Here is a synopsis of my talk on radios and antennas from the May meeting.
If you are doing a retrive in a car, using a handheld from inside the car is going to have poor range and reception. Getting an external, inexpensive magnetic mount antenna will help range and clarity a lot. Doesn’t need to be big, just get the antenna outside.
The cheap rubber ducky antennas that come on our radios are poor. They work OK when your in the air but once on the ground trying to contact people can be difficult. You can get a good upgrade antenna for about $25. My favorite is the Comet SMA 24 which is about a 15" long very flexible antenna. I usually stuff this antenna in my harness and use it when I land. If you want something that is flexible and only a little longer than the ducky antenna then the Diamond SRH519 is a good option. These are for radios with SMA connectors. If you have an older radio with a BNC connector you need to make sure you get the right connector type. SMAs are very small screw on connectors. Both of these antennas have thin flexible elements so for reliability I always beef up where the element enters the connector. I put a little dab of Goop or Shoe Goo at that point and then put a couple wraps of electrical tape on that after it dries. This makes them very reliable.
Best radio is probably the Yaesu Vertex VX-270, but it is 2 Meter only and costs $140. If you want a less expensive radio that has great features, multiple bands and only 1 watt less powere (4w vs 5w) you can find the Baofeng UV-5RA on Amazon for $45. Need to program it to set it to narrow band, 5k indexing, 30 second transmit timeout (prevents a stuck mic [or mouth] from blocking the channel) and squelch to 1 or 2. I can load the radios with full programming for all our frequencies and 2M channles in a minute with my laptop. If a few people get these I’ll bring it to the next meeting with the programming cord. Only other issue with this radio is that to use upgrade antennas you need to get a female to femal SMA converter which you can either get online, or locally at Ham Radio Outlet for $4. Great deal for a radio. If you are a PG when buying the radio you may want to get the remote speaker/mic. Allows you to have the speaker/mic on you harness strap for about $10-15.
If you need an optimal range antenna you may want to build or buy a 1/2 wave dipole out of coax. You can buy them or if enough people are interested we could order some cables and I could help show how to build them. The only deficiencies with the ones you can purchase are that they should have a ferrite bead at the end of the transmission line, and you should put a couple dabs of goop where the elements separate to keep them from breaking prematurely. Do that and your antenna will last many years. There are a few other tricks to making them even better but if you are interested call or pm me.