Going PortableBy Jose B Rivera - N2LRB
August 18, 2012 - East Harlem, New York. Lately the portable bug has hit me hard. Just the thought of taking some of my radio equipment out for a ‘walk’ gets me excited. I guess that the challenge of working off the grid and actually making contacts on the air gets me all excited. Part of this magic time is thinking through what equipment to take and where to take it.
In recent weeks I have made three excursions out of doors with my radio equipment. All of these involved my Yaesu FTM-350AR Dual Band FM radio, but with various batteries and antennas.
Besides the sheer fun of working portable I am also accomplishing two other goals. One is to figure out the lightest and most compact Go Bag. It seems that about 75 percent of my Go Bag weight is the battery. I have tried both a 7 amp hour and 12 amp hour gel cell batteries. Of course the 7ah battery weighed the least. But I have decided to take my 12ah battery because it allows me to work full power if need be.
The second reason to work portable is to learn what is involved in going portable. How easy or hard it is to get the equipment together, what to compile in a Go Bag, what is involved in packing and carrying it. Since I do not have a car (or ever want one), I have to carry the equipment. The reason to want to gain this knowledge is for use in my involvement with the New York City Amateur Radio Communications Service (ARECS). If a blizzard, power outage, hurricane or other disaster, man made or otherwise occurs, I have to be ready to plug into ARECS and provide radio communications.
Portable Setup - What to pack
As you can see from the photos below, I layout what I believe is needed on my bed before packing it into any Go Bag. I check to make sure that any secondary equipment (connectors, bungee cords) are also included. I then mentally set the radio station up together in my mind….radio - check, coax, check, dc power cable - check, antenna - check, battery - check, microphone - check…. I mentally connect all needed equipment in my head. Sometimes I will actually connect the equipment as it is going into the Go Bag so as to make it operational while on the go if need be. This is most likely how I will pack my Go Bag in the future. The photos below show how I pack my camera bag with my 12ah battery, Yaesu FTM-350AR Dual Band FM radio with control head.
How to move it
After packing my Go Bag I have to decide how to physically move it from my apartment to my destination. Weight is a big factor in this decision. If I will be carrying two 22ah batteries (about 13lb each) I will choose to use my hand truck to move the Go Bag. But if I am using just one 12ah battery I will probably choose to use my back pack (fifth photo below) , Ace Toolbox (sixth photo) or small camera bag (seventh photo)
After getting to my destination (usually Central Park), I look for a semi-secluded spot. One where there are people around me, but not physically close to me (25-50 feet). That way people around me can see if I am in trouble and trouble makers can see that I can be seen. Being in an isolated area is asking for trouble. Muggers and people with bad intentions can quickly assess if they can commit a crime without being seen. Next I connect my radio to antenna and power source and then make sure the antenna is the proper length. If I have already connected my equipment before leaving then all I’d have to do is ensure that the antenna (HF, VHF or UHF) is the proper length. Then I just go to a frequency and listen for any other hams. If I hear one I try to work him.
After an hour or two and before the battery(s) run out, I start up pack up and put whatever needs to be inside the Go Bag inside it. I then walk home happy to have talked outside, portable. I am also happy that I learned whatever I learned that day about portable operation. Check out the photos below. Clicking on the photo will take you to the Photo Gallery page where that photo is located and to a much larger photo. Enjoy working and learning going portable. 73 from N2LRB.