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Thread: Question on how to set up 2 way wilderness communication

  1. #1

    Default Question on how to set up 2 way wilderness communication

    Hi all, my question is regarding the right equipment, band to use, power needed, antenna, etc. for the purpose of 2 way communication in a wilderness situation. The specific situation is this: we have a fishing camp in Canada where there is zero cell signal and at least 20 miles to the nearest repeater. The terrain is very flat for miles and miles -- maybe a ridge or two here and there no more than 50-75 feet high. It's dense forest for the most part. We run 4 wheelers and trucks up to 20 miles away from the camp but spend most of our time on the river fishing within 5 miles from the camp.

    We want to set up a base unit at the camp. We are currently new technician class operators with dual band HTs (Yaesu rt60). What would you recommend for a base unit in terms of a specific radio, and antenna? If 2 meter/70cm is not the band(s) we should be using I guess that leaves 10 meter... Would that be a better alternative?

    In addition to 2 way communication with each other it would also be good to be able to reach the outside world in case of an emergency.

    Any ideas, suggestions, recommendations, and/or suggested reading would be much appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Ron
    KC1CZE

  2. #2
    GTGallop's Avatar
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    I think you've got a heck of a great start there! In those conditions my HT will reach that repeater, so you are probably good there. I think 2M is the perfect freq for you to be on and 70cm won't be half bad either. You may also want to look into 6M as well - it's got legs and will work on the skip.

    As far as radio is concerned, I think any base radio will do fine. You shouldn't need more than 15 to 20 watts but if 50 makes you feel better then great. Just remember to reduce your wattage to only that which you need to get the job done. Your power source will last longer and you won't drive others off the air.

    The only recommendation I would make is to get a good antenna. You can home brew a J-Pole, Super J, Slim Jim, Dipole (vertical), or a Yagi. Any of them will work under your conditions but for reliability in EmComm situations, I'd recommend a Yagi pointed back at the repeater that is onshore. Also, if you are expecting any kind of response from the people on the repeater, you might want to check in periodically - Every three hours is a good schedule.

    I have taken my HT hiking with me for the same reasons you are going to use yours. I find that if I announce the hike before it starts and that I'm going to radio in if we get into a pickle there will be people tuning in. Then giving them updates helps them stay interested.

    Good luck and post up pics of what you get! I'd like to see updates since this is one of the main reasons I got into HAM.

    Where is your fishing camp? (Approx) And don't worry - I'm in AZ. No danger of stealing your spot. I like it sunny and warm.
    Last edited by GTGallop; Wed 24th Dec 2014 at 12:47.
    N5MKH - The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper. Once we as a society lose that affinity we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself. Up is down and down is us and man is no longer an alpha predator.

  3. #3

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    There are a lot of options, depending on your situation and time spent there.

    Antennas:
    1 is a simple roll up ladder line Jpole (look up how to make online), should be good for tossing a rope 30-40ft up a tree and raising it. Another is a bit more rugged, the copper pipe Jpole (like what I have been using for 2 months now myself). If the cabin is owned by you or one of the regulars then it can be mounted permanently, or at least semi permanently (while you are there). Another option for a real lightweight antenna is build a simple ground plane from copper wire directly onto a SO239 connector. Getting something up 20-30ft should greatly increase your range at even lower power. One thing to remember is outside and higher off the ground will help greatly. Do not expect much distance with an indoor antenna, at most you MIGHT be able to reach the fishing spot 5 miles away at 25W.
    With my 4W Baofeng connected to my Jpole 35ft up, I was/am reaching repeaters 20 miles away (and that is with high loss RG58 coax, so actually only got 2W output at the antenna).

