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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:22 am 
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I recently got my Tech license. I'm looking for some recommendations and some education.

First, my plan is to use this radio for a bugout or local disaster coms. Right now I am learning to hit the local repeaters and trying to communicate with the next city over. I have a friend over that way who recently got his license and we have been learning the 2 meter band.

I just have a Baofeng UV-5R (4-4.5w) with a 1/4 wave whip by signalstuff.com. He has an Icom (model?) putting out up to 50w and a 2 meter antenna. My signals can sometimes reach him and I finally found a repeater i can use which reaches the 70 miles to his place. Over the last few days he has sometimes been able to chat simplex and sometimes not. I'm guessing atmospheric changes have an effect?

So some education on what I should be looking for would be great.

I'm also trying to reach a local survival/prepping net. The repeater is about 10-15 miles away through city. I can receive signals just fine, but they want me to participate and so far my 2 meter signals are not reaching. I can burst some static but not deliver clear audio. I need to figure out how much of that might be due to antenna and how much might be due to wattage.

I'm toying with the Lexien 898/Jetstream JT270m to make a backpackable go box unit and use to hit the local prepping net and reach out the 70 miles to friends. The price is right, otherwise reviews are all over the map. Mostly good though, with enough bad to suggest I buy from company with a good return policy. Any thoughts on the radio?

I'm also looking at a 1/4 wave whip for portable use and something for longer range use. One ham suggested a J-pole, but digging around I found a DIY portable quad that promises to be about as good a 5 element yagi, so that is what I'm thinking about for home use and longer range field coms. But if there are better options please let me know!

The radios I'm looking at come in 10w and 25w versions. The 10w would probably have better battery life, but would the 25w be the better choice for performance or do you all think antennas are the bigger factor and I need to focus in that direction?

Also, any advice on getting to know the local hams?

Thanks!

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Last edited by woodsghost on Fri Nov 24, 2017 6:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 11:03 am 
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One of those roll-up J-Pole antennas will greatly improve the performance of your UV5R. They're essentially folded dipoles, so you should get around 2 dB gain from them. (Some people claim 6 dB, but I don't buy it). They can also be elevated a bit, which may get your signal up over some obstacles. On top of that they don't take up a lot of room in your pack and weigh next to nothing.

As far as getting to know other people goes, I'd join one of your local amateur radio clubs if there is one. You can also just get on 146.52 and call CQ, or answer someone else's.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 11:33 am 
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Thanks Zembecowicz!

You bring up another point, I'm in an apartment so smaller antennas are perfect. Roll-ups and stuff I can take down. Backpackable is good both for transport and storage.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 11:51 am 
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Think of antennas as camping lights. Your multi-element quad would be your flashlight, great for directing light where you need it but not much elsewhere while your whip or dipole is more like a camp lantern, good for lighting up the surrounding area (your AO). And wattage is wattage (in a rough sense). The more wattage the lamp, the brighter it shines.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 1:46 pm 
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Ok. So one of the questions is: is 10 watts enough to chat 70 miles, or will I need the 25w? And the answer I think I"m hearing is "it depends on what is currently working or not working." Also I"m hearing "using the right antenna can help things work better."

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 5:06 pm 
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woodsghost wrote:
Ok. So one of the questions is: is 10 watts enough to chat 70 miles, or will I need the 25w? And the answer I think I"m hearing is "it depends on what is currently working or not working." Also I"m hearing "using the right antenna can help things work better."

Well, let's put it this way... The world record for a low power moonbounce used 3mw, and an antenna array that was gigantic. They also had the advantage of direct line-of-sight, which you don't. For you to cover that 70 miles simplex you either need good elevation to get over the curve of earth between the stations, or some convenient VHF ducting, which is probably how you've managed it so far. A small beam antenna will help some (Arrow makes a good one) and more wattage will definitely improve the results. 25 watts would be nice, 50 would be better. I once made simplex contact with a buddy in Spotsylvania, VA from Hunt Valley, MD (about 125 miles) using 50 watts and a small log periodic on 40' of mast but it was a very tenuous connection that only lasted about 15 minutes.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 6:48 pm 
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Thanks KJ4OV. Ducting is what I'm suspecting made the contacts possible because he was clear as day and now, tonight and last Thursday, no signal is getting through.

We are hoping some of the local repeaters can pick up his signal. I'm thinking my transceiver is pretty cheap on the Baofeng. The repeater transceivers are hopefully better. But I'll have to get better wattage and figure out antennas.

