View Full Version : What handheld for primary rig?

07-28-2010, 06:01 PM
I've got JT convinced to step up to HAM this fall.

What handheld would make the best primary rig in his 80?

Dual band cool but not required.
external antenna?
external mic?
any other peripherals?

What say you....

07-28-2010, 06:27 PM

I had good results with my VX7R using an external antenna and the external mic/speaker dealyo. The bonus was I was able to reuse my antenna setup (Diamond NMO mount etc) with the mobile rig when I "upgraded"

As for the HT...It worked fine for trail use but not so great for on the road use where I needed more power than the little HT could pump out to reach others. Aside from the power issue my biggest complaint was finding a good location for the HT to sit and not interfere with stuff while still being accessible. The other negative, at least with the VX7R, was that you can't transmit when you have it plugged in to a DC source while charging. You can still listen, just no transmitting.

Is JT insistent on a HT vs a mobile rig setup? HTs can be as much, and more, than a good mobile rig.

07-28-2010, 08:22 PM
Not insistant, just thinks that's what he wants.

07-28-2010, 11:55 PM
Not insistant, just thinks that's what he wants.

Ah...I thought the same way and wish I would have listened to the more experienced HAMs in the club that suggested to get a good mobile rig first...I'd be $400+ richer right now :hill:

A HT is nice for around camp and ok for when you are on a run...After that, their limited power really makes you wish you had a mobile rig, at least for me.

For instance going to and from runs and to and from CM. Did that last year with the HT and try as I might while I could hear people talking away on the Colo Connection, I couldn't talk to anyone :( - This year with the FT-8800 I could talk with Nakman and Groucho on simplex while listening to, and occasionally talking with, someone on the connection in Denver while I was in Grand Junction or Glenwood etc. I couldn't even seem to hit the Colo Connection repeater in Grand Junction, while in Grand Junction, with the HT last year.

Maybe for JT having the reach isn't as important. The HT is handy for bringing inside or moving from vehicle to vehicle.

07-29-2010, 09:32 AM
I agree with Jeff all the way.

I have the VX-3r and an older HT with the FT-8800 mounted in my truck. Forget the 3r we already covered the limited range on it. Any HT you get is going to have 5 watts~ and if you hook it up to an external antenna a little better reception but not really that much more distance since it is still 5 watts.

A full size radio ranges from 35 to 75 watts, with a good antenna you can reach people on simplex 50-75 miles away. I reached YB on my radio in Roxborough (south west Littleton) while he was wheeling on Jenny Creek. Had I tried this with a HT it would never have reached.

Cost wise you are also better of with a hard mount. You can get a 2800 or 2900 for about $175 new, add an antenna for about $75 and you are set. Total cost about $250 give or take with tax.

Go the HT route $375 for a radio, $75 for antenna, $40 for a mike, $30 for a 12 v power supply, a case to keep it protected $30 and an extra battery if you want it but don't need it. Total about $550

Now if JT wants to move it from on to another vehicle he can still do that. Buy a mag mount antenna and a 12v adaptor plug plus an extra mount and you are done. Swap takes about ten minutes and the extra mount costs $4.50 from Yeasu.

Take it for what you will and I am sure you can find cheaper prices or more expensive, these are just the prices I saw when I was shopping.

07-29-2010, 09:35 AM
I have been using the HT in the 40 quite a bit lately, and man, lemme tell ya it needs more power.

Like Jeff said, even with an external antenna (albeit a small one) hitting th econnection from the front range can be tough... I was also in grand junction a few weeks back and as jeff states it was really hard to hit the connection while in the town onee of the repeaters was in. on the innerstate it works OK on simplex if I am 5 miles or so from the other person I am talking to, but any farther it gets sketchy. Also, the thing heats up a lot if you use it non stop... to the point that you want to set it down.

If it were me, i'd get a cheap decent radio (the FT-2800 I borrowed from tim this weekend rocked) and get a cheap 2meter HT to have on the trail and for folks to borrow.

I spent the big bucks on the VX-7r and while it is nice, I seldom find myself movin from 2 meters... when I do it is totally non mission critical either. What HAS been mission critical is having a decent high power rig in the truck with a decent antenna. I can't count the number of times I have been grateful that I had the extra juice and the antenna was as good as it gets (within reason.. mine is a 15 dollar 5/8 wave wilson that outperforms a more expensive one I had). Many times the folks that needed help were JUST within reach with my trucks rig... no way that the HT could have worked. That even happened this weekend on the Camp hale run. The only way I was able to talk to the folks on Holy Cross was with the 50watts that the FT-2800 had. When I switched to my HT I couldn't communicate.

Anyways, just my .02.


Caribou Sandstorm
07-29-2010, 11:27 AM
For what it's worth, I like having both HT and hard mount in the truck.

The hard mount seems to be pretty powerful, I heard Nakman on the connection the other day and I was almost to Buena Vista.

I like having the HT, for when I get out of the truck so that I am still connected.

With that said, that does not really help your antenna question. I am also curious what is the best antenna solution, so that I can have that option for another rig.

Air Randy
07-29-2010, 12:03 PM
Understanding the pro's & con's of mobiles versus HT's, if he decides to go with an HT anyways: I have the Yaesu VX150. It was $120 online, nothing fancy, basic 2M unit, rugged yet still does 5 watts. I got it with a lapel mic, leather case, belt loop, DC power cable and mag mount antenna with adaptor for $200 plus shipping.

