Radio Preppers

General Category => New To Radio => Topic started by: ericturner on April 19, 2013, 06:12:54 am

Title: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: ericturner on April 19, 2013, 06:12:54 am
Ok so I am a newbie here, I am very unsure where to start. Let me explain my need and you can help me out. I have several family members spread in about a 100mile area. If the crap hits the fan/marshal law ect... We need to be able to communicate. We were mulling around with ideas for a few base units and a few portables but don't want to break the bank. Is there a way to do this relatively inexpensive? At first we thought about CB radios but not sure  if they would reach consistently. If anyone can help please let me know!
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: cockpitbob on April 19, 2013, 08:43:04 am
Welcome to the board.  It's a small place so far, but it makes it up in the high quality of its members!

100mile comms is a little tough.  It's a little long for CBs and 2M radios but too short for atmospheric bounce.  I'm no expert in propagation, but I'll get the ball rolling with what little I know.

CB:  No license required.
Uses 11meter wavelength and restricted to 4 watts.  From a car they are only reliable for 5-15 miles depending on terrain.  If you put antennas up on the house's roofs you will get much more distance, again depending on terrain.  Houses 100miles apart probably won't be able to talk directly but you might be able to relay messages from one end of your family to the other.

The 2M band:  Requires Technician license (lowest of 3 levels of license)
2M allows more power.  Most mobil rigs run 50watts or more but 2M is line of sight.  If you are in flat Texas you might get 50miles or more between 2 houses with antennas high up on the roof.  Handhealds won't go nearly that far because of the lower power, tiny antennas and being only 5' off the ground.

HF bands:  Requires Genreal class license (middle level ham license)
In the longer wavelenghts (40M and 80M bands) you can do Near Vertical Incident Skywave (NVIS).  This is where a horizontal antenna is close to the ground (<1/4 wavelenght) and the signal goes almost straight up and bounces back down.  This is a good way to cover a circle several hunderd miles in diameter and it is less sensitive to terrain (hills and mountains).  The antenna is cheap.  All you need is a 60' piece of wire suspended horizontally about 10'-20' above the ground (got trees?).  The radios aren't so cheap but single band ones can be had for $150 on eBay.
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: Joe on April 19, 2013, 09:51:18 am
Best way to start is plot out every spot based on distance "as the crow flies" straight line. By doing this you might not have direct contact with everyone but more of a relay system, spot A to B, Than B to C, then B back to A, Once you have the distances use the info by cockpitbob to find what rigs you will need. Keep in mind terane buildings, mountains, etc.

Here is a link to a straight line map.

http://tjpeiffer.com/crowflies.html

73 Joe
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: ericturner on April 19, 2013, 09:54:26 am
Thanks.... This helps a lot!!!
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: cockpitbob on April 19, 2013, 12:33:44 pm
Google Earth is very helpful for this.  You can measure distances with it and as you move the cursor along the line you can see the elevation.  This will tell you what terrain is in the way.
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: 2MT350 on April 19, 2013, 05:25:03 pm
technically, cb radios are the best choice for a prepper, ham radios have become too reliant on todays technology, and also require repeaters for their range.

a good classic cobra 142 gtl base station with a decent antenna will get ya around 40-60 miles. and cb's an be setup to run alot
more then the standard 4 watts :)

and we know that the 4 watt limit only gets enforced when somebody decided to be a bunghole and reports the op for
bleeding over his stuff, lol.

as long as your in a decent rural area, you shoud be good at 200 - 500 watts with a linear amp :)
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: Geek on April 19, 2013, 08:35:46 pm
I had the same question and you are right that CBs won't cut it, and the answer on Ham radio is it depends on a bunch of factors, but the biggie is geography.  If you have line of sight between members of the group, you should be successful, but line of sight can be interrupted by anything from a building to the curvature of the earth.  As a result, you won't find anyone saying "Buy this and it will solve your problem." but you're on the right track.  I started with the same problem, except the distance I needed to communicate was about 30-35 miles.  Nobody could tell me with certainty that it would work, but once I got a radio and started listening I found I was picking up signals from much greater distances and now the problem is getting everyone to get licenses and radios so we can test out very specific point to point connections.  My expectation is we may find someone needs to get their antenna to a higher point or some such issue, but that we can make it work.

