Which repeaters should I put into my hand held radio?

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by VK6FLAB, Jul 7, 2018.

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  1. VK6FLAB

    VK6FLAB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    Which repeaters should I put into my hand held radio?

    A regular question from people who go on holiday is: "Which repeaters should I put into my hand held radio?"

    If there was infinite amount of memory and time, the answer would be simple - All of them. If it were that simple, I wouldn't be talking about it and you wouldn't be asking the question, so given that it's not that simple, what options do you have for dealing with this question, generally an hour before you pack up your suitcase to leave on that trip to another location.

    For me, my first effort was to try to find a list of repeaters for the new location. Failing that, I ventured onto the national association and downloaded their list, which I might add, was woefully out of date, but I wasn't to know that when I found it. I then fired up a copy of the cross-platform CHIRP programming software, pushed all the repeater frequencies into my radio and called it a day.

    I did have the benefit of a radio that was able to group memories into separate so-called banks, which allowed me to be able to select a particular bank for each state, my own state, VK6 was, and I might add, still is, in bank 6. VK5 is in bank 5 and so-on. The advantage of this arrangement is that I can select a bank, set my radio to scan in just that bank and I can hear all the activity that's happening within range of my hand held. Pretty useful when you're on holidays in a new location.

    If your country doesn't quite break-down into neat little groups like that, or if you cannot break your hand held radio memory into banks, you might have to come up with a different strategy.

    You could for example, create your own equivalent banks, 100 to 199 is bank 1, 200 to 299 is bank 2, etc. Or if you have 50 states to worry about, you might allocate 101, 201, 301, 401 etc. to state number one and so on. Of course that will start an argument about which state is number one, but I'm sure you can work that out for yourself.

    Another suggestion is to query the local license database, in Australia the ACMA database, and get a list of currently licensed repeaters. If that's not your style, you could download a mobile phone app, something like Repeaterbook. You can even link your mobile to your radio and have the app set up the frequencies for your location.

    One suggestion I came across the other day is to do none of this and to just program in all the possible repeater pairs. There's not that many possibilities and setting your radio to scan will unearth any activity on what ever standard pair is being used at the time. This won't get you completely out of the woods, since some repeaters require a CTCSS tone of some description, but several hand held radios have the ability to decode the tone. You could get fancy with pre-programmed tones in different memories, but I'll leave that as an exercise for you to imagine.

    In the end, finding amateurs in a new location is a lot like finding amateurs in your home town. They're around, you just need to find them. Visiting a local club works at home and it works just as well while you're on holiday, sometimes even more-so, since you'll be a visitor and many clubs like to be on their best behaviour for new comers.

    One thing I can categorically state is that programming your radio manually is really something that you should try and avoid. Not because it's not possible and not because it's not a skill you should have, but because it's error prone and there's nothing quite as frustrating as programming in the wrong frequency without having the ability to fix it when you're in the field.

    One tip. CHIRP allows you to create as many different frequency files as you like. There's nothing wrong with making one fit for purpose for this outing and having a different file for your home location, or for a specific contest or DX activity.

    A final bonus tip. CHIRP generally uses the microphone and headphone sockets for most hand held radios. Setting the volume correctly is a must. If you set the volume too low, CHIRP won't work, since there won't be anything to decode.

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB

    To listen to the podcast, visit the website: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/ and scroll to the bottom for the latest episode. You can also use your podcast tool of choice and search for my callsign, VK6FLAB, or you can read the book, look for my callsign on your local Amazon store, or visit my author page: http://amazon.com/author/owh

    If you'd like to participate in discussion about the podcast or about amateur radio, you can visit the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/foundations.itmaze

    Feel free to get in touch directly via email: onno@itmaze.com.au, or follow on twitter: @VK6FLAB (http://twitter.com/vk6flab/)

    If you'd like to join the weekly net for new and returning amateurs, check out the details at http://ftroop.vk6.net, the net runs every week on Saturday, from 00:00 to 01:00 UTC on Echolink, IRLP, AllStar Link and 2m FM via various repeaters.
    K9BBQ and AC7DD like this.
  2. KI7HSB

    KI7HSB Ham Member QRZ Page

    I would think that the answer would be as simple as "all the repeaters in your area".

    If you have a nifty wiz-bang handheld with decent memory and the ability to have different collections for different areas, that's a real plus too. Pre-program your collections before you travel and you're ready to go, on the go.
    KD2ANN, NL7W, KD9KSO and 1 other person like this.
  3. G1ZRN

    G1ZRN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I usually look at Repeater book by ZBM2 software on my android phone and set 50 miles as my range then add the listed repeaters to my radios.

    PS. As per KI7HSB, my dog concurs, but our cat disagrees :)
    KI7HSB and KD2ANN like this.
  4. WG8Z

    WG8Z Ham Member QRZ Page

    VK6FLAB said: "One thing I can categorically state is that programming your radio manually is really something that you should try and avoid. Not because it's not possible and not because it's not a skill you should have, but because it's error prone and there's nothing quite as frustrating as programming in the wrong frequency without having the ability to fix it when you're in the field."

    I disagree 100%
    Nothing worse than being in the field and not being able to enter a freq. you need that's not programmed into the radio because you have no computer available. It becomes a paperweight.
    Too many use the computer as a crutch to avoid learning the radio.
    Nothing against using the computer, just learn the radio first.
    K1FBI, KB5HAV, VA3CWT and 16 others like this.
  5. N6QIC

    N6QIC Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I agree with your disagree 100%. :)

    I have never used any programming software and always program by hand. If I need a new repeater I get the frequency, the PL, and the offset and program it in by hand. It only takes a few minutes to do.

    Also I only program my radio with the repeaters that I may want to use. I think I have about 15 slots programmed in my Kenwood 281A. My Yaesu FT 209RH is also easy to program even having to use the Yaesu cross reference PL codes.

    Just because there are slots to fill with programming to me doesn't mean that they must be filled. It is easier for me to fix an error programming by hand than hooking up a computer to the radio and hope that it works to fix an error.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2018
    G3SEA likes this.
  6. WF7A

    WF7A Subscriber QRZ Page

    Perhaps there'll be the day when HTs come with GPS (as standard) and through an uploadable databank, will automatically pre-populate a bank/file of accessible repeaters (and their respective properties/tones) based on your current location; you could drive coast-to-coast and not have to program anything.
    KG7QIM, W2CQ, K7JCL and 1 other person like this.
  7. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    The ones that will let you find other people to talk to. Around here, that list is extremely short. :oops:
    KD2ANN, K7UWR and NA4RA like this.
  8. KM4KGN

    KM4KGN XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Call me silly, but if it is a field programmable HT, then you DO have the ability to fix programing errors in the field...and it just as easy to make a programming mistake with a computer, as with manual programming.
    G3SEA, VK6NO and VK1MA like this.
  9. G1ZRN

    G1ZRN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Icom radios spring to mind, some have GPS and you can search for "Nearest" repeater FM or DV.

    Mike G1ZRN.
    K7JCL and G3SEA like this.
  10. KK2DOG

    KK2DOG XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yes, I concur.

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