Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Fishing In the Woods: Looking for Radio Signals

This was the first Winter Field Day that justified a reason to purchase an ice fishing tent.

The tent manufacturer claims you can set this up in under a few minutes and pack it up even quicker.  Lets see what the breakdown looks like.

Inside the Tent:  Gear needed

We all like lists right?  Here is what was in use in the photo below.

(Photo Courtesy:  Ken Campbell AD2T)

Excluding the table, chair and propane heater, this was a minimal operation which proved pretty comfortable even in the low temperatures during Winter Field Day.

The goal was to operate 10m or 15m  PSK31, JS8CALL or SSTV but most of the time it seemed that FT8 was more popular, so that would not count for Winter Field Day. Too bad!!   The 15m band was wide open which was really nice.  A few contacts were made on 40m SSB, hence the need for the headset.

Antenna Questions

A 40m Off Center Fed home made dipole was used with good success.  This design allows for 40m, 15m and 10m operation without really needing the tuner..  One leg of the dipole is 44 feet and the other is 22ft.  At the center point is a 4:1 DIY balun.  The antenna center was mounting with velcro ties on the 20ft orange Jackite fiberglass mast.   

The mast was secured to the ground with a ground stake and length of PVC pipe which the mast simply slides over.  The longer end of the dipole was attached to a nearby tree with a length of paracord.  The shorter end was attached to an artificial tree known as a tripod.

Even with heavy winds, the antenna system as expected maintained upright for the 24 hour event in the frigid cold!

This antenna system works great and easily stows in a bag designed for audio equipment.  Many other accessories for additional HF and VHF antenna also fit in this bag along with a few 25 and 50 foot RG-8X feedlines. 

I would estimate that my entire antenna kit which includes the storage bag, surplus tripod (RIP KE2EJ), feedlines, support stake, full wave 2m loop, Arrow II antenna, 40m OCF, 10m-17m-20m-30m linked dipole,  End Fed 40m/80 and a few other odds and ends cost less than $200.  This is a lot of antenna gear for different applications mostly meant for POTA operations and not SOTA activity which is much smaller scale.

(Photo Courtesy:  Ken Campbell AD2T)

An article like this can get really long if I wanted to detail how to set up Wi-Fi on the Icom IC-705 to talk to the laptop with virtual com ports and audio cables, but there are great tutorials on YouTube which cover that already.  

The only issue I really ran into which continues to be a level of annoyance is that the "705" has such a broad front end that semi decent antennae can easily overload things, so backing the RF gain down is a good idea.  

Nearby strong out of band signals also are problematic and an external band pass filter will be needed for the 705 to perform better during group special events like Hudson River Radio Relay coming up in June..

Last year during that event, the 705 on the 6m band was useless when nearby 20m or 40m CW and SSB activity was taking place.

Not really sure if this article answered any questions for anyone, but it was fun setting this up for Winter Field Day and spending some time playing radio plus teaching others about how to set up a minimal self contained field station.

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