John Gendron, NJ4Z
We all come into this hobby not knowing, what we don’t know. Some of us purchase a radio before we take the test, some of us wait until we earn our ticket. Unless we are lucky enough to have and experienced Ham guides us into the hobby, most of us end up purchasing an inexpensive handheld. That is fine, nothing wrong with it, it is a means to an end. It gets you something to operate with and gets you on the air.
As we progress in the hobby, our goals change, skills improve and we begin to experiment with new equipment and modes. Once we earn our ticket, we quickly discover that a 5-watt handheld is fine for somethings, but may not be footing the bill for what we are trying to do currently. We may have learned that to make contact we must exit our home, or the pizza pan/pie plate mag mounted antenna just doesn’t cut it We may have also discovered the joy of attempting to operate a handheld while driving, not an easy task in traffic.
Thus, begins the saga of acquiring gear. The handheld or multiple handhelds, and whip antennas become mobile rigs, mag mounts, ¼ waves, 5/8 waves, etc. At the home shack we have a power supply, base antenna(s), cross-needle meters, desk mics, and so forth.
With so many choices of rigs, antennas and accessories, and being in experimentation mode, the equipment begins to pile up. At this point, a condition known as G.A.S. can occur; talk about sexy, right? What is G.A.S., you ask? It is horrible, debilitating condition, Gear Acquisition Syndrome – the insane need to acquire gear at an alarming rate. This condition can cause our shacks to become cluttered, cause our bank accounts to drain, cause us develop regret and possibly cause stress in our relationships. So, how do we avoid G.A.S.? No, it is not as simple as Tums or Gas-x. But there is hope, a simple yet deliberate three part solution. Planning, Budgeting and Research, these are the keys to avoid G.A.S. regardless of what piece of equipment you are purchasing.
Step one of avoiding G.A.S., “The Planning”. There are a few key questions to ask your self, what is the goal for any piece of equipment? If you building a base station, a mobile station or a portable-ops in a go box and buying a rig here are some great questions. What bands do I want to cover; HF, VHF, UHF? Do you want to operate on one of the digital modes, D-Star, System Fusion, DMR? Do you want to do SSB, Weak Signal (FT8/4), Work Satellites, EME (Earth-moon-Earth), Grid square chasing? All of these and so much more are possible just with a Technicians License. Maybe you are already down the road studying for your general and want a combined UHF/VHF/HF rig. The major step here is to decide what you want to do or may want to accomplish in the short term and write that down. Also make sure to include the must haves for your purchase.
Step two of G.A.S. avoidance, “The Budget”. Now we know what we are trying to accomplish, we need to set a budget. Everyone’s lifestyle and disposable income is different. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, try to compete with other Hams on purchasing gear. To steal a line and rewrite as my own, “Gear Envy leads to the dark side, Gear Envy leads to spending, spending leads to broke and broke leads to suffering. Grave danger you are in, if you follow this path. Set a realistic budget for yourself, you know your finances better than anyone else. Quite frankly, if another ham runs down your gear, you are hanging out with the wrong hams. One other fine point, there is a rig for you at your price point. It may not be new, the latest and the greatest, with all the bells and whistles or it just could be the best on the market. All that matters is it gets your goals accomplished, that is the point.
Step three of G.A.S. avoidance, “The Research”. Now you know what you want to do, and you know what you can spend. You are off to the races looking at what is out there, new and pre-loved. Which bells and whistles are must haves? Check https://www.eham.net for reviews of gear, it is great place to start. eHam has a huge database of equipment reviews and most have several, if not tens and hundreds of reviews. QST and CQ magazine also do great in-depth product reviews. An ARRL membership really comes in handy here, so you can search the achieves. YouTube has thousands of video reviews, keep in mind some those reviews can be biased, and are only one persons’ opinion of the gear. QRZ is also a good place to look for reviews of gear. The resellers websites, DX Engineering, Ham Radio Outlet, Gigaparts, R&L electronics, MTC, Buy Two Way Radios, etc. all have reviews by folks who have purchased the gear, and many do their own reviews in print and video. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER be afraid or hesitant to ask an Elmer, fellow club member, or other ham about their experience with a certain piece of equipment. We are here to help; It is what Ham’s do, we pass our knowledge down. It should be our goal as Hams to help others to have a joyful and successful journey in this hobby of ours.
Once you decide on a piece of equipment, purchase it and get it set up… one last step… read the manual to learn how to operate it, then “GET ON THE AIR.” We will be looking for you!!!
Until the next time, Stay PASSIONATE about Ham Radio!!!!
John Gendron, NJ4Z