Ham Radio for Preppers: The Complete Guide

Ham radio (Amateur Radio) is a very popular subject in the preparedness community, and for good reason. Being able to communicate and gather information in a disaster or SHTF scenario can and will be a game changer.

The problem is, just about everything you read about ham radio for preppers tells you why it’s important but falls short of explaining the complete story. Like why it’s better than the other radio services, and what it will take to do the things you thought you could do.

That’s why I wrote this article and did the 3 video series on ham radio for preppers. This is all the stuff I wish I knew when I first became interested in amateur radio. Everything in these videos is available online, but it can be tough to find, and like sifting through rubble to get the information you’re looking for.

These videos will not only explain how to get your ham radio technician license, but also help you decide if it’s the right choice for you. I cover what the other radio services can do, what types of ranges you can expect, as well as some of the challenges I faced, and the equipment I use.

Basically, if you are just getting interested in ham radio or wondering if you should, watch all 3 videos. You will have a very clear idea about not only ham radio, but GMRS,FRS and MURS as well. If you don’t know what these different radio services are, you will after video 2.

If you spend the 50 minutes to watch these videos, I promise you will save yourself hours of searching on the internet for the same information about the best radio for preppers, and ham radio for preppers in general. 

Video 1 | Ham Radio & Preppers: Basics of Amateur Radio, GMRS, FRS & MURS

  • In this video I go over why ham radio is so popular in the preparedness community and what you can do “right out of the box”. While amateur radio has many applications, it will take time, practice and better equipment to get to that level.
  • I also cover what you can expect from ham radio as far as short range comms, long range comms, MAG groups, bugging out, and how it is useful to preppers in general.
  • To finish off the first video I covered what the actual ranges for different radios like GMRS, MURS, FRS, and Ham are. The manufacturer specs can be very misleading, and this will give you a real idea about what you can expect. 

Video 2 | Radios and Comms for Preppers: GMRS, MURS, FRS, and Ham

  • In this video I go over what the requirements are for GMRS, MURS, FRS and Ham radio. While amateur radio does require a few more steps than these other radio services, it also gives you more options.
  • I also cover in detail what some of the pros and cons are for each of these radio services, and how they might be useful in a disaster scenario. 
  • In this video I talked about the channels available with GMRS, FRS, and MURS. The FCC has recently changed the rules regarding these radios and expanded the channels available. You can read more about that here.

Video 3 | Ham Radio for Preppers: Getting Your Technician License

  • This is the third and final video in the Prepper Comms series. In this video I go over the step by step process of getting your ham technician license. While it can seem pretty daunting at first, getting a ham radio license is easier than you think. 
  • After I covered how to get your ham license, I talked about some of the equipment you will need. I also talked about the equipment I use, and the challenges I faced after I got my license.

Ham Equipment & Links 

Here is a list of the ham radio equipment I mentioned in the video. There is a long list of quality radio supplies available, but after doing quite a bit of research this is what I use.

Questions & Comments

While the information in these videos is fairly basic, it should give you an idea about whether or not ham radio is for you. I did my very best to explain all the details about ham radio and the other radio services for preppers, there may be questions you have.

Just leave a comment below, or send me an email, and I’ll get back to you ASAP. If for some reason I can’t give you the answer you need, I will get you in touch with someone who can.


Dale
Dale

Survival and being prepared should not only be a passion, it should be a lifestyle. The definition of a prepper is "An individual or group that prepares or makes preparations in advance of, or prior to, any change in normal circumstances, without substantial resources from outside sources" Like the Government, police etc. I don't believe that the end of the world will be the "end of the world" I believe it will be the end of the world as we know it now. You can also find me on Google Plus and Twitter

    10 replies to "Ham Radio for Preppers: The Complete Guide"

    • Lindy

      Thanks so much for doing this! It’s great to have this much clear, spelled out information all in one place. I plan to share these videos with our local preparedness group.

    • Scott

      Many preppers think 1. buy a radio 2. Insert in Faraday cage. 3. Done. Wrong… If I did this for a gun 1. Buy a gun (rifle or pistol) 2. Put in my safe 3. Done… it becomes obviously wrong. I gotta know how it shoots. How far… Gotta practice it to be good. Etc. Same with a radio (vhf = pistol hf = rifle)… Requires practice and training. It won’t be breaker breaker 19 for an emergency. Find an Elmer, learn all about radio just like you did for guns.

    • Duwain W8JJV

      Need to do a video on antennas. The real key to effective emergency communications in very difficult situations.

    • Frank

      Don’t forget to add X on the RG8 cable. There is a big difference in the two. Keep up the great work.

    • Joe

      Thanks so much for this, I am trying to create a SHTF plan with my brother in Chicago. I am about 185 miles away, from the sounds of this our only off grid comms option would be that highest level of HAM. Is that correct? Is there any other option out there for us?

