|Thoughts from a failed attempt at operating HF portable
||[Dec. 13th, 2009|12:31 am]
I go back east every year for Thanksgiving. I wanted to try to make some HF QSOs from the top of a hill in Vermont this year, and it didn't work out very well at all.
In a single hour of operation I heard a number of other hams doing their thing including one person calling CQ but I was totally unable to be received even by people who were S9+20 and that after spending a bunch of effort fussing with the antenna. By the time the hour ended it was time to head back to civilization. Sigh.
Due to personal stuff, I didn't have the time to plan ahead as much as I would have liked. Specifically, I was rushed in packing the day before I left and didn't have time to really think about what I wanted to bring, only focusing on what was technically required to actually transmit and receive. Stuff like documentation stayed home for the most part, and that wasn't smart.
The next mistake was not practicing in advance. I had a total of five minutes receiving with the portable setup before packing it up for the trip -- no transmit time, no real fussing with tuning, nothing. Even one full hour of fussing before I left would have made all the difference in the world.
I dragged my non-ham but supportive sweetie along. On the plus side, she was honestly interested and curious and wanted to help -- and she helped carry gear on an hour-long hike up the hill and an even longer hike down, but that's another tale. On the minus side, she didn't have quite the same sense of urgency I did with wanting to get out the door on time and thus I lost two of the three hours I could have spent being frustrated at the top of the hill.
So here are the things I will do differently for next year. First, I will try it out in a local park long before the trip, using exactly what I plan to bring with me. I will take notes on what I really wish I had, stuff like N6FN's Nifty! Mini-Manual and a longer DC power cable, and try it again until I am happy with what I was packing along. This includes making actual QSOs to prove I've gotten the entire thing working. Next, I will figure out how to pack it myself in one bag in case my sweetie decides she'd rather go shopping or sleep in that day.
And now I come to the real reason I'm posting to this discussion: comments from the peanut gallery. :-) What else should I do to prepare in advance? What else should I bring? For instance, I didn't ground my rig (Icom 706 MkIIG) while using it with the MP-1 Super Antenna -- should I have connected something to ground? Should I use a different battery? The one I brought with me weighed fifteen pounds and had a rated capacity of seventeen ampere-hours, but if there's something lighter or longer-lasting I'd love to hear about it. Anything more constructive than "wow ur lucky she didn't dump u" will be dearly appreciated. Thanks!