As a part of getting back into the HAM Radio hobby, I pulled out my existing gear and began making plans to stream line my setup. When I first got into the hobby, my initial goals were to have the ability to communicate in emergency situations, mostly “the end of the world as we know it” or “SHTF” from a prepper perspective. I also wanted to learn more about electronics and electricity in a practical sense. I was still in college at the time, and when it came up as a topic of interest, I was in my senior semesters working on my final project and final topic. Things were too hectic, so I didn’t pick it up at that time. It fell by the wayside, and I didn’t think about it again for several years.
In the summer of 2008, we got news of a class on HAM Radio that was going to be presented at the local library. The class was designed for the local home schooled kids, but they would take anyone. I got special permission from work at the time to take the class time off, and took my two oldest children, since they showed interest. We were supposed to build an SDR kit radio as part of the class participation, but the instructor had some health issues, and the classes trickled to an end without a radio built. I learned that there was a local club, as well as when and where they met each week, so I showed up to lunch with them one Friday. They seemed like a good bunch of people, and encouraged me. I managed to get my license before the class was finished. I passed both my Technician exam and my General exam in one sitting, and began my pursuit of first equipment to buy. It was a little overwhelming. I knew we were supposed to have the SDR when all was said and done, but I also saw that things were slowing down a lot, and I wanted a radio I could use out of the box.
After a little discussion with a few of the club members, I picked up my first hand held. This was a Yaesu FT-60R, and it was a pretty nice HT at the time. The club helped me get it programmed for the local repeaters, and I began checking into the weekly net, regularly. I then began looking for the perfect “grab and go” HF radio. I ended up focusing on Yaesu products, again, and it was a tie between the FT-817ND, FT-857, and FT-897. I settled on the middle ground 857, and was happy with this radio for my needs. I bought a battery pack from a group that does backpack radio, and picked up an HF antenna that packs down nicely from the same group. This gave me all the pieces I needed for my first operable portable station. I had a power supply, a transceiver, and an antenna. This worked okay for a while, but the antenna gave me issues when I tried to operate from my back yard, and one of the club members helped me realize it was interacting poorly with a tree that was too close. Moving it several feet away allowed me to make a contact to New Mexico. It was fun.
Fast forward a few years, and I got my heart set on a new radio that was put out by Elecraft. It was small, portable, did up to 12 watts with an external battery, up to 5 with internal batteries, and could do all modes, not just CW. Since I still hadn’t learned Morse code, I needed a sideband radio, and this could do it. I waited and watched, and watched and waited, and in 2014, my wife and I sat down and did the math. I pulled the trigger on this new radio using tax return money. A week or so after we ordered it, I got cut from my job in a batch of mass layoffs. My wife said to let it come in, and not send it back. She loves me.
The radio was the full package. I got the KX3 transceiver, the PX3 pan adapter, the KXPA500 amplifier (so that I could use it with up to 500 watts output in a home station set up,) and a full Buddipole antenna system. Buddipole is another one of those “break it down and pack it” antennas, but has a lot more configuration options than the one I mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, it is a more complex system, and it takes longer to set it up and break it down, and it’s heavy. It’s very heavy. I’ve used it a total of once.
At some point after obtaining the KX3, I loaned the FT-857 out, and haven’t seen it since. I know who has it, and it’s okay. It’s in good hands, and I know he’s enjoying it. I’d rather it be used by someone than sit on a shelf collecting dust.
Skip forward a few more years and my activity in the hobby has fallen off. My new job (a few months after losing the last one) has me driving further every day, and the stress levels are different and higher. I stopped showing up for the monthly meetings, and weekly “tech night” get togethers. My health began to decline.
Skip to late last year.
I decided that part of my health decline is related to the stress. Most of it, actually. I’m getting back into the hobby, and my goals are much as they were the first time around. Rather than worrying about SHTF, however, I just want a radio setup that I can grab to go play at the park, or in the parking lot at work, or similar. So, without further delay, here’s the gear I have as of today:
Kx3, PX3, a pair of random wires with banana plugs into a binding post antenna, microphone all in a little Harbor Freight knock-off-pelican case.
A Bioenno BPP-120 battery pack.
A selection of any of the following antenna systems: The superantennas MP-1 (first HF antenna I owned.) The “yo-yo-vee” (a clothesline antenna that makes a dipole.) The “random speaker wire antenna” (packed in the case.) The “Opek 2m through 80m” on a mag mount. The “Buddipole system” that is heavy and complex, but gives the greatest flexibility in setting up.
I’ve started going back to tech nights, and meeting with the club for lunch on Saturdays. My gear setup is about where I want it. I need something to toss a line in a tree, and I need a couple of kite winders to wind the wires on for the speaker wire antenna, but that’s all I’m missing at the moment. When I finish getting the package put together, I’ll start taking the radio out to operate, and will try to get my adventures on video. If I succeed, I’ll put them up on YouTube, and share from there. Until then, I’ll keep a running log of how this is going, here.
Next post will be UNIX related. I’ll start the SSH stuff I promised last week.