After a 20 year hiatus, I'm getting back into amateur radio. This time, rather than a failed attempt at learning morse code, I'm trying to be practical. My goals are two-fold:
- To be able to participate in emergency communications
- To be able to use digital modes like DStar, FT8, etc.
I'm not interested in old-school "rag chewing" or in collecting long-distance voice contacts. With that in mind, I've set out to equip myself with the following:
- A 2m (140/220/440 MHz) handheld "walkie-talkie" to be able to conduct communications in the Toronto area (primarily using the repeaters like VE2YYZ B on the CN Tower)
- A small "High Frequency" (HF) transceiver (10m/20m/40m)
- The IC-7300 was the winner. In 2020 it's widely considered the baseline "reference" rig. Except for the IC-705 (which wasn't available in mid-2020) there is nothing in its price range -- or even $1000 above it -- that matches its bang-for-buck.
- The IC-705 was the runner-up. It's ability to do HF and UHF/VHF and DStar, all in a small (low power) package was really nice. But it was not available in Summer 2020.
- A receive-only software defined radio
- The RTL-SDR was my choice. That was a mistake. The lack of filters means I can't receive a lot of stations in Toronto due to interference.
- I should have gotten an RPlay-SDR.
- Bands: 2M to 80m
- Space: super constrained. Very small backyard (~4m x 8m), nearby comms wires (cable, phone), no trees.
- J-Pole for VHF/UHF
- The Arrow J-Pole is perfect for VHF/UHF, even 2m above the ground on a PVC mast. Under $100, with coax. Have set it up. Works well.
- A compact vertical
- Diamond BB7V was my first choice because it's simple and requires no tuning adjustments, but it's too tall (~6m) and could be hazard to overhead cable & telephone wires. Price is decent ($400)
- The Comet HVU-8 is only 3m tall and 3m wide but requires tuning. $500 for the antenna and $500-$1000 for an antenna tuner. That's $1000. Does 2m to 80m.
- A compact horizontal (Comet and Diamond)
- Practical, a little more expensive, but won't do up to 80m
- A small folded dipole (diamond WD-330S)
- need a mast, but it's relatively heavy so the Spiderpoles and others won't do. They're good for permanent, maybe.
- Local vendor told me to stay away from MFJ fiberglass poles for anything permanent and they don't stock anything else.
- A magnetic loop (Chameleon CHA F-Loop or MLA-M are both 10W 10m-80m)
- Intro to Magnetic Loops on YouTube with "ultralight MLA OMOET loop.
- Jeri Ellsworth's videos on making a Magnetic Loop for 160m using copper pipe.
- Radio Prepper video 1 and video 2.
- so small they can be indoors
- F-Loop appears to be rugged .
- The MLA is not good for permanent outdoors, not sure about CHA. Some of the other ones at Wimo seem more appropriate, but are twice as expensive.
- The MLA from the Czech Republic is no longer available.
- English translation of a Czech Book on Magnetic loop antennas.
- The MLA-30 is the cheapest (W6-LVP) antenna with decent reviews. More reviews.
- It's pretty noisy. Works fine as a receiver for the price.
- Maybe one of the more expensive Italian or German loops for 100+ watts and an automatic tuner system. $1000 to $2000.
- J-Pole for VHF/UHF
Maybe the Anytone mobile rig, with CAT5 can be used as an iGate?
Masts and guying
Antennas fall down and go boom.
- mast to mast clamps (small and big)
- Guying clamp from Wimo for masts/poles. (smaller)
- Wall holder
- Mast base for flat surfaces (decks, etc.)
- Guying kit (rope)
- Turnbuckle and shackl and snap hook. and guy wire clamp.
- Canadian examination details. IC says that they have temporarily approved teleconference examinations.
- Canadian question banks (and download question files)
- American question banks (ARRL)
American vs. Non-American Radio Operators
It's a real shame that the American Ham community is dominated by Preppers and Evangelicals. Google searches tend to fall on to technical-light "meat and potatoes" reviews by (sometimes, literally gun-toting) hams. There are a few notable exceptions. European and Japanese reviews are generally superior as they don't add toxic, paranoid politics into the hobby.