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Thread: Reliable 200-mile comms?

  1. #1

    Default Reliable 200-mile comms?

    I'm a super-green ham operator - I have a couple hours of tinkering with my Baofeng and a lot of reading of online articles, reviews, and message boards, and I'm beginning to wonder if what I want is even possible... If anyone here has any ideas on how I can make this happen, I would be most appreciative. I'd like to construct a system of a radio, battery, antenna, and any ancillary accessories (tuners, etc.), and if I can get it all to be solar powered, that's a bonus.

    I'm coming to ham radio from an emergency preparedness perspective. All I really want is something that can allow me to communicate with reasonable reliability within a couple hundred miles - Longer than straight ground-wave with my little UHF/VHF, but I don't need to be able to raise Hong Kong at a whim.

    I'd like something lightweight, portable, and inexpensive. It doesn't need to have a lot of operating modes or particularly wide frequency coverage - Just enough that if I were hypothetically stranded in the wilderness I could set it up with relative ease and contact someone within a couple hundred miles. I'm thinking an NVIS antenna, maybe 40 meter or 80 meter. There seem to be a lot of qrp rigs that would suit, like the Hendricks Survivor, but I'm not sure if 10w would be enough. I also thought about the Yaesu FT817, and with a 45W amplifier I think I could expect decent performance and it wouldn't suck battery too bad, but I'm hesitant to drop that much dough and then find out it won't do what I want.

    Here are my questions:
    What radio should I get, and with what antenna?
    How difficult would it be to find a suitable location and set up said radio/antenna in the field?
    How much would this rig cost (cheaper is better, obviously)?
    What kind of performance could I expect from it?

  2. #2

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    NVIS on 80m is way to go. Antenna does not need to be very high off the ground. You could do it with a dipole with the feed point about 10' off the ground. You should not need much power. Here is a link to a really good article. I know the guy who wrote it.

    https://brushbeater.wordpress.com/20...s-explained-i/

    Good Luck

  3. #3

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    Hello Jacob,

    Well since you're using a Baofeng Dual Band Analog FM Handheld I'm providing You with two different website for Statewide Linked Repeater Systems.

    Here's for Missouri:

    http://www.artscipub.com/repeaters/s...Missouri&s=200

    Here's for Kansas:

    http://www.k0ham.com/

    Here's the NIXA Amateur Radio Club website:

    http://www.nixahams.net/

    The members in NIXA can provide information on Coverage for the Statewide Linked Repeater System to you. They may ask for Money to Join and the maintenance on these repeaters that they sponsor. This is normally required by every radio club for a single or wide area repeater system. Echo Link is another possibility which will allow you access different repeaters across the United States and around the world with a FM Handheld or FM Mobile unit.

    I hope this will provide what you want for radio coverage.

    73,

    Dan
    WA9WVX

  4. #4
    W4TAU's Avatar
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    you want distance. You pobably don't want to stay limited to repeaters. Get a HF transceiver. Barring that, a HF/VHF. I don;t know enough to answer most of what else you asked, especially cost, but you can save money by looking for some older but working gear. There's quite a bit of vintage ham gear on Ebay. And here's a link to some average values for old ICOM gear thar you might find helpful: http://www.ab4oj.com/icom/oldicom.html

  5. #5

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    <double post, please ignore>
    Last edited by KE0GYC; Sat 10th Sep 2016 at 14:57. Reason: double post

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by W8MLS View Post
    NVIS on 80m is way to go. Antenna does not need to be very high off the ground. You could do it with a dipole with the feed point about 10' off the ground. You should not need much power. Here is a link to a really good article. I know the guy who wrote it.

    https://brushbeater.wordpress.com/20...s-explained-i/

    Good Luck
    Fantastic article! I appreciate it. From what I was reading earlier, I was tending towards 40m, but it sounds like 80m is a better option for NVIS. It even sounds like a 10w QRP rig would be effective, though undoubtedly more temperamental than a full-power setup.