The case/belt loop can be used for interior mounting if you fasten the belt loop to your dash or a grab handle, etc. The lapel mic then works like a mobile mic. You can transmit with this unit when it is plugged in to the hard wired DC power cable so no worries about dead batteries.

You can use the 3db gain magmount antenna later with a mobile if you choose to go that route.

07-29-2010, 03:50 PM
OK, I'll tell him to get a mobile unit. Less $$ is good anyway. You don't have to sell me on range. I was able to talk with people on main street Moab this spring while I was still in the Swell on the overnighter. I was only using 5w.

07-29-2010, 04:16 PM
But I will put in my caveat here with regards to mag mounts. They are unsafe, and just so full disclosure is always attempted, I will put up some info as to why.

Now I know that several folks do use them, and they have not proven to be a problem, but everyone needs to heed this warning from Alan (KBG (http://www.k0bg.com/)) website which is very well read and respected in the Amateur community as well as others:
Mag Mounts

I've placed mag mounts first for a good reason; they're not safe! The one shown in the left photo is a typical unit. When they're demonstrated in retail outlets, they're stuck to a thick chunk of metal. Since the amount of force is reliant on the thickness of the material it is stuck to, the actual force will be much less when it's sitting atop your vehicle. And it doesn't make much difference how many magnets they have, or how big they are. The fact remains they will become flying missiles in the event of a crash. There has been one confirmed death, and possibly a second, caused by a mag mount dislodging in a crash. Distractors say that's good odds, but it isn't. If you haven't already, read my Insurance article.

At a hamfest I attended, I ask the owner why his three magnet mount was tied down with a couple of bungie cords. He said he tied it down after it came off while he was on the interstate. Aren't you glad you weren't behind him?

There is another problem with them; they increase ground losses. If you've read my Antenna Efficiency article, you'll know why minimizing ground loss is so important. If you think attaching a ground strap to the nearest hard point on your vehicle will help negate this situation, you're wrong! By the way, it doesn't make any difference how many magnets they have, they're still lossier than direct mounting.

There are two more problems users should be aware of. First, they collect road debris (mainly metallic brake dust) which eventually gets between the magnet and the sheet metal. Secondly, the base cover, usually a rubberized plastic, has an affinity for clear coat vehicle finishes. It is a given that the surface under the mag mount will become both scratched and/or discolored over time. In some cases, less than a week!

The bottom line is, if you have to resort to a mag mount for your antenna, you haven't thought long enough about other, safer, more efficient, mounting techniques.

Air Randy
07-29-2010, 09:34 PM
Well, my mag mount has survived 3 roll overs and never came off of the vehicle. To each their own but I've been in the 2way radio business for 33 years and have seen police cars with mag mount antennas and have never heard of them being a danger.

I don't care if my paint gets scratched, I'll just squirt more rustoleum on it.:hill:

I also don't care if I can't talk to Timbucktoo and back so a little bit of loss isn't a problem. I just prefer to not drill holes in the roof and have something I can easily move out of the way when I'm working on stuff.

07-30-2010, 10:32 AM
I agree that mag mounts will scratch your vehicle, DAMHIK. There is a place for everything and everything has it its place. If you don't have the money for two hard mount antennas but want to swap radios ON a regular basis a mag mount is one of the few options out there.

I would love to have my 4runner hard mounted and most likely will in the future but when I went to HRO and dropped 6 bills it was a better deal for me to get the mag mount. I wanted it as high as I could and the tire carrier was not build yet so a mag mount it was.

As the article stated a mag mount COULD become a missile but if the impact is that hard for the magnet to come loose AND break the coax I think there are more serious items to worry about. I am not saying it doesn't matter or is a good thing but we do have to look at the odds. Ham radios use mag mounts as do many CB antennas, now how many do you think have been sold to the public? And from all those numbers there has been one confirmed death and one possible? Unfortunately those are pretty good odds.

There is hazard in everything we do in live. I was racing my motorcycle and broke my neck and back. Walked away from it without a scratch and am fine. Next room over was a secretary who stepped of the bus on 16th street mall and stepped in a pothole breaking her neck, she is now a quadriplegic for live. Who here was doing the most hazardous thing? Everything carries an inherent danger with it, if we can limit it great but we have to call it good at some point.

07-30-2010, 11:18 AM
side note on mag antenna. I originally put mine on the hood like most and if fell off while driving I-70 scratched my paint, :blah::blah::blah:

Now it sits on the front corner of my ARB. Has never moved other than when I hit the antenna on a bush or tree. It also works nice as a corner marker like on a snow plow blade. Someday I might get a better CB antenna and drill a hole for it there. But for now I'm happy with the mag mount as I hope to toss the CB anyway. (My HAM antenna is on my rear hatch like most with 80's)

07-30-2010, 08:13 PM
Yaesu VX150.
This is a very highly regarded HT, but is discontinued. Its replacement, the FT-250R just very slightly improves it at the same price. However for a few dollars more I would suggest looking at the FT-270R (the VX-170 replacement), which has a bigger display and has better waterproofing. Either way, both are very close derivatives of Vertex commercial rigs, so in a pinch could be used to drive nails or as a wheel chock.

Caribou Sandstorm
08-02-2010, 07:21 PM
I heard a guy in transmitting from Carbondale when I was on top of Red Cone, on Sunday.

He had a 90 something HT and some kind of additional antenna..

Seemed like it was working pretty well.