Author Topic: Maximizing with cheap radios...  (Read 2031 times)

Offline scoob

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Maximizing with cheap radios...
« on: December 26, 2012, 07:33:12 AM »
Or...  More (cheap) radios, more gooder?  ;D

So, right or wrong, I made a decision:  Instead of buying one 'quality brand' dual band HT for my first ham radio, I bought three Baofeng UV-5R+ chicom special dual band HT's (at $43/ea) and the necessary accessories (radios&acc for under $200).  After all, one is none, two is one, three is EVEN BETTER!  With that said, for my next radio, I plan to spend some money on a good quality cross-banding mobile unit and some antenna-building materials.

Thought exercise:  What do I do with these radios?

My first thought was:
Radio 1 set up with all of the local repeater & simplex frequencies.
Radio 2 set up to reside in the go-bag, identical to radio 1, add selected frequencies along potential evac routes.
Radio 3 stays in the unopened box on the shelf as a spare, or sell/trade/loaner item.

My current setup:
Radio 1 set up with all of the local repeater & simplex frequencies.
Radio 2 set up for visiting the parents 200 miles away, with freqs along the route and their local repeater & simplex list.
Radio 3 still in box.  Maybe for now, plan to setup like radio 1, add GMRS & MURS, and some local emcomm freqs to scan?

I can have several different profiles setup in the software for different contingencies, but it would be nice to not have to plug in and upload to a radio on the way out of dodge.  I should probably blend the two scenarios above... at least until I get the mobile.

Any thoughts?   ;D

Offline Ronin4hire

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2012, 01:51:58 PM »
Awesome idea!    Making the jump to HAM is a 13 Goal... 
I really like the TriplePlay idea you have, seems quite well thought-out.
Curious to see what the active HAMs have to say.

Offline American freak

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2012, 04:35:00 PM »
I just got a HAM radio for Christmas(handheld) and don't know a whole lot about how to use them. What would be the best application for a piece of equipment such as this? I only know one other person who uses them and that is my Dad.
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Offline austinrob

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2012, 05:39:32 PM »
I have a baofeng handheld.  It's a decent little HT.  great value for the pricepoint.  I wanted to get one to check it out personally, will probably order a few more after the new year.

As for learning what to do with a handheld and how to use it...  I suggest the study material for the FCC Amateur Radio Technician's license.  It discusses offsets, repeaters, typical frequencies, antennas, wavelength (and their relation) and a host of other useful information.  When you're done, should you choose to take the test and get your ticket, you'll be able to actually practice communicating with your new toy.  I have my general ticket (allows for different modes and lower frequencies) which gives me more distance in communication.  Tech was a pretty simple test so I added on general and took them both at the same time.  I'm studying for extra which will give me a little more bandwidth and a shorter callsign.

There are several online study guides that actually explain the material.  Or you can order the Technician study book from the ARRL.  All of which will explain how to properly use your HT and identification requirements for transmitting.

Offline American freak

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2012, 07:05:05 PM »
Thanks Austinrob. I will probly order the study guide tonight. I already have an fcc radio operators liscense for vhf/uhf for work but am looking forward to learning some new things. I suppose I can learn a lot from the guys in the local HAM club that administer the test. Happy New Year.
In Liberty

Offline scoob

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2012, 11:03:52 PM »
I used the W5YI (Gordon West) book for my Tech.  The ARRL book is loaded with info, but I found it hard to stay awake reading it.  Gordo gets right to the point, and throws in some humor, so it's actually an easy read.  Well worth the $22.

Definitely get with the club guys.  They'll get you pointed in the right direction, and its valuable to have a network of "Elmers“ to learn from. 

Offline Luvmy45

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2012, 11:31:37 PM »
Hey scoob... Fancy meetin you here ;-)

I like your Idea of how you programmed them, however, I would fire up the 3rd radio and program is like your first radio... Make sure it works, and it can be your travel partners bug out radio if needed... If the shtf the last thing you will be worried about is if you are both licensed.

