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My ham radio choices for shtf

Discussion in 'Survival/Preparedness Forum' started by ric0123, Jun 4, 2011.

  1. Whenever a thread comes up about communications, it usually turns into a Ham vs everything else contest. I'm not going to go there. I'm also not going to preach about how ham is the ultimate xxxx that solves everything for every body. What I'm going to list out is the radios I've collected and why. Maybe this will put things in perspective for non hams, and I'm curious to get feedback from Hams to my choices.

    First off, I've been a ham about a year and I've pretty much sold myself on Yaesu. Their menu systems on all of their radios are pretty much the same, they seem to have feature rich radios that are build well and resonably priced. All of those things are opinions

    My first radio was a Yaesu vx-7r. It is a handheld radio that's built very tough (claims to be submersible).

    Reasons why:
    -extremely wide receive range (eliminates the need for a scanner)
    -decent power output. 2.5watts
    -removeable antenna, many battery pack options
    -Tri band (actually quad unoffically) 6m (50mhz) 2m (144mhz) 70cm (440mhz)
    -Wide band capable

    In regards to the last bullet. I'm not going to get into an argument about the legalities of transmitting on non ham freqs with a ham radio. My point is, the radio COULD transmit on vhf business band, marine band and other stuff in the 150mhz range, as well as UHF business band, FRS, GMRS and other stuff up in the 440mhz range.

    I picked this radio because it's able to receive CB, WX, FRS, GMRS, Biz Band, FM broadcast and a whole crap load of others, and transmit on most of them.

    If I had to only have one radio, this would be it, which is why it was my first. It also has dual tuners, so you can listen to two stations at the same time.

    If you're wondering about price, I think I paid about $325 for it

    I added a magnetic external antenna and a replacement tri band whip for about $60 total.

    My second radio is a yaesu ft-8900.

    It's a quad band 10m (28mhz FM only) 6m (50mhz) 2m (144mhz and 70 cm (440mhz) mobile radio. Outputs 30 watts I think? depending on band.
    Receive range isn't as wide as the 7r. What's cool about this radio is that it will do crosss band repeat and dual tuning. So, you can have one channel set to a repeater, the other set to a diff frequency and use your handheld 7r out in the field and use your vehicle as a relay station. Pretty slick. You can also wide band mod this radio (I've not done it yet)

    I got this radio because I wanted more power than the 7r, but I wanted multiple freqs (I'm big into multi use equipment).

    I also bought this because I got a screaming deal on it. They are typically about $500. The quad band antenna for it is another $100, a good mount is another $50

    My third radio is the FT-817nd. This is an emergency unit/backpacker radio. They sell it that way.

    The reason is,
    -It's very low power
    -it has an internal battery pack
    -it transmits on basically any freq you can think of from shortwave up to 440mhz in any mode (am, fm, USB, LSB, packet, digital, etc)
    -it has an antenna port on the front to stick up over your head in a backpack, and one in the back for mobile use.
    -its tiny.

    If I had to be stuck on a desert island, this would be the one. It's very low power output (2 watts max) but for shortwave you don't need much. I'm about to get an LDG-817 antenna tuner for it for another $120 which will allow me to use pretty much any piece of wire as an antenna (including shoving a coat hanger in the back). Hams use this radio with a 7ah lead acid battery for 2 day field day events no problem

    They are expensive, but and craigslist are your friend. Retail is just under $700, secondary market is about $500

    My final radio was an impuse purchase, but had a reason.

    BAOFENG UV-3R 136-174 400-470 DU BAND POCKET SIZE

    It's a cheap Chinese radio. Cheap meaning under $99 shipped. I bought it because

    -it was cheap
    -it will tx and rx on any band between 136-174mhz 400-470mhz
    -it has a removable antenna so I can use an external
    -did I mention it was cheap?

    This radio is going in my GHB/BOB. For $99, I don't care if it gets lost, broken or stolen, (like my 7r, at over $300, I'd be ticked). It will pick up the common vhf, biz band, gmrs, frs freqs and transmit back to them. If you had to have one urban radio and you're budget minded, this would be one to look at. It has an internal rechargeable battery, I'm working on a 3 AA external battery pack for it just in case.

