The Road Less Traveled: Beyond the Basic Dual-Bander

A couple used VX-5Rs I picked up VERY cheap, along with an excellent book I highly recommend. These, along with the VX-6R and 7R, can be made work 6m, 2m, 1.25m, and 70cm.

Almost exclusively among the Prepper and Survivalist crowd the first couple bands that get referenced (and used, or at least planned to be used) are the 2m and 70cm, and their MURS and GMRS parallels, respectively. That’s definitely understandable, because the majority of the equipment on the market, especially at the entry-level, for line of sight (LOS) is manufactured for these two bands.

Identifying that fact, we must also understand that sometimes we end up thinking around our equipment, rather than adapting our equipment to our needs. Buying an inexpensive HT or mobile and getting our Tech license (to make the best use of our gear and open the most options) is a great first step, along with getting on the air and creating that communications network tying our communities together. 2m and 70cm are great due to how common they are, but maybe we want to walk of the beaten path a bit. 2m can be crowded, 70cm can be too in some areas, and further, anybody and everybody with a $35 dual bander can jump into your conversation. Maybe you want to talk to only those who have similar equipment, or have put the thought into venturing into new territory, just because.

For Line of Sight, there’s plenty of very viable options out there past the usual offerings. 1.25m, or 222mHz, is a fun band with small amounts of activity. It behaves very much like 2m, giving solid performance in rural areas. The antennae are a bit smaller (and you can build your own, right?) with a lot of used equipment being found at a reasonable price, like those two VX-5Rs pictured above.

A Jungle, or 292 Groundplane Antenna, this time built with a UHF plug instead of a banana plug. Yet another way to accomplish the same goal.

6m, or 50-54mHz, sometimes known as VHF Low Band, has increasingly less FM traffic these days, but performs in the woods very, very well with home brewed antennae. The Jungle/292 Antenna was originally designed around VHF Low Band as most military ground communications work within it.

The 23cm Band Plan

The 23cm band is yet another frequency allocation for Tech license holders that gets nearly no attention in the US. But it is there, it is available, and it works well in urban areas and especially if you’re building Yagis and creating a low power point-to-point network.

Each of these bands get far less attention than their 2m and 70cm counterparts, but can and do fit very well into a Survivalist or Prepper networking paradigm for working outside of the typical natural lines of drift (those routes commonly traveled…) of the 2m/70cm dual band radio which will not only provide a bit of security through obscurity but also will get you thinking, learning, and diversifying your equipment to meet specific needs. But most importantly, the opportunity is out there, and no Survivalist should let an opportunity go to waste. Having the most options possible at our disposal, I think you’ll find the flexibility appealing.

24 thoughts on “The Road Less Traveled: Beyond the Basic Dual-Bander

  1. Doc

    Ha! I just bought that book! More importantly, I got the current ARRL ham licensing book at the same time and will be focusing on that exclusively until I get my license.

    Just wanted to thank you for this site (And Bracken, too for linking you at WRSA… that’s how I found you). Great stuff here! Always had the interest, but you make it look easy so I bought your same home base Yeasu rig with the LDG tuner (still waiting on the battery from Amazon…). Wasn’t sure what antenna I should get, but I got a Radiwavz DX 80 OCF (and no, I can’t make my own… yet!). Does this antenna have to be set up outside the house (might have HOA problems)??? And nothing says nube more than a question like that, I’m sure. 🙂

    Anyway, great site!! Much appreciated!


    1. Doc- I’m glad to have you! And thank you very much for the kind words.

      For your antenna, the OCF (AKA Windom) is a good general-purpose choice, and all antennae work best outdoors. I know HOA restrictions can be tough, but wire antennae tend to disappear into the background. Check out a book called “low profile amateur radio” by the ARRL. It’s not huge on how-to-build, but it does give some neat ideas on how to hide different transmitters for those in HOA situations.

      Don’t ever worry to ask newbie questions, we’ve definitely all been there. 😉

    1. 6m can do some very interesting things…you’ll get results out of it (especially in the summer and in the morning) that you really wouldn’t think possible.

      And if you look up the RARS repeater page, you’ll see just how few 6m repeaters there are in NC, which gives you an idea how little activity there really is.

      1. lineman

        Hey Brother I can’t seem to see your email anywhere on your site but I could just be blind… Do you mind sending me a msg to mine…

      2. I have made contacts on 6 meters ranging from around the immediate area to transcontinental, using antennas as varied as 1/4 wave vertical whips to the Lazy H, to my 160 meter inverted vee fed with 175′ of RG-8x. There is a reason that hams call 6 meters the ‘magic band’!

        Most ‘HF’ ham transceivers have 6 meter capability these days, but very few use it……
        there is 4 megahertz of spectrum just sitting there, largely unused.

      3. I’ve made it to Hawaii on 5w during Field Day 15. Now that’s not an everyday kinda thing, quite the opposite, but it can be done.

        Sporadic E is a strange animal.

  2. Remnant

    NC, I’ve been lurking here for months, been soaking in your wisdom along with Sparks…and others.

    Thanks to you and others, last August I got my general ticket from the FCC.

    That ground plane antenna you describe is the first antenna I tried to cut…turned out to have an SWR of 1:1.2 so I was pretty pleased with myself.

    Running an FT60R and am hitting repeaters over 30 miles away with that antenna in the window in a 2nd story apartment…this being in northern IL. Fairly flat.

    I want to wring everything I can out of this rig and am getting ready to cut a couple of dipoles for it-thinking of attaching both the 70cm and the 2m to the same binding posts of the BNC to banana connector-good idea or not?

