Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My devotion to the Yaesu FT-817

About 3 days ago I bought yet another FT-817. This time (unlike the first two radios) this 817 it was the "ND" version which features on-board digital signal processing. I sold off the first two 817s to finance other radios that I had an interest in. All things being equal, I should have just kept my 2nd FT-817 since I had the CW/SSB filters and the BHI DSP unit from W4RT.

My love affair with the 817 goes all the way back to the early 2000s when I procured my first unit from Universal Radio in Reynoldsberg, Ohio. I had this one fitted out with the 500hz CW filter and used it on trips, vacations, and the occasional Field Day outings. Peppermint Patti (KB3MCT) found a padded cooler that would hold the rig, V/UHF Mirage linear amp (40w on 2m and 35w on 70cms) along with an HF antenna and coaxial feed line, CW paddles, straight key, mini-log book, and a whole bunch of other "stuff" that was designed to help me have fun with the rig while on the go.

The second FT-817 was procured from e-bay. I'd had it about 3 months when the driver went south and I had to send it to Yaesu USA out in California for repair. After $140 including parts, labor and postage both ways, I had my little gem back. I then sent it to W4RT to have them add the 500 hz CW and 2.3 khz SSB filters and the BHI DSP unit. I also upgraded the pathetic 1400 aHr rechargable pack with a pair of 2400 aHr packs from, of all places, Radio Shack!! This is the rig I used while house sitting at my daughter's place in Tampa. The housing area had definite "no antenna policy" but that didn't stop me. Oh, no....Up went 30/20m dipole and an 80/40m dipole into a handy palm tree. Height at the feed point was about 15 ft off the ground! It was still enough to allow me to work the K5D DXpedition on Desecheo Island on 3 bands with only 5w output from the 718. Not bad. Unfortunately, I sold this rig to finance yet another radio set that I thought I really needed. OOPS....bad move.

So, that brings me up to earlier this week when I took the plunge, went to HRO and picked up my new FT-817ND. This new radio will eventually receive a 500 hz CW filter  and the 2.3 kHz SSB filter, along with a Heil HC-4 mic element (I saved one from the last time I ordered one from Heil....they no longer offer these elements).

My very first accessory will be the Tactical Transceiver Bag from AMP-3 (http://stores.amp-3.net/amateur-radio/) which is the first intelligent bag system I have seen for this rig, especially for an ARES/RACES go-bag. There is room for a lot of "stuff" in that Tac Transceiver Bag, including a 7aHr gel-cell battery, coaxial cable, and all sorts of operating goodies.

Next comes the Mirage BD-35 dual band linear amp (FM only) from MFJ/Mirage (http://www.dxengineering.com/parts/mir-bd-35?seid=dxese1&gclid=CJGxg5f00MECFUMV7Aod1jQAwQ). The small form factor and extremely light weight make this linear a must-have for anyone needing more than 4-5 w output on V/UHF bands.

At a future time W4RT will get the rig to install the 500 hz and the 2.3 kHz Collins mechanical filters (http://www.w4rt.com/FT-817-Accessories/filters.htm). I already have the mini-paddles along with a small straight key.

One thing I will need to procure is a netbook-type mini-computer for the go-bag. With the emphasis being placed on using FLdigi and other digital modes on our ARES deployments I need a small computer to meet these ARES requirements.

Long ago Fair Radio Sales in Lima, OH, sold a set of fiberglass poles that fit together to yield a portable mast about 16 ft long. Included with this mast set was a ground plane antenna cut for around 80mHz. By trimming off the radials and the primary radiator I got the ground plane antenna to resonate on 146mHz with no trouble at all. This antenna also had about 25 ft of 50 Ohm coaxial cable in the kit so I have a ready made mobile antenna system thanks the the Israeli Defense Force!  That Israeli mast system was so cool I obtained another set so now I can go up over 30 ft using all the sections including the the antenna.

Personally, I like the 817 a lot. Several folks I have talked to wanted to know why I didn't buy an Elecraft KX-3 transceiver. Simple answer: the KX-3, while a really great radio, is way too expensive. At a cost of $1000 for the bare bones rig, you rapidly escalate that price tag as soon as you start adding crystal filtering, and other options. Besides, I could not even imagine me taking a $2000+ radio out into the bush. Not gonna happen. My K3 lives in my shack and it stays there....I have no desire to drag my K3 out to Field Day, etc. While the KX-3 is a great radio with outstanding specs, unless you are on a DXpedition or living in a condo and have your shack in a closet, I cannot really see the need to procure a KX-3.

