Baofeng GT-3TP

My first radio was a Baofeng GT-3TP. This is a low cost, Chinese radio, which I know operators have mixed opinions about. Again, this blog is about sharing my experience with equipment or techniques. I am obviously going to have some bias as equipment and techniques need to fit my use case. Below is my evaluation of the radio.


I do not have the box anymore, but it is what you expect. The box is a cardboard box with average construction. It arrived from Amazon in good condition. The print on the box was light, but the art work was eye catching. I would say the print quality was below average, but the art was above average. Inside of the box was the radio and antenna, a manual, a cradle, the charging cable, and a car charger. Everything was packed away in a manner where nothing was shaking around in the box. The box had just enough room to fit everything, which is nice since you aren’t overloaded with extra plastic and cardboard. I don’t like excess packaging since I wish to be environmentally friendly. By using less packaging material, it save time and cost. I know for some, the unboxing is a part of the product experience, but for me, it isn’t a point that I’m concerned with. The point of a box is to store the item during transport and to provide a display when on the shelf. Overall, I would say the packaging was slightly above average. If it was on a shelf, it would catch your eye but not anything too spectacular.

Build Quality

The radio is made from black and orange plastic. The construction is fairly average. The pieces fit together okay. Because of the plastic build, the radio is lightweight and feels cheap. The keypad is made from rubber with solid print to the function of each button. None of the print rubbed off with use. The front features an LCD display that is below average. It does wash out when the backlight is active making the display difficult to read. The LCD does feature different colors that can be changed to indicate different functions. You can set up a separate color for Tx/Rx. The antenna is a typical rubber duck antenna. After a month of consistent use, there was a rattling from the inside of the radio. One of the screws in the radio came loose. I opened the radio and tightened it, but it came loose after a few days. The threads where the screw attaches were stripped out. Directions were found online about what screw was the problem. This indicates that it is a common problem with the GT-3TP. I guess this is expected from an entry level radio but disappointing none the less.


The performance was up and down. The battery is one of the best batteries I’ve seen. I ordered this radio in 2012 and charged it fully. I didn’t charge it anymore after that. To my surprise, the radio powered up the next time I turned it on in 2019. This is impressive. I did replace the battery later with a larger battery that lasts for days without needing a charge.

As for use, the radio has a terrible front end and received interference like crazy. I had the local NOAA station as Channel 0 and the local Skywarn repeater (146.880) set as Channel 1. It wasn’t uncommon for me to receive on both Channel 0 and 1 at the same time, even though only one was selected and the second VFO was set to Channel 3. This would be a terrible radio for fox hunting or radio direction finding. If this is your main use, I would pass.

Contacting was hit or miss. One week after I received my license, I made my first contact. I talked to him for a little under ten minutes, and then he couldn’t hear me anymore. I have no idea what happened. Since then, I have been unable to contact the local repeater 600 ft/182 m high on an 800 ft/244 m high tower that is less than three miles from my house. All other radios can reach the repeater. It still receives signals just fine. I am disappointed, but I guess I got what I paid for.

*Note* I did change out the antenna a few times for the Baofeng, since most stock antennas are poor quality. The antenna connector may have been damaged with the number of times the antenna has been swapped. If I had to put a number on it, I probably changed between antennas around 30 times. It may have also been part of the screw that was rattling around as when I did open the radio, the screw fell out and wasn’t replaced. It did work, even after removing the screw, but it could be something that compounded. Either way, it does still work for short range communication (less than a mile). This was tested using simplex.


Accessories for the radios exist, and compared to other companies, many of the accessories can be shared between the products. There is one programming cable. There is one type of handheld microphone. There is one type of APRS cable. This makes it so much more convenient. Problem do exist, but not with the product. There are counterfeit products that exist and are on Amazon. I ordered a programming cable, but it was a counterfeit. Be advised that you should read the product reviews before ordering products, although many counterfeit companies will bot reviews by paying companies to leave false five-star reviews. This is common with antennas. Nagoya antennas are very popular for Baofeng radios. There is a large amount of counterfeit Nagoya antennas. Make sure you are ordering from a reputable source. If you are in doubt, walk away.

The Nagoya antenna that I ordered (NA-771) didn’t fit the radio. There is a lip around the antenna port on the radio that prevented the Nagoya from screwing in. I used a Dremel to file it down and used the rubber rings provided with the antenna to create a better fit. I also ordered an ExpertPower antenna, and it had no compatibility issues. I prefer the ExpertPower over the Nagoya, because it fits.

The best accessory I ordered was the larger battery. It does add some weight to the radio, but it made the radio last two days just receiving. I would suggest everyone pick this up. I wish more companies included larger batteries for their radios. I understand that buying additional batteries is an option, but this forces the user to purchase, charge, and carry an additional battery. If a cell phone can hold a 3000+ mAh battery, there is no reason that radio manufacturers can’t do the same.

Overall Thoughts

I always judge a product by if I would buy it again to replace one that was broken. My computer mouse is comfortable and amazing. If anything happens to it, I would replace it with the same model. Would I do that with this radio? No, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t replace it since there are a lot of high quality radios that don’t cost much more than the Baofeng. Icom, Kenwood, and Yaesu all make quality radios for around $100. While this is more expensive than most Baofeng radios, they are far more capable and reliable. For myself, reliability is key. I want to know that a radio will perform consistently over a long life. I don’t have this confidence in the GT-3TP. It may have been the model I have and may try another Baofeng radio. I’m going to give this radio a pass.


Thank you for reading my review. If you have any questions, leave them below. Remember to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up-to-date on reviews and happenings.


I’ve been sitting on this review since December, when I wrote it. My plan was to take pictures of everything I had talked about. Since the radio stopped working, I threw it in the electronics recycling pile without thinking. It is now being scrapped. I apologize that I don’t have any pictures of it. A quick Google search will let you know what it looks like. Again, I apologize.

Recent Reddit Controversy

As you know, Reddit can be a place of great discussion or a sestpool of the dumbest comments ever created by mankind. Unfortunately, what started as fun banter ended in a massive amount of butthurt and threats. I’ll start with a little background.

The Original Post

Late night on Tuesday, April 21st, a Reddit user under the name TheOneAndOnlyArugula posted a picture of the flashlight on his Baofeng UV-5R under the title “Yeah but does your Yaesu do this? #BaofengMasterRace”. Anyone with half a functional brain would understand that this is sarcasm. We all know the flaws with Baofeng radios. As I’ve pointed out in a previous post, I’m not the biggest fan of Baofengs, but I understand their appeal. This is why they appealed to me when I was first interested in amateur radio. This was a funny post. We got it. But I couldn’t let the Baofeng squad win. I had to come back in the only way I knew how. With a big flex.

My Response

The next morning, I posted a response. This was mostly for friendly banter, nothing more. Most people understoof it as that. I posted a picture of my FT3DR with the LED light on and the title “Yeah, my Yaesu can do that. #YaesuGang”. Again, this was intended to be friendly banter. The FT3DR costs 10 times that of the UV-5R. That is the point of the joke. TheOneAndOnlyArugula understood that is what it was. This is when the flood gates opened. The moderators of the amateur radio sub-Reddit were probably a little upset at us by this point.

The Backlash

While many understood it as sarcasm and banter, others did not. They became really offended by the post, which was not my intent. I won’t speak about TheOneAndOnlyArugula but his comments seemed to suggest that too. Unfortunately, the squeaky wheel gets the lube and there were a lot of squeaky wheels. I’ll start with the comments before I get into the PMs and follow-up posts. One guy strapped a flashlight to a radio with electrical tape. This guy is probably the funniest guy on that sub-Reddit. His link made my day. At that point, it should have been over. But of course, it is the internet. One user commented that my radio was overpriced and flawed. This comment is pretty normal when you have an FT3DR because they are on the higher end of prices. It is by no means a flex or show of money. I think my wife’s FT-70DR is an amazing radio. A friend has an FT-60 and it is also amazing. For satellites, I use an Alinco DJ-G7T, which I love. Each of them works and works well. Like I said before, gatekeeping only hurts the hobby.

