Thursday, May 04, 2017

Portable HF Operations

Place a mark on the calendar, as yesterday (May 3rd) was the first day of 2017 that the temperature reached 20 degrees Celsius in southern Alberta. With that in mind, and with today's forecast calling for 26 Celsius, I thought maybe it was time for me to check out what was happening in the Rockies to the west, and possibly do some portable HF operating with the use of my manpack.
 I hadn't been out that way in a while, as the last time I was out, everything was still in the clutches of old man winter, although spring time conditions were in play to the east out on the plains.
By now I figured the snow would have receded, although it will be June until the high-country sheds its snow, with the runoff causing all the creeks and streams to rise and turn muddy, causing fly-fisherman to wring their hands while gnashing their teeth, and all the while awaiting the water to go down and clear, allowing the new fishing season to begin on the streams and rivers located along the eastern slope of the Rockies.
Of course that wouldn't happen for a while yet, so today I thought maybe it would be a good day to check out one of the trails that I thought maybe would be in good enough shape, to allow me to hike up to a ridge where I would set up my portable manpack and maybe work a few contacts on the bands.

The drive out to the area of Kananaskis country that I had in mind, proved to be pleasing enough as I did make several stops for photo-ops that presented themselves while I drove a meandering route towards my destination on the day. I also managed to make a few contacts on 40 meters from my mobile with the band not in to bad of shape, and I hoped it would continue over the course of the morning when I would have reached the ridge where I would try to work both 17 and 20 meters.

Once I arrived to where I planned on leaving my mobile, I pulled it off of the road and parked it in what passed for a ditch bordering the backroad. I then moved my manpack from the backseat area of my mobile to the open cargo bay, where I loaded the rest of the gear required for my morning outing away from my mobile. Once I was satisfied that I had everything loaded in my pack, and I'd made sure my Kenwood TM-D710A mounted in the radio-stack of my mobile was set as a fill-in-digi, as well as checking on the settings of my Kenwood D72, making sure it was beaconing my position, I headed up the trail leading to the ridge located approximately 2 kilometers away from my mobile.

I was pleased to find the trail leading up to the ridge to be in good condition other than a few wet spots where the snow had lingered longer before melting due to shading from the sun because of pine trees lining those areas of the trail. As I continued along, I made a few stops for photos that made it necessary to set my pack down, allowing me to retrieve my camera that I had in a small camera pack, and lashed to the top of my manpack transceiver.

About an hour in to the hike I arrived at the ridge where I off-loaded my pack, and after selecting a likely looking spot that was reasonably level, I began setting up, first by assembling my 10-60 meter antenna that only takes about 2 minutes to accomplish. I laid it down on the ground while I then set up my manpack on a level piece of ground, that allowed the antenna mount to be perpendicular to the ground. I accomplish this with the use of a small bubble level that I always carry in the pack for this purpose. With the antenna mount on the pack leveled, I then mounted the antenna in place on the manpack frame, a simple procedure requiring no tools. The next step was to connect up the coax to the SO-239 connector that is located on the coaxial junction box situated at the bottom end of the mast and mounted in place on the frame of the pack. The length of coax always left connected to the Yaesu FT-897ND is approximately 3' in length, and stores nicely on the packframe when not in use.
With everything ready to go, I turned on the transceiver to find the bands alive with good strong signals being received on 20 meters from across the US as well as further south into Mexico and South America. I no sooner began operating and making a few contacts , when the wind came up and was threatening to tip my pack over, not unexpected considering that the tip of the antenna stands 21'-24 feet above the ground, depending how I set the antenna up, and when the wind blows, it catches the wind quite nicely.

However the wind was not going to be a factor for long, as I had though this through when I first designed and built the manpack, and knowing that the wind could possibly create problems when operating, I had devised a method of getting around the problem. Now I could have simply made up guy-lines allowing me to guy the antenna when the wind came up, however not wanting to be dodging guy lines surrounding the manpack,  I had decided that I would make up short guys using high-tensile tent pegs attached to short lengths of 550 paracord, that allowed for attaching to the pack frame near the bottom.
If you expand the photos, in particular the ones showing the pack close up, you can see the guys attached to the frame and pegged to the ground. This works very well, and even with strong winds moving the antenna around up top, the pack does not move, but holds the antenna securely while operating with the wind blowing as it was on this morning.

Over the course of the next hour I made many contacts, the majority giving me good reports as to my received signal on their end. The batteries located in the battery tray of the FT-897ND had been fully charged when I first turned the rig on, the initial voltage reading 13.1 volts. After an hour of operating with 20 watts out, the voltage was still indicating 12.4 volts.

After a couple of hours I decided to shut down, as conditions on the band had deteriorated to the point that I was no longer being heard. Still, it had been fun, with many contacts in the log. After packing up, I headed back down the trail to my waiting mobile and home, after a most enjoyable day operating portable HF along the eastern slope of the southern Alberta Rockies.

NOTE....all photos expand

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