The above picture is of the newest portable I purchased from Amazon for my travels last fall (2018)
As with all my reviews I do not have a relationship with the company or the reseller and receive no compensation for my comments or blog post. I’m just a user of the product and will comment based on my experience. There are other similar ham radios for sale on Amazon that are more or less expensive, depending on your budget.
Do your own research. These are only my opinions and may not be exactly what you may want or need.
This is the forth installment of blog posts on vandwellers obtaining their Ham Radio Technician License
This post will focus on the next step of finding the right ham radio for you.
I have an example of a friend who got her Technician License and wanted to get a portable ham radio. She went to a local Ham Club and was told that a specific portable would be right for her, as it was easy to program.
As it turns out it might have been the right radio for the guy at the radio club, but it turned out it was not the right radio for her.
The guy giving the advice stays in one place so he doesn’t add frequencies often. My friend moves from place to place so programming new frequencies could be a daily need, in some cases. Programming was not simple or straight forward even with the quick reference instruction sheet. She was not very happy with her purchase.
Another frustration was the fact that her portable didn’t come with Lion battery. She hadn’t purchased a spare battery, so that meant that she needed to recharge her radio each night, even if it the portable’s battery wasn’t depleted. It is not recommended to put the non-Lion battery on charge until the battery was depleted, based on the battery’s chemistry. If it was a Lion battery there would be no concern.
There was also the issue of her lapel microphone. It only had one pin to attach to the radio and it didn’t make a good connection. This resulted in the poor connection shorting out the push to talk button without her knowing it. She would be transmitting as she drove and didn’t know it. The lapel microphone is ice to used in a mobile application rather than havingbto pick up the radio with antenna cable attached.
Anyone would have been frustrated with these results being new to Ham Radio. I tell this story as I’m sure more than one person has been down the road of buying the wrong radio for themselves. The man who gave advice was not ill intended with his recommendation. He had been a Ham Radio operator for many years. He just didn’t know what vandwellers need in a portable Ham Radio.
I recommend the radio I purchased above for the following reasons listed under the Amazon description.
2x 7.4V/1800mAh Batteries 1x Baofeng walkie talkie 1x TIDRADIO NA-771 Antenna 1x Earpiece 1x Speaker mic 1x Desktop charger 1x Belt clip 1x The sling 1x English User's manual 1x Programming Cable
In addition, the radio is small and lightweight. It’s also Dual Band (144 & 440), dual channel monitoring and charger will work on 120v & 12v. It can listen to FM radio band, and has an emergency flashlight is built in.
It also has a feature where you can enter frequencies on the fly without entering them into memory. Since it can have two temporary frequencies, a repeater channel with a transmit and receive frequency can both be put in. This means that your going to take a hike and you want to put the repeater frequencies in for the closest repeater, you only have to type them in and assign any tone coding. It’s quick and easy.
The features and performance is good for the price. For a vandweller, you can use this radio right out of the box by manually programming using the keyboard. You can attach it to a roof mounted antenna. (To be discussed in another blog post). If you have solar you can charge it off solar like me.
There are other factors that you may want to consider when deciding on a portable Ham Radio. The above example is meant to help you on getting the right radio for you the first time. I chose to go with a lower cost radio. For example more expensive radios may have stronger radio cases, more frequencies, and features. Also there are different suppliers of the radios so you should always review supplier and product ratings.
Best wishes finding the right radio for you the first time.
The ARRL.org is the place to go for many things Ham/Amateur Rafio. This includes finding a Exam location.
I filled out the information shown in the picture at the beginning of the blog for Arizona and got these results.
With these results above I chose Flagstaff, AZ (clicked on Flagstaff) for details on the exam there. As follows:
Even though this exam is scheduled there must be at least 3 examiners to sign off on all paperwork. If something happens to one they can’t run the exam unless they find another. I tried to schedule my General Ham License test at a location only to find out it was canceled. I don’t know why it was canceled but opted for another location.
The above information says Walk-in’s are allowed, don’t count on just showing up. Make contact with the person listed in the information above and verify they can accommodate you. They will also then notify you if something changes for some reason.
Show up no less than 15 minutes before the scheduled exam as there is an application that must be filled out and they need to review all your paperwork below.
You must read and follow (below) what to bring!!!!!!!
Number 4 below - don’t leave this to chance! Log into the FCC as noted and get an FRN!
Do this in advance of the test!
I do not recommend using your SS# when you can avoid it and as noted not all testing sites will accept SS#’s so save yourself the frustration.
The FRN is free to get!
After this section in what to bring to the exam I have listed the information on how to get an FRN.
