January 15, 2013

Musings on Portable Operation...VHF Upwards

Portable Operation on VHF and UHF.

I find that most if not all of my Ham Radio friends are not really aware of what can be achieved on the VHJF/UHF bands, they think that it involves expensive Stacked and Bayed Yagis and Rotators and also getting around the XYL to agree to erecting them at a home location, which in any case may be a bad location to begin with and with these bands, LOCATION is the prime thing to get correct, as basically in flat conditions they are line of sight, and unless you live on the top of a hill with unobstructed views around the Compass then you are going to struggle with whatever Antennas you put up. The answer to this is very simple, GO PORTABLE and here are some tips to get you to a good location and equipment that you will find useful.

By PORTABLE, I am talking about temporarily transforming your Car into a Static portable Shack, this means that you can drive all the equipment you need up to a suitable location for the areas that you are interested in working, and where we are based in the NW of the UK, this means that the most likely DX you will work will be East, through South, to West and although I have purposely left out the North, Scotland in particular it is a vast area with a small population of Ham Radio operators and is only worth targeting if known Stations are about.
Three Locations within driving distance of Lancaster/Morecambe area worth considering:

JUBILEE TOWER ~ Grid Ref SD54217 57310. This location is the closest and is good for the following directions, S through to NW a challenge here would be to work England, Wales, Eire, Northern Ireland and Scotland, it would not be hard to do on a good day.

CORNEY FELL ~ Grid Ref SD 14962 89695. Situated near Broughton In Furness, it is a very high location and is good for the same directions as Jubilee Tower but contacts to Northern Ireland and Scotland would be easier.

BOWLAND KNOTTS ~ Grid Ref SD 72660 60680. The best of the lot in my opinion, situated near Slaidburn and is good around the Compass. I have operated here on many occasions on CB and 2m, mainly because it is only half an hour’s drive away.

There are lots of others which are better, but involve more driving into the Dales to get to them and if it is new to you, then try one of these first.

Suggested Equipment:
Transceiver ~ Any all modes 2m and 70cm with a minimum power output of 50 watts (preferably 100 watts) and a suitable Power Supply, either the Car Battery or a Portable Generator and PSU, I have always used the latter.

Antenna ~ Tonna 2m (144 -146Mhz) 9 element  Portable Yagi Antenna. This is a MUST HAVE for 2m operation.
Always been a favourite with the VHF portable operators, the Tonna 220089 is a great quality antenna with excellent performance figures and very importantly on the cold winter days coming up, a fast assembly time !!  You will be on the air in minutes working the DX on VHF with this classic Tonna 9 ele portable beam.  
  • 220089 - Portable Beam Antenna
  • Frequency Range - 144/146Mhz
  • Elements - 9
  • Isotropic Gain - 13dBi
  • Overall Length - 3.47m
  • Power Rating - 1000watts
  • Connector - Low Loss N Type

Antenna ~ Tonna 22090 9 Element Beam Antenna 432Mhz (70Cms) or whatever you can afford, it’s just that I have used Tonna’s for portable operation for years and they work very well indeed. You don’t need a special portable antenna for 70cms, just split it in half to transport and leave all the elements in position.

Mast and Fixing Arrangement ~ I use either a Tripod or a run over with Car Wheel Base and 5m Telescopic Alloy Pole. You don’t need to get the Antenna too far above the ground if you are operating from a high Hill, I have tried various heights and no discernible difference has ever been noticed.
You will not need a rotator as you will be able to lash up an Armstrong one very easily. Most important though is to take a good quality Sylva equivalent Compass with you to set up the antenna.

Other Essentials.
Low Loss Feeder ~ I suggest either Ecoflex 10 ~ Ultraflexible and low loss coaxial cable. Or Westflex 103, air spaced Low Loss Feeder.

Connectors ~ Special connectors are required for each of the above types of Feeder and you must not try and connect them with anything else. Preferably of course in all VHF and UHF systems, N Type Connectors are much preferred.

Log Book ~ Either Paper or electronic if you are using iPhone or iPad. Make a note in the Log of your Grid Locator and if you are in IO84 you will be a highly prized square. Take with you a “European Grid Locator Map” and try and fill in as many squares as you can. If any member wants an encapsulated one, let me know and I will provide one for you. 

Warm Clothes

Food and Drink

And last but not least, either self-SPOT yourself, it’s easy if you have a Smart Phone and of course a signal, or get someone else to do it for you after your first contact, most stations are willing to do this, and then sit back and wait for the Pile-Up.

I guarantee that if you are serious about it you will become hooked and be forever looking for excuses to work Portable and don’t forget, you can run the first Tuesday evening in the month Contests from Jubilee Tower, so that’s Monday at the Owls Nest to sort things out and next evening, it’s up to the Hills.
Hope I have inspired some interest.