Maybe you’re like me and you have always been interested in Ham Radio and you feel it’s important to have communications on the homestead, but you don’t know where to start. I want to share my story and give some advice on getting started.
It was about a year ago that I was at the local sportsman show in Warren, Pa. I was looking at a bunch of different things but I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I think we bought some good jerky if I remember correctly. I looked at some snow shoes. We’ve got some modern snowshoes but I’d like to get a nice pair of old-style snow shoes to hang on the wall. The boys and I were ahead of my wife and the girls. If I remember correctly they were busy looking at some homemade jewelry. As I wandered into the display area I talked to a gentleman who has a Christian Ministry that does wild game dinners and he shares some of his stories of hunts he’s been on. It was a nice conversation. I took some information from him and continued through the exhibition room. As I was exiting the room I saw a boy scout troop so I stopped at their table. They were actually a Venture Scout troop.
They had a ham radio set up. I had always wanted to get my ham radio license when I was younger. Due to the CW (that’s Morse Code) requirement and the fact that I didn’t know ANYONE who was a ham radio operator, it was always a bit of a dream. One that I didn’t investigate well. As I grew older and the internet aided in research I was still inundated with the actual knowledge of what I needed to do, what I needed to buy and how to go about it. I knew that radios were expensive and that you had to have some understanding of antennas. So I continued to put it off… until I met the venture scouts. I talked to K3TMS (Tim) and N3YD (Russ) and they explained they had an upcoming class that would last for six weeks to get the technician license. Tim also spent some time explaining how there were now a cheap entry level radio that worked well with the repeater system here in the area and how much he enjoyed it. He was a fairly new Ham and he was also the Electronics teacher at the vocational school. The great thing was the price was right… it was FREE! So the boys and I took the class. my oldest son passed the technician and my youngest son just missed passing it. I passed both the technician and the general because I wanted to “DX” (that means talk to people at distance). I recommend it for a homestead, but you can’t go wrong with just starting with the technician license.
- Don’t wait any longer, get your license now! Why? Because all the barriers have been lowered. You can read about my 3 Reasons I Finally Got Into Ham Radio.
- Don’t go at it alone, find a local radio club. Yes they exist. You can search for one near you here. Furthermore… find an Elmer! They will help you learn the ins and outs. You can also search for who has licenses in your area. Go look in your zip code. You might be surprised!
- Press On Brother! Understand this one point. Hams (Amateur Radio License Holders) all have different philosophies and goals. Some like to “QRP” which means to transmit on low power. Some prefer to communicate in “CW” (continuous wave, you know it as Morse Code). Some have philosophies around how to get your license and even the reasoning behind it. Listen to their reasons but don’t let them discourage you. If any of you keep Bees, you’ll know what I mean when I say that there are about as many different ways to keep bees as their beekeepers. Don’t get discouraged by different philosophies or personalities. Press on brother (or sister)!
- Don’t be afraid of a “cheap Chinese radio” to get your feet wet. You can buy a really excellent Btech (Baofeng) dual for under $35.00 or tri-band radio for under $60.00 that will get you on the frequencies you can talk on when you get your technicians license. You can see which license can get on which frequency on this chart.
- Do it legally. I know some people try to say “Well technically if there is an emergency you don’t need a license to operate your radio.” and then they buy the cheap radios to have (and many times use illegally for simplex discussions). You need communications on the Homestead in case the cell phones go down. Ham Radio will be there. You need to learn who is in your local network and who else you can communicate with. You need to learn how to operate on the repeaters and how to build and set up antennas. You can’t do this effectively being a Pirate!
- Before you invest your first $300.00 (plus) in an HF radio (that’s one that you need the “General” license to operate) actually try out a few different radios with other Hams. Trust me when I tell you that they are happy to have you over and show you their shack and let you try it.
- Study and practice (a lot) for the test. You can download an APP (Android and Apple) for your phone to take practice tests, you can take them online and you can purchase the official handbooks to study for each test.
I’m not kidding when I say, I’ve just scratched the surface of this hobby but I am available for any questions you might have.