Why you need to buy a quality Handheld (Portable) radio.

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Kent R

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There seems to be a constant dialogue on the forum about radio communications and what type of radio to purchase and what platform to get such as CB, FRS, GMRS & Ham. I am a huge proponent of Ham (and secondly GMRS), but that being said, more important to me is the quality of the radio you use in the field.

Radios come in all different qualities, prices, styles and so on and the old adage “you get what you pay for” is usually correct with radio purchases. The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) is the primary information source for ham radio users and works in conjunction with the FCC for licensing of hams. Over the last 4 years they conducted a study at their annual convention. It was of handheld radios and whether they met the FCC requirements to transmit only on the frequency they are tuned to and not on other frequencies at the same time (spurious emissions).

The 2012 through 2015 study showed that there was a major problem with the Beofeng, Wouxun & TYT portables, with the Beofeng not being compliant more than 50% of the time in most of those years.

Here is a link to the study with good charts showing all qualities of radios: http://www.nf9k.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/ARRL-Lab-HT-Testing.pdf

John Arenz, the current president of the Rubicon Trail Foundation and long-time ham, has this to say about spurious emissions;

“Many hams will take the attitude that spurious emissions are ok as long as the fundamental (desired) transmit frequency works as advertised. This could not be further from the truth. Spurious emissions cause other problems:
  1. You could be transmitting on a harmonic (undesired) frequency and, not knowing what freq that is, you could be interfering.
  2. All radio communications rely on the desired signal being heard at a higher level than the “noise floor”, the constant RF noise that is around us. Noise floor is contributed to by any RF producer (the sun, fluorescent lights, poorly designed circuits such as cheap overseas LED’s, radios, etc). So that means if the noise floor is -7 dB, a signal must be heard at -8 dB to be heard. A PERFECT example of this is the CB band. There is a constant S7 to S9 noise level on the CB band because there are so many people talking on it all over the world. All of those signals get mixed in the atmosphere and we just hear them as noise. So this means a signal will have to be over S9 for it to be heard, which means that CB which used to be good for few miles because weak signals could be heard, is now only good for few hundred feet.”
This all leads me to think that the Tread Lightly principles that Overland Bound embraces also pertains to the airways and by possibly having radios that have these spurious transmissions we could be causing a problem we aren’t aware of at the time.

aerles OB#2465 added;

"also goes in hand with running the minimum power necessary to accomplish your goal. No need to run 50W in most groups unless you get separated, and you don't need to run 5W in hand while spotting. It seems many tend to set their radio to High and leave it there permanently."

FYI, I personally have a Beofeng - purchased before I got this information - and I carry it in my emergency backpack in the Jeep, rather than using it on the trail. If all other radio options fail, I will then use it.
 
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aearles

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Great share @Kent R , also goes in hand with running the minimum power necessary to accomplish your goal. No need to run 50W in most groups unless you get separated, and you don't need to run 5W in hand while spotting. It seems many tend to set their radio to High and leave it there permanently.
 

Kent R

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Great share @Kent R , also goes in hand with running the minimum power necessary to accomplish your goal. No need to run 50W in most groups unless you get separated, and you don't need to run 5W in hand while spotting. It seems many tend to set their radio to High and leave it there permanently.
Absolutely right! I would bet a lot of people buy these radios and don't know how to change the transmit power. Our group had a trail run recently where we used GPS and Radios to navigate a trail and one of the things we did was to use the different power settings to contact a vehicle that was on top of the trail, most of the participants commented on how little power it took to make contact.
 

Kent R

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Great share @Kent R , also goes in hand with running the minimum power necessary to accomplish your goal. No need to run 50W in most groups unless you get separated, and you don't need to run 5W in hand while spotting. It seems many tend to set their radio to High and leave it there permanently.
Funny thing relating to this topic, my self and and another member went our on a hard trail in the Tahoe National Forest last night to find someone that had a broken down rig with a bad alternator, we started at 5 watts and ended up at 50 simplest just because of terrain. Also a side note the person we were going to help only had a hand held GMRS so we couldn't communicate with him till we were very close. At least he had a GMRS. Actually lots of lessons to learn from on this event and Ill try to find the appropriate page on the forum to post about it.
 

