My Experiences as a New HF Ham Radio Operator

New station

  • Don’t go crazy on a new station.  Simple 100 watt radio and a wire (which is now the name of a podcast but it was seen here first), see how far it gets you.
  • Have some idea what you want to do with the station. I wanted to do digital so that meant boat anchors were obviously out of the question.  I’m a modern computer person so menus, bells, and whistles appeal to me.
  • Spend ALOT of time (months) figuring out what you need and what works together.  Spend time searching the Internet for reviews and details about radios. is a great place for reviews.  Look for experiences similar to what you’re thinking about doing with the station (how well accessories integrate, do you want to have computer control over your radio).

Read guides and manuals

The best place is to check the ARRL store.  The Operating Manual covers nearly every topic related to Ham Radio.  Books on specific topics are available: HF digital, VHF digital, satellites, E-Z nifty guides on D-STAR, PSK31.

Another good place to find operating standards, tips, and calibration is to read the manual for all of your equipment.  If a concept is not clear, search the Internet or operate awhile and it might become clearer after gaining experience.

Finally, search online and YouTube for operating tips and guides.

Band plan

Know your band plans.  Band plans are frequency allocations for the Amateur Radio Service, sharing arrangements with other radio services, and sections you can operate certain modes.  For ITU region 2:

  • I use the ICOM band plan poster they hand out at Dayton Hamvention.  The ICOM Amateur Tool Kit has other useful references.
  • Kenwood and W5YI hand out excellent band plans in standard size at Dayton too.
  • The ARRL has band plans in a couple different formats including a printable version.  Check other links under the “Frequency Allocations” heading on left on either link.

HRD Band Plans

If you are a Technician, General, or Advanced class license, it might be helpful to setup your band plan in Ham Radio Deluxe.  In HRD Radio Control, you can define your operating bands.  This is different from the out of band notification from your radio.  The radio only notifies you when you’re outside the band for your region, not when you are in the Extra portion of the ham bands.  Alternatively, if you never work digital or CW then remove those sub-bands.  Taylor them to your needs.

  • In HRD Radio Control, click Bands and then Manager.
  • Copy and modify an existing layout or create a new one from scratch.
  • In your band layout, only define frequency ranges in the spectrum where you have operating privileges.  Example 40 meters: Advanced class: 7.025 – 7.300, General class: 7.025 – 7.125 and 7.175 – 7.300, Novice and Technician class: 7.025 – 7.125.  Extra class has privileges on all frequencies so yours would be the entire 40 meter ham band: 7.000 – 7.300.
  • When defined, click the Selection icon, Bands, and select the band plan you just defined.
  • Then click Tools, Program Options, click Out Of Band, and check Enable.

Out Of Band notification will play tones through your speakers when you have gone outside of your operating privileges.

Maps, maps, maps

You will now be working stations around the globe and the globe has been divided up into many different designations. Time zones, ITU regions/zones, CQ regions, ARRL sections.

ITU and CQ zones are used for logging. Gridsquare is often transmitted in digital modes. ARRL Section abbreviations are used in voice contacts. Some states have more than one section. Example there is no “Pennsylvania” per-se, the proper section would be “Western PA” or “Eastern PA.”