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Schults question...i.e. I know nothing

Discussion in 'Survival Communications' started by monkeyman, Apr 30, 2013.

  1. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Ok, so I know NOTHING about ham radios beyond that I would have to pass a test and get a lisence to be legal to use them but have been considering looking into getting the lisence IF I can find equiptment that will fill my needs without breaking the bank.

    I work about 100 miles from my farm now and stay in the city for work a few days at a time. I have been wondering about being able to get a pair of handhelds or a handheld to have with me and a base for the farm in case of a SHTF where the cell towers and such were down. For the type of senario I want them for would also prefer to not have to rely on repeaters.

    Even if I were to use an external antena (i.e. appropriate roll of wire antena on string tossed over tree limb or similar), is this something thats realistic for ham handhelds and if so what kind of entry level price would I be looking at?

    For a bit more detail in expected uses, the farm is at some of the highest elevation in the county and it would mostly be for makeing check ins daily or some such if was reduced to bugging in to ride out a short term in the city or if was reduced to bugging home on foot where it would take some time. So they dont have to be able to do well from the bottom of a valley as I could make a point of choosing an elevated location to use them from. Top distance I regularly end up from the far may be up to 150 miles but mostly just under 100.

    Thanks in advance for any help.
    Motomom34 likes this.
  2. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    You can get a start with inexpensive handhelds, under 100 FRNS per. Throwing a wire over a tree limb is problematic, could be used for receiving, but transmitting on an unmatched random wire could very well destroy the transmitting end of the radio. Range, absent a repeater, well, that's an experiment you'll have to do after you get the sets. FWIW, my handheld has reached over 30 miles on the 5 watt max with good signal strength reported back, but that is over open air, no hills in the way, working a repeater.

    Unless you set up a rig at home to go with the handhelds, there really isn't much reason for a "base" station, you could be heard farther than the handheld, since it could be higher powered, but the h/t couldn't necessarily respond. Now, for a "few dollars more" you can get a mobile/portable rig for the pickup which might enable a longer distance.

    Others may be able to give you a bit more guidance, but 100 miles is a real stretch with handhelds. You will need something with a lot more snort to make it that far.

    Get going on the ticket, they are nothing more than a license to learn. The study guides are available from Amazon for less than the ARRL wants. New, less than 30- bux. Used, less, but may not be the current editions. Remember, too, that both ends of the link have to be licensed, so you can study together.

    @BTPost is the resident monkey expert on hamism. You might also go to Prepared Ham and read some of the forum. Some of that is pretty advanced, but you can get a taste.
  3. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Ok, MonkeyMan, Let see if we can get you some information here....

    Distance between your City Home, and Farm... 100 Miles.... Terrain in between? Elevation at both ends and are there any Hills in between? The reason for these questions is, VHF coverage is to the Horizon, plus about 15% which is Called the Radio Horizon, with elevations on both ends, being Height of the Handheld Antenna. (6 Ft) For Vhf, this is about 35 miles. If the Ground Elevation on one end is higher (MountainTop) then it can be considerably farther, because the Radio Horizon is extended for a Mountain Top site, on that end. This is why Repeaters are generally found at High Elevation Points, so they have an extended Radio Horizon. Vhf Antennas are not generally chunks of wire, strung thru the trees, as VHF Frequencies (2 Meters - 144-148 Mhz) have a wavelength of 2 Meters, so a 1/4 wavelength for that band is about 18 inches. Raising the Antenna to a higher elevation is a GOOD Thing, HOWEVER it quickly becomes a case of "Diminishing Returns" as the length of coax gets past 100 Ft, as Coax Losses in Tx/Rx signals start getting higher, then that Added Radio Horizon, due to increased elevation. All the above, points out that Vhf is likely NOT, going to solve your Comms requirement, without a Repeater, in between. The same will be true, for any thought of CB Radios, for the same reasons. 27 Mhz is still to high a frequency, for the required Radio Horizon for your Comms PATH. When the CB Band, is open for Skip, you are more likely to be able to talk to a Trucker in Texas, before you could have Comms, with the Farm.