    So there it is. I'm not really in the market for any other radios right now. These are the 3 that I've always wanted for SHTF, TEOTtWAWKI and normal daily use. I picked them for the functionality, and capabilities. I sure don't claim to be an expert on any of this, but if there are questions, I'll do my best to answer.
  2. powder86

    powder86 SHOOT SAFE!

    i wish i knew more about this stuff. and though i want a radio, i've gotta get my food preps first.

  3. Akita

    Akita gone

    Jul 22, 2002
    Please folks, lets respect the OP's wishes and dont start the typical argument in this thread.

    I Love Yaesu, but if you want to get an entry radio I recommend this one:
    Roughly 1/2 price as a Yaesu or Icom or Kenwood.

    Remember too that you can transmit on the MURS band/freqs if you stay <=2watts (which the wouxun will do).

    (edited to add: that should read that you can transmit on MURS with 2 watts or less WITHOUT A LISENCE )
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2011
  4. bdcochran


    Sep 23, 2005
    Los Angeles
    I will be honest. I disposed of my ham gear other than 2 meter handhelds.

    The reasons are simple:

    1. I no longer have anyone with whom I need to communicate if shtf;
    My kid grew up. My girlfriend has her head on her shoulders and has her shtf plans.

    As a result, depsite being an Advanced Class (no longer offered), I have grown rusty. I have dealt with it by having the various units carefully bagged and stored with a couple copies of the manuals each. I have plenty of non rechargable batteries and battery packs.

    If you are in the situation of having children, I had my son licensed at 8, with a pack and radio stored in the principal's office under lock and key. Imagine, your kid having the only bug out bag in school!

  5. I'm aware of the wouxun and they've gotten good reviews from what I hear
  6. JK-linux


    Mar 5, 2009
    Last edited: May 23, 2012
  7. Bushflyr

    Bushflyr ʇno uıƃuɐɥ ʇsnɾ Millennium Member

    Mar 17, 1999
    Western WA
    Most of the paragliders I know use a vx-150. Discontinued now, but whatever 5 watt yaesu is available. I also have a Kenwood thg-71a, but it died.
  8. Big Bird

    Big Bird NRA Life Member

    Aug 7, 2003
    Louisville KY
    I have a Yaesu VX6R which is my handheld. But it gets little use. The 2m radio I use the most is my ICOM mobile unit in my car.

    But I spend more time on 10 meters and 40 meters than any other band. At home I use both a Yaesu FT 950 or the ICOM 7000. I personally think 10 meter is more useful for local communications than 2 meter. The IC 7000 stays on 2 meter hooked to a ground plane antenna and the Yeasu is hooked to a Ameritrion 600 watt amp so its my HF rig. I have several antennas I use for the Yaesu but I do well with just a folded dople for 20 and 40 meters and a vertical for 10 meters.

    I will say that I much prefer the controls on a ICOM radio over the Yaesu radios I own. The ICOM is much more intuitive IMO
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2011
  9. RED64CJ5


    Jul 7, 2003
    I must admit over the years my collection has swayed farther into being more Yaesu-dominant. This is due in part to their standardization of terminology and menu structure across products and overall value.

    I used to have a fair amount of Icom but nowadays my home pecking order is:
    Yaesu (several HF, HT, and mobiles)
    Kenwood (several mobiles and a couple of HT)
    Alinco (older mobiles)
    Drake (for quasi EMP resistance and ease of repair)

    At one time I was very "HT" heavy with almost a dozen in the fleet but now I've gotten more practical and am down to 4. 2 for the BOB's (identical Kenwoods), a Yaesu VX-6R, and a Yaesu VX-2R.