Exam sessions are conducted by volunteers working under the direction of the FCC and a Volunteer Exam Coordinator (VEC). There will likely be a charge for taking the exam. The exam fee is set by the VEC and is usually $15 or less. Contact the exam session administrator to determine the fee that applies to the exam session you plan to attend, the documents required and to verify the session date and time. VEC organizations may have different policies regarding candidate procedures and requirements. The FCC does not charge a fee to issue an initial license or for standard changes to a license. However, there may be fees for other FCC services.
1. One legal photo ID (identification): a. State Driver’s License b. Government issued Passport c. Military or Law Enforcement Officer Photo ID card d. Student School Photo ID card e. State Photo ID card
2. If no photo ID is available, two forms of identification: a. Non-photo State ID card (some states still have them) b. Birth certificate (must have the appropriate seal) c. Social security card d. Employer's wage statement or Minor's work permit e. School ID card f. School or Public Library card g. Utility bill, bank statement or other business correspondence that specifically names the person; or a postmarked envelope addressed to the person at his or her current mailing address as it appears on the Form 605.
3. Students/minors without a photo ID need to bring only one of the above items if a legal guardian presents their photo ID; otherwise two non-photo IDs are required.
4. Social Security Number (SSN) or your FCC issued Federal Registration Number (FRN); VEC’s are required by the FCC to submit either your SSN or your FRN number with your license application form. If you prefer not to give your SSN at the exam session, then you may register your SSN with the FCC beforeexam day. Once you have a FCC issued FRN, you may no longer use your SSN on the application. For instructions on how to register your SSN with the FCC and receive a FRN, visit the FCC's FAQ page and the FCC's registration instructions page. Please note that some exam teams will only accept a valid FRN on your application. Check with your local exam team before exam day.
5. If applicable, bring either a photocopy of your current Amateur Radio license or a reference copy printed out from the FCC website, the license information printed from ARRL website or QRZ website, or the original(s) and photocopy(s) of any Certificates of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) you may hold from previous exam sessions. If your license has already been issued by FCC, the CSCE showing license credit is not needed. The photocopy(s) will not be returned. Instructions on how to obtain an official FCC license copy are on ourObtain License Copyweb page.
6. Two number two pencils with erasers and a pen.
7. A calculator with the memory erased and formulas cleared is allowed. You may not bring any written notes or calculations into the exam session. Slide rules and logarithmic tables are acceptable, as long as they're free of notes and formulas. Cell phone must be silenced or turned off during the exam session and the phones' calculator function may not be used. In addition, iPhones, iPads, Androids, smartphones, Blackberry devices and all similar electronic devices with a calculator capability, may NOT be used.
8. Bring a check, a money order or cash to cover the exam session fee(s). Check the ARRL VEC’s current exam fees.
Getting an FCC Registration Number (FRN) in the Universal Licensing System (ULS)
This article provides information on getting an FCC Registration Number (FRN). You need an FRN if you are “doing business with the FCC.” To get an FRN, you need to complete FCC Form 160. The easiest way to complete FCC Form 160 is online by following the steps below.
Answer whether the FRN is for an individual or business and whether the address for the contact is within the U.S. and click Continue.
Complete the registration information and click Submit.
FAQs – Getting an FCC Registration Number (FRN)
Why do I need an FCC Registration Number (FRN)?
The Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 (DCIA) sets out to improve collection of delinquent government debts. As a result of the DCIA, the FCC and other executive agencies collect the Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) from each individual or organization doing business with a federal agency, including applicants for, or recipients of, a federal license or permit.
You register your information in the FCC’s Commission Registration System (CORES) and are immediately issued an FCC Registration Number (FRN) and password that is tied to the TIN you provided.
What information do I need to provide to get an FCC Registration Number (FRN)?
Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). For individuals this is a Social Security Number and for businesses this is an Employer Identification Number
The name of the individual or business
Type of business
Password: A password must be at least 6 characters and must include three of the four character types:
Uppercase letters (A, B, C, etc)
Lowercase letters (a, b, c, etc)
Special characters (~, !, @, etc)
Numbers (1, 2, 3, etc)
Personal Security Question (PSQ) and answer: Your PSQ and answer is not case sensitive.
This is the second in a series of blog posts on vandwellers getting and using a Ham Radio Technician License. This post focuses on preparing for the Technician Exam.
Passing the Technician Examgives you some privileges. Although I would say it gives you the most popular, practical, and cost effective privileges. You will be able to talk on the 2 meter and 70 centimeter bands or not commonly related as VHF in the 144 Mhz nand and UHF in the 440 Mhz band. These are the frequencies that most hams use. If you wish to talk over long distances you will need to pass a higher exam too.
We each have unique learning characteristics. I like to study for the test, since the test questions are known in this case. The reason this works for me as I have a good amount of Ham Radio and Electronic knowledge, not requiring me to review information I already know..
You may not have the same background as me, but still wish to study to the test questions. I only suggest in this case is to look up what you don’t know online so you understand the concepts. I still needed to do this for my study method in a few cases.
