Many of you already know most of my field operations are done with the fat bike when weather permits, the hiking trailer when I really want to punish myself, or the ski pulk sled during winter. For others it could be through hiking on foot, a canoe, ski tour, or some other sort of human mobility.
One of the issues we all eventually run into with human mobilty, is load capacity. If we’re trying to carry our stations and equipment under our own power, we need to find ways to shed the weight, our radio equipment adds to our loadout.
This can also be true if we’re operating out of a vehicle, heading out on vacation, or if we need to move our home or fixed stations, someplace other than the ham Shack. Ultimately there’s only a finite amount of space, and weight available to us.
Recently I’ve decided to replace any unnecessary weight from my portable ham radio station. From the reader’s perspective it probably looks like I’ve started with cookware. Since at the moment I’m removing the stainless steel and aluminium cookware, replacing it with titanium.
If you think about it though, we’ve really started this process of reducing the weight a long time ago on the blog, and on the channel. Let’s go over some of those weight saving changes we’ve made to our portable ham radio station m. Now before I tell you about that, we need to tie everything together.
Switching from AGM/Lead-Acid batteries to lithium or lithium iron phosphate
Getting rid of the lead acid and AGM batteries gave us the biggest weight Savings of all. What used to be a “moveable” station became manageable with human portability, by simply replacing the batteries. We can run qrp stations indefinitely with lithium or lithium iron phosphate batteries and solar panels. We can also run qro stations with insane run-times, eun-times previously impossible with portable or man pack style stations. That’s what the X days off grid series is about. Testing the gear, proving what works, making improvements.
Lightweight Solar panels
For the operator counting ounces or grams, lightweight solar panels were used to further reduce the weight of our portable stations. The lightweight solar panels were used in conjunction with lithium or lithium iron phosphate batteries, and reducing the current consumption of our radios as much as possible. This gave us a significant weight savings, albeit at higher cost than less portable panels.
Narrow bandwidth data modes.We rarely ever consider how narrow bandwidth modes, are more efficient and allow us to operate with lower power. I’ve been pushing the envelope of narrow bandwidth data modes for a few years now. Based on the tests, we already know we can achieve effective Communications with something between 20 and 45 Watts, consistently on HF. We can also achieve a high standard of communications effectiveness with lower power, if we’re not trying to win any DX contests.
Focusing on Regional Communications is one of the ways I use narrow bandwidth data modes with low-power in the field. Rather than trying to work against physics with a wide bandwidth mode like winlink or phone, we use narrow bandwidth modes like JS8Call, to send or receive information, using lower power. Lower power means smaller battery capacity, and more time between recharges.
Titanium wood stove.
If operating in cold climates, some of us are tempted to use a wood stove with our shelters. This is an excellent idea however, when trying to deploy a wood stove, we’re tempted to use stainless steel or worse. I’ve decided to deploy with a titanium wood stove. Certainly the cost is higher in terms of financial budget, but the weight savings are incredible. I went from having a 10kg (22lb) Outback wood stove, to a 1.8kg (4lb) Nortent titanium wood stove. This was a huge weight savings, but costly on the pocketbook.
Reducing radio size, complexity Now one of my latest videos I mentioned getting rid of the audio interface. Replacing that with a standard USB audio card and custom wires, saved both space and weight.
And additions that audio interface, I have integrated the Raspberry Pi with both of my amateur radio rigs. The slightly added to the complexity, but removed a lot of useless components which are essentially obsolete. Getting rid of unnecessary cable mess, and unnecessary components, makes the station easier to use, easier to troubleshoot, and easier to carry.
It’s pretty easy to go through the station, picking out the things that were done not only for it technical improvements, but improvements in deployment, weight savings, and space savings.