lunes, 3 de mayo de 2021

Portable radio setup

 As the age goes ahead, portable setup optimization becomes a must. Rig, batteries, antenna, mast,.. all must be adapted to minimum weight and size if your plan includes hiking more than a few kilometres. Of course, the rest of the equipment must pass by the same process. Water, food, raincoat, spare clothes, emergency medical kit, mobile phone, etc. are continuosly being examined/changed to get the best results with the less possible weight.

At this moment -and leaving apart VHF/UHF activations- I managed to design and carry this CW equipment, which I consider basic and light enough. All items divided in 3 parts: equipment, antenna, and antenna support. Let's see all them!

Equipment: All of it fits in a small hard box of 17,5 x 12,5 x 6,5 cm.

All parts -except the antenna and pole- are carried inside this small bag:

  1. 20/30/40m QRP CW-only SW-3B transceiver. The last I've bought, gives you the three most commonly used bands with a weight of only 180g. For more flexible activations I will grab the heavier but much better Elecraft KX2 in a bigger box.
  2. 11.1v 2500mAh 5C LiPo battery (147g). This is the smallest useful size to carry up to 3 hours of operation without recharging it. The 10 w power output of the KX2 is obviously more demanding than the SW-3Bs 5w. 
  3. Earphones: In case I use the Elecraft KX2, I carry a model with integrated microphone and using the vox or PTT button, in case I would want to make some SSB contacts (very unlikely).
  4. CW keyer: Now the Hands Free Nanokeyer, made with a 3D printer. You can find all details at As an alternative I use the excellent Portable Paddles made by Andrés EA3PP. Both of them leave my hands free to write down the log or operate the transceiver. 
  5. An Anderson Powerpole adapter fits any battery I have, as this year -at last- I standardized all my rigs and batteries to this connectors. 
  6. BNC male to female 90deg adapter.

In adition to this, I carry a small waterproof notepad and a pencil inside the rucksack. Plans to upgrade to digital logging are being evaluated, and I have already carried on some short VHF activations using the free excellent android app VK-Port-a-log.

Don't also forget the rest of components of the Ten Essentials! small knife, medical kit, etc.

Antenna: I usually carry several types of antenna: a Norcal Doublet , a recently made end fed half wave trapped dipole for 20, 30 and 40 m bands or a non-resonant 10,6m long endfed dipole. 

In my opinion, the Norcal is a very light antenna and has being largely tested for a good performance on all bands from 10 m to 40 m. Unfortunately, you must use it with an antenna tuner and its weight would be added to the total. On the other hand, the EFHW dipole doesn't need it at all, but the operation position cannot be chosen as well as with the Norcal. You must sacrifice some operability in order to -again- optimize the weight you will carry. Anyway, both antennas are carried inside the ruckshack, using self-made wire winders.

 Antenna support: Being portable means that you must also carry some system to put the antenna high enough on the field. As you cannot expect being trees available in all the places you want to transmit, the obvious choice is carrying a some kind of pole. 

In my case, and if the path to walk is not too long, I bring a 10 m pole which gives me a good height and better isolation of the antenna from the ground characteristics. However, it is not at all the lightest thing you can use. If  I would carry it for more than 1 hour, my choice will be a 7.2 m Chinese fishing rod (found on an on-line chinese store). It doesn't seem to be very tough, but it is very light and quite cheap (about 9€ shipping included. 

For raising the pole at the summit, I use 3  3mm thick polypropylene guy ropes and 3 aluminium pegs, or some velcro strips of different lengths if some kind of support is available to be attached to.

Finally, and if I -rarely- planned some V/UHF activity to be made, I would carry the smallest walky-talkie I have, covering 2 m and 70 cm bands, analog & digital (DMR Brandmeister). That us the Alinco DJ-MD5 with a bigger antenna than standard (43 cm long) or the fiberglass boom 3 elements yagi Blandiblu (home made too) if the activation site would be near some populated area. Otherwise, I will be able to make S2S QSOs only. But up to date, the V/UHF items together make more weight than the HF ones, so sometimes I am quite reluctant to put them into the backpack... 

I wish some of these ideas would be useful to you, have a nice day and portable radio activity!

73, Mikel EA2CW