    To each his own. Go with what works for you, learn it intimately, know how to service it, know it's limitations. I have helped a lot of guys buy radios over the past twenty years and it's a lot like buying a gun or a car....Very subjective based on one's individual perceptive need.
  10. RED64CJ5


    Jul 7, 2003
    Couldn't agree more. It is horribly under-rated for local comms.
  11. Bravo 1

    Bravo 1 Serious Infidel CLM

    Sep 21, 2005
    excellent thread,,,,,tagged:cool:
  12. kirgi08

    kirgi08 Watcher. Silver Member

    Jun 4, 2007
    Acme proving grounds.
    Red,youse went KISS,I did also,just a different way.'08.
  13. Mister Clean

    Mister Clean

    Jul 16, 2010
    I think your choices are all top notch! :thumbsup:

    It is clear that you have put a lot of thought into trying to cover all-of-the-bases (i.e. portability, mobility, BOB, and cost effectiveness). You also took into consideration your power sources.

    It is also clear that you have planned what to do if something happens to your primary antenna by knowing ahead of time what the options would be.

    Kudos and major props to the "man-with-a-plan".


    I am also a licensed HAM operator. I passed my GENERAL exam last month just in time before the current question pool expires at the end of this month. Now I am studying for my EXTRA ticket so that I can pass that exam before the question pool changes again next year.

    I think that if the SHTF, HAM radio will be very useful if not a vital means of communication. I am extremely active as a HAM operator already and society hasn&#8217;t even broken down yet! I have a training session (net) scheduled for almost every day of the week. For example:
    - I belong to 3 HAM radio clubs and we have on-the-air training sessions every week for newbies, ELMER Q & A sessions and just confirming that our latest and greatest antenna/microphone/transceiver/power source, et cetera is working as intended.
    o We practice monitoring more than one band at a time, the use of repeaters, changing frequencies, AM, FM, SSB, RTTY, MORSE code, simplex relays, mobile, APRS, et cetera.
    o We practice using our handy talkies versus mobile stations versus home base stations, low/mid/high power and portable/mobile/permanent antennas, et cetera.

    - I practice at least once a month using my HAM radio(s) as a member of:
    o my local Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT)
    o Medical Reserve Corps
    o Amateur Radio Disaster Services (ARES)
    o Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES)
    o SKYWARN Weather Spotters (lots of activity lately for this . . . almost every day last month!)

    When it comes down to what is my favorite radio, I have a different philosophy than the OP.

    "Jack of all trades, master of none" is my philosophy. I like to know how to program, monitor, use more than one brand just in case my radio is out of commission and the only available radio does not have the manual sitting on top of it. &#61514; &#61514; &#61514; No small feat when you consider that even WITH the manual, it took me almost 2 weeks to figure out how to transmit using one of my radios. I could monitor just fine. But it was only because of the practice sessions that I participate in that I kept trying and trying until someone finally confirmed that they had heard me. I wasn&#8217;t sure if it was the radio, the microphone, the antenna, the power source or some combination of all of these. Turned out to be a simple setting on the radio.

    Handie Talkie: Yaesu VX-8DR, 50/144/430 MHz, Triple-Band, 5 Watts, Submersible Transceiver
    APRS/GPS/Bluetooth Handheld , dual band monitor function, heads up compass
    Covers AM/FM broadcasts, TV stations, public service channels, temperature sensor
    spare Li-Ion battery packs, 3-AA battery pack, DC auto power adapter, AC convertor
    Antenna: Yaesu factory rubber duck and Diamond SRH999 Quad band

    Mobile: ICOM IC-208H, 144-148/440-450 MHz, VHF/UHF Dual-Band, 55/15/5 Watts
    Aviation, Marine, Weather and Utility Communications
    DC auto power adapter, Astron RS-35M AC power convertor
    Antenna: Larsen - Tri Band VHF, UHF, 800 MHz Motorola Style Mobile
    Buddipole, Slim Jim end-fed dipole

    BaseStation: Kenwood TS-2000 &#8220;dc to daylight&#8221;

    Almost every HAM that I know has multiple power sources on hand so that if the SHTF they can continue to operate &#8220;off-the grid&#8221;. Gasoline/propane generators, solar panels, gel battery storage arrays, alkaline/Li-Ion batteries in the hundreds, et cetera.