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I have been looking into radios lately as I’m just getting started and all I can say is confusing....so many options and different things to consider while using. Thanks for the article. Any little bit of info helps.
 
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Kent R

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The Sierra Foothills Overlanders has a self imposed standard for handhelds its the Yaesu FT-60, we've been getting them for about $160.
 
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The Sierra Foothills Overlanders has a self imposed standard for handhelds its the Yaesu FT-60, we've been getting them for about $160.
I am new to the Ham radio world and will be taking my technicians test in a couple of weeks. I am thinking about this: for use on the trail in my Jeep Wrangler 4 Door. I currently have a Uniden 520XL CB in it with a 4' Firestick. I have about 1.2:1 SWR across 1, 20, and 40.

I know that if I get the Yaesu that I can run another coax in my jeep for the HT and plug it in where the rubber duck goes. I guess my question is what kind of antenna would work best with this HT? Also, can the antenna or mount be of a spring mounted quick disconnect type that is similar to what my Firestick uses? I live in a condo complex and the HOA has strictly forbidden CB and other types of antennas that are not factory.



If you look at the pic you will see my spring mounted quick disconnect for the Firestick just to the right of the high mount brake light. To the left is another spot where I could mount a Ham antenna. If they need to be separated farther apart from each other building a bracket for that would not be a problem.

Thanks in advance for the help.
 
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HKLover

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With all the interference from other sources I do not see a few offroaders a major contributor in the problem of noise. I cannot justify spending $400 for an Icom compaired to a $30 Baofeng
The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action.

We all have to tread lightly; not because any one of us will ever create enough damage to destroy or close a trail, but because if we are all careless then we will do enough damage together to destroy what we value.
 

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The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action.

We all have to tread lightly; not because any one of us will ever create enough damage to destroy or close a trail, but because if we are all careless then we will do enough damage together to destroy what we value.
Seriously?
 
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Kevin108

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I was given a Baofeng UV5R for Christmas. After being shown some of the features, I bought another for someone else as a gift. This entry-level device, in regard to quality and price point, is bringing usable radio to the masses.

I'm not speaking of anyone I've encountered on this forum, but from what I've read other places: those of you with more knowledge and better gear need to take a tactful approach with new users like myself. A lot of what I've read other places equated to, "Baofeng radios are trash and so are the people who use them."

Right now I have a very open mind. I want to learn all I can about the capabilities of this device and the legal aspects. I want to speak the language. I want to understand the etiquette and the reasons behind it all. But it wouldn't be hard to turn off a new user like me.

Don't be a gear snob. Don't intentionally talk over anyone's head just because you have the ability to do so. Be a steward of amateur radio. Be an example for others. Help those who know less to learn. Don't criticize anything without offering viable alternatives.

I will repeat: I have not seen any of the negativity here!

Overland Bound seems to attract people who want to cooperate. I love that about this place. I'm glad to be a part of site. I'm glad for the info and courtesy being shared here. Hopefully I can learn a few things from you guys!

As for the radio I have, I don't really have a grasp on the various functions, why the buttons say what they do, what the differences are between band, channel, and frequency, etc. Can any of you send me a good link for some radio 101?
 

Kevin108

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Seriously?
I'm basically an anarcho-capitalist, but I certainly understand voluntarily cooperating with one another to minimize negative impact on the things we value collectively. (I don't believe in sending men with guns to do so, I believe in the Underwriters Laboratory approach.)

The first thing that came to mind for me when he offered the TOTC explanation was the rivers in India that are the drinking water, the laundry, the sewer system, the parts washer, etc. These people are destroying their health and quality of life because of ignorance, more than anything.
 