    Are there any radios in particular I should look for? I already mentioned the Hendricks Survivor (10w 80m), and I've also seen the KN-Q7A. I'm leaning to the Hendricks, since it's both lighter and has a CW mode, as well as a broader frequency range.

    I'll have to look into a few of the guides in that article for antenna construction. I'll also have to look into maybe just buying an antenna...

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by WA9WVX View Post
    Hello Jacob,

    Well since you're using a Baofeng Dual Band Analog FM Handheld I'm providing You with two different website for Statewide Linked Repeater Systems.

    Here's for Missouri:

    http://www.artscipub.com/repeaters/s...Missouri&s=200

    Here's for Kansas:

    http://www.k0ham.com/

    Here's the NIXA Amateur Radio Club website:

    http://www.nixahams.net/

    The members in NIXA can provide information on Coverage for the Statewide Linked Repeater System to you. They may ask for Money to Join and the maintenance on these repeaters that they sponsor. This is normally required by every radio club for a single or wide area repeater system. Echo Link is another possibility which will allow you access different repeaters across the United States and around the world with a FM Handheld or FM Mobile unit.

    I hope this will provide what you want for radio coverage.

    73,

    Dan
    WA9WVX
    Thanks for the info! I'll definitely have to look into that.

    How robust are the repeater systems? Are they generally solar powered, or would they be kaput in a power outage as soon as battery backups run out? Either way, I imagine severe weather could drop them pretty quick, right?

  8. #8

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    Not necessarily true since the repeaters are linked via a state wide microwave systems and they share the same sites that the state uses. These Repeater sites are normally on Natural Gas AC Generators, some have Solar / Battery Back up, all have Lightning Protection for Power surges and they all use Commercial Analog FM / Digital Repeaters. It would depend on the original specifications on the Microwave sites but they wouldn't be any homebrew equipment.

  9. #9
    K7KBN's Avatar
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    A lot depends on your definition of "reasonable reliability". Then, after you decide what's reasonable for your particular situation, is experimentation. See what works and what doesn't in that situation.
    73
    Pat K7KBN
    Semper ubi sub ubi.

  10. #10

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    Are there any radios in particular I should look for? I already mentioned the Hendricks Survivor (10w 80m), and I've also seen the KN-Q7A. I'm leaning to the Hendricks, since it's both lighter and has a CW mode, as well as a broader frequency range.
    Is short range communications your only goal? You may find that you want to work HF DX and the Hendricks will be limiting. Look at the Elecraft line up (k2, KX2, Kx3). They are great radios and will not limit you. Also you will find that a NVIS antenna is not the best for DX work. You will most likey need several antennas to work different HF bands.

    I would not box my self into one band unless I really knew this is all I wanted.

    Good Luck, W8MLS

  11. #11

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    Hello Jacob,

    W8MLS is correct with use of 40 or 80 m and a NVIS antenna for working several hundreds of air miles across the United States and around the world. I hope you have your CW skills up to date, 10 to 15 WPM otherwise you could use PSK-31 from your computer, a HF transceiver and the NVIS antenna. I don't know why I think you have a Technician Class License which would limit your HF activity so study up for the General Class License Exam. JMHO

    Dan
    WA9WVX

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by W8MLS View Post
    Is short range communications your only goal? You may find that you want to work HF DX and the Hendricks will be limiting. Look at the Elecraft line up (k2, KX2, Kx3). They are great radios and will not limit you. Also you will find that a NVIS antenna is not the best for DX work. You will most likey need several antennas to work different HF bands.

    I would not box my self into one band unless I really knew this is all I wanted.

    Good Luck, W8MLS
    Short to medium range is my main goal, yes. I hear fantastic things about the Elecraft transceivers, but that's a significant chunk of change to drop right away.

    Quote Originally Posted by WA9WVX View Post
    Hello Jacob,

    W8MLS is correct with use of 40 or 80 m and a NVIS antenna for working several hundreds of air miles across the United States and around the world. I hope you have your CW skills up to date, 10 to 15 WPM otherwise you could use PSK-31 from your computer, a HF transceiver and the NVIS antenna. I don't know why I think you have a Technician Class License which would limit your HF activity so study up for the General Class License Exam. JMHO

    Dan
    WA9WVX
    Daniel,
    I'm working on CW, though I expect that to take me quite some time. SSB is preferable, but I understand CW is considerably more powerful a tool, especially running QRP.

