Searching for the perfect dual-band mobile and radio inventory in the wake of shut-downs

The Yaesu FT-100DR

As we here in North America are about to see how deep the Covid-19 pandemic is going to go, some of us are trying to turn lemons into lemonade and make the most of our social distance.

My buddy, Eric (WD8RIF), has inspired me to add another item to my growing Social DX Bucket List: install a dual-band mobile radio in my 2018 Subaru Forester.

I had planned to install a mobile rig shortly after purchasing the Forester, but frankly, I’m a “below 30 MHz” kind of guy, so most of my radio funds support HF gear.  When I’m taking a long trip, or wanting to join a local net however, I really miss the luxury of a proper mobile VHF/UHF radio.

 

Eric has pretty much convinced me the Yaesu FT-100DR is a solid choice at $299 US. At least, it’s the rig he plans to acquire.

He also discovered, last week, that new units of the FT-100DR are completely out-of-stock here in the US.

This prompted me to contact a couple of friends who work in the ham radio retail world–I was curious if radio inventory, in general, is running low.

Turns out, things are okay for now

It seems the shortage of FT-100DR units is pretty specific to this transceiver model and the back-order started before the Coronavirus outbreak and consequent shutting down of factories and supply chains across the globe. Likely, there’s a shortage of a specific part that has brought production to a halt.

In general, ham radio transceiver inventory is healthy for now, but supply chains and import of new units has been slowed or halted by the pandemic. Both of my friends believe production has started again in China (albeit slowly) which would coincide with what Anna recently told us. It’ll take a while for production and supply chains to ramp-up and inventory filled locally.

I wouldn’t be surprised if inventory of lower-cost handheld and mobile VHF/UHF transceivers starts to dwindle. As posted earlier today, there’s been a significant uptick of new ham radio licensees. Newly minted hams might be looking for a first radio.

My advice?

If you’re planning to purchase a new transceiver in the near future, and you feel financially secure enough to do so, bite the bullet! I would also recommend supporting your domestic ham radio retailers like (here in the US) Universal Radio, GigaParts, DX Engineering and Ham Radio Outlet. Your purchase will support them through what is obviously going to be difficult financial times ahead for small businesses.

Otherwise, just sit tight for a while! You may find a deal on the used market. One of my favorite places to check is QTH.com’s classifieds.

Speaking of the used market, this is an excellent time to post the gear you’ve been planning to sell!

Dual band mobile suggestions?

If I find a deal on a used FT-100DR, I might snag it (after giving Eric the opportunity, of course). Otherwise, I think I’ll wait until later this year and simply invest in the mounts, antenna, and wiring in the meantime.

The Icom ID-4100A also seems like a solid choice.

In truth, even the FT-100DR doesn’t really satisfy all of the features I’d like in a mobile radio. Here are the features an ideal dual-band radio would offer:

  • Compact remote head
  • Bluetooth
  • VHF/UHF analog
  • GPS
  • APRS
  •  DMR (because where I live, it’s the best repeater network by far)
  • Extended receiver coverage
  • Easy to program

Yeah, I’m essentially looking for a unicorn. DMR mode would be amazing, but I’m not sure there’s a single DMR/analog mobile with remote head. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I’d love your suggestions and experience.

Also, are you considering making any major radio purchases over the next few months. or do you plan to wait until the economy begins to recover? Please comment!

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4 thoughts on “Searching for the perfect dual-band mobile and radio inventory in the wake of shut-downs

  1. TC

    I can’t recommend the FTM-100DR, at least as a mobile rig.

    I used to run an FT-7900R in my vehicle, and thought the FTM-100 would be a nice upgrade. While the radio is “dual band” — it isn’t *dual VFO*, which means you can run either voice or APRS, but not both. Turning on APRS mode takes a considerable amount of menu operating.

    On this subject, the radio is absolutely terrible to use in a vehicle, from a usability standpoint. Menu presses are inconsistent, and even needing to press a button to adjust squelch level is fairly annoying if you’re mobile. Plan on keeping the manual near the radio.

    I also ran into some quality issues with the VFO encoder — the encoder has indents, and “clicks” would sometimes either not register, or register twice, which is really annoying if you have to dial through menus. I eventually sent the radio back to Yaesu, and they replaced the encoder, and it worked OK for a while, but it still exhibits the “double click” problem.

    I ended up getting sick of the radio in the car, and ended up relegating it to non-mobile ham shack use, and it’s now currently connected to my computer as a Wires-X node, so there’s a little bit of good there, that you can use it to connect directly to the network.

    Now I’ve got a TM-D710G for my vehicle, and I love it. Great APRS implementation, true dual band/VFO operation, and I don’t do a ton of digital, so I don’t miss that feature from my car.

    Reply
  2. DL4NO

    For a first VHF/UHF rig I would consider a handheld with 5 W of output. Add an external microphone and a reasonable (fixed) antenna. Then you should find a way to add a high-capacity battery like a 12V/7Ah lead-gel battery.

    This way you get several things: You can take your rig with you, you can operate from home and even can operate when the power grid goes down. Handhelds generally use less standby power that mobile or stationary rigs.

    Personally I hate DMR: The rigs are quite difficult to set up, most of them have a $%&/ user interface and you cannot do any normal QSOs because of all those timing restraints.

    If you wish to do digital communication, get a CW rig that can do full-BK.

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      I have a number of HTs already and use them in my vehicles. (I also have several CW rigs). 🙂 They work quite well, but I live in a mountainous area and a proper external antenna with a bit more power would come in quite handy. Regarding DMR: I’m not the biggest fan of digital modes, but here in the mountains of WNC, it has–by orders of magnitude–the best repeater network with the largest footprints. The crew that put together the network found choice sites and, frankly, the coverage in remote areas (even while hiking in national forest) is simply outstanding.

      Reply
  3. Michael Black

    Why not buy one of those rigs that cover HF (and MF now) thriugh 50, 144 and 432? You gdt local FM but also HF and SSB on the VHF bands.

    I’ve never bought a new rig, but about a year ago it hit me that I could, and might as well buy one that covers most of the bands. It used to require a rack of equioment.

    Of course, I put it off, undecided whether to buy a low power rig which makes sense for portable operation, I can get heght by going up the hill/mountain here, but fir hime use a full power rig makes sense

    Reply

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