    All of my HAM friends also have dozens of alternative/spare antennas at the ready.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2011
  14. bdcochran


    Sep 23, 2005
    Los Angeles
    In answer to the question about antennas. The hand held units come with an antenna. I then bought a spare hotshot (if I remember the term)antenna for each unit as back up - cheap and better than the originals.
  15. mac66

    mac66 Huge Member Millennium Member

    Oct 28, 1999
    Blue Planet
    I had a yaesu VX6r which was great radio but every time I set it aside for awhile I had to relearn it. It was pretty complicated and I am not very active as a ham. I sold it and bought two Wouxons and use one or the other quite often, atving, hunting, or when out and about. Good bang for the buck and can be used on alternative freqs if needed. I also have a pair of Puxing 777+s. in UHF which make a nice alternative comms in an emergency.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2011
  16. Mister Clean

    Mister Clean

    Jul 16, 2010

    Touche'. That is precisely why I mentioned that I participate in training nets every week. Even WITH the manuals right in front of you, some HAM radios are a beast to figure out how to use. So much so that an entire "cottage industry" has evolved to produce SUPPLEMENTAL or ALTERNATIVE manuals/cheat sheets/et cetera.
  17. GlockRadio


    Mar 23, 2008

    I've been a ham for over 30 years and I must say you have put together an impressive list for SHTF. In fact my BOB contains an FT-817 and an two VX7r's, the FT-8900 and IC-706 are already mounted in the SUV with the antenna kit bag that resides there permanently for erecting all types of emergency antennas. My kit also includes the LDG-817 antenna tuner and it is a recommended "must buy" for the 817. Nice to see that others also include communications in their BOBs! Great job! :perfect10:
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2011
  18. RED64CJ5


    Jul 7, 2003
    There is one comment I can't keep to myself about the FT-817's.

    The factors you need to look at closely in determining whether to buy an FT-817 are available power output, size and weight, and battery consumption. Frankly, I do not recommend someone buy an FT-817 unless they have plenty of money and other rigs at their disposal first.

    Here's why:

    1. They have minimal power output compared to an FT-857. 100W vs 5W on HF. Even 25W would have been great, but 5W can be next to useless unless you're strictly looking at local communications or you have a very good antenna setup. And yes, I have 20 years of QRP (low power) operations experience so I know you *can* work the entire world on less than a watt. (but there are conditions that must be met)

    2. The 817 may have a nice carry strap, but I will tell you from personal experience that an 857 fits equally as nice in a pack. You do not need nor will you frequently use the 817's carry strap. The two units are very comparable in size and weight, with the 857 being slightly larger and heavier, but minimally. Take a look at the them side by side in a store.

    3. Power consumption. Here's where I think the 817 is a loser in this battle. While you can certainly utilize the internal battery of the 817, it is not going to last you very long compared to using something like a small 7 amphour external battery. Essentially, my thought here is that you can utilize an 857 set on lower power along with an external 7 amphour (think alarm system) battery and get the same results. Essentially you can run the 857 down to as little power as you want (5 watts, for example) and then if you need more power, it is available.

    I'm not trying to put down the 817 as a contender. I just think that if it's your sole HF radio, you are at a disadvantage. 5 watts is fine if you are hill-topping, have an awesome antenna, or are the conditions are great. 5 watts are pathetic if you're really needing to talk to someone and don't have the ability to "boost up" to something more feasible for domestic (N America) communications like a 25-50 watt rig.

    So if you have an FT-817, I recommend you look at available amps such as the Tokyo Hi-power to give you an extra 20 or so watts.

    If you do not own an HF rig, consider a small, portable unit like the Yaesu FT-857 and comparable models from Icom or Kenwood. (think IC-706 or TS-50S.) The 817 is good for your BOB if you really know what you're doing and are familiar with it's limitations. I'd stick to something with a little more power, myself.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2011
  19. DustyJacket

    DustyJacket Directiv 10-289

    Oct 16, 2008
    Missouri, East of KC
    Does the HAM license still require passing a morse code test?

    I came close once, but no bananna....
  20. RED64CJ5


    Jul 7, 2003
    Most of the old codgers who fought against "no code" are 6 feet under now.

    While I did pass my code test to get my license, I am glad to see it gone.

    You can now obtain your license without it!