I honestly think that the FT-817 is the most flexible radio set currently on the market. It gives you access to all the HF bands from 160 to 10 n, 6m, 2m and 70cms. All modes (AM/CW/SSB/Data), access to the MF and SW broadcast bands, the commercial FM freqs, along with air band. In short the tiny package makes the FT-817 my personal choice of a go-anywhere rig at a very reasonable price.

Vy 73

Rich, K7SZ

AMSAT 2014 Symoisium

As I sit here at my daughter's home in Maryland ruminating over the past weekend's events while attending the 2014 AMSAT Symposium and annual meeting, I am exceedingly glad I had the opportunity to attend. The last symposium I was able to attend was in 2008, the year we moved from PA to GA. The 2008 event was held in Atlanta so there was virtually no travel involved. Sweet!!

Over the years I have been an on-again off-again member of AMSAT, depending upon my interest in space communications at that time. I have always been interested in the space program and satellite communications, but more often than not I did not have all the gear I needed to do SatComm justice.

Finally, in the early 1990s I obtained a nice, fully loaded Yaesu FT-726 and I went after the "birds". Over the next few years I did a lot of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite contacts (QSOs) and enjoyed the experience very much. With the launch of AMSAT/OSCAR thirteen (AO-13) in a highly eccentric orbit to continue with meaningful SatComm work I'd have had to invest close to an additional $1500 in my station to equip it with the necessary bits and pieces (not to mention steerable, as in AZ-EL, antennas) that I felt the time had come to go another direction in my ham radio career.

With the launching of several of the "FM repeater satellites" in LEO which you could work with a handheld V/UHF radio and a simple antenna, I decided to jump back into the fray. While the FM sats were fun, on the horizon, thanks to AMSAT, was the "cube-sats" which were almost the ultimate in miniaturization. Being only 100 mm on a side (approximately a 4 inch cube) these cube-sats could be cluster launched from the International Space Station (ISS) providing a variety of satellites and modes at a reasonable cost.

In my interview with Keith Baker, KB1SF, AMSAT treasurer, Kieth gave me a great line from the movie "The Right Stuff" concerning the cost of operating in space: "No bucks, no Buck Rogers". How true that statement is. Space exploration and, in our case amateur satellite launches, are extremely expensive. The bigger the satellite the bigger the price tag to loft it into orbit. The days of getting the USAF or NASA to piggy back one of our birds on an upcoming launch vehicle for free were OVER! One figure I heard quoted this weekend concerning cost of launching a ham satellite was $100,000 per kilogram of satellite weight! That is outrageous but none the less true. You wanna play, you gotta pay.....plain and simple.

 Recently I have had other hams question my reasoning as to my support for AMSAT. After all, AMSAT is our "ride" to the future. They keep ham radio in space. Period. If we don't have AMSAT, we don't have an amateur space program. To which they replied (paraphrasing now) "there aren't any satellites available to work, so why should we join?" To this I say wander on over the the AMSAT website (www.amsat.org) and take a look at the number of active satellites currently on line..You will be amazed.

More amazing than that is the saga one of the older birds, AO-7, first launched in November of 1974. It functioned until the batteries succumbed to the hostilities of space in late 1981. Everyone on the AO-7 command team thought that this satellite was gone...dead.....stone cold dead. THEN, in June of 2002, Pat Gowen, G3IOR, in England heard the downlink beacon of AO-7 and alerted AMSAT! AO-7 was back!!!!! Totally inoperative for almost 20 years, the old girl decided to come back on line as long as the solar panels were in direct sunlight. In eclipse (the satellite is in darkness) the birds shuts down and then reawakens when sunlight once again strikes her solar panels. AO-7 is not fully functional as it first was but it is usable and it is currently the only LEO mode A satellite in orbit. Mode A referrers to the uplink/downlink pairing, in this cases 2m up and 10m down, making it a great teaching tool for schools. The gear to operate through AO-7 is very simple: a 2m transceiver capable of CW or SSB emissions and a 10m receiver capable of receiving CW and SSB. Simple antennas are the order of the day.