Essentially, the best way to get an idea of what will work for you is to get a radio and start listening.
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: WA4STO on April 19, 2013, 09:10:18 pm
Technically?  Well, technically, CB is the worst possible choice.  Here's why:

With CB transceivers, you're stuck in a horribly miniscule portion of radio spectrum, which can not reliably support communications to any single place, no matter what your requirements are.  It's just the nature of the spectrum.  Sure, you can get where ya wanna go, sometimes.  But for preppers, sometimes just isn't good enough.  It needs to be each time, every time, without fail.

Consider:  For about a fifteen dollar fee, and the taking of an exam (and don't forget, we provide you with ALL the questions and ALL the answers in advance...) we give you the use of millions and millions of frequencies, all up and down the spectrum.  Knowing that, you can readily understand how it is that radio amateurs routinely (and reliably) communicate to their specific destinations. 

Repeaters?  Not necessary.  At least not the kind that the 'locals' use in the U.S. My own requirements include the ability to send messages to any portion of the country, any State, any town within those States.  Done deal.  I participate in networks that allow me to get my data to where I want to go.  How could that possibly be?  Bazillions of frequencies and the use of amateur radio networks that do the heavy lifting for me.

I agree with Geek; we can make it work.  Indeed, we do it every day.

Best 73

Luck Hurder, WA4STO

(http://www.hurderconsulting.net/radiostuff/drsbadge.jpg)
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: Quietguy on April 19, 2013, 09:39:48 pm
Like others have said, terrain and local conditions (apartment, antenna/deed restricted community, farm, etc) is key to answering your question, along with the relationship of each party to the others.  Depending on specifics there can be several solutions, but ham radio will address any of them.  Some people who live in relatively flat country and have the space to erect high antennas can make reliable direct distant contacts with equipment/frequencies permitted with a Technician class license. 

I live in a hilly/mountainous part of the country so my options are more limited.  However, using an NVIS setup as mentioned by cockpitbob I can reliably connect with a good friend about 100 miles to my north using 50 watts or less on the 75 meter HF band.  The downside is the antennas are long - they are only simple wire dipoles, but they are about 135 in overall length.  That isn't a problem for me; I have plenty of room and no restrictions, but it might be difficult for someone in a city apartment.  This requires a General or Extra class license, but that isn't a big hurdle these days.

There are so many options for infrastructure-free (no repeaters) direct communications that it can be confusing to come up with an answer.  There are voice modes, digital data modes and of course the old standby - Morse Code (CW).  A big factor in creating a communications plan is identifying how much time, trouble and expense each member is willing to put into the project.  There may be other ways of accomplishing your goals, but ham radio has so many options that if none of them meet your needs than you can be sure the other methods won't either.

Wally
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: 2MT350 on April 19, 2013, 09:45:36 pm
i hate to maul ya wa4sto, but cb's are the best choice, as they actually can reliably transmit to every single place. sure we got a small frequency range, but we make the most out of what we got.

yea, thats 15 dollars sounds real good, but thats just a tiny portion of the real and extremely large cost of getting into ham radio, which can cost 500 to over a thousand dollars. where as you can find a nice cb radio at a yardsale, you can get a decent cb radio for 15-100 dollars :)

cb stations can often go worldwide with the proper antenna setup and height. CB radio is a pretty much unregulated band now. where as ham radio is heavily regulated, by the fcc, radio clubs, and other forms of the government. so cb radio is essentially a better choice, no matter what the "nature of the band" is.

