Ham Radio – What Is It and Why Should Every Outdoor, Off Road, Adventurer Have One?
What is Ham Radio?
Ham Radio is a form of voodoo magic that exists to help keep people in contact with each other over long distances. You can setup a ham radio in the form of a mobile radio (something in your vehicle), or a handheld (HT) (think of a walkie talkie, but more power!), or a home station setup. Some people even make sport out of climbing up to the tops of mountains, setting up a radio station run on batteries, and see how many people they can talk to. When other communication services don’t work for you, ham radio most likely will. This is why ham radio is the go to choice for emergency communications for anyone that ventures off into the woods.
Why Should I Get A Ham Radio?
Have you ever been out camping or hiking, and need to make a phone call but don’t have cell reception? Or maybe you were out off roading on the Rubicon and you broke a drive shaft, but couldn’t get ahold of someone to come help. Or maybe you were driving in winter conditions, and your GPS told you to go left, which turned out to be a PG&E access road covered in snow, claiming its latest victim. Or maybe you are planning a week long overlanding trip, and need to stay in contact with your friends and family so they know you are okay.
When all other forms of communication don’t work, ham radio probably will. With its long range, crisp and clean signal, and ability to use repeaters, ham radio is the king and champ when it comes to emergency communications services. CBs, in the outdoors, tend to get garbled signals and short distance. Unfortunately, they just can’t compete with ham radios. Check out our article on Ham Radio vs CB to find out why!
Check out our other article on GMURS, MURS, FRS and “race radios” to see how they suffer from not having the support of many repeaters. So, you can talk just fine from vehicle to vehicle, but when you need help, you will still be limited to about 5 miles.
Once you get down into the long range ham radio frequencies, you can easily talk across the country and even to other countries. Once you have the ability to talk to another country, it doesn’t matter where you are or what happened to you, you will always be able to find help for whatever situation happens.
Think of ham radio as your insurance policy to get help if you ever end up stuck or lost in the outdoors during an adventure.
Ham Radio Licenses. Don’t I Need One?
In short, Yes. In order to transmit on a ham radio frequency, you must be licensed by the FCC in the United States. This is not because the FCC doesn’t want people using ham radios, on the contrary, they want more and more people on ham frequencies. But, because of the power and capabilities of ham radios, you need to know certain things… like contacting North Korea could lead to a bad situation. (And trust me, you definitely, inadvertently could)
There are 3 different levels of licenses for Amateur Radio Operators (Hams!): Technician, General, and Extra. The difference between each of these 3 levels is how many transmission frequencies you are allowed to talk on.
As a Technician, the main thing you will probably start with and make lots of use of, is repeaters. Repeaters are automatic radios that are usually situated on hilltops, mountains, ridges, etc. They receive your incoming signal, and repeat it out (from that higher elevation) at a higher power. Thus increasing the range of your little handheld from 5-10miles to upwards of 300 miles! How many people do you think are within 300 miles of you when you are stuck out in the woods?
Once you get your General License, the whole world opens up to your fingertips (literally and figuratively!). The General Class frequencies have the ability to “skip” or “propagate” in our ionosphere. This awesome phenomenon allows radio signals with only 5 watts of power to travel out to other countries. And some of the fun of being a General Class Ham, is you never know where your signal will come back down to earth from the ionosphere. One second you could be in California talking to Colorado, and then all of a sudden be talking to someone in Quebec, and then 5 minutes later be talking to someone in Lithuania!
But, with great power comes great responsibility, and you will need to know a little more about electronics and safe practices to get your General Class.
The Extra Class just gets your more frequency privileges than a General Class. We here at My Off Road Radio get you started into the Technician License so that you can get on the air and get help in the outdoors when an emergency arises.
Online Ham Radio Class
That is what My Off Road Radio is here for. We offer the an online ham radio class to get you to not only pass your test, but to make sure you truly understand what you are learning. A lot of classes out there are geared towards the ham radio hobbyist that is into electronics, or antenna theory, or contesting, or bouncing signals off of satellites.
We at M.O.R.R. understand that a lot of people that venture off into the woods, or spend a week on the Rubicon, or spend 2 weeks hiking the PCT may not know a whole bunch about electricity, and may not want to. So we have developed a curriculum specifically geared towards you. The person that LOVES to play in the outdoors. The person that LOVES to get away and disconnect. The person that could benefit from using a ham radio for emergency communications, but maybe needs a little more help studying for the test than just memorizing multiple choice answers.
All of our content and material relates back to you, the user, and how it can (and will) benefit you in the outdoors. Head on over to the Online Ham Class section and sign up for your M.O.R.R. Online Ham Radio Technician License Class now!
If you would rather have more of a hands on, in person experience, you can check out our in person ham cram classes. If you and your club want to setup a full day session on a weekend in the Sacramento area, get in contact with us!
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You can also join the community forums and ask questions and see what adventures everyone else is up to!
Also, if you don’t have your Ham Radio Technician License, head over to our Online Ham Radio Class and study up! Remember, 15% of your registration goes back into keeping our trails open!