Thursday, May 11, 2017

Field Day Everyday



Badlands Traveller

With the promise of a fine day ahead, and the breaking dawn shaping up nicely on the horizon as I drove east on highway 1, I had left my home in Calgary at 5 am, with the plan to to spend several days shooting photographs throughout the plains and badlands of southeastern Alberta. I've mentioned before that I have spent a lot of time meandering the backroads out that way, and I enjoy revisiting the area whenever I get the chance. The area of interest to me on this trip was to be in the vicinity of Jenner Alberta, about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Calgary.

Of course with the ARRL field day coming off on June 24th-25th, I planned on taking the opportunity while away from home to proof my equipment both from my mobile, and with my portable manpack station, both to be used on field day. My manpack seems to have become a permanent fixture in the back of my mobile when not being used, but at the ready when required, and it was along on this outing. Since acquiring my Yaesu FT-897ND that included the optional internal battery packs about a year ago, and then building the 10-60 meter vertical antenna as a companion to the FT-897ND, I have operated with this combination of transceiver and antenna in a lot of different ways over the past year. Initially,  I operated with the antenna mounted directly on the ground or from frozen water while ice fishing in the winter, with both the transceiver and antenna stored in their individual fitted cases in between setups. As I discovered the fun I was having while operating in this manner, I decided to make the system more portable by carrying both the transceiver and the antenna in one of my packs carried on my back to the locations that I wished to operate from.

This has proved to be a fun way of operating, but there was still something missing, and mostly it was the fact that there was that setting up upon arrival at a likely looking spot that took time.

So with time spent on the web looking at my options, and aware of the various types of manpacks used by the militaries of the world, as well as for civilian use, I began to work out a design in my head that combined the transceiver and antenna into a common package that would be quick to deploy when I wished to set up and operate.

It didn't take long to zero in on the external frame packs that for the most part have been replaced with the internal frame packs of today. Now that's not to say you cannot find the external frame packs, as they do still exist, and they have their purpose, especially when used around hunting camps, and by trappers amongst others, so that being said, I found the various outdoor stores that cater to hunters to be a source for external frame packs.
After several weeks, I found the model of external frame pack that would work perfectly with what I had in mind for the modifications required to mount my transceiver and antenna on to. Of course I've mentioned some of the modifications that were required for me to make in one of my previous posts "Manpack Communications System" so I won't bother to repeat the words here.

As the morning progressed, and the day proving to be to my liking, with many pleasing photos shot, I also was keeping my eye out for a likely looking place to set up my camp in the area. Being I was by myself on this outing, I had only brought my 1 man tent with me, leaving my larger tents at home.

I find smaller tents are pleasing to sleep in when the space is not required, and in actuality they are warmer in cold weather, not requirng all that space around and above you to be warmed. I also had my scout tarp along, (as described in my latest article in the 2017 May issue of QST) and I could have used it, but this time I decided to go with a tent, as in the badlands where I would camp, there is the potential for a prairie rattlesnake to want to share your sleeping bag with you, attracted by the warmth of your body. A closed in tent prevents this from happening.


There are several small caves located in the area of the badlands that I could have chosen to have slept in with my sleeping bag and ground sheet, but the same problem could potentially come up, with snakes and black widow spiders already in residence , although in a pinch and if no other shelter was available to retreat to from the weather, one of these small caves would do nicely, with a small fire being maintained over night to keep everyone on their side of the cave.

The bands proved to be in reasonable shape, and I had an inkling of this on the way out, as my HF RPR (robust packet radio) APRS packets being generated by my SCS 3070 Tracker/Kenwood TS-480HX, were being heard and decoded on 30 meters across the US and Canada for the whole
trip out to Jenner, located on the north side of the Red Deer river badlands.

Once I found a spot I liked, I shut the engine off in my mobile, and went about moving the equipment that I needed to set up my camp nearby, although located about a 1/2 kilometer away from my mobile in a setting not accessible to my mobile directly. Two trips from my mobile to my camp were required to move the necessary gear. Being I planned on possibly operating into the night, I had brought my 30 caliber power-pack into camp, along with several solar panels to keep the batteries charged. With more power available in my badlands camp, I would be able to power a small DC powered lantern that would help me find my way around my camp, as well as allowing me to read a book I brought along if the bands went south and I retreated to my tent for the night.

I had also brought my longbow and quiver with related equipment along into camp, allowing me to explore the area surrounding my camp. I do get much pleasure in exploring a new area with my bow in hand, and nearby to where I had chosen to set up my camp, I had noticed an interesting looking dry wash, with a fresh set of coyote tracks in the sandy bottom where there were small pockets of water the coyote had checked out, making it worth my while to checking it out further.
When I wasn't out looking exploring the area, over the course of the two days that I was away from home, and with the HF bands in reasonable shape, I spent an enjoyable time operating my mobile/portable field day station from the badlands located in the wilds of southeastern Alberta.

NOTE....all photos expand.


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