Both taught me what I needed to past the Technician Exam.
Others may wish to read the book (above picture) first, and once done that then take the practice exams. You can buy the manual or view it online. Reading the book is how some of my friends studied. We had discussions about my method vs theirs, and yes I admit I may not have learned something that would have been good to know, but not tested. This is why I suggest the two methods of studying, so you can pick what works best for you. Two my friends did well studying and passing the exam and I’m glad they did as I was hoping to have some friends so I could talk to them.
As of writing this blog - The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual is available on Amazon is refuced to $16.99.
There is another method for studying and passing the Technician Exam and that is to look for a Ham Radio club that offers a course during the day and Exam after. This doesn’t fit with my style of learning as I feel rushed/pressured.
What I like is that you can study at your own pace. When you are ready to take the exam, you just find a place where you will be and take the test for the maximum of $15.00.
That is all you need to do to study and pass. If you have a photographic memory you will remember the questions and answers. After awhile I didn’t worry about memorizing random things as I had seen the questions so many times I could tell the answer by what was offered on a., b., c., & d. for answers.
It helped me having memorized the answer when math was needed. I didn’t have to use a calculator as I just remembered the number in the answer. I did go and learn how to calculate such answers for reference but the exam went easier this way.
In the next blog I will cover finding a test site near you and how to sign up.
There are many aspects associated with getting into ham radio, but this post will focus on why it is a positive for vandwellers. I will cover other aspects of ham radio in future blog posts, such as taking the test, what equipment and cost, and using your radio.
I was into CB radio, in the day, having a license for mine, when it was required. I still remember my now defunct callsign of KYK-6428.
It worked well talking to others and to home base until sun spots and people in other countries started to put linear ampliers on they radios and made the radio unusable due to background noise. Today its an option again as the background noise is much less, but at what value?
If you want to talk to others and your a vandweller CB is only good for a few miles and background noise can be anoying trying to pick up a distant signal. and adjusting the squelch only reduces reception. CB is ok for listening to truckers, who are the primary users and some off-roaders, but your better off with the Waze App for traffic information as it is crowd supplied.
If you need help, as you know cell phone is best, but when in those special spots in National Forest or BLM and there is no cell phone service on the back road, CB will not do it for you either. Yes, there are satellite communication products that can work for you, but they come with a monthly service fee.
What often does and will work in remote areas is ham radio and it doesn’t come with a monthly bill!
This was the reason I chose to get my Ham Radio Technician License last fall. Not only do I end up in places without cell service on my travels, I also hike into remote areas with no cell service.
The advantages of Ham Radio are many even at the Technician level.
1. Ham radio no longer requires learning Morse code. It is designed for anyone who is willing to take the time learn the rules and pass the test.
5. Many ham radio groups give you one free year of membership with passing the test. This a good opportunity to meet and ask questions.
6. Equipment is inexpensive. You can get an inexpensive two-band portable radio on Amazon for $100.00. Mine above costs about $120.00 and comes with everything you need.
7. The other ham radio operators I have met are helpful and you will find others who are novices as well that you can get your questions answered.
8. There are national calling frequencies on the most popular two bands that a Technician can talk on. At the RTR this year there was a group who met by calling on these frequencies.
9. In stead of a few miles with CB radio with your Technician Ham License you can use repeaters that are at high elevation and will take what you transmit and repeat it real-time to a large coverage area. Signal coverage can be often 100+ square miles. But on linked repeaters like some in Utah when you callon one repeater it connects many. In western Utah that’s from Boise, ID to Flagstaff, AZ. This many hundreds of square miles to ask for help.
Below you will see all the Field Day locations in Southern New England, where I live.
I’m sure that there are other positive points. You can buy a study book or not. I chose to study to the test. The bank of questions is set and publically available. I chose to study all the questions and looked up what I didn’t know online. My friends chose to study the book. We just have different ways of learning. There is no right or ring way.
If you are a vandweller and hike like me with others this year, the ham radios were valuable when I went off looking for trails or views and I was able to call from my portable to them and not have to hike all the way back.
I hope this explains getting into Ham Radio and you consider passing your Technician exam
I thought it would be fun to mix up my cooking experience, so I brought Orzo Original Pasta on this year’s travels.
It’s a case of it being a good idea that I didn’t test before taking it with me. The problem came when draining the Orzo pasta.
I don’t carry a strainer and the small pieces of Orzo slipped past the cracked pot cover and into my sink drain screen. I’m so used to making spaghetti, rotini, and ziti that all I carry is a 3 quart pot and cover. I drain my pasta by cracking the pot cover and let the water drain out.
This draining method is simple and easy, but does not work with Orzo.
My choices of pasta are such that I don’t need another choice that also requires to carry a strainer with the space it takes and the weight it adds.
If you want to keep things simple leave the Orzo home.