AMSAT membership costs $44/year. Compered to ARRL dues at $39/year it is more expensive and where as you get QST each month you only get the AMSAT Newsletter once every 3 months (quarterly). The thing is, the money you give to AMSAT in dues goes directly to support research, development, fabrication and launching of the ham satellites. Of course $44/year per member doesn't really make up the costs of all this. For that AMSAT relies on fund raising and grants. The cost of procuring certified-for-space-flight sub assemblies and parts  for a satellite are unbelievably costly. Many times commercial satellite companies and developers would toss AMSAT a bone by giving them needed space certified gear. This drastically cuts fabrication costs. Even then it takes a lot of cash to orbit one of our birds.

So, my hope is that you who read this posting decide to support AMSAT. Drift on over to www.amsat.org and look around. If it tickles your fancy send in your yearly dues and get busy on setting up a simple SATCOM station. 

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fury! A GREAT movie!!

I love tanks! No, really I do. Had I not gone into the USAF out of college I would most likely have enlisted in the Army (ours, not theirs) and become a "tread-head".

The movie "Fury" staring Brad Pitt is a blockbuster. Pat and I saw it this evening (Thursday) one day ahead of it's normal opening at a local theater. It was well worth the money and I have to say that the attention to detail in the props, sets and actors dialog was phenomenal. Even the radios in the M4A3-E8 (the "Easy Eight") were original!

I won't give away anything but I will say go see this movie. It is truly and epic movie about tank warfare at the end of WWII in Germany. The tactics were spot on. The actors were definitely believable. Don't know where they found all the tanks for the scenes but someone knew someone who had a stable full of German and US Army tracked vehicles.

The sound and special effects were dazzling. Great movie.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Some thoughts on MilCom gear

It's not a secret that I like, no, make that "love", military comm gear. Over the years I have had my share of ARC-5 sets, a really nice PRC-74B (thanks to Mark Francis, KI0PF), a BC-611 HT (thanks to Breck Smith) several GRC-109 Special Forces/CIA radio sets, and many others. All were working rigs. No "hanger queens" in my shack!!! Unfortunately as time marches onward one reaches a point where collecting and using all these radios becomes somewhat problematic.

First there is the space required to house some really big and heavy radios. Then there is the time spent trying to get them on the air using 70 year old schematics and books on surplus radio gear. Finally there is the availability and pricing of said gear. It seems over the last 30 years or so that Uncle Sam has gone to extremes to insure most of the outmoded/surplus radio and electronic equipment goes through some form of "rigorous" de-milling (the process whereby the gear is completely smashed, ground up under the treads of a tracked vehicle, melted down or thrown overboard). That is bad for two reasons. First it is equipment paid for by the American tax payers...why not let it revert back to serious military collectors and radio enthusiasts? Then there is the idea of preserving the history of military communications that has constantly allowed the armed forces of the United States to win wars and protect the country.

Unfortunately a lot of this historical comm gear has become very hard to find in an unmodified state. Take for instance the ARC-5 radio sets used in aircraft during WWII. Various manufacturers produced hundreds of thousands of these radio sets during the war. The surplus radio market was flooded with these rigs after VE and VJ day, much to the delight of the frugal ham radio operator. Over the intervening 70 years the supply has literally dried up and today it is almost impossible to obtain an ARC-5 receiver or transmitter in an unmodified condition. There are collectors out there in MilComm radio land that pay outrageous prices for pristine gear to add to their collections. Additionally there are military vehicle collectors that require the proper radio equipment to include in their jeeps, half tracks, tanks (yes....there are a lot of tanks in the hands of civilian collectors), and aircraft. This secondary market means that finding unmodified MilComm gear is even harder.

Recently I had the opportunity to purchase several pieces of MilComm gear from the estate of a deceased ham in the local area. At first I was elated that I could possible procure a working AN/GRC-109 spy rig along with a AN/PRC-47 HF SSB transmitter/receiver station. After a few hours and several e-mails to the  principals who were off-loading this gear I decided I didn't really need any more gear. As a matter of fact I have too much radio gear as it stands now. 

What I need to do is off-load a bunch of my stuff. After all, I ain't gonna live forever! I have thousands of pieces of electronic components loaded into several hundred plastic bins in the once-shack/workbench at our place in GA. I have no way to categorize these items, let alone figure out their actual worth. I am no longer building or modifying gear so these things need to find a new home, along with several rigs in various stages of modification/completion. (Anyone need an Elecraft K2, fully loaded, or a couple of Argonaut 509s...how about a Heathkit HW-16??)

