100-300 mile communications

N7ZSY's picture

So I'm new to the group but have had my license for about 15 years now and found a renewed interest in communications while backpacking as a Scout Master. I realize that some of the time I can reach 2 meter repeaters, that is mostly line of sight. I'm more interested in Learning about the battery operated QRP type radios using CW to get from the regional mountain ranges back to the Tri Cities. As a Tech Plus (or Tech now that they have changed the rules) I have access to 10, 40, and 80 M bands using CW but suspect that my best chances would be using 20M. I'm curious if anyone else has experience or thoughts regarding reliability, feasibility and equipment for this type of communications.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)
WA7DUH Steve Sterling's picture

Dave-- welcome to amateur

Dave-- welcome to amateur radio. The available 2 meter repeaters in most areas do provide pretty good coverage-- better than cell phones anyway. But as you surmise, there are plenty of areas where coverage is thin, especially for a handi-talkie.

20 meters generally will not work short regional distances. 20M is a long range, world wide band, and it is rare for 20M propagation less than 500 miles. It really is a 1000 miles or greater band. By far your best chance at regional distances 50-500 miles would be 40M or 80M.

There are many variables in HF propagation-- time of the day, whether it is daylight or nighttime hours, distance between stations, time of the year, frequency and even the number of sunspots. Each factor has its effects.

My wife and I just finished a 4 week long RV trip to Arizona and back. There was not one day that we could not talk back to someone in the Tri-Cities. We also had a regular schedule talking with friends back east and in Florida. To talk to Tri-Cities, even from Arizona, we used 80 & 40 meters. 20 meters probably would have worked at certain times of the day (its 1500 miles Tri-Cities to Arizona) but we used 80 & 40 meters because we knew there were people on those specific frequencies at specific times. Otherwise it would be a crap-shoot as to whether you could find a station close by. To talk back east and to Florida every day, we used 17M and 10M. No big base station either, just a mobile in my pickup.

Point is, you need to be prepared to use the frequency and mode most favorable to the communication path desired. But that is easy-- the QRP HF rigs generally work all HF bands, and there are multi-band antennas too.

As to equipment, the current "best" of the best is the Elecraft KX3. Just google "Elecraft KX3". A "good" alternative is the Yaesu FT-817 at about 1/2 the price.

Steve WA7DUH -- Site SuperModerator
Flex 5000, Ameritron ALS-1300 Amp, Kenwood 820S, Icom 7000 in the mobile, SteppIR DB18E @ 75ft, G5RV, Yaseau 8800R dualband mobile, VX-170 Handheld

WA7DUH Steve Sterling's picture

Hi again Dave -- I hadn't

Hi again Dave -- I hadn't heard of the Pixie2, so I checked up on it. Hope you understand the Pixie 2 is only one step up from a crystal radio set. Not much of a receiver and transmitter power is very very low. Also you are crystal-bound to specific frequencies on both transmit and receive which is very limiting. You can't search around to find other stations on the band. It's only luck if someone happens to be on the frequency of your crystal.

I'm not saying you can't make contacts, but it might take two weeks, 2 or 3 hours a day calling CQ, to make a single contact unless conditions are just right.

I found another low cost QRP kit rig that gets much better reviews. It puts out 2-4 watts, 10 times what the Pixie 2 puts out. The frequency of receiver and transmitter can be varied enough to cover a substantial chunk of the CW bands. The receiver actually has some filtering and gain so you can hear signals more than a mile or two away.


Steve WA7DUH -- Site SuperModerator
Flex 5000, Ameritron ALS-1300 Amp, Kenwood 820S, Icom 7000 in the mobile, SteppIR DB18E @ 75ft, G5RV, Yaseau 8800R dualband mobile, VX-170 Handheld

N7ZSY's picture

So I ordered me a Pixie 2

So I ordered me a Pixie 2 with crystals for most of the HF bands. I already have a Arduino I can use to build a digital frequency counter. It would be cool if I could get it to also act as a Morse code encoder/decoder but that may be asking a bit much for a first DIY radio. I'll let you all know when I get the kit built so we can see what it sounds like on the air.

ki7ec's picture

way cool, count me in as an

way cool, count me in as an interested by-stander to see how you digital radio goes. I'm getting ready to purchase my first Arduino set--my son says he has an extra one that I can borrow, but I have to go to Spokane to get it...so that will be a while.


73's from Bigplans Ranch & KI7EC

N7ZSY's picture

I chatted with Andrew about

I chatted with Andrew about it a few weeks ago and suggested he get licensed as he is the correct distance to test my project. Additionally I wonder if a arduino could capture data from a serial GPS connection and then transmit it in Morse code to a computer at home that was capturing the packet. Like the aprs but set up the specific purpose in mind. a single could toggle the arduino between frequency display to the transmit functions. As far as the arduino you can buy off brand units for $20 on ebay so it is not a huge investment.

WA7DUH Steve Sterling's picture

Give me a ring- phone is

Give me a ring- phone is 783-1143. Good to show off at the ham club meeting too.

Steve WA7DUH -- Site SuperModerator
Flex 5000, Ameritron ALS-1300 Amp, Kenwood 820S, Icom 7000 in the mobile, SteppIR DB18E @ 75ft, G5RV, Yaseau 8800R dualband mobile, VX-170 Handheld