Increasing Mobility & Portability when Man Portable

It’s often tough to balance the line between an effective full-featured HF station, and the ability to pack it all for man portable ops.

The week before this post, my hiking trailer arrived. It’s the Wheelie V Traveller from Radical Design. This is a new piece of Kit, helping me to carry a full off-grid capable HF station eg. station, power, shelter, food, and everything else I need for extended field communications, without wrecking my back and shoulders with an overloaded backpack.

I used the trailer with trekking poles. This mode worked extremely well… The only downside of the Wheelie Traveller was on single track paths. The dual wheels would hang up on exposed roots and things like that. On long flat surfaces, it was excellent.

Portable ham radio trip to Lapland

Common Mistake

A common mistake we often make is overestimating our load-carrying capability. When we set off on foot, the number one mistake made is overestimating our ability to carry all of the items in a rucksack, and for how long they can be carried. The result can be back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, pinched nerves or worse. Never mind the reduction in operating range or distance travelled, because of the overestimation. To solve this problem during winter, a ski pulk sled is often employed. In the summer months, the hiking trailer can provide us with the same additional load carrying capability as its winter cousin.

Deployment with a dog

Weight reduction

Before we even thought about ski pulk sleds and hiking trailers, we already started reducing our gear weight by switching from AGM or lead-acid batteries, to lithium iron phosphates. We moved away from mono or polycrystalline panels, replacing them with thin-film amorphous panels, which were both easier to pack, and lighter to carry. We stopped carrying large and heavy charge controllers meant for fixed installations, replacing them with models purpose-built and designed for portable use. Finally, we stopped building battery packs in the traditional big block format and started making them flat and easier to pack. Every ounce or gram we could shave off came off.

But why?

Not all of us look at amateur radio and field communications as a hobby. Although fun and enjoyable, many of us understand the importance of amateur radio in emergency communications and preparedness. Operators have been deployed in Nepal, Puerto Rico, the island nation of Dominica, and other nations around the world immediately following a disaster. What these deployments have in common is the failure of local infrastructure, which isn’t uncommon. It’s also uncommon for resources to be quickly deployed, where no infrastructure exists. Resources are usually sitting on their hands waiting for Logistics to make it possible for them to be deployed. This means valuable time is wasted, trying to find ways of deploying EMCOMM resources in the region.

EMCOMM isn’t the only place where more carrying capacity for man-portable operators is important. In the preparedness Community or survival groups, the ability to carry a full HF station is often sidelined by more important pieces of gear. Since we have a finite amount of carrying capacity in a backpack, Communications is often one of those areas which are often left behind, or reduced to its bare minimum, when the pack becomes too heavy to be practical on foot.

Provided the situation is safe, imagine deploying resources which are entirely self-sufficient. They carry their food, water, shelter, radio equipment, solar power, and can remain in the field unsupported for days. These are your rapid deployment assets, and they no longer have to be limited in the type of equipment or capabilities they carry and offer.

They’re able to get this gear out into the field because they can carry a load far exceeding that of a normal hiker. Augmenting their load-carrying capabilities is the hiking trailer. Like the ski pulk sled in winter, the Hiking trailer allows the operator to carry camping, heat and food loadout, plus a reliable HF or VHF communications package, without adding any additional strain on the operator.

Radio operators are not the only ones to benefit from hiking trailers or ski pulk sleds. Here are a few other examples:

  • Hikers
  • Field Paramedics
  • Dog handlers
  • Search teams

Test loadout

If you didn’t already notice, the hiking trailer is a key component in the X days off grid series. I’m currently getting my mind and body prepared for this new series, by hiking and operating in various locations each day… Using my current test configuration as an example, I’m able to carry the following gear, without overloading the trailer, or myself:

  • 6 man tipi tent, Inner tent, Woodstove, Tipi centre pole
  • Jetboil, 3 litres of water, 3 days of food
  • Yaesu FT-891, Android tablet, tuner, antenna, …
  • 140 watts of PowerFilm panels, Battery pack, charge controller
  • First aid kit, fire starting kit, Leatherman toolset, personal health & sanitation
  • Change of clothing, rain jacket, …

With this loadout and configuration, I’m able to 15 km, without a break through single track forest paths. The goal is to extend my operating range with this loadout and configuration, to 30 km per day, unsupported.

Wheelie V Traveller

My first intention was to buy the MonoWalker shown in the CanadianPreppers video. That was outside my budget, so I had to look at my second choice, the Wheelie V Traveller from Radical Design. This purchase was sponsored by the channel supporters and not a freebie. The only downside to the Wheelie V Traveller is the two-wheel design. Ironically that’s also its strength. On singletrack paths, the MonoWalker would be a better solution. In contrast, the Wheelie V Traveller puts more weight above the wheels, and less on the user than the MonoWalker. The Wheelie Traveller also has a modular design, allowing a quick change of configuration, to suit the needs of the mission or user. Each system has pros and cons, but the idea of using a hiking trailer is a solid one.

We can’t always choose what to carry, but we can choose how we carry it! The hiking trailer is going to be a permanent part of my man-portable operations. I’ll continue to report on this particular model, and also keep an eye on the model Canadian Prepper chose for his off-grid ops as well.

Julian oh8stn

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