It is often said that ham radio is a very expensive Hobby. It is my aim in this blog post to show you that while ham radio can be expensive, it doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive to get started and have a lot of fun on the air!
We’re going to look at three different ways that a beginning ham radio operator can get on the air. You will need a ham radio license in order to transmit but that doesn’t need to cost anything more than the $15 in the US that it costs for the license. That license is not included in the $100 since it is a prerequisite for transmitting at all. This post will focus on how you can spend $100 on all the equipment needed to get on the air.
Getting your License
With regards to getting your license, many people will tell you that you need to take an online course or that you need to buy a book to get your license and get started in ham radio. Those are definitely good ways to go about it, however you need not go any further than your local library. If your local library does not have the ARRL Technician or General book then they can probably order it and get it in for you. If you study hard and take the test right away you shouldn’t need to take the book out more than twice. The ARRL also has a page that shows how to get your license. Between the library and online resources, there are plenty of ways to learn. Also check out Dave Casler KE0OG’s site on this very subject!
Now let’s get into the equipment side of things and see what it takes to get on the air with ham radio for $100! This post will focus on VHF/UHF and the next will focus on HF.
VHF / UHF – Under $50?
This is probably the quickest way to get on the air and the cheapest, too. A dual band HT (Handy-Talky) used to cost hundreds of dollars. A name brand Yeasu, Kenwood, or Icom still does!. Enter the Baofeng brand from China. The Baofeng radios are inexpensive and with a cheap upgraded antenna are not too bad for everyday use without breaking the bank. I’ve found a fantastic deal for all of these on Amazon, I suggest you check it out. You won’t get it for less.
This radio will get you on your local repeater system for regional contacts within your repeater system’s coverage area. It will also allow you to listen and even communicate with ham radio satellites!
For ham radio satellite use, you’ll need a high-gain antenna that can be built for just a few dollars. Since the radios themselves only cost about $50 and it only cost a few dollars to build an antenna you could be working (talking to other hams via) the amateur radio satellites in no time. This is awesome and a great way to start with ham radio. But the draw with ham radio for many people is talking around the world using HF equipment.
HF for $100
HF radio is defined as high frequency radio between 3 and 30 megahertz. Communication is usually done with Single Side Band, Morse code, or even digital communication modes. The communication range is anywhere from hundreds of miles to many thousands of miles, depending on equipment, antennas, and skill.
Even until a short time ago it would cost hundreds of dollars to get on the air with HF. In fact it can be done for less than $1,000 using all new equipment that is very straightforward to set up. But we’re talking about doing it for a 1/10 of that price! For that we’re going to look at a couple of single-band kits that will get you on the air for $100.
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