    Radios:
    This can vary widely depending on your preferences. One HT (handheld) option is a Baofeng BF-F8HP which is 8W radio (2m 144 & 70cm 420) versus most other HTs are 3-5W. For something a bit more rugged, could look into a Yaesu FT1900R (55W) or FT2900R (75W) which are 2m only mobile units. With the mobile options, you can keep it mounted in the vehicle for normal use, but when it is time to go into the cabin, can remove it and use it inside connected to whatever antenna option you choose.
    As an example, for now I have my FT2900R connected to a deep cycle battery that I've had a few years (previously used for my trolling motor on a boat I sold). I usually transmit out at 10 or 30W, and so far in several weeks of light use, it hasn't gotten below 12.4V (but I charge it every 2-3 weeks to be safe). This Yaesu is connected to my Jpole (still with the RG58), and getting out 30 miles is fairly easy here in north Florida which doesn't have much elevation differences, but is pretty thick pine tree forest. I do have some RG8x I plan to put together later today which should help as it has less signal loss.

    Coax: for temporary station use at the cabin, I would suggest RG8x because it is lower loss, but still smaller diameter which means lighter weight, so it is much easier to move around. I have a 50ft run of RG8 and that is thick and heavy by comparison, not really the greatest suggestion when trying to pack lighter for a fishing trip.
    de K4ISR

    KM4FMK.com

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    Super Moderator 5B4AJB's Avatar
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    You could always get a permit to set up a repeater somewhere nice & high, find terrain maps and do a bit of experimenting for coverage...

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    Quote Originally Posted by rsalar View Post
    Hi all, my question is regarding the right equipment, band to use, power needed, antenna, etc. for the purpose of 2 way communication in a wilderness situation. The specific situation is this: we have a fishing camp in Canada where there is zero cell signal and at least 20 miles to the nearest repeater. The terrain is very flat for miles and miles -- maybe a ridge or two here and there no more than 50-75 feet high. It's dense forest for the most part. We run 4 wheelers and trucks up to 20 miles away from the camp but spend most of our time on the river fishing within 5 miles from the camp.

    We want to set up a base unit at the camp. We are currently new technician class operators with dual band HTs (Yaesu rt60). What would you recommend for a base unit in terms of a specific radio, and antenna? If 2 meter/70cm is not the band(s) we should be using I guess that leaves 10 meter... Would that be a better alternative?

    In addition to 2 way communication with each other it would also be good to be able to reach the outside world in case of an emergency.

    Any ideas, suggestions, recommendations, and/or suggested reading would be much appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Ron
    KC1CZE
    Hello Ron,

    I see some initial problems right out of the starting gate. Since all of you gentlemen are U.S. Licensed Technician Class Operators, you stated that your Fishing Camp is in a Foreign Country being Canada. Canada also has an equivalent Government Office R.A.C. to our own Federal Communications Commission which should be contacted with your intensions of a Portable Base Station and/or Repeater for your local radio coverage. There is a protocol on how you gentlemen use your call letters in Foreign Countries outside the United States and the process takes a couple of months time to process through each different country, not just Canada. So get started after January 1, 2015 and get that issue out of the way before you leave for your Fishing Camp.

    https://www.rac.ca/en/amateur-radio/...canada-usa.php

    And

    http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/epic/inter..._sf01709e.html

    If I were to set up a base camp radio system to cover a 20 air mile line of sight system, I would choose to erect a 30 or 40 foot mast pipe with a Diamond GP-9 6 dB Gain Omni Directional Antenna mounted at the top fed with LMR400F 50 Ohm Low loss cable. Here's the thing, if all of the guys are out away from the base camp then who would be operating the base station at the camp? This is where a VHF Repeater would then be needed so all of the hams could communicate with each other but this also will require a special license because of the location in Canada and self contained repeaters are not inexpensive maybe $600 then they require RF Duplexers will cost $1,200 even on the used market, the antenna will cost about $200, the LMR400F RF Cable $1 Per Foot and you would need a minmum of 50 feet and I hope you've got a 120 VAC primary power source at the base camp.

    An alternative would be to purchase a Dual Band Mobile Transceiver with the "Cross Band Repeat Function," all of the manufactures make these type of radios. I would configure the radio to listen on a VHF RF Channel and transmit on a UHF RF Channel, if the radio has a built in Time Out Timer and is setable, I would recommend 2 minutes maximum so you guys wouldn't blow the RF Finals, if the radio has multiple RF settings, i.e. 5 w, 10 w, 25 W & 50 W, set it for 25 W Output it's easier on the transceiver for heat dissipation.