    HF Ham Frequencies will certainly do the job, for that distance, IF the Operators, on each end, choose the appropriate Ham Band, for the Time of Day. HF Ham bands are spaced out along the HF Spectrum, so as to make such Comms, Trivial once the Setups are installed at each end of the link. HF Requires a more involved Antenna System, which usually means a Dipole, of at least 120 Ft in Length, up above Ground, about 30 Ft or so. HF also requires a more expensive Radio on each end, and either, a Manual Antenna Tuner, or a more expensive HF Radio with a Built-in Antenna Tuner. More expensive, like $400US for each end, plus the Dipole Antenna, and Power Supply.

    Even the Ham General License (Required for HF Privileges) is not that hard to study up for, and Pass, these days. There are OnLine helps, and Study guides, available, and if 10 year olds can do it, even us "Old Fart Monkeys" can study up and pass them. Preparedham.com is a good place to find such information, as Ghrit has stated. If it were 'Me" I would study and take BOTH the Tech and General Tests at the same sitting. It doesn't cost any more, and if you pass the General Test you are set, but if you don't, you can still get your feet wet on Vhf, while you re-study up for the General Test. Look at this as a month of Study, as Prep Thing, that can save you skin down the Road, but is worth the effort as a Prep..... .... YMMV.....
  4. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    The farm is on top of one of the highest hills in the county and was thinking in terms of having a set time window each day for three farm to monitor so would for instance make the next point of elevation each day and check in. Theres no mountains or anything in the path. The city end is in Kansas city, MO.

    If roads are open and car is running then it becomes a non issue as I can drive there in a couple hours. The comms would be to check in along the way in a worst case of walking home to be sure farm was secure and let them know when to expect me and such then could be used in the area after home for local comms if out to hunt, fish, trade, etc. So to be of use at least the one end would have to be something that could go in my pack eden if it took some setup to use.

    I wasn't sure if anything like that would be realistic or not particularly if the grid was down and took the repeaters out.
  5. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    If that is the case, then a Good 50-100 watt Vhf Radio, connected to a 11 element Beam Antenna, pointed at KC, and a duplicate setup, at the KC end, pointing back at the Farm, just might make it work, but it will be at, or near the limit of VHF coverage. Ships on the High Seas, with VHF Antennas at about 70 Ft, have Radio Horizons near 120 Miles, using 25 watt Radios. With that Setup on each end you would have reasonable Mobile coverage, to one end or the other, while transiting in between the two. If you decide to try this, then you want the BEST coax Cable you can afford. Beldon 9913 would be minimum... My sone spent two years in and around KC, and tells me it is flat as a Billiard Table, and that gives you at least a chance of making it on VHF. Keep us up with your plans....
  6. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Not looking too good on 2 meters at the work end, a beam antenna implies a fixed location. Fixed at the farm isn't too big a problem other than money to put up a tower. At the city end, I'm thinking a portable with a truck mounted antenna or portable tripod arrangement. Mm, this ain't gonna be inexpensive, but won't break the bank if you are careful. Mo' bettah a general license and look at 10 meters (on SSB which is OK for tech tickets) or longer wavelength with some power behind it. At 100 miles, that would fall into an easy range for an NVIS (near vertical incidence) antenna. You probably can't deploy an NVIS on the truck, but there are other choices that could work.
  7. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Ok so since I'm mostly looking for it for the trip (stops in transit) on foot and just haveing what I can carry then it don't look good if repeaters are out seems to be the short of it.

    So if that'd the case I guess the question would come down to reliability of repeaters in a serious SHTF situation. So am I right in assuming that the repeaters couldn't function in a feriday cage and so are not EMP hardened? Secondly are they generally set up on solar and or batterie back up or do they rely on the grid?

