This is my ham radio, a Yaesu VX8-DR. A 5 watt, tri band, waterproof handheld transceiver. Pictured here as well are a roll-up j-pole antenna and paracord for hoisting it up a tree to improve transmission and reception. Transmitting with such a device requires a license, which is easily obtained after a few nights of study, then taking your ham exam at a local testing location. Three license levels exist- Technician, General, and Amateur Extra. Technician is the easiest to attain, and transmitting privileges increase with higher level licences. I currently hold a General license. Study, take your test, get your call sign, and get on the air! I got KE0DID.

Here I’ve disconnected the “whip” antenna, connected the roll-up antenna and hoisted it up a tree.

The antenna is long enough to function modestly as a shortwave receiver.

Hitting a repeater station about 30 miles distant is no problem.

Weather radio coming in loud and clear.

GPS receiver attached shows my coordinates which could be shared with rescuers.

I’ve added a vehicle mount and ran the coaxial cable for the antenna through the engine compartment to the roof. I’ve also added a remote mic/speaker for ease of use while driving.

The antenna here is a Tram 1185, about $20 on Amazon. The boost over the handheld whip antenna is impressive. With this vehicle setup I’m able to easily hit repeaters dozens of miles in any direction from flat ground as well as SO-50, a satellite in low earth orbit with an onboard repeater. This antenna was later upgraded to a Diamond folding antenna, which sits flat to the vehicle when not in use.

Accessories in the center console include paracord and roll-up antenna as previously pictured, as well as “tiger tail” counterpoise antennas for 2 m and 70cm (the yellow-tipped cables). These improve reception on these bands when using handheld in the field. Also, two spare battery packs, a Lithium Ion and a AA battery pack. Also a car charger and the whip antenna seen eariler.

In the back of the car stows easily a larger roll-up antenna as well as a compact, homemade yagi antenna.

This is the yagi assembled. It’s made from an arrow shaft and stows in the spare tire compartment. It’s a directional antenna that allows significant boost in gain making hitting the satellite and distant repeaters easier. Its directional ability allows me to determine the direction that a transmission is coming from, which could be useful in locating civilization or rescuers transmitting a signal. It weighs nearly nothing.

Some useful documentation in the glove box includes an operating manual for the radio, a quick start guide, and a repeater directory listing repeater stations across the country.

Backup power! A 28 watt solar panel charges the batteries in the radio quickly. This kit allows for off-grid communications that are not dependent on cell towers or other such infrastructure. It requires no subscription, and with the solar panel can afford a means to communicate and reach help indefinitely.