Another guy commented that we needed to get a real flashlight and go to r/flashlight to look for a real one. Does this guy honestly think that I use my FT3DR as a flashlight? As said before, I’m not a prepper. My go-to flashlight is a Maglight I got a gift when I was in high school. It uses AA batteries and works for what I need. I also have a Sidewinder and a Surefire from when I was in the Navy but the Sidewinder doesn’t have batteries and the Surefire uses proprietary batteries. I recently purchased a Black Diamond headlamp. Why? Because I needed a headlamp for research and it has rechargable batteries. Do I want a tacticool flashlight that I can mount to an M4 like I’m in Meal Team 6? No. I just need to light up the backyard while the dog is doing his business.

One guy commented that he has a Baofeng, and with the money, he would get a Yaesu. I get in. I was in his shoes once. I remember when I skipped a meal because I had little money. I will never judge anyone for owning a Baofeng because they are cheap. If it gets you into the hobby, it is for the best. We all know that the numbers are shrinking. Not only that but the new technicians are arriving into the hobby and have little clue what they are doing. A lot of the established operators are struggling to mentor the new technicians. This is unfortunate. Even some of the old timers go against amateur best practice. If someone steps up and helps these guys out, maybe the VEs in the room or the radio grams you get after your license. This would help out. Steer us, myself included, in the right direction.

The Private Messages

After this, I got a ton of PMs. I won’t post them but will sum them up. First, I was apparantly money shaming someone. As I said before, enjoy the hobby how you want, so long as it doesn’t violate any rules/regulations or take away from someone else enjoying the hobby. Another PM said that I was gatekeeping anyone with a Baofeng. Not the case since it was intended to be friendly banter. Someone told me that all he could afford was a Baofeng and that I should kill myself. I’ll take that into account but I’m pretty busy so I don’t think it will fit into my schedule. Another guy said he would kick my ass if he ever saw me. Okay. I’m not pretending to be a tough guy, but you express your manliness how you need to express it. The final message of note said that I should buy a real flashlight and shove it up my ass and die from coronavirus, which he spelled wrong and had nearly no punctuation. That is an oddly specific list of things. I wish I had that amount of free time to devote to making such an ellaborate comeback to a random Reddit shitpost.

The Follow-up Posts

One thing that everyone needs to understand is that you shouldn’t beat a dead horse. Go to Reddit and scroll down through r/amateurradio. It is a ton of low quality posts of people taping random flashlights to random radios. We get it. You are trying to capitolize on the meme but that meme was dead at that point. I know that everyone wanted to participate, but it just became cringe-worth after a while. The funniest thing that came out of it was the user with a flashlight taped to his radio and #FengGang. This is actually a good hashtag. It is cleaver. I really like it.

Wrapping This Up

Okay. So a lot happened with this that I didn’t expect. I know this will also be controversial, but at the end of the day, it is amateur radio and it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. You can try to justify it any way you want, but at the end of the day, we are just trying to enjoy our hobby. I would love to tell everyone how running is essential because it can save your life through imporved cardiovascular health and weight management, but it is just a hobby and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change anything if you don’t run or you enjoy sprinting more than distance. I don’t care if you use a Yaesu, Baofeng, Icom, Kenwood, Alinco, Anytone, etc. It doesn’t matter if you have Technician, General, or Amateur Extra licenses. As long as you enjoy the hobby and are not either violating rules/regulations or preventing others from enjoying it as well, then carry on. Even the idiots on 7.200 are enjoying it, though the violating rules/regulations might be a thing with them.

Thank You

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I didn’t think I would ever have to have a blog explaining sarcasm, but “these are troubling times.” If you have any questions or comments, leave them below. I like to read them. Remember to follow on Twitter and Instagram for pictures of my dog… and maybe some radio stuff. Again, thank you for your time.

How to Make Contacts (Part 3)

Part 3

In this section, I will get into how to make contacts. This isn’t how to make easy contacts. If the last two guides were 1/5 or 2/5, this will be 2/5 and 3/5. This will require some specialized equipment that isn’t apart of a “beginner” amateur radio kit. You may need a specialized antenna, a higher end HT/base radio, or waiting for certain conditions.

Linear Satellites

Linear satellites are similar to FM satellites with the exception that they run SSB. This means you need a radio that can run SSB on 2 m and 70 cm. The same antenna can be used as FM birds, but you may need an adapter for it to plug into your radio. A common radio for this is the FT-818, which includes a battery for being portable, and BNC connectors since it is a QRP radio. As you know, I’m not a QRP fan, but satellites do not require much power. With linear birds, you actually want to run the least amount of power as possible as they can be overloaded. There are exceptions. It is best to run less than 10 W. There are a lot of linear birds that you can work. Looking at the AMSAT frequency chart shows more linear than FM. Having SSB also allows multiple QSOs to happen at once. Just find a spot and call CQ. Yes, you can call CQ on a linear bird. You still have to adjust for doppler on a linear bird, which you can do using software. Also, check your send and receive as they are usually on different sidebands.

The nice part about linear birds is their workable bandwidth. There is a lot of space open to work contacts, meaning pileups are less of an issue. It also requires a little more equipment than an HT and a Yagi. Because of this, the barrier to entry on linear birds is higher, meaning that it will weed out some people. This also leads to a struggle when first starting. Working a linear bird requires, at minimum, a radio that can run SSB split and a Yagi. I know it doesn’t sound like much more than working an FM bird, but SSB radios are around $400+, depending on the model. The FT-818 mentioned early sits around $550. This is quite a bit more expensive than a typical HT, at around $100 for a decent model. You could get two HTs, two runs on 10 ft coax, two sets of adapters, headphones, a yagi, and a mic for the cost of the FT-818.

Looking around, most people are not running the FT-818. A lot are running higher end radios. Icom makes the IC-9700, a dedicated VHF/UHF radio. Why would one buy a $1,500 radio that only does VHF/UHF? Because of satellites. There are other uses, like doing troposphere ducting, but the IC-9700 has a satellite mode. How do you operate this outside? You don’t. You and the radio stay indoors. You have a Yagi mounted on an antenna rotator, which tracks satellites across the sky and points your antenna right at it. All of this is controlled by software, which does doppler for you. This makes working a satellite just like working a repeater. It takes a lot of the guess work out of it. This is an ideal setup. What I just described would set you back over $2000, if you can find items at the right price. Is it possible to make a linear contact without all of this? Yes, I do it all the time. John Brier, who runs the YouTube channel Space Comms, has a great video over working a linear satellite using a minimal setup. All of my linear contacts are made using a minimal setup. I drag my FT-991A outside and plug it into an outdoor outlet using an extension cord. I use an adapter to plug my Yagi into the radio and work them like that. It works. Does it make my contacts worth more because I do everything by hand? No. For some, they can’t move their equipment or may lack the strength to hold a Yagi for an entire pass. Although the Arrow II is a lightweight antenna, it feels like lifting Thor’s hammer at the end of a pass.

Tropospheric Ducting

This is a little more advanced but something that almost any ham can do with their current equipment. Tropospheric ducting is using the troposphere to extend propagation ranges on VHF, and UHF, signals. This is what allows for most VHF distance records, outside of EME and meteors. Tropo can allow for signals to travel hundreds of miles or more. There are videos of guys having casual conversations using tropo on VHF and they are in different states. One guy was in his garage on an HT. As with anything, individual results may vary.

This isn’t something you can do every day. The conditions have to be right, making it limited. This is usually open in April-May and starts to fade around September. There are ways to check if conditions are right. You can look at clouds and the weather to see if the conditions will support it. An easier way is to use websites to check. One website lists general conditions. The other website uses APRS signals to make a real time map. Both are good. When conditions open up, just listen to the 2 m FM calling frequency (146.520). This doesn’t mean that you will get a hold of anyone, but once word starts to spread, more people will be calling out. Another common mode is FT8, though it requires am SSB VHF transceiver that can also do data. This can extend your range since it is a weak signal mode.

