If satellites are an option for you, will that also be an option for your friend? If not, you could set up your satellite station and meet some of the regular operators on there who could be useful in passing messages along to your friend or whoever on your progress.
As for your own station, a dual-band HT and a handheld Yagi (the tape-measure Yagi is a decent option, Arrow Antennas' Yagi is the preferred choice by many satellite operators, or the Elk Antennas 2M/440L5 5-element log periodic is small enough to pack and hold for portable satellite work) would be a good way to go for the FM satellites like AO-51 and SO-50. More power than 5W would be nice, but then you have to deal either with an amplifier or another (mobile) radio along with the battery to run it.
As a backup for a handheld Yagi with an HT, look at bringing either the Pryme/Premier AL-800 or Maldol AH-510R long telescoping whip antennas. Not as good as a Yagi, but usable with the satellites. I've used the AH-510R whip to work these two satellites even when they are not too high in the sky - elevation around 15 to 20 degrees above the horizon.
Don't forget a tracking program (many options, some free, www.amsat.org
is a good place to start for these) or use the pass-prediction utility on the www.amsat.org
web site to figure out when those satellites will be available for where you are going. You should have one or two usable passes every morning and the same every evening on AO-51, and SO-50 might yield a few useful passes during the day depending on when it is passing by. AO-51 is in a sun-synchronous orbit, which ensures it shows up around the same time every day; SO-50 is not in that type of orbit, so its pass times shift earlier day by day.
Please e-mail me directly if you have further questions, or I can attempt to answer them through this forum. I've been working the ham satellites for just over a year, and have had fun with them. Good luck and 73!
Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK http://www.wd9ewk.net/