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CB for the wagon

Discussion in 'Preparedness & Survival' started by gearhead, Mar 25, 2013.

  1. gearhead

    gearhead NC Active Member

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    So, I'd like to add a CB to the wagon, as I spend a fair amount of time on logging roads and other spots off the beaten path. I found a package to met the needs of off roading, but the range left me wanting. I'm moving across the country this summer, and would like to have something with some decent range. It looks like I can get about 7 miles at most, but I don't know much about any of this. My main reason for wanting range is to have coms between family while traveling - pre and post SHTF. Anyone have any recommendations? I've read some reviews of various equipment, but much of it is over my head, as I have no experience with it.
     
  2. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    Well, CB is never going to cut it. You're locked in with a max of 4W, you could get a half wave center fed dipole antenna (11m) and then stick it vertically off your rear bumper, however if you put a flag on top of it, your family on the other side of the country will have a better chance of seeing the flag than hearing you on the radio.

    If you're really serious about long range comms, there are only a few options, first is digital store and forward satellite communications (amateur radio) and high frequency (3-30mhz) which again is an amateur radio thing. I have an all mode 10m rig in my car with a big top loaded whip antenna running about 40W and I can occasionally talk to australia, japan, alaska, and texas. But this radio is transmitting at 10x the power a CB is allowed to transmit at, and I have 3db of gain in my antenna, which means I have and ERP of 80w.

    My suggestion, if you want to get into some kind of reliable cross-country comm system, take a look at digital HF radio, like PSK31, olivia, and many of the other ham protocols (I like MT63), this is going to be the most reliable way of communicating, however it requires a skilled operator to get the most out of it. (which means practice) Getting your amateur radio (HAM) license is the start... you will need at least a general class license to do much with HF, and so will the person on the other end.

    If you want to know more about HF digital, check out a program called "FLDIGI" it implements a lot of the amateur radio digital modes and can give you a feeling for what's going on. (FYI, digital modes transmit text, usually very slowly with lots of forward error correction. However a voice signal would never be understandable under these conditions) another protocol that might also work for this is ALE (Automatic Link Establishment) which the military uses to communicate with HF-GCS and other systems like it, there is a ham version called "PC-ALE".
     
  3. gearhead

    gearhead NC Active Member

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    I've had experience using ALE in the Coast Guard, and I love the system. I had no idea there was a civilian version. Can the PC-ALE be encrypted as well? I'll read up on the equipment you mentioned, it sounds more along the lines of what I'm looking for than a CB. I'm moving to the east coast this summer, so I'll have to get licenced once I settle. If you don't mind me asking, about how much am I looking at to get into digital HF comms once licensed? Thanks for all the info.
     
  4. Oathkeeper1775

    Oathkeeper1775 Coast Range Well-Known Member

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    AM Products nailed it, all I could add is; in the absence of long range comms, a group of people need to establish primary, alternate and supplementary in-route rally points. Some of the finest and well equipped people on the planet use in-route rally points; but some people call it micro-managing....

    Rally points need to be suitable; recognizable, defensible, and off natural lines of drift (hide in plain sight so to speak).

    Going across the country; a family/group could use mile-markers, exit numbers, truck-stops, or rest-stops. Using in-route rally points will get the group within GMRS range.

    I use the CB for eavesdropping and GMRS (with privacy codes CTSS) for close-in (personal coordinations), where the HAM radio is better suited for less-personal comms (although some people tell their life stories on them).

    As far as CBs are concerned, I have several. One of them is a Midland that can be configured for vehicle-mount or hand held; @$80.00 at the BI-Marts, it works great where permanent mounting may be less desirable (rental car, etc).

    My comms-imperatives are that I roll with these 3 types of radios and in-route rally points all the time.

    I'm only a Technician and cannot spring for the HF monies or brain-power yet.

    There is a nation-wide digi-peater network that I send APRS messages on with my 2 meter Kenwood (D700-710); the only problem is non-hams have a hard time getting "white-listed" to send a message to a ham. A properly configured radio will automatically transmit the current location.

    http://www.openaprs.net/
     
  5. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    Licensing is cheap, but requires an investment in time, to get any amateur radio license, you need $15 to take the test, if you don't pass, you can try again for another $15, if you do pass, you can take the next test for $0. Getting through tech is fairly easy, general is a bit more difficult, however the extra requires a fair amount of dedication and study to the subject. I've been studying for my extra on and off for the last year. I have a high electronics proficiency compared to the average person, but my dad who's an IEEE had no issue with the extra exam.

    You can study for the exams online:

    eHam.net Ham Radio Practice Exams

    HamExam.org: Free Amateur Radio Practice Tests with Flash Cards

    Practice Amateur Radio Exams by QRZ.COM

    The big deal is going to be the radio equipment, typically you're going to be looking at an all-mode HF radio, 100W, plus the antenna and tuner system. If you just want to buy one off the shelf, you're probably looking at $2000+. There is some good used gear out there, one of the popular units is the Icom IC706mkiii, the current incarnation of that radio is the Icom IC7000, both of these radios are in the $1000 range just for the radio, with the antenna tuner, you're taking on a few hundred, and then for a store bought antenna and tower, another $500-1000 easy.

    For running PCALE you need a radio that has a digital control input, which locks out many older radios. There are quite a few other radio manufacturers out there, however Icom, while somewhat more expensive, is by far the easiest to use, and most durably made. Yaesu makes good stuff, it's rugged, but is difficult to use (each radio has a different menuing system that is terse and difficult to navigate), Kenwood also makes very good gear, but it's as expensive as icom, but tends to lack the durability. The IC706 fits this bill nicely, however icom recently released a new version of the IC7000 (I think it's the IC7200).

    Personally, I like to design and build my own antennas, so far I've built quite a few folding groundplane antennas for 2m and 70cm that I use for temporary repeater setups (I have a few small repeaters I built that I can drop on a hilltop with a solar panel and a few easy to carry antennas and we have a repeater to use while hunting). I have also built 2 folding 10m antennas, however they really defy any definitions you might have about being "portable", as 1/4 wave in the 10m band is still 2.5m (~10ft). One of them is a bazooka antenna where the elements fold into the carrying tube (a piece of sch80 PVC pipe), the driven element is 2.5m, which sits on a 2.5m "ground" (it's essentially an isotropic dipole), which is then elevated on the end of the carrying tube another 2.5m, so grand total, when put up it's 30' tall and requires guy lines and two people to put up. The other one is a folding ground plane that has 4 ground legs, and again sits on the packing tube which is 20' tall.

    I don't mean to discourage you, but there are about as many different antenna designs as you can imagine, the fact of the matter is HF antennas are always going to be bigger than higher band antennas. But ham is a hobby that pays more dividends by doing.
     
  6. chase

    chase Wilsonville, OR Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Start off with a 2m/440 mobile, tech license, and go from there. Use reapeaters for local work or simplix if your going on a long drive. Add a mobile to each car, get handie talkies. Starting with digital hf may fry your brain with how complicated it can become. Ham radio is a huge upgrade from Chicken Band (CB). Ham radio to me is a hobby and a tool, once you invest in it, you will have it for a long time.

    73,
    chase