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Author Topic: Share your QRP portable experiences  (Read 3827 times)

Posts: 1

« on: November 20, 2003, 05:25:17 AM »

I know a couple guys who like to take their QRP rigs backpacking and set up a self-contained ministation.  I love hearing them talk about contacts they've made while sitting in a remote backcountry location.  Their enthusiasm has rubbed off on me, and now I'm looking for a good QRP rig + accessories for working completely portable.

I was wondering if any of you mobile/camping/backpacking QRP'ers would like to share your experiences?  I would be interested to hear what equipment you were using, where you were located, and who/where you contacted.  


Posts: 1421


« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2003, 12:40:09 PM »

I do a good deal of camping as a Boy Scout leader.  The most versatile rig I've used is the Yaesu FT-817.  It's a bit power hungry, but can be kept alive all day and all night with the power system I use.  I have a 17 A-h battery pack that I bought from WalMart.  It's a Prestone unit designed for jump starting.  I charge it using a Unisolar 32-W array and a Morningstar regulator.  The Unisolar array is flexible and will roll up so that it just fits around the stuff sack for my sleeping bag.

For an antenna I either use a Outbacker Outreach on an Alpha Delta Stand or a wire dipole fed with ladder line.  I have not been favorably impressed with any of the QRP automatic tuners, but I've had good results using an MFJ-971.

At fixed base camps where I've been able to set up a second solar array and battery, I've used a laptop with either an FT-817 or a TenTec Argonaut V for PSK 31.  Some of the new PDAs that are coming on the market have audio in and out and might be usable for PSK31 while backpacking.

Although I haven't tried one yet, the Elecraft KX1 looks like a great rig for real back country work.

Note that the rigs I tend to favor are multimode.  I am often demonstrating ham radio to scouts or scout leaders who are not hams--and don't know Morse code.  I find it much easier to hold a scout interest when he can understand the conversation I'm having.  Talking to someone half way around the world is not, per se, a big deal to kids who have cell phones in their pockets.  Being able to do it independently from the telecom infrastructure does impress kids.  It sparks an interest in ham radio, and several that I have introduced to the hobby while camping are now licensed.

Posts: 15752

« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2003, 05:56:45 PM »

In years past I've carried my QRP rigs with me on a
number of trips - to KL7, KH6, VK, ZL, VE1, plus
several states including CA, OR, NV, VT, NH, PA, ME,
CT, and MA.

A few memorable incidents:  setting up the rig on a log
along the shore of an island in Alaska, and nearly
going maritime mobile when the tide came in.  Camping
in the Trinity Alps of California and discovering my
40m dipole wouldn't tune up, while KC4AAA was booming
in from the south pole in the middle of the 40m novice
band.  (That was shortly after the bear stopped by to
see what I was doing...)  Installing a set of dipoles
in Tasmania in the dark, while holding a trout in one
hand.  Then listening to a pair of GW stations taking
turns calling CQ DX with good signals on 40m, but not
being able to raise them on my Argonaut.  Finding the
plastic drive PTO drive gears on the Argonaut had been
damaged on the plane ride into a logging camp in
Alaska: repairing it with a Swiss Army knife, hot nail,
propane torch, and hex wrench made by filing down a
nail to get the knobs off, and having it back working

Operating at night with the microphone and flashlight
both about the same size and shape.  Chatting with hams
during my travels, then visiting them a day or a month
later.  Working long path with the center of my dipole
propped up on a 3'/1m stick.  Stringing my 20m dipole
between two rock craigs with a 300'/100m drop inbetween
them.  Being someone's first QSO, and trying to send
and clearly, while sitting on an ant nest.

My main pack rigs were the Ten-Tec Argonaut 505 and a
Heathkit HW-8, though recently I've added a 40-40 rig
to the arsenal.  Either would give me a week of casual
operating, or 24 hours of casual contesting, from a
4.5Ah gel cell.

Posts: 43

« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2003, 08:33:14 PM »

- had one of those rare Fall days here... loaded up the car and decided to do a mini-Field Day... took an Ft-817 and an IC-703 to a local park...

- found a metal picnic bench (ground-plane!), and used a 17M hamstick and an SD-20 crappie pole w/2 RS SW 'reel' antennas to put up a 10M extended double zepp (44' doublet)...

