Author Topic: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice  (Read 2230 times)

Offline Alan Georges

  • Survival Demonstrator
  • *******
  • Posts: 4126
  • Karma: 195
  • Still trying to reason with hurricane season.
Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« on: March 13, 2017, 06:40:25 PM »
Over at the Yaesu 891 thread, K7LJL posted:
Yeah, that's a deal breaker.  Looks like it's gonna be the KX2 after all.

Food for thought... https://youtu.be/IJhx9i3E0Ws
Excellent video, K7, thanks for pointing that out.  At 26 minutes, it might cause a TLDW reaction in some, so here's the short version:
"Survival comms" is not at all the same as "emergency comms."  EC assumes a support structure, general order, etc.  SC assumes you may be running for your life.
1 - power doesn't matter.  20-30 watts is plenty
2 - end-fed half-wave antennas are best; dipoles are a pain to hang
3 - CW rocks: efficient, multi-use (laser pointers, tapping a shoulder, etc.)
4 - current draw is THE most important specification
5 - C.B. is pretty good for local comms, but no good for reliable long-range
6 - best bands for local comms: 6m, 2m, 70cm, in that order
7 - handhelds & stubby antennas are good when you WANT limited range
8 - Practice!  25 to 50 miles is the hardest range to cover.
9 - Best HF band for prepping: 40m, it can do everything, including NVIS
10 - Weight.  Don't use non-rechargeable batts or a radio you can't cary.

All have their good points, without being hard-and-fast rules.  For example, I have reservations about that 6m thing – not many 6m HT's are out there in the wild.  But it's still an awesome band, and 2m & 70cm are good stuff too.

Artes sunt magis quam instrumenta.

Offline Carl

  • Mr HamTastic!
  • Forum Veteran
  • *********
  • Posts: 11318
  • Karma: 619
  • COW?...No ,I haven't seen your cow.
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2017, 06:13:11 AM »
I want to add that 220 MHZ band is good for obscurity as few radio use this band,but often available in dual and multiband ,low cost,handy radios.
And for the 25 to 50 mile plus range I would use a 2 meter single side band radio or CB radio with SSB is also good with a wire antenna in a high location.

And I would also agree,for EMERGENCY/SURVIVAL situations,the only way I would suggest QRP (low power) radio is if it is the ONLY radio available as
it is often to hard to overcome the noise with low power. I enjoy low power activity as a fun hobby,but without CW or major operating skills ,a QRP radio is an exercise in futility as few will hear you. Military testing proved years ago that 20 watts was the minimum for reliable HF communications.
Stop complaining about life and start Celebrating it .

I've reached the age where there is little left to learn the hard way.

If you had only one year,one month,or one day...Would you live your life differently?

Radios are pointless without someone trained to use them.

Offline Smurf Hunter

  • Survival Veteran
  • ********
  • Posts: 6534
  • Karma: 306
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2017, 01:05:31 PM »
This Saturday I'm attending a digital ham conference up at Microsoft HQ.  A lot of these folks are technical leaders in many of the digital modes, especially relating to Emergency (ARES style) communications.

My local team lead is presenting a DIY sound card interface that costs < $30 (stand in for signalink) that will support 9600 baud (compared with the usual 1200). 
There was some sensitivity and similar attribute that the signalink fell short with when it came to software based TNC emulation.

Hopefully I come back much more informed.

Back to topic, many of these smart dudes have been advocating the use of 220 for packet, as it avoids desensitizing (colliding) with VHF phone on the 2m band.
Almost everyone agrees to this concept, but it's not happening much in practice.

Imagine a pop tent setup in a high school football field, and there are 4 base stations running.  If you thought planning the annual field day setup was complex, wait until after a hurricane/earthquake/zombie invasion.  There are many combinations where bands and/or antenna types might interfere.

