Operating while camping on Mt. Hood 7/31/2021

Hello all, it’s about time I wrote a post about my camping trip my partner and I took a couple weeks ago. I took my trusty Lab599 TX-500 kit, a couple 20W GoalZero Nomad solar panels, headset, and table/chair combo up camping with our “new” 4×4. I wanted to do some HF QRP and some handheld UHF/VHF operation while I was out. I brought some of the same portable furniture that I used at the beach last post since it worked out so well.

The view was pretty sweet for this one. The smoke from the wildfires made everything a bit more hazy but pretty great none-the-less.

View of a heavily forested valley from a high vantage point. In the foreground a radio is sitting on a gray metal camping table.
View while operating

While operating HF I made a number of contacts, and the solar panels kept the 4.5Ah Bioenno LiFePO4 battery built into the HF QRP radio kit charged the whole day. The first HF contact I made was with Stefan, AF6SA who was working POTA in Eldorado Natoinal Forest (K-4455). His signal was 5/6 on at about 450 miles away on 20m. I also made a contact with VA3AAA, Stanley in Ontario, Canada. I was pretty excited to reach Ontario with a low power radio. That contact was also logged on 20m. I also made a contact with the K0GQ radio club in MO on 20m. All of these contacts were made between 5 and 10w using the Trail-friendly EndFedz EFT-10/20/40 antenna strung between a couple trees about 50′ apart and about 25′ above the ground.

I switched radios and bands to see if I could get into some of the repeaters in the Portland area (I could) with my Yaesu FT3DR and a Signal Stick antenna. I ended up on 2m and caught two hams on 146.520Mhz doing a SOTA activation: K7AHR and K7IW. I think they were on Lookout Mountain, but I can’t remember and didn’t properly log it. I was running 5W for those contacts.

Tour of the radio setup at the camp site

Mt. Hood National Forest vehicle camping trip and comms

Hello all! It’s been a hot minute since I sat down and wrote about something! Today I’m writing about a car camping trip I took last weekend to Mt. Hood National Forest and some experiments with communications I did. Some of this is actually about cellular comms and some is about amateur radio fails. We spent the night at two spots – one at about 1,100 ft. and another around 3,500 ft. This becomes relevant mostly because of cell coverage, but also to some extent regarding stations I was able to receive doing SWL (shortwave listening).

The first night we spent I didn’t get a chance to set the portable HF radio up, but I did test my new WeBoost Reach Drive RV. I had no cell service with Verizon at that location and decided to mount the WeBoost high gain antenna on the the cargo basket. I then attached the small low gain antenna and connected the setup to my 40AH Bioenno LiFePO4 battery. After cycling my phone into and out of airplane mode I had 1X and enough service for voice calls. I did a couple tests and was able to reach a couple people via telephone as a test. Not bad! The cell booster drew approximately 1A at 14v using the DC hardwire power supply which I fitted with Anderson PowerPole connectors in a “right hand red” configuration to match my off grid power setup.

We found the second spot much earlier and had some daylight to set up. This spot was much higher in altitude than the first spot and was much colder. The weather was pretty rainy so we erected a shelter using a synthetic tarp, tarp poles, and some paracord that we keep around just for such an occasion. I intended to do some HF radio work but I couldn’t tune my hybrid Superantenna / Chameleon Mil Whip 2.0 setup to save my life so instead I figured I’d do some SWL later at night. In the mean time I decided to test the WeBoost again since the setup was fairly easy. I set it up again and cycled my phone into and out of airplane mode. I was getting a 3G signal at first with occasional bursts of 4G before I fired the system up, and after it was all said and done I had fairly solid 4G service with a decent speed test of 7Mbps. Even though I wasn’t able to tune my antenna on 20 or 40m I was able to do some excellent shortwave listening with the Lab599 TX-500. I was able to get the BBC World Service shortwave broadcast discussing the current COVID-19 situation in India on 6005KHz out of Ascension Island. I heard another station broadcasting in Arabic and playing music that I couldn’t find in listings. Both stations had some QSB, but the station in Arabic was significantly more faint with more significant QSB (irregular signal fading that occurs as a signal reflects off of the ionosphere). I suspect the higher elevation I was at helped me get stations much further away than I’d normally be able to in the metro Portland area. I’ve been able to pick up Radio Havana, Radio New Zealand Int’l, occasional Japanese stations, and lots of Chinese stations (if I’m up at 4 AM) in Portland. A good resource for finding shortwave stations is https://short-wave.info. I’ve also been able to reliably pick up a Russian numbers station designated M12 as well which broadcasts from Khabarovsk Russia.