Alternative Comms - Ham Radio

Several days before I attended the 2020 VA 2A Rally, I started thinking about Alternative Comms. “What happens if I lose cellphone reception and something goes wrong? How can I stay informed?” I started looking at programmable HAM radios and discovered an inexpensive solution. A small, hand-held that could receive AM/FM, weather, FAA comms and local Emergency Services broadcasts. After several days of research I purchased a Baofang BF-F8HP Handheld Radio, BTech programming cable, and Nagoya NA-771 Antenna. OK, not so cheap. These three gizmos cost $105.65. In real terms, that is two hours of Ammo! For a Chinese manufactured radio, no less. So how to “justify” this purchase?

My wife was asking the same thing. I answer “Job growth opportunity!” Will explain, tomorrow. My cat is telling me it is time to go to bed… What are your alt comms?


Looking at getting exactly the same. I currently have an FRS radio (and yes filed the appropriate FCC paperwork for license) but I do want HAM capability.

I figure it’s a safe purchase because 1) I don’t need a license to listen, 2) if the balloon drops, there very likely will not be an FCC to come after me for violating any rules (I’ll pay any fines after the Gov’t re-establishes itself).

And who knows, maybe I will make it a summer project to get a HAM license (so I can actually practice using the radio).


Been looking at them also. and the FCC rules about broadcasting go out the windows in times of emergency (looked into that) but getting a FCC license is easy enough.


Very similar set up that some of my new friends are advocating. And I’m also hoping to get my HAM license this year.


I got ball park 10 of those types of radios plus 3 vehicle mount ones and a portable case built for one with lipo battery for power.


Hot Water Heater problems, today. Gas, so I’m not just walking away from it. Homes definitely own you! Sorry about the rant :frowning:

So yes a “job growth opportunity!” Don’t want to bore you about my work but we have a few avid HAM folks there. The more I learn about wireless communications the better I can provide more effective guidance. I want to get my HAM operators license soon.

I downloaded Chirp to my laptop and am working through setup now. Once I get a good frequency table loaded into the radio I will update on performance.

Why discuss this on USCCA? Carrying a concealed firearm is all about emergency preparedness. Same applies for comms. 'nuff said. What are your experiences with HAM? Got any good pointers for getting connected?


Good jump-off point for me:

BaoFeng Ham Radio Complete Setup And Programming! UV-5R BF-F8HP UV-82HP

Hoshnasi has some pretty descent material. I figured out how to use CHIRP to program channels on my radio. I can now listen to the NOAA Weather Channel :smile:


FRS does not need a license, however GMRS does. This is due to potential interference with other licensed users in the GMRS frequencies (businesses, ambulance, etc) CB used to :smiley:

Yep, been a Ham for many decades. Heck, it could be a whole other forum just for those topics.


@MarkinMT I did load all the FRS, GMRS and MURs channels but won’t PTT until I get a better handle on civilian comms. I doubt this unit has much reach but will keep tinkering with it. I like the CHIRP program. Started reviewing the app and am impressed with the latitude offered.

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Big difference between FRS and GMRS is power output. However, with that little ducky antenna you might get a mile in real world flat terrain on a clear day. :smiley: We frequently use our GMRS radios to talk when backing up the trailer… works better than shouting.

You can get into true amateur radio gear, and it is a whole other world. Just for VHF you can get 60W radio and even amplifiers above that, with beam antenna, etc… that can go 100 miles or more. Then there are repeaters… and on and on.

Or do HF, and use NVIS to communicate inside of 300 miles or abouts.


@MarkinMT It is going take some time for me to absorb the info I need. I do want to get a HAM license before I jump off the deep end. Do you live in MT?

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@Jeff-A1 Yes I live in Montana.

Yes, it is a lot to learn, and there are just as many arguments there as 9mm vs. .45ACP here!! If you can find a local club that may help, although it sounds like you may have a line on that already. Check to get you more information than you can handle.

