My Ham Radio HF Gear

Since I just started back into amateur radio I thought I would do a quick post of my gear. None of this is the ultra-massive and beautiful shacks that some Hams had, but so far it is working really well for me.

Antenna

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My antenna is very simple. It is a G5RV mounted in my attic. This is not ideal because more than half of the antenna is just laying on insulation in the attic since I ran out of room to full string it out. That being said I have had some good QSOs into Russia, Cuba and Italy.

I plan on trying out a Magnetic Loop antenna to see if I can get better performance with that in the conditions I have to offer. I am actually really hoping this antenna will do the job, but a little worried about its bandwidth.

Radios

ICOM IC-718

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The ICOM IC-718 was my first HF radio and came highly recommended from the community. In fact, I still use it! This is the radio that I plan on building a mobile communications platform around it so I can participate in field days and such. Love this tough little guy.

ICOM IC-7300

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I just recently updated to the IC-7300 as my main radio. This is ICOM’s entry into the Software Defined Radio (SDR) market and it took it by storm. Far cheaper than other rigs available and packed with features. I am still learning this radio and I am sure I will do a full write up later.

Stay tuned for a shack tour….. Once I have it tour ready.

Need an antenna solution

I am really enjoying my time back into Ham radio, but I am getting a little frustrated. I am going to have to do more research to find an antenna solution that will work with my limitations. If anyone has a suggestion besides move please let me know.

Playing with FT8 Digital Mode

I decided to play with some digital modes on the HF bands. This was interesting and very different from the things I have done before. While most people think of Ham radio as just voice and a bunch of noise, FT8 proves them wrong.

FT8 is great when the bands are in bad condition or you are running low power. The main point of this mode is to make DX contacts in horrible conditions. At this is shines above just about all else I have used.

FT8 does have its downsides. It is not really made for conversations or passing information. It seems best suited for those that are wanting to fill a log book. But it should not be overlooked how easy this is for new people who often struggle with getting started an need that little bit of extra motivation. While it is helping new HAMs get their feet wet it also teaches about band propagation. All this without being punishing.

There is another thing that makes this mode really fun and easy for new Hams. If you use WSJT-X and connect it to your radio. You can make the connections, almost, automated. Then you will need to be able to log those connections. I use JTAlert to log the connections and that is also automated. Pretty simple to setup and work.

Just to give you an example of how good this is. I don’t have much room in the attic to put an antenna and I cant put one outside because of HOA. That means I have a hard time getting out and receiving. FT8 cuts right through and allows me to make DX contacts.

If you are new to Ham radio HF and digital you should give FT8 try. It is really rewarding and fun. It is also much faster than other communication on the HF bands. I am going to put up a tutorial on how to connect this to your radio soon. So keep an eye out for that.

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Getting Back Into HAM radio

I know this sounds really dorky, but I love HAM radio. I have held my license for some time and really fallen out of the habit of using my radion for communications. That is something I cant see me doing any longer. However, I have some limitations at the moment.

  1. My current HT (Handy Talky) does not do digital modes and it seems that analogue is dying so I will have to upgrade
  2. I can’t put up a giant antenna array so I will have to stick to attic antenna or portable ones that I take up and put away
  3. I have way too many hobbies
  4. I am not a very patient person

I think the first two I can find workarounds for or fix really quickly, but the last two are real buggers.  I guess I am going to have to decide which is more important to me.

Maybe, just maybe, I should write a primer on how to get started on the digital modes and the joys of analogue to help those that are interested get started. Now that is an idea. I could make a post and then do QSOs with those that get into the hobby using my post.

Stay tuned for more on this one!