Help from Elmers for NuBs

Started by hayr, September 02, 2012, 11:40:11 PM

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As a relatively green prepper (2 years, now) and a completely green Ham NuB (Tech licence in July 2012), I would appreciate (and I am sure others would as well) ANY and ALL learned advice from any Ham more experienced than I would be greatly appreciated!

As for me, I am still in the "overwhelmed" stage of prepping.  As a hillbilly from WV, much that is termed "prepping" has been a way of life in the mountains for generations.  And while I was fortunate to have gleaned a little from that heritage plus what I have learned as a Scouting leader, when I read the various blogs I am forced to say, "Woe is me"!

But since really getting serious, I have enlisted my wife and son-in-law and we have added to the larder.  The blogs made me feel inadequate with respect to security so now I have attended an Appleseed, have a CCW permit and have purchased the necessary equipment to protect my life, that of my family and, if necessary to help defend the liberty purchased by riflemen all those years ago.

The prepper books, fiction and non-, helped me to know I needed the ability to communicate, so I studied, took the test, joined ARRL and the local club, and now am trying to decide what type of rig(s) to buy or to build. I have purchased the ARRL "Handbook" (weighs about 10 lbs) and "Ham Radio for Dummies" and am starting to relearn. When it comes to electronics, I am the radio equivalent of a special education student!  Every time I came to electricity in high school and university, I gritted my teeth, learned what was absolutely necessary and then, quickly forgot it.  I HAVE replaced memory on my computer, and, as a teen, outfitted my VW bug with a CB and a whip antenna as well as an 8-track tape deck and speakers (that dates me!).  But that is kind of it.

So, how do I proceed??  I don't want to just read reviews and go out and buy the latest and greatest rig from HRO or some other outfit.  Should I build it myself and force myself to learn electronics?  Some reading I have done suggests investing in what some term "boat anchors" -- older rigs using supposedly EMP proof vacuum tubes and such.  What about that idea?  Should I even invest in a fixed station or should I go with a mobile platform? 

To be completely honest, I really don't know what I don't know.  I have only a little bit of knowledge and have been told that is a DANGEROUS thing.  So if any of the above questions are not the right questions, then please tell it to me like it is!!!

In advance appreciation for your comments, I am

(PS - I keep reading in the prepper literature about "opsec".  From a NuB perspective, it seems to violate "opsec" when I give out my call sign to this or any forum as it can easily be traced back to my exact address.  Is that a correct perspective?


Hello Hayr,

I am new to Ham as well, but not radio or electronics. You don't need to be an electronics guru... I would suggest that you concentrate your efforts on learning about antennas, which I believe is the most important factor in getting a signal out. The rest of it will come later. As to tuber sets, I would not suggest them... First, because they use very high voltages and are dangerous to mess with if you don't know what you are doing. An unplugged radio can shock you pretty bad if you touch a charged capacitor by mistake. Second, they are very heavy, and mobility in my opinion is an important advantage in prepping. If you want to buy a cheap radio, look into old solid state rigs like the late Atlas radios, or anything between tube technology and surface-mounted components.
I personally used to be interested in the latest stuff with all the bells and whittles, but my opinion has somewhat changed. Now I value simplicity and ruggedness more. So, my best advise is to take your time in choosing. As to fixed or mobile, I prefer "portable." which is a third category. I want a radio that is simple, with a low current draw, light, small, that can be transported easily, even on foot. You have to give up other things to get all that, like power, but I think portability is more important. That's just for the minimum of course, you can always get that boat anchor later  ;)



Seriously.  Most amateur operators anymore are exactly that -- operators.  Equipment operators.  Appliance operators.  If you ever find yourself in a situation that you're depending upon your ability to open a radio's chassis and start soldering parts in and out, you're very far up brown river and I'd say in risk of losing your oar.

Nobody does that.  Don't sweat it.

Get good gear, learn to run it well, and take care of it.  You don't need to know anything at all about electronics to be perfectly adept in your comm preps.  Machines do all of that manufacturing these days anyway; it's pretty much useless for anyone who's not an engineer for a manufacturer to know anything at all about oscillators, descriminators, and NPN transistors.

Spend your time better elsewhere.


I really appreciate the advice re: "portable" radios and not sweating the small (electonics) stuff, just buy off the shelf.  It represents the wisdom from the fusion of the prepper and ham disciplines. 

Jonas Parker

hayr, those big "base station" rigs look nice in the pictures, but you can put a mobile rig on your desk hooked to a separate power supply and pretty much work the world with 100 watts and a good antenna. Better yet, when th SHTF, you can move your mobile rig to the vehicle of your choice, plug it in, and beat feet and get out of Dodge. When you get where you're going, string a dipole antenna in a convenient tree or two and you're back on the air, or put an antenna on your vehicle. Look for a rig with a built-in antenna tuner so that's one less piece of gear to carry and power. I have a Kenwood TS480SAT which works well for me.


Quote from: hayr on September 02, 2012, 11:40:11 PM
(PS - I keep reading in the prepper literature about "opsec".  From a NuB perspective, it seems to violate "opsec" when I give out my call sign to this or any forum as it can easily be traced back to my exact address.  Is that a correct perspective?
You're goddamn right it is.  You can resolve a callsign to a real name and home address in no time.  I strongly recommend you keep your callsign to yourself, especially at less reputable startup sites like this one.

Somewhere more established and mature like, that's maybe less of a concern.  What I'll never understand are the people who feel the need to put it on their motherloving license plates.


Quoteless reputable startup sites like this one.

It doesn't matter one bit which site you post it on, here or or Facebook, once on the web, anyone can see it. Actually, a less-known site is a lesser risk. If I want to check anyone's address, I would go to or, not on Radio Preppers! I will not be posting my call sign once I get it. Once we start a net, you'll hear it on the air, but you won't see it online. Just in case someone wants to get some radio equipment for cheap...