Choosing your first 2M radioAvailable at Amazon
Ok you got your license in your greedy little hands and you are chomping on the bit to get on the 2 meter airwaves. Doing a quick Google search you are quickly overwhelmed by the 2.9 million results that you are presented with. For goodness sake, you just want to get on the air. You have been listening to the local 2 meter repeater frequencies on your handheld scanner and it sure sounds like they are having fun, and you want to get in on the conversations and talk
to your new friends. So what do you do ?
The 2 meter ham bands have been the stomping ground for new hams for many years. It is a great way to start your amateur radio hobby as you find like minded people that share the same interests as you. The only problem is, which radio do you choose from with so many that are available. You could go with one of the inexpensive Baofeng UV-5RE dual band HT's which are a great radio although they are not for the feint of heart. They do not have as many of the features that a full blown 2m/440 would have and are not as easy to use. The Icom/Kenwood/Yaesu brands that come out of Japan are great radios with lots of features but are also very expensive. You also have to consider what sort of options and accessories are available, which have a trusted name and which are just crap.
The 2 meter VHF radios that are available are in the 144 to 148 MHZ portion of the radio spectrum. They are line of sight communications that can be extended with the use of a repeater. Unlike HF frequencies like the Citizens band the signals do no bounce around along the ground or the atmosphere but instead are a direct line between antenna to antenna. Any sort of obstruction can decrease the signal strength and interfere with your communications. If you live in a flat area you can expect 20 miles out of an HT. If you live in an area with lots of hills you will need more power and a better antenna than the stock antenna that comes with the radio.
Another thing to consider is the output power of the radios. Most hand held 2M radio and dual band 2m and 440 radios have a maximum output of about 5 watts into the rubber ducky antenna. That is not a lot of power but it is adequate for repeater use in most areas. If you need more than that you should consider looking into a 2m mobile radio or using an external outdoor antenna.
Speaking of outdoor antennas one option if you can not get into your local repeater is to try using a 2M 440 J-pole. These antennas placed outdoors on a short pole will more than triple the distance that you are able to communicate with your new radio whether you use a mobile or just an HT. I live about
25 miles from town and with a j-pole on a 15 ft pole I am able to communicate on simplex (no repeater) with my fellow hams in town quite easily.
What was that, you asked what simplex was ? Simplex just means that I am able to talk and receive on the same frequency without the use of a repeater. A repeater takes a signal on the input frequenc and then retransmits it on a frequency 600khz above that. Say for instance that you are listening to a
repeater output on 146.760. You notice that when you press the PTT switch that the frequency drops to 146.160 ? That is the input frequency. While you are talking it is retransmitting your signal on 146.760. This increases the range that you can communicate. As long as both stations can hear and transmit in the repeater they are able to communicate.
Another thing to consider is the mode you are going to want to use. Although most traffic on 2 meters is FM (Frequency Modulated) their are other modes that you can use as well. A lot of long distance communications are done using Single Side Band (SSB) although the radios that are capable of doing this are a bit more expensive. Another mode although not as popular is Morse Code (CW) which will increase your range even farther.
WIth so many different things that can be done on ham radio it is no wonder that is such a popular hobby among radio and technology hobbiests. You can build your own radio gear, try new and exciting modes among people with similiar interests or even provide communications for your local community in times of disaster.
Look forward to seeing you on the airwave and 73
Available at Amazon