I have traveled 2 years in my Tacoma/FWC. After my first year I bought a light strip that sticks between the bumper and tailgate. (in the crack, above picture)
I felt that I needed more light notification of stopping, so I bought it. By the time I got around to install it last fall, I felt it was too cold to get good adhesion to attach it.
The light strip has an adheasive peal-and-stick back, and based on my experience, adhearing it to the Tacoma’s composite (plastic) truck bed, it wouldn’t stick properly.
As you look st the picture above the light strip bends up in the center of the strip. This is because there is a square hole where the rod goes into to crank and lower the spare tire. So, I needed to bend the strip to go above the hole. I’m fine with this as I get the coverage I want.
I have 4-way flashers on in the above picture to show the lights work for directionals as well as braking.
You may be thinking that the tailgate somewhat obscures the light strip and it does, but when the camper is on the truck the tailgate is removed. A truck th
It comes with a 4 conductor trailer wire that plugs into the trailer wiring, but since I have a 7-pin round connector I have an adapter installed.
The light-strip will give me more light coverage during my general driving. I will share what it looks like with my FWC camper on future travels.
I have solo hiked many times and many places in the past while on travels. Some hikes I have not seen others beyond a certain point, or it’s been over 4 hours.
Staying on established trails is important, but I quickly found that in the desert, hiking over rock, itis easy to loose the trail and I had to walk in a circle to find evidence of the trail again. The other thing is that there are established trails that are marked and nonestablished trails that can be confused with the real trail. It’s not uncommon for me to take the wrong intersection as the real trail isn’t marked.
This year hiking along Comb Ridge looking for ruins and petroglyphs, many places did not have formal trails like the in the picture above. Yes the trail crosses a lot of open face rock.
I quickly learned on my solo hikes that once you enter a canyon, cell phone usage, that was already spotty in the west, was non existent. I turned to using the AllTrails app on my phone, as although you may not have cell phone coverage you have a better chance for gps coverage.
(I am a AllTrails paid user and have no relationship to the company.)
That’s right. Your gps works on your smartphone without cell phone coverage. The AllTrails app allows you to download the hiking location map and that’s all you need to turn on recording your trek. In fact, an older smart phone without cell coverage cans do this too. All you need to is download the off line map on WiFi.
Above is my hike in Maryland in late April. If you follow my blog you will see posts of my treks our west. I just don’t share hikes without established published trails, to leave it to others to discover if they do choose and not allow the more obscure locations to be overrun.
The example above is a good one, as you can see the many trails on the map and the turns I made along the way. In many places out west or in forests disorientation is possible.
Now this is the fun part. I may not know exactly how to get somewhere looking for artifacts in Utah, but I can always get home!
That’s right. Assuming you turn on recording your trek, and assuming you have a gps signal (slot canyons are generally obscured from satellite gps), you can see where you are and you can just walk in the direction of your recorded line of travel. (Red line in AllTrails example above.)
I do have a tendency to get off trail by looking for the right trail or looking for a spot to take that special photo, so I often use this feature on AllTrails. It also helps with finding the shortest distance to a location.
Please bring a charging cable with charging brick as using gps is a radio signal and drains your cell phone battery. I shut off WiFi, Bluetooth, and usually cell as there is no general cell service along Comb Ridge. When I get to the top of the ridge, and take a break, I will turn cell service back on, as I may get signal to get mail.
Technology is great but it can fail you. Stay aware of your surroundings. If you leave the trail walk the same way back vs trying to find the trail later on. Know where you are headed in relation to the sun movement so you know the direction of your travels. Know the weather for the day and next day. Plan to bring items for getting stuck on the trail somewhere and carry energy bars, nuts and fruit. Bring clothing for possible situations/weather changes. Prehydrate by drinking a pint of water before starting your trip. Bring a liter of water for each 1000 ft elevation change. I bring a life straw in case I need to drink out of a pool of water. Bring at least one hiking pole. Bring what you need for “leave no trace”. Pick up some others trash along the way to help our environment.
Overall I carry about 25 lbs in a daypack. I bring more than most others on my hikes, as I believe in being prepared. I could bring more, but everyone has a limit. Of course things like water crossings this year meant bringing trash bags to wade with, as an example.
This year I now carry a small portable Ham Radio, having passed my ham license last fall. I also carry a spare battery for it. I will cover Ham Radio and hiking in a separate blog post, but it opens up another way of contacting the outside world during an emergency. There are a number of products to contact help or family by subscriptions. You can rent a satellite phone. I do choose to be self proficient but let others know of my hiking location.
My focus of the blog was to review about getting lost and what you can do to prevent this. There are many factors about solo hiking not addressed here.
You have to decide all these things for yourself. The past few years I have been lucky to have others to hike with. I therefore do less solo hikes. I still hike and carry supplies as if I am hiking by myself.