I would also program some MURS and possible some other stations that these will work on, for scanning purposes  ;) never know when you may need to access them for use.

If these are your main radios for now, I would also look into getting a folding/ roll up jpole antenna, easy to stuff in a go pack and you will have much greater range if needed with the radios.



Brian K.

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Offline mike77

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2012, 01:26:19 AM »
If these are your main radios for now, I would also look into getting a folding/ roll up jpole antenna, easy to stuff in a go pack and you will have much greater range if needed with the radios.

Any suggestions for such an antenna? I've been thinking about this for my HT and also to put in my basement for weather emergencies.

Offline Luvmy45

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2012, 08:58:15 AM »
The easiest upgrade for an antenna with an HT is a J-Pole... they are easy to make and will improve the performance of your HT by an order of magnitude. The higher the better, the cable to run from the roof to the basement, however, is the expensive part... good cable with low loss ain't cheap, and I haven't found a way to "make" my own cable.

If you google home made J-Pole you will get several results, usually out of copper pipe and a few parts from Radio Shack (They do actually carry some useful part nowdays, not much but a few) I found a like a few years ago from a LDS guy that made his out of aluminium rods from Lowes and wen't that round, cost me about $25 total and worked great!

With 2m/440 you don't have to worry about matching the antenna to the radio as much as when you step up to HF.
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Offline SCWolverine

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2012, 09:37:00 AM »
The easiest upgrade for an antenna with an HT is a J-Pole... they are easy to make and will improve the performance of your HT by an order of magnitude. The higher the better, the cable to run from the roof to the basement, however, is the expensive part... good cable with low loss ain't cheap, and I haven't found a way to "make" my own cable.

If you google home made J-Pole you will get several results, usually out of copper pipe and a few parts from Radio Shack (They do actually carry some useful part nowdays, not much but a few) I found a like a few years ago from a LDS guy that made his out of aluminium rods from Lowes and wen't that round, cost me about $25 total and worked great!

With 2m/440 you don't have to worry about matching the antenna to the radio as much as when you step up to HF.

good words...while you're looking around search N9TAX Slim Jim.  It's a roll up portable J-pole.  Good for emergency use as well as semi-perm install for HT home use!

Offline armymars

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2012, 11:23:41 AM »
I always keep a hf and vhf antenna in the attic, out of sight and out of the weather. Don't skimp on feed line. It can make or break you. For indoor use it's a one time expense. You won't need to replace it every 10 or so years to get maximum through put. 73

Offline scoob

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2012, 06:18:55 PM »
Brian!  I new you were of the 'ant' persuasion, but wasn't sure if you were a TSP ant yet.   Glad to see you on here!

I agree with your suggestion, and I was planning to add the GMRS & MURS freqs, at least to radio 3.  I'll try adding them to Radio 1 and see how it goes.  The only drawback I see to having the extra freqs on my main radio, is that the scanning takes so long.  So, the more memory channels I add, the longer it takes to cycle back through the list.  That probably won't be a problem though, since scanning is more of a background activity.

Gonna have to build me some antennas!  Both Radio Shack and RJM are mere blocks away from my house.  I have a 20' stick of 1-1/4" galv. that may have just found a purpose!  Now, if I can just find a good deal on some good feed line.

Offline Luvmy45

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2012, 08:15:46 PM »
I haven't looked at the software for that radio... I need to order one up and play with it. But on my Yaesu HT I can set scan groups, so that I don't have to scan the entire memory. Don't know if that's possible.

Truth be told, it's cool to scan everything, but once you get on, you pretty much end up on the same few freq's and know which guys are on when. My car scans about 10 of the busy freqs and that's all, I was scanning 100 when I first started, and yeah that took a while.

I think the Baofunglsdkjoupasmung radio can also be set to dual listen, so you can just set 2 of your favorites and listen to those two.

Cheap feedline is one of those mysterious items... hard to find... 50 ohm is the key, and all the cheap stuff is 75ohm. A-Gem Supply in Caldwell may have some stuff laying around he'd sell for cheaper, maybe... if you haven't been in that store it's worth a trip over... he's a ham guy and has used stuff and parts, he's been around the block...
Brian K.

