QUESTION 1 - Band:
I agree with the others that 40m is a better
choice. At this point in the sunspot cycle,
it's not unusual for me to tune across the 15m CW
subband and here nothing. Just starting out, you
need to make alot of contacts to get practice, as
well as have fun. 40m is a much better choice.
If your backpacking trips are like mine, you
mostly will operate in the evening, after making
camp, having supper, cleaning dishes, etc. 40m
will still be open at that time. It's hard to
beat 40m for backpacking. 30m is probably my
second choice for that application.
QUESTION 2 - Radio:
> I've ordered a $40 Ramsey receiver to hone
> my soldering skills.
For honing your soldering skills the Ramsey kit
will be "okay". But it's a terrible receiver.
I wish you had ordered a Ten-Tec TKIT 1056 DC
receiver instead. For about the same money, it's
a 'real' receiver with excellent performance.http://radio.tentec.com/kits/Receiver
The transceiver you're considering has an
excellent reputation (though I don't have
personal experience building it). I would
categorize the OHR 100A as a good "second
QRP transceiver kit". It has a high component
count, with RIT, it's alignment could be
tricky. It's receive current consumption,
80 mA, is a little bit high for backpacking,
though not too bad.
If it were me, I would try a bit simpler
transceiver kit at first. There are less
complicated, lighter weight choices available
that draw substantially less current when
receiving, and that might be a better fit
both as your first transceiver and your
backpacking rig. As funds become available,
and as you gain experience, consider an
OHR 100A later.
A few I would consider to get started with:
Small Wonder Labs SW+ (my first transceiver
Wilderness Radio SST (haven't built this one)http://www.fix.net/~jparker/wilderness/sst.htm
MFJ Cub (I built one of these for 15m)http://www.mfjenterprises.com/Product.php?productid=MFJ-9340K
The MFJ Cub for 40m is also available bundled with
a QRP book from the ARRL.http://www.arrl.org/catalog/?item=1042K
QUESTION 3 - Key:
Normally, I recommend starting with a straight
key. Even the Ameco K-4 works fine for $17.95
A straight key can be hard to use when
backpacking, though others have done it.
I use the Whiterook MK-44 paddles when I
backpack, and like them fine.
QUESTION 4 - Antenna
An end fed wire will require a tuner.
Simple success at first counts for a lot.
I would go with a coax-fed dipole to get
started; both for backpacking and at home.
For your backpacking antenna, the dipole
itself can be made from 26 gauge wire to
reduce weight. I used a 35mm film cannister
for the center insulator of my backpacking
antenna. A plastic pill bottle would work
just as well. I would skip the balun on
the backpacking antenna. For the transmission
line, RG-174 coax is lightweight, though
lossy. Keep the length reasonably short,
maybe 30', to reduce losses and keep the
Hope this helps