and thats what i mean, even a repeater is a little better then a network, as least ham ops might have a chance to protect their repeater stations from the government. but when your relying on the internet to talk to others, its not event real radio anymore. and if the feddies decide to shut off the net, those network hams are gonna be backquiet.

if you do get a ham radio, i wish you the best of luck

2MT350 on the side
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: madball13 on April 20, 2013, 07:10:40 am
How does cb to worldwide? I assume it has the same chararistics as the 10 meter band and 10 is far from reliable. I think cb has its place but it is no means be all end all.
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: whoppo on April 20, 2013, 09:14:12 am
Just FYI..
Ham radio networks (nets) have nothing to do with the Internet.
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: 2MT350 on April 20, 2013, 11:40:31 am
disinformation, echolink, lol.

cb radio is very reliable.
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: RadioRay on April 20, 2013, 01:02:53 pm
Eric -

Pleased to meet you.  We have people here who are quite happy to help you to develop an effective communications plan. There has been good success here, because like anything else, the tools must match the problem to be solved. Many of us here used to do this for a living, so we'll do what we can to be helpful. Geek came aboard here recently, with a very similar line of questions.  We asked a few questions, did some computer analysis of his average terrain and made some focused recommendations.  He took appropriate action from there, got his 'Technician' license (20 questions) purchased his gear and did what was needed for his requirements.  It will only get BETTER from there.

Rather than simply throw some 'opinion' out there, we'll gather a few facts first so that we can offer a real solution. I'll need to know a few basics.

1. Let's draw a circle on a map 100 miles across.  As I understand it, you want to reliably reach a family/team living in various areas within that 100 mile radius.

2. What is your terrain - hilly, flat, mixed?

3. Are any of your family/team located centrally AND on high ground?  If so, this just became VERY easy.


I'll wait for your answers. 



de RadioRay ..._ ._

Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: Geek on April 20, 2013, 02:47:48 pm
To give a sense of the terrain issue, I live in NJ on the side of a hill facing east toward NY.  I have been able to pick up signals from every direction except west towards PA.  That's because the hill I am on rises to the west and drops to the east.  Fortunately for me, everyone I want to contact is north, east, or south, so it isn't a problem.  If I wanted to communicate to the west, I'd need to do something to get a signal past the hill, but so far I haven't even tried.  As a result, I can probably handle up to a hundred miles in every direction except west.

If I was another 10 miles to the west, I'd be into rolling hills and assuming I was in a low point rather than the top of a hill, I probably wouldn't get more than 5 miles in any direction.

As it is, I got lucky on the geography.
Title: Addressed to: 2MT350
Post by: RadioRay on April 20, 2013, 02:57:16 pm
Opinions are fine, thoughts & facts backed by real world examples and experience are really most helpful to those asking questions.  Disagreements about the pluses and minuses of the various methods and equipment to solve radio communications goals are going to occur, but can be handled with tact & perhaps even with a bit of class.  On-the-other-hand, your claiming that others here are spreading 'disinformation' is completely out of line. That was simply a low-class & gutless way of calling good people,  'liars'.  Let's not do that - shall we? 

Let's quench some of your incorrect statements right here, so that Eric and others are not misled by you:

1.     Ham radio is not dependent upon Internet, commercial power & etc. There are some people who like to tie their radios together using Internet.  That has precisely zero relevance to this topic.

2.     Ham radio can be inexpensive or expensive, because people's tastes vary.  Gil and I talk directly, EVERYDAY on tiny, home made , battery powered radios. One type of these costs less than $30.  That's 800 miles - every day.  That's reliable and inexpensive and only requires learning a few new skills: learning is good.  If you've been reading in the 'Tactical' section of this forum, you've been seeing that Gil is on a backpack trip and that he & I STILL talk everyday on the radio while he's in the field, using his NEW "INexpensive" dual band, radio transceiver. 
http://radiopreppers.com/index.php/topic,407.0.html (http://radiopreppers.com/index.php/topic,407.0.html)
It is miniature, the size of a cigarette pack, solar rechargeable and uses a wire in a tree as an antenna.  The transceiver kit with COOL enclosure (case) cost him $120, if I remember correctly. I literally just got off the air with him again, having already made our earlier scheduled radio contact a few hours previously.  I happened to be tuning around - testing one of my gadgets - when I again heard him enjoying a conversation with someone else during his noon break at camp. That is over 800 miles everyday with no infrastructure, from his home, from his coffee shop and yes - from camp on his backpacking trip.  That would easily be defined as 'reliable',  yes?

