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2 Days Off Grid with PowerFilm, Ham Radio and a Raspberry Pi

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by OH8STN, Jun 9, 2018.

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  1. OH8STN

    OH8STN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I can't find the comment now but someone said "I am doing all the hard work so the others don't have to". Honestly, I just got tired of hearing what wasn't possible, why it is done a certain way, and the don't bother it won't work. One example was the DIY LiFePO4 batteries. They made a 100 watt rucksack field station possible. Sometimes I "feel" like we have an ever expanding list of methods and tools to use, technology is moving forward, but we almost never do.
    The triggers for me were the Nepal earthquake, and Hurricane in Puerto Rico. Stories of volunteers not being able to get their comms gear where it was needed, or needing a truck to do that. Imagine the grid is down but we deploy gear which is grid dependent. Flexibility was missing from many f the methods.
    Perhaps my own methods are unorthodox, but I get a chance to learn what works and what doesn't for the field operator. I hope I never have to deploy again, but if I do, i'll be able to hike there, ski there, paddle there, and repel there with a lightweight and capable kit.
    So much to learn.

    By the way, I appreciate the questions. It is very difficult to show everything in a video, but I usually augment the videos with answers to questions in the form of blog posts.

    thanks everyone
    Julian oh8stn
    AK2M and KC8VWM like this.
  2. KB9RDS

    KB9RDS XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thank You Julian, you answered the question and thoughts i had.

    Steve Wendt USN (Ret)
    Indianapolis, IN.
    OH8STN likes this.
  3. OH8STN

    OH8STN Ham Member QRZ Page

    It's pretty tough to get such a small station to be efficient in the field. If I might be completely forthcoming Steve, the lack of good software on portable devices is the biggest limiting factor.
    By the way, huge respect for the USN retired. If it wasn't for the Navy, this old Jarhead would still be in a few different pieces.

    Julian oh8stn
  4. WA2LXB

    WA2LXB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Lt. USN-IRR 1985-1994
    KC8VWM likes this.
  5. WA2LXB

    WA2LXB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Great info Charles, thank you. It's always beneficial to see others' kits and what has worked and what hasn't. My first SOTA was with a sump pump backup battery and a 40lb go box. I'm gradually working that down. RE 160M at 30 feet, even if I get out just a couple of states away from NY that's good enough for me. I really like the OCF because it is so forgiving and flexible. With a wide range tuner (10:1) I am able to reach up to Ontario and out to Ohio with an 80 to 6 OCF on 160M. I've also made it to one of the islands off Washington state on 6M with it barefoot. That's why I'm interested in building something very much like you have on a couple of reels, ready to be hoisted up on 3 painter's poles or similar. Right now I have 3 Spiderbeam 40 foot telescopics, but at 14lbs each they are just too much to backpack around. Trees are often an option, using a fishing pole and sinker to get the antenna up in the air. I'm liking what I hear about Bioenno Power. They have a wide range of batteries, solar panels and a quality charge controller (MPPT-RFI free). I've copied a fair number of QRP'ers on CW, and they often suffer from QSB killing copy. I think that 20 watts is about the lowest I'd like to have for a SOTA/POTA/field transmitter, I already own the 7300 and at a fuzz over 9 lbs with 3:1 autotuner, it checks a lot of boxes for a packable radio. A bandscope, autotuner and 100 watts while portable should be against the law!
    KC8VWM likes this.
  6. KB9RDS

    KB9RDS XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Good for you being a Lt. USN. I was a Seabee Diver with the Underwater Construction Teams. Was not a Ham at the time but if i was, it would have been a bigger blast, hamming from ALL the Pacific Islands.
    WA2LXB and KC8VWM like this.
  7. AK2M

    AK2M Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks to everyone for their commentary, and thanks - as always - to Julian.

    I am still new to ham radio, a condition that gets reinforced by my limited schedule to operate. Sure, I have a full time job, but what I'm really about is Scouting. (My avatar picture is the BSA Radio Merit Badge.)

    I am getting into portable operations more and more, and I do it with the scouts whenever I can. (Sometimes it's just by having the ID-5100A turned on while I'm driving the boys around.)

    This summer at our troop's week-long camp, I'm bringing my FT-857D like I did last year, working SSB. The first weekend of camp is the same as ARRL Field Day. You can find the listing at Scout Camps On The Air (SCOTA). Then, I used my SuperAntenna MP1C, but unlike Julian's recommendations, I don't have as much success with it. Sure, it works, but I could be happier with the results. I'll still bring it with me, but I also want to try an end-fed long wire on a 40' Spiderbeam, too.

