The Top 5 Most Popular Ham Radio Bands

Ham radio operators enjoy making contacts across town and around the globe. But with all the amateur radio frequency bands available, which ones are the most popular and active? After researching ham radio forums and polls, surveying experienced ham operators, and analyzing band conditions, these 5 ham bands stand out as the most popular for making contacts

1. 20 Meters

The 20 meter band reigns supreme as the most popular ham band overall. Spanning 14.000-14.350 MHz, it provides excellent domestic and international communications.

20 meters is open to worldwide contacts during daylight hours. Thanks to its near vertical incidence skywave (NVIS) propagation, it reliably covers regional communications up to 870 miles. The band only falls silent at night, unlike lower bands which go quiet during the day.

This band boasts plenty of activity from hams chatting across town as well as making transcontinental and intercontinental contacts. Contests and daily nets run frequently on 20 meters to connect hams worldwide. Major DXpeditions focus on 20 meters to maximize contacts.

From major DX to local ragchews, 20 meters has it all. Hams who want frequent contacts and low noise will love this band.

  • Covers: Regional and worldwide
  • Distance: Up to 870 miles NVIS, international along the greyline
  • Activity: Very high
  • Noise: Low
  • Users: All license classes

2. 40 Meters

While not as busy as 20 meters, 40 meters is the second most popular ham band due to its supreme reliability. The 40 meter band covers 7.000-7.300 MHz.

Since it’s a lower frequency band, 40 meter signals refract off the ionosphere at night This gives excellent nighttime regional communications up to 500 miles as well as transcontinental contacts

During daylight, the ionization on 40 meters drops off to support local communications under 250 miles. The band only goes completely dead around sunset and sunrise. So 40 meters provides high activity 24/7. It’s especially useful when 20 meters shuts down at night.

This band is authorized to all license classes with both voice and Morse code permitted. The lower noise and steady signals make for great ragchewing. Just beware that 40 meters is also popular with AM broadcast hobbyists.

  • Covers: Regional with transcontinental at night
  • Distance: Up to 500 miles at night, 250 miles daytime
  • Activity: High 24 hours
  • Noise: Moderate
  • Users: All license classes

3. 15 Meters

Though often overlooked by newer hams, the 15 meter band is widely loved by experienced operators. This band covers 21.000-21.450 MHz.

Due to its mid-range frequency, 15 meters can sustain NVIS contacts to around 570 miles during the day. It also provides reliable transcontinental groundwave propagation in the day. Around sunset it switches to intercontinental DX working best along the darkness line.

15 meters combines regional and DX capabilities with minimal interference and band noise. The only downside is that ionospheric conditions greatly impact its propagation so the band isn’t always open.

When solar activity is up, 15 meters really shines for working DX. It’s prized for contesting and chasing awards like DXCC. CW and SSB contacts are both very popular.

  • Covers: Regional, transcontinental, and intercontinental
  • Distance: Up to 570 miles NVIS, worldwide along greyline
  • Activity: Moderate to high
  • Noise: Very low
  • Users: General and higher license classes

4. 80 Meters

The 80 meter band is cherished for reliable regional nighttime contacts that cover several states. Spanning 3.500-4.000 MHz, 80 meters takes advantage of low propagation after dark.

On 80 meters, signals refract off the ionosphere after sunset to support communications to 500 miles or more. During daylight the D layer of the ionosphere absorbs signals, limiting it to groundwave under 100 miles.

Nighttime on 80 meters is very active with scheduled nets every evening. Ragchewing on local, regional and DX topics is popular as signals crisscross the country. Be prepared for some noise though.

Technician licensees have CW/data privileges while General and up can use phone. The low frequencies also travel well in rugged terrain. 80 meters is ideal when 20 and 40 meters bands close at night.

  • Covers: Regional up to 500 miles+ at night
  • Distance: Up to 500 miles at night, 100 miles daytime
  • Activity: High at night, low during day
  • Noise: Moderate
  • Users: All license classes

5. 10 Meters

When ham radio propagation is good, the 10 meter band really shines. Spanning 28.000-29.700 MHz, 10 meters is the top HF band.

During the peak of the solar cycle, 10 meters supports worldwide communication on SSB and CW. It provides reliable transcontinental DX working best along the darkness path. Sporadic E openings are also common.

This band boasts plenty of scheduled nets and contests to make exciting contacts. When 10 meters is hot it’s the place to bag new countries and rack up high QSO counts. Just be ready for the band to slumber during solar minimum.

With the sunspot cycle ramping up again, 10 meters is back on the rise for DX work and contesting. This band often exceeds expectations when conditions improve.

