ETH057 – So You Want To Be A Ham?


Hello everybody and welcome back to the Everything Ham Radio Podcast! In this episode we are going to talk about things you need to know about when you first get your license, we talk about some upcoming events/contests and hamfests over the next two weeks and wrap it up with some news from around the hobby!

Tech Corner – So You Want To Be a Ham?

First thing that we need to answer what you want to do with your license?

Are you getting your license because you are joining your local CERT team or wanting to assist you local OEM during storms? Are you interested in doing contests or operating for remote area? Are you more of a computer person and want to do digital communications? Maybe you are interested remote controlled planes/boats/cars etc.

What license class will you need?

Now that you know what you are going to do with your license, now you have to actually get it. If you are just planning on using your license locally, like to help your local OEM or talking to friends, then a technician class is probably all you need for now, you can always upgrade later if you want to expand your fun.

If you want to talk around the world, or operate in remote location or do digital communications, you should probably get your general class license. There is a small portion of some of the HF bands that you have access to as a technician, but you are limited to CW or Morse code for all of it. There is a small portion of the 10 meter band that you can use data communications on. It you don’t have any voice privileges in the HF bands.

I know what I want to do and I know what license class I need, how do I get my license?

There are several ways that you can study for your license. I have a series of blog posts on my site that will help you study for your technician class. You can find it here.

Technician Class Course

I am working on the General class course now so if you are listening to this episode later(February 2017) check out the course section of the menu on my site.

You can also check out the no nonsense study guides by Dan, KB6NU

You can also purchase a study guide through the ARRL as well.

Lastly, go to a local club  and take a class through them. While this will give you the most personal approach and get questions answered easier, often time classes are only given once or a couple times a year. If you miss your chance you may have to wait until next year to take it. This often leads to people not getting their license because they lose interest while waiting for the class. With this being said, most clubs have a volunteer examiner team that can give you your test at any time or at any/every club meeting.

I have my license, now what do I do?

Now that you have your license, you need the equipment to use, right? So many people ask, “what Radio should I buy?” Or “should I get an hand held(HT) or a radio for my car first?”  Some people say get a good HT first because you can use it anywhere. Other say get a mobile radio for your car or for your house. While there isn’t a right or wrong answer for this question, it is really a question that you have to answer yourself. Here is my thoughts on this question.

  1. A good HT is good to have, but not a major necessity. I don’t recommend getting a high dollar HT right off the bat. While you can hook it to an external antenna to get out a little further and still have the option to use it anywhere, you have to put in extra money to make it worth using in your vehicle or at home.
  2. Figure out where you are going to be using your license the most and go from there. If you are going to be using it mostly in your car, get a good mobile radio. If you are going to be operating mostly on foot or horseback then a HT is probably the best option.
  3. Up until a few years ago, for a decent HT You were looking at $250+, and if you wanted a mobile radio it was $300+. So if you only had $400 to spend, it was pretty much one or the other. As of about a year ago, some new radios came on to the American market that were SUPER cheap and worked decent enough. If you plan on using the radio in your car mostly but you still want a HT, you can spend most of your money on a good quality mobile radio and go the cheaper route with the handle. You can buy a Beufang UV-5R radio for about $30 and it will work just as good as a $250 yaesu on an analog repeater.
  4. Whether you decide to get a good HT or a mobile radio, don’t get just any one. Make sure that you get a dual band(2M/440), dual receive radio. If you don’t, you will end up regretting it later on.
  5. If you are looking at doing digital or long distance work, you are going to need more of an initial investment because HF radios are not cheap. If you are looking at doing things like SOTA or DX then you are also going to have to get something portable. Check out my episodes on SOTA, NPOTA, Special Event Stations, and Contesting.


Get an Elmer!

The probably number one reason that someone gets their license and then never uses it is because they either have no idea what to do with it afterwards or they are overwhelmed with information that they get to confused and give up on it.

If you haven’t already found you a club, do so ASAP! If don’t know where one is, check out the ARRL website. If you are lucky and there are several clubs near you, check them all out! Go to each of their meetings a couple times and see which one fits you best. You can even join them all if you want. Whichever you decide, find you someone at a club that can “show you the ropes”. Someone that can answer your questions or show you how to do things.

One thing that I have learned about this hobby in my 20+ years as a ham is that other hams are often very helpful when you need help with something.

Continuing your education

It is said that in life you learn something everyday. The same should be said about amateur radio. Learn everything you can! There are so many aspects of the hobby that are available to you that no matter what your interests are, you will find something out there to keep you interest for years and years to come.

