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Recommend me a HAM radio (brand, hand held vs fixed, etc)

Discussion in 'Communication & Navigation' started by Lil'John, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. Lil'John

    Lil'John SILVER Star

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    First, let us get this out of the way so this thread doesn't degenerate into a HAM license BS fest as other threads have: I am working on tech license and as part of the study group, I have an opportunity to get 'cheap' radios. With that out of the way, please NO dragging this thread away from brands, etc.

    Use:
    I've got two potential trail rigs(one almost ready, one is progress) that I'm going to run in the Sierra on trails like Rubicon and Fordyce. My house is also out in BFE of Sierra(10 miles outside of Georgetown) so I'm considering adding HAM radio to it also. I believe the house already has antennas already setup for HAM and just need to rerun of coax/controller.

    Now onto the questions:
    Is the Yaesu brand worth a damn? I've seen mixed reviews so I'm a bit leery of it. But it is the brand being offered at a discount.

    Hand held somewhat makes sense to me so I can have one radio for three 'uses'(two cars and house) plus security of not leaving it in a rig. But can I use an external antenna with them? What is the downfall of this route compared to fixed?

    For handheld, we are being offered two choices: Yaesu FT-60 and FT-2D. For fixed, we are offered: FT-8900 and FTM-400. From quick scanning, FTM doesn't appear to be vehicle friendly. But any opinion on all four?

    Are there any brands I should consider beyond Yaesu? I'm a firm believer in buy once, cry once.
     
  2. Izzyandsue

    Izzyandsue Izzy SILVER Star

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    Yaesu is a great brand, so is Icom and Kenwood. If you go handheld, try to get a Yaesu submersible like the vx6r, better built to withstand the outdoors world on trails. Otherwise rig mount is more powerful, longer range.
     
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  3. bj70_guy

    bj70_guy

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    Yaesu makes an excellent radio. I've had an FT8800, FT7800, and VX-6R for a decade now, all still working great.
    I much prefer a vehicle mount. Yes you can run an external antenna off a handheld, but it's kind of a messy PITA. HT will usually have around 5W, vehicle mount will have 50-70W.

    If it were me getting a deal on any of those radios I'd go for the FTM-400 and remote mount the body. Add an HT later as they're just handy to have.
     
  4. half k cruiser

    half k cruiser

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    Yaesu has a great reputation. Just grab one of the simpler mobile units and get a Baofeng portable, may as well get two, for when your out of the truck or need to loan one to another rig.
     
  5. 1911

    1911 chupacabra SILVER Star

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    I've had several Yaesu radios and they've all been good. The Yaesu FT-2900 is great (2 meters only) trail radio, and it needs no fan to keep it cool. Still have one in one of my 4WD trucks (actually the older 2800 model). If you want and can afford more bands and dual receive/transmit then spend away! APRS is fun to run on a wheeling trip; folks at home can see where you are on a map in real time.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2017
  6. lugueto

    lugueto

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    I agree, Yaesu makes very good radios.

    I also agree on the fact that you should definitely get a mobile instead of a handheld.

    The 2900R is a bombproof radio, if you're looking for a dedicated 2m rig.
     
  7. Izzyandsue

    Izzyandsue Izzy SILVER Star

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    I will go a little deeper based on your options above. The 8900 is a great quad band, simple dual receiver. I had one in my 80 and sold it recently (replaced with Icom 5100a). But the 400, also dual receiver, would give you a very nice screen and you will only loose the bands you cant transmit on anyways from the 8900. I would go with the 400 on the truck, and it does have digital radio system Fusion (proprietary Yaesu) which I understand has a lot of activity on the west coast. A mobile rig on your truck will have much longer range than a hand held. If you are going far out and can only get one of the above, get the 400.

    It is good to keep a handheld, keep it in your go bag or at the campsite if you go out for days. You can get direct weather alerts for example. If you go on foot excursions you can take that with you. What you can do is power the 400 in the truck, and set it to cross band repeat. That will allow the handheld (short range) to stay in touch with your truck radio and your truck radio will re-transmit the message on high power. If you see that a possible situation for your planned adventures, you can see the advantages. Of the 2 you have to select from the 60 is the cheaper version but also the one I would choose. I would get 2! The 2DR is much nicer, digital radio, but only screen inputs. So if you drop the ratio on a rock and smash the screen, its gone. The 60 has buttons, looks more rugged for outdoor work.
    If the 60 is out of budget range ounce you get the 400, get a Baofeng for $25, again its good to keep a handheld. Baofengs are crap, but I have mine for years as backups, lend them out, throw them around, and they always work. Cheap insurance, and I call them the Goldfish pet of the radios; you wont take a goldfish to the vet when it starts swimming sideways, you get another one and tell your kids "this is the same Fishy".
     
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  8. ChaseTruck

    ChaseTruck -- SILVER Star

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    It worked fine for me - that is, until brush on the trail quite violently wiped the mag-mount 2m 1/2 wave antenna off the PS fender, and by the time I realized that the antenna was under the rear tire, and the hand-held got yanked hard against the door/window :)
     
  9. Lil'John

    Lil'John SILVER Star

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    Izzy, thank you for all the great information.

