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Author Topic: Offroading expidition HF mobile unit and antenna  (Read 2282 times)

Posts: 3

« on: December 23, 2007, 10:36:53 PM »

My brother and I have been techs since 2003 and 2001 respectively.  We have only operated VHF/UHF but are looking at upgrading to general to work HF.  This upgrade process has started because of a trip he is taking this summer.   He is going on a road trip this summer with some college buddies across the North America and will be in areas with no cell service.  He wants to do an off road expedition for a week or two in a desert region and maybe Baja Mexico.  He wants to check in with the family every night and have a reliable communications means in case of an emergency.

We dont have much experience with HF.  I have talked a few times at my college radio club with supervision.  I wanted to see what HF equipment people use for off road type vehicles and what radio equipment would be necessary.  I know the antenna and the coax is boss and makes a big difference on reception. I need to know what would be durable enough to withstand the shock of side to side movement without breaking and be well sealed from the elements.  This was his thought: get a smaller (and cheaper) HF band antenna for mobile use and have an outbacker or similar multiband HF antanna for base camp. He figures he wouldn't use the HF radio while mobile unless he was in trouble or if I was trying to call him.  Please I need your input and experience so we can start saving money for the equipment we need so that this can be successful.


Here is the equipment I am considering:
-Yaesu FT-857D or Kenwood TS-480HX (we need a mobile radio that we can remove the faceplate easily, smash and grabs are common in our neighborhood, removing it from sight prevents theft and the break ins in the first place).

-Does the 100 watt max vs 200 watts really make a big difference?  I was told as long as your line and antenna were excellent that you didnt need that much power to effectively communicate.

-Outbacker antenna for base camp (not sure which model yet, but i am looking for one that may break down) and maybe the tripod.  I

-Comet UHV-6 or Maldol HMC-6S for mobile operations (i dont have much research done on this yet)

Any thoughts or ideas would be much appreciated.

Posts: 3588

« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2007, 12:59:28 AM »

  You may want to consider a satellite phone instead.  For a remote area emergency, you'd probably want as close to 100% reliability as possible.

Posts: 10248


« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2007, 05:38:13 AM »

You choice of antennas are about the lest effective money can buy. What's more, they aren't all that cheap except in quality.

There is so much more to choosing a mobile antenna, than meets the eye. Far too many play the Gain Game, when that's not the important part especially if you're off road.

Rather than take a lot of space here, start with my web site. For HF, see Antennas, Commercial, and for VHF see VHF Options.

Alan, KØBG


Posts: 555

« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2007, 05:49:54 PM »

I agree with Alan 100%

For a base camp radio think Field Day. You should have a battery or generator and not run off the main car battery or you will need a jump. Use a TS 480sat not the HX. You loose 1/2 an S-unit but that can be made up with a good antenna properly installed.

For base camp antenna bring a Dipole you can set up for NVIS and see how it works. You'll want to use 40/60/80 probably so plan accordingly. In the desert toss in a mast support for the center of the antenna and run it down to ground.

At the end of the day a Sat phone is a good backup. Very pricey but usually they work.

Merry Xmas and I am jealous. That trip sounds like a blast.

Dan S

Posts: 28

« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2007, 09:36:08 PM »

102" stainless steel whip + antenna tuner!!!!!  I used to use this setup on my 4x4 tire service truck. FT100D was the rig I had at the time. I was constantly off road, over rocks, in the mud and sleet and constantly bouncing and catching lots of air. My dual band antenna is the sg 7900 from diamond. That one I still have. It took a beating as well and held up just fine.  

Posts: 413


« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2007, 06:08:58 PM »

I have used my IC-706mkIIg HF radio on trips similar to yours. 50 watts draws 10A peak from the battery and works well on 40m and 75m phone at night. Antennas were the 40m and 75m Lakeview Hamsticks (about $25 each), and on some trips used a Don Johnson W6AAQ screwdriver antenna (about $150) which performed VERY well. Its advantage is that the antenna itself can be tuned to resonance, not simply a tuner fooling the transmitter. I have also used the AH-4 autotuner and a 102" whip for 40m. It tuned it up on 75m but performed better with some extra wire attached and strung out horizontally. The 75m Hamstick worked better than that, and the screwdriver did even better, I thought.

Good luck going to Mexico. Be sure you have the operating permits in order, you can't just go down there and get right on the air like you can in Canada.

Here are a couple of my pages that may be of interest.

Dave AD7DB
"Have fun, go places, do things!"


Posts: 2086

« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2007, 07:14:00 AM »

I have the FT-857D, Lil' Tarheel-II screwdriver, and home brew amp (200 Watts). The year before last I checked in with the nets I work on 80 (Arkansas Razorback and Phone net) and 40 meters from Southern California, Baja Mexico, Yuma and Tombstone Arizona. I was able to get in every day. I'll be on South Padre Island the second week of February for IOTA. Get involved in some wide area nets when you upgrade, you will be surprised at what you can do while mobile.

73, de Lindy

Posts: 136

« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2007, 08:43:39 PM »

I am using a High Sierra 1800 Pro on my wrangler and it has taken a beating, and works awesome with 100 watts.  It has a quick release to take it off and stow it if the going gets REALLY tough.  You are much better off getting an antenna that will resonate than using an antenna tuner.  I have used all kinds of mobile HF antennas, and was NEVER happy with a tuner.  Stay away from the outbacker.  Ham sticks are OK and cheap, but a good screwdriver type cannot be beat.  The best is probably a HI-Q, but maybe not tough enough.  A new brand has come on the market called the scorpion that looks like it would be the most rugged I have seen. (I am not affiliated)

Chris KQ6UP

Posts: 26

« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2007, 10:52:44 AM »

South Padre Island, TX?

Posts: 1148


« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2007, 11:27:46 AM »

I'll second the recommendation to use a full-size dipole at bast camp. Make a lightweight one from 22 ga speaker wire, and get a long, telescoping fishing pole, such as the Jackite 31' or the MFJ, to support the center. These break down to only 4ft long.


Posts: 5480


« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2007, 07:49:03 PM »

> He wants to check in with the family every night
> and have a reliable communications means in case of
> an emergency.

This would be a challenge even between experienced hams and decent equipment.  HF is not a dialup service.  Might still be useful to contact 'someone' in the event of an emergency but that someone could be anywhere.  But if they could make a phone call to summon help it would be worthwhile.  I've run mobile HF skeds for years when I travel, and the success rate is low enough that I wouldn't count on it for routine, station-specific communications.  

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM

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