    Here's why I choose VHF as the receiver function. On VHF you would have less problems with Path Losses as a Heavy Forrested area will reduce the effective range on the VHF signal as much as -6 dB or 1/4 of your transmitted signal, a 50 to 75 foot hill in between will additionally reduce the signal another -12 dB and the using Portable handhelds at 146 MHz will reduce the signal another -6 dB equaling -24 dB +6 dB Antenna Gain at VHF equals 14 air miles in any direction for 90% coverage. Now for the UHF Transmitter, Heavy Forrested area will reduce the UHF signal by -10 dB, 50 to 75 foot Hills will additionally reduce the signal another -18 dB and the Transmission Feedline -1 dB +9 dB Antenna Gain UHF equals 5.5 air miles for 90%, 7.5 air miles for 70% and 9 air miles for 50% coverage and this is all based on using Dual Band Handhelds. Air miles are directly Line Of Sight like laying a ruler across a map. It's always better to have a repeater that out hears the transmitted signal.

    I think your only choice for long range communications between the Base Camp and the United States would be using 10 meter SSB with an Anton Vertical Antenna at 30 feet and RG-8/U and a 100 W HF transceiver. The portion of 10 m that you can use SSB is 28.300 to 28.500 MHz.

    Good Luck and Good Fishing

    Dan
    WA9WVX
    Last edited by WA9WVX; Thu 25th Dec 2014 at 06:38.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by GTGallop View Post

    Good luck and post up pics of what you get! I'd like to see updates since this is one of the main reasons I got into HAM.

    Where is your fishing camp? (Approx) And don't worry - I'm in AZ. No danger of stealing your spot. I like it sunny and warm.
    The fishing camp is up in new brunswick cananda-- we fish for Atlantic Salmon on a tributary of the Miramichi River. We've had the camp for over 20 years now. Last year my parents (now in their 80's) got stuck in there after a hurricane. We've never had power or any way to communicate from camp. Normally we drive out a couple of times a week to get supplies and to get in touch with reality. There is cell service once we get to town so not being able to communicate from the camp was never a big deal -- and normally there are other family members around. But this time my parents decided to stay after everyone else left and almost had to canoe down the river in order to get out!

    Finally my father, with bad back and all, got the chain saw started and cleared the trees that were blocking the road. That got us thinking that we need to have a way to communicate with the outside world. What if one of them got hurt? So me, him, and my nephew studied and got our licenses about 2 weeks ago. Now we are trying to learn what we need to know to set up a ham radio there. It's been interesting to say the least -- but I think we are getting there. A little more equipment and some more testing is all we need now. I'll keep you posted. This morning I pulled a slim jim up into a tree next to my house with a sling shot and spinning rod. I was able to reach a repeater 16 miles away with my HT. Big deal right? Well it was to me!

    So you are from AZ? I'll be in Bisbee for the month of January and into the first week of February. Staying in a remote cabin -- plan on doing some more ham radio experiments from there. Where are you located?

    --Ron

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by WA9WVX View Post
    Hello Ron,

    I see some initial problems right out of the starting gate. Since all of you gentlemen are U.S. Licensed Technician Class Operators, you stated that your Fishing Camp is in a Foreign Country being Canada. Canada also has an equivalent Government Office R.A.C. to our own Federal Communications Commission which should be contacted with your intensions of a Portable Base Station and/or Repeater for your local radio coverage. There is a protocol on how you gentlemen use your call letters in Foreign Countries outside the United States and the process takes a couple of months time to process through each different country, not just Canada. So get started after January 1, 2015 and get that issue out of the way before you leave for your Fishing Camp.
    Thanks for the info but I wasn't able to find any special requirements to operate in Canada other than to hold a valid license from the US. Can you point me to a specific rule that states otherwise?