I have said before that I have been a ham now for better than 20 years now and I still learn new stuff on a regular occasion, especially since I started my blog/podcast.

There are a lot of places on the internet where you will find all kinds of information about different aspects of the hobby, below you will find just a few

Check out my links page for more links to some great websites!

West Mountain Radio

West Mountain Radio - Be Ham Ham

I would like to thank my sponsor, West Mountain Radio! For those of you that don’t know who they are, they make some awesome equipment that I have had the pleasure of using over the past 15 or so years. They make several pieces of equipment that are so well built and are so useful. Things like the RIGBlaster, RIGrunner and the DC-to-Go Boxes. I talked a little bit about the RIGblaster in my last episode and I’ve talked about the RIGrunner several times in previous episode but today I wanted to tell y’all about their DC-to-Go Boxes.

These are neat cases that you can put a battery in to protect your station’s floor from an unfortunate battery accident, however, they are so much more than that as well. These boxes have a Super PWRgate PG40 and a RIGrunner 4007U or 4008 built into them as well.

The PWRgate provides you an uninterruptible power supply in case you lose AC power it will automatically switch to the battery in the box. This is a perfect solution for a repeater backup and/or event like the upcoming Winter Field Day!

The RIGrunner 4008 provides you with 40 amps of D.C. Power plug over 8 slots while the 4007u gives you 40 amps across 7 slots but it has some extra feature like a digital load meter and USB charging port as well as a solid state push button on/off switch and an automatic shutoff for high or low voltages!

Both of these are mounted to the side of the battery box. All you have to do is drop a battery inside and hook up the leads and you are ready to roll!!

Here are the links for the premade versions of the DC-to-Go boxes. It you can also Custom make one to your own choices!

Upcoming Events

RSGB 80m Club Championship, CW 2000Z-2130Z, Feb 23
CQ 160-Meter Contest, SSB 2200Z, Feb 24 to 2200Z, Feb 26
REF Contest, SSB 0600Z, Feb 25 to 1800Z, Feb 26
UBA DX Contest, CW 1300Z, Feb 25 to 1300Z, Feb 26
South Carolina QSO Party 1500Z, Feb 25 to 0159Z, Feb 26
North American QSO Party, RTTY 1800Z, Feb 25 to 0559Z, Feb 26
High Speed Club CW Contest 0900Z-1100Z, Feb 26 and 1500Z-1700Z, Feb 26
SARL Digital Contest 1300Z-1600Z, Feb 26
North Carolina QSO Party 1500Z, Feb 26 to 0059Z, Feb 27
NRAU 10m Activity Contest 1800Z-1900Z, Mar 2 (CW) and 1900Z-2000Z, Mar 2 (SSB) and 2000Z-2100Z, Mar 2 (FM) and 2100Z-2200Z, Mar 2 (Dig)
ARRL Inter. DX Contest, SSB 0000Z, Mar 4 to 2400Z, Mar 5
Wake-Up! QRP Sprint 0600Z-0629Z, Mar 4 and 0630Z-0659Z, Mar 4 and 0700Z-0729Z, Mar 4 and 0730Z-0800Z, Mar 4
Open Ukraine RTTY Championship 1800Z-2059Z, Mar 4 (Low Band) and 2100Z-2359Z, Mar 4 (Low Band) and 0800Z-1059Z, Mar 5 (High Band) and 1100Z-1359Z, Mar 5 (High Band)
UBA Spring Contest, CW 0700Z-1100Z, Mar 5
DARC 10-Meter Digital Contest 1100Z-1700Z, Mar 5
SARL Hamnet 40m Simulated Emerg Contest 1200Z-1400Z, Mar 5
NSARA Contest 1200Z-1600Z, Mar 5 and 1800Z-2200Z, Mar 5
RSGB 80m Club Championship, Data 2000Z-2130Z, Mar 6
ARS Spartan Sprint 0200Z-0400Z, Mar 7
AGCW YL-CW Party 1900Z-2100Z, Mar 7
AWA John Rollins Memorial DX Contest 2300Z, Mar 8 to 2300Z, Mar 9 and 2300Z, Mar 11 to 2300Z, Mar 12


*Information taken from the WA7BNM Contest Calendar









*Information taken from the ARRL Hamfest Calendar


Field Day 2017 Packet is Now Available

The Field Day 2017 packet now is available from the ARRL website. Field Day 2017 is June 24-25 — always the fourth full weekend in June. There have been no significant rule changes from 2016.

