Who among the backpacking crowd hasn’t wished for a more manageable way to carry a decent camera on the trail? I carried a little pocket digital camera for many years but was never really happy with the pictures I was getting. I really longed for a better quality camera–one with decent optics, versatile optical zoom, capable of taking pictures under various lighting conditions, etc. But it’s a challenge to carry anything bigger than a pocket-sized camera on the trail. Where do you put it so it’s not either always in your hands or bouncing against you at the end of its strap? Continue reading

If you’re a backpacker or hiker and you’ve been looking for a way to strap your HT to your backpack within easy reach, you might be interested in a pouch I found for my VX-8GR. Almost every HT these days comes with a belt clip, but on the trail it’s easy to knock something like that off your belt and either break it or lose it. I’ve always wanted something more secure, that also puts the HT up on my backpack shoulder strap where it’s easy to access. It turns out that the makers of tactical (military) equipment are putting out some pretty neat stuff these days, and I found this pouch from Condor:

Condor MA56 HHR pouch

http://www.condoroutdoor.com/ma56hhrpouch.aspx

I bought mine for about ten bucks from Ebay, but you can get them from a variety of sources for about the same price. It comes in multiple colors. If you look at the picture, you can see that it includes an elastic drawstring and cord lock. These allow you to cinch down the pouch if needed to keep the radio in place. In the case of my VX-8GR, the pouch fits pretty well without the drawstring and cord lock. The velcro flap that goes over the top of the radio (around the antenna) will hold the radio pretty securely by itself.
The only challenge left is how to secure the radio/pouch to a backpack shoulder strap. The pouch itself has a belt loop on the back with a snap. I plan to fashion a “belt” for it to hook to using some Velcro One-Wrap wrapped around the width of the shoulder strap. I’m still waiting for the Velcro to show up, but I’m pretty sure this will give me a pretty solid and secure attachment for my HT.
So, it turns out that a backpack strap isn’t a good attachment point for an HT, at least in my case. There’s just no good place to attach the HT where it isn’t in the way or just plain awkward. The good news is that the pouch’s belt loop (really a Molle attachment strap) is just the right size to snap over the hip belt on my backpacks. That ended up being a perfect spot for it, and still very secure.

I just posted another of my quick reference card creations–this time for the Yaesu VX-8GR. It’s a great little HT packed with tons of features, but if you’re getting a little older like me, it gets harder to remember how to use all those features if you don’t use the radio often enough. Anyway, mine’s designed as a quick reference to things I’d need to do on the trail, and it doesn’t encompass everything that the radio can do. I share it here in case it’s useful to anyone else.

NK0E’s Yaesu VX-8GR Trail Reference Card

I couldn’t have known when the morning started that I would be part of SOTA history by day’s end.

Okay, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration. But I did enjoy the privilege to be a part of (and witness to) the achievement of a new SOTA personal best for Steve wG0AT and Frank K0JQZ (and me too, for that matter):

Three SOTA summits in one day. Fourteen big, juicy SOTA activator points.

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Okay, if you’ve read many of the posts on this site you know that (a) I’m a ham radio operator, (b) I like to hike and backpack, and (c) often I find ways to combine these two activities. I’m a newcomer to the Summits On the Air (SOTA) game, where you can earn points as a summit activator and/or a summit chaser. Activators are the hams who climb to the top of designated SOTA peaks and make contacts any interested hams, called Chasers. It’s great fun if you’re already a hiker and occasional field operator. Steve WG0AT and Frank K0JQZ first introduced me to SOTA during this springs QRP To the Field event. Frank spotted me on the SOTA Watch website and then handed me the key, where I was immediately piled on by chasers. It was great fun (and captured in video by Steve).

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Tonight I played in my first Spartan Sprint in quite some time, and it was a great night for it. I just yesterday finished adding an in-ground mounting hole for my 20-ft telescoping fiberglass pole that I plan to erect temporarily as a support for my Norcal Doublet antenna. My half-size G5RV mounted along the side of the house just wasn’t cutting it, and the wind took it down the other day anyway, so it was time for something new.

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Decent paper maps for backpacking can sometimes be challenging to find. My preferred map has always been the USGS 7.5-minute quad, with a scale of 1-24,000 (1 inch equals 2000 feet). Don’t get me wrong–there are plenty of ways to access the data. The USGS makes the map images available as PDFs online for free from the USGS Store, for example. National Geographic sells their TOPO! State Series software with maps on DVD for $49.95. Or you can go to a web site like Trails.com or AllTrails.com to access maps online (for $49.95/year–a price that I find a little astonishing). The big disadvantage to using any of these sources is that, for the average guy, it’s difficult to print out the map you want in the format you want.

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QRP to the Field is an annual event, held the last weekend in April, when amateur radio operators who have an irresistible case of spring fever pack up their QRP (low-power) ham gear and head for the great outdoors for the purpose of making contacts with other equally-afflicted amateurs. I am, of course, proudly standing in the ranks of those impaired individuals. I usually use QRP to the Field as an excuse to embark on my first backpacking trip of the year.

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Update (20 Sept 2009): Here’s wGØAT’s YouTube video of the whole excursion!

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Field Day 2009 was a total blast for me this year! After missing the last few years for various reasons, I finally managed to get out of the house and on the trail with Steve wGØAT and his QRP goats Rooster and Peanut (well-known characters here in the list). As usual, we chose Mt. Herman (just west of Monument, Colorado) as our Field Day site, due to its close proximity, elevation, and abundance of excellent campsites.

I met Steve at his place on Friday afternoon, and he promptly provided me with my own official QRPgoat expedition t-shirt–a picture of Rooster with the caption, “Old Goats Rule–QRP Adventures.” For me, this was like getting my Gold Card–I knew I’d *arrived*!

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