The dipole antenna

Now that I’ve shown you a number of NON prepper-friendly antennas, maybe it’s time to show you some that are more in tune (sorry…) with your goals as a survivalist.

To recap, the big monster antennas, associated towers and rotors are simply not required.  Indeed, they are — in some respects — counter productive to our efforts.


Because in pre-SHTF conditions, you’ll wish to be prepping for communications capabilities that do not attract attention.  It’s certainly not that you’re doing anything improper, as indeed  you are abiding by all the rules of your license, and are in fact providing a public service capability for yourself, your family, your extended group, and other like-minded groups around the country.

Herewith, the ultimate stealth antenna — the venerable dipole.

Please.  Let me be the FIRST to state that having your antenna inside the house is the worst possible  option.  The only purpose of the picture is to give you easy visual access to what is truly a simple antenna.  Try that at 70 feet up.

The antenna itself is actually just the two pieces of wire.  Di-pole.  Get it?  One piece is the exact same length as the other, separated by an insulator.  Insulator?  Yes, we need a way to electrically separate the two sides of the dipole.  I’ve made insulators out of wood, plastic garbage pails and even pieces cut from milk jugs.

There’s a specific (simple) formula that tells you how long to make the two pieces.  That formula takes into account the frequency band that you’re interested in operating your digital prepper network node.  Forty meters?  Fine.  That would be 33 feet on a side; now you know one reason why this isn’t going to be in your bedroom.

The vertical piece of wire is actually a length of coax cable which goes from the center of your dipole, down to the radio, so with that in mind, you can gauge the approximate length.

There are as many variations of the dipole as there are people with minds that like to experiment.  Most variations work very well, unlike some antenna designs that are ultra-critical in their design parameters.

Long live the dipole!


Now, for the ANTENNA! (((OMG…)))

In keeping with my usual ploy of suggesting cheaper/smaller/cuter (well, the beholder, and all that) equipment for the ham radio survivalist, I now continue in the same manner, this time for the all-important antenna.

There are as many different antenna designs as there are amateur radio operators.  Maybe more.

I’m going to show you a number of examples and I’m also going to show you why they may be useful for your communications preparedness efforts, and after that, why they might NOT be so very useful.

The first problem to overcome is the difficulty that lies potentially between the ears.  It’s quite possible that the newcomer has had previous experiences with antennas, if only to have seen them in the neighbor’s yards, or stretching skyward in catalog photos.

It’s important to remember that preppers may only represent a miniscule percentage of existing radio amateurs.  So the ones that do exist are in it for different reasons.  For them, perhaps, the thrill of making two-way contact with another far-away radio station somewhere on the planet is very high on the list of things they wish to accomplish.

Here’s some examples of antennas that allow them to realize that.

  • Image

Above, notice the small (well, it might be huge; perspective is difficult) rotator, just below the four element antenna, mounted inside the tower.  That allows the very expensive antenna to be turned, so as to squirt the powerful signal toward the station of interest.  Fine for this fellow’s interests; not so fine for our own efforts. Keep reading to learn why.

This “antenna farm”, below,  belongs to Kevin, N4UFO in Statesville NC and is another example of a well-done setup.



Above, this fellow (N5AB in Texas) is apparently very interested in VHF, UHF, and microwave transmitting.  These frequencies require enormous amounts of power and antenna gain to be successful.

Luckily, those of us who utilize the Prepper-friendly digital relay networks typically have no need whatsoever for gobs of power, huge antennas, or wallet-shaking monster towers.

Taking my own NTSD Pactor and WINMOR/WINLINK operations as an example, I typically use about 40 watts, pumped into a piece of wire, hidden anywhere from 25 to 45 feet up in the trees in my backyard.  I could take pictures, but all you’d see is the tree leaves.  Never mind…

Does it work?  Sure.  Does it attract unwanted attention, or ANY attention? Nah.

But there’s a very important reason WHY it works.  See, in the photos above, these hams are generally (not always, I don’t want to paint with unknown brushes, but GENERALLY) striving to work long distances.  In our case, we don’t need to, since the digital networks that we make available to you are positioned near enough to you that they’ll hear you VERY reliably without your having to spend ridiculous amounts of cash to produce gigantic signals.

Those network nodes will take your messages and automatically relay them along the way to their ultimate destination.  And they will do so with excellent forms of error-correction.  Need privacy?  Well, the neighbors aren’t going to decode these any time soon and neither is the press/media and neither are the mutant zombie bikers and the golden horde that people of our mindset tend to read about.  🙂


SHTF HF Radio Comms suggestions

While there are numerous examples of used HF transceivers that meet our criteria (of being Prepper-ready and Prepper-useful), let’s show three that could easily fit the bill.

