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Old 07-17-2016, 04:48 PM   #1
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Ham Radio while camping

I recently got interested in ham radio and got a license and radio, and it seems like there should be some good things I can do to combine ham radio and camping/ traveling. I have thought about having a mobile 2 meter rig for general and emergency communications, and have also heard about 40 meter nets for hams who also RV. If you are also a ham, how do you use amateur radio while camping?
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Old 07-17-2016, 05:17 PM   #2
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I recently got interested in ham radio and got a license and radio, and it seems like there should be some good things I can do to combine ham radio and camping/ traveling. I have thought about having a mobile 2 meter rig for general and emergency communications, and have also heard about 40 meter nets for hams who also RV. If you are also a ham, how do you use amateur radio while camping?
I returned this spring from a 3 month stay (as campground host) in Big Bend NP, where I operated out of my '21, mostly on 20 and 40 meters. I didn't check into any RV nets but did contact 3 other hams who decided to pay a visit after our conversations. It was an enjoyable hobby while staying stationary for a relatively long period. 2 meter mobile might be a better choice if visiting multiple locations. My biggest problem was setting up my 43 foot wire antenna - wasn't allowed to use a tree in the National Park. Next year, knowing what I know now, I will bring a 30 foot telescoping fiberglass pole to make life easier.

For "emergency" communications I would recommend a small, 3 element, 2 meter antenna. The standard "rubber ducky" or quarter wave car antenna will radiate a weak signal in all directions, while the station you really want to contact might require a stronger directional signal. You can hold a 3 element antenna in one hand while pointing it at the station of interest for a much more reliable contact.

Hope that helps as a starting point.

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Old 07-17-2016, 05:41 PM   #3
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I returned this spring from a 3 month stay (as campground host) in Big Bend NP, where I operated out of my '21, mostly on 20 and 40 meters. I didn't check into any RV nets but did contact 3 other hams who decided to pay a visit after our conversations. It was an enjoyable hobby while staying stationary for a relatively long period. 2 meter mobile might be a better choice if visiting multiple locations. My biggest problem was setting up my 43 foot wire antenna - wasn't allowed to use a tree in the National Park. Next year, knowing what I know now, I will bring a 30 foot telescoping fiberglass pole to make life easier.

For "emergency" communications I would recommend a small, 3 element, 2 meter antenna. The standard "rubber ducky" or quarter wave car antenna will radiate a weak signal in all directions, while the station you really want to contact might require a stronger directional signal. You can hold a 3 element antenna in one hand while pointing it at the station of interest for a much more reliable contact.

Hope that helps as a starting point.

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Hi: alanmalk... "I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole". Alf
escape artist N.S. of Lake Erie
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Old 07-17-2016, 06:56 PM   #4
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Although I obtained a basic operator's certificate and call sign many years ago, I didn't operate a station. My intent was to assist with automotive competition events, but I ended up not pursuing that aspect of the sport.

The point is that various types of events depend on amatuer radio operators in situations where other methods are impractical, due to range or lack of other networks. You might be able to participate in interesting events from an unusual viewpoint, by assisting them.

Another obvious role for amatuer operators is in search and rescue, and as a camper you're likely to be remote areas where searches may be needed as people get in trouble. Although search and rescue is coordinated by government agencies, volunteers play important roles.

I suppose a challenge for both event coordination and search and rescue activities is that they are usually arranged through local radio clubs, so it could be difficult for a traveller to connect with them.
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Old 07-17-2016, 07:04 PM   #5
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I do not get my 21' until Sept. 1. However intend to operate once I get set up. I intend to operate on both vhf and hf. I will try Winlink which allows you to send and receive emails via ham radio.
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Old 07-17-2016, 07:47 PM   #6
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Next year, knowing what I know now, I will bring a 30 foot telescoping fiberglass pole to make life easier.
At the Orlando Hamcation last February lots of RVs had those fiberglass vertical ham antennas. We were parked on a fairgrounds that also had overhead power lines. One day I heard a "BOOM!" loud enough to shake my trailer. One of the fiberglass verticals had fallen over and hit a power line. Fortunately no one was hurt, but a $4000 radio was cooked. You'd think these guys would know better.
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Old 07-17-2016, 09:08 PM   #7
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Ham Radio

Quote:
Originally Posted by bdornbush View Post
I recently got interested in ham radio and got a license and radio, and it seems like there should be some good things I can do to combine ham radio and camping/ traveling. I have thought about having a mobile 2 meter rig for general and emergency communications, and have also heard about 40 meter nets for hams who also RV. If you are also a ham, how do you use amateur radio while camping?

I have a VHF radio in the truck that has APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System)built-in. So back in May when I drove from Ottawa to Chilliwack to retrieve my new Escape 19, the APRS allowed friends and family to track me on Google Maps APRS web site throughout most of my 40 day adventure to and from Chilliwack.

By the time field day came around on June 25th, I found myself at Pukaskwa National Park near Marathon Ontario on Superiors north shore. I put up a 43 foot wire antenna and set up my Elecraft KX3 radio on the dinette. Im using a 12 meter fibre glass pole so part of the antenna had to also be supported on a near by tree (I hope I didn't break any park rules).

Then, hearing distant thunder in the air, and static crashes on the radio, I decided it would be prudent to dismantle the antenna and ride out the coming storm. Im glad I did because the electrical storm lasted at least 4 hours with one lightning strike within 100 metres of me which caused me to jump out of my skin. I found out later that this storm system also caused severe flooding in both Thunder Bay and Kenora Ontario earlier that Saturday.

On Sunday afternoon I put the antenna back up but field day had ended and bands were pretty quiet. I did check into the Trans-provincial net here in Ontario.

The fibre glass pole I use is from "Spiderbeam" which have various lengths of poles for sale. I bought a hitch mounted flag pole holder on Amazon and I built a home brew 9:1 unbalanced to unbalanced transformer (called an Unun). With the built-in tuner in the KX3 it loads up great on most bands. I recently learned that a 52 foot wire would be optimum for such a setup so Ill be modifying this antenna by adding another 10 feet to it.

Thats my experience so far...more to come...



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Old 07-18-2016, 12:48 PM   #8
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Hi: alanmalk... "I wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole". Alf
escape artist N.S. of Lake Erie
This was no "ten foot" pole. This is a real-man size pole.

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Old 07-18-2016, 01:04 PM   #9
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... as a camper you're likely to be remote areas where searches may be needed as people get in trouble.

... it could be difficult for a traveller to connect with them. <hams and ham clubs>
Agreed - important points. Just like a cell phone that can't be relied on to work in an emergency, a ham can not count on reaching a specific station when needed. However, with experience and correct equipment a ham *can* count on reaching *someone*, anytime, from anywhere (license limitations are suspended for emergencies).

But as a practical matter, those new "Spot" transmitters are far more useful in emergencies than a ham station. Personally, I would never bring my ham gear camping "for emergencies"; only for fun in my spare time. Its camping, after all.

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Old 07-18-2016, 01:51 PM   #10
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...But as a practical matter, those new "Spot" transmitters are far more useful in emergencies than a ham station...
I have owned and used a SPOT transmitter for back-country paddling, hiking, and cycling trips for about 7 yrs now. I personally know of two incidents involving back-country emergencies (rock climbing and skiing) where the SPOT transmitter has been invaluable in obtaining rapid assistance in a medical emergency. The technology has also improved remarkably since I purchased my device, with newer systems allowing users to send and receive text messages in addition to sending out an emergency beacon. As an emergency assistance device, I agree that a SPOT will be much more valuable than a ham radio.
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