Amateur radio has been around since the beginning of the 20th century, a hands-on hobby for tech-minded individuals who enjoy making their equipment and communicating with one another. The hobby even survived a short-lived ban by the government after World War II, when authorities outlawed citizens owning communications devices without the proper licensing. Luckily, the ban was lifted in 1957.
New amateur radio enthusiasts can find themselves overwhelmed when trying to find which equipment is right for them, especially since there are so many manufacturers out there for them to choose from. After all, they want something that will last them (and their families) for years to come. For that reason, we’ve put together this buyer’s guide for amateur radio equipment.
First, learn the language of Amateur radio.
The best way to learn the language of amateur radio is to listen, listen, listen. The airwaves are full of conversations about everything from equipment to news around town to emergency preparedness.
A few things to look for when listening are:
- Does it sound like they all know what they are talking about (when transmitting)?
- Are they talking about local news and events?
- Is their signal clear and easy to understand?
- Are they talking on a more narrow band (higher frequency) or more commonly on a wider broadcast band (lower frequency)?
- Is the repeater talk-in (listen-only) or open (listen and speak), or is one of those two more popular? Generally, the wider the band, the more open it is, whereas more congested bands can be talk-in only.
The second step is to decide what type of communication you want.
Amateur Radio or “Ham Radio” is a great hobby that can save your life during any disaster. What many people don’t realize is that Amateur Radio can be used for more than just communication. It can also be used to monitor the Emergency Alert System (EAS), helping you to know when to tune in to local TV or radio broadcasts after a major event. Amateur Radio can also be used to monitor high-level government communications, allowing you to follow the news even if the internet is down after an event.
Super Tip: The most important piece of equipment for amateur radio is the transceiver.
Third, Consider your budget and needs.
When you’re shopping for ham dmr two way radios, it helps to consider your needs and your budget. Will you be camping or hiking? Do you plan to participate in emergency preparedness exercises? Are you interested in using the equipment for marine communications? If your answer is yes, check out this $600 portable setup, ideal for outdoorsy types. Otherwise, go for something less expensive, like this famous $300 combo set. Not sure how much equipment you’ll need? Consider how many people you want to talk to at once. Most CB radios come with two channels; however, four-channel models are available for about $400. Be prepared to splurge if you want more than that because eight-channel radios cost a lot more
A few points to note:
- A new amateur radio (ham radio) is very expensive. To get started, you can buy an older model on eBay or at hamfests. This has the advantage of being cheap and having good used parts like knobs and mike clips.
- If you want a more up-to-date radio with all the modern features, you can buy a brand new radio from a dealer. You will pay the cost of the new radio and shipping, but it may be worth it to get a high-quality radio with fast shipping and good customer service.
- A used amateur radio is a third option. You can find them on eBay or at hamfests for $50–$100. A used radio will probably perform just as well as a new one, but it may need replacement parts and repairs. If you plan on getting involved in the hobby, investing in a good used radio might be the most cost-effective way to get involved.
- You will need ham radio antennas to use your ham radio. The most popular type for a new ham is a “cheap antenna” made of a few pieces of wire stuck in a tree or fence post. You will want to invest in a beam antenna from a ham vendor for longer distances or hills between you and another ham.
- A great place to buy all your amateur radio equipment is from a local amateur radio club. They typically meet every month, and most have public “shacks” where they store their equipment. They have technicians who can help you put together your radios and antennas.
- The last thing you’ll notice about amateur radios is the number of different names associated with them. Some of these are just different terms for the same thing, while others are completely different. When you’re looking through the brands, you’ll notice one or two names come up more than others. One of these is Baofeng, which is probably the most popular brand out there right now. Another one is Wouxun, which is also very popular. That being said, these aren’t the only good brands out there, so don’t feel like you have to choose one of these. If you decide to pick up amateur radio, you really can’t go wrong with whichever brand you decide to go with.