Finding Locations for Auto-Portable Operations

Discussion in 'Mobile Radio Systems' started by KK5JY, Mar 8, 2017.

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  1. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    From time to time, I enjoy working HF mobile while parked in an RF-quiet location. This is a particularly easy way to work Field Day away from home, while still operating off-grid.

    I'm wondering for those of you who also like to get away from the city to find RF-quiet locations, how do you find the locations you use?

    There are a very small number of state parks, and other rural recreation areas near me. Of these, many have facilities for the use of the guests, which tends to encourage these areas to be overrun with rural power lines, RVs with generators, etc., which doesn't help my goal of finding an RF-quiet location.

    Truly portable operation isn't that interesting to me right now. I just like to park somewhere with a view of nature, and work FD stations from the pickup truck. This is a great way to do a portable operation, because while the vehicle is parked, I can swap the street-legal whip antenna with a much longer vertical antenna that has better performance for 40m and 80m. It also allows me to use much more power than I can do with a man-portable station.

    Those of you who like to do hilltopping probably know what I'm talking about. How do you guys find hilltops where you can set up your gear for a while, but where you aren't an obstruction or distraction to others nearby, and where the others nearby aren't RFI-ing your hilltopping gear?

    Those of you who work "portable" from your vehicle, do you have any ideas on how to find new and interesting places where I could take the vehicle-mounted HF station for a few hours at a time?
  2. K5VV

    K5VV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Having operated HF mobile for a few years now, I can tell you the only way to find RF-quiet locations is to go there and listen. I have been in busy neighborhoods with overhead power lines and S0 noise. I've been in quiet, remote parks seemingly 20 miles from civilization, with S9 noise. I've been on the 26 mile causeway crossing Lake Pontchartrain with S9 noise.

    Get out there and try it. Most of the larger parks here are ham friendly; maybe some QRM from some people interested in what you're doing, but no one trying to run you off.
  3. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    I guess I didn't explain very well. I can do the RF sampling just fine once I find a good location. It's finding the candidate locations to sample that is the problem.

    If this was Alaska, I'd just drive a 4x4 off into the wilderness until the S-meter quit moving. But here in the lower 48, pretty much all property is owned by somebody. So I'm trying to find places like the state parks and such where it would be acceptable to camp out and work some radio. Here in Oklahoma, just driving onto some random vacant property and proceeding to camp there for a few hours is inviting a visit by a shotgun-toting farmer or rancher. :oops: So I was trying to figure out how to find good hilltoping or otherwise nice HF locations that would be usable to me for a few hours per year, without having to buy the acreage and without disturbing the locals. The hilltoppers find some really nice spots for this, I just don't know how they do it.
  4. AI3V

    AI3V Ham Member QRZ Page

    National FOREST (not park!!!)

    Dispersed and primitive camp sites.

    I'm blessed, my xyl came with a better tent than I had...

    We also load up the bicycles and ride, the best spots easy, just ride away from where all the people are :)

    KK5JY likes this.
  5. WA4SIX

    WA4SIX Ham Member QRZ Page

    Find the highest & most remote place in the area of interest. Find out who owns it (Town hall can help). Pull up & knock on their door & ask. Explain what you are doing (Practicing SKYWARN for when the power goes out. Offer to rotate his TV antenna for better reception....

    KK5JY likes this.
  6. WD5IKX

    WD5IKX Ham Member QRZ Page

    Davis Mtns SP High Point-WD5IKX.jpg
    This is one of my favorite things to do and I have worked some of my best DX while operating from my mobile. I use Google Earth to look at areas I want to operate in. State parks in Texas and Oklahoma are typically very RF quiet. There are many nice pull-outs on the Talimena Scenic Drive in eastern OK for example. I operate from the mobile or I set up antennas and operate from my Casita travel trailer. I am in Texas just south of Lake Texoma so maybe we should meet up sometime.
    WD5IKX 3 states marker pano-sm.jpg
    Three states at one time! Antenna is lashed to the Tri State Marker OK, CO, NM.

    John WD5IKX
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2017
    WA8FOZ, N2PQW, KK5JY and 2 others like this.
  7. AI3V

    AI3V Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hey John,

    How do you identify when you are at the marker?

    I have a spot right on the Va, WVa border (right smack on the eastern continental divide, I'm told George Washington walked the line as a young surveyor),

    Any way, I figure to sign ai3v/12.

    Va being 4, and WVa being 8 I just added them up.

    Every station I worked but one chuckled. One station got seriously upset!

    It's all about having fun :)

    WD5IKX likes this.
  8. N2PQW

    N2PQW Ham Member QRZ Page

    In my opinion, you have the answer in your own question! I first look for "new and interesting places" that I want to experience, and then enjoy them while playing radio. Bonus!

    Of course, I'm likely to have been operating the whole time getting there, and the whole way back, so I'm never disappointed just because that particular location turned out to be poor for ham radio. If it turns out to be a quiet zone, then I'll remember it for the next time. If it was too crowded, or too much interference, then I'll be sure to look for a different "new and interesting place" for the future.

    Personally, I'd take up WD5IKX's offer to partner for an outing! I've had the most fun even in simple city or county parks, with a few friends, each on our own stations, or sharing. Especially if one of the friends brings his own 'facilities'!

    Most of the time, I find the reward in the journey, not only the destination!

    Near Palm Springs, CA
    near San Bernadino Mts, CAL.jpg

    near Pinetop, AZ
    near Pinetop, AZ.jpg

    near Window Rock, AZ

    David / N2PQW
    WD5IKX and KK5JY like this.
  9. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    That is very cool. The camper is on my to-do list, but a little further down the line. I see a lot of guys who do HF from their RV, and I think a camper would be a very nice and affordable alternative to that.

    You bet. I visited the Chickasaw park at Sulphur a couple of years ago, and it's on my short list of places to to back to, but with the radio this time. Texoma isn't much further down the road. Looking at the map, Texoma is pretty large -- I wonder if it has any great park-and-RF locations around it?
    WD5IKX likes this.
  10. WA4SIX

    WA4SIX Ham Member QRZ Page

    I was in Zion with my dual bander. I knew I wouldn't hit any repeaters, but it sure was beautiful.

    N2PQW likes this.

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