The tiger tail did not help tonight like I was hoping. Oh well. It will be fun to get within 30 miles and see if we can make simplex contacts.

I should be clear, right now (apparently without ducting) he can hear me when I chat on one of the local repeaters and he is 70 miles away, but he is figuring out his radio and was not able to hit the same local repeaters. So in essence I can talk to him but he can't talk to me.

The other issue here is I'll have to figure out a different antenna or different wattage to hit the prepping net. I guess an antenna is cheaper so try that and see if it fixes the problem?

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 7:10 pm 
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woodsghost wrote:
So some education on what I should be looking for would be great.
with regards to communication, VHF (2m) has better range than UHF, but it is still line of sight and is unlikely to bounce of surfaces like UHF can. therefore, the higher your antenna, the more likely you can get a clear line of sight over. Remember the earth curves, so you'll have to account for that

I need to figure out how much of that might be due to antenna and how much might be due to wattage.
This has already been discussed, a yagi antenna/multi element quad is great for precise directions (use a compass when setting them up) while dipoles and verticals are have a more dispersed output

The radios I'm looking at come in 10w and 25w versions. The 10w would probably have better battery life, but would the 25w be the better choice for performance or do you all think antennas are the bigger factor and I need to focus in that direction?
Power can be good, but understanding antenna placement, orientation and atmospheric conditions can help you get more with less watts. Personally I've used atmospheric ducting to carry a 5W UHF signal 300 miles away and the receiver could hear me crystal clear

Also, any advice on getting to know the local hams?
google search for amateur clubs in your area, look up your callsign directory, heck, listen to the airwaves and ask

Thanks!


You can also look at going down the HF route, opens up more opportunities for bouncing signals around as, well, HF signals bounce off the atmosphere while VHF and UHF go through it

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 9:08 pm 
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woodsghost wrote:
Also, any advice on getting to know the local hams?

http://www.arrl.org/find-a-club

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 9:31 pm 
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KJ4VOV wrote:
woodsghost wrote:
Also, any advice on getting to know the local hams?

http://www.arrl.org/find-a-club



Thank you. I am fortunate there are 3 clubs in the greater Omaha area. I guess I was wondering about etiquette. Mostly how to be a good citizen. I think I loudly introduced myself the other night with bursts of static as I tried unsuccessfully to hit a repeater during a net. :oops:

I think my call sign got through the static....

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 9:34 pm 
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Thank taipan821. I will go the HF route when I get my general. I plan to do that in 3-6 months.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:32 pm 
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Woods,

First, congratulations on getting your license; I hope the hobby is as rewarding to you as it’s been to me.

Unless money is not an issue, I’d build a few antennas before buying a more powerful radio. Particularly in the vhf/uhf range there is way more bang per buck in improving your antenna gain and decreasing feedline loss.

An antenna you might want try is a 2- or 3-element cubicle quad you can make out of pvc and wire. Two advantages are that it is fed directly with coax (vice building and tuning a matching unit) and by rotating the driven element 90 degrees the polarization from vertical (repeaters) to horizontal for DX simplex contacts.

Here’s a link to a backable 3 element version
http://www.amateurradio.bz/2m_backpack_quad_antenna.html

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 20, 2017 2:38 pm 
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Thank you KYZHunters. Cash is more of an issue now that my daughter was born today. But I got materials to build before her birth :D I was poking around and looking at some antennas to try and make.

Thanks for the link and the advice!

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 20, 2017 10:03 pm 
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woodsghost wrote:
Thank you KYZHunters. Cash is more of an issue now that my daughter was born today. But I got materials to build before her birth :D I was poking around and looking at some antennas to try and make.

Thanks for the link and the advice!

If you want a fun antenna to try building, try the Hentenna or the Hentenna Beam Both are a lot of fun to make and use.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 6:37 pm 
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So with the magic of black Friday and Christmas, I'm throwing money at the problem. A great deal came up on a Yeasu FT-2980. I'm eyeing the J-pole/slim jim by N9TAX and I'm thinking I'll make a hentenna for more distant contacts.

I'll keep thinking about the antennas but I also now need to figure out how to power it. I figure I can plug it into an outlet. I also want to run it off batteries, but I want those batteries to work at -20F up to 110F. As I understand cold is rather hard on electronics and batteries. I'd love to get my kit to fit in a 30 cal ammo can, but a plastic can would be lighter.

