Man-portable Comms can be as simple as operating while walking with the dogs, hiking or biking, or as complex as an expedition to some unknown place on a distant mountain top. No matter what we are doing or where we are activating from, we try to use these excursions as learning experience to improve our off-grid comms expertise.

Training for Survival, Emergencies or …

 Man-portable activities

Radios, Antennas & Tech

Yaesu FT-817ND

ATX-Walkabout portable antenna

 Portable Power

Internal Power

External Power packs

Recharging

Navigation

Samsung Galaxy Hardcover

Garmin Etrex

Garmin foreTrex 101

Packs and equipment carrying

Halti Base 80 (Expedition Pack)

Condor 3-day Assault Pack

CamelBak Hydration Pack (1 Day Pack)

Tents and shelters

 Cooking gear

 Sleeping gear

Training for Survival, Emergencies or …

Man-portable ops is an excellent way to improve your SHTF comms skills. Often, portable operations whether Field Stations or man-portable, is quite often the most difficult environment to operate in. If you can successfully operate away from your shack, having only your wits and the gear you carry, you will be able to operate in any conditions. One of the ways I enjoy training, is with a radio biathlon. A radio biathlon is an multi-day event where one walks, hikes, or marches a predetermined distance of 16/24/30km on the first day, stopping to camp, then repeating the hike on the second day, all the while taking time to make radio contacts on HF & 6 meters, with all gear being carried by the individual. These kind of ops promote physical fitness, comms competence, and practical experience with your electronics during grid down situations.

 Man-portable activities

The Comms gear I carry is unique to each excursion. However, usually there is a core kit that makes up the base gear, regardless of the activities for any particular outing. So having different reasons for heading out into the wilderness. Here are some of ours the things I am doing out there:

Reaching those remote locations for amateur radio purposes

Reaching a remote location for the purpose of photography or videography

Testing camping/hiking/survival gear

For launching RC planes or multi-rotors for scenic FPV flight recordings.

Geo-Caching

Radios, Antennas & Tech

No matter what the reasons is for the excursion, I always carry primary comms. This comes in the form of a VHF/UHF dual- or tri-bander radio. The other equipment listed is for safety, convenience, or to solve some specific technical requirement.

Dual band VHF/UHF rig (FM)

APRS beacon

GPS receiver

Multi-band HF/VHF/UHF rig

SWL and FM broadcast band radio.

License free radio (PMR, FRS, …)

My personal comms gear is outlined below. I won’t be carrying all of this gear all the time. I usually mix it up day to day for testing purposes. For RaDAR and other portable activations, or for working while hiking, I use the Yaesu FT-817ND. I’ve owned one since 2003 and carried it with to many different countries. Recently, my originalFT-817 was irreparably damaged. Now thanks to the good nature of old friends and hams, my (used but excellent condition) replacement, should have arrived, by the time you read this.

Yaesu FT-817ND

Yaesu FT-817ND (DX comms and SWL) Many of my friends and associates use the Yaesu FT-897, but my problem with it ism it’s very difficult to work with while actually moving on foot. In contrast, the 817, with internalbattery pack and an antenna such as a mono-band whip or the ATX, gives you an opportunity to work dx while actually hiking. Moreover, the amount of gear needed to get the 817 on the band, seems far less than some larger radios. The cost of smaller size? That’s easy, its the output power!

ATX-Walkabout portable antenna

The ATX Walkabout is an amazing antenna. I have owned this one since 2003 and would never consider parting ways with it as long as I am into /P QRP operations. The tap points for specific bands simplifies operations-

One must use a counterpoise with that antenna, or tining will be next to impossible. Moreover, the antenna is quite picky about the length of the coutnerpoise on 20, 30, 40, and 80 meters. Above that, it doesn’t care if there is a counterpoise or not, but performance is increased when using one.

 Portable Power

I thought it important to do a small section here in portable power. Portable power can be an incredibly valuable tool in the field. You keep your devices powered up, the longer you can stay out in the field. Your gear goes down, and you no longer have much reason for being there. Portable power can be divived into three catageries:

Internal power

External power

Recharging

Internal Power

The Internal batteries inside your gear, are just as important as the gear itself. That’s why I have chosen to use a specific brand and type of battery for almost all of my devices. I use the Sanyo 2700mah NiMH AA battery. You can use whatever battery you choose, as long as they are all the same capacity and type. This makes charging and mixing between devices easy and simple. Having all kind of different batteries complicates mixing, and redices the run-time of your devices. Throw away the old NiCD and upgrade all your batteries. Dont btoher to buy any alkalines. They are no longer practical or cost effective.

External Power packs

External power packs become critical when we start talking about multi-day comms excursions. You can never carry enough internal batteries with you, but a reasonably sized 5-10 external power pack based on LIFEPO4 or NiMH cells can extend your operating times from hours to days. Im putting together my own power packs, which are 12v 5.4A respectively. I augment those power packs with a 13-25w solar panel. Use one, charge the other and vice-versa. The power packs in combination wtih high spec internal batteries, will extend ops time. Its a no-brainer. You dont have to build your own power packs. GoalZero make excellent power packs for man-portable ops, but you may have to use their solar panels as well. Thats not really a bad thing if youre searching for a commercial solution anyway.

