Need advice to get on-air

Before I changed jobs at the beginning of the year, I’d commute around 1hr each way each day to the office, and every month or so, I’d get about 3 or 4 days where I’d try to get on my local repeater. When I changed jobs, I suddenly realised that I don’t have any way to get that repeater access from here, as I live in a significant bowl in the landscape.

It’s a bit annoying really, I’ve got a Baofeng UV5R for mobile use, a lovely ICOM-IC2725 and an Alinco DR-605, all of which do 2m and 70cm, and I have a magmount antenna that isn’t mounted on my car any more… So, in theory, if I can get a ground plane up, somewhere that the kids won’t trip over, I could use that with either of those radios.

I’ve seen some suggestions about joining one of the VOIP systems for connected radios, e.g. DSTAR, and hooking up the antenna to a dummy load, then using my Baofeng to join calls over the internet via that network connected radio… Which would probably work, as I have a couple of raspberry pi boards I could dedicate to radio interfaces… But how easy is that too get started?

I can’t really afford to spend much more than £30-£50 on this (the ICOM and Alinco radios were part of a silent-key estate I inherited, all I’ve been able to justify spending on were the Baofeng and the magmount), so my other option was to make an antenna. In the past I built a ladder line J-pole but I really don’t trust my building skills any more, and I can’t really afford to replace the radios if I blow them up with a badly measured antenna.

So… If you were in my boat, fellow radio amateur, what would you do?

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