A new ham's opinion on entry level gear

June 20, 2023
3 minute read

Recently, I was asked by Cam ZL1DKS if I would be willing to share my thoughts on entry level gear. As I’m a relatively new ham, having obtained my amateur radio licence in late November 2022, this would be a good opportunity to show newbies looking at getting into the hobby what you could expect from cheaper, entry level gear.

I started off with a Baofeng UV5R with the standard rubber ducky antenna, upgraded to a UV82 with a Nagoya whip antenna and more recently purchased a TYT TH-9800 that I use as a 2m/70cm base station.

Depending on what you’re interested in, entry level gear might be all you need. I personally enjoy making QSOs via the FM repeater on the International Space Station. To date, I have made 5 successful contacts through the ISS with a DIY Yagi antenna and the UV5R. It puts out a little under 5W, but the signal reports indicate I’m a clear copy.

I don’t have a mobile rig in my car, so when I’m out and about, I take the UV82 handheld with me. Using the Nagoya whip antenna instead of the rubber ducky antenna, and putting out under 8W, I’m able to receive the local repeaters from quite a fair distance away, and usually hit them with a reasonable signal. While with the rubber ducky antenna, signals weren’t so good at the same distances.

Inside my house, using the handhelds, it’s a bit of a struggle. I can receive very well standing in specific spots of the kitchen, however my signal out is reported as very noisy although still somewhat readable. When in the office, where I spend most of my time, I can barely receive anything, and getting a signal out seems to be impossible. To solve this, I purchased a TYT TH-9800. It puts out up to 50W on VHF and 40W on UHF. Paired with a TM770B-770R antenna on the roof, I’m able to easily hit repeaters over 60KM away. Signal reports from contacts over the repeaters as well as over simplex indicate that my signal is impressive.

The biggest pain point with these radios is programming them. If you don’t have a programming cable, you’re going to have a wild time saving favourite frequencies as well as setting any appropriate CTCSS tones. For communications over simplex frequencies, it’s as easy as entering the frequency and then holding the PTT button. You’ll most certainly want to invest in a programming cable, and then download CHIRP. This program lets you easily add in favourite channels, offsets and tones. If you decide to buy another radio, and it’s supported by CHIRP, you can copy the same channels over in a few seconds.

With all of that said, my first 50 contacts were all made possible by cheap, entry level equipment. If you’ve just read this article and are looking at getting into the hobby, you can have some serious fun with entry level gear without breaking the bank.

73, Liam ZL2DEV