Echolink, IRLP, Digital vs Analog, Ham Radio!

Echolink, IRLP, Digital vs Analog, Ham Radio!


One of the things I love about this business, is that I get to help make an impactful difference with others’ off road trail communication options and decisions. Every once in a while, I get a great series of questions via email from you guys. The series of emails below covers a couple of topics that are not necessarily things that someone thinks about when looking into ham radio options! And that’s what I love: when discussions lead to outside the box thinking!

Read through the below email chain and let us know if you have any questions or insights on the fun topics of digital vs analog ham radios, and EchoLink or IRLP!

Awesome Ham Radio Email Inquiry!


Hi Tyler,

Hope all is well.  I was now considering putting a mobile unit in my Jeep and was wondering if you still felt the ICOM 2730A is a unit.  Also, is there a good antenna idea to use when at home with my HT?  Made a contact yesterday and the guy knew right away I was in an HT, and said get a home unit, or get an outdoor antenna set up.






Yup, I personally love that Icom 2730A. If you are just looking for trail comms, it is awesome.

For antenna options… there are a bunch. The biggest thing you will need to figure out, is how and where you want to mount the antenna on your rig.

Most people do an L bracket off of a tire carrier, metal fender, rear bumper, front bumper, or roof rack. And then get an NMO style antenna connector when shopping through antennas and coax.

Check out this article for some more information and considerations for off road antennas:

For your home, HT’s suffer big time. The biggest issue is that the antenna is inside the building. Most homes nowadays have a metal chicken wire built into the exterior stucco to help form the stucco and give it structural support. That combined with a metal roof, and you are essentially living in a giant faraday cage. This makes it EXTREMELY difficult for radio signals to get outside of your house. So, what you will want to do is get your antenna to the outside of the house.

One of the easiest ways to do that, is to get a mobile magnetic mount antenna and stick it to a balcony railing, fence rail, any kind of outside metal surface, even a window sill right outside of the building will greatly increase your signal range/effectiveness. There is a good option that will plug n play to the GT-3TP in the antenna article linked above… It is near the end of the article.


BaoFeng UT106 SMA-Female UHF+VHF Antenna ($10.00)


If you are trying to get a really good range from your house, I recommend setting up a “base station”. You can do that with a regular mobile radio (like the 2730A), but you will also need to get a regulated power supply (~100$), a longer run of lower-loss coax, and an antenna mounting option for your house where you can get the antenna up on your roof somewhere.


Lmk if you have more questions!



Hi Tyler,

Thanks for the response.  If I were to get into HAM more, would the 2730a not be sufficient, verses an ICOM 5100? What are the limitations with the 2730 that are missing if I wanted to do more than trail comma? Not sure I would get into it a lot, but thought I would ask.  Thanks.



The 5100 is capable of digital comms as well as analog.


The 2730a is only analog.


With digital, you can link up multiple repeaters around the world… so if you are offroading, and you know that the local repeater is a digital repeater, and so is your home repeater, you can link the 2 together from the 5100 and talk to loved ones back at home.

You can also achieve the same thing with echolink and IRLP on analog repeaters. IMO echolink and IRLP are much easier to use than digital repeater keys and linking protocols. But that only help the person back home to reach you… you wouldn’t be able to connect to a repeater back home from the trail without an internet/phone data connection.


Does that make sense?



I think so, but will need to look up and better understand ecolink and IRLP, but don’t know if I would use it that much.  Therefore the 2730 may be fine for me.  Thanks.



You bet 😊


EchoLink is an internet access system to repeaters… it allows you to access repeaters using your computer, laptop, tablet, or even cell phone. All you need is a callsign and an internet data connection.

VERY useful for contacting someone if you know that they are monitoring a repeater, but you can’t hit the repeater from your radio. People use it all the time on the Rubicon’s repeaters to keep in touch with loved ones at home.



Can you explain more on “you can’t hit the repeater from your radio”?



For example:


You are on the Rubicon, camping at Rubicon Springs, and you want to talk to your family, who happens to be vacationing in New York.

You can physically hit the repeater with your radio, but they can’t hit the repeater with their radio from New York.

So, they get on Echolink on their cell phone/computer, and connect to the rubicon repeater via the internet, while you are just talking straight to the repeater.

You, however, would not be able to connect to a repeater in New York without an internet/data connection from Rubicon Springs.

With a digital radio, you could connect to a repeater in New York from the Rubicon Springs IF the rubicon’s repeater is setup for digital internet bridging (which I am unsure of if it is). Digital internet bridging is becoming more and more popular as time goes on… but right now… for off roaders, the infrastructure isn’t quite there yet to be useful on off road trails. You can pretty much do it no problem from any highly populated areas like the bay area, sacramento, LA, san diego, etc… Just not too many people sprinting to replace mountain repeaters for upgraded digital ones yet lol


Does that make sense?



Got it.  Thanks.  Still sounds like the 2730 would fit my needs.



The 5100 is a sweet radio, but it has a massive learning curve… And, until the infrastructure is there to make use of digital bridged repeaters in off road areas, stick with the 2730A. You will like it.



Got it.  Thanks Tyler for you time and support!



Any time!

Stay safe out there!



Gotta love a good email conversation!


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