I guess what I am trying to say is that all this "stuff" is non-essential to my current status as a ham radio operator. I find very little time to get on the wonderful station I currently have, let alone jump into a long drawn out saga of getting more non-essential gear working that will just sit on the bench.

Don't get me wrong, I love electronics, ham radio, and building/modifying radio gear. But, truth be told, I no longer wish to actively engage in the workbench side of the hobby.

Sorry if I sound morose. That was not my intention. I am perfectly happy with my current level of participation in the ham radio hobby. Both Peppermint Patti (KB3MCT) and I are active with our local ARES unit and maintain our deployability standing within that group. I do not fancy myself a "real" DXer, although I do manage to work a new one once in a while. I am no speed demon on CW but I find that working CW DX contacts means more to me than SSB contacts. No, I still don't have the necessary QSL cards accrued to qualify for basic DXCC. However, I know in my heart-of-hearts I have made DXCC at least three separate times using three different call signs while overseas with the USAF. For some unknown reason the local DX club (of which I am an associate member) doesn't like to recognize me as a "real" DXer. It doesn't matter to me. Will I ever get DXCC confirmed via the ARRL? I seriously doubt it, as I just do not care whether I submit the necessary cards.

OK, time to go. I am writing this while sitting in a motel room in Wilkes-Barre, PA. We attended a family reunion this weekend and are now headed to Lake Carey then to Williamsport to meet with Dr. Paul Shuch, N6TX, head honcho of the SETI League. Finally, headed back home to Dacula, GA. I miss the dogs and my cats. I have to admit that I am no longer the road warrior that I was 10 years ago. The long (1800 mile) trips are better met with air fare rather than wear/tear and gasoline for the truck.

Don't forget the upcoming CQ VHF contest at the end of September. I plan on being on for part of that contest using my IC-202S feeding a 10W linear amp into a 13 element long boom Yagi and my TR-600 at 10W output into a Ringo Ranger for 6 meters. Certainly no "high speed-no drag" contest station but I like it!!

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ

Monday, August 18, 2014

My love affair with the Icom Bookcase V/UHF Rigs

A little over 30 years ago, while stationed at RAF Mildenhall, UK, I discovered the ICOM IC-202S 2M SSB/CW QRP rig. This being England (oops...sorry....the "UK") I found a very large group of British hams that loved to work 2M simplex on both the FM portion of the 2M band (remember their band allocation was from 144 to 146MHz, a full 2 MHz short of what we enjoy in the States) and the low "DX" end of the 2M band.

With my trusty IC-202S and an 11 element Yagi up about 6 ft off my roof, I was able to work all over the UK and into mainland Europe. I was thrilled about using only 3 watts of RF to work some rather exotic grid squares during my time in the UK. I had no linear amp for 2M so I did this all with the IC-202 running barefoot with 2W of CW and 3W PEP SSB.

Upon returning to the states I was a bit disappointed to find that hardly anyone worked simplex on FM. The SSB portions of 2M were exceedingly sparse pickings except for contests. All in all it was a very big let down from my heyday in England. Too bad, as the my fond memories of operating in the UK left me wanting.

The IC-202S featured 3W PEP output on SSB and about 2W output on CW and was initially set up to cover 144.0 to 144.4 MHz in two 200 kHz portions of the band. This rig was a VXO controlled radio and therefore had no phase noise, so prominent in the early synthesized radios of the time.

My little 202S also had a XTAL in place for the LEO satellite portion of 2M. It also boasted both USB and LSB (the original models 202 and 202E, the "European" version of the rig) had only USB. The LSB enabled the user to work via the LEO birds that had inverting transpondsers (ie: 432 MHz uplink USB and 145 MHz LSB downlink).

All in all these tiny radios (they weren't really a handi-talkie) served the VHF/UHF community very well over the four or five years that they were offered by ICOM.They were quite popular in the UK and mainland Europe, also very popular in Japan. However, they didn't catch on well in the US. I really don't know why,as they certainly offered a great bunch of fun in a small package and were priced right for the majority of us hams living on tight budgets.

Over the years I have had the entire collection of the ICOM bookcase rigs: IC-202 (2M), IC-502 (6M), IC-402 (70cms) and the IC-215 2M FM radio. All except the model 215 were SSB/CW radios and had a massive output of about 3W PEP.

