Ham Radio Gear check, 16km hike, QRP Portable

I can never stress enough the importance of getting outside with our gear to test in the real world. That doesn’t mean getting in our cars, unloading the gear at some new location, setting up, then putting it all back in the car before going home. It actually means strapping our gear to our backpacks, walking or cycling 5-10km, setting up, seeing how it all works, tearing it down, packing it up, then heading home on foot, by bicycle, … but not in a car. Before you rip me a new one let me explain.

How portable is your gear? 
When we’re putting together portable kits for field communications, we often do so at the luxury of mechanized transport, eg our cars, trucks motorcycles, … The problem with that is, we don’t really know how portable something truly is, until we have to carry it ourselves from HQ, to our operating locations then back again. After doing that enough times, all those silly extras we usually carry, but don’t really need, become a burden.  Only then will we know the /P stations we’ve put together, are truly man-portable.

For the last two days I’ve been testing the portability of my gear, and my ability to carry it, along with water and snacks. I didn’t document day one because it was really just a test run for my pack, boots, waterbladder, … nevertheless,  day one was a 10km hike, from my home to a spot Eastward and Inland from my starting point. I carried the Chameleon MPAS and associated comms gear. I’ll repeat that hike later in the coming week, with a stop mid-way for field comms.

Gear test, 16km hike, qrp portable
My pack was one I’ve used for  the past 11 years. It’s the Halti Base 80. I can already tell you at 3.1kg, even as comfortable as this framed pack is, it’s already  too heavy. Fortunately the frame allows most of the load to ride on my hips comfortably, with little notice. I will certainly try my other packs!

Total payload including the weight of the pack is 11.3kg. This is -7.9kg from my Arctic Circle trip. There is also very much room for improvement. The major payload reduction came from losing the 9Ah Sealed lead acid battery, Sunsaver 6 charge controller, the Pelicase protecting my radio, and 2x Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panels. (I’ll repurpose those components for the upcoming FSQ node project). Consider for a moment the 9 amp hour sealed lead acid battery only gives you 50% of its capacity before it’s ruined. That means my original QRP battery pack, was a better solution than the slab, at a fraction of the weight. I will never carry a sealed lead acid battery again!

Gear breakdown
If it’s not listed here it wasn’t carried with me. This was a truly qrp portable excursion. No amplifier, no folding chair, no Creature Comforts to speak of.

  • Total payload 11.3kg
  • Empty Pack 3.1kg
  • Comms gear, leatherman, waterbottle, … 8.2kg
    Yaesu FT-817ND
    – – Rails
    – – Internal nickel metal hydride pack
    – – WolphiLink
    – – Mobilinkd BT TNC
    Super Antenna MP1DXMAX
    – – MP1C
    – – Superplexer
    – – 2x risers
    – – Titanium whip
    – – Counterpoise wires
    – – TM4 SuperPod-
    10Ah battery pack
    PowerFilm F15-1200 solar panel
    – Samsung Galaxy Tab Active
    – Leatherman wave

We can build all the Go kits we want, and I suppose they do have a place in amateur radio. However, mobility and portability are keys to the goals of every field radio operator. Don’t limit yourself with all that extra gear that requires a utility trailer, car, … Get your most basic kit together, and get outside. Even if you don’t operate qrp, it’s still possible to take a radio like a ft-857, or ic-7300 operating at 20 watts, as a replacement for the ft-817 in my qrp kit. 

There’s no excuses guys. Get outside, get portable!
Maximize your capabilities, minimize your gear.

de oh8stn

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