How to select a mobile operating location

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by VK6FLAB, Feb 1, 2019.

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  1. VK6FLAB

    VK6FLAB Ham Member QRZ Page

    foundations-of-amateur-radio_300.jpg
    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    How to select a mobile operating location

    Operating your amateur radio station at home, in your shack, is one of the often discussed aspects of our hobby. Much has been said about installation, antennas, grounding and the like, but what if you want to operate mobile?

    Picking a location, of all the locations available to you, can be quite the task. For some it's daunting, others find it challenging, others take to it with ease and often you find yourself overwhelmed by choice. What makes a good operating location, what should you look for and how do you do this better?

    First thing to consider is that options give you choice, choice gives you uncertainty, which can lead to stress and other unpleasantness. If you're completely flummoxed as to how to select a location, visit the Summits On The Air website, or the World Wide Flora and Fauna site and see which of the qualifying locations is reachable for you.

    The choice becomes much easier if you don't have a choice. Picking from a proscribed list makes it easier to start and the more you do it, the more you'll learn about what makes a good operating location and what doesn't.

    Restricting your options is one path to success, but there are others.

    Over the years I've poured over maps, looked at places that qualified, tried and failed, many times.

    Things I look for when I am hunting for a new place to operate from include the ability for my car to get there. I live in Australia, often shade is a consideration, away from buildings and other sources of interference. I tend to go for places that have water nearby, preferably the ocean, but I also frequent lakes and rivers. If I'm operating on VHF and UHF for a local contest I might look for a high point, something that has clear line of sight to the local amateur community, in my case a high hill or the local ranges overlooking the city basin.

    For one contest I needed to visit local shires and to do that I created a map showing all the shire boundaries. I then used that map to scout possible locations and took into account how to get from this shire to the next. I learnt from that exercise that the ground beneath the operating location matters, sand versus gravel, gravel versus granite, granite versus swamp. I also learnt that overhead power lines are hard to spot on a map, but avoiding them is essential to success.

    Depending on how long you plan to operate for, an hour, a day, the weekend, select a location based on the time that you're there. Picking an isolated jetty where there is potential for crime in the middle of the night is probably best for day-time activations, but might need reconsideration for an overnight adventure.

    Picking a local park might be possible for 24 hours, but the local ranger might not appreciate you setting up a more permanent camp.

    Often planning works to your advantage. The local council might appreciate you having a chat with them before a contest and might even offer you assistance in the form of local facilities, running water, etc. Consider using the local public open space with a community hall as your base.

    There's a balance to be found between preparation and turning up on the day. If the location is something that you're only visiting for an hour, you won't need to scout, unless you're planning on a particularly elusive DX contact, but setting up camp for 48 hours with tents, masts, coax and operating positions will benefit from a visit before the actual event.

    Make sure that you bring along a radio that can operate on the bands that you're planning to operate on and remember to turn it on and have a listen. I can tell you that driving for 90km to scout a location and forgetting to actually turn on the radio is an experience that I cannot recommend.

    There are many places to choose from. Radio considerations aside, I mentioned shade before. The environment is important. You don't want to set-up on the side of a highway with fast moving traffic, or in a location where people will come right up to your station to get to their cars. You don't want to select a large car park where others will, for inexplicable reasons, park right next to you.

    Boat ramps and jetties are good, a national park is great, a beach-side car park, the top of a hill, next to a river, are the kinds of places where you'll find an operating position that will get your mobile station up and running.

    Bring along stuff. Batteries, squid-poles, rope, wire, spare coax, a table, water, a chair, your logbook, a box of tools, the little things that will give you options for when something unexpected happens, like the tree you were planning to use is further away than expected, or the shade moved, or the rubbish bin on site is just a little too close for comfort. Also bring fly spray, a rain coat, some food and consider any other things that might affect your enjoyment. Essentially, build in some flexibility.

    I'll leave you with this question. What operating positions have you used and how successful were they?

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB

    TL;DR This is the transcript of the weekly "Foundations of Amateur Radio" podcast.
     

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