    I figure if they repeaters go down with the grid and can't be or are not hardened against EMP along with the possibility of being shut down in case of wide spread civil unrest then in my particular case they may hold very little advantage.
  8. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Most Repeaters are Grid Powered, with "some" Battery Backup for extended power outages. It is similar with Cellular Systems... Most Cellsites have Petroleum based Backup Power, that is minimum 24 Hours, and some are 48 Hours. Repeater Operators usually have contingency Plans should the Power go out for longer times, than that.
    EMP is a Known Issue, for ALL Electronic things. The real question is, How far away is the EMP Detonation? How high above the Ground is the Detonation? What is the terrain between the burst and the Repeater? In your case, The Terrain is FLAT, so nothing is getting in the way of the EMP. The distance to Omaha, (Major Target) isn't that far. You can figure anyone launching an EMP device at the US will get the Detonation up high enough, to get good coverage. SO, Basically, You, Your Electronics, Your Car, the Repeaters, and anything NOT stored in EMP Proof containers, ARE TOAST. Sorry, but that seems to be the consensus, for your area.
    So for SHTF Comms, i think besides Ham Radio, I would get some of the SECURE Phones, and put a few of those in EMP Proof Storage, for AFTER, and then use the HAM Stuff NOW, while it still works. I have enough Comm Gear in EMP Storage, to backup ALL my Main Units that are Online, now.
  9. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Yeah was figuring IF the hand held idea was viable would see about getting them and stowing them in ammo cams insulated on the inside so if things went tits up then could pull them out and if car was NOT an option for getting home let the Mrs know progress/eta say 1 hour to 2 hours past sun down so could make it to an elevation to camp for the night and toss a line up a tree to pull an external antenna up to maximize the elevation to transmit from and the farm is already at elevation to maximize chances. Unfortunately the gear I was looking at was about 5 watt hand held units and it don't sound like anything in that range would do me much good until I was within a day or two hike without repeaters and most likely if repeaters are up I can drive home in 3-4 hours even if had to detour around and take back routes.

    If wall home OPSEC is already determined to know if friendly or hostile held and if abandoned know the second third and through fifth bug out points from there in order so our plans gave been based on no comms. Just figured could be more of a comfort if was viable but looks like it's a bit past capabilities.
  10. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Any Comms home, is better than No Comms home, ALWAYS, even if you don't have SECURE Comms.... You might just want to look into MonkeyNet Technology, which can make even the most unSECURE Comms Link Message SECURE. When Momma deploys, like she is now, she has a Family Phrase PAD, on a Plasticized 8x11 inch Page , in her luggage, as well as the whole MonkeyNet Package on her PalmTop. This allows us to have SECURE Messaging, even if the Link is totally unSECURE, and it can be dealt with, using only a Pencil and Scrap Paper. Our Family Phrase PAD, has specific Phrases that only pertain to our Family, and this PAD is in the hands of all our Family Members, where ever they Live. If we still have Internet we can Encrypted files using GPG, or using the Family PAD, via Skype, or eMail. Momma and I use Skype to do Video Chats, when she is in a place with enough bandwidth to support that, or we can Message via Skype, with its internal Messaging app. On this deployment, she hasn't been in a place that allowed anything but the use of a borrowed computer. so we have been using MonkeyChat to communicate. I am logged in whenever I am awake, and she just need to have Web Access to get to MonkeyChat, and she logs in and we do our chatting. We had a nice half hour chat this morning, when she was in Johannesburg, SA. RF Comms isn't everything.... but it does work for us, as Momma is also a General Class Ham. ....
  11. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    OK, then. I think we've arrived at the conclusion that handhelds will NOT make it without a repeater, and even then it's highly problematic. Also, with EMP, all bets are off, and with a power outage, reliability is questionable.

    -There are some linked repeater networks around that can retransmit from one repeater to another. How those work, I do not know, but they do exist. Worth looking into for your application.
    -There are also satellite relays that can be used. I don't know how, and they probably require a bit more sophisticated equipment, say like a multi band mobile or portable unit, and almost certainly a general ticket.