  • Covers: Transcontinental and worldwide during solar maxima
  • Distance: Ranges worldwide along greyline when open
  • Activity: High during solar peaks, very low during minima
  • Noise: Low
  • Users: All license classes

Beyond these top 5, other bands like 17 meters, 30 meters, and 160 meters have devoted fans. When getting started on HF, focus on the most popular bands first. Learning to nail contacts on 20, 40, and 15 meters will keep you busy making new ham friends near and far.

Choosing Your First Ham Radio

As a new Technician or General class ham radio operator, you’ll want to invest in a good quality HF transceiver to get on these popular bands. Here are some things to look for when choosing your first ham radio:

  • HF coverage – Ensure the radio covers at least the critical HF frequencies on 20, 40, 15, and 10 meters. Many entry-level models include 160, 80, or 6 meters as well.

  • Power output – Look for 100 watts to maximize your signal strength for DX contacts. QRP radios under 10 watts work fine for local comms.

  • Modes – Make sure the radio supports SSB (voice) and CW (Morse code) at a minimum. Having RTTY, AM, and FM is a bonus.

  • Filters – Multiple filtering options like narrow CW filters will reduce interference on busy bands.

  • Digital – Consider radios with built-in digital modes like FT8 or WSPR to use on bands like 20 and 40m.

  • Antenna ports – SO-239 or UHF ports for hooking up HF antennas and dummy loads are essential.

  • Usability – Opt for radios with simple, intuitive controls versus overly complex interfaces.

As far as specific radio models, top entry-level choices include the Icom IC-718, Yaesu FT-450D, Kenwood TS-480SAT, Elecraft KX2, and Alinco DX-SR8T. Each provides great performance on the most popular HF bands.

Get On the Air and Enjoy the Bands!

Part of the fun in ham radio is sampling different bands and discovering your favorites. The most popular ham bands like 20, 40, and 15 meters boast lots of activity to help new hams master making contacts.

Equipped with your HF transceiver, you’ll be ready to join conversations from across town or across continents. Listen to the band chatter to find active frequencies. Give your callsign and listen for replies. Adjust your antennas to eliminate noise and interference. Learn to tweak propagation using band openings,skip zones, and greyline timing.

Work nets and contests to rapidly build your contact lists. Chase awards like WAC, WAS, VUCC, DXCC, and others. The more bands you master, the more options you’ll have to make exciting contacts anytime, day or night.

Ham radio offers something for everyone. Over time you’ll determine which bands best match your interests. The thrill of connecting with other hams worldwide never gets old.

So get on the air and explore all that the popular HF bands have to offer. Key down the mic and join the conversations spanning the globe. The amateur radio hobby will quickly become your passion when you master these top 5 most popular ham radio bands.

Ham Radio Frequencies 101 – The Bands You NEED to Be On


What is the most used ham radio band?

Using the national calling frequencies is the best place to begin. The two most utilized are the 2 Meter (VHF), mentioned above, 146.520MHz, and the 70 centimeter (UHF) 446.000MHz.

What is the most popular ham channel?

The most popular is the 144-MHz (2-meter) band. That’s where you’ll find a lot of ham radio operators as well as local public safety calls. If you want to hear the civilian aircraft frequencies, you’ll want to look for a radio that has the 118 to 136 MHz air band.

What are the commonly used ham frequencies?

146.52 MHz: Ham radio frequency for non-repeater communications on the two-meter band. 151.625 MHz: Utilized by mobile businesses such as circuses, exhibitions, trade shows, and sports teams. Other channels in use are 154.57 and 154.60 MHz. 154.28 MHz: Local fire department emergency communication channel.

What ham bands are active during the day?

20 Meters. 20 meters is one of the most popular ham bands, especially with DX stations. The band spans from 14.0–14.35 MHz and is most active during the day.

Which band is best for hams?

The 40 meter band is most popular and reliable band for use during all seasons. 30 Meters is a narrow digital band spanning from 10.1–10.15 MHz and has a maximum power of 200 watts. 20 meters band spans from 14.0–14.35 MHz. It is the most popular band between Hams and is most busy band during the day.

What band does a ham radio use?

630 Meter ranges from 472 KHz to 479 KHz. 160 Meter ranges from 1.800 MHz to 2.000 MHz.160 was previously the lowest band used in ham radio and is often called the “top band’ by many hams. HF bands are where the majority of long-distance communications happen in amateur radio. 80 Meter ranges from 3.5 MHz to 4.0 MHz.

What MHz is a ham?

18.068-18.168 MHz. Band conditions are very similar to 20 meters. This seems to be a very popular band when hams go mobile and lots of fun can be expected. You will meet some of the finest Hams in the world on 17 meters. A very cordial band! 21.000-21.450 MHz.

Which ham band is best for DX?

20 meters is one of the most popular ham bands, especially with DX stations. The band spans from 14.0–14.35 MHz and is most active during the day. Band Notes: Great activity during solar maximum; otherwise not the best band for DX

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