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How to Get Started In Off-Grid Communications

by David M. Hill, Sr.

People often ask what the best option is for off-grid communication. There is only one answer to this question that makes sense to me and that is the wonderful world of amateur radio or ham radio.

The reason is quite simple—ham radio is the only legal form of two-way radio that you can get involved in that will provide you with all levels of communication ability. If local communications are all you are interested in, ham radio has it. If you want to expand your capability to a more regional level, ham radio provides that as well. But if you would also like to open the entire world to your communications ability, then ham radio is your only answer for reliable off-grid communications.

No other radio service can provide all of this to you, and it’s very simple to get involved in ham radio today. There have been many books published on this subject and I am not going to try to re-invent the wheel here. I am simply going to share some ways for you to consider beginning your journey into the wonderful world of ham radio. Ham radio has something to offer everyone and it takes a big book to cover all the different modes that ham radio operators can use. What we are going to focus on is reliable off-grid communications and how you can get started on the path to reach whatever goal you set for yourself.

Your First Step…

Make the decision to expand your communications ability and then start studying to get your entry level license. We will first cover one of the most popular ways to accomplish this. You can take practice tests online for free at That is how I got started and many people I know did it this way as well. There are 100 different tests for the technician level and each test consists of 35 multiple-choice questions. That sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that, once you get thru the first ten or fifteen tests, many of the questions will repeat on the following test numbers.

Here is another very popular choice for getting started and one that I think does a much better job of actually teaching you the material. This is a much better choice for those that do not know anything about radio communications or electronics. This is not free, but it is very inexpensive in the grand scheme of things. Go to this website at:

Now for those of you that prefer a classroom environment or have limited online resources, there are many classes held by local ham radio clubs. One of the guys involved with our group at the APRN did it this way. His story is rather unique in today’s society.

This man has a farm in upstate New York that does not have grid power. He does not own a computer, and he has no motor vehicle. He uses a horse and buggy for transportation. He saw the need for communications and went to the local library to do research. He found his local ham radio club and got in touch with them. They had a class coming up and, when he explained his transportation restrictions, one of the members stepped up and offered a ride to and from the classes so he could get his license. This goes to prove that there is no excuse for anyone not having a way to go get there license.

It is real simple folks—if you have the desire, someone in the ham radio world will be willing to help you accomplish your goal. You can locate your nearest ham radio club here at Once you have that page up, use the search box on the left side and enter your postal zip code to find one in your area.

There is one last way, just so all of the bases are covered and nobody has an excuse. For those of you that would prefer to read a book and learn that way, the ARRL puts out books for each of the three ham radio license classes. There are also other very good books out by Gordon West that are highly recommended by many. I have no affiliation to any of these. I am just trying to make it easy for you to get started in the wonderful world of ham radio! You can find the ARRL books here:

You can find many books on ham radio, including Gordon West books, on Amazon. Just search for ham radio or Gordon West. Amazon also has the ARRL books as well. Go to:

73 “Best wishes in radio talk”
David M Hill, Sr.
Ham Radio Works When All Else Fails

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