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How to HAM while traveling?


KC3LUM
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So as a new HAM I have been trying to figure out what is out there and what works for me. Currently I haven’t ventured out past using local repeaters, but I have found this seemingly simple avenue very cumbersome and not strait forward.

I am curious to hear what the seasoned HAMs do when they travel. Does anyone commonly use technologies like D-Star, System Fusion, and WIRES?

Here is my experience:

To start, I have an 8 Watt Baofeng HT and a 50 Watt Yeasu Mobile. I read the manuals and know how to hand jam the freqs in, but this process reminds me of trying to set a VCR to record something a few days in the future.. a process that is doable but very few people take the time to figure out how to do it, and if you haven’t done it in a few months you are probably going to do it wrong a few times before you get it right. So I bought a programming cable and downloaded CHIRP. I pulled the freqs of bunch of repeaters in my area and dumped them into CHIRP and onto the radio. So now I have a HT with a bunch of local repeaters saved, but I have no idea where 99% of them are physically located. When I am out and about and feel courageous enough to broadcast, I have to pull up my RepeaterBook app, find the repeater call sign close to me, and then scroll through my HT’s memory bank to find the corresponding slot.

Does everyone do this? Because it feels very convoluted.

This process has left me really only tuning to the repeater closest to my house. 

Now I am traveling on vacation and trying to make contact on the local repeaters, so I brought my HT. When I am able to broadcast I have to look up repeaters on RepeaterBook, hand jam them into the radio and kachunk the radio (with proper identification) to see if I put the info in correctly or if the repeater is even operational. I am of course not even saving these channels into the HT because it is a pain and I can’t even give them a proper name, so if I want to go back to try the freq again I might have to re-look it up and of course rejam it in the radio. 

I do not have my mobile radio with me, but hand jamming info into it is just as annoying as the HT. 

 

I want to know what the “Elmers” do because there must be a better way..

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ELMER

Hi Josh.

Each ham is obviously different. I'll tell you what I do and a bit of the why I do it.

First the radio. Mobile I operate an Icom 5100 so I have two VFOs. I leave one on the national calling frequency (146.52). I have a sticker on the back of my car that says I monitor it. On a long trip, I'll usually get one or two operators who pull up behind me, see the sticker and my license plate and call out. On this point, I wish that the ARRL would do more to make 146.52 into both the calling frequency and the road frequency, similar to what channel 19 was for CB.

While I'm driving I tend not to use preprogrammed repeaters on the other VFO. Instead, I scan for existing traffic and ask to join the conversation.

Recently, I did try to use D-Star. I had several :QSO: back here with @W4DOI. It was fun but tedious.

And now we get to the real fun. I love doing HF while I'm on the road. At first I thought it was a crazy idea, and in the old days it kind of was. But now, with my Yaesu 891, an LDG tuner, and my Alpha FMJ antenna, I do wonders. Alan and I have, in fact, had long :QSO: on 40 and 20m on my last trip to Canada. It was fun. Better yet (sorry Alan) was my QSO with Australia, while driving!!! It was nuts. I loved it. As for when I pull over, if I want to do some serious operating, I have a 23-foot SOTABEAMS mast that I put up with an 80m doublet. Next time I see you, if you'd like, I'll give you a demo of the full kit.

I hope this helps.

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Hi Josh.  A few ways to approach it...  SOme of it is playing with options, learning from others (as you're doing here), and figuring out what works for your "normal" operations.

I have several radios, although my Yaesu FT2DR and FTM-400 are the go-tos right now.  And I use RT Systems software for programming them, dump to the SD card and plug in.  For around my area, I have a basic program file for each radio with a scan set up for my normal wandering area.  And I've learned which repeaters tend to be more active, have things like SKYWARN, etc. 

When I travel, which can be anywhere for fun Jeeping or for work, I plan ahead and build a new program file for the radio(s) that will be with me.  In RT Systems it is pretty easy to download either a radius of the area I'll be in or a pathway along my route.  If its an area that I am not familiar with, I may do some google maps research to familiarize myself.  I then both print the frequency list and send myself a pdf of the list, so that I can refer to it to help find the appropriate memory in the radio.  This combined with Repeater Book and/or RFinder apps has worked well for having a radio already programmed, yet still flexible.

As all my radios are dual VFO, I tend to keep one on 146.520.  Unless I'm in an area that I want to monitor a specific repeater while scanning others (i.e., local SKYWARN while scanning others).

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ELMER
1 hour ago, KB7THL said:

As all my radios are dual VFO, I tend to keep one on 146.520.  Unless I'm in an area that I want to monitor a specific repeater while scanning others (i.e., local SKYWARN while scanning others).

Mike, quick question: do you feel that the ARRL, and others, should be promoting 146.52 more? I just wish it became a road frequency in addition to a 'calling' frequency. I know it sounds cb-ish, but if more of us made it a habit to use 146.52 on the road, it would become a more useful frequency.

Thoughts?

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Jim, I do not think promoting it as a "road" frequency is the answer.  Within a calling frequency, I don't see the need for special road or not road delineation, calling is calling for everyone on the band looking to make contact.  Reinforcing and marketing what a calling frequency is for is more the need. 

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ELMER
59 minutes ago, KB7THL said:

Jim, I do not think promoting it as a "road" frequency is the answer.  Within a calling frequency, I don't see the need for special road or not road delineation, calling is calling for everyone on the band looking to make contact.  Reinforcing and marketing what a calling frequency is for is more the need. 

I actually agree with you on the notion of 'not necessary to call it something'. What I think I'm saying is that I wish operators would use it more on the road. I think that a little nudge from those with influence might go a long way.

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Yes.  Much more marketing of using calling frequencies would help.  May even help new hams looking for contacts other than repeaters, or who don't have a nearby repeater.

Driving to Hamvention this year I had 146.520 on the whole way.  For quite a stretch on I-70 there was actually quite a bit of radio traffic amongst a bunch of us headed the same way.  At one point I was making contact up to 20 miles out.

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Interesting, thank you guys for your input! It is very helpful to know that many HAMs are monitoring 146.52Mhz, I am ordering a Bumper sticker lol.

After doing some digging I found ARRL's band plan page http://www.arrl.org/band-plan  

When I got my license I was handed the ARRL chart that shows the frequencies that I was allowed to broadcast on, but I think the band plan guide would have been much more helpful.

 

@KB7THL, thanks for the tip on the software. I will definitely look into it more. Do you have to buy a separate software package for each radio? The website makes it seem that way.

 

@K3MRI, I am very interested to see your kit and learning more about HF. Soon I will get my General license so I can broadcast on it.

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ELMER
9 hours ago, KC3LUM said:

Do you have to buy a separate software package for each radio? The website makes it seem that way.

I've started another thread on frequency programming software.

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ELMER
10 hours ago, KB7THL said:

Sticker/magnet on each side of the Jeep.

Right on Mike. Good idea. Let's people know you're on frequency! As for the magnetic approach, perfect for the XYL who does not appreciate stickers. I can put them on when I'm on a road trip and take them off in town. Me likey.

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