  8. #8

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    Slim Jim in Tree.jpg This is a slim jim antenna about 60 feet up in a pine tree. Tried several methods -- finally got a line up there with a bow and arrow. Was able to reach a couple of repeaters 30 miles away. 20 miles easy with 5 watt HT

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by rsalar View Post
    Thanks for the info but I wasn't able to find any special requirements to operate in Canada other than to hold a valid license from the US. Can you point me to a specific rule that states otherwise?
    There aren't any. Canada gives reciprocal privileges with the U.S. The only restrictions are that you must abide by their frequency allocations. And be careful of operating on any frequencies in the 70cm band that are disallowed on both sides of the border due to their use by Canadian public service users.
    Hulbert
    Lillington NC
    KW4DD

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    K7KBN's Avatar
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    If you (a non-Canadian citizen) install a repeater in Canada, you'll quite likely have to have the Canadian authorities involved and probably get the repeater licensed and compliant with their frequency coordinators. If it's just across the border in the USA, you'll just have to deal with the USA frequency coordinators. A repeater with a good coverage might be heard (and interfere with other repeaters) a couple hundred miles away - or more.

    There's a lot involved with setting up a new repeater correctly and legally. I've never been involved with a repeater group but I've talked at length with many who have.
    73
    Pat K7KBN
    Semper ubi sub ubi.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by K7KBN View Post
    If you (a non-Canadian citizen) install a repeater in Canada, you'll quite likely have to have the Canadian authorities involved and probably get the repeater licensed and compliant with their frequency coordinators. If it's just across the border in the USA, you'll just have to deal with the USA frequency coordinators. A repeater with a good coverage might be heard (and interfere with other repeaters) a couple hundred miles away - or more.

    There's a lot involved with setting up a new repeater correctly and legally. I've never been involved with a repeater group but I've talked at length with many who have.
    "Most likely" and "probably" .... ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by K7KBN View Post
    There's a lot involved with setting up a new repeater correctly and legally. I've never been involved with a repeater group but I've talked at length with many who have.
    No, not really much to it. People set up temporary and private repeaters day in and day out. There are no special legal requirements, such as registering or licensing them. All that is required is that they be legal in power and band according to the control operator's license. As a courtesy you will want to avoid using frequencies of coordinated repeaters in the area.
    Hulbert
    Lillington NC
    KW4DD

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    GTGallop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rsalar View Post
    The fishing camp is up in new brunswick cananda-- we fish for Atlantic Salmon on a tributary of the Miramichi River.
    I took the liberty of filling in some variables on what a base station would put out and generated a coverage map for you. This should help you visualize what you can hit from your location.

    Fishing Hooch.jpg

    Quote Originally Posted by rsalar View Post
    This morning I pulled a slim jim up into a tree next to my house with a sling shot and spinning rod. I was able to reach a repeater 16 miles away with my HT. Big deal right? Well it was to me!
    I think you will find that antenna design, quality, and height are going to be your primary areas of opportunity. Arizona, as you have seen, is largely flat with the occasional mountain ridge or range. That gives us three kinds of coverage:

    GREAT COVERAGE! - From one peak to another my 4w hand held can communicate over 100 miles with no issues.
    Medium Coverage - From my house, the same 4w handheld can go 30 to 40 miles with no issues, but can only reach some of the repeaters because some are hidden by mountains.
    Suck Coverage - If you are behind a mountain, you might be 2 miles to a repeater but can't hit it. Even worse when you are in a canyon. At that point you are radio deaf.

    That tells me my equipment is working great but I need to get a good antenna as high as I can. You may find the same thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by rsalar View Post
    So you are from AZ? I'll be in Bisbee for the month of January and into the first week of February. Staying in a remote cabin -- plan on doing some more ham radio experiments from there. Where are you located?--Ron
    I'm up on the north side of Phoenix, close to Cave Creek. This area is often referred to as the "Foothills Transition Zone" where the valley floor (where most of Phoenix is located) starts to transition to the Mogollon Rim Country. You can go to QRZ and plug in anyone's call sign and see where they are located. As far as I know Bisbee (fantastic little artsy old western border town) is out of radio range from me with out a repeater between us.