    You are correct that I'm a tech license, and thus only have limited CW privileges on HF and no voice privileges - I took Tech and General exams at the same time, and missed general certification by 1 point, so I'll have to go back. At this point, I'm trying to establish if HF will suit my needs, before I put a lot of time and cash into a rig I won't use. If it sounds like HF is something I want to get into, I'll go ahead and get my General before I transmit, of course, though I may build my rig and do some listening first. I just want to make sure I understand everything I need and what kind of results I can expect so I don't dump a week or two's wages and many man-hours into a project to find out halfway through that what I want is impossible or too expensive to afford.

  13. #13

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    Get an MFJ 80 meter SSB rig and make yourself a lightweight 80 meter dipole for 80 meters and set it up about 15 feet at the feed point and the wires sloping down as an inverted V. The MFJ rig will operate ok form 8 D cell batteries if you can find the right battery holder or a small 12 volt gell cell rechargeable battery which could be charged by a small solar panel. The radio does about 12 watts out which is plenty for NVIS work.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by KE0GYC View Post
    Short to medium range is my main goal, yes. I hear fantastic things about the Elecraft transceivers, but that's a significant chunk of change to drop right away.



    Daniel,
    I'm working on CW, though I expect that to take me quite some time. SSB is preferable, but I understand CW is considerably more powerful a tool, especially running QRP.

    You are correct that I'm a tech license, and thus only have limited CW privileges on HF and no voice privileges - I took Tech and General exams at the same time, and missed general certification by 1 point, so I'll have to go back. At this point, I'm trying to establish if HF will suit my needs, before I put a lot of time and cash into a rig I won't use. If it sounds like HF is something I want to get into, I'll go ahead and get my General before I transmit, of course, though I may build my rig and do some listening first. I just want to make sure I understand everything I need and what kind of results I can expect so I don't dump a week or two's wages and many man-hours into a project to find out halfway through that what I want is impossible or too expensive to afford.
    Hello Jacob,

    I hope you understand that the Morse Code is NOT required any longer for passing the General Exam. Secondly YOU can take and Pass the General Exam, have ALL of the Amateur Radio Bands that the General Class License Allows but you're NOT required to purchase any transceiver just because you passed the license test. There's plenty of used equipment out on QRZ.COM, QTH.COM & eHam.net and some of the local Amateur Radio Dealers. The last piece of ham radio equipment I purchased was a USED Elecraft K3 transceiver, these are top notch U.S. manufactured products. I'm patiently waiting for TEN-TEC to start their production line again as they have a wonderful reputation and have been around for 40 years. Keep working on your CW but don't let that stop you from taking the General Exam.

    Dan
    WA9WVX

  15. #15

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    Just got my general certification about a week ago - Waiting for it to get processed. I've got an old Ten-Tec Argosy 2 on the way, and I'm looking at setting up a dipole in the attic for 40m.

    Next project is gonna be a KN-Q7A or a KD1JV Survivor radio. I've got an idea in my head for an inverted V dipole using paracord that should be fairly rugged, so we'll see how that turns out.

  16. #16

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    The key to HF is really the antenna system isn't it. So just make sure before buying expensive radios your location and wallet allow matching antenna systems to be stuck up.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by KE0GYC View Post
    ......Just enough that if I were hypothetically stranded in the wilderness I could set it up with relative ease and contact someone within a couple hundred miles.
    If reliable communications in the event of a personal emergency is your primary goal, then ....I'm going to go against the grain here and suggest that maybe ham radio should not be your preferred route. There are personal locator beacons (PLB's, SPOT, InReach) out there that will do the job much more reliably than counting on repeaters or propagation.

    If, on the other hand, you want to have fun with amateur radio in the wilderness, go that route, but consider it a back-up to the other methods mentioned above.

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