eHam Forums => Mobile Ham => Topic started by: SMAUG on June 18, 2013, 03:59:02 AM

Title: Returning to ham radio after a long absence
Post by: SMAUG on June 18, 2013, 03:59:02 AM
I've got a non-ideal situation for it too. I live in a ground floor apartment; an antenna would have to be indoors. My car is a 2012 Accord, and I hesitate to mess around trying to get a power cable through the firewall or mount an affordable mobile rig somewhere, as it might void my warranty. The ones with the remotely mounted face are out of my price range.

I'll get back into it with my Tech license, and I'll either get a 2m or 2m/440 unit, but haven't decided for sure if an HT or mobile rig is the way to start. I'm leaning toward the HT for the above reason. Then, look for an external antenna mount and speaker/mic for the car rig. I seem to remember last time around having a hard time hitting repeaters from an HT, but I never went that extra step to hook it up to an external antenna with decent gain. But from my simple Yaesu 2m mobile radio, 5 W, and a 5/8 wave mag mount, it was full-quieting at pretty good distances. So that leads me to believe an HT, with a decent ext. antenna (even indoors) and 5W of power should be adequate for mobile, pedestrian, and base operations to start with.

What do you think? Am I fooling myself? Will I end up with a mobile rig anyway and not using the HT? In practice, is it too much to ask of oneself to hook up the external antenna and speaker/mic and DC power for a one hour drive? (which is my longest typical drive)

I think I can do it, and I'm leaning toward one of the following HTs:

* Yaesu FT-270R: A nice, rugged 2m mobile, $150

* Yaesu FT-60R: A nice dual band mobile, not quite as rugged, but having 440 might be nice, and only costs $10 more than the -270R

* Icom IC-V80 Sport: A simple 2m with the battery case for Sanyo Eneloop AA NiMH. This gets good reviews for the rubber duck antenna and a BNC antenna connector. I remember BNCs don't seem to be as rugged and well-sealed as SMA, but there still seems to be more external antenna options for BNC. No backlit keypad either.

* Kenwood TH-K20A: A simple 2m radio, has LiIo pack, but the optional battery case is for AAA, which are wimpy, and there doesn't seem to be an option for external DC power.

So what do you think, guys? Am I on the right track? Why or why not?

Anyone in a similar living/car situation? What worked for you?


Title: RE: Returning to ham radio after a long absence
Post by: NO2A on June 18, 2013, 07:13:46 AM
Unless you`re within coverage area an ht gets old fast. I use mine more for listening,then if I wanna talk on a repeater I head for the shack. A mobile dual band rig can be fun with active repeaters. I didn`t want to mess with the firewall either,so I had a stereo shop do the installation.(I did the antenna) Yes it was $100,but it was fast and they did a great job I couldn`t have done. That shouldn`t void your warrenty,should you do it yourself. It`s not like you`re changing your car`s wiring or something. A mobile rig with a trunk lip mount and a rig with at least 25 watts will go far,much better than 5 watts with an ht. Even with a modest antenna. I`d go for the dual band rig,if you can afford it. I use the Diamond 7900,and can hit repeaters across the state. It`s about 60 inches high,but folds at the base for getting in a garage. The smaller 7500 is about 40 inches high,and is good for local work,but requires more high power use. The 7900 hits more low branches,but the performance is much better with any power level.b][/b]Operating from home on the ground floor level might be difficult with an ht unless you`re not far from a repeater.

Title: RE: Returning to ham radio after a long absence
Post by: AA4PB on June 18, 2013, 07:26:07 AM
When I was commuting every day (that was back when 2M repeaters were really active - before cell phones), I found after a while that the HT was often not installed due to the hassle of hooking it up each day before the trip. I ended up with a mobile rig permanently installed so all I had to do is turn it on.

An HT in the house wasn't very practical for me either. I had to stand in just the right spot on one leg while facing east in order to be full quieting into the repeater  ;D

Don't worry about the vehicle warranty. You'd have to do a really bad install to void the warranty.

Title: RE: Returning to ham radio after a long absence
Post by: SMAUG on June 21, 2013, 01:25:40 PM
I'm slowly working my way through the 29 pages of reviews here on the FT-60R.

Lots of folks comment on how effective this little radio is when hooked up to a mag mount mobile antenna. I've got my fingers crossed for this. For example, one guy on pg. 10 of the reviews said he hit a repeater 30 miles away, with 1 Watt, with a mobile mag-mount antenna:

Quote from: KJ4KKI
I have talked on it with a Diamond 20 inch mag mount and hit a repeater 30 miles away on 1 watt. A lot of our club members have this radio, and everybody I know has been totally happy with it.

Is it mostly just that the cords are a pain to deal with then, or something else specific to HTs?

I'm sad though, to read all the reports about how flimsy the Yaesu speaker/mic is, as one of those is part of my order...

Title: RE: Returning to ham radio after a long absence
Post by: NO2A on June 21, 2013, 01:48:45 PM
That`s a good ht. 5 watts to a mobile antenna is a big improvement. A mobile rig with at least 25 watts is much more realiable. Even a single band rig new or used is a cheaper alternative. The only thing convienient about the ht is it can be brought into the house. It`s tough to keep from moving around in a car.