- had QSOs w/CA, TX, MT, FL, and Canada on 5-8W!!! lots of fun and a great time (i'll relish days like that later on in the middle of winter)...

- here's a shot of my setup:

Posts: 21644

« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2003, 03:27:50 PM »

I've operated with QRP gear backpacked into lots of places, but probably the most memorable was a lengthy and strenuous hike up Slide Mountain (photo of me operating a multiband QRP station up there is posted here in with my profile) packing in 80 lbs of goods for a 3000 foot vertical climb that frankly exceeded my ability to do this...

The "memorable" part was hearing the chewing noises in the middle of the night and wondering what that discover it was porcupines literally eating everything in sight, including sealed cans of food (they can tear them open) and the corner of my tent (canvas doesn't seem to bother them).

Oh, yeah, the station worked out well, too.


Posts: 53

« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2003, 02:58:03 AM »

Does portable mobile count?  

I have a Yeasu 817 and I like to work SSB on it.  So that makes every contact memorable.

Most of my QRP time is from the front seat of my van parked in the yard or other convenient locations like the local Wal-Mart parking lot.

My most memorable experience was working about 6 hours of the CQ Internation SSB contest last March.  Out of 80 contacts the best was a Japanese station.  Pretty good DX from Alabama especially running only 5 watts.

My portable setup is generally using hamsticks mounted to either an aluminum ladder or a barbeque grill or any other metal structure including tent poles.  Sometimes I use a twinlead dipole cut for 20 meters and ran through a MFJ QRP tuner.  

Hanging the dipole is easy.  I have a rock of the proper size and weight so that it may be easily thrown to a height of about 25 feet.  

My power is supplied either commercially, from my van, or from rechargeable alkaline batteries installed in the radio itself.  I prefer to use either commercial power or power from the van so that I can use my laptop for logging and for rig control.


Posts: 1012

« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2003, 05:34:27 PM »

I've done lots of QRP portable operation, mainly with the Tokyo Hy-Power HT-750 6, 15, and 40 meter triband SSB/CW HT or a monoband Mizuho HF SSB/CW HT.  I've worked into Europe on a number of occasions using either a dipole thrown up in the trees, an Outbacker/Outpost tripod combo, or a matching telescopic loaded HF whip antenna from either Mizuho, Maldol, or Tokyo Hy-Power trailing a counterpoise while walking/hiking.  It's great fun and you will get out.


Posts: 229

« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2003, 10:14:10 AM »

 Most of my experiences have been using a Yaesu FT-290RII (2.5 watts) on SSB while
 in southwest MI trying to make contacts across the lake back to the Chicago area. Yes,
 signals travel better accross water, but still it's a challenge with low power and a small
 mobile antenna. Usually I'll setup on the Michigan sand dunes near the shore of the lake
 early mornings when the weather is still good and there's not too many people down on
 the beach area wondering what I'm doing. Most of my contacts so far have been limited
 to 5-30 miles from where I'm at, Bridgman, MI.

 George ...


Posts: 352

« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2003, 12:01:20 AM »

Finished my Pixie II in the required by convention Altoids tin about a week ago.  Got a couple of contacts locally but my best so far is a sked with a friend of mine, KC2KFC in Alma New York.  My Pixie II runs about 115 mw into a 50 ohm dummy load.  It runs off a 9v alkaline "transistor radio" battery.  I figure that's something over 2200 miles per watt as the crow files.

My first rig was a rock bound, home made transmitter.  30 years later, my newest rig is a rock bound home made transceiver.

Go figure.


Posts: 214


« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2003, 03:09:43 PM »


I'm using the FT-817 while portable and as an antenna I usualy use an endfed wire with an antenna-tuner. You also can't go wrong with using a simple dipole when there are two supports to hang the antenna in the air. Of course you can use a vertical antenna also.
About the rig, the FT-817 is working fine but when you're going to operate for a while you should take an external battery (sealed gel type) because the FT-817 really consumes to much battery power.

73 de ON4MGY Nic

Posts: 5

« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2004, 10:53:31 PM »

Check out "The Adventure Radio Society" at:
for first-hand reports of operating from the boonies, equipment and antenna reveiws! Several years of archives, there is enough stuff there to keep you busy until spring!
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