Author Topic: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?  (Read 8083 times)

Offline Alan Georges

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A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« on: November 28, 2016, 07:12:07 PM »
Over at Dan Romanchik's ham-related blog, there's a post: Is there a market for a $400 “prepper” radio?  It is an interesting read (including the comments), right at the junction of ham and preparedness.  Ultimately, his answer boils down to "No, but the FT-450D is close."  And I tend to agree, having seen these for $600 on sale this past year.

Given that the person who originally asked the question was focused on 80 & 40m, the bands are right for low, cheap, wire antennas and NVIS.  But then there are those little QRP monoband CW kits from MFJ for $100 (80m example here), or $150 pre-built.  Hmm, and there's even a CW Tech band allocation on 80 & 40m.  Normally I'm pretty much anti-QRP for emergency radios, but CW brings things back up to about what you'd get on 100w SSB and fixes that problem.

So, apart from the whole learning-CW thing, this is a $200-and-done possibility.  Interesting reading, interesting possibilities.  Thoughts?  Anybody ever solder up one of those MFJ CW kits?

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2016, 10:21:51 PM »
Interesting that this is fairly mainstream now. 

We could debate various things for hours, but it all comes down to purpose.  While I too hope to learn CW for fun and nostalgia, if you look at all the amateurs globally and then realize a subset know CW, it's a small number of folks.

We could also argue digital modes are good bang for your watts, but it's a slightly more complex station setup, requiring some kind of PC or mobile device - required on each end.

I think excellent and reliable receive capability could be crucial, so I'm still inclined to have all modes and bands.   Who knows what I might need to listen to.

Instead, I'd like to see a full featured radio have some robust features, like a wide operating voltage range,  better than average built in auto tuner, and things than offer flexibility.

Good thread topic.

Offline Carl

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2016, 05:00:42 AM »
I use CW ,though I can't do it by ear. I use a micro laptop and software to send and receive with and this could easily be adapted with a simple circuit to have audio drive a small relay to do the keying. I use a radio that does do voice and send CW as audio though a few recognise this ,none have complained.

Offline Alan Georges

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2016, 06:20:02 AM »
Good points, CW is still out there, but it's not used by the majority of hams anymore.  A General ticket plus a 100w entry-level all-mode transceiver is the more realistic route.  It's only about 50% more initial outlay, more all-round useable, and would take a lot less time and effort.

I like Dan's blog.  Interesting posts come along there, including the above-linked one.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2016, 06:26:31 AM by Alan Georges »

Offline armymars

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2016, 10:41:56 AM »
  I'm a QRP nut. I like CW at about 12 to 14 WPM. But having said that, a 100 watt radio radio makes more sense. With a computer you can run CW, digital, or digital voice as well as SSB. Last night my MARS net was hard press to cover four states at one time. FOF2 was down to 1.825 MHz in Alpena MI. We started on 3.2 plus MHz and still needed two ANC stations (East and West) to cover everyone in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Minnesota. At end of net we tried 2.3 MHz which worked a little better. Only one station ran low power. 20 watts and he could only be heard by a few stations.
   You can get a QRP SSB radio on 40 Meters for 45 dollars, shipped. They are made in India and you have to provide the case plus power supply. It runs about 10 watts and covers about 150 KHz in any part of the band. Google BITX40. 

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2016, 12:46:30 PM »
You can get a QRP SSB radio on 40 Meters for 45 dollars, shipped. They are made in India and you have to provide the case plus power supply. It runs about 10 watts and covers about 150 KHz in any part of the band. Google BITX40.

I quickly skimmed over that.  Curious kit for sure.  Is the idea that you would align it so the "middle" is at 7.150mhz, thus allowing you 7.00 to 7.30? (the full band)
And without a frequency counter/display, how do you know where you are?  Maybe the VFO knob stops mechanically at each end?  So at least you could estimate the relative frequency from either band edge.

Again, curious idea, but you'd have to be prepared with some special operating techniques to make it useful.


Offline Carl

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2016, 01:04:05 PM »
Some good kits here.

https://youkits.com/

Offline jerseyboy

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2016, 05:04:32 PM »
I missed it this year, but when I work the ARRL CW Sweepstakes in November every year, it is amazing how far CW can reach over voice and how far into the noise you can go and still communicate. Especially true when you run with an interface on a computer with a waterfall display.

But as Carl has said many times, in an emergency, SSB is the easiest to use and to find someone on the other end with the same mode of operation.

Jerseyboy

Offline Alan Georges

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2016, 05:24:25 PM »
But as Carl has said many times, in an emergency, SSB is the easiest to use and to find someone on the other end with the same mode of operation.
Certainly true.  SSB & 100w, anything less and contact probabilities drop precipitously.