A little over two years ago I became the owner of the entire set of bookcase rigs thanks to a friend of mine's generosity. Unfortunately, about 18 months ago we had fallen on hard times and I sold off the entire set to get some funds to bail us out financially. One thing about these rigs: they hold their resale value very well.

Last week I cam across an e-bay auction by Russ, N5WS, who had the entire set (except for the model 215) and managed to pick up the IC-502 for 6M along with a IC_20L 2M 10W linear amp for the IC-202S. I had managed to find a 202S locally and I traded for it, so now I had the two SSB rigs I needed for my portable/rover project. Additionally, I found an IC-215 2M FM rig buried in a box from our move 6 years ago from PA to GA. Now all I need to find is the 402 for 70cms. These rigs are quite rare and I have only seen three of them in over 50 years in the hobby!

So here I am sitting with the 2M, 6M SSB.CW rigs and the 2M FM rig  trying to visualize some form of cabinet/portable container that would allow me to pack all these rigs together, along with their linear amps, power supplies, mics,antenna switching and SWR monitoring. This is where Paul Kelly, W4KLY comes in. Paul is a very talented and adroit word worker and I have seen some of his creations which I can personally attest are just out of this world!!. Paul and I will be working on some form of container to house these three radios  so I can hit the road or hilltop and have some fun playing ham radio on the high bands.

Stay tuned. This is about to get interesting.

Anyone interested in checking out these ICOM bookcase rigs just Google "ICOM IC-202S" and stand back!! There is also a Yahoo group that caters to these little fun rigs. Log onto Yahoo Groups and look for "Icomportablerigs".

Till next time: Have fun, fly some rockets, and dig out the old V/UHF gear that is gathering dust in the attic or closet, and get on the air!

vy 73

Rich K7SZ

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Catch Up

Well, it's been a while since my last posting. Things have been going at breakneck speed around the Bent Dipole Ranch. To wit:

1. In February Peppermint Patti and I flew out to Hill AFB, UT to take part in our granduaghter, Kielan's, wedding. It was a "Steam Punk" theme....Luckily I don't have any problem with being the center of attention in times like this. It just goes with the territory! We had a grand time. Patti and I were dressed as "adventurers": she the female version of Indiana Jones, and me....well, lets just say I was a cross between the Great White Hunter of the African veld and the commander of a troop of HM's Bengal Lancers, circa 1850!

It was wonderful to see Kielan again. Unfortunately the trip was a short one and we flew back to Atlanta in a few days, leaving the cold, barren mountain peaks of Utah behind us. To be truthful, the scenic landscape of the area around Hill AFB was right out of National Geographic Magazine.

Having procured a 13 year old Chevy 1500 pickup in January, Patti and I decided to drive out to Lackland AFB, near San Antonio, TX to participate in Kielan's graduation from USAF basic training in late April. We put about 3600 miles on the old/new truck during this trip. We drove from the Atlanta area to New Orleans, LA to stay overnight with our daughter, Maja, who lives in the French Quarter. From there we drove to Lackland AFB for Kielan's graduation ceremonies. After spending a few days in Texas, including an all-day trip to San Antonio and their beautiful river walk, we drove back to Atlanta. Most of the return trip was in driving rain as there was a huge weather front that was moving with us! Never so glad to be back home as when we pulled in the driveway from this trip.

 Kielan was the first of the fifth generation of my family to become a member of the USAF. Uncle Don Stewart was a flyer in WWI, his son (my cousin), Malcolm Stewart, was a pilot in WWII and Korea and retired as a Major in the mid 1960s. I enlisted in 1967 and served 20 years and met and married Peppermint Patti in England, where she was serving as a chapel manager at RAF Lakenheath. Our daughter, Gwen, married Kyle Stanfield, who served two enlistments in the USAF as a crypto maintenance troop. Kielan, Gwen and Kyle's daughter, enlisted in the USAF in 2014 and is currently in training at Keesler AFB, MS (near Buloxi, MS). Upon completion of her technical training she will be going to Misawa Japan on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido as her first duty station. Having spent over 6 years in Japan myself, I can hardly wait to cllimb on a USAF transport and "hop" to Misawa!!

Our trip back from Lackland AFB included a two day lay over with Maja in New Orleans. We went to the National WWII museum, which is something EVERY person in America should do. The exhibits were phenomenal to put it bluntly. We had several great meals in the French Quarter. NOLA is the only place I have ever found that will give you a "to-go" cup for your drink or beer!!! Go figure!!