Offline Carl

  • Mr HamTastic!
  • Forum Veteran
  • *********
  • Posts: 11318
  • Karma: 619
  • COW?...No ,I haven't seen your cow.
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2017, 01:18:45 PM »
  Imagine how I felt as I was sent to control the local communications between 911 operations and Hams ,both local and 200 MILES AWAY...with a VHF HT and a thumb drive of my favorite software. I was NOT a general class Ham yet and so the radio I needed was just out of reach. I used every means I could think of and for three days was basically sending blind as I received no answers...was I wasting my time? Was I endangering others?

  Finally good news began to return on the third day that messages were being effective. If you haven't heard it,some audio is on youtube of the effort of over 10 years ago and the Ham Radio 360 interview that followed.

Katrina: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfn5KNcoUVs

HamRadio360: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLtfOR-CEzw
Stop complaining about life and start Celebrating it .

I've reached the age where there is little left to learn the hard way.

If you had only one year,one month,or one day...Would you live your life differently?

Radios are pointless without someone trained to use them.

Offline Alan Georges

  • Survival Demonstrator
  • *******
  • Posts: 4126
  • Karma: 195
  • Still trying to reason with hurricane season.
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2017, 06:19:07 PM »
Now that a few more people – the usual suspects  ::) – have weighed in, I might as well too.  Point by point:
Quote
"Survival comms" is not at all the same as "emergency comms."  EC assumes a support structure, general order, etc.  SC assumes you may be running for your life.
Yep, this isn't sitting around the EOC in a safety-yellow vest, to be sure
Quote
1 - power doesn't matter.  20-30 watts is plenty
Carl's hit this on the head already, but if 20-30 watts is good, 100 is better.  You can always dial it back.
Quote
2 - end-fed half-wave antennas are best; dipoles are a pain to hang
and Zepps, and random wires; true dipoles are a pain to hang in the wild.
Quote
3 - CW rocks: efficient, multi-use (laser pointers, tapping a shoulder, etc.)
Consider digital modes too.  Either one can make a QRP radio viable – 17 to 24 dB effective boost can make up for a whole bunch of low power.
Quote
4 - current draw is THE most important specification
Probably true, but keep a practical balance.  3mA draw for only 20mW ERP isn't a viable trade-off!
Quote
5 - C.B. is pretty good for local comms, but no good for reliable long-range
And FRS/GMRS and MURS too.  Baofeng can be your cheapie friend here.
Quote
6 - best bands for local comms: 6m, 2m, 70cm, in that order
Good points Carl and Smurf, about 220MHz.  One thing to consider is that nearly all hams have 2m & 70cm, so for interoperability those are great.  If you want lots of people listening.
Quote
7 - handhelds & stubby antennas are good when you WANT limited range
FRS radios are this from the get-go.
Quote
8 - Practice!  25 to 50 miles is the hardest range to cover.
Nothing to add here!  Practice...
Quote
9 - Best HF band for prepping: 40m, it can do everything, including NVIS
Pretty much yes to all of this.  40m may be too high to do NVIS at the bottom of the solar cycle, so keep practicing.  What worked great in 2013 may not be viable in 2019.
Quote
10 - Weight.  Don't use non-rechargeable batts or a radio you can't cary.
The new lithium batteries have changed everything for the better.  Also... don't build up some giant two-man-lugable go-box just to truck around your featherweight QRP rig.

Artes sunt magis quam instrumenta.

Offline K7JLJ

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 19
  • Karma: 2
  • New TSP Forum member
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2017, 04:28:23 PM »
While I think QRP is a first choice for Preppers because of it's power demand sustainability and portability...

There is a place for the 100W rig that can be tuned back.  For me this is a second rig and I will still recommend the QRP/QRO combination in that order because I too feel that RX draw is the BIG factor in the mix.

Digital, CW are nice but not common and easy to learn, SSB is the primary method for SC in my opinion and again I would recommend SSB/CW for a combo.  Learning CW right now, I can say that it's not easy (at least for me) but has the biggest bang for the buck if you and the person you want to talk to are willing to put the time in.

I will be keeping the FT-817 for SC, but there was a voice in the back of my head saying "a second rig should be able to get power out!"