3.   Your statements that CB can can reliably "transmit to every single place..." is more of a religious statement than a factual one. If you disagree, please demonstrate how this statement might be correct by setting-up contacts with a few of us on this forum ON-THE-AIR during the next week to prove your point.  I look forward to your log of reliable/daily contacts being posted here in the coming week.

4.   "too reliant on today's technology" .  Do CB radios operate on some OTHER 'technology', other than electronics and electro-magnetic waves?

5.   "regulated..." What is NOT regulated ?  CB has many regulations as do, hot dogs & birth control devices (never use these two items together...)  cars, food, electric service, shampoo . . . almost everything in the united States has regulations.  We are not a free people.


Look - if you like CB, enjoy it and tell us about the enjoyment you get from it.  If you see that it can be a good tool , we're all ears (get it??)  .  But please - no sniping at other team members on this forum.  Please make your statements factual, wherever possible.  And never go around saying that people are spreading 'disinformation' (i/e calling them liars) when you have not - so far- shown any understanding of the subject. It would be best to demonstrate success for the methods you are declaring, because nothing speaks like success.



>de RadioRay ..._ ._




Title: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: White Tiger on April 21, 2013, 12:29:15 am
Quote from: 2MT350 on April 19, 2013, 05:25:03 pm
technically, cb radios are the best choice for a prepper, ham radios have become too reliant on todays technology, and also require repeaters for their range.


Not exactly. High Frequency (or HF) does not need anything more than a radio, some coax, a dipole (it can be literally an antenna with wire ends on two poles), strung up over a branch of a tree, a grounding strap (bolting to the back of the radio and also to the appropriate plumbing stack of your home). Thats it.

I have made contacts all around the world, including Venezuela, the Slovak Republic and Milan Italy. I have also adjusted the the "legs" of the two poles - and spoken to folks within 30 miles of my location! I can tell you I didn't use a single repeater (unless you count the ionosphere)!

Other equipment can be bought, really powerful (or even expensive) antennas can be constructed/erected - like fishing - you can "just" get your signal out there, or you can "cast" it to a specific spot on the map. I'm pretty fascinated that I can accomplish a lot of what the "power" users pay/build - with a little learning, observation and some practice. I can get almost anywhere with my cheap dipole, by observing what frequency goes where, at what time of day...and I did (and have figured out some routes on some frequencies). ...and like Luck/WA4STO said...you've got bazillians of frequencies...so unlike CB, you won't ever find a time when someone is crowding you off any frequency (CB is confined to channels).

I know you're trying to provide good advice, and are no doubt offering some of that advice from experience - and that's great. My understanding of CB is very limited, so I am interested to find out more about how you get so much "skip" on your signal, etc., but I wanted to speak to what I know in order to correct something.

I think your statement concerning HF/HAM is a good one - even if it was wrong - it helps correct misconceptions, and THAT is incredibly important - because for every poster, there's at least one reader with the same idea. So thanks for letting us address the misconceptions - somewhat at your expense.

Quote from: 2MT350 on April 19, 2013, 05:25:03 pm
a good classic cobra 142 gtl base station with a decent antenna will get ya around 40-60 miles. and cb's an be setup to run alot
more then the standard 4 watts :)

and we know that the 4 watt limit only gets enforced when somebody decided to be a bunghole and reports the op for
bleeding over his stuff, lol.


