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  1. Jim Lacy
  2. Ham Radio
  3. Tuesday, 06 October 2020
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Even though I'm in the market, I don't want to ask the inevitable "what radio should I buy" question here... it seems there is a ton of stuff out there already for a person to dig into!

But I am curious about the following: how do you all recommend a person start learning about ham specifically in the context of off roading? What I mean is, I can find an overwhelming about of info out there on ham in general, but so far I'm kind of striking out on good 4x4 learning resources. You know, basic protocols used out on the trails, handling emergency situations, "tips and tricks", etc. Ham is particularly overwhelming in the lingo department!

Clearly, showing up at events and learning the ropes is one obvious answer. Guess i'm looking for stuff to study over the winter to educate myself before I show up asking stupid questions. :D

Background: I got my technician class license about 15 years ago so I could fly radio controlled planes on specific ham-only bands. I've never actually used the license for "real" ham communications! Don't own a radio, don't remember all the protocols, etc.

Thanks for suggestions!
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Ryan Harden
Trail Ambassador
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Hi Jim! Very honest post and it's much appreciated. We'll be updating our communication pages to help bridge the gap of why use ham on the trails via videos, good articles, etc. in the coming months. Like you, I too found ham to be overwhelming.

While you didn't ask the obvious question, it does have a more obvious answer then you'd think. It took me over year to come up with this answer, but there are radios that make more sense than others for 4X4. I'll try and break it down here simply.

Handhelds - A good handheld for 4x4 should have an upgradable antenna, it should be water and shockproof (resistant), and it should do APRS and have GPS standard. If you can open it up to the GMRS frequencies, all the better. I found that the Yaesu FT3D fits the bill perfectly for this. It's one radio that can be used as a rig radio, handheld, computer radio (wiresx), and has digital, Bluetooth, etc. all built-in. Open it up and it also works on GMRS frequencies. You can also get an amplifier for it. All in all, it's one radio that does 90-99% of everything we do off-road. I could divulge further on radios but honestly, that handheld does just about everything and can be configured to just about any situation a 4X4 person would encounter on a ride or overlanding expedition. I'm extremely conscious about price and ham is expensive so really, this one radio is like 3-4 radios in one and you can build the antennas, amps, etc. as you go along.

What you need to know for the trail is that many are converting from CB to GMRS and Ham but not everyone knows why. Clearer long-distance communication is the obvious answer. Ham radio gets you the most power, repeaters, internet radio, and the most bands to play with. When you look at what's possible with ham, it's the clear winner especially when you start talking going to the long-range HF (High Frequency) bands... however HF you'll likely need your general or extra licenses to play on the most active bands. Most of what we do is VHF and UHF so start there.

Eric Baier and I were going to shoot some range videos showing why you want to install a GMRS or Ham radio vs a CB. The page will have helpful items related to just 4x4 along with examples. I really look forward to adding that.

Snail Trail is a great video resource that talks radio stuff a lot. Might be good to check that and to get started.

Past that, feel free to use and read the forums and community, ask questions, and keep letting us know what you would find valuable on this site.

Videos like this but with real examples mixed in.
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  1. 3 weeks ago
  2. Ham Radio
  3. # 1
Jim Lacy
Premium Member
Accepted Answer Pending Moderation
Thanks for taking the time with this detailed answer. I’ll definitely check out that radio and the suggestions.

I work a desk job in a tech field, have basic knowledge of and interest in the physics, etc, yet I still find ham very intimidating. For folks that aren’t particularly interested in tech stuff, I can imagine it’s even more so. I absolutely see the benefits of ham though, and moving in that direction makes sense.

Really, it’s too bad the ham “industry” doesn’t seem to broadly embrace potential users who don’t care about ohms, volts, transistors, soldering irons, and all the rest. But alas maybe that isn’t in the spirit of amateur radio? Okay, okay, I’m done with my soapbox. :)

Thanks again!
  1. Ryan Harden
  2. 2 weeks ago
  3. #295
There are a lot of hams that aren't into the radio side ;) I know a few in my area that never use their ham radios except at riding events.
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  1. 2 weeks ago
  2. Ham Radio
  3. # 2
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