    I have a big SLA battery that I use to power the Yaesu and I keep the battery charged throughout the week with a Renogy 100W Eclipse folding suitcase. All that's not hike-compatible, but it is completely off grid in the outdoors.

    As I get more practice doing this, I want to pare down my setup with more portable options for our 10-mile backpacking trips through the Dolly Sods Wilderness, and all along the Appalachian Trail to Spy Rock. My learning curve is steep as I'm lucky if I get to spend much time operating if I'm keeping watch over my patrol -- much less do any experimenting. In a perfect world, I'd do this on my own without the troop on a free weekend. I'll let you know if I find a free weekend. ;-)

    I have read, and re-reread every post in this thread trying to soak it all in. Please continue, and please keep making videos. I'm reading, watching, and learning.

    Thank you.

    Kevin Maxson / KD4MAX
    Troop 55, Powhatan District, NCAC
    Order of the Arrow - Amangamek-Wipit 470
    Wood Badge N6-82-17-2 Buffalo
    WA2LXB likes this.
  8. KC8VWM

    KC8VWM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Just a tip.

    You can make your own "extension cable" perfect for operating your off grid solar panel.

    Easily constructed from around 25 feet of 12/2 low voltage landscaping light cable. This is sold from spools by the foot in the electrical section at any big box hardware store. I played with different lengths and 25' is perfect.

    This is extremely tough and durable, direct bury wire that's UV and chemical resistant.

    Just install 2 Anderson power pole connectors on both ends of your "extension cable" and install some shrink tubing to help keep water intrusion out.


    Multi-purpose use.. Not only for connecting your solar panel!

    Also handy for connecting your radio equipment sitting on the picnic table at the campsite to the car battery inside your vehicle that's parked nearby.

    Great for emergencies and also permits use from any other off grid 12v power source that's conveniently available including any lawntractor, power sports equipment any disabled vehicles after a disaster, sump pump batteries, 12v home alarm systems and more.

    To do this, I made up a few of my own "adapters" with Anderson power pole connectors installed on the ends. So when an appropriate adapter is attached to one end of the 25' extension cable, I can use it to tap into virtually any off grid 12 v power source too.

    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018
    WA2LXB likes this.
  9. WA2LXB

    WA2LXB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Groovy-as a NITROX certified open water diver I have the greatest respect for the monster skill sets of USN divers. I took $100/month from MARAD for 3 years of college at SUNY Maritime, with the deal that I pay it back with 8 years of ACDUTRA, 2 weeks per year. Just after my USCG 3rd Asst Engineer license expired in 1990, the DOD reactivated it during the first Gulf War in case MSC needed unlimited tonnage/horsepower officers. In '94 I offered the USN a 20 year stint if they'd let me in to the diving and salvage school. They said no thanks-they were busy letting officers go after the war. That's when I said adios, as the special duty officer stuff at shipyards was getting old. Plus I'd lose $5K every ACDUTRA because of the difference in pay between Lt. and private consulting. No regrets...the Merch and USN are part of my DNA forever.
    OH8STN likes this.
  10. AK2M

    AK2M Ham Member QRZ Page

    Extension cables aren't generally my problem. I have Anderson PP connectors on my radio power cord already, and it's fairly long. The only headache I have with the solar panel and my SLA battery is that I have to open the battery box and put alligator clips from the charge controller directly on the battery. It won't pass volts through the on-board PP distribution block. I don't do it often, because I think the battery is 30Ah and I can run full power half the day and take the battery to the panel to charge it the other half of the day.

    At some point, I can see replacing the included charge controller with the GenaSun controller that supports lithium batteries. I have a LiFePO4 battery that powers my 2m/70cm mobile go-box. But for that, I just use an AC adapter to recharge it. That battery is a 12Ah, so ostensibly, I could power both my 2m/70cm mobile along with my FT-857D comfortably so long as I could get solar power into it at the same time with a new controller. Having a 100w suitcase panel is nice, if not as portable. I don't have the money to get a comparable fold-up, portable panel.

    As to doing digital modes like Julian does -- that looks pretty cool. I have tons of RPi 2 boards, and getting a 3 with a clock/battery hat isn't a big deal. I'd have to shell out the money for something like a ZLP interface and some kind of Android device though.

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