I linked the 70cm section specifically for a reason- due to the sheer number of folks purchasing the Baofeng or other Chicom HTs, it might be prudent to help make the most out of what you have instead of listening to people tell you why you shouldn’t have bought it.
Radio Amateurs in the US, south of Line A, have the ability to use 420-450mHz, which is quite a large spread of bandwidth. Baofengs cover this space. And while it is broken down according to a recommended band plan, there’s plenty of room to find a quiet spot for you and your group to talk relatively uninterrupted. A Tech license, relatively simple to obtain, allows all this to happen. Finding that frequency requires:
- Examining the band plan to find out what does what and where:
- Scanning the Band with your HT to find the areas with traffic and without. Do this over a span of a few days, planning on primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency(PACE) frequencies. Write these down in your data book!
- Experiment with the frequencies to see which one works best in your area
- Find azimuths and distances to each person’s location in your group on a map.
- Build a directional antenna for point to point communications, resulting in a lower probability of interception.
If for nothing else, building your own antennas and experimenting with your group does two things- it first gets you out working productively, and second it teaches so many skills by simply doing it. It cuts through the wargaming and gets to reality. And that’s where you need to be right now, working with your equipment, because you may very well need it for real soon.
70cm/UHF is not ideal for hilly terrain as a rule- but I’ve found that in thick vegetation on the ground an HT on 70cm sometimes performs better than on 2M. This applies, as you’d guess, in the summer. But the more important reason I bring it up is that the antennas can be very compact and still be fairly effective for Line of Sight use- especially with directional Yagis.
On another note, I’ve learned the most about radio and theory by doing it– experimenting, building my own antennas, and spending hours figuring out why something doesn’t work and how to better engineer it. Edison figured out hundreds of times how not to build a lightbulb before he finally did. Don’t be scared of failure! It makes you better in the end. That’s one advantage to having cheap gear; one can experiment all they want with little worry.