      You are the best brother,

      Joe

    • Carey McBride

      I am very new, just passed the test last week. I have questions.
      How far where you able to reach with your Baofeng radio and your “outside” antenna?
      How far where you able to reach a repeater with your mobile and “outside” antenna set up?
      Have your found a mobile radio or other antenna for your home base that you wish you had bought?
      Are you able to find enough contacts to make it all worth while?

      • Michael, AF7KB

        Hi, Carey. Congratulations on passing your exam, and welcome to the hobby.

        I’ve hit a 2 meter repeater some 33 miles from the house with just the Baofeng operating handheld — not even hooked up to our VHF antenna. There’s a catch, though — that repeater is on a hill about 1500 feet high, and there’s a clear shot from my house to the repeater. Very generally speaking, propagation distance for VHF/UHF is very much dictated by terrain, somewhat dictated by your antenna, a little less by your radio’s power, and almost not at all by the brand of your radio.

        Good base antennas can be as simple as a magnetic mount mobile dual band “I got it on Amazon” antenna stuck on the top of your refrigerator, if you’re trying to work relatively short distances. If you’re even a little bit handy you can build yourself a more permanently mountable outdoor antenna — see the ARRL Antenna Book or any number of online sources for simple plans. And there are commercially made outdoor antennas that start, as I recall, at about $60 or $70. (Or there are completely weather-protected, heavy-duty professional grade antennas that can run into the major $$$$.) Then there are directional antennas, such as Yagis, that can be either homemade or bought from dealers. It all comes down to what do you need for your particular situation, goals, and budget; no one can solve that riddle for you, but there are lots of learning resources out there, especially your local ham radio club.

        If nobody mentioned it in your training, your Technician license is just a license to learn. Indeed, even Extra class is STILL just a license to learn more!

        All worthwhile? I don’t know your standards for that. I can only say my wife and I have a lot of fun with the hobby and the people in it. We spend our lives teaching people about it. (I’m the author and narrator of the Fast Track series of license book and audio programs.) There certainly are times when our local Seattle area repeaters are dead as can be when it comes to contacts, but there are also plenty of times when they aren’t. If you’re in a reasonably sized urban area, I think you’ll find contacts. A great place to start is the local “nets” which you can find on Google. If you’re way out in the country, meh, maybe not so much with a Baofeng. That might be a scenario where you’d want something like a 100 watt transceiver and a Yagi on the roof pointed in a useful direction.

    • Carey McBride

      Are you using CB also?

    • RM-45

      Carey, I can help provide a few answers to your questions. HT (handy-talkie) to HT is rather limited using the rubber duck antenna. If you use an outside antenna the range is greatly extended possibly a couple of miles. I’d suggest a “J-pole” antenna over a mag mount mobile antenna. A dual band (144 and 440 MHz) J-pole is cheap (also easy to build). If you are going to use a rubber duck, I’d suggest the Smiley brand.
      Hitting repeaters with an HT and outside antenna is dependent on the repeater receive antenna. I’ve hit repeaters 20 miles away. Repeaters will probably not be available in a grid down situation. Note you can set up your own repeater fairly cheaply; I suggest using GMRS.
      There are very many folks on 2m and 70cm and in this area and many preppers. Check out AmRRON.com for additional info for your area. Note AmRRON also uses CB, GMRS, MURS and FRS to communicate. 73

    • Peter

      I teach ham radio classes for my local club. I have added many new hams in the past year. At least 10 of them were Preppers and many are now part of my MAG. I have been a Amateur Radio operator (Ham) I have been a ham for close to 25 years now. i have been a Prepper since Y2K and have been part of a MAG for the last 5 years. I am a founding member of the local MAG. We have multiple hams in our MAG and I am trying to talk a lot more of them into getting their license. I Volunteer with the local EMA and have been involved with the National Weather Service NWS since right after I became licensed. I was directly involved in the Disaster relief communications during Katrina. We (HAMS) provided all communications into and out of Louisiana & Mississippi. I am the past President of one of the local ham radio clubs. I hold the highest level of ham radio license which is Extra Class. This gives me the ability to transmit on frequencies from 1.8Mhz all of the way up into the Gigahertz range which is the microwave range. Long distance communications are done in the 1.8Mhz – 30Mhz. One thing many folks don’t know is that CB radio used to be called 11meter because it was a popular Ham radio frequency range. so don’t forget that CB radios are still a great resource for folks for communications. Just remember there are a lot of CB radios out there so keep a mind on COMMSEC. Don’t talk about your location, or anything that could give away your location or your group numbers.

      I would be willing to answer any questions anyone may have about Ham radio.

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