FRS, MURS, GMRS have their own dedicated following, and there are reasons for each. With a license on GMRS, you can run more power, bigger radios, and more distance. Even good 'ol CB has a use, particularly if you run SSB.

My forte is low power (QRP) HF operating in remote locations, particularly using CW (morse code). I am currently trying to come up with a compliment setup to do digital instead. I have done VHF and UHF stuff in the past, and used to help run a repeater system, and I did have a commercial license at one time. I hold Extra class from back when the test was 22wpm code. I was first licensed when in High School.

Just to give you an idea, there is a repeater intertie system here in Montana/Idaho. Before cell coverage, I used to hit the closest repeater while in Idaho, and talk to my father in Bozeman Montana. Hundreds of miles. Now we just call :smiley:



Hot water heater problems are unfortunate, I turned off my hot water heater over a year ago.

I have a battery box I can recharge via solar and it will run my shower system for about 2 weeks for 2 people. I use a tankless propane camping hot water heater, about 2 gallons of water per shower lately (normally 2-5gal) and I’m just about used up one 20lb propane tanks (1 person for a year, now 2 people using it for almost a month now on its 13th month of service.

Tankless heater was only $200, the tank of propane about $15, and what I’ve saved on my gas bill alone has more than paid for the shower system (got 2 of them actually, one for home, one for on the go).

Best thing about it, when I take my other one for on the go, showers are exactly the same as at home so there is nothing to miss.


I have a handful of handheld HAM radios. I was going to take the test. I had studied a lot, taken an past many sample tests at 100% been then thought, do I really want the government knowing that I have experience and the means to communicate outside of something they fully control. It may sound a little Alex Jones but … So, as others have said, if there is a SHTF scenario I’ll worry about the G-man then, if they even have the resources to care about such things.

Now there is a radio in each Get Home Bag, car, and home. We use/test them around the ranch from time to time to make sure they work and we know what to do with them. When we travel abroad we pack them as well incase cell service goes down.

Any transmission use other than for an emergency is illegal so just pretend I didn’t say any of that above.


Just get the ham Tech License. Simple multiple choice exam. Gives you VHF and UHF privileges. If you can read this you can pass the exam. Good for 10 years and costs nothing to renew.


GMRS radios up to 2 watts are no longer required to be licensed. Most blister pack radios fall in that category. FRS (a subset of GMRS) radios are limited to .5 watts and do not require a license.


Any recommendations on specific models? For those with experience maybe a good, better, best list?

Personally, I wouldnt mind something that was FRS capable for use during normal times, but maybe has the ability to do GMRS in the event of SHTF. I dont mind getting a license/taking an exam for it, but it would literally never be used in the course of normal events.


@Harvey I bought a BaoFeng BF-F8HP which is the cheapest handheld with a few options. I really don’t like buying Chinese anything. Yaesu, ICOM and Kenwood seem to be the next step in the evolution. Japanese companies but I haven’t a clue where they build them. Motorola is in the upper-echelon of radios but I heard the Chinese have a controlling interest in some of there product lines…

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I agree with @Jeff-A1, ICOM, Kenwood and Yaesu are top of the line but, IMO, Baofang is just not worth even their rock bottom prices. Motorola, last time I checked, doesn’t make ham radio equipment for anything other than the 900MHz band, which may be what you want to support a small, local group. The The best choice generally, would be a 2m (two meter wavelength = 144-to-148 MHz) handheld with at least a 5 Watt power output. Best with a AA battery case, okay with a rechargeable one if there is also an AC charger included. Be sure an owner’s manual is included, or find a website that allows you to download it.

The “ARRL Technician License Manual” goes for about $30 new and has everything you will need to pass the multiple choice exam. (No more Morse code requirement!) A Tech license allows you to use all 50 MHz and higher bands.

It’s all very cheap, and you will be operating legally, even during your emergency drills. In fact, join a ham club - you might enjoy the hobby!


Thank Gawd! Even with a speed key I was a nervous wreck. ( at age 17…) :grimacing:

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