    All that by way of saying that the problem can be solved absent EMP, so don't give up just yet. Take it stepwise, get the ticket, get the handhelds, learn on them, work on the general ticket and take small bites. Just like all prepping, there ain't enough money to do it all at once, and there is no single solution to solve everyone's needs.
    BTPost likes this.
  12. Idahoser

    Idahoser Monkey+++ Founding Member

    I've seen discussion of NVIS that didn't involve dipoles. It's interesting to me but I haven't done anything yet to find out for myself, so take this for what it's worth.
    For home, you'd have a dipole set up, but for mobile/roaming there are a couple of things that come to mind that should be possible.
    1. a long wire attached to a mobile antenna mount. Park, and unfurl the wire and attach it to something (tree, fence post, anything). You could use a normal whip for most of the time, and only unscrew it and replace it with the wire for the NVIS use.
    2. portable use, there's a dual-band (40 and 80) inverted V with a single support. I've seen it advertised for sale but you should be able to build it easily. It uses the elements themselves as guy wires with a single coax line up the pole.
    3. the military does this all the time mobile with the long whip folded down horizontal. It's very long, so if you have a small car this wouldn't work too well, but a truck or SUV should be able to make it work.
    4. the standard 102" CB whip with a tuner should be able to do the job mobile as is.

    Just for further clarification this is all Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) propogation we're talking about. Under nearly all atmospheric conditions this is accomplished on 40m day, 80m night. It sends the signal straight up (or thereabout) where it is reflected back down to cover an area about 300 miles around your location. Anybody in that circle should be able to hear you. A very low dipole is generally described as the ideal, but most antennas have some NVIS component to their radiation pattern.
    I have no idea what power level would be needed. I'd be surprised if the little QRP 5-watt rigs could communicate this way, and I'd be surprised if more than 100w was necessary for reliable comm.
    There are MANY multiband radios that would be fine base or mobile for this. You could get one old enough not to have the WARC bands, since we don't care about those for this application anyway. Not that you'll never want to use it as just a normal ham radio, so don't hobble yourself for no reason.
  13. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    102" Whip will do ok, for 10, & 15 Meters but is to short, to give much signal on 20 & 40 Meters and WAY TO Short for 60, 80 and 160 Meters, even if you have a Tuner inLine.... I like the Kite, or Wx Ballon Antenna, for the Lower Bands Makes a small compact antenna in Storage, and you can get very Good Results on ALL HF Bands, with either... Kite Antenna takes wind and no Trees. Wx Ballon Antenna just works.
  14. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    To help Mm a bit: A tuner is almost required to match an antenna to a rig unless the antenna is exactly tuned for the frequency to be used. These days, most rigs have a tuner on board, but they may not have the ability to tune a wide enough span to keep the radio at optimum power for transmitting. Receiving is not a problem, usually, tho a tuner will help a bit with rejection of slightly off freq incoming signals.

    Now, for Mm's purposes 10, 12 and 15 meters might be the "right" bands. Very unlikely he would go to the low HF ranges at all for the purposes mentioned in the first post above. Of those, only 10 meters (and shorter) fits his (soon to be) tech ticket. I do not know of any single band radios for 10 meters, but would not be surprised if they exist. If so, that could well be the low cost option, and tuning (shortening) a 102 or 108 inch whip would be easy since they are too long for optimum at that band.

    I have to add here that mounting a whip on a vehicle has to consider radiation patterns, it might be necessary to aim the pickup in the right direction ---. (Yes, I know this from meddling with CB a "while" back.)
  15. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Single Band Radios do Exist for 10 Meters... Usually they are converted CB Radios.... or Radios that were redesigned for 10 Meters.... using basic CB Radio Circuitry... .....
  16. toydoc

    toydoc Monkey++

    Radio shack made a 10 Meter radio that was about the size of a cb rig and was advertized as a 25 watt output radio. Model HTX-10 and it was an all mode transceiver.
  17. NotSoSneaky

    NotSoSneaky former supporter

    Information for the above mentioned radio. Here.