Carl, those youkits are interesting, the sold-out 20w SSB radio in particular.  PSK31 at 10w through that would get out.

Offline Carl

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2016, 06:45:26 PM »
In a great write up on the internet about NVIS,I read that military ,long ago,determined that 20 watts was minimum power for effective NVIS work and that explains why most military radios I see are 20 watts and above. The power of the radio must be able to overcome the noise level AT THE OTHER END,where you have little control over the radio or antenna of the other individual so it is best to be able to make up for THEIR shortcomings to insure your message is heard . I would rather be asked to turn my power down,(like that's gonna' happen) than to turn it up and not be able to.

If I were in the market for a radio right now,an ICON 718 ,100 watt HF ,An FT450D YAESU 100 watt HF + 6 meter,or a YAESU FT857 100 watt radio with HF through 6 meter at 100 and 2 meters and 440 at somewhat lower levels would be on my short list for versatility and the current BUDGET PRICE they can be found at many shops. I know the ALINCO SR8 or SR9 are low cost,but I have no history with them. I just sold a KENWOOD TS430 100 watt HF radio for $250  ,so good radios can be found at low cost,IF you trust the seller.

Offline Alan Georges

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2016, 06:21:27 AM »
I just sold a KENWOOD TS430 100 watt HF radio for $250  ,so good radios can be found at low cost,IF you trust the seller.
First Law of Ham Economics: The probability of finding a good deal on a piece of used equipment is described by a logistic function with k and x0 in the respective neighborhoods of 1 and 3.

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2016, 09:30:55 AM »
First Law of Ham Economics: The probability of finding a good deal on a piece of used equipment is described by a logistic function with k and x0 in the respective neighborhoods of 1 and 3.

Like most things: timing, proximity and luck all help.

I've always found deals at hamfests.  Our regional swap meet is in March and attracts thousands of people across hundreds of miles. 

Last year I helped a friend get an IC-718 for $400 and an LDG-IT100 for $100.  Not a steal, but a reasonable price that made it worth buying used.
The year prior to that I got an IC-737 for $280, IC-PS30 for $60, Astron R-35a for $80 and an older Icom dual band mobile for $50.

One trick is to know your gear.  Carl advised me a great deal early on in my amateur radio career.  Now I can identify quality items, even if they are dusty or not well presented by the seller.

Never pass up a good deal on a power supply.  13.8vdc was the same in 1980 and in 2016.   ;D

Offline Alan Georges

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2016, 06:25:10 PM »
Interesting, after all this hashing around, it really does look like the "$400 prepper radio" exists.  Just a matter of a good elmer, some patience, not having to buy new every time, and getting plugged into the ham scene the right way.

I've always found deals at hamfests.  Our regional swap meet is in March and attracts thousands of people across hundreds of miles. 
Mmmm, hamfests, got one coming up weekend after next. :)   Don't have anything in particular in mind this time around, but I'll be there just the same.

Offline idelphic

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2016, 07:26:38 PM »
Both the Yeasu FT-817 and FT-857 I have were ebay buys... 

if you watch ebay, hamfests and the like, you may be able to pick up something in price range you are looking at.

The key that I have found after dealing with a baofeng UV-5ra is that cheap gear can just be thyat...  I'll take my Yeasu VX-7r any day over cheap.  I KNOW it works.... and I can RELY on it.

Offline Carl

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2016, 02:37:56 AM »
Both the Yeasu FT-817 and FT-857 I have were ebay buys... 

if you watch ebay, hamfests and the like, you may be able to pick up something in price range you are looking at.

The key that I have found after dealing with a baofeng UV-5ra is that cheap gear can just be thyat...  I'll take my Yeasu VX-7r any day over cheap.  I KNOW it works.... and I can RELY on it.

While I think that a place for cheap gear exists , I also enjoy the extended capabilities of a good ICOM,YAESU,KENWOOD,or TENTECH radio...
I know there are 'others'  but most are not in my budget. Though you may not have thought of the potential as trade goods and local usefulness of a radio that can be useful while having a TWELVE DOLLAR PRICE as does the UHF BF888 and others.

https://www.amazon.com/BaoFeng-BF-888S-Two-Radio-2pcs/dp/B00ECW9DB4/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1480585166&sr=1-1&keywords=bf888s

Offline Alan Georges

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #15 on: December 01, 2016, 05:58:21 AM »
Though you may not have thought of the potential as trade goods and local usefulness of a radio that can be useful while having a TWELVE DOLLAR PRICE as does the UHF BF888 and others.
When talking about trade goods, reach a little lower Carl, to something most people can understand and use: FRS/GMRS. 
Midland LXT 118 is a decent choice.  A pair is 47 cents more expensive than two 888's ::), but there's not the whole re-programming hassle.