Any thoughts? I'll keep learning here.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 9:31 pm 
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woodsghost wrote:
So with the magic of black Friday and Christmas, I'm throwing money at the problem. A great deal came up on a Yeasu FT-2980. I'm eyeing the J-pole/slim jim by N9TAX and I'm thinking I'll make a hentenna for more distant contacts.

I'll keep thinking about the antennas but I also now need to figure out how to power it. I figure I can plug it into an outlet. I also want to run it off batteries, but I want those batteries to work at -20F up to 110F. As I understand cold is rather hard on electronics and batteries. I'd love to get my kit to fit in a 30 cal ammo can, but a plastic can would be lighter.

Any thoughts? I'll keep learning here.

Oh yeah, MANY thoughts. :lol:

Alright, first and foremost... it's a 13.8vdc radio, so plugging it into an outlet is going to be a problem unless you also bought a power supply. The good news is, it'll run off a battery like you wanted. The battery most commonly used for this would be a car battery, but those get a little heavy for lugging around without a vehicle so a lot of hams make up go kits using small AGM batteries, commonly used for 12v emergency lighting and in UPS systems. Can you get it all to fit a large ammo can? Sure, but it's not going to be a tiny .30 cal can. Think more along the lines of .50 cal cans or 20 mm. You will have a couple of issues to deal with though. First, for charging you're going to want the can open (even AGM "gel cells" will give off hydrogen if incorrectly charged) and the body of that 2980 is also the heat sink for it, so it depends on airflow around the unit at higher power levels. Even at the lowest power setting it can get warm during extended use and heat kills more electronics than cold.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:30 pm 
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Thanks KJ4VOV! I really appreciate the advice everyone is giving me here.

So what I'm hearing is my new radio had some features I didn't really understand before buying. But I can work with them.

I might have to abandon the 30 cal ammo can, but I'll still need a man-packable package. And myngo-kit might have to be a compact box of "stuff" rather than the snazzy kits by hammocan or the ultra cool stuff by Hardened Power Systems. Oh well, it will give me something to keep working towards after I get my general.

I'm hoping to find a fairly small DC battery. Or that two of them so I can charge one and use the other. I'm wondering if motorcycle or moped batteries would work?

Poking around the ham sites I see others have asked the same question :) I'll keep looking around.

And this battery looked promising, but there are some things I don't yet know/understand. So I'll have to keep learning. The Power-Sonic PS-1290NB Battery - 12V 9AH battery looked promising.

I also don't anticipate using the full 80w very often. I expect to use 5-30 watts, and probably stay closer to 10w. But I'm new to all this.

Thanks for the advice and education!

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 1:58 pm 
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Okay, one thing that needs clearing up is that the wattage on this radio is adjusted in steps, 80-30-10-5, that's your choices, it's not continuously variable. Next, make sure whatever antenna you use can handle the wattage you plan to use. Those roll up J-poles are generally only good to about 50 watts, which means you'll only be able to use the 30w and below settings. Then we get to power requirements for the radio. A quick look at the operating manual for the radio garners the power requirements for the various transmit power levels and for just receiving:

Code:
RX: less than 0.7A, less than 0.3A (squelched)
TX: 15 A (80W) / 9 A (30W) / 5 A (10W) / 4 A (5W)


We can quickly see that your 9 Ah battery won't have enough power to do 80 watts, will get used up pretty fast at 30 watts, and even 10 watts and 5 watts will be a significant drain. Fortunately, you won't be transmitting constantly, so you can reasonably expect to get 3-4 hours use from one, even more if you squelch down and just listen for traffic. A larger battery would help a lot but will also add weight so it's a balancing act to get just the right battery or batteries for your setup. My advice is to avoid motorcycle batteries and the like unless they are the AGM "gel cell" type, to avoid the problems of acid leaks and corrosive (and explosive) gasses while recharging. Mobility scooter AGM batteries are a good choice for most hams. You can find them in various sizes, shapes and Ah ratings to meet most needs. One portable setup I made used a 35Ah battery for operating a station during a triathlon that had two radios (one for APRS monitoring and the other for VHF comms at 50 watts) and I currently have a mobile UHF repeater setup in my trailer that uses a pair of 100Ah AGM batteries, a 100 watt solar panel to help keep them charged and ready, and another 200 watts of deployable panels to setup "on site" to keep the station running almost indefinitely, depending on how heavy the traffic is that it handles.

edit: fixed a typo

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 5:07 pm 
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Thanks! I did understand the radio was not continuous variable. But I was not clear. I also understood the J-pole i was looking at would be limited in its wattage. I don't know what a hentenna made of copper pipe would withstand, but when I'm ready I'll research that.