Title: RE: Returning to ham radio after a long absence
Post by: W4KVW on June 21, 2013, 07:01:47 PM
If you go with an HT you can always add a dual band amplifier in the mobile.It will do just about as good as a dual band mobile & it gives you the freedom to take the HT out & carry it with you when your out & about & if your only buying one radio it may just be your best choice.If you have a base antenna it would also allow you too plug the HT into it as well to increase your range at home. {:>)  ;D


Title: RE: Returning to ham radio after a long absence
Post by: N6AJR on June 26, 2013, 11:53:55 AM
MFJ sells the MFJ 310 which is a gizmo you roll up in a car window and put your HT antenna  ( or other antenna) up above the roof line of the car, it comes with a 7 foot long cable.  this may be enough to do HT mobile with some comfort.  also think about putting up a small antenna at the house, in the attic, on the rain gutter etc for a ht  use indoors.  Also a mobile rig  eith antenna  ( and power supply) will give more power to an antenn on the car or hidden antenna in the house.  You could get a used  mobile for about 100 bucks or a used HT for about the same.  see if there is a local club, perhaps someone has a HT or mobile rig to loan and or sell you cheap.  I have also given away radios to new hams and others do this as well.  good luck, have fun.

Title: RE: Returning to ham radio after a long absence
Post by: SMAUG on June 26, 2013, 06:52:44 PM
N6AJR: Thanks for all the ideas and the encouraging welcome.

As it happens, I placed an order (through hamcity) for a Yaesu FT-60R, which I was looking forward to getting. Two days later, they called me to let me know the radio is back-ordered, and asked what I want to do. It should be there by two days more later. I said OK, I'll wait. 4 days later, no call. I called them, no they still didn't have them. Serves me right for shopping by price. I canceled the order.

Found a lightly used Icom IC-V80 Sport (a simple 2m HT) for $80 shipped. Bought that from the guy a couple days ago. He shipped it today, the slowest way possible. Arrgh!

Now, you'll think I'm nuts. I read up on antennas here and on YouTube. Couldn't make up my mind with how to start, so I spent $100 on antennas yesterday night: 5/8 wave mag mount, 1/4 wave mag mount, 5/8 wave duck, and a 1/2 wave telescopic. One of the mag mounts will be my base station radio. The other will stay on the car.  Then then the other two to try to get the max out of the HT when I'm on the go.

Meanwhile, I put some watches and leather bags up for sale on FeeBay, and will save the proceeds toward a Kenwood dual-band mobile at some future date.

Title: RE: Returning to ham radio after a long absence
Post by: W5LZ on June 29, 2013, 05:51:58 PM
An HT is just not a very good first radio, or only radio, they are just too limiting.  An HT is primarily for very short range communications and convenience.  They are not 'average' in any way.  Unless you are talking about a very 'simple' HT for a single band they start to get complicated and difficult to program because of the lack of buttons and very small buttons.
An HT is very handy to carry around, but makes for a not so 'friendly' base radio.  Unless for a specific use, most people have no particular need of an HT at all.  I can think of at least one 2 meter mobile radio that's cheaper than most HTs and with higher output power.
If you really want an HT then get one.  I honestly don't think it would be too long before you will regret it though.
 - Paul

Title: RE: Returning to ham radio after a long absence
Post by: N6AJR on July 02, 2013, 11:07:15 AM
try to find a local club.  if you go to and look up ham exams.  these all have a contact number, call the number and see if they are a club, and when do they meet. then go.  great start. and remember when you program you need to do like 6 things on any radio. 

1 go to vfo mode (vfo/m)

2 enter the frequency ( like147.250 )

3 enter the offset  ( +, - or simplex)

4 set it to tone operation ( T )

5 sent the tone freq ( like 127.3)

6 save to memory select channel ( mem write or MW)

7 save, really puts in selected memory ( that will beep once then you turn to next unused channel and hit mem write again to save it there)

8 go to memory mode to verify and or use,

Almost all radios , from a HT to a mobile to a desk model use these steps , but some do it this way some do it that way, like one does control s for save and another may use M pushed twice to save, so figure out what you radio needs then do it.  gud luck and have fun.Email me personally if you have questions not answered here.  n6ajr at arrl dot net

Title: RE: Returning to ham radio after a long absence
Post by: NO2A on July 03, 2013, 02:59:00 PM
If you do plan on using a mobile amp,I would reccomend going with a good one,like T.E Systems. Stay away from Mirage,as they are nothing but trouble.

Title: RE: Returning to ham radio after a long absence
Post by: N6AJR on July 07, 2013, 12:29:41 PM
TE systems is hard to get emails answered and slow to repair stuff.  If you use the new ( black cased ) Mirage, they work just fine.  I have several in the 10 or 25 watt in, 160 watt output. same with MFJ stuff, black is good, beige, brown or wood grain is not.  good luck and have fun.  by the way, Eham has a section where they have folks give a rating ( 1 to 5) on how their gear works. Check out "REVIEWS" over there on the left hand side bar. Take them with a grain of salt, but in general they are ok.

Title: RE: Returning to ham radio after a long absence
Post by: SMAUG on July 08, 2013, 07:57:33 AM
Thanks for all the advice.

I sold some watches on ebay to help raise money for the Kenwood V71 I just bought. I also got a dual band mag mount antenna, and the remote face mounting kit.

I may need to get an external speaker too, if the head unit will be under my seat.

Regarding the equipment I mentioned above, the 1/4 wave slim MFJ fell apart the first time I pulled it off the air conditioner. The magnet just stayed on and the rest of the antenna came off. If the shield to the co-ax was bonded to the magnet, it isn't any more. I think I'm going to re-attach that shield somehow, and just encapsulate the whole base in epoxy.

The Smiley 5/8 wave duck is a marked improvement over the stocker. (and I understand the stocker on this IC-V80 is among the best out there) Probably works twice as well, which I know is not saying much. ;)

The MFJ 1/2 wave telescopic "Long Ranger" works GREAT. Seems to work as well as the 1/4 wave (used to work!) on my window A/C unit.

The MFJ 2m 5/8 wave mag mount is brilliant. Very good performer; it seems I can hit repeaters up to 40 miles away, which of course varies based on the height of the receiver.