    More here.

    A quick search indicates this has been out ot production for a while now but may still be available second - hand.
  18. Idahoser

    Idahoser Monkey+++ Founding Member

    I thought we had already concluded that the higher HF bands were not going to make it 100-150 miles reliably, is why NVIS was brought up. It doesn't need to be very efficient for this mode. The military does it all the time with a (I believe) 18ft whip on hummers and trucks, and I have read of people doing it with the CB whip. OF COURSE a tuner is necessary. Probably a real serious tuner, not just the little one built into radios.
    As for aiming, for this mode you want "up" so compass direction is irrelevant.
    I will see if I can find my links again, but we aren't inventing the wheel here, this is certainly possible, it's been done.
  19. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    You guys know I'm a noob, tech since Nov '12. Still trying to learn enough to continue living the life on the air. Take most, if not all, of this as a learning exercise for me as well as help Mm get off the ground.

    Lemme see if I can clarify some of what's floating around in my cranial cavity pudding.
    -H/Ts won't do what Monkeyman wants as emcomm to talk to SHMBO when something goes out of round.
    -I'm assuming tech ticket only (for now) general later rather than simultaneous tests.
    -I'm as sensitive to costs as Mm is, maybe a bit moreso at times. I know he's limited that way as are we all to one extent or another. (Long time member, there's history.)
    -Getting started is key, and h/ts will do for that. Cheap, too, and there's a bit of fun to be had on 2 Meter nets. Also can be used to check in on the way home to see if there's a jug of milk to be bought on the way once in range.
    -10 Meter is the longest wavelength available to techs for transmitting. 6 meters might work for him, dunno, but it's less common AFAIK. Either way, transceivers should have enough snort to make the trip home from the city.
    -NVIS makes sense to me, since there's no assurance Mm will be able to find a high spot for a whip to reach home line of sight. (Hiding in gullies comes to mind.) It'll take a bit of looking, but there might be an NVIS antenna that can be vehicle mounted. If there are plans out there for a home brew, I'd also like to see them.
    So, recommendations for Mm solicited, after getting the ticket(s) (SWMBO needs one, too) and a pair of h/ts (perhaps these - Amazon.com: New Baofeng UV 5RA Ham Two Way Radio 136-174/400-480 MHz Dual-Band DTMF CTCSS DCS FM 5W Amateur Radio UV-5R Transceiver - 2013 Latest Version with Enhanced Features: Car Electronics.) Keeping costs in mind, of course.
    -A home station setup
    -A mobile
  20. Idahoser

    Idahoser Monkey+++ Founding Member

    just to make sure I'm not confused, NVIS would always be long wavelengths, typically 40m daytime or 80m night, so any discussion of trimming whips isn't what I'm talking about. You are using a vehicle mounted whip on a wavelength very far removed from anything that could be trimmed, so you need a matching network. Since we're talking about two different bands on the same antenna, the matching network would necessarily be a tuner device. Auto tuner or manual wouldn't matter, auto is more expensive. I suppose it could be possible for somebody interested in electronics to come up with two different fixed matching networks (a combination of coils and capacitors) and switch between the two for band changes, but a really good MFJ 949E manual tuner would get the job done and cost about a hundred bucks. I haven't bought any autotuners so I can't comment on their cost, other than to say they're probably higher than manuals. There's many to choose from, I'm sure some are better than others for a mobile install.
    The stuff I've read said it worked, is all I know. I found some links about NVIS
    Field Deployment
    Near Vertical Incident Scattering Antenna
    NVIS and 2M Ant.
    NVIS: Near Vertical Incidence Skywave
    Simple NVIS Antenna
    The NVIS Antenna
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