I kept going back to the FT-891, as the best bang for the buck but today wound up buying a used Ten-Tec Eagle 599 for $850.00  Hard to beat considering it has an ATU, 100W, great receive and is geared towards simple / CW / SSB with USB digital and runs off 12vdc.

I think too many are trying for that middle road of 20W and paying for it in extra size / quality (china radios) or $$$ in the case of KX2/KX3 models.

Just my 2cents

Offline Alan Georges

  • Survival Demonstrator
  • *******
  • Posts: 4126
  • Karma: 195
  • Still trying to reason with hurricane season.
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2017, 07:22:06 PM »
I kept going back to the FT-891, as the best bang for the buck but today wound up buying a used Ten-Tec Eagle 599 for $850.00  Hard to beat considering it has an ATU, 100W, great receive and is geared towards simple / CW / SSB with USB digital and runs off 12vdc.
Congrats!  Sounds like you got a screaming deal too.

Quote
There is a place for the 100W rig that can be tuned back.  For me this is a second rig and I will still recommend the QRP/QRO combination in that order because I too feel that RX draw is the BIG factor in the mix.
And it is.  Perhaps there is a way around this though.  A small SSB-capable SW receiver has much lower current draw than even a QRP rig.  For example, the spec on a Tecsun 660 is only 70mA x 6V, and can run for about 20 hours on 4 AA batteries.  Compare to an FT-817ND at 450mA x 12V.  That's not much either, but it's about 12x the power.  Of course the 817 has a much better receiver, and it's probably smart to power down the 660 before keying up the HF rig(!), and doing things this way means one more box to tote around, but if you're just dialing around monitoring bands, it will definitely conserve power.

Quote
I think too many are trying for that middle road of 20W and paying for it in extra size / quality (china radios) or $$$ in the case of KX2/KX3 models.
I agree.  I've seen friends having trouble with their Shenzhen HF rigs, enough to never want to go there.  And the 10w from an Elecraft is nice, and so are the radios, but yeah, $$$.

Artes sunt magis quam instrumenta.

Offline Carl

  • Mr HamTastic!
  • Forum Veteran
  • *********
  • Posts: 11318
  • Karma: 619
  • COW?...No ,I haven't seen your cow.
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2017, 04:14:25 AM »
While I think QRP is a first choice for Preppers because of it's power demand sustainability and portability...

There is a place for the 100W rig that can be tuned back.  For me this is a second rig and I will still recommend the QRP/QRO combination in that order because I too feel that RX draw is the BIG factor in the mix.

Just my 2cents

I must qualify my "No QRP for Emergency/Survival radio" statement as some appear to not understand...
QRP is not a radio but a descriptive term on POWER LEVEL , running low power is great as long as the option for higher power is available.
There are many AMPLIFIERS available for QRP radios that do a good ,effective job of raising the power level .
I suggest the 100 watt radio as the economic choice for capability as few 'survivalists' are on foot and our vehicles carry plenty of power for radios etc.
So ,while I prefer a second ,NON LOW POWER radio to this option...a quality amplifier and effective antenna ,when added to the low power radio,do make for an acceptable,effective ,combination.

  I also must add that current needed to run a radio is not a big problem as we are looking at scheduled contact times and not continuous radio operation.I run my gear from a 100 watt solar panel and operate 100 HF for 2 hours plus daily and also power a laptop PC and VHF/UHF radio for 24 hour a day use as an EchoLink node and the batteries are usually topped up before 11 AM each ,even partially sunny day. My 100 watt IC746Pro needs about 3 Amps receive and while peak current is 22 to 25 Amps,the average for voice communications is 7 Amps and even a medium battery and solar panel can provide communications quite easily.

  Without all the accessories as in CW and large antenna...a QRP radio just does not have the reliability to overcome our high noise and poor propagation that even a 100 watt rig can have great difficulty with.

https://www.amazon.com/MX-P50M-Amplifier-YASEU-FT-817-Elecraft/dp/B01K4JNNPK/ref=sr_1_42?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1489918484&sr=1-42&keywords=ham+radio+transceiver+amplifier
« Last Edit: March 19, 2017, 04:27:48 AM by Carl »
Stop complaining about life and start Celebrating it .