Well, during an emergency - no one is going to question you operating to find aid - but anyone new to radio really needs to get a license (all the answers are provided for study, and the it only costs $14.00) and start practicing with it L-O-N-G before SHTF. When it really gets bad - good luck getting a channel when THOUSANDS of people are all trying to use FORTY channels.

Quote from: 2MT350 on April 19, 2013, 05:25:03 pm
as long as your in a decent rural area, you shoud be good at 200 - 500 watts with a linear amp :)


You may use quite a lot of power for that linear amp to get a fuzzy signal into the ether over those 40 channels - and you might find an open channel. My radios operate on 12v marine/car batteries too, the difference is that Im assured of making contact with someone.

Now, if you're talking about 2m HAM radios - you are partially right that they are limited to line of sight - but that's a very small portion of HAM bands. My HF radio operates on 80m, 40m, 20m, and I have a 10m/CB combo, as well as a 2m multi-band and several hand-helds that are for comms between a local group - BUT they do not need repeaters AND operate at reduced power consumption at .05 to 40 watts.

I would not rely - at all - on CB! I bet my comms on HF for faraway news/comms and VHF for local comms/bulletins.

I came to much of this information via a LOT of questions to a radio mentor/friend (HAM's call them "Elmer's")...and from many on these boards!
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: Geek on April 21, 2013, 08:17:49 am
My experience with CBs is they are also line of sight and good for about 5 miles tops.  Gil seems to do much better with his Galaxy, but we are still talking like 15 miles if I remember correctly.  Of course these are legal radios at legal power settings.

I am now getting 250 miles with my Yaesu HT with a Nagoya rubber duck style antenna.  This is all totally legal.  While I am not likely to give Gil any competition for long distance, low power, communication in the near future, my next challenge is to get other members of my family licensed.
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: Frosty on April 21, 2013, 09:50:09 am
Quote from: Geek on April 21, 2013, 08:17:49 am
... my next challenge is to get other members of my family licensed.


Your family must be a lot different than mine.  The two scariest things I can think of in this world is my drunken cousin obtaining a concealed carry permit, and my mother-in-law with a ham license.
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: Geek on April 21, 2013, 10:25:48 am
Quote from: Frosty on April 21, 2013, 09:50:09 am
Quote from: Geek on April 21, 2013, 08:17:49 am
... my next challenge is to get other members of my family licensed.


Your family must be a lot different than mine.  The two scariest things I can think of in this world is my drunken cousin obtaining a concealed carry permit, and my mother-in-law with a ham license.


Well, I am being selective about who I am encouraging to get a HAM license.

My cousins have been armed since before the revolution, so that one has left the barn.  :-)
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: gil on April 23, 2013, 10:41:38 am
I started radio with CB in the early 80s. I still have two of them, rarely used.. So, I know about CB and what it is good for, or not. Sorry 2MT350, but CB is not as reliable as Ham radio, period. I do like CB, and would definitely mount one in my car for a long road trip. There is no better way to hear about road conditions ahead. I think it is important to own one, just because they are so common. That said, the 11m band is NOT "often" open. It is rarely open, especially during low solar cycles. When the band is open, it is hard to have any kind of conversation with so many users cramped into forty channels. By the way, using CB amps is illegal, and I will not allow suggesting using them. They are often low quality and splatter prone. A few Watts is enough for Worldwide range. I know, I do it every day. Ham radio is vastly superior to CB in so many ways..

2MT350, learn more about Ham radio before making unsubstanciated statements. You can like both, it's not heresy. And please remain civil.

I will not allow bickering here.

