The temptation to buy loads of expensive gear is pretty strong when you get your Tech ticket. Here’s what I would have done differently.
Find a local club, pay the dues, and join it.
Go to the meetings, and ask the old guys (and young) questions, like “what sort of radio do I need/what are the repeaters in the area/what nets are active, etc. Most of them are more than happy to line you out with lots of useful info.
Get a dual band handheld radio, and program every repeater and simplex frequency your area of operation into it.
In my area, there are several repeater and simplex frequencies. Put all your local frequencies into your new radio. This gives you practice doing it (if you don’t know how to USE your radio, it’s an novelty item) and familiarizes you with the menus in the radio. There are literally dozens of YouTube videos for programming my Yaesu FT-60R. The radio you choose will likely have lots of videos for programming it-keep that in mind when buying a radio. It also makes you able to access the frequencies the club members are using. That way you get to practice talking to the folks in your area as well.
Buy a dual band (2m/70cm) radio FIRST.
If you have a tech license, you’ll get on the air immediately, whereas on HF, you’re limited to some of 6m and 10m, and some CW on 15m, 40m, and 80m bands. Having a dual band hand held will get you on the air, right now.
Buy a GOOD QUALITY dual band radio.
Don’t buy cheap, even if a club member encourages you to. I have a bit of experience with the Bao Feng line, and I’d encourage you to avoid them. Instead, budget $150- $200 for a name brand radio (Yaesu, Icom, Kenwood) from a local dealer, if you have one. You’ll be glad you did. Don’t listen to the naysayers tell you the “if you drop it in the water, it’s ruined” stories. You’re perfectly able to keep a nice piece of equipment from being ruined, and quality equipment is always better. If all you can afford is a $30 radio, save your money and wait till you can afford a good one. Once again, you’ll be glad you did.
DON’T rush out and buy an HF radio
In addition to the radio, you’ll need a tuner, antenna, coax cable or ladder line, and space to install it. All these items take money, planning, and space to put them in. HF radio can be an interesting part of the hobby, and can also be frustrating to do well. Remember those old guys I spoke about? Most of them are more than happy to let you come over while they operate their equipment-and I prefer to learn by doing. Ask them questions, listen and write down their answers.
When you’re ready to upgrade your license, use the online test websites to help you.
Some are free, some a charge a small fee. I used hamtestonline.com for my general test: I studied for ten days, and passed. It was $30, fast, and pretty easy. I’m not affiliated with them, just a satisfied customer. But there are plenty more, and some are free. Let your fingers do the (internet) walking.
These suggestions won’t guarantee that you won’t be frustrated, but they just might help.
As they say in ham radio,