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Ham radios and extreme off grid travel.
#1
Ok on a BC off-road group I am a member of the topic of cheap Chinese handhelds ham radios has come up.

Getting certified came up as well. I know we have an expert of the forum so I’ll try to condense the chatter there and summarize here. Basic gist was:

For the price of a decent GMRS pair of radios that put out one to 2 watts and are good for about a mile you can buy a cheap Chinese ham radio good for about 5 miles. I won’t post the radio make and model as I don’t want to encourage anyone as these apparently spill over into other channels. Or so an expert on the BC forum said. A group was going out on a five day trip and decided to purchase these for a just in case emergency use. Only one of the group had a ham license but everyone had GMRS licenses and small GMRS hand helds for the typical: “Driver a little more driver” bullshit that happens on hard four wheel trails.

Well two things happened. One, the Ham guy told his Ham club buddies and two, one of the guys posted a YouTube video showing the Ham radios mounted in the trucks on. Receiving these “passenger driver” spotter commands. The guys video got a few hundred negative comments from Hams all over about 10 thousand dollar fines, illegal activity, against the law. He got personal direct messages that were less than friendly and his channel got reported and a strike on YouTube. His next video also got comments even though it had nothing about Ham radios and another strike that took down his channel. The guy with the Ham license was told he wasn’t welcome at the Ham club anymore. As he had encouraged the four wheelers to engage in illegal activity.

They had done nothing wrong, and in the history of Canada no single person has ever been fined for using a ham radio without a license. Now I get you shouldn’t do it. I understand it is illegal and if I were going to use one for non emergency comms I would get one from a private company that does certification. I almost got one years ago as I have a special Restricted Radio Telephone Operators Certificate from Canada but it’s not a Ham. So legality in the USA is unknown. I went and signed up for a club run course. After thirty minutes of listening to old guys drone on about how it was a shame you didn’t need to learn Morse code anymore and blah blah in the old days stories, watching people boot lick these asswipes I walked. I rarely do well with others and Morse code? It’s called technological advancement I don’t ride a horse to work either and went past elementary school. Perhaps my experience is unique but after looking at post from others it doesn’t appear so. I don’t have a great deal of faith in self policing organizations. Police shouldn’t investigate police shootings. Or at least another police agency should. Anyway I digress.

They used hand held GMRS radios and all had GMRS licenses to transmit. They received on mounted Ham handhelds. Nothing illegal about that. Possession of these non code compliant radios is not a crime for the individual. The importing company in the USA got a notice to stop the importation. Another California company got a fine but that was also because they were selling 150watt race radios along with these offending handheld non compliant rigs. But a 4x4 clubs reputation has been injured and a YouTube channel silenced for nothing.

A side note the 4x4 club has lost sponsor dollars and had participation with other clubs suspended so they can show damages real and reputation And two are very good civil lawyers. The Hams all left there call signs proudly while quoting all sorts of bullshit. Seizure of vehicles, 10 thousand dollar fines, imprisonment. Within language that was less than family friendly and will be argued was harassing and meant to intimidate. Considerably outside of the mandate to self regulate: warn and report. They probably won’t be able to afford any new radios for a few years.

Why bring this here? Well interesting story. While I was aware some Hams get a little aggressive in policing the airwaves and their mandated function all the while complaining that interest in the hobby significantly less than it was. I didn’t know about these cheap little radios causing such a fuss. I see pro rigs in many build videos and doubt everyone has a license.

I want a radio in my rig and would like to use it for non emergency talking. So I’ll eventually get one, just to tick the I am sure I am legal box. But also to point out the backlash to this has been huge. Cross border huge. FCC and the Canadian equivalent are govt .org so they have to post public records about fines and charges. Like any policing agency does. The fallout in BC was screw it. No one has ever gotten anything but a notice to stop. No individual charged and convicted. Some construction companies or people owing them and tossing radios to thirty employees that messed with EHS service radio frequencies. But no hunter/4x4/birdwatching photographer. So it kinda worked backwards. It hasn’t stopped either as these Hams all got served this week and a few of them responded by DM’ing the 4x4 club and posting on their FB page all the evidence collected. “You’re all going to get 10 thousand dollar fines and they will be in US dollars not that Monopoly money you use up there.”

If you transmit on a ham frequency in an emergency you aren’t in violation of the law. Even without a license.
If you listen to a ham radio you don’t violate the law.
If you transmit on a GMRS Ham frequency with a GMRS legal radio and have a GMRS license (no test required) you don’t violate the law.

Sad a few, are making such a mess of things. I’ve had Hams relay messages for me from my marine radio to send messages and emails for a broken down boat help. “Pan pan this is Private vessel Last Call we are adrift at (coordinates) and dragging anchor with electrical power functioning. Anyone receiving over”

Ham operator came on and together we got it sorted. That was ten years or more ago. Perhaps things have changed. Anyway something for the group to chat about.

My go bag comms has a spot messaging beacon, a handheld GPS, Motorola handheld radio, and an iridium phone. So covered unless I have to read Morse or smoke signals. If I remember sos is dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot, and pan pan is XXX lol.


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#2
I had my Tech ham license many years ago.  Had a really nice hand held two meter rig.  Only time I remember using it for something useful is when in the Virgin islands and a ham buddy was on St. Thomas.  I needed to know if he was joining me on the not-US territory island.  Transmitting from there I was probably not legal.  Anyone who saw me probably thought it was a cell phone.  Or, mostly just didn't care.
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#3
Too busy monitoring go fast boats. Lol.


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#4
I flew prewar planes for years & used DELCOM portable radios which are 12v & you can use portable or mount in the panel in a 1"x2" hole. NO LICENSE NEEDED in the US in planes but I have a dozen we used at OshKosh & Sun & Fun with never a failure. That's what I'd use. They were as powerful as a full size A/C ragio & would get an easy 50 miles+ line of site just pick a plane to plane channel. The Delcoms were built like a tank & came with a recharable baattery pack, on that used 8 AAs or direct wire to 12v. If worn with the belt clip all the controles are on topin the 1"x2" top.
"If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so." - Thomas Jefferson
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