The Field Day packet contains everything you or your club will need to succeed in June, including explanations, FAQs, articles from experts, and even a log page template, if you log on paper for FD. For more information on Field Day, contact the ARRL Contest Branch.


ARES Volunteers Support Evacuation, Shelters, in Wake of Oroville Dam Crisis

[UPDATE: 2017-02-14 @ 2312: Authorities have now lifted a mandatory evacuation order issued over the weekend to residents who could have been affected by catastrophic flooding from failure of the Oroville Dam emergency spillway. Residents may now return to their homes but have been advised to remain vigilant, should the situation again become critical. The Red Cross shelter in Chico will remain open through a predicted storm.]

Sacramento Valley ARES Section Emergency Coordinator Greg Kruckewitt, KG6SJT, reports that Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) volunteers are now actively involved in supporting communication for the evacuation and sheltering of nearly 200,000 people living below the damaged Oroville Dam in rural California. The dam, on the Feather River east of Oroville, is the tallest in the US. Following a period of heavy rain, a section of the earthfill-embankment dam’s spillway eroded, and authorities issued an evacuation order for residents living below the dam, in case it should fail. Crews have been attempting to fill the eroded area with rock transported by helicopter.

Butte County ARES EC Dale Anderson, KK6EVX, was called out by the emergency operations center (EOC) on the evening of February 12. Six members of the Butte County ARES team now were deployed a Red Cross evacuation shelter at the Chico fairgrounds. Anderson said shelter managers were discussing the need to establish a radio link with the National Guard. Two VHF radios, one HF radio, and several handhelds were available at the shelter.

On February 12, Yuba/Sutter ARES EC Steve Sweetman, K6TAZ, opened and managed a net to provide information and gather reports of road closures or problems during the evacuation. The net received reports from radio amateurs who were evacuating. Traffic was reported to be very heavy, with a trip that would normally take 20 minutes extending into “3-hour stop-and-go ordeal,” Sweetman said. The net also gathered information on where evacuees could get fuel for their vehicles. “This became a critical need, as the thousands of people evacuated their houses with 1-hour notice,” Kruckewitt said, adding that the net has continued in operation. Sweetman is operating from his house on a high hill outside Yuba City,” Kruckewitt said. “He is safe from flooding and currently has 17 evacuees staying on his property.”

The Sacramento County EC Vince Cracchiolo, KI6NHP, was called into the Sacramento County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on February 13 as the Red Cross opened a shelter at Cal Expo in Sacramento. Kruckewitt said the Sacramento Valley Section has received offers from hams outside of California offering to help if needed. FEMA reports that 20 shelters are open with 3,680 occupants.

“At this time, we are doing fine,” Kruckewitt told ARRL, although power outages have been reported in Yuba and Sutter counties. “They are identifying the problem,” he said, “so power outages at the Chico shelter are possible.”

“All ARES groups in the Section are on standby, if help is needed. So far, the dam is holding, and repair work is under way at last report.”

According to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), evacuation orders were issued to residents surrounding Lake Oroville late Sunday afternoon. “DWR has been monitoring conditions at Lake Oroville’s main and auxiliary spillways around the clock for signs of erosion that could threaten the integrity of the emergency spillway and allow large, uncontrolled flows to the Feather River,” the agency says on its website.

“To lower the lake level and thus reduce flows and the potential for erosion at the top of the emergency spillway, DWR increased flows down the main spillway’s damaged, concrete chute to 100,000 cubic feet per second. Current releases remain within the capacity of downstream channels. Oroville Dam is a separate structure from the emergency spillway and remains sound.”

Thanks for stopping by today. If you like what you have heard on my podcast or read on my blog and would like to know how you can give your support, check out the Support page! You can make a one time donation through Paypal, become a monthly contributor through Patreon or shop on Amazon through my affiliate link.

If you have not done so already, please subscribe to my site so that you will receive emails when I publish a new post or podcast episode. It’s super easy! Just fill out the form below:

Once you click on the Sign Me Up button, you will get an email from me with a link that you will need to click on. Once you click on that link, you will start receiving emails from me. I hate spam as much as anyone does, so I promise you that I will not sell or rent your email address to anyone!

Also, check me out on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Links to these and all the other social media sites that I am on can be found in the menu at the top of the page under Social.

Until next time…

73 de Curtis, K5CLM

Related posts