We’ve found that some of the folks using handheld radios are having some difficulty reaching the repeater. I have a few suggestions to help those having a difficult time getting into the repeater. The main problem is most likely the antenna used for the hand-held radios. Here are some suggestions:
  1. If you are using a hand-held radio, find the best reception position for the radio but then not move it from that position when you go to transmit. Specifically, you should not move the radio or your head while transmitting and talking into the radio.  Because of the marginal path to the repeater, moving the radio from the optimal receive position in transmit, even just a few inches, moves the antenna out of the position to get the best signal into the repeater.
  2. If possible use an external antenna rather than the antenna attached to the radio.Even using an external antenna inside is a big advantage over using the one on the radio. Just using the external antenna clipped to something in the room works better than the “rubber duck” on your radio.  Even better, put a “mag-mount” antenna on the roof of your car.  That may mean you’ll need to be in your car for the net.  Remember, a mag mount antenna needs a ground plane to make it really work.  The roof of your car is just such a ground plane.
  3. Install an outside antenna. I use an external antenna at my location and it works well while I can barely make the repeater with a hand-held.
  4. Most mag mount antennas and outside antennas have at least two to three Db gain.My antenna has six Db gain.  Recall that every three Db, the power doubles.
In the end, you may need to improve the antenna situation at your location to be solid into the repeater.  The radio is most likely operating just fine.  You can get an inexpensive mag-mount two meter antenna on the internet that has a little gain associated with it for a low price. I recommend the investment.
If you’re handy and don’t want to buy an external antenna, you can find a lot of plans on the internet. You can easily build one for only a couple of dollars. They are simple to build and the only special tools you will need are wire cutters and a soldering iron. Building a 2m ground plane antenna is an excellent first project for the new ham operator.
Here is a link to plans for a simple DIY 2m ground plane antenna found on the ARRL website: 2 Meter Ground Plane Antenna Plans. Clicking the link will take you to the ARRL website. Click on the picture of the ground plane antenna, and the plans will pop up. You may be surprised at just how simple it is. Just remember to follow the dimensions exactly.
If you choose to use an external antenna with your portable radio, then you should carefully select the correct connector for your radio.  If you don’t, you’ll be using adapters to connect the antenna to the radio and you may lose some if not all the gain from the external antenna.   If you own a Baofeng  UV 5R or BF-F8HP, you need a SMA female connector.  Other radios may take a BNC or a PL259 connector.  If you have questions, please e-mail Rich Dees at