Gil.
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: Jim Boswell on May 12, 2014, 03:31:37 pm
Hello,
        2MT350, there are some merits to what you say.  Amateur radio is great, but you will be talking to other hams, not the general public. I make sure I have both formats, amateur and CB. With both formats, I can relay a request for help (or information) to and from a trucker to public service people.
       About 30 to 40 years ago people tried to use CB during Skywarn events. The lightning crashing noise disabled communication, and hams steped-in with VHF FM and the system worked great. People still use CB for road condition reports.
       Although my CB antenna is down for the short term, I plan to get that antenna back up by Fall. Myself and several other hams have CB units just in case. One thing to consider, AM CB can not deliver clean clear communication like VHF FM can.
I consider CB another tool in the toolbox, at different times, different tools may work, I reserve the right to carry all the tools I might need. 73'S  KA5SIW
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: Luigi on May 12, 2014, 04:59:06 pm
If it was me, I would use an HF radio capable of 40, 30, and 20 meter bands.
You should be able to communicate locally and regionally. 30 is digital only, but it is workable day and night.
The antennas for these bands are manageable.

Locally you can communicate on the HF frequencies in SSB and use groundwave to your advantage. This makes it harder for the conversation to be listened to by a scanner user. Remotely NVIS would work well for the distances involved.
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: gil on May 12, 2014, 05:05:26 pm
Hello Jim,

This thread is a year old and if I remember well, 2MT350 was banned for trolling. I think pretty much everything has been said about CB. Useful, yes, reliable, no.
Here is what I would use per distance:



Gil.
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: KK0G on May 12, 2014, 08:34:24 pm
Confession time; I came from the land of the chicken band many years ago :o .

My experience there taught me a few things, mainly that 11 meters in it's current state is about as useless as tits on a boar. Whoever the rocket surgeon was at the FCC that thought an HF band with world wide propagation would be a good place for untrained, undisciplined citizens to communicate locally and then channelize it full of AM carriers was truly brilliant, only the federal government could screw something up that bad.

In my opinion FRS, GMRS or MURS is a far, FAR better choice for non hams to reliably communicate locally (out to maybe 10, possibly 20 miles or so under ideal conditions with relatively simple equipment). Could that 10-20 miles be made to work under not so ideal conditions or streched out even further to 20, 40, 50 miles? Sure, but if you have the know how and skill to do that then you have the know how and skill to get an amateur license.

For truly reliable long distance personal communication to the other side of the state, 3 states over, the other side of the country or the other side of the world there's only one option....... amateur radio.

In a nutshell, if you want reliable communications, get your amateur radio license if you don't already have one. I don't think they can make the tests any easier........ 5 year old kids have passed it!!
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: cockpitbob on May 12, 2014, 08:48:53 pm
Quote from: KK0G on May 12, 2014, 08:34:24 pm5 year old kids have passed it!!
My son got his tech and General when he was 11.  Of course he mostly memorized the correct answers and didn't understand much of the theory, but he learned enough to get on the air and stay out of trouble.
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: gil on May 12, 2014, 09:05:46 pm
The hardest part of group communications, especially when it comes to familes, is getting anyone to go pass a simple test.. I have been mentioning to a few friends that they should spend the $15 and a little bit of time to learn the basics but none of them have lifted their little finger yet.. I've even offered to buy them a UV-5R as an incentive.. Nope.. But again, none of them has more than a fridge full of perishable food. Well, except one friend of mine who is exceedingly well prepared, but that's it, and he just wants to get a CB. Crisis time is too late to learn. I also came from CB and I know its limitations. $15 plus two weeks of assiduous reading and practice tests and I had an Extra license.. It's not that hard. Convincing others to go for the basic Tech exam, that's harder than anything else!

Gil.
Title: Re: So new I can barely spell Ham Radio
Post by: KK0G on May 12, 2014, 10:24:18 pm
Quote from: gil on May 12, 2014, 09:05:46 pm
The hardest part of group communications, especially when it comes to familes, is getting anyone to go pass a simple test.. ...........

..........It's not that hard. Convincing others to go for the basic Tech exam, that's harder than anything else!

That ain't no kidding! If someone asks or brings it up in conversation I'll tell them pretty much what I said above, but I gave up trying to convince those that have no self motivation long ago.