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Author Topic: Poor Ham's Go-Box and a Winter Outing (long and probably boring)  (Read 1536 times)
K7EXJ
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Posts: 875




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« on: January 31, 2016, 08:51:54 AM »

My XYL scoped out Walmart and yesterday dragged me into the local store to show me an insulated flexible "lunch box" back in the sports section for $9.47 that she thought would make a good portable go-box for me. I snagged one and took it home, cut up a sturdy cardboard box for dividers and started packing it up for portable use.

I put the two lithium power packs at the bottom. One is a complete system sold primarily as a way to "jump start" cars but offers 12vdc, 5vdc (for an Rpi!) and 17vdc (laptop) outputs plus has an ac wall-wart charger and a cigarette lighter charger. I like this unit a lot because it's small, can be used for multiple purposes, and I can charge it easily. Mine is made by Antigravity and comes with a nice case that holds all the doodads that we need to connect various things. It's also useful for jump-starting your car if you've managed to run down the battery. Or your neighbor's car.

http://www.autodeets.com/top-10-what-is-the-best-lithium-jump-starter-on-the-market/

The other is the typical 3-cell 18665 pack good for a backup while the primary unit is charging.

Then I put a cardboard divider down,  wrapped the K1 in bubble wrap and put that down along with a paddle. There is really enough room for the K2 in there if I choose to take that. The lithium power pack runs the K2 easily, by the way.

On top of that is another divider and then I put in the brand-new Super Antenna MP1B. When I started seriously thinking about QRP portable I watched every single YouTube video I could find on the subject. The videos from W5CYF ("TinkerJohn") on his experiences with the MP1 were pretty thorough and covered using the radials that the company makes specifically for this antenna (which were much better than the radials he had made for it). He has mentioned this antenna in this forum, too.

YouTube, by the way, has turned into an amazingly valuable teaching tool for practically anything. I've used to replace brake calipers on Kia, to see how to rig a fishing lure for walleye, as a research tool for selecting a new transceiver, to watch Jeeps maneuver across steep trails in Utah, and just as entertainment.

I have dipoles for various bands made up but I live in the desert and it can be a struggle to find trees. I have some of those fiberglass war-surplus tent supports but those are more suitable, I think, for longer than just a quick getaway that the go-box is intended to support.  The MP1 is, admittedly, a compromise between quick setup (and band changes) and efficiency. It's not as good as a dipole cut for the band or even a well done end-fed long wire (probably). But lots of hams use them and like them and they make great quickie lunch break antennas with the base.

I had been somewhat concerned that the MP1b would not break down enough to fit into this little WalMart lunch box but that turned out to not be an issue at all. In fact, it fits with room to spare and I can jam in my headphones, the radials, RG8x coax, the clamp and antenna base (I went ahead and bought the one from the Super Antenna folks), notebook, tuning device, and pencils and pens. All of this went into that little padded "lunch box" and I tossed it (gently) into the Jeep and headed for the desert.

My destination was a road carved into the wetlands of our local desert (and irrigated farms) where I parked right next to an almost completely frozen arm of a local irrigation reservoir. Usually this place is packed with birds (it's a refuge) and fishermen (it's not that kind of refuge) but other than a few guys target shooting it was empty.

It took me about 30 minutes to clamp the antenna's base to the bumper of the Jeep, lay out the radials, connect up the battery, a paddle and the headphones to the K1 and get settled in the driver's seat. The K1 fits perfectly on the dashboard of the Jeep; no mean feat since that dash is not very deep. The K2 would not fit. When I hit the power button my first thought was that the K1 wasn't working. I had left the volume (no RF gain on a K1) up but I couldn't hear any noise. I had forgotten what it was like not being in a "town neighborhood" setting since we had moved from the farm. No QRN. In fact, when I turned the volume up the first signal I tuned across blasted my ears.

If you are just starting to get interested in portable QRP (or QRO) operation you are in for a treat. Everything now seems to emit radio noise (RFI). The switching power supplies used in LED lights, the neighbor's HDTV set, the florescents in the basement... all of these - and more - are potential RF sources.

I tuned to 30M first and found that the bottom 30khz was jammed with DXers; each sending just their call over and over.... and over and over...... and over and over... The rest of the band was busy with digital and the odd QSO. 20M was pretty much dead. So I decided to try 40M.

A 6' loaded vertical clamped to a Jeep's bumper is probably not the best antenna to use on 40m but I pounced on a very loud signal and had a nice QSO with a ham in Oregon that was 599 both ways despite subsequent QRM. After that I struck out. The general in-city noise levels have risen so much over the past 50 or 60 years that I think it can be difficult for hams to pick out a QRP signal. I was having no such problem, though.. The nearest power line to me was at least a mile away.

One good 30 minute QSO (at 10wpm - that was what he sent his CQ at so that's what I matched) was all I had in me. Between the cold air wafting off the frozen reservoir and impending darkness spurred me to spend 20 minutes disassembling and packing away all the gear.

I suspect that the zipper on this little Walmart insulated bag will break with use but by that time I should have found a nice war-surplus equivalent in khaki canvas. Now that I now what to look for.

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73s de K7EXJ
Craig Smiley
KL7KN
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Posts: 93


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« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2016, 12:18:37 PM »

Sounds like a fun fun way to spend part of an afternoon.  Photos - I think, would have added a lot to your post.  Then you show folks how the bumper mount worked etc.

Thanks for posting.  I'm surprised there isn't a sub-forum for "Trip reports" - with photos, I find they can be a fun read on a slow day.  Smiley

Don // KL7KN
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K7EXJ
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Posts: 875




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« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2016, 12:35:18 PM »

The "bumper mount" probably only works on a Jeep with a winch bumper or a "push" bumper that has at least some flat top.

I bought the $50-ish mount for the antenna. It consists of several parts that can be rotated and by doing it you can put the antenna onto anything with a clamp. There is a long flat "bar" that has a connection for the radials. I laid the bar on the top of the bumper and used a C-clamp at the back (in front of the radiator area) to hold it down.

This sort of attachment is not going to survive freeway speeds, but sitting on the sand next to a frozen lake it worked fine. Neat but not gaudy. Smiley

The mount itself is stainless and works fine. Just loosen an Allen screw, move things around, fasten the screw. Move another like it. And you can get vertical, horizontal and angled mounts that will hold the antenna straight. All three of the radials (40/30/20M) are connected together into a spade lug that fits onto the receptable fasted to the flat base of themount. Simple to just push on and pull off.

It was either the MN1b or the Buddistick but CYF has said in this forum that he prefers the MN1b's tuning (a sliding coil to the clip-on tuning of the Buddistick. I think the MN1b is plenty well built. Essengially it's a screwdriver antenna but you slide the sleeve up and down instead of rotating anything.
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73s de K7EXJ
Craig Smiley
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