I was not understanding why gel cell batteries were so important. Now I do. Thank you!

I'm also starting to read that there are potential issues with radio interference and a strong need for lower RFI batteries/power sources. I don't know how much interference typically arises with motor scooter batteries, but it looks like all the ham specific models are already low RFI.

So I'm learning radios are like pets. You get a good deal on the dog, then you have to buy dog dishes, scratching post, food, toys, grooming supplies, and then you realize the scratching post is for cats but gee, you have all the gear, why not get another dog?

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Last edited by woodsghost on Sun Nov 26, 2017 2:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 5:50 pm 
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woodsghost wrote:
I'd love to get my kit to fit in a 30 cal ammo can, but a plastic can would be lighter.


I'm currently working on this, but it is a chore, my personal project is using the ammo can as the body for a Bitx40 transceiver, its something I wouldn't recommend to a newbie, as I am still getting help from people more experienced

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While J-poles do work, may I suggest a 3 or 4 element beam?

The Cushcraft model A148-3S 2M, YAGI, 3 elements, has a calculated gain of 13.2DBI.

I've used a 4 element version to talk simplex from my home to folks in the Mat Su valley - some 60+ miles away. Mounted at 30 feet (on a short mast on the roof) I had no problem with simplex coms @ 5 watts from an older IC-28A. This is from fixed station to fixed station. I believe this is the situation you have described for yourself.

BTW - dBI means the gain is calculated against a isotropic reference - which is theoretical itself.
Gain over a dipole can be measured and is the better reference.
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antenna_gain for a short overview of the 'dbI' vs other measurements.

As a side note, Tech license holders do have a 10 meter segment (28.300-28.500 MHz) for SSB communications with a power limit of 200 wats PEP. This may offer some additional choices should you go for HF equipment.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 9:37 pm 
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So now I'm looking for coax cable and a power supply. I found a used power supply which I'm thinking about jumping on. But I'd like to find a battery instead. I'll keep working on that one.

But the coax issues has me perplexed. I want it to be cheap and light, but not with TOO much loss. But loss is mainly due to length, as I understand. Would 10-20ft (3-7m) of RG58 be good enough? I really only think I'll need 10ft/3m of cable. Just enough to get the antenna up in a tree a bit or run the radio off my apartment deck.

And to be clear I'm planning on just 2m and maybe a little 70cm, but mostly 2m.

Whatcha all think?

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 28, 2017 1:03 am 
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woodsghost wrote:
So now I'm looking for coax cable and a power supply. I found a used power supply which I'm thinking about jumping on. But I'd like to find a battery instead. I'll keep working on that one.

But the coax issues has me perplexed. I want it to be cheap and light, but not with TOO much loss. But loss is mainly due to length, as I understand. Would 10-20ft (3-7m) of RG58 be good enough? I really only think I'll need 10ft/3m of cable. Just enough to get the antenna up in a tree a bit or run the radio off my apartment deck.

And to be clear I'm planning on just 2m and maybe a little 70cm, but mostly 2m.

Whatcha all think?

RG-8X would be a pretty good choice for you. It's inexpensive, very slightly heavier and thicker than RG-58 but has a lot less loss (though you are correct that for a short run it's not going to matter much.) It's not going to be horrible for 70cm but there are much better cables you could use in that frequency range. What radio are you planning to use for 70cm though?

Oh, and double your estimated length then at 5 feet. That's the way it usually works when you're a new ham. Underestimating the coak length you'll need is something even seasoned hams do regularly. Me? I buy a full spool, run out what I need to get the ends where I need them, then add 5' for a little slack. A ham can never have too much coax. 8-)

Edit: to add attenuation chart link

https://www.universal-radio.com/catalog ... html#atten

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 28, 2017 4:10 am 
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I was thinking the Yeasu 2980 was dual band but it is not. That simplifies things. So now I don't have to worry about 70cm coax. I'll just use my Baofeng if I need to do 70cm.

I'll poke around and shop for RG8. And any advice anyone want so drop on me I'm all ears!

Thanks a bunch!

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