    PHX-BIS.jpg

    Looking at the map, we ate 200 miles apart - that's a stretch to say the least. There is also a mountain between us. But the good news is that there are a bunch of repeaters on that mountain. N7OEM and KC0LL are two that I can hit if I'm in the right place. See if you can hit Mt. Lemmon when you get to Bisbee.

    Good luck fishing and on your trip to AZ.
    N5MKH - The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper. Once we as a society lose that affinity we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself. Up is down and down is us and man is no longer an alpha predator.

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    Part 97.303(m) — In the 70 cm band:

    (1) No amateur station shall transmit from north of Line A in the 420-430 MHz segment. See 97.3(a) for the definition of Line A.

    (2) Amateur stations transmitting in the 420-430 MHz segment must not cause harmful interference to, and must accept interference from, stations authorized by the FCC in the land mobile service within 80.5 km of Buffalo, Cleveland, and Detroit. See 2.106, footnote US230 for specific frequencies and coordinates.

    (3) Amateur stations transmitting in the 420-430 MHz segment or the 440-450 MHz segment must not cause harmful interference to, and must accept interference from, stations authorized by other nations in the fixed and mobile except aeronautical mobile services.
    I'd probably just avoid 70cm altogether and stick with 2m.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by GTGallop View Post
    I'm up on the north side of Phoenix, close to Cave Creek. This area is often referred to as the "Foothills Transition Zone" where the valley floor (where most of Phoenix is located) starts to transition to the Mogollon Rim Country. You can go to QRZ and plug in anyone's call sign and see where they are located. As far as I know Bisbee (fantastic little artsy old western border town) is out of radio range from me with out a repeater between us.

    PHX-BIS.jpg

    Looking at the map, we ate 200 miles apart - that's a stretch to say the least. There is also a mountain between us. But the good news is that there are a bunch of repeaters on that mountain. N7OEM and KC0LL are two that I can hit if I'm in the right place. See if you can hit Mt. Lemmon when you get to Bisbee.

    Good luck fishing and on your trip to AZ.
    That's a great map tool -- I need to learn more about that. Thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by rsalar View Post
    That's a great map tool -- I need to learn more about that. Thanks
    Google Earth, my friend. Nothing more.

    All I do is use the ruler to snap a line between two places and then when it saves that line to your temporary places, you can right click and get an elevation profile. It has been HUGELY helpful.
    N5MKH - The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper. Once we as a society lose that affinity we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself. Up is down and down is us and man is no longer an alpha predator.

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    Thanks a lot -- that is a great tool. I just shot a line from the place I'll be staying to the Sierra Vista Echolink repeater (W6SEL-R). Looks like a straight 17.4 mile shot without obstructing terrain. Should be able to hit that with my HT & slim jim.

    Did you know that you can import all of the Echolink repeaters into Google Earth? A very nice feature when combined with the terrain plotting feature you shared. Maybe all repeaters can be imported? Not sure about that.

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    GTGallop's Avatar
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    Yup! RepeaterBook.Com lets you import them in. I was going to leave them turned on for the screen shot but there were so many it made the map hard to see.

    When I go hiking, I like to locate repeaters near the trail and then snap a line to them and do the elevation profile.
    N5MKH - The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper. Once we as a society lose that affinity we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself. Up is down and down is us and man is no longer an alpha predator.

  19. #19

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    I'm just starting to learn how Echolink works. If I'm in Bisbee and I am able to reach the Sierra Vista repeater by radio can I use that node to connect to a repeater up by you through Echolink and establish 2 way communication? I know you can access the Sierra Vista repeater from your computer -- so that is one way ... but I was wondering if we would be able to both be on the radio at the same time and communicate through our respective repeaters via Echolink?

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    GTGallop's Avatar
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    We can do that.
    I can get on W0NWA near my house.

    There is a really good chance that you can hit Mt Lemmon in Tucson and I can hit it here and we could just be on the same repeater covering 200 miles of open desert. I'm trying to generate a coverage map but it is hanging up at 99%. If it completes, I'll post it up here.
    N5MKH - The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper. Once we as a society lose that affinity we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself. Up is down and down is us and man is no longer an alpha predator.

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