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QRP right? chapter 1

QRP right? chapter 1

It’s something that some love it and some loathe it.

In the big scheme of things, I am very new to the world of Amateur Radio obtaining my licence in 2018.

I was shown the wonders of portable operations at a CCARC outing to Mount Elliot, getting outdoors and away from any real noise from the likes of solar inverters, Switch mode wall warts and Plasma TV’s

Being able to hear and listen to stations from around the world without the constant 50hz buzz and not taking 3 hours to pack up.

(Ray – VK2HJW KX3 & PX3 at Mount Elliot)

Right, I can do this! I have a kind of portable radio at home, I can make this work.

Now stay with me here and join me on a roller-coaster ride of adventure, discovery, learning and outright rambling.

My first concept of a shack in a box was using my Yaesu FT-857, a 75Ah AGM 25kg Battery, a borrowed 12 Meter Spiderbeam, Fibreglass Mast (Thank you Jaye), G5RV Junior dipole with some heavy RG58 coax.

I thought this was great! I could pack it into the car and head off down the road to the local park, sit down, spend 30 minutes getting setup and be on the air.

With no gear and no idea, it was time to buy all the things needed.

First stop, the big green shop to buy some supplies I would only really use two or three times.

(Spiderbeam 12 Meter Mast with G5RV Junior)

I thought the setup was great!

It was portable-ish and I was able to work HF stations with ease. (EA5JZ – Valencia 29/0720) as well as do some FT-8.

With the portable bug officially mainlined into my veins, this was it, I found that hobby of a thousand hobbies that I enjoyed. I’m unsure if it was the “shack in a box” idea or just getting outdoors in general.

But I needed more, and I made a number of successful outings utilising the above setup both locally and well away from home.

Each time I went out I found yet another item I found I no longer needed to bring with me.

After about 2 months, I took the plunge and purchased my own mast after needing to return the borrowed one.

(Spiderbeam 12M mast, Guying Kit and hose clamp lock offs to prevent the pole from dropping)

This was great and drove me to get out of the house and explore around more, and more thought went into the streamlining of my kit.

The G5RV was becoming cumbersome to carry around and pack up. The antenna is rated for near 1kw of power, no chance of me needing that.

Back to the drawing board I go and this time I discovered the Sotabeams website.

If you have never visited this site before, if you’d like to keep your wallet intact, Don’t go there (https://www.sotabeams.co.uk/)

I was tossing up whether to buy the wire, baluns and build my own or buy a pre-made kit.

With the internal monologue debate of “when will you have the time to sit down and build it” was a key deciding factor.

I had one Sotabeams Bandhopper IV sitting in the shopping cart I clicked “buy it now” and in under 2 weeks the new shiny antenna was at my door.

the entire kit weighs in at just under 600 grams which is astonishing.

(spiderbeam 12M Pole = bits), Sotabeams Bandhopper IV antenna)

With new toys on hand it was time for a shakedown test to see how my new revised “Portable kit” worked.

Now, at this point I am still using the FT-857 and 75Ah battery.

(Spider beam pole guyed in 3 directions half way up the mast and Sotabeams Band hopper antenna at the trip)

Wow, My gosh, What a difference!

Stations around the world were coming in much stronger, clearer and I could use 80 Meters.

This changed everything yet again, I was REALLY enjoying this.  It was also time to work out more culling and decide what gear I do  and don’t  need to bring along with me on an outing.

From this time onwards my 75Ah battery was dropped and I picked up 2x 12Ah AGM’s. This was a huge weight saving for me that also brought me to the point where I could “fit” everything into a single bag.

The bag did weigh about 12 kilograms, but in a single bag nonetheless and I felt a significant amount of additional freedom.

After several outings utilising this new found setup, I thought  While it was great, it was still overly complicated, time consuming and awkward to transport around.

Back to the drawing board I went. I had my antenna sorted (or So I thought…)

And the last few outings I had been on, I had only taken my 12m mast up to about 6 meters in height.

This now brought on the adventure of finding a suitable portable and light weight replacement of the spiderbeam mast.

Several discussions with others about my own requirements and how they utilise their masts when portable provided me with more clarity to my requirements.

I researched several Australian distributors however they were either out of stock or not what I was looking for.

Back to Sotabeams I go, and this time around it was the purchase of their Heavy Duty 7M mast.

(this mast weighed in a 1.6kg and 60cm fully packed. This is a huge difference to the Spiderbeam which was 1.3Meters long and weighed 3.5kg)

This simple change over meant it was easier for me to travel to locations, but both setup and pack up were faster.

But I was not done. There was now a new focus on weight saving whilst retaining full functionality. Don’t get me wrong – the FT-857 is an amazing portable radio. All mode, 100watt. great for field days and the like but not for climbing up half a mountain.

Weighing in at over 2 kilograms and being quite power thirsty on receive and low power transmit it was time to look at other rig options.

I found I was rarely going over 10 watts of power, I didn’t need to go higher. Having the smaller batteries meant the temptation to wind the power up was not a wise idea.

(Taken at Norah Head)

After attending the Westlakes ARC Carboot sale in November  and spending way too much money there on things that I Absolutely 100% needed (Things like a MKARS-80)

(MKARS-80 5W QRP Transceiver)

A deal was struck and the purchase of a new Yaesu FT-818 was made.

This was a game changer.

900 Grams tied in with 6 watts of fury. This was great.

I could carry everything in the one bag, make one trip and I was loving it.

The FT-818 has allowed me to start venturing into bushland and not worry about hauling a 25 kilogram battery pack with me.

But again, like with all things, you will always find improvements and ways to simplify your setup even further. Items you haven’t used for the last 3 trips are shoved into the bag of “might need them”

Where to from here?

I’ve moved from a 12 meter long pole to a 7 M long pole at half the weight. I’ve moved from a G5RV Junior to a Sotabeams Band Hopper IV

I’ve moved from a 75Ah battery to a 12Ah saving over 10kg.

I’ve moved from the FT-857 to a FT-818.

You must be done now right Brad? You’ve now got a one stop shop “go-bag!”?!? Hah!

No.

Just warming up now.

I was warned when I first stated that it was addictive. And true to those words, it really is a matter of constant improvement.

Stay tuned for chapter 2

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