Disclaimer. I have never made a contact using tropospheric ducting. This is something that I’ve actively tried for. I’ve used both APRS and FM voice but have failed to make a contact. As you know, APRS is a struggle in my area since we do not have a reliable iGate so verifying signal propagation for my is difficult.

6 Meter 50 MHz

I saved this one for last for no particular reason. Yes, this can also apply to 10 m, but I will cover that in the next post. This is sometimes called The Magic Band, but there is nothing magical about it. I guess if you understanding of technology is limited than anything can appear magical. The 6 m band acts like a hybrid between HF and VHF. The distance isn’t as great as HF, but it isn’t as short as VHF. There is some cool stuff you can do with this band. I’ve heard stories of when there is high sunspot activity, guys have conversations on 6 m FM that sounds like they are using a repeater but they are hundred of miles away. The 6 m band is nice because the antennas are not stupid big, meaning you can also have a mobile antenna that isn’t super massive. I use a 6 m dipole that is small enough that it can be taken down and go portable in less than a few minutes.

Why am I bringing up 6 m over the HF bands? Technician license holders have full privileges on 6 m, just like with 2 m. This could be that first step a tech could take before jumping headfirst into getting General or Amateur Extra. It does require some equipment, as with anything. You will need a radio that can handle 6 m, which can be identified by looking at the antenna connector. Most will label it as HF/50 Mhz. It is usually separate from the VHF/UHF antenna connector, if your radio has both. You can also just look it up on Google. The radios are a little more expensive. Most antennas can be DIY, or you can purchase one. I’m not very crafty so I purchased one off eBay and it works well. You can get a dipole or a vertical. Remember to check the size of the vertical. Most are going to be half wave, meaning they are 3 m tall (about 13 ft). Use yourself as a height comparison for how tall that is. Remember that you need coax for it too. Pick the option best for how you will mount it. If you have HOA rules for antennas, you might want to go with a dipole in your attic. A high mounted vertical will give you better range but might become damaged with wind. You could get crafty and put a vertical up stealth like. I will talk more about this in a post addressing HOAs and antennas.


These are a little more complex in that they require specific solutions or conditions to work. They would make a great addition to any amateur radio operator’s tool kit. This is a way to extend your range. Other than linear birds, a repeater isn’t involved. Just timing and equipment. In the case of tropo, you may already have the equipment.

Thank you for reading. Remember to follow on social media to keep up with everything. Leave a comment with your thoughts.

How to make an easy contact (Part 2)


This post is a follow up to Part 1. The purpose of Part 2 is to expand a little further out, including features not common on basic, entry level HTs. This part assumes you have DTMF and some sort of digital mode.

Internet Radio Linking Project… part 2

Previously, I discussed how you could use an IRLP repeater to listen for contacts from a distant IRLP repeater. This is aimed at using a DTMF radio to dial into a repeater.

Step 1 – Find a local repeater that has IRLP. You can use the Repeater Book app/website or the ARRL repeater listings.

Step 2 – Tune to your local IRLP repeater using appropriate offset and PL tones.

Step 3 – Listen for a few minutes. Make sure there are no upcoming nets.

Step 4 – Identify an IRLP repeater you wish to connect to by looking on the IRLP website for node. You are looking for online/idle nodes. If a node is connected, it is already patched into another repeater. You can either wait or select a different node. Make sure you check the time zone of the repeater you are patching to so you don’t connect when everyone is sleeping.

Step 5 – Identify yourself and ask to use the IRLP. For example, “KD9NRT wishing to use the IRLP.” Wait for a response. If nothing is heard, you can clear the repeater of any connected nodes by pressing 73 on your keypad. Then, use IRLP. Let everyone know that you are using it. For example, “KD9NRT activating the IRLP.”

Step 6 – Use the DTMF function on your radio. This is usually done by holding down the PTT button while inputting the repeater’s IRLP node number. The repeater should let you know if you connect.

Step 7 – Call out for a contact. Let them know you are using IRLP and looking for a contact.

Step 8 – When you are finished, let everyone know you are going to disconnect the node. For example, “KD9NRT disconnecting IRLP.” Wait for 10 seconds. Press 73 on your keypad. The repeater should let you know that it has disconnected.

It is that easy. Okay, I say it is that easy but there may be more steps involved with your repeater. The local club may restrict IRLP use to their members. Be courteous. If they say not to use the IRLP repeater, don’t argue. Just move on or become a member.


Hotspots are in-home, low power simplex repeaters that connect to the internet and broadcast out a digital signal. There are three major mode. They are DMR, D-Star, and YSF. D-Star is used by Icom and Kenwood radios. YSF (Yaesu System Fusion) is for Yaesu radios. DMR is everyone else, mostly the Chinese brands as of recent. Many clubs have a digital repeater but it may not be linked to the internet. For example, the Fort Wayne Radio Club operates the 94 repeater, which is YSF but not connected to WiRES-X. A hotspot allows you to connect to different talk groups using the internet. Hotspots are under 1 W of power and operate like a mini-repeater. They have a range of about a block under good circumstances. I personally use a DVMega hotspot on a Raspberry Pi 3 that sits on the first floor of my house. I get about 400 ft of reliable connection. I did swap out the antenna for a Diamond HT antenna though. A simple hamfest stubby antenna would also work. There is a video of a guy using a good HT antenna and putting the hotspot up really high in his house and getting about a 1/4 mile of range from his. This is kind of cool but at the same time, not what they are intended for. They are supposed to be house wide. Setup is dependent on your device. Check YouTube for some good guides on how to set your hotspot up appropriately for the network you are using. Since I have mostly Yaesu radios, I’ll talk about the WiRES-X connection.

First, tune to your hotspot frequency. Press the WiRES-X button on your radio. Give it a second to download the information from the hotspot. Use a web browser to find a talk group to connect to. Enter the number into the search space. Wait for it to connect. Once connected, you should hear people talking if the room is busy enough. If not, you can call out for a contact. The busiest room for WiRES-X is AmericaLink. There is usually between 200 and 500 users. I’ve made a contact in Japan using the Indiana Link room. It all depends on who is there. Remember there may be a language barrier for some of the rooms. Don’t be rude and join a French room and expect them to speak English. Be courteous. Of course, if you speak French, join the French room and make some contacts. When you are done, you don’t need to disconnect. It is your hotspot and will remain where you left it. After some time, it will reset to you default room. I would recommend not setting this to a busy room. In order to change rooms, you need to send a signal between talking. If it is a busy room and users are tailgating, it may take a long time to switch rooms. The longest it has taken me is five minutes to switch rooms. A guy from my local club said it once took him 30 minutes. I probably would have given up well before then.

Note on Digital Mode

The speech on digital modes sounds like… digital speech. I know that all the makers of digital repeaters would love you to think it comes across like they offer voice quality similar to them sitting right next to you. This is not the case. There is some digital compression with the audio. It does take some time to get used to. As digital modes expand more, the quality will improve but be aware that it will sound a little odd at first.


Satellites are the reason I’m involved in amateur radio. Satellites, or birds, are repeaters that are in space. With that thinking, it takes some of the fear away from operating. There are a few major types of satellites, but since this is about making easy contacts, I will focus on FM satellites. The three most common FM satellites in the US are SO-50, AO-91, and AO-92. There are more that follow irregular schedules. Check the AMSAT website for when they are active. Satellites are easy to work once you wrap your head around the quarks of them. Even though they are repeaters, they operate in split mode, meaning the uplink and downlink are on different bands, i.e. you talk on 2 m and listen on 70 cm. Not all radios do split. You can get around this with a dual VFO radio by setting the downlink (listen frequency) to the B band. You also need to adjust for doppler by programming in channels to compensate for the satellites movement. Some operators say you need to have a full duplex radio, but this isn’t a requirement though it does help. There aren’t many full duplex radios available. Kenwood and Alinco make some. Wouxun also makes some, but a recent ARRL article has shown they can be out of compliance, therefore, I cannot recommend them. You also need a Yagi that can do both 2 m and 70 cm. Arrow and Elk make great antennas for satellites.

