Everybody Needs a Pocket Radio
By Jim Cluett
When you go out for a walk, you take your handie, right? 2 metersÖ 440Ö between the two you can usually hit a repeater somewhere. The concept is good. But without much trouble you can make it betterÖ like a few thousand miles better. All you need is the HF equivalent of a handie. So here it is: the Guide to HF Portable (REALLY portable. Iím not talking suitcase here.) for those who like being outdoors, like ham radio, and who want the thrill of a lifetime.
During the last couple of years of experimenting and reading, Iíve got my HF portable gear pretty much down to the size of a handie or two. Itís shirt pocket stuff, and I rarely leave home without it. Not for emergencies or anything specialÖ just for fun, just for the thrill of working California or the Ukraine from the edge of a brook or field along the way. You donít need anything elaborate or expensive. You can put together the entire setup for $100 or so. My setup is for CW, but you can do the same thing for SSB. The phone rigs are generally a bit bigger and a bit heavier and, of course, more expensive.
Yesterday was a pretty typical portable excursion. I took a brief hike North on Mountain Road to Dearborn Pond. I hung a 20 meter dipole from a couple of tree branches. I forgot to bring string so I just tied the ends of the wire (33 feet total) to a couple of branches maybe 8 feet off the ground. Usually Iíd throw it up 25 or 30 feet. I sat down on a rock overlooking the pond. It was beautifulÖ so was 20 meters. There was a contest going on, and the band was pretty active. I worked 15 states in 30 minutes. The contacts included California and Washington, and I even had a QSO with England.
Where to Find the Gear
Putting together a miniature field-ready radio is neither difficult nor expensive. Hereís a description of the gear I brought and some websites where you can see some of the stuff. First of all the entire setup weighs less than 2 pounds. I carry everything in a small Tupperware box.
OkÖ so you noticed itís CW. Youíre scared. Get over it. There are a lot of guys out there doing 5 WPM and entire sections of the band where people hardly ever go over 10 WPM. No matter how bad your code is, you can still make contacts and have fun. AndÖ your code will get better. Itís not different from the first time you tried anything else. A little clumsy at first, but you got better pretty quickly.
You Want Phone not Code?
If you canít stand code and you still want to try HF portable, here are a few suggestions. You may be over the $100 bracket, and it will add a couple of pounds to the load, but itís not difficult. Look at the MMR-40 from QRPKits. http://qrpkits.com/mmr40.html This is a small, portable SSB rig designed for outdoor use. It works on 40 meters and costs just a little over $100. Also look at the Yaesu FT-817. I often take this rig when I hike. Itís bigger than the little CW rigs, but itís also a lot more versatile. Itís got 2 meters and 440 plus all modes, all bands HF. It works like a champ on SSB. http://www.yaesu.com/ The Elecraft K2 is excellent on SSB. See http://www.elecraft.com/ All three of these rigs are lightweight and draw very little battery current.
If you like the sound of outdoor adventure radio, here are a few sites that should help.
site constructed by John Harper whoís been hiking with radios for
tells all about lightweight radios, antennas, and batteries and how to
all together. Hereís another site: http://arsqrp.pbwiki.com/
This is the site of the Adventure Radio Society. They sponsor several
QRP events each year and also hold a monthly Spartan Sprint contest for
radio enthusiasts. Their site is loaded with information on small,
radio gear. My own site has loads of pictures and stories about outdoor
radio adventures: http://www.w1pid.com
Give me a call anytime. Iíll be glad to help you get started with pocket HF.