My summer radio course is having success with students getting their Tech license, so I get an up-close look at the confusion in their faces when they start thinking about what’s next. Building on ideas in the article “New Ham Kit: A Way for Clubs to Help Get New Hams on the Air” (ARRL, Feb 2021), I watned to create a Equipment for a new Tech guide. Here’s what I came up with.

‘New Tech’ Equipment List

What follows is a recommendation for gear you should consider once you’ve passed the Technician class license exam.

The campus radio club maintains all kinds of equipment that is here for you to use once you have an amateur radio license. Here’s a sampling of things that are in the Radio Room in Del Norte 3512:

  • two (2) dual band 2m/70cm radios with antennas mounted on the roof
  • a 1.25m radio with an antenna mounted on the roof,
  • a Yaesu 991a with both a 2m/70cm antenna and an HF antenna (tuned for the 40m band) on the roof,
  • several Yaesu HTs and a few Quansheng UV-K5 HTs available for short-term checkout,
  • a paddle CW keyer and a straight key CW keyer, both for use in the radio room, and
  • two campus desktop computers with some important amateur radio software installed. We also have programming software for the HTs (or should), a Yagi directional antenna for mobile work, several masts and tripods, and three Get On the Air boxes (with batteries) for demonstrations and outreach activities. Soon we’ll also have a campus repeater set up and ready to use.

All of the above are available for club use, though consult with one of the club leaders to find out if a radio is being used for anything before you plan to use it for your project.

At some point, you’re going to want your own equipment so you can operate independently of campus restrictions. This usually means that you’ll want to get your own HT. A couple simple, inexpensive radios to consider are:

  • Baofeng UV-5R, the sine qua non of beginner (and non-beginner) HTs because its cheap and it works (the UV-5RM Plus looks like a cool option, too), and the
  • Quansheng UV-K5, an inexpensive mod-able handheld (though make sure you have the most up-to-date version). There are many brands of HT available, and within each brand there are often different lines of radio. As feature richness increases, so does the price, so it’s good to know (1) what you want to do with your radio, and (2) what your budget is for the radio before making a purchase.

This is all you need for getting in the air. But a couple more inexpensive things will make your radio life measurably better: a replacement antenna and programming software.

When you have an HT, people might start recommending that you upgrade the antenna. HTs generally ship with a ‘rubber duck’ type antenna whose performance may leave you wanting more. Replacement antennas aren’t terribly expensive, and they will improve your radio experience. When you shop for a new antenna, make sure you know the bands your radio can transmit and receive on (e.g., 2m and 70cm?) and the maximum power you’ll use (e.g., 10W or less).

Also be aware that a replacement antenna might open the door to ‘adapters’ in amateur radio. Most radios have use an SMA connector (male) to attach to their OME antenna. Though some replacement antennas use an SMA connector, others use a BNC connector to connect to the radio. If you get one of those you’ll want to purchase an SMA-to-BNC (female to male) adapter. 1

Once you have a HT, you’ll want software to program repeater frequencies into it. The two leading software titles for programming radios are

  • CHIRP, an open-source programming app, and
  • RT-systems, a proprietary and radio-specific programming app. Try before you buy if possible. The radio room has access to both apps for multiple radios in our radio stable.

Those are the basics.2 With your HT, you should be able to check-in to nets on local repeaters, do some POTA and SOTA, volunteer to be part of an event’s amateur radio communications support team, talk with other friends on campus and on camping trips, and maybe even make contact with astronauts on the International Space Station (though you might need to use a specialized directional anttenna for that).

The next step in growing your radio kit could either take you in the direction of mobile UHF/VHF radios (e.g., in your vehicle or at home), or in the direction of setting up an HF station at home. Or maybe other options will present themselves. There’s so many things a person can do in radio. This is where connecting with a local group of experienced amateur radio folks can be very helpful to you.

NOTE: When this is rendered on paper, the hyperlinks will be replaced by bold face text and a reference to a collection of QR codes at the end of the document.

  1. I bought my first replacement antenna at a Ham Radio Outlet in Anaheim, CA. The salesperson recommended a radio with a BNC connector and told me I needed an adapter. “And it’s better to have an adapter because the SMA connector is sensitive, and you don’t want to damage it. Having a connector will protect it.” Looking back, he was probably just upselling me. That said, I’ve been happy with the way my antennas attach and detach to my HTs with the BNC. 

  2. GigaParts and QRZ often run what they call their Jump Start program for new amateur radio licensees. Through this program, a new ham can get an entry-level HT, programming software, and a QRZ membership for cheap (though shipping costs make it less cheap).