Ham Radio Cheat Sheet

Ham Radio

During the initial stages of a disaster, HAM Radio operators are often the only line of communication in or out of the affected area.

Their ability to communicate when the grid goes down is one of the major reasons I advise our readers to look into HAM Radio. In a survival situation, communication and the ability to quickly gather information are going to be critical factors in determining the outcome of your situation.

Here is our Ham Radio Cheat Sheet

It covers what bands each license class has access to, common Q Codes, the Phonetic Alphabet, and Morse code.
Ham Radio Cheat Sheet
Click here for Printable Version

Feel free to share this graphic on your site, all we ask is that you link back to offgridsurvival.com as the source.


  1. Peter
    October 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Excellent post, i know most of it, but I am going to print off and keep a copy of this ‘Cheat Sheet’


    • Phyllis
      February 11, 2016 at 7:36 am

      Is there a way to buy a solar handheld radio for emergency instead of building it your or do you sell them?

      • Gabriel
        August 11, 2016 at 7:42 am

        Just get a solar panel to operate the charger! Or, get one of those new solar USB chargers. Many handheld radios now use USB to recharge. Talking about radios, The Baofeng radios are cheap and battery last for a very long time, excellent for emergencies.

  2. Joe (PreppingToSurvive)
    October 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    As a ham radio operator, I like your cheat sheet! And I’d encourage others to go ahead and learn to operate an amateur radio now, before the SHTF. You wouldn’t wait until a disaster to learn to use a weapon. Why wait until one happens to learn to use a radio?


    • Michael
      July 7, 2013 at 10:58 pm

      im looking at getting a ham radio , are there any other items besides a antenna that I’ll need to buy, im not sure can you give some me advice

      • Enter your name...
        March 9, 2015 at 12:09 am

        You will need a power supply. Radios use a battery or DC. The power supply will convert AC to DC. But handheld radios have a built in battery.

  3. Christopher Hunter
    October 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    This is great! I have been looking into buying a HAM Radio, atleast now I know what to look for… Thanks! :D #centralgeorgiaprepper

    • DrBill
      October 9, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      Get your Amateur License Before you buy that first radio. You might find you want and need something very different.


    • Gabriel
      August 11, 2016 at 7:44 am

      Remember that you need at least an Amateur Technician license to operate in the ham bands. There are several apps that can help you study for the exam. I am preparing to upgrade to General after 20 years as a tech.

  4. Brian
    October 9, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    I took a course this weekend and will be leaving in an hour or so to go take my Technician test. Ham radios are an awesome tool. Go get your license and a radio!

    • Mike
      October 9, 2012 at 8:40 pm

      Congrats Brian and good luck on your test! Keep studying and upgrade as fast as you can. It’s easiest while you still have your “HAM head” on. A lot of the General is stuff that’s also on the Tech.
      73, Mike, N0VF

    • OFFGRID Logo
      Off Grid Survival
      October 9, 2012 at 9:08 pm

      Good luck Brian, and make sure you keep going to get at least your general license for the added bands.

  5. mark
    October 9, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    I messed with cb’s alot when i was younger but was always curious about ham radio. Could you all recommend any info ( web sites, literature, equipment etc.) To help someone get staeted? Thanks in advance!

    • OFFGRID Logo
      Off Grid Survival
      October 9, 2012 at 9:03 pm

      I highly recommend anything from Gordon West. Check it out here at amazon. His material is some of the best material out there and he’s been helping hams since the 70’s

    • Travis
      October 14, 2012 at 11:21 am

      Ham Test Online is a good study aid. It is not free but is reasonable. I used it for my General and am now working on Extra.


      • Ambrose
        September 9, 2015 at 6:58 am

        I used Hamtest online for my extra and only missed 1 question on the test. It is excellent at helping you pass the test quickly and efficiently. Just be aware that you’ll still have a lot to learn once you do (not that that is a bad thing, learning is a lot of the fun of ham radio).

  6. Mike
    October 9, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    I’ve been licensed for a few years now, am a certified instructor and Volunteer Examiner. If anyone has any questions concerning the how, what, etc. about HAM radio, email me at N0VF@inbox.com. Put something in the subject that I will recognize and I’ll try and answer any questions that I can.

  7. Sue
    October 10, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Can you make it available in a down-loadable or printable form, Please?

    Thank you.

  8. tony
    October 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Y not just have a cb. y a HAM?

    • Travis
      October 14, 2012 at 11:22 am

      CB is extremely limited in capabilities.

      • Nathan
        May 21, 2017 at 9:26 am

        Can you communicate with a CB operator with a ham radio and vice verca?

  9. Michael Heit
    October 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Great sheet … but how can I print it out? I see no print format selection. A very useful tool.

    Mike AD7VV

  10. Karl W Hubbard
    October 14, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    When is the 100Watt amp for the Elecraft KX3 coming out?

    Also, for one who does NOT want to be connected (have to rely on) to the internet and NOT have to rely on computer software, etc, what is a good Morse Decoder out there…i.e., one that its freestanding on it’s own ..plug into your radio and NO computer?

    • W0JOG
      October 15, 2012 at 3:36 am

      What is a good Morse Code decoder?

      Your head!

