Foundations of Amateur Radio #161:
July 7, 2018
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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I might add, was woefully out of date, but I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
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
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:
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:
If you'd like to participate in discussion
about the podcast or about amateur radio, you
can visit the Facebook group:
Feel free to get in touch directly via email:
email@example.com, or follow on twitter:
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
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