Excellent! Thanks WB6BYU. This is exactly the kind of technical objective info I was looking for. I'm thinking a roll up Jpole 2meter and some type of additional 6 meter antenna that I could stash in my bag would give me the kind of reach and capability I'm after. I appreciate your time and ideas.
I'm still curious if the hive believes that 2or 6 meters or other would be the best band for SHTF communications and my go bag configuration. Or perhaps a combination of antenna's?
As is so often the case, the answer is, "it depends..."
Do you want the highest chance of being able to contact someone? or the maximum
possible distance coverage from a small package? Over how large of an area are you
assuming you need to communicate? Are there specific stations you can plan to contact
ahead of time, or are you looking for random contacts with anybody still alive?
Your best chance of contacting somebody
is on 2m, simply because there are far
more operators who have 2m equipment than for any other band. (440 may come close
in some urban areas - it is better for making contacts from inside buildings, but not as
good for distance.)
6m is capable of better coverage, especially in hilly terrain, but antenna efficiency on
an HT is pretty poor. I remember some folks complaining that their VHF-LO band HTs
couldn't even talk to each other across a field where they could see each other (though
this may well have been because they were trying to talk through a repeater.) Unless
you are going to connect a full-sized antenna to your HT, range will be rather limited.
And there aren't that many people out there who will be using 6m FM equipment.
For coverage over a wider area, an HF rig is the way to go. The higher bands are capable
of longer distance communications on low power, but you have to wait longer for them to
be open. 40m, 80m and 160m are good for relatively local contacts, though no one band
will provide 24 hour coverage. (This also depends on local conditions - we've needed 160m
for Oregon statewide nets after 6pm in the winter in many years, because the skip zone
gets too long on 80m.) For a single band rig, either 40m or 80m would be a good choice -
80m will give more local contacts within a couple hundred miles, 40m gives longer distances
but may not be open for local work (all depending on the current ionospheric conditions.)
CW will give better results than SSB, assuming that the operator at the other end can copy
code. And, yes, it is possible to put an HF rig and antenna in a portable Go Kit, though not
as convenient to use one while walking (though folks do - check out the HFPack group.)
My 40m backpacking rig fits in a large pocket, along with the antenna.
So it all comes down to who you want to talk to. If you're trying to call for medical
assistance or a rescue team, 2m is likely to be your best bet because the folks you
need to talk to aren't too far away. If you want to get word of an earthquake to the
outside world several hundred miles away, a 40m rig would be a better choice. For an
event that affects the whole continent, use 20m.