I've reached the age where there is little left to learn the hard way.

If you had only one year,one month,or one day...Would you live your life differently?

Radios are pointless without someone trained to use them.

Offline Alan Georges

  • Survival Demonstrator
  • *******
  • Posts: 4126
  • Karma: 195
  • Still trying to reason with hurricane season.
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2017, 08:53:00 AM »
I suggest the 100 watt radio as the economic choice for capability as few 'survivalists' are on foot and our vehicles carry plenty of power for radios etc.
...
  I also must add that current needed to run a radio is not a big problem as we are looking at scheduled contact times and not continuous radio operation.I run my gear from a 100 watt solar panel and operate 100 HF for 2 hours plus daily ...
Good point, Carl.  In an emergency, odds are that any of us will either be at home or heading to another location by car.  Either way, there's more than enough power available for a 100w radio.

Looking at this in terms of the PACE (primary, alternate, contingency, emergency) framework Brushbeater preaches, it stacks up as:
P: cell phone voice (solar charged)
A: cell phone text (solar charged)
C: ham radio base from home (solar powered)
E: ham radio portable from car (car battery powered)

This list can be extended through foot portable, etc., and eventually we get down to a level where QRP power is the only practical way to proceed.  By the time we get there though, the probability of occurrence is fast approaching zero – along with the odds of personal survival.

One of the big problems here is blurring gear & techniques actually needed for survival under probable scenarios with high-tech outdoor stuff that's just fun & cool.  I'm as guilty as the next guy on this one.  I enjoy hitting the trail with my 857 & LiFePO battery, but what are the odds that I'll ever be out there saving the day with it?  Somewhere between 'slim' and 'none.'

Artes sunt magis quam instrumenta.

Offline Carl

  • Mr HamTastic!
  • Forum Veteran
  • *********
  • Posts: 11318
  • Karma: 619
  • COW?...No ,I haven't seen your cow.
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2017, 12:14:30 PM »
  But ,ALAN, you will have the skill to use what technology you have at hand for your ,or someone else's,health and welfare.While our practice is
rarely put to use as few of us have a true emergency in our lifetime...we can ,at least,have the skills to put ourselves to use and save the day,if not the life of ourselves or others. As practiced as I was before Katrina,there was a feeling of total failure for the first few days as messages were simply forwarded into the void with no response or assurance it was even heard . I don't want to be helpless again,EVER.
Stop complaining about life and start Celebrating it .

I've reached the age where there is little left to learn the hard way.

If you had only one year,one month,or one day...Would you live your life differently?

Radios are pointless without someone trained to use them.

Offline Alan Georges

  • Survival Demonstrator
  • *******
  • Posts: 4126
  • Karma: 195
  • Still trying to reason with hurricane season.
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2017, 08:26:46 PM »
Yeah Carl, now I do.  There was a lot I did those days after Katrina, but the one thing I couldn't do was get word out to family that we were OK.  Never want to feel that kind of helplessness again either.  Problem solved.

Who knows how either of us will perform next time around, but I'm guessing it'll only be better.

Artes sunt magis quam instrumenta.

Offline LodeRunner

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 66
  • Karma: 6
  • Let the sparks fly...
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2017, 03:37:52 PM »
While I think QRP is a first choice for Preppers because of it's power demand sustainability and portability...

There is a place for the 100W rig that can be tuned back.  For me this is a second rig and I will still recommend the QRP/QRO combination in that order because I too feel that RX draw is the BIG factor in the mix.
...
I will be keeping the FT-817 for SC, but there was a voice in the back of my head saying "a second rig should be able to get power out!"
...
I think too many are trying for that middle road of 20W and paying for it in extra size / quality (china radios) or $$$ in the case of KX2/KX3 models.

