160: HAM: The Amateur Radio Episode

Show Notes: Episode 160

Today on the First 40 Miles, how do you communicate from point A when your friends are at point B?  One of our listeners clued us in to how he stays connected with trail mates while backpacking.  Then we’ll review the communication device we’ve been using plus teach you a simple code you wished you would have known when you were passing notes in 4th grade.  And we’ll leave you with some trail wisdom that will help you fine tune your communication skills on and off the trail.

Opening

  • What if we want to communicate with each other while we’re both on the trail?
  • Many communication options available
  • Garmin RINO, GoTennas, GoTenna Mesh, SPOT devices
  • One of our listeners suggested amateur radios (or HAM Radio)
  • Getting an amateur radio requires passing a FCC test and learning some rules
  • Why amateur radio is a good option for the trail
  • What we’ve done with our radios since passing the test

Top 5 Reasons HAM Radio is a Great Option for Wilderness Communication

Cheap

  • $15 test
  • To pass test, free app or books from library or YouTube videos that teach to the test.
  • A handheld radio: around $25+

Repeaters + Linked Repeaters

  • Range 1-2 miles depending on topography
  • Maybe even more range…

Multiuse

  • Backpacking, Emergencies
  • How we prepare for emergencies with our radios

Battery Life

  • Long battery life
  • Drains while transmitting, but not much while listening
  • Longer than a cell phone

Weight

  • Weighs around 7 ounces

SUMMIT Gear Review™: BaoFeng BF-F8+ Radio

Structure

  • It has 2 Power Levels (1 and 5 watt)
  • 1800mAh Battery
  • The BF-F8+ is legal for use on amateur frequencies (with a license)
  • We can also listen (but should not transmit) on FRS and GMRS frequencies

Utility

  • You can program your BF-F8+ exactly how you want it. There are 128 programmable memory channels.
  • You can listen to the FM radio stations while still monitoring your other radio frequencies in the background.
  • The BF-F8+ has one built-in receiver but can “watch” two channels (semi duplex).
  • The BF-F8+ can send DTMF tones
  • Flashlight and siren features built in

Mass

  • Weighs 7 ounces
  • Measures 2”x4”x1 1/4”
  • Antenna length 6 1/2”
  • Semi-flexible antenna

Maintenance

  • Rechargeable, however not USB
  • You have to use the special charger it came with

Investment

  • $25 (includes hands-free earpiece)
  • $6 for programming cable

Trial

  • You can program your radio with free CHIRP software and a separate cord ($6)
  • We’ve had success using our HAM radios on the trail
  • We’ve been able to hit repeaters—but not on every trip

Backpack Hack of the Week™:  The Phonetic Alphabet

A–Alfa
B–Bravo
C–Charlie
D–Delta
E–Echo
F–Foxtrot
G–Golf
H–Hotel
I–India
J–Juliett
K–Kilo
L–Lima
M–Mike
N–November
O–Oscar
P–Papa
Q–Quebec
R–Romeo
S–Sierra
T–Tango
U–Uniform
V–Victor
W—Whiskey/Water
X–X-ray
Y–Yankee
Z–Zulu

Trail Wisdom

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”

-Roy T. Bennett