If you are interested in working satellites, check out the YouTube channel Space Comms, which contains videos from John Brier KG4AKV.


You can work APRS through the ISS. The ISS has an APRS digipeater onboard that can send your signal out great distances. How is this different than satellites? There aren’t crazy pileups that are present on FM satellites. This can be done with a low amount of money. All you need is a radio, an APRS cable for the radio, a cell phone, and a tape measure Yagi. Simply plug your phone into you radio using the audio cable. Then. load your APRS app. Make sure it is configured. When the ISS flies over, you can send and receive APRS packets. It is more difficult than standard APRS as there are specific digipaths you need to input for the ISS. A quick Google search will help you out with how to set up your pathing. You can easily cut down on the amount of items needed if your radio has built in APRS. There are both VHF and UHF options for packet radio to the ISS. They do not operate on the standard APRS frequency. VHF is on 145.825 with UHF on 437.550.

I will state that even though this is labeled as easy, I found it to be a little difficult. It took me about two weeks of working the ISS on every pass to finally get it to work. I’m not sure why it wasn’t working.

Wrap Up

I’m going to wrap up this post here. There is a lot in this. I would consider this to be a little more advanced than the previous. If the first blog post over easy contacts is a 1/5 for difficulty, I would give these a 2/5. I will follow up with a more advanced post next. This will outline specific cases, and in some instances, require special equipment. As always, thank you for reading.

My Dislike of Baofeng Radios


Like many operators, I got my start into amateur radio with a Baofeng. It was a low cost radio on Amazon. The appeal was the price. It had almost no features. In retrospect, the best feature is the dual VFOs, which a surprising amount of radios do not do. I was a broke college student that wanted to try a new hobby but didn’t want to break the bank. A quick search of the internet yielded Baofeng. They were Chinese made radios, but many common items are Chinese made. I didn’t understand what the problem was.

My Experience

When I got my license, I programmed the radio for the repeaters in the area and started to listen. I listened for a while because callsigns went so fast. People said them just like they say their own name. It was tough to pick up on them, at least for me. I listened so I would get used to hearing callsigns. Then, something strange started happening.

With a Baofeng radio, you can program in a channel 0. I used this for the NOAA weather frequency in the area. On channel 1, I programmed in the local Skywarn repeater. I noticed that as I listened to the Skywarn repeater, I was getting a signal from the NOAA station. I didn’t really think much of it. The interference started to get worse. Originally, I picked it up from outside where I would sit. After that, I started to get it indoors. It started to pop up more often. After that, I switched frequencies. I started to listen to another repeater. This repeater I had programmed on channel 2. The same thing started to happen. I would hear traffic from channel 1 on channel 2. It was the strangest thing. Being new, I had no idea what was going on.

I stopped using my Baofeng after I made my first contact. I heard someone put their call out on the Skywarn repeater and I called back. We talked for about five or so minutes and then he stopped hearing me. No idea what happened. I was new at the time. My radio stopped transmitting. It would show it was transmitting but the repeater wasn’t hearing my signal. The repeater was about two miles away and the antenna was around 600 ft high on an 800 ft tower. Everyone could reach the repeater. But I wasn’t coming in. A week later, I was at another operator’s house and we worked simplex to test a new antenna he had. We weren’t far apart. Maybe 20 ft at the most. We heard each other fine. But I was not able to hit the repeater, which negated my amateur license. My radio just doesn’t sit in the charger until SHTF. I want to use my radios. At this point, I’ve made one contact and that was cut off. I looked at other radios and was recommended Yaesu by another operator that I have a lot of respect for. I purchased my FT3DR (I’m not a broke college student anymore) and haven’t touched my Baofeng since.

The Chinese Radio Excuse

In my area, there is an operator. Every place has this operator. Your’s might have a different name than mine. This operator is the one that blames everyone else for their problems. Let’s call him Ronald. He gets interference from one of the repeaters. That is the repeaters fault, not his. Does he sign on the repeaters? No. You will never hear his callsign but everyone knows who he is. He claims he gets the repeaters signal on a different frequency, a random simplex channel. Why is he monitoring this simplex frequency? No idea. But he gets the repeater on that frequency. Let’s call this repeater the AB repeater. One day, AB started to give off interference. The club went out to check it and swap it out for another repeater they had on hand. When doing a radio check to see if anyone could hear them, old Ronald keys up. He complains that AB has ruined his hobby and there are too many repeaters in the area. While I agree there are too many repeaters, they do not give off interference… Okay. I understand that one just was but 99% of the time, there are no problems. He claims it is 100% of the time and that he isn’t able to enjoy his hobby. He claims AB’s signal is coming across on a simplex channel. I switch over to check. Nothing. I try it on my FT-991A. Nothing. I test it on my wife’s FT-70DR. Nothing. No one offers to see if there is a local problem. I asked later and it is because he always complains about interference.

How does old Ronald’s problem play into Baofengs? He claims that Chinese made radios give off interference and jams up his station so he can’t enjoy the hobby. Is there any merit to his claims? Probably not. I say probably not because there are quite a few unlicensed people that buy Baofengs so they can play Rambo if SHTF. That is the next section. Back to Ronald. There is a repeater I like to monitor. Let’s call this repeater AC. It is a different repeater from AB. Someone is jamming AC. They keep keying it up. It is a new repeater so it does an auto-shutdown. The repeater comes back on in a few minutes and the same thing happens. Once it happens twice, someone has to manually reset the repeater. Old Ronald comes on the repeater and starts blaming Chinese radios and too many repeaters. He even blames AD, another repeater, for all of his problems, even though he blamed AB for all of his problems a few months earlier.

So what does this have to do with Baofengs? There are a lot of individuals that believe Baofengs will give off signals that can interfere with other radios. Is this the case? There is some evidence that suggests that Baofengs give off spurious signals when transmitting. This is limited to some radios. Testing from the ARRL suggest it is in a good portion of radios. Why is it in Baofengs and not other companies that use Baofeng internals? The other companies test the radios before they leave. This isn’t just isolated to Baofeng. Wouxun and TYT are two other examples of manufacturers that had dodgy radios. Click on this link to be directed to the ARRL article for the supporting evidence. For a summary of the article, Michael Martens (KB9VBR) has a YouTube video outlining everything in the article.

Non-Licensed Preppers

In my area, there has been a rise in the number of people that walk around like every day is the last normal day. What do I mean by that? They open carry into restaurants. So what? They usually have a radio on them and most of the time, that radio is a Baofeng. They are waiting for the SHTF moment.. They want to roll up looking like Meal Team 6, in their XXL surplus camo and Baofeng radios, ready to save the day. They are not licensed. They don’t know the rules, but they have freedom given to them by a higher power that says they can operate their Baofeng whenever they want. This has given Baofeng radios a bad name. I understand that it is like with anything. It isn’t the tool but the individual using it. I completely agree. But when that tool comes at a low cost and high availability, it makes it easy for anyone to get their hands on it. Not only that, but when individuals start acting stupid, it makes it harder on the rest of us that do follow the rules.

One day, I heard someone put out a call. Another guy responded. The reason he responded was because the call wasn’t from this area. He talked like he operated CB radios before. He said things like “10-4” instead of “QSL.” Not that it is a bad thing but it just sounds odd to hear. The guy who responded asked for his name, since he likes to call everyone by their name. The guy gave his name. Looking at his QRZ profile, it wasn’t his name. It is common that people go by different names. A friend of mine goes by his middle name on the air. The call was a 2 call when all the calls around here are 9 calls. He claimed to have grown up here his whole life and lived here. After some more of the conversation, he claimed to have a Baofeng radio and gotten into radio for emergency preparedness. Again, blame the person, not the tool, but it becomes hard to blame the tool when it seems to be the common factor.


