July 30, 2019 at 9:34 am #21232
anon 411 asked “What do you think about these cheap Chinese Baofeng radios? Are they reliable?”
I have had many and various Chinese radios. I have one on order (Xiegu G-90 a 20 watt HF rig) right now. Baofeng radios are actually quite good and in my experience quite reliable. But that said, it really depends on your definition of reliable. I use them for non-critical tasks. But for critical tasks like my personal EDC radio, I want the very best fit for the intended use. This is not always the most sophisticated radio. For instance during Katrina I carried a TH-f6a (if I remember the model number correctly) It is a very complex radio that has many features, is small, good battery life etc. But it has a very complex menu system. After 3 weeks of sleeping on floors and working long hours under difficult conditions I began to forget how to do many of the tasks. Simple stuff. But because there were so many options I kept getting lost in the menu’s.
A better choice would have been a Yeasu FT-60r. At $150 or so, it is a great radio. It has been manufactured for over 20 years and has been proven to be rock solid. It is a 5w dual band with all the features you really need. One of the few that have e-ham ratings at the nearly 5 level.
So, would I choose a Baofeng, TH-F6a or FT-60r? Depends on how I am going to use it, how much I want to spend, the complexity (or lack of same) needed, my skill level as an operator and other considerations.
So, describe how you intend to use the radio and we can work through the options. Should be a good learning experience for readers here.
de Ron, N1AHH
July 30, 2019 at 9:43 am #21234
Ok, I have a question: I live in rolling hills, heavily wooded, area.
The radios you mention, would they be good for that type of terrain?
Or should I look for a more static, non-mobile, system?
Been thinking of the need for both a static, non-mobile (house) system and a hand held, but not sure if the hand helds would even be worth it.
And I have tried to research this topic, but not going to lie, lots of confusion. There is a reason why the Marines have a separate comms shop and guys who work them. I have used Harris radios (89, 92, 115, 150s) and man!
July 30, 2019 at 3:26 pm #21242
What type system depends on how you intend to use it. We have a Lance camper on a 1 ton 4×4 which, being nomads, we have used in almost every environment. Trees are a big problem. In general frequencies 70cm and below do well with 2m beating 70cm in pine forests. But 70 cm does better if there are hard surfaces like slot canyons. UHF bounces realllllly good thru slot canyons.
We have a dual band (uhf/vhf) rig in the camper and run it as a cross band repeater. We are both hams so as soon as one of us decides to leave the camper area we turn on the repeater and grab HT’s. I would assume you would do something similar if your intent is to have really good comms in the local (5-7 mile radius).
Our repeater can be remotely controlled by either user so I can switch it from repeater mode to remote base mode. This allows me to have the range and power of a fixed radio and the mobility of a hand held. I can dial up a local repeater or change to a different simplex frequency using the auto-dial function on my hand held radio.
For activities near our repeater we carry very small (Yeasu VX-3r) radios with short (1.5″) antennas. We usually run about .5 watts from the VX-3r. They will run for a long time because of the reduced power requirement.
So, in your situation, it depends on who you want to talk to, how much $$ you want to allocate and what type of functionality your situation requires. If all you need to do is talk around the farm or similar area, a couple of GMRS HT’s will do just fine. Even FRS under the new rules will do well.
Generally I recommend that newbies get a used radio from a hamfest and just start using it. Experience is the best teacher. You can always sell the radio after you get a bit of experience.
Sounds like big bucks for a radio that does cross band. Actually if you hunt around a bit (and you know what to look for) there are many mobile radios that do cross band. Look at older rigs that do not have alpha-numeric displays. Nobody want them. I have 3 that I use, none of which cost me more than $50.
So consider the above and respond with how you intend to use it. Then we can narrow down the choices a bit.
de ron N1AHH
July 31, 2019 at 12:47 pm #21248
The cheap Baofengs and similar are good for when you already have the skills and professional equipment (including off-grid power) to set up that “separate comms shop.” Once it’s possible to set up a powered, central base station and appropriately located repeater, with the ability to charge everyone’s batteries, then it’s a good idea to stock a pile of cheap radios to hand out for use by guard posts and patrols. Some folk will show up with their own radios, most won’t, so they get a cheap handout. The command net (connects site leadership) will be on a different frequency and should be encrypted if possible. This won’t happen with a cheap radio.
If you can only afford to buy one or two radios and you intend to leave them in your go bag until the batteries die, then a non-functional brick you didn’t spend much money on will hurt less when you throw it away.
Middle road: Having a radio to use with whatever centralized comms you encounter after SHTF requires a fairly robust radio, decent antenna (stock antennas are crap) and at least two spare batteries. If you intend to actually be able to use it, you’ll need practice. Check out http://www.amrron.com. Then decide what frequencies you’ll be practicing with and buy decent gear for those purposes. Most folks that are serious about this wind up with the Ham Technican license at a minimum. This enables practicing with local hams and so forth. You’ll need gear you can drop, pick up, and still have it work. Baofengs break pretty easily.
July 31, 2019 at 12:55 pm #21249
@Crow Bar: UHF and VHF don’t work very well in “rolling hills” and like mentioned previously, UHF doesn’t penetrate pine trees well. What you’ll need is someone to consult with to find a high point where you can set up a cross-band repeater to cover your area of operations, and (worst case) have the ability to build directional antennas to hit it. Basically, you’ll need to have a site survey done by some local hams to see what will actually work in your area. What works for your location may not work the next valley over, and vice versa.
So you’ll need a license, so you can get hooked up with the local hams. Otherwise it’s spend an arm and a leg having a commercial shop set you up.
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