Over the past few months this blog has suffered due to a lack of posts. The culprit? A slight preoccupation with a new hobby that I believe has great potential in the outdoors. Let me explain.
Several weeks back I read a blog post that tweaked my interest. That post, along with several others like this one, helped me add a new hobby to my répertoire. The hobby? Amateur radio. Now, I know what you are probably thinking. Ham radios are for geeks who are into an old electronics hobby fast becoming outdated due to technology. Well, while some parts of that statement might indeed ring true, such a broad characterization is completely wrong.
My mobile radio can easily reach repeaters 40 or more miles away. With proper linking, however, it can talk to stations located all around the world.
What if I told you that while on your next Colorado elk hunt you could have communications virtually anywhere you go. I’m not talking satellite communications costing $1 or more a minute. Nope, I’m talking good old fashioned modulated radio waves using technology that has helped win wars, save lives and been around for over 100 years. Potentially, that same technology could allow your spouse to use their smart phone and talk with you on a handheld transceiver clear across the country. Would I get your attention then?
The deeper I got into “ham” or amateur radio the more intrigued I got with its potential in many facets of life, particularly the outdoors. With the right equipment, the right skills and privileges, the potential exists to communicate anywhere on the globe.
I’m not really intending for this blog post to be a primer on amateur radio here in the U.S., but here are some points you should know:
- Essentially there are three levels of amateur radio the FCC recognizes (Technician-which is entry level, General-which provides nearly all bands of radio frequency communication, and Extra-which is sort of a master level giving all privileges possible under U.S. amateur radio communications law)
- To get your Technician certification the cost currently is $15 and requires a person to pass a 35 multiple-choice question test (must score 26 or more correct to pass)
- NO MORSE CODE. That’s right…you don’t have to learn a new language as was once required.
- Books are available for self-instruction. Classes are also given for those who wish to learn in that manner.
- For the most part, Hams are a friendly bunch willing to help you out when you get into a bind.
- Now for the somewhat controversial statement in the Ham world. Radios can be purchased for as little as around $35 so the hobby doesn’t need to cost you big dollars to get going.
Well, my investment was mostly just time. Yup, I studied for the Technician level back in May and found I wanted to go a bit beyond that. I got “the bug” and wanted to learn more. So, a few weeks ago I tested for my General level and that is now where I am content to be. A full fledged new Ham with lots of fun in store developing this new hobby.
Of course, I’m certainly not advocating the use of radios while hunting or in the pursuit of game. No, my intention is how this technology can be used for hunting camps to stay in touch with one another or hunters to stay in touch with family back home. Some of these radios even have the ability to track a sportsman allowing a family not only to talk to them, but to know where they are at all times for safety reasons.
Handheld transceivers (HTs) can be easily packed into remote areas of the outdoors for reliable communication. Often times more reliable than cellular phones.
If you want to explore the world of amateur radios a bit more now is the perfect time to check it out. Each year during the fourth weekend in June there’s an event called ARRL Field Day taking place in locations around the country. Check out this map for a location near you. The Field Day (which actually lasts for 24 hours) is sort of a fun contest where ham clubs gather and test out new equipment, attempt to make as many contacts (around the world) with other folks, but mostly they are there to show potential new hams this fabulous hobby.
Many of these Field Days coming up this weekend will even have GOTA (Get On The Air) possibilities where you can try things out under the tutelage of an experienced ham operator and ask questions. I strongly encourage you even if this only mildly sparks an interest to go check it out. You might discover a great new adventure awaits you that can easily be enjoyed during your time in the outdoors.
That’s it for now. I bid you 73s de K0AOM…clear and off the air.