I have a love/hate relationship with Reddit. It is a great resource for help but is also filled with some of the dumbest people on the planet. The amateur radio sub-Reddit is filled with gatekeepers, i.e. if you aren’t doing radio the way I do, you aren’t doing real radio. One guy claimed that only experienced operators with years of experience should do FT8. This is what you get with Reddit. The know-it-alls. What does this have to do with Baofengs? There is a constant argument between Baofeng owners and everyone else. As the title of this post suggests, I’m not the biggest fan, but it may be the only thing that some can afford. Who am I to tell someone how they can enjoy the hobby? That is said as long as it is a Baofeng that doesn’t cause violate FCC standards.


I’ve been all over the place in this post. Some positive. Some negative. I’ve laid out both sides. The stronger argument lies against owning a Baofeng, since a large majority of their radios are out of compliance, though the argument against tends to be more emotional. The major argument for buying a Baofeng tends to be the cost. Right now on Amazon, you can purchase a Baofeng UV-5R (the most common Baofeng) for $34.99. That is insane. On DX Engineering, lowest priced, dual band HT is $73.95. This is a Yaesu FT-4XR, a good radio. This is over double the price. The same goes for the Bridgecom BCH-270 at $75.00. So how do you convince someone to spend twice as much on a radio that essential performs the same function? You and I understand that it doesn’t perform the same functions, but to a newly licensed technician, it is the same thing. So how do we do it? We have to state the obvious. The Baofeng radios are poor quality. My radio had a screw fall out. It doesn’t work anymore for sending. The receiving is low quality. It doesn’t allow any room for expansion. With a $75 radio, there is room to expand. As just one example, the poor front end on the Baofeng doesn’t allow for fox hunting or radio direction finding. Programming a Baofeng is a nightmare. It takes so long since it doesn’t do automatic repeater shift. This means that you just can’t tune to a frequency and talk. It takes so much time.


While I do not like Baofengs, I do understand their appeal. They are cheap, which gives a massive incentive to someone new to the hobby. Price is important. This is why we all don’t rock Icom IC-7851 or the Kenwood TS-990S. The goal should be to mentor new operators, rather than just congratulate them on their new license. Rather than just send a radiogram to new operators, give them a call and talk to them. How many operators have radios just sitting in their shack not being used? Show them how to use them and explain why quality radios are important. Explain that using a Baofeng could result in ruining the hobby for others.

Thank You

Thank you for reading. If you have any comments, which this post will create, leave them below or send me an email.

Emergency Preparedness


I want to start off and say that I am not a prepper. If the end of the world were to arrive, I would not be prepared. If a natural disaster were to occur in my area, I could probably handle that. I do not stockpile or panic buy. I have enough supplies for about a week, which is normal for me since I don’t like to go shopping. I do not have a “go bag” or anything similar. I have my normal stuff and that is how it works. All of the “off-the-grid” things I do is to be more environmentally friendly or as an experiment to see what is possible. When I selected my amateur radio equipment, I picked it based off features and not off what would happen when I’m surrounded by zombies or whatever else. I use a Yaesu FT3DR for my HT, an FTM-400XDR for mobile, and an FT-991A for my base station. These are not rugged, backpacking style radios.

Recent events with COVID-19 has had me thinking about emergency preparedness. Looking at it from an objective standpoint, amateur radio doesn’t really serve much of a purpose now, outside of testing equipment. I know that I have a bunch of people ready to send me angry tweets and comments, but I will explain my thoughts as we go. I did say it doesn’t serve a purpose now, and I truly mean now. This could change in the future, but right now, we still have power, running water, and communications. It is best that we stay at home and follow social distancing policies rather than getting in the way with what we think is helping. Staying at home is helping, but there are things you can do. Watching Julian’s videos (OH8STN) demonstrates many aspects of emergency preparedness that are vital. Yes, he does talk about amateur radio, but he also talks about other aspects that are important. When I was learning the menu items and how to program a radio I had, I stumbled across a YouTube channel, which I will not name, that made the following comment. “When your life is on the line, when you are in a flash flood, when there is an earthquake, when you are holding onto a tree…” The comment continues from there. In all of those situations, there are things much more important than knowing how to operate a radio.

The Purpose of Radio

As I said before, radio isn’t important now, and I really mean now. We still have powers, water, and our communications infrastructure. This could obviously change. For now, your average radio operator would just be getting in the way. The best thing we can do is to practice social distancing. I know it seems like we aren’t helping, but we are. We are slowing the spread and allowing health care professionals to do their job.

So what can we do? That is easy. Test your equipment. In my post about my first POTA activation, I showed many of the flaws in my equipment setup. Those have been corrected. I still need to do another run to check for more holes. Right now, the trucks are running and your favorite ham radio supplier is still shipping items. This is the time to order anything you may need. Then, do another run to check for holes. Once you think your equipment is ready, practice setting up and tearing down your equipment. How are you going to transport equipment if you have to leave your house? Does your radio take a spot for another piece of vital equipment? I operate an FT-991A, which isn’t the most portable radio, but I don’t have to take a tuner or sound card for digital operations. I can also operate on HF, VHF, and UHF from the same radio. On the downside, if my touchscreen gets damaged, my radio will no longer function. This leads into the next topic.

What do you need from your radio?

As stated above, I operate an FT-991A. This is a “shack in a box” radio, meaning I don’t need a bunch of extra equipment like a sound card or tuner. Let’s step back and take an objective look. Do you run a resonate antenna? If yes, then you do not need a tuner. Do you need multiple bands? If no, you don’t need a tuner, given your antenna is resonate for the band you with to operate. Do you plan to operate digital or packet radio? If no, you do not need a sound card. Do you need to operate on VHF/UHF? If no, you don’t need a radio that can do everything. Do you need 100 W? If no, you can do with a QRP radio. Right there, I just slimmed down your radio and made the FT-991A useless. Originally, I planned to get an Icom IC-7300 but went with the FT-991A instead because it include VHF/UHF. This may not be necessary.

Using the above criteria, I would need a radio like the FT-991A. I would not want to compromise. If weight was an issue, I would slim down to something like the FT-891. Why the FT-891? Having 100 W is important to me. I do not have enough experience to operate QRP. I also like having a screen that I can read. I could operate with a resonate antenna, like a SOTABeams antenna. I would drop digital modes as I don’t know how to use many of the digital modes that are common for emergency communications, though I would like to learn them. There are compromises that you have to decide on. What is important? Right now, full features are important. Again, that could change.

VHF/UHF Handhelds/Mobile

Yes, VHF/UHF are important. Much of the communication happening is happening local. You will need to talk to people across town, which is done on VHF/UHF, possible through a repeater. Back to the previous example. I use an FT3DR for my HT. I have this HT because it does VHF and UHF (there are radios that are mono band), split modes, APRS, and can be used as a packet radio. Asking questions about the functions. Do you need APRS? Do you need dual bands? Do you need VHF/UHF packet functions? These are practical questions. When providing communications for an event, having APRS is important but may not be in emergency communications. *RANT* For some reason, Fort Wayne is a deadzone for APRS. We have one digipeater on the north end of town and one receive only iGate on the south end of town. APRS function is limited. Why, in a city of 200,000+ people, do you not have a better infrastructure for APRS? *END* Let’s say none of those functions are important, having a rugged radio would be a better option. Yaesu’s VX series is a good example of a rugged radio. The VX-6R does 2 m/ 1.25 m/70 cm and is water resistant and dust resistant. This would be a better radio.

Looking at a mobile radio, I use an FTM-400XDR. This is a full function mobile radio. A lot of operators use this as their VHF/UHF shack radio, which is awesome because it is a sick radio. Is this the best option for emergency communications? I would argue that out of all my radios, this probably has the best feature for emergency communications in cross-band repeat. Cross-band repeat allows you to talk into the radio on a UHF frequency and the radio will repeat it back out on your Band A frequency. You can park your car on a hill and have it rebroadcast your signal out, eliminating the difficulties associated with VHF/UHF.

