Building a go box is a skill that takes some time, but anyone can learn how to build a ham radio go box. First, let’s talk about what makes up a go box.
A go box is a portable ham radio setup that you can throw in your vehicle and go. One of the goals of a go box is having something you can throw in your vehicle and be able to communicate in an emergency, or if you need to evacuate your home after a storm. A go box serves as a portable backup for your home station so you can operate out of your car during an emergency. The modern go-box can take many forms. Most hams will agree that the bare minimum for a go box is an antenna, power source, and radio. Many hams use handheld radios or HTs for their go boxes. For example, I have one HT that I keep in an old cigar box under my desk at work. I also have one in my motorcycle saddlebag, one in my work bag, and one in my wife’s purse.
Here are 5 tips for building a ham radio go box.
Keep it simple
The idea is to create a portable, quick and intuitive interface that will allow you to easily log contacts and operate your radio. Keeping it simple will allow you to focus on the radio and the actual work of radio operation.
Choose Your Band
The first thing to decide upon is which band you want to be able to operate. Which one do you want to work for? Some hams like to operate on all bands at all times and some go for a specific band and frequency and stick with them. It’s important to make an informed choice here. Having a multi-band go box will allow you to be flexible, but it does occupy more space and could be more expensive depending on the equipment you end up buying.
Register your radio with the FCC.
The second step in building your own go box is getting a license. You can get your ham radio license by studying the theory online and passing the exams. Become a General Class Amateur Radio Operator. The code is KG6SJR. There is no cost and you only need to study for 24 hours and pass the 25 questions. Help and support are available online and don’t be discouraged if you score low and see others posting perfect scores.
Get a power source
Before you start looking at antennas, you have to decide on a power source. Solar power is the most commonly used source for go boxes. As long as you have sunlight, you can charge your batteries. The panels are relatively cheap and the batteries are even cheaper. If you’re worried about being in an area that doesn’t have sunlight, you can always pack extra batteries with you for extra power.
Get an antenna
Depending on what you’re attempting to achieve you can get something small like an EDZ antenna or something much larger like a G5RV antenna. Once you have the antenna, I suggest buying a coax assembly kit that includes a SO-239 jack, PL-259 connector, and RG-8X coax.
Get a Microphone
There are several different options available. The first option is a handheld microphone that is very popular with handheld radios. Hand-held microphones are designed for use during emergencies or when you are mobile. If you are operating your home-based station the microphone is very useful.
Unlike other types of microphones, these microphones can be used even when your equipment is not plugged into an electrical outlet. Since the microphone is powered by a battery, it does not have to be plugged in to use it. You can still transmit any information you want to anyone else who is using a handheld radio.
Get a good Hand crimp terminal
One of the most important items to have with a go box is a good hand crimp terminal. The one I have been using for years is from W8CAR. Check out HF-Connectors.
Get a good SWR Readout. You are not going to know how well your antenna is resonant without an SWR meter, so it is a good idea to have an SWR readout with your go box. I have used an MFJ Antenna analyzer for years, but you can get away with something as simple as an SWR meter.
A hint about the title. With the advent of the Internet & Smartphones, ham radios have become less popular. But, there is still a huge fan base for this hobby. Some enthusiasts are obsessed with working signals from exotic locales or collecting antique radios (you can find the great handheld radios here). Some are just fascinated by the process of speaking to people around the world, sometimes with little more than a wire and a piece of aluminum. For others, it’s a cheap and easy way to communicate away from cellular networks.
The best handheld radios for communication, monitoring and even entertainment are the ones essential for your communication needs. When you want something more portable and you don’t want to carry around something that looks like an amateur radio but you want something that is easier to use when compared to larger options, top-rated handheld radios are the right choice.