Ham Radio for Beginners: A Comprehensive Setup Guide

As an avid ham radio enthusiast, I know firsthand how important it is to have a reliable communication system, especially during emergencies. In 2017, during the devastating hurricanes that hit the US, many people were left stranded without cell service. However, ham radio operators came to the rescue, providing a lifeline for those in need.

For those new to the hobby, the question of what equipment is needed for ham radio can be overwhelming. While there are many types of ham radio equipment available, the specific equipment needed will depend on your interests and license class. In this article, I will provide some guidance on the equipment needed for different types of ham radio setups, whether you're looking to set up a home station, a mobile station, or a completely portable setup.

Key Takeaways

  • Ham radio played a crucial role in providing communication during the 2017 hurricanes.

  • The equipment needed for ham radio will depend on your interests and license class.

  • There are different types of ham radio setups, including home stations, mobile stations, and portable setups.

For Home Ham Radio Shack


To communicate as an amateur radio operator, you need a transceiver. Moonraker recommends the YAESU FT-991A, which offers necessary HF, VHF, and UHF bands. It is an upgrade on the famous FT-991 and comes with noise cancellation and reduction, an in-built 3.5’ colour touch screen with a high-resolution display, and a filter for its triple conversion receiver that drastically reduces any interfering signals. The FT-991A can also handle as much as 100 watts of power (50 watts on the 144/430MHz) on SSB, AM, FM, CW, C4FM Digital, and Packet on the standard HF/50/144/430MHz Bands.

Power Supply

You also need a power supply for your amateur radio transceiver. Moonraker recommends the Sharman SM-3011, which comes with noise offset control to remove the pulse noise when switching circuits. Its output voltage is 9 – 15V, which is adjustable.

VHF/UHF Antenna

A dual-band antenna is essential to connect with other ham radio enthusiasts. Moonraker recommends the Dual Band (2m/70cms) SQBM-100P MKII, which transmits at 144 – 146MHz and 430 – 440MHz and receives at 25 – 1300MHz. It comes pre-tuned and has a fibreglass body that can handle the elements. You will also need at least 10 meters of high-quality patch lead, and an ideal choice would be the premium quality patch: 213 10M PL259-N MALE.

HF Wire Antenna

To use HF frequencies, you need an HF wire antenna. Moonraker recommends the LWHF-40 wire antenna, which comes with a 9:1 UnUn impedance transformer that feeds a high impedance unbalanced random wire of about a few hundred ohms and transforms it into a 50Ω (unbalanced) coaxial input for your equipment. It is excellent when used with an antenna tuning unit (ATU), and it also comes with a ground connection if you need to connect it to an earth rod. You will also need at least 10 meters of patch lead. We recommend The PL58-10-10M, which is a standard 10 meters RG58 patch lead and comes with 2 PL259 connector plugs.

For Car/Mobile Ham Radio Shack

Mobile Transceiver

For my mobile ham radio shack, I recommend using a VHF/UHF radio. The Anytone AT-D578UV Plus is an excellent choice for this. It is a complete Dual Mode (Analog/DMR) Dual-Band Radio (144/440) with a 50W RF power output. The microphone has a full feature of buttons, which allows me to run the whole radio from the microphone if I want, making it ideal for use on the move. The AnyTone AT-D578UV Plus also has Bluetooth audio and PPT technology for totally hands-free operation.

This transceiver can be used for digital DMR radio systems and is compatible with MOTOTRBO Tier 1 and 2. Traditional FM mode is also supported. In addition to the well-known functions such as FM APRS, digital roaming, and the new Bluetooth option, the AT-D578UV-Plus now offers the possibility of receiving both a DMR and an analogue channel at the same time. The transmission power can be set to four levels, with the maximum power being 50 watts in VHF and 45 watts in UHF. The brightness of the 1.77″ colour display and the backlit keys on the unit and microphone can be adjusted in steps, ensuring ideal readability even in sunlight and glare-free operation when driving in the dark. The AnyTone AT-D578UV is equipped with a GPS receiver, and position data can be transmitted via radio (DMR-APRS and FM-APRS).