The Ideal Radio

Julian, OH8STN, made an amazing comment when talking about the FT-818. I suggest you watch his video over the FT-818. The comment I’m focused on is when he talks about how companies do not take into account how radios will be used when designing them. I couldn’t agree with this statement more. While I’m not a prepper, there are features that I feel radios should have and manufacturers drop the ball when including these features. Look at the FT-818. It could have been the perfect radio.

Let me design the FT-819. While I’m not a massive QRP fan, I understand that less power means having more available time to operate. First, replace the battery with a lithium ion battery. Have you seen the size of the battery in the FT-818? It is a unit of a battery. Compare that to my cell phone battery, which is slim and double the capacity of the FT-818 battery. This is an easy fix. The battery exists to do all of this. “This will increase the price.” The radio is already expensive for what it offers. What is $50 or $100 extra to add a killer feature? How about the option to charge this battery using a USB battery bank? How about adding an antenna tuner to the FT-891? While I’m talking about this, Icom went and did it. The IC-705, while expensive, is a killer radio. Imagine the IC-7300 but QRP and with VHF/UHF. No compromise. I know they don’t have 100% identical features, but the only downside to the IC-705 is the price. At the same time, you can’t get a Rolls Royce for the price of a Ford Fiesta. The IC-705 is the perfect QRP radio. Yes, I did say perfect. Small, lightweight, full featured, and beautiful. Let’s be honest, if you have to look at this thing all day, you at least want it to look good.

What about a portable radio? It already exists. Yaesu had the VX-8DR. What did they replace it with? The VX-6R, a shameful radio. The VX-8DR was a full featured radio that did everything and was rugged. The VX-6R does 1.25 m and drops APRS. I understand there is a dedicated group of people that operate on 1.25 m, but those same people can also operate on 2 m and 70 cm. On the other hand, there are lots of people that can’t operate on 1.25 m. I, for example, don’t have a radio that can. I also have no desire to. We only have one repeater in town that operates on 1.25 m. I don’t feel like I’m missing out. The VX-6R could be a good radio. How? Add the ability to charge over USB. I would sell my FT3DR for an FT4DR if it could charge over USB. Same with the FT-70DR, my wife’s radio. The FT-70DR is one of the best radios that Yaesu makes. Why am I obsessed with USB charging? Because everything does it. There are USB chargers everywhere. I have a USB charger in my car. A car that doesn’t even have electric locks. I also carry a battery bank with me everywhere. It is 21,000 mAh, enough to charge the FT3DR battery around 9-10 times. Because this cannot be done, I carry around 2 FT3DR batteries and the optional accessory that allows me to function off AAA batteries, which can be charged using USB but limited the radio to low power. Hold on one moment. Does the IC-705 do VHF/UHF? Yes, it does. Just buy that.

For a mobile radio, make the FTM-400XDR from gold. It is already a good radio so having it in gold is the ultimate flex. The complaints I have about it have been explained in a previous post. Most of those do not ruin the emergency communications function of the radio, like having the speaker on the body rather than the head unit. Or having the mic plug into the body rather than the head unit.


While I’m not a prepper, communications is important. During the current stage of COVID-19, amateur radio operators are not important. This can change. Right now, it is important that we identify flaws in our equipment and move to correct those, so if the time comes, we are ready to go. Test your equipment. Practice setting up and tearing down your equipment. Familiarize yourself with the features and functions. This way you will be prepared, if the time comes. COVID-19 did a really good job of reminding us that threats are always looming. Diseases are slow moving and take their time, giving us more time to prepare. Not panicking, like the toilet paper buyers did, is priority. Keep a level head. Focus on the basics. Keep yourself healthy. Stay in good physical shape, so if there is an earthquake, or a flash flood, or you are stuck in a tree, that you will remember what power setting your radio is in, I mean so you can best handle the situation that you are in. You cannot operate your radio if you aren’t capable of overcoming the situation you are in.

Thank You

Thank you for reading. I enjoyed writing this post as I feel it points out the flaws in the thinking of many radio preppers but also flaws in how our equipment isn’t designed to handle many of these situations. I would like to urge everyone to ask their favorite radio manufacturer to design a radio that is useful outside of their shack. Field day is a massive event for the amateur radio community. Why not have a radio that can handle it?

Physical Fitness and Amateur Radio


A large part of the interest in amateur radio is emergency preparedness. Just as there are subsections of amateur radio like satellites and DXing, there is a subsection of operators who are interested in emergency communications. This subsection relies on setting up a portable field station and operating remotely, sometimes off the grid. Operators work to streamline gear for portability and ease of use. Stations are stripped to their bare minimums for operation. An excellent example of a portable field station can be seen with OH8STN, Julian. His field station has been cut down to the bare essentials with no excess equipment taken. Even if operators are not into emergency communications, lessons can be learned from operators like Julian for how a POTA or SOTA kit can be streamlined. His critique of equipment doesn’t just highlight flaws in portable field equipment but all equipment.

There is one thing that many operators forget and that is themselves. A large emphasis is put on equipment but that equipment has limited use if you cannot get it to the field and deployed in a timely manner. After attending Fort Wayne Hamfest, it became clear that many of the ARES and RACES operators are not equipped to help others, not because their equipment is flawed, but they lack the the ability to be effective field operators. Many of the ARES/RACES members were overweight, required the use of a walker, or both. While I’m not one to say how one can enjoy their hobby, a life or death situation requires the best from these operators. This is why I feel physical fitness is important to the field operator. While physical fitness isn’t the cure for many physical maladies, it can help with many cardiovascular issues.

Starting Point

As with any sort of physical fitness, it is important to consult with your physician. For many, too much exertion can cause issues in itself. It is also important to consult with a personal trainer if you have never performed any physical fitness before. Form, for many activities, is important. There are many places to start. Signing up for a marathon isn’t the right answer. Going for a 30 minute walk may be a better answer. Ten minutes of yoga may also be a better answer. This will depend on your goals. As a field operator, it is important to have a good, all-around fitness over any one area. What this looks like depends on you. If you operate a lot of POTA/SOTA, being able to hike for extended periods while carrying gear may be what you are looking for. If you drive to a local field site and unload from there, having solid upper body and core strength will be important. Julian, for example, makes his way to his field site using his fat tire bike. This requires a proper bike fit, instruction on proper cycling form, and endurance to turn the pedals for the journey. What this looks like for you depends on you.


I would say this is one of the more important parts. Endurance is your ability to continue an activity for an extended period. This doesn’t have to be long distance running. This can be hiking, cycling, kayaking, standing, or a combination of everything.

So how can someone start? Easy, go on a walk. It doesn’t have to be an epic walk in snow, ten miles, uphill both ways. Start with a walk in a local park. Do a single lap. Do this every other day. Make it every day. Add another lap. Do whatever fits your schedule. A park near me is a 1/2 mile walk. The park is 1.1 miles around. Three laps plus the walk there is enough after work. It takes about an hour to do. I could walk longer, but there are other responsibilities I have. On the weekend, we take our dog hiking at the local trails. He enjoys the outdoors, and it gives us extended time to hike. We are out about two hours or more, depending on how the dog feels. We carry water for us and the dog.

Treadmills are an option too. In the winter time, I do use a treadmill. I usually run on it but will walk on occasion, especially the day after a hard run. Start with something that is manageable. As with anything, stop if you experience pain. Fatigue and soreness are different than pain. See a physician if you experience pain during any physical exercise.

Cycling is a great option. It puts less stress on your joints and provides a good workout. The nice thing about cycling is that you can cover more ground than walking/running in a shorter period of time. You can bike to the store, work, lake, park, etc. Commuting by bike to work is a great option for fitness. There are plenty of cycling clubs that offer experiences for different fitness levels. Cycling is more expensive than running. At a minimum, you need a bike, a helmet, and glasses. Yes, a helmet is important. It helps protect your head in the event of a fall. I’ve fallen from my bike quite a few times and most of them would have ended poorly if I wasn’t wearing a helmet. Glasses, either sunglasses or clear lenses, are important to protect your eyes from debris. You can get moving at a decent speed. You need to have a way of preventing debris, and bugs, from entering your eye. An easy way to do this is by getting safety glasses from a hardware store. Most offer decent protection and don’t cost all that much.