    I'm not locked into any of the four radios I mentioned. Those are just the four that are being offered with a good discount.

    The price on the 8900 is close enough to the 7900.

    I won't say no budget but my entertainment/project fund is 'fluid' between many projects so I can get whatever good quality radio I want within reason. I would say $1k tops but it would have to be REALLY compelling for me to go that far.

    The 400 sounds like it might fit my bill especially with the 'remote' face. My 55 is tight in the dash right now.
     
  10. Izzyandsue

    Izzyandsue Izzy SILVER Star

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    With that in mind, I would strongly recommend the Icom 5100a over the Yaesu 400. Lower cost to start, but the features on it, ease of work while on the trail is what sold me. It has D-star (Icom, Kenwood, others) digital radio which has a much larger user base than Fusion (Yaesu only). I did my first long road trip with the 5100, and strongly recommend. It has the ability to store 1500 repeaters, and based on your GPS location will find repeaters near you. That to me was outstanding. The touchscreen menu was intuitive and very easy to use while on trails too, large clear display. Uses an SD card too to store the repeaters, so you could have multiple files with multiple states of stored repeaters, and just load up the area you are in.
    In my opinion, Yaesu and Icom are very similar on quality and build, both Japanese first class manufacturers, so you won't go wrong with either.

    A couple of map shots from Repeaterbook.com
    Fusion repeaters:
    Fusion.PNG

    Dstar repeaters:
    dstar.PNG
     
  11. Skidoo

    Skidoo

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    For Rubicon you will want a dual band unit as some of the repeaters are 70cm. For what its worth I run a Kenwood TM-71A in the rig and a Baofeng handheld.
     
  12. Lil'John

    Lil'John SILVER Star

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    Izzy, thank you again for more input.

    If the price was close between the Icom 5100a and the Yaesu 400, would you still go with the Icom 5100a?
     
  13. Izzyandsue

    Izzyandsue Izzy SILVER Star

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  14. Lil'John

    Lil'John SILVER Star

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    If you ignored the price between the two, would you still pick the Icon to use?
     
  15. Izzyandsue

    Izzyandsue Izzy SILVER Star

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    Absolutely, every day.
     
  16. KliersLC

    KliersLC

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    Excellent info from @Izzyandsue

    One thing not covered yet is home use. I started with a baofeng and got everything set up to use it mobile--mag mount antenna, speaker mic, dash mount, cig lighter adapter. It worked fine. I then bought Izzy's old quad band tyt(copy of yaesu 8900) and it is better than an HT in every way. I have since picked up an old icom mobile for the house and only use the HTs for two things--monitoring other frequencies while I am on the radio and reaching back to the truck when cross band repeating. They are useful to have around, but IMO, you should spend the money on two or more mobile units--one for each rig and an older used rig for the house. Grab a couple baofengs and you are set.

    Using a mobile at the house has a couple advantages--you can run it off of an old car battery or other 12v power source in the event power goes out. It also will run higher power if you need\want to reach out further. You have the option to temp mount it in another vehicle (wife's) for non wheeling trips.
     
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  17. Lil'John

    Lil'John SILVER Star

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    I decided to get a pair of the FT-60s first. Then I'll look at the Icom 5100.

    Everything I've read and heard about the Baofengs was you risk getting an ass kicking by 'real' HAM operators over how poorly they operate(lots of cross band bleeding) ;)

    For those in the know, I've got the following antena attached to my house:
    0925161200b.jpg

    Is this ham related antenna or something else? It has a remote turning setup on it.
     
  18. Joel Kasper

    Joel Kasper

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    All the radios are good radios. I currently have a Kenwood V71 dual band. One VFO is connected to a Mobilink TNC with a bluetooth connection to an adroid tablet to give me APRS. If you are new you may not know what this is but look into it and you will think it is cool.

    Also you may want to get a radio that can do cross band repeat. What that will let you do is use your HT (notice no brand mentioned) to talk to your vehicle on low power and have it transmit on high power. That can come in handy when you are out guiding or watching others.

    73
     
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  19. Lil'John

    Lil'John SILVER Star

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    Definitely understand the APRS... somewhat 'not amused' by it but like the fact it can be disabled then used for emergency beacon. We got a demo of it in HAM class.

    I will double check if the Icom 5100 allows cross band repeat. The cross band is a high feature on my list.

    OTOH, the Rubicon trail has a dedicated HAM repeater so dual band HT work awesome. I forget if it was UHF or VHF. The other repeater near by was opposite band(805)
     
  20. Joel Kasper

    Joel Kasper

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    aprs is nice now that it works with "Backcountry Navigator." Many map/ tracks available. It is great if guiding and if running an event. You can keep track easily of all the guides and trails.

    I will agree if it is just you and your group aprs it is not so important.

    Rubicon trail Repeaters!

    805ELD - (KA6GWY in Pollock Pines) 146.805, PL of 123, - offset
    805TAH - (KA6GWY in Tahoe Basin) 145.605, PL of 123, + offset
    RUBI - (Coverage wthin trail only) 444.9875, PL 156.7, + offset
    RUBI+ - (Linked to 805's) 444.9875, PL 107.2, + offset
    RUBISIM - (Simplex) 444.9875, No pl, No offset
     
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