  11. thatAway
    October 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I am a ham operator. and have been since the 80’s.
    The Cheat sheets we all use them even if you are active daily there is a lot to remember if you use many different transmitting modes..
    But they are easy to get. Even the radio manufactures will provide you with them.. When you buy a rig or just check there sites..
    Or where you buy your radio will enclose one if you ask.
    And the one shown on this page is a great basic one.

    Where cw (morse code) and phone (or voice) are operated is fairly easy to remember.
    And even where license classes can operate is not to bad for me to remember…

    But when you start to get into the digital modes. And even atv.
    Yes they even Have amateur television in (digital transmission signals)
    in some towns. Ans slow scan on the H.F. Bands..
    It can get a little dicy and it is a gentleman agreement whom use the frequencies.. But you can get fined buy the fcc. for operating out of band..

    You can get currant chart from the fcc with a little research
    on there site.. those are really up to date charts..

    But you can also just get on any manufacture site and search ham bands frequency allocations. They have em for free down load to.. Do not pay for one they are all over the web with a little research..

    And the Q list is just the common one shown are the most common used.
    There are close to 50 to 100 of them I have. They can also be found on line or in ARRL.. Amateur Radio Hand Book.. and they are still updated every year.
    And available on Cd’s

    Every ham should have a Amateur Radio Hand Book form the arrl Old or new You can learn almost everything you as an amateur form even the old book..
    BUT you can also Practice you test on a web FOR FREE site called eham.com.

    Good study book are available from the ARRL* or any amateur radio store..
    I think you do have to register but I do not think you have to be a licensed ham to register on eham, It is a great site to research on equipment questions ect hey have great forums….And it is FREE… ((The tests are actual test questions that are given to the VE’s* from the fcc to choose from to make up a test.
    It is a great way to see if you are ready for the tests.))
    If you hit 80% to 90% the tests you will probably pass any test given in the U.S.
    GOOD LUCK it is a great hobby..
    And a very valuable toll to have in your survival kit..
    73 All

    *VE is a Volunteer Examiner register with the fcc to give you test.
    * American Amateur Relay League
    *eham.com just one of a 1000 ham site but think one of the better ones and good forums. And some one will always answer a question you have..

    (I have no affiliation or have any monitory connection to these sites.
    Or are my preference to any on line studding or whom you buy material from
    it is up to you. Weather you study from books, or on line or with an other ham (an elmer).. (( I highly recommend you get together with a local ham for
    help you along some are will especially the older folks.. And they know a lot..
    There are also ham clubs getting involved with one. It will help you to advance quickly..An get involved in the local happenings..

    But the practice test for FREE on eham.com will really give you a big advantage to pass..

    73 Again

  12. bruce
    November 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    how does one become a prepper and how does one get the knid of stuff that i would need to save my wife and 2 kidsfrom any harm i can sit back i watch the trouble come

    • you can go to many sites for information as general or as techinchal as you want. i would start with the more general ones and get started that way. here we go: survival offgrid, offgridsurvival, survival gear, backdoor survival, are just a few. check them out alot of good info to be had. i scan them all the time, you can go from there almost any direction you want or are capable of doing. start prepping comes from any/all places you shop….groceries, hardware, defense, backup electricticy, clothes you may need to get you and family through several seasons including winter. start with having your wife buy basics you all use all the time and put aside store elsewhere. water is a biggie. if you do not have any way to protect your family you and wife need to go shop for acouple of firearms and ammo. stock up on ammo after you have your firearms. find someone you know that is knowledagle in fireamrs and start you in right direction and classes on use of them. with children at home, make darn sure you keep ALL GUNS locked up at all times. i wish you luck and best in your starting prepping.

  13. Joseph P. Martino
    December 17, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Lots of good information on that cheat sheet. However, the Morse Code section omits punctuation marks like comma, period, fraction bar, question mark (needed for the query form of Q-codes), etc. These need to be added. KC8OUX.

  14. Janie
    May 8, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    I teach two local ham training courses:Intro to Emergency Communication & Fundamentals of Emergency Communication. Please note: Q-codes are not used during emergency communication; we use plain English for absolute clarity. Just a point to keep in mind.

    • brad
      April 24, 2017 at 9:21 am

      most people only use qcodes fore cw, plain english is used if you are on a voice band.

  15. Mel
    April 15, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Would like to ‘pin’ several items from site. Why no Pinterest?

  16. KC3PO
    February 1, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    The rules for the 60m band have changed recently… you might want to check into that and amend your cheat sheet accordingly – just a heads up. Otherwise, useful cheat sheet.

  17. brad
    February 9, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    I have 2 meter ham radio and I need were can get soft ware
    For program ING it

    • brad
      April 24, 2017 at 9:33 am

      if you have a baofeng, you can d.l. it off their website and use chirp to up/down from computer to device, that was when I took my tech. test. Now with my better radios it all comes in the box. I still have the baofengs, mine are HT’s and are good for a go bag, long battery life, and I found it is easier to program by the screen/menu. Only 6 settings to program a repeater if you are stuck with out the book, computer, power goes out situations.

  18. Debbie Fulton
    August 28, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    I’m trying not to show my ignorance,but where is the testing held? Is it the FCC where you’d take the test? How can find out where the tahe much does it cost for licensing?

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