From Ebay, just today, I see:

  • The Kenwood TS-50s. There are five of these listed today, ranging from $227 to $500. The TS-50s can output up to 100 watts, but if you’ve been paying attention to this blog, you’ll already know that that much power is just not required for our purposes.

    Kenwood TS-50s

  • Note that this radio has a general coverage receiver which can be extremely useful for gathering non-amateur SHTF information.
  • Second on the list is the Icom IC-730.

    Icom IC-730

  • This can also be seen on Ebay, selling for just over $200 to a little over $500, depending on the included options.
  • And third, there’s the often-seen on Ebay Yaesu FT757. I see these today going for $225 to $300, which is pretty typical for these very nice radios.

Pimp my COMMS! (but how much will it cost me?)

You’ll be surprised.  Nicely.

At least, that’s been my experience, when dealing with a fair number of newcomers in recent years.

The last guy, when told that it would likely set him back about $500 for worldwide digital comms capability, gushed something about how he was figuring on about $3000.

There’s several reasons why it’s much less expensive, and much more useful, that you’d first think.  Mostly, it’s because your “Elmer” (that’d be me, your new-found ham radio mentor) never goes for the expensive stuff.  Never new, never powerful, never neighbor-unfriendly to live close to, never a drone target, and never – ever – going to be down when the grid goes PLOP in the night.

Let’s start with the expensive stuff.  The most expensive gizmo is the high frequency transceiver.  What we need for our purposes is something that will operate on those millions and millions of frequencies that the gummint gives us access to.  We also need for it to operate from a 12 volt source and it needs to be relatively portable so that if we’re going to be bugging out, we’ll not be forced to leave it (maybe forever) at the ole homestead.

There are so very many choices!  Ebay is our friend, seconded by the Eham reviews, where you can find dozens of helpful comments about your latest pride and joy BEFORE it becomes your latest pride and joy.

See the “SHTF Radio Comms Suggestions” post for, well, you can guess!

Do I HAVE to get licensed?

The short answer is:  No

Even without a license, you can send what we call “radio email” by directing your messages to me, and I will forward them to your intended recipients.

Then there’s the longer answer:  You probably should.

First, it’s amazing simple.  But more important, the suggestion above to forward messages through me only works pre-SHTF, while the internet and commercial power is still up and running.

Bad assumption, of course, and that’s not what SHTF communications preparedness is all about.  Instead, we hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Our ham radio digital networks are here for your use, to be sure.  But the reality is that if your bug-out location (or your home, for that matter) is without power or without internet, you’ll have a very difficult time getting your data to/from other friends, relatives or BOLs.

With a license, you’ll be able to prepare for the total lack of commercial infrastructure that usually occurs during and after disaster situations and events.  You’ll be able to interact with our digital network nodes, without having to have high power transmitters or huge towers and antennas.

You’ll be perfectly capable of developing your own network of like-minded folks all over the country, and you’ll no doubt begin to join in with the already-existing cadre of networked individuals and groups who understand the benefits of stealthy ham radio operations.

Radio Licensing

Obtaining an Amateur Radio Service license is — by far — the easiest part of the whole Survivalist Communications plan.

Why? Well, consider:

  • 1. We’ve made the exams so wonderfully simple that many youngsters have passed them without difficulty.
  • 2. We’ve made the tests such that multiple guess answers can be readily memorized; gone are the days of having to think up the correct answer on your own.
  • 3. No more testing of Morse code capabilities. Yay! Many folks found ‘the code’ to be a serious problem. Not any longer.
  • 4. Need to know where to go to take the exams? If you’ll provide the nearest cities to your location, we’ll give you that info right here. Or by private mail if that’s your choice.

Ham Radio Postage Stamp

Why the ham radio digital networks?

Why would preppers even consider using the existing ham radio digital networks?

Couldn’t I just buy a couple of handheld radios and yack away?

Well, yes, you could. But only if you wanted to talk reliably for a VERY short distance.

Even then, you’d have no infrastructure available to relay your very puny signals. Handheld radios work on frequencies that do not propagate well, especially over much in the way of distances. You might get reliability for a mile or two, but we can do better, much better, for you.

It would be far more useful, particularly when considering SHTF conditions, or — especially — in the planning stages of same, if you could avail yourselves (that would be you, your extended family, other group members, and other groups, all over the country) of the ability to exchange information, ask questions about ‘conditions’, and generally have your communications ducks in a row, long before actually required.

The government, in all its infinite wisdom, has actually enabled this to occur. In fact, amazingly, they give you — at no charge whatsoever — the use of millions and millions of frequencies, all up and down the radio spectrum. For more information on this important point, see “licensing” topics on this blog.