    I really want to get into HF because of your NVIS posts, and the SG-3030 would be a perfect radio for my idea of not having to use wall sockets. Do you know of something similar? 3030’s are like hen’s teeth out here on the interwebbies….

    Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom…I think I found you from WRSA

    1. First, a big thanks for reading! You’re why I write, seriously. Good HT too.

      Two dipoles on the same Plug is fine with one very big caveat- almost all repeaters I can think of out of convenience’s sake use vertically polarized antennae. This means in order for them to ‘hear’ your signal clearly, you also much be sending a signal vertically polarized. Now this could simply be accomplished by stretching your antenna vertically as opposed to horizontally, but if the dipole is left horizontal, your chances of a clear reception are diminished by about 30db or so. The reverse is also true of vertical antennae and horizontal polarization. So it is entirely possible to reduce your signature (NOT eliminate, but reduce) by having the opposite polarization to what is commonly in use, provided everyone you’re concerned about talking with matches you.

      As for the electrical properties of the antenna itself, the signal will travel down the path it is matched to. Commonly in multiple-band antennae, such as the stock ducks which come with HTs, multiple elements for each band will be wound inside. So for a dual band you’d have two, a triband three, and so on. Efficiency takes a backseat though. Running multiple elements for each band is very common on HF antennae such as the Fan Dipole.

      I prefer to build individual antennae for each frequency just to keep it all simple, and stay cognizant of my polarization, which I’d include in my Command and Signal paragraph of my OPERATIONS ORDER and my Signals Operating Index (SOI).

      On the SGC radio, they’re getting tough to find for a couple reasons, there wasn’t that many made and the ones out there are getting old. While ruggedly built they did have reliability problems. The Yaesu 817 on the other hand, is readily available almost everywhere and is quite simply the most versatile rig on the market. Definitely not the most capable, but the most versatile, not simply from it capability on the air but the fact that it can operate from a huge variety of power sources. The upcoming CommRadio CTX-10 shows a huge amount of promise, and it should be hitting the market early next year, at least from what my source at Universal Radio says.

      Again, thanks for reading, and never hesitate to ask anything!

  3. Pingback: Brushbeater: The Road Less Traveled – Beyond the Basic Dual-Bander | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  4. I like the 6m band as well, and the biggest reason is the Beofeng junk doesn’t clog up the freqs.

    Also, Doppler DF rigs are the future and work far better than the old triangulation methods. So well in fact they are disallowed by some clubs during foxhunt contests

    1.5 seconds and you are found Something the wanna be running a team full of Chinese radios should think about. They transmit out of band , and you can develop an electronic profile for each radio, and DF specific radios that way.

    Just saying

  5. Could not agree more about the usefulness of both 6 meters and 1 1/4 meters. While many scanners old and new cover 50-54 mHz, many don’t cover 222-225. What is really handy is a multimode capability on the VHF/UHF bands- to an FM scanner or receiver, SSB is just noise, and it is harder to DF, too. The FT-817 will do SSB (and digital!) on 6m, 2m, and 70cm, yet another reason to like that rig. It isn’t quite as small as an HT, and it won’t do 222, but it is close, and the SSB capability is a huge advantage for commsec.

    Strongly agree with the selection of the TH-F6A; one reason I selected the TH-F6A as our standard is that it allows extremely low transmit power on all three bands, (there are three power levels, EL, Lo, and Hi.) The EL power setting is a fraction of a watt, a very useful feature to reduce your profile when you only need to cover a couple hundred yards, and you can easily install aftermarket antennas. You can get a much more efficient longer 3 band whip or a very short compact antenna designed for close range; both have their place. Speaker mics are available too, and the Baofeng speaker mics will work on the Kenwood.

    Both the FT-817nd and the TH-F6A have dual VFOs and can operate in the same band, a distinct advantage. While the TH-F6a cannot transmit SSB, it can receive SSB with the general coverage receiver, and it does a reasonable job of scanning, too, and can receive 1296 as well. With just these two radios, you can cover the entire range of available ham frequencies from 1.8 mHz to 450 mHz, plus all of the spectrum in between with two lightweight radios. I use both of these radios at least weekly and the more I use them the more impressed I am. I keep adaptors for both of these radios with them, so that I can attach PL-259 or N connectors to the TH-F6A and to the front BNC jack on the 817; the TH-F6a is a good general coverage receiver when attached to a decent antenna.

    1296 is a band I have the capability for but am not using presently; NC Scout is correct about the potential there. The only two multimode transceivers I am aware of that are generally available for 1296 are the old Yaesu FT-736R (which will also do 220!) for which you will need the 1296 module, or the newer TS-2000X. I’ve never run the TS-2000x but the 736 is still a good, albeit heavy and large, option as long as you get one in good repair. Be aware that they are over 30 years old, and subject to component failures; plan to spend significant bucks replacing the caps and doing other upgrades. The other option is to get transverters for the bands you want to operate multimode on; these are available, but not cheap or portable. I have no experience with these and cannot offer any opinion.

    Good luck all!


    1. Absolutely right, as always Brother.

      As per the Kenwood, the sole reason I run a VX-7R over it is the fact that I already own several other Yaesu HTs that have a common battery. The F6A has the capability to hear SSB on HF, which is a large advantage, however the 7R is quite possibly the most rugged HT ever made for the Amateur market. Both provide an incredible amount of versatility. The 6R, while not quite as robust (but still very tough) is still in production.

      I’ll always strongly recommend the Yaesu 817, 857, and 897 line if for nothing else than the ability to do all-modes on nearly all bands. That level of versatility seems to be disappearing from the market as well. So if you’re gonna buy new, do it while you can.

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