Flipper

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I was given a Baofeng UV5R for Christmas. After being shown some of the features, I bought another for someone else as a gift. This entry-level device, in regard to quality and price point, is bringing usable radio to the masses.

I'm not speaking of anyone I've encountered on this forum, but from what I've read other places: those of you with more knowledge and better gear need to take a tactful approach with new users like myself. A lot of what I've read other places equated to, "Baofeng radios are trash and so are the people who use them."

Right now I have a very open mind. I want to learn all I can about the capabilities of this device and the legal aspects. I want to speak the language. I want to understand the etiquette and the reasons behind it all. But it wouldn't be hard to turn off a new user like me.

Don't be a gear snob. Don't intentionally talk over anyone's head just because you have the ability to do so. Be a steward of amateur radio. Be an example for others. Help those who know less to learn. Don't criticize anything without offering viable alternatives.

I will repeat: I have not seen any of the negativity here!

Overland Bound seems to attract people who want to cooperate. I love that about this place. I'm glad to be a part of site. I'm glad for the info and courtesy being shared here. Hopefully I can learn a few things from you guys!

As for the radio I have, I don't really have a grasp on the various functions, why the buttons say what they do, what the differences are between band, channel, and frequency, etc. Can any of you send me a good link for some radio 101?
Very well stated, I have Icom, Kenwood and 2 Baofeng and they are all nice radios The 2 Baofengs are in our backpacks, bang for the buck you cant beat them I bought better antennas on ebay for $10 and and throat mic and earpiece for 99 cents! It has all the features of a $400 unit plus it is 8W compaired to 5. Easy to program with a program called chirp you can get on the net free. You can load your local police and emergency channels in, even transmit on police channel but this is illegal to do.
I had the same issue you have when I got into it finding info. One site I found that is full of info is E-ham.net. As to the noise issue of the less expensive radios is about as much as a LED light and find it insignificant in disruption of the airwaves compaired to other polluting sources such as EMF from power lines and hundreds of other electronic devices.
One thing that will help your range a lot, you can get an adapter cable on e-bay that allows you to use an external 2M antenna with your radio for around $5. This will really improve your range, you can find antenna reviews on E-ham.net. Diamond and Comet work really good. Another good site is 4x4 ham.com this will have info on what channels people use in different parts of the country and E-ham has practice tests to prepare you for your license exam, it grades you and shows you the correct answers so you can learn a lot that way.
 
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Kent R

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I agree get a better antenna and program the radio with Chirp.

I have read an article that suggests the inexpensive radios such as the Baofengs work just fine if you don't drop or jar them (possible mil-spec issue). So take care of it and it will take care of you.
 
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Kevin108

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The cable came today and I have Chirp installed. I was able to download from the radio. Cool. Other than that...no idea what I'm doing. The only thing I pick up with a scan is NOAA. Are you sure these things are useful? lol I have Repeater Book on my phone and will get into that some this weekend.
 

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The cable came today and I have Chirp installed. I was able to download from the radio. Cool. Other than that...no idea what I'm doing. The only thing I pick up with a scan is NOAA. Are you sure these things are useful? lol I have Repeater Book on my phone and will get into that some this weekend.
The repeater app is great! What is nice is it tells you your nearest repeater.
On 4x4 .com it will give you a list of channels. These are in simplex , unit to unit not using a repeater.
International hailing channel
Prepper hailing channel
10 channels they use in Colorado
3 off channels for my handhelds and basecamp unit, for my private use.
You get the idea.
When you use a repeater you have to program the offset, this is when the radio transmits and recieves on different channels either + or - .600 Hz, you also have to enter the tone for the specific repeater or it cant “ping” the repeater to turn it on. That is why the repeater app is so handy it will give you all that info.. You will know if you are hitting a repeater by keying your mic and the repeater will respond.