Recharging

There are really only three solutions to recharging. The first is to recharge with solar power. The second is to recharge with a generator. The third is to recharge with mains power at a grid-tied location. As this article is about man-portable operations, I will outline my choice in this matter.

Goal Zero Guide 10 plus & Nomad 7 solar panel

Today we received the Goal Zero Guide 10 and Nomad 7 solar panel. Its the perfect addition to our QRP Expedition gear. The Nomad  can be daisy chained together to make a more powerful panel. This lego block concept allows me to piece togther the correct solution  for the particulaexcursion I’ll be on each time.

I have not had the opportunity to test to the gear in the field, but I hoep to do so in the coming weeks.

Navigation

I don’t currently own any advanced navigation systems like modern GPS units or anything like that. The main reason for this is Android smartphones and Tablets. I do have two GPS units which I have had since I started Geocaching in Switzerland 15 years ago. There certainly are faster more capable devices on the market today, but using my Android device, saves me from having to carry and power an additional device.

Samsung Galaxy Hardcover

Amateur portable operators like the RaDAR crew, often use ten digits grid coordinates to identify their location. Since I carry an Android device anyway, I use HamGPS to get my grid coordinates to within 100 meters.

Garmin Etrex

I’ve had the Garmin ETrex Legend since 2000. I purchased it specificlly for Geo-caching in the Swiss Alps. That’s 14 years ago (for you buy Chinese crap because its cheap crowd). Despite its age, it still gives good GPS accuracy, tracks, and enough information to get me where I want to go, let me know where I have been, and tell me where I am. Even if I don’t pull it out of the EDC bag, its still there just in case, always ready to put in a days work.

Garmin foreTrex 101

Sometimes you simply need a GPS for the backcountry. Thats what the etrex 101 is all about. Its not special, but it is small and able to bring you the information one needs for backcountry navigation in a such a tiny package. Its also waterproof and rugged. The eTrex 101 is nothing more than a backup GPS unit for me. It is also at times my primary tool for Geo-Caching.

Packs and equipment carrying

It must be said that I am a backpack and pouch fetishist! It seems I have a backpack for every occasion. Which pack I take along is purely up to the requirements of the outing. It’s also nice to have a choice between packs, to prevent over or under packing.

Halti Base 80 (Expedition Pack)

My Expedition pack is a completely self contained Amateur communications pack, operational from HF through UHF. It supports Digital and Voice communications.

The Pack includes:

• Yaesu FT-817ND for HF comms, including supporting comms like APRS and applicable interfaces

• Cooking and camping gear

• Solar power and storage

• Food, water bladder, and first aid

The pack was inspired by the series of videos from Guerriillacomm, where he suffered through the tourtorous process of finding a a SHTF pack solution.

One point I try to make for people going on expedition, emergency deployment, or some forced relocation during disaster or emergency is to remember that you must plan your gear with the assumption that you will loose access to your vehicle at some point, ending up on foot! So plan your gear with that possibility in mind!

Condor 3-day Assault Pack

For 1-3 day excursions, I use the Condor 3-Day Assault pack! This pack is rugged yet minimal, and offers a pragmatic features needed to get there and get back. Storage space is astonishing for something this small and comfortable. Its got a main storage area, two side pockets, external pouches for quick access gear, a water bladder area which also serves to cushion ones spine when overloaded. It’s also fully adjustable! Externally, the molle system gives me the ability to add gear capacity which I normally use for cooking and/or additional comms gear.

CamelBak Hydration Pack (1 Day Pack)

The CamelBak Hydration pack is a pack I use for day outings. Its not meant for heavy loadouts, but works perfectly for carrying the FT-817, tablet computer, food, antenna, 2 liters of water, and some rain kit. Without trying to sound like a marketing video, the Camelbaks are awesome because they (unlike the Chinese crap preppers are buying) are well made, and have a lifetime warranty! This particular pack has been to 20-25 different countries with me. From the deserts of Africa, to the highlands of Scotland. Not one stick has even broken, not one zipper, and I promise you, I beat the hell out f my gear.

Tents and shelters

I have two tents for excursions. Neither of which is expedition quality. I am trying to budget for an expedition quality tent, but until that happens, I have these touring tents, that have been with me for quite a while, and I will have to manage with these.

Small 2 man tent

The first is a small two man tent from Polo that I usually have on my motorcycle. It’s small, light weight and perfect for excursions on foot, bike, boat, or where we have weight restrictions for whatever reason.

The best feature of the Polo 2 man tent, is that it is very light weight.  The next best feature is being able to set it up within minutes. To ensure a good nights sleep, I always carry plastic tarps for placing over and under the tent if there happens to be heavy downpour.  The tarps also help make up for the light material, keeping warmth in the tent and moisture out. There is nothing else to really say about this tent!

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