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Offline armymars

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2012, 01:03:45 PM »
   I have bought 50 ohm feed line with as little as 60% coverage. OK on 160M, could not use it anywhere else. If you buy from good people you won't buy cheaply made coax. They only carry the good stuff, but don't buy too small. RG-8X is OK for mobile, but not for long runs at home for VHF. If you can afford it LMR 400 is the way to go. If the coax is used indoors I like 9913. I stopped using 9913 outdoors because it once filled up with water.  OPPS! Should have sealed it up better.  73

Offline scoob

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2012, 11:25:48 AM »
Quote
I haven't looked at the software for that radio... I need to order one up and play with it. But on my Yaesu HT I can set scan groups, so that I don't have to scan the entire memory. Don't know if that's possible.

There are two main software platforms for the bow phung, the VIP that's supposedly the mfr's software, and a freeware project called CHIRP (which supports most other brands of radios, btw).  I can't attest to the VIP, as I'm usually running a netbook and VIP needs 1280 min resolution, and I can only get 1024.  On startup, VIP just errors out, gets stuck in an error loop, and I have to do a hard restart.

No scan groups per se, but you can set it to skip certain memory channels in CHIRP.  The dual monitor works, but you give up the power key for some stupid reason.  UPDATE I just tried it, and I can switch from high to low power while in dual-watch.  Maybe it's the older radios that have that bug.  I wish it was easy to skip a channel in the scan list on-the-fly, like when someone is sitting on their HT tx button, or when there's some other interference on a certain channel.

IF YOU BUY A BAOFENG UV-5R, MAKE SURE IT'S THE UV-5R+ WITH FIRMWARE VERSION BFB291 OR LATER.

Configuration now:
Radio 1 & 2 identical - programmed with local repeater & simplex freqs, GMRS & MURS (set to 'skip' in the scan list)
Radio 3 - Travel-home-to-see-the-folks freqs, local freqs (skip), GMRS & MURS (skip)

I'll set up a few more profiles, like routes to see other family, places we camp a lot, bug-out routes, etc.

Offline SCWolverine

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2013, 07:31:17 PM »
I've taken a little different route.

Everything I own is programmed the same (or as close to the same as possible *single/dual band*)

ch 1 is same freq on all radios (HT, Mobile, & Base)

Ch1 - Ch20 are 2m freqs, then MURS, 70cm, FRS, GMRS, etc....

that way if the bride or kids are in an emer situ and need comms, they know to go to ch XX to complete task....very redundant, but it keeps it simple for me...no matter what radio I have in front of me, I know our local 2m repeater is ch1, our local 440 repeater is ch 60, MURS 1 (farm use) is ch 20, etc.....

so far it's working for me.  We don't travel much and are a bug-in family (NBC notwithstanding).
« Last Edit: January 01, 2013, 07:42:11 PM by SCWolverine »

Offline scoob

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2013, 11:10:59 PM »
Everything I own is programmed the same.

I finally ended up going this route as well.  All the local coordinated 2m and 440 repeaters (50+?), GMRS, and MURS.  I set GMRS & MURS to skip in the scan list.

I'm pretty impressed with these radios so far.  I haven't put them through the wringer yet as far as distance, but so far all 3 work great, and they're built really well.  At least one has survived the kitchen table-to-floor test, thanks to cat... and another, the F-250 seat-to-driveway test.  ;)

Offline Carl

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Re: Maximizing with cheap radios...
« Reply #17 on: August 07, 2014, 07:51:28 AM »
I would suggest that you USE all three radios ,say swap out each month so as to keep batteries cycled and radios tested as time and dust have a way of letting  failure creep in. USE THEM ,with 128 channels available I don't see how they can't be programmed with all of your options and used to be sure of their viability. A mag mount antenna stuck on metal surface will do well and a rool-up will help range...only if you pull it higher than the mag mount into a tree or something...HEIGHT above terrain is what gets range with VHF/UHF.
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