On the home front, Pat and I have started thinking seriously about her retirement and what we intend upon doing in about 2 years. Plans include selling our current home, buying a large RV and do some traveling to include being "camp hosts" at various national parks for a few years. It's sad to think of leaving this place, especially since we just spent almost $10K on upgrading to a new HVAC system, installing new efficient replacement windows, and new flooring. Oh, yeah, lets not forget the tower and some great antennas!!

We had two of our grand sons with us this summer. Casey James, our son, Jamie's boy, was here for a couple of weeks. KC, Gwen's son (and Kielan's brother) was here for a couple of days. Unfortunately he was not here long enough to participate in the July Southern Area Rocketry (SoAR) groups launch date. However, Casey James was present and he and "Pop-Pop" had a great day launching rockets at a sod farm north of Atlanta.

SoAR is our local rocketry club and they have at least one launch date per month (weather permitting) and sometimes more. I had procured some ready-built rockets (Estes) and some motors which is what Casey and I launched that Saturday. I also had a scale model of an Army Honest John rocket which I had built over a year ago. First flight was great. The HJ went up about 800 feet and returned after the parachute deployed. HOWEVER, the second flight was a little less perfect and a whole lot more dramatic! The HJ left the launch pad as planned, going vertically like a bat outta Hell! After engine burnout the deployment charge fired to deploy the chute for a return to Earth. Unfortunately, the rocket motor was not secured well in the aft end of the rocket and when the deployment charge fired off it blew the motor out of the back end of the rocket and failed to pop off the nose cone and subsequently deploy the recovery chute! My Honest John became a "lawn dart" and buried itself, cone first, into the sod about 1.5 inches! I was bummed! The HJ now sits on my bookshelf, retired from flight, complete with the dirt still on the nose cone!

Well, it's getting late and I need all the beauty sleep I can have. Therefore, I will close this posting with the promise to not be so late with future posts on the blog.

Oh, one last thought: I am currently contemplating outfitting a rocket (one of the LDRS type) with an altimeter (yes, they make them for  model rockets), a small processor and a VHF transmitter and marry the hobbies of ham radio and model rocketry for some tests. Oh, yeah....LDRS stands for Large Dangerous Rocket Ships, which are capable of reaching altitudes in excess of 20,000 feet (that is close to 4 miles for you mathematically challenged out there)!  When you get into the really big rockets (LDRS types) most of them have an electronics  bay incorporated into the rocket body that houses the altimeter....this is used to fire off a pyrotechnic charge to deploy the recovery chute. If you are interested in LDRS, check out the Discovery Channel's programming....they filmed the LDRS launches in 2003, which they occasionally air as a filler for air time. They probably have it on a DVD for sale at the Discovery Channel site. Check it out.

'Till next time, get on the air, launch some rockets, take some pix and have a ball.

Vy 73,
Rich K7SZ

 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day & the Summer 2014 VHF Contest

It's been a while since my last posting. At the end of May Ryan Wheeler, K4HQV and one of his tower crew came by and finished my tower installation. At long last (about 10 L-O-N-G months) I finally had the tower completed and the antennas mounted. It's really nothing special: a Cushcraft A3S at about 65 ft, a 13 element long-boom Cushcraft Yagi for 2meters above the A3, and at the very tip-top.....a Diamond dual band (2M/70CMS) vertical. Nice little antenna farm, if I do say so myself.

This weekend was Father's Day. Today I tried my new antennas out on the June VHF contest. Totaled a massive 28 Qs and 390 points! Certainly not anything to brag about but it was fun. On Saturday my next door, Darrel, helped me relocate my only 6M antenna, a Cushcraft Ringo Ranger, from the original mounting place on the lower side of my roof to the vacated Glen Martin roof tower on the peak. We clamped the Ringo onto a 10 ft R-S mast and stuck it into the roof tower thrust bearing and secured it into the Alliance HD-73 rotator. This is a temporary installation. Sometime in the fall I will be taking it down, sending the rotator off to be rebuilt, and eventually re-install it on the roof tower to spin a 5 element 6M Yagi (of my own design). I will top this installation off with the 6M Ringo making it a single band "stack".

I love old gear: specifically some of the late 1970s through the mid 1980s transistorized equipment. Several months ago I purchased a Kenwood TS-700A (2M Multi-mode transceiver) on e-bay. At the Atlanta Hamfest