September 20, 2016

Signal-3 Preview: Stalking Signals in Shoshone

Here is a preview of what you can expect in the new electronic version of Signal-3.

Last weekend a few of us went in Shoshone National Forest for a monitoring exercise.

Pack shown was a Spec-Ops T.H.E. (Tactical Holds Everything) Pack.  I've been using this pack for the past 12 years and have been very satisfied with it.  I'd rate this pack 5/5 stars.

Rig used was a Yaesu FT-817 with a GoalZero Sherpa battery pack and homebrew inverted-V antenna cut for 40 meters, tossed up over a convenient tree limb with an arborist's throw bag.

Wire antennas such as inverted-Vs and dipoles work admirably, but require either indigenous supports such as tress, or for you to bring in your own antenna supports.  One also needs some means of getting the wire up.  When packing in one's station, pounds begin to add up.

Lesson 1: Go as light as possible

First thing I noticed was that on HF the Sherpa generated enough electrical noise to noticeably affect reception. Fortunately this was a monitoring-only exercise and the FT-817 has its own internal battery pack.  Research is presently underway to find an alternative to the Sherpa that is lightweight, noise-free, and reasonably priced.

Lesson 2: Run operational full system tests to find comparability problems.

Once we were operational, we had no issue receiving multiple signals from 11 Meter operators in Mexico down to regional AM broadcast band stations on a simple wire antenna.  No transmitting was done, because this exercise was intended as RX only, and listening is >2X as important as transmitting.

Lession 3: Small steps. Don't try everything at once.

After the monitoring experiment was concluded, there was one subsystem failure. A wire connection broke on the inverted-V antenna when taking it down.

This would not have been an issue, as the wire broke right at the ring terminal connection, and it would have no problem to whip out the Leatherman Tool and fix it.

Lesson 4: Things break. Have tools handy.

Finally, with the radios put away, we had lunch.

My cooking gear for this run consisted of a Primus Classic, US GI-issue canteen cup, and a set of German military-issue utensils.  The Primus Classic rocks, and I'd give it 5/5 stars easily.  It's lightweight, fits in my canteen cup, and brings a cup of water to boil in about 5 minutes.  There might be faster stoves out there, but this one is small, light, and rugged. Couldn't say the same for the meal though.  The Alpineaire Southwestern Style Masa with Beef didn't totally suck, but reconstituted on the soupy side with the recommended amount of water.  I'd give it 3/5 stars.

Lesson 5: Try camping food first before investing too much money into it.

Lesson 6: Sometimes the classic gear works best.

One of the other participants brought in his Elecraft KX-3 with an EARCHI End-Fed HF Matchbox Antenna, powered with a 12V jumpstart pack bought at a local autoparts store. He had similar success with monitoring HF communications. No electrical noise was noticed with the pack.

His cook gear was a Kelly Kettle stove kit fulled by dead twigs picked up off the ground. It too had a very quick water boiling time. I believe it was somewhere between 2-3 minutes. Another 5/5 star piece of kit. Disadvantages were greater bulk than the Primus Classic and higher scent signature from the burning wood.

Lesson 7: Figure out advantages, disadvantages, and trade-offs to see what works best for you.

So we had two individuals with different pieces of kit, each determined and assembled separately, who pulled off a successful experiment/exercise in the field.  This shows the most important lesson learned:

Lesson 8: Take your stuff out and work with it to iron out the kinks ahead of time, before you really need it.

This is an example of the type of articles you can expect to see in future issues of Signal-3.  Practical, real-world stuff based on experience.  Signal-3 is monthly, and delivered in electronic format. Subscriptions are $50/year.

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  1. you eating "frezzed dried yuck" again?

    your better off eating pet food

    whyoming rotting your brain cells


    1. Next time I'll try something different, and report my findings. The Alpineaire didn't totally suck, but I'd have rather brought a sandwich.

  2. Sparks,
    Thanks for the photo op and link to the club website for the Hawaii Emergency Amateur Radio Club matchbox antenna. These antennas are built by club volunteer as a fund raiser to keep our repeater system up and running.
    Marshall - NH6TD