Mobile Dual Band Antenna

To complement my mobile transceiver, I need a mobile antenna fitted to my car shack. The MRQ-575 2/70 is a perfect option for this. It is configured to handle a half-wave at 2 meters and 2 x 5/8 wave on 70 centimetres, giving me a dual-band frequency with outstanding performance and signal quality despite its size. The MRQ-575 uses the widespread PL259 connector and is DMR compatible, fusion compatible and Dstar compatible. Its radiofrequency range is 144 -146/430-440MHz, and it has a power output of 200 watts.

Mobile Antenna Mount

Lastly, I need to mount my antenna to my vehicle. The Sirio Mag 145-PL Magnetic mount is a suitable option for this. It is a larger than usual, robust magnetic mount that comes with a 4-meter RG58 coaxial cable and the widely used PL259 connector. The base is approximately 160mm wide, and it comes with a padded rubber casing to prevent scratches. It is also water-resistant.

For a Completely Portable Ham Radio Experience

As an amateur radio operator, you might want a completely portable experience. This means you can backpack your equipment around or carry it in a portable bag. However, you will need to decide how you prefer to carry your ham radio equipment and consider your weight limits.

Power sources are essential for ham radios, so you need a suitable battery pack. It's also important to note that it’s easier to operate full-size radios than a hand-held, especially in the case of an emergency or when dealing with the elements.

If portable models are your preferred way to begin as an amateur radio operator, the Senhaix 8800 is the best portable radio for newbies to ham radio. It's a feature-crammed dual-band hand-held radio that comes with accessories such as a hand strap and a belt clip if you prefer to carry it that way.

You can choose between the Android or IOS software depending on your preference. You can download these from the App store. With the Senhaix 8800, you can have a completely portable ham radio experience without compromising on quality.


As an amateur radio operator, getting started doesn't have to be daunting. With the right equipment, one can easily get started in no time. Upgrading your ham radio equipment as you gain more experience is always an option. The ham radio community is also a valuable resource, and fellow amateur radio operators can provide helpful tips.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some important frequencies to know for a beginner in ham radio?

As a beginner in ham radio, it is important to know the frequencies that are available to you. The most common frequencies used by beginners are the 2-meter band and the 70-centimeter band. These bands are great for local communication and are widely used by amateur radio operators. Other popular frequencies include the 10-meter band, the 20-meter band, and the 40-meter band, which are great for long-distance communication.

What are some affordable options for a basic ham radio setup?

There are many affordable options for a basic ham radio setup. Some popular options include handheld radios, mobile radios, and base stations. Handheld radios are great for beginners because they are portable and easy to use. Mobile radios are a bit more expensive but offer better range and power. Base stations are the most expensive option but offer the best range and power.

What is the process for obtaining a ham radio license?

To obtain a ham radio license, you must pass a test that covers basic electronics, radio theory, and FCC regulations. The test is multiple choice and is administered by volunteer examiners. Once you pass the test, you will be issued a license by the FCC.

What is the best way to set up a home ham radio antenna?

The best way to set up a home ham radio antenna is to mount it as high as possible and away from any obstructions. A tall mast or tower is ideal, but if that's not possible, a simple pole or mount on the roof can work. It's also important to use high-quality coaxial cable and to ground the antenna properly.

What are some tips for making a successful first ham radio call?

When making your first ham radio call, it's important to speak clearly and slowly. Use standard operating procedures and be courteous to other operators. It's also a good idea to have a script prepared, so you know what to say and how to respond.

What are some important factors to consider when choosing a mobile ham radio setup?

When choosing a mobile ham radio setup, it's important to consider factors such as power output, frequency range, and ease of use. You also want to make sure that the radio is compatible with your vehicle and that you have a good antenna. Finally, make sure that the radio is easy to use while driving, so you can focus on the road.

Hi & Welcome!

My name is Jeremy and I have been an avid car nut for many year. My first car was an 1987 Honda CRX. I put in my first Kenwood stereo, amp, 2 10" JLs and a CB Radio in it and have been an avid user of CBs and car radios for years. I'll do my best to share my tips, information and thoughts to help you with whatever question you might have, ABOUT ME 

After I graduated from High School, I worked 5 years are Radio Shack and 3 years at Circuit City answering questions and helping customers with various electronics questions.