Offline FreeThinker

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #16 on: December 01, 2016, 07:32:27 AM »
When talking about trade goods, reach a little lower Carl, to something most people can understand and use: FRS/GMRS. 
Midland LXT 118 is a decent choice.  A pair is 47 cents more expensive than two 888's ::), but there's not the whole re-programming hassle.

Not strictly for trade but I have a few Midland FRS/GMRS radios stored for lending to the neighbors if warranted by current events.  They were the cheapest option at the time, and handy for setting up a impromptu neighborhood watch during the apocalypse :)   Not to go further off topic, but a radio with crossband repeat might be handy for bridging dissimilar radios so different (sub) groups can stay in contact too.  One neighbor has a murs or marine radio and another has a FRS/GMRS for example.

Offline armymars

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2016, 03:11:29 PM »
Smurf Hunter,
  The radio has 150 KHz total coverage. So it only covers half of the band. Because it's LSB only that is not a big deal. You only loose the bottom 25 KHz of the phone band where some DX and Extras hang out.
  Keep your eye's open for estate sales from Silent Keys. You often get the best deals there.

Offline Alan Georges

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2016, 06:07:38 PM »
Not strictly for trade but I have a few Midland FRS/GMRS radios stored for lending to the neighbors if warranted by current events.  They were the cheapest option at the time, and handy for setting up a impromptu neighborhood watch during the apocalypse :)   
+1 for thinking of the neighbors!  I keep a batch of them around for that too – hurricane season is always coming.  Plus a few extras for barter too if it came to it.

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #19 on: December 02, 2016, 08:48:59 AM »
Smurf Hunter,
  The radio has 150 KHz total coverage. So it only covers half of the band. Because it's LSB only that is not a big deal. You only loose the bottom 25 KHz of the phone band where some DX and Extras hang out.
  Keep your eye's open for estate sales from Silent Keys. You often get the best deals there.

Good info.  I appreciate the clarification.

Offline LodeRunner

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #20 on: November 07, 2017, 12:13:28 AM »
Over at Dan Romanchik's ham-related blog, there's a post: Is there a market for a $400 “prepper” radio?  It is an interesting read (including the comments), right at the junction of ham and preparedness.  Ultimately, his answer boils down to "No, but the FT-450D is close."  And I tend to agree, having seen these for $600 on sale this past year.

Given that the person who originally asked the question was focused on 80 & 40m, the bands are right for low, cheap, wire antennas and NVIS.  But then there are those little QRP monoband CW kits from MFJ for $100 (80m example here), or $150 pre-built.  Hmm, and there's even a CW Tech band allocation on 80 & 40m.  Normally I'm pretty much anti-QRP for emergency radios, but CW brings things back up to about what you'd get on 100w SSB and fixes that problem.

So, apart from the whole learning-CW thing, this is a $200-and-done possibility.  Interesting reading, interesting possibilities.  Thoughts?  Anybody ever solder up one of those MFJ CW kits?

If I was going to suggest a QRP/CW rig to a newbie as a prepper/survival kit radios (which I wouldn't 999 times out of a thousand), it sure as heck wouldn't be one of those 10 year old design MFJ mono-banders. They don't even tune an entire band, just a little 50Khz or so slice.  No built-in keyer or VSWR/PWR metering, nothing.

You could do a Webber Tribander ( http://qrpkits.com/tribander.html ), QRPLabs ( http://qrp-labs.com/qcx.html or http://qrp-labs.com/ultimate3/u3s.html ),  or several other modern DDS-synthesized rigs which are typically multi-band, have a keyer built in, and various other features, for about the same money it will cost to get that MFJ clunker up and running. 

Cheers

Offline Carl

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Re: A $400 "Prepper Radio"?
« Reply #21 on: November 07, 2017, 04:19:29 AM »
  Times change swiftly with technology and ALINCO SR-8 can be had for $499 ,though I have never liked Alinco ...for some reason as I have never used an Alinco besides an old HT that 'broke' in my hands as the battery was attached to the bottom of the radio with plastic slide rails. The ICOM 718 ,Yaesu FT 450D ,FT 857 and Icom 7100 ...with my favorite due to the more refined receiver being the IC 7100 ICOM as I really love this radio and it's capability when combined with an LDG AT200PRO II auto antenna matcher you have a radio that is hard to beat. And while one can carry a QRP radio as secondary...I really can't recommend less than 100 watts for the prepper as you really can't rely on that cute AA powered TWO AND A HALF WATTS from the FT817 to do the job in the two hours that the battery will last....real men need manly radios... :)