The Basics of HAM and GMRS Radios

Understanding the World of HAM and GMRS Radios

In today’s digital age, the art of radio communication remains a fascinating and vital hobby for many. Whether you’re a seasoned enthusiast or a curious beginner, understanding the basics of HAM and GMRS radios can open up a world of communication possibilities.

Our Local HAM Radio Club

The Highland Lakes AM Radio Club, a 501c3, based in Marble Falls and established in 1981, has been a beacon for HAM radio enthusiasts. Led by

Al Chitwood (KG5BF) – [email protected]
Chris Dietz (KI5UYD) – [email protected]

The club’s mission is to unite individuals with a shared passion for HAM radio. The hobby is diverse, catering to all age groups, from children to seniors.

HAM radio is not just about communication; it’s also about education. The club emphasizes the scientific and educational aspects of Amateur Radio, offering interactive radio programs known as NETS. These programs allow members to engage in lively discussions and share knowledge.

One of the club’s primary objectives is to provide emergency communications for the community. They train members to respond to emergency networks such as ARIES and RACIES.

Getting Started with HAM Radio

For those eager to dive into the world of HAM, here’s a detailed guide:

  1. Begin with an HT (Handi Talki): This is a basic device, akin to a walkie-talkie, that lets you listen to local repeaters and engage in NETS.
  2. Upgrade to a Mobile Transceiver: Ideal for vehicles, this device covers popular frequencies like the 2m and 70cm bands.
  3. Set Up a Base Station: This is the ultimate setup for enthusiasts. It covers VHF/UHF and HF bands, allowing global communication.

Remember, to transmit, you’ll need at least a Technician’s License. The process involves studying, taking a multiple-choice test, and becoming familiar with the questions and answers in advance.

To find out more about HAM radio go to

Diving into GMRS Radios

General Mobility Radio Service (GMRS) offers a simpler communication method without the need for a HAM exam. While it requires a license, the process is straightforward: apply, pay the FCC fee, and receive a call sign. You can learn more and apply for a GMRS license on the FCC’s website.

GMRS radios are versatile, with features such as:

  • 22 frequencies offering a greater range than standard walkie-talkies.
  • Usage of repeaters to extend range.
  • Power up to 50 watts.
  • A community of users for broader reach.
  • Applications ranging from camping to emergencies.
  • Coverage of up to 100 miles with a clear line of sight.

For those looking for affordable GMRS radios, the Baofeng is a popular choice, priced around $25 per radio. You can find more details on their official website.

Software Defined Radios (SDRs)

SDRs are chip-based devices, with most being listen-only. They require a robust computer system and can track ships, planes, and balloons. The HackRFOne is a notable exception, capable of transmitting as well. SDRs operate in the 500KHz to 1.7GHz range, and with repeaters, their range can be extended internationally.

In Conclusion

Whether you’re drawn to the intricate world of HAM, the straightforward approach of GMRS, or the advanced capabilities of SDRs, radio communication offers a unique blend of technology, community, and history. Dive in, explore, and discover the airwaves!