equipment into a box for when SHTF, you will probably be clueless when it comes time to use it.  If you are using it now, unlicensed, you are breaking the law.  It is far better to get your license now and enjoy the hobby with fellow HAM’s.  It will offer you years of enjoyment, knowledge, and friendships.  There are several ways you can get started, we’ve done several articles ourselves, but you might be best to locate the local HAM club, here you will find people that are more than willing to take the mystery out of HAM radio (click here to find your local club).

Your second thought might be “why all the links to gigaparts.com“?  The answer is simple.  The Tin Hat Ranch has teamed up with Gigaparts in an effort to bring more preppers into the HAM radio fold. Over the past few months we searched for the best place to buy HAM gear, and time and time again we found Gigaparts to be the answer.  Being the nation’s largest HAM radio distributor they can offer all of the best equipment at the lowest prices, and they are very helpful as well.  We are putting together a prepper program over the next few months that will offer a path for preppers to not only get licensed, but get the right gear at a great price.

There you have it, if those aren’t good enough reason’s to get started in HAM radio as a prepper, I don’t know how else to convince you.  Just a simple investment in time to get your license will lead to years and years of fun, even if the world doesn’t end.


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