There is a 'Third Way' here - buy a good QRP rig, and buy (or build) a power amplifier to get the extra 10dB when you need it.
The logic is simple - nearly *all* '100 watt' rigs these days are power hogs.  Most require 2 amps or more of current just to power up and receive.  On transmit, they typically require 4 to 25 amps depending on the output... but using 4 amps (~50 watts) to produce 5 or 10 watts output is crappy efficiency, and will run small to medium sized batteries dead very quickly.

QRP rigs are typically designed with lower current requirements.  The FT-817, IC-703, and k2/KX2/KX3 (5 watt versions)  all require 1 amp or less while receiving, and not more than 3 amps while transmitting.  And any of these radios can easily drive an amplifier to 100+ watts.  But the amp can remain powered off until it's needed, saving a substantial amount of power in a Grid-Down scenario (where most of what you'll be doing is listening).

There's also the "Two is one, and one is none" factor - if you have two 100 watt radios and something in one of them  fries/fails, you only have one... and there's not much servicing you can do on most of todays All-Mode HF rigs.  But if you have two QRP rigs and two separate amplifiers, then if one amp fails you still have two radios -- and the external power amplifier is probably much more serviceable than one built into a '100 watt' rig.  Conversely, if one of your rigs fails, then you still have a spare power amplifier for your remaining rig.

Using such a modular approach, you can build a *very* flexible comms infrastructure (for not a lot of money) using gear like the McHF, BitX-40, QRPLabs U3S, etc plus external power amplifiers in the 25 to 150 watt class to get that extra 'punch' when and where you need it.  But to gain that flexibility you will need to increase you knowledge and skill at integrating these components into usable systems.

Building gear -- even if "just from kits" -- is probably one of the most under-represented skills you can have for comms in a prolonged grid-down scenario.  If you can build/repair/integrate comms systems, you're going to have a serious advantage in the post-collapse world over those who cannot do so.  And besides, it's a fun hobby.  Because things may not collapse in your lifetime  (or ever).

Cheers
It's natural to have antenna envy from time to time...
I have it every time I drive past VOA.

Offline Carl

  • Mr HamTastic!
  • Forum Veteran
  • *********
  • Posts: 11318
  • Karma: 619
  • COW?...No ,I haven't seen your cow.
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2017, 04:25:12 PM »
  I am not planning on the world to end.... :)
Stop complaining about life and start Celebrating it .

I've reached the age where there is little left to learn the hard way.

If you had only one year,one month,or one day...Would you live your life differently?

Radios are pointless without someone trained to use them.

Offline LodeRunner

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 66
  • Karma: 6
  • Let the sparks fly...
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #13 on: November 05, 2017, 06:42:32 PM »
  I am not planning on the world to end.... :)

I didn't say "end" I said "collapse"...big difference  ;P
But yeah, I take your meaning, and I agree.

And while a social and/or economic collapse *is* possible (and growing more likely over time, IMHO), there are no guarantees in life.  That's why we prepare.  Look at Puerto Rico right now - their "world" has collapsed.  Hurricane Katrina is another bountiful case-study in societal collapse.  Those who say, "It can never happen here" just aren't paying attention - because it already *has* happened, and will happen again.

Cheers

It's natural to have antenna envy from time to time...
I have it every time I drive past VOA.

Offline Carl

  • Mr HamTastic!
  • Forum Veteran
  • *********
  • Posts: 11318
  • Karma: 619
  • COW?...No ,I haven't seen your cow.
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2017, 04:47:27 AM »
  Yea,I remember Katrina and Rita the same week...I was able to help a bit then.
Stop complaining about life and start Celebrating it .

I've reached the age where there is little left to learn the hard way.

If you had only one year,one month,or one day...Would you live your life differently?

Radios are pointless without someone trained to use them.

Offline LodeRunner

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 66
  • Karma: 6
  • Let the sparks fly...
Re: Ten Pieces of Ham Advice
« Reply #15 on: November 06, 2017, 04:18:30 PM »
  Yea,I remember Katrina and Rita the same week...I was able to help a bit then.

Sounds like you and I both got some mud on our boots in that one...
It's natural to have antenna envy from time to time...
I have it every time I drive past VOA.