There are many new amateur radio operators that are or were in the same boat as me. How do you make easy contacts? Talking to many of the experienced operators, easy contacts are not true contacts as they don’t take effort to copy messages or hunt for the stations. This is another form of gatekeeping that plagues hobbies, including our own. You should operate how you want to operate so long as it doesn’t violate any regulations.
For new operators, even those with Technician, there are ways to make DX contacts easily using just an HT. The better your HT, the more features it will have, allowing you to expand your contacts. For instance, if you have just a basic FM HT, you will be limited to repeaters. Adding DTMF will let you use IRLP. Adding DMR/D-Star/YSF will expand your contacts even more. This isn’t a way to sell you on features you won’t use but more of a guide to show what you can do with your equipment.
With an FM HT, you have a couple options. The first is Echolink. Echolink is a system of connected repeaters that allow for remote access. A local repeater for me is an Echolink repeater. Echolink has nodes that you can connect to using your PC or smartphone. This was the first option for me to make contacts, even locally, as my first radio, a Baofeng GT-3TP, wasn’t able to hit most of the repeaters. With an FM HT, you can listen to an Echolink repeater. If someone connects, the repeater will identify who connected. You can also do the same using your PC or smartphone. This makes it really easy to expand your contacts. You can connect to nearly any repeater. Make sure you look up the repeater owner before connecting. This also means checking the time at the repeater location. If they are running a net, Echolink will interrupt it to identify your connection. Once you connect, throw your callsign and location out there. Someone may come back and want to talk. Using Echolink, I’ve made contacts with people in different states, and my furthest contact has been in Australia. Take advantage of this technology. It is apart of our hobby. Another tool in your toolbox.
Along the same lines, IRLP, Internet Radio Linking Project, works the same way as Echolink, but it is true radio to radio. Tune your radio to an IRLP repeater and listen. Each repeater has a node, which can be connected to using a DTMF radio. You can also just listen for others to connect, same as Echolink. The local repeater in my area that uses IRLP is used as an event repeater so it isn’t always available. I’ve listened to is many times either my tuning to the repeater or scanning. I have yet to hear anyone connect to it. I’ve used it twice and haven’t had any success making contacts. This is true radio to radio. There isn’t a smartphone app, other than finding connected repeaters. To change the connected repeater, you will need a radio with DTMF functions.