These are just a few things you can do. I don’t lift weights myself. If I did, I would do it under the supervision of a personal trainer at least until I learned the proper technique and form. Use this as a baseline and build upon the information.


Diet is a terrible term. It implies some strange eating dogma that you have to follow. A better term would be proper eating. This is limiting what you eat but not eliminating anything. There are certain foods that are better than others. The best thing to do is consult a dietitian, not a nutritionist. A dietitian has formal education and licensing to make them a healthcare professional. A nutritionist does not. Want to see how easy it is to be a nutritionist? I’m a nutritionist. Do I have a license or any education relating to human nutrition. No, obviously not, but I said that I’m a nutritionist and that makes me a nutritionist.

For myself, I follow a simple rule. Calories in vs calories out. I use a Fitbit to track my activity. It estimates how many calories are burned based off certain factors. I also enter what I eat. As long as your calories in is under your calories out, you should lose weight. That being said, everyone is different. Don’t starve yourself. If you didn’t do that much physical activity, don’t skip meals. Maybe skip the Coke or cake at the end.

One essential to avoid is the payment form of dieting. That means, don’t think because you did a two hour walk that you can eat two of everything from the Taco Bell menu. You don’t burn as many calories as you think. Running burns around 100 calories each mile. This means it take 1.4 miles to burn off a can of Coke. It would take 5-6 miles to burn off a Big Mac. It take 2.2 miles to burn off a Snickers. This is in addition to anything else consumed during the day. Stick to limiting your calorie intake by eating properly. Use the Fitbit app or other fitness tracking apps to log food intake. Be honest. No one else will see it but you.

The Secret

We all wonder what the secret to fitness is. There is a secret. It is consistency. Walking for three hours each night for a week doesn’t help any if you only go out twice for an hour each night the next week. Make a meaningful schedule and stick to it. It does get repetitive but that is what yields results. When I was training for Powerman Michigan, I did nearly the same workouts nearly every week. I was in the best shape of my life. The workouts weren’t crazy hard. They were just consistent with consistent effort. I did add in some variation, but for the most part, it was just consistency. It took me a bit to find out what worked for me. You have to find what works for you.

The Goal of This Post

The goal is to increase emergency preparedness by increasing physical performance. “You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself.” This plays true in this situation. You need to be able to perform your role as a field radio operator. Fitness plays into this. There is no need to be an Olympic level athlete. Just fit enough that you don’t get winded from the car to your field station. There is a surprising number of people manning the ARES booth at the hamfest that look like they were enlisted on MEAL Team 6. This is something that I feel needs addressed by the amateur radio community, especially if these are the people we will rely on if anything happens. While I’m not a “prepper” or one of the many emergency communication groups, fitness is important for other aspects of amateur radio. For me, it revolves around hiking for POTA/SOTA activation, but if there ever is an incident that I must evacuate my home and provide emergency communications from a field location, fitness becomes an essential part of the portable field station.

Wrap Up

Thank you for reading this post. It is more of a rant than a post but hopefully my point is understood. This isn’t to poke fun or harass anyone in the amateur radio community. It is just to highlight a problem that I see. As always, leave a comment below. If you disagree, let me know why or what you think a potential solution could be. Follow on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Thank you again for reading.

First Parks on the Air Activation


Park on the Air (POTA) was one of the original reasons I got into amateur radio. As someone who enjoys all aspects of the hobby, I feel it provides a good intersections between contesting and portable emergency communications. It involves a fair bit of planning and work to setup and maintain a station during a POTA activation. Having a POTA bag, usually built similar to a go bag, is something that many frequent park activators have.

For those who don’t know, Parks on the Air involves an amateur radio operator (activator) taking equipment to a park listed on the POTA website, setting up, and contacting as many stations as possible (hunters). There are a variety of parks that offer a variety of conditions. Some are flat with no trees or power. Others offer trees and power on site. Some have restrictions to putting anything into the ground. Others allow you to if you have a campsite. In order for an activation to be considered successful, the activator must contact ten hunters using any band and any mode. The most common band is 40 meters with SSB as the most common mode, though CW is still very popular. Many parks are active on 20 meters but the current solar cycle may reduce the amount of contacts. I’ve seen 2 m activations. I’ve seen 80 m. Those are more rare but they still happen.

The Plan

The site we (NM9L and myself) had selected was Kil-So-Quah State Recreation Area (K-5683). A parking lot was selected that had no power and trees. We would be running off battery power. NM9L used a SOTABeams 40-20 m dipole attached to painters pole mast in his hitch mount. I brought two antennas to test. One was the Slinktenna by QuirkQRP. I purchased this antenna as a low cost, low weight SOTA/POTA antenna. For those who found this blog but haven’t found anything about the Slinktenna, it is essentially a coil center fed dipole with a 9:1 UnUn in the center. All of it packs nicely into a small PVC container and weighs an alright amount. It isn’t the lightest antenna but does weigh less than my MyAntenna end-fed. It does use a BNC connector, which I put an adapter on to switch to an SO-239 connector. My goal was to try to use this antenna. I didn’t know how well it would work so I brought a second antenna. It was the SOTABeam 40/20m. This was different from NM9L’s antenna as it doesn’t do 30 m. He has a second set of alligator clips while mine only has one. Either way, it is a good, quality, and light antenna that fits nicely into a bag. Here is where the fun begins.

Mistake One

Always test your gear. In triathlon, we have a saying. “Nothing new on race day.” I should have followed this advice. This was the first time I had used the Slinktenna. I actually removed the rubber band from the tension/sway kit that I purchased with the antenna. I attached the center to paracord, which wasn’t mine, and sent it up a tree. It came loose. Then, the ends wouldn’t stay attached to the tree that I put them in. It was a nightmare. Then, I tried to tune using the FT-991A internal tuner. It wouldn’t tune. The SWR was way too high. I tried on 40 m. Nothing. Same with 20 m. I did get it to tune on 80 m. When I moved to another frequency in 80 m, it wouldn’t tune. Back at the original, it wouldn’t tune. I couldn’t get it to work. It was to the point that I needed to do something. I decided to switch out antennas.

Mistake Two

The only coax I had that I could easily use was 75 ft of LMR-400 that was still in the package. I purchased this to install when I move my 2 m/70 cm antenna to the roof. Right now, my VHF/UHF antenna is sitting on a box with some low cost, light coax connected to it. This is temporary until the weather improves, and I can get on the roof to install it properly. This light, low cost coax was to be my SOTA/POTA coax as it is light and can be easily transported. There is also only 50 ft of it, which is still a lot for SOTA/POTA, but I’d rather have too much. For those who think that all coax is coax, it isn’t. LMR-400 is low-loss, meaning that it has extra shielding. This extra shielding adds weight but also stiffness. This cable was difficult to use. This was part of the reason my Slinktenna kept coming out of the tree. The Slinktenna wasn’t installed the best, but it didn’t help matters any that there was heavy coax connected to it. Lucky for me, the SOTABeams antennas come with coax built it. It is very light, thin coax, but it works.

Mistake Three

I pulled the SOTABeams antenna out of the carrying bag. This is when I noticed the next problem. The coax terminates with a BNC connector. I didn’t have the appropriate connector to connect it to my radio. This was not good. I had an antenna that I knew would work as NM9L was operating with a similar antenna but wouldn’t connect to my radio, because I didn’t remove the antenna from the bag and check the connector. Again, nothing new on race day. This was race day and I showed up with two flat tires and no shoes. This was a nightmare. Not only that, but I would have to use a tree to put the antenna up in since my mast hadn’t been delivered yet. I was obviously frustrated at this point. NM9L had another antenna. He had a QRP Guys end-fed antenna. The problem is that it was limited to 10 W. I’m not a QRP fan. I understand that some operators really like it. It just isn’t for me. I enjoy my 100 W. Anyway, I didn’t have a choice. It was the only antenna with a connector I could use.

Mistake Four

Always show up with everything you might need. We needed to string up this end-fed antenna. It would have been awesome if I would have brought a throw bag and some paracord. Guess what was sitting in my lounging room. You’re right. A throw bag and some lime green paracord. The same paracord I use for my end-fed at home to tie it down. I had to borrow some paracord to attach to the antenna and the borrowed throw bag. The antenna went over a tree. It went up fairly easily. After that, I strung the antenna through a short length of paracord and staked it to the ground. The parking lot asphalt extended further than I thought so I had to put the stake into some really soft ground. It wasn’t straight because there was a used condom by the ideal stake point, and I wanted to stay far away from that. Once it was up, I hooked the coax into it. I turned the power down and activated.

Mistake Five

Once everything was in place, I picked a frequency to activate on, checked if it was clear, spotted myself, and called CQ. I planned to use Notepad since I had no WiFi and was on 3G, which is nearly unusable. After calling CQ, it was a flood of people. I didn’t expect that many from QRP. This unsettled me for a bit until around the 5th call. I was struggling to write down calls. I was also trying to fight with Notepad. I should have had a spreadsheet open to keep track of everything. I hit nine calls and needed ten for the activation to count. I tried again. Nothing. Then, there was a conversation happening on net. With limited cell service, it would have taken too long to re-spot myself. I took a small break and tried again. I ended up getting a few more. I hit my ten and then some, but it was not an easy process. After about 90 minutes, we packed up and headed back.

Odds and Ends

I took my GoPro and Tascam to record but didn’t take a chair. Me and my radio were sitting on the ground. While not the end of the world, it was not comfortable. My hand mic ended up getting scratched from the asphalt, along with a few other things. I should have planned for this a little better. I also didn’t factor the sun into consideration. I didn’t have sunglasses, so I had to adjust my position a lot to not blind myself. My radio is an FT-991A, which I love, except when I had to read a full color touch screen in the sun. I should have accounted for this by taking a notebook to cover it.

Take Aways

Always test equipment before heading out. This means everything from coax to radios to antennas. Every problem I encountered was operator error. This means I could have avoided all of them with a little bit of planning. I could have taken everything outside and tested it the day before. I didn’t even need to go outside. Just by looking at my equipment, I could have solved a lot of the problems.

Make sure you have all the appropriate connectors. My Slinktenna has a perminant BNC to SO-239 connector since I don’t have any radios or coax with BNC. I plan to do the same for the SOTABeams antenna, but this would have been good to have during my activation.

Packing appropriate items like a throw bag and paracord would have made everything so much smoother. I took a multi-tool with me to cut the zip-tie off my coax. I could have used this same multi-tool to cut a length of paracord, if I remembered to bring any. I could have also packed a chair to make activating so much easier. I had assumed there would be a bench or table to use. It would have been better to ask or to check an aerial photo.

Hope for the best and plan for the worst. I should have assumed no internet and had a spreadsheet or logging software ready to go rather than trying to fight Notepad. I spent the time to pack non-essentials, like a laptop, and didn’t even have the essentials on it. I had assumed that I would have had good cell service so I could tether my laptop to it. Planning ahead would have solved this.

Wrap Up

While this may have seemed like a failure, this was a successful park activation. I logged ten contacts, meaning it will count for POTA, but I also learned a lot about my equipment and what I need for the future. I was talking to a colleague about my days as a professional StarCraft player. I told him that I could teach anyone how to play StarCraft, but nothing beats the 20,000 games I’ve played. That is how I feel today. The 90 minutes of struggle have given me insight into how to better operate in the future. My plan is to head to Michigan for research this summer. The primary goal is research but that doesn’t mean I can’t take my radio and have some fun. NM9L said it best. “It is better we struggle here than at Michigan.” I couldn’t agree more.

Thank You

Thank you for reading. This was a fun adventure. It may not seem like it, but I had a good time. If you have any questions, leave a comment or send me an email. You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram. YouTube is still in the works. I have some videos that are being edited. I will post them when I get a chance. Thank you again.


Adam, KD9NRT

How to make an easy contact (Part 1)


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.

Thoughts on Common Sense Radio Manufacturing


I recently installed a Yaesu FTM-100DR in my wife’s car and an FTM-400XDR in my car. Both of these radios are good quality, but they could have been excellent given some common sense decisions from Yaesu. Although it may seem like I’m hard on Yaesu, it is simply because I own all Yaesu radios. They are very capable and provide great features. I just feel there are decisions they make which could make all their radios be amazing, especially with their more feature rich radios.


The FTM-100DR is a mobile, digital radio that has APRS built-in. I am a massive fan of APRS. Although there are more features on this radio than my wife will use, it is allows for her to expand into those features. The radio features two channels that can be monitored, but not at once. It is not dual VFO. This means that you cannot have APRS running while monitoring a second channel. It seems like a design oversight that a mid-tier radio doesn’t offer dual VFOs, especially in a radio that has APRS. My wife is then forced to make a compromise. Does she activate APRS and use the radio as a tracker? Does she have APRS off and monitor a repeater? Does she use the Group Monitor (GM) function? She can only do one at a time. A massive design flaw which could have been overcome with some common sense. Dual VFO could easily fix this problem.

The menu isn’t easy to use. Since it is a mobile radio, many of the features should be right up from and easy to access without needing to hunt through the menus. This isn’t an option. It takes around 7 seconds to turn on APRS if you know where it is in the menu. This is a lot of time to have your eyes off the road. It would have been easy to replace the TXPO button with an APRS menu button allowing for quick access to the APRS on/off function. Again, another issue that could be fixed with common sense design.


This section applies to both radios, but I will focus on the FTM-400XDR since you are not capable of attaching the head unit to the radio body. Why is this an issue? Having a separate radio body and head unit suggests that the manufacturer intends or at least offers the user the ability to mount the radio body in a separate location from the head unit. This is a great feature as it gives the user more flexible installation locations. The issue is the speaker is located on the radio body. I chose to mount my radio in my truck, since I have a hatchback. There is plenty of space in the hatch and it doesn’t put a radio in the passenger space where it may become damaged. With the radio in the trunk, I can’t hear the speaker. I had to purchase a separate speaker and run an additional wire from the trunk to the front. The speaker from Yaesu is rather large, making it difficult to mount. This problem could have been solved by having a small speaker on the head unit. My phone has a very loud speaker that could have been installed on the radio. This couldn’t have been all that expensive. It just seems like an oversight on a $450 radio.

The other issue is the DTMF mic. The mic is pretty good. It has a nice red glow on the buttons when the lamp is active that doesn’t cause light interference when active. The buttons are easy to read. The issue is that the cable needs to plug into the radio body. Again, you will need a cable unless the radio is mounted within the cable distance. Yaesu doesn’t make the cable, at least that I could find. I ordered a cable from eBay that is good quality, but this seems like a design oversight. A simple fix would be to have the a plug on the radio body that can accepts audio. This is the same if you have the camera mic, except the extension cable is $55. This isn’t even a great fix since the camera mic doesn’t have a speaker connection. It will transmit your voice, but a speaker is still needed to hear audio. Another design oversight on a $450 radio.


While I’ve listed some solutions above for the problems, many of these problems could be fixed if Yaesu used their radios before manufacturing. There are plenty of operators that will put their radio through the paces. It just seems like they didn’t ask what their radios may be used for. I identified this on two radios, but this same thing could be said about the FT-818 or the FT2DR. Use common sense in manufacturing. The FT-818 is a bad radio, forever. It is unfortunate from a company that made one of the best radios with the FT-911A and the FT3DR.

Finishing Up

Thank you for reading. I plan to do an actual review on the FTM-100DR, FTM-400XDR, FT3DR, FT-70D, and FT-991A in the future. I just wanted to become more familiar with the radios first. Make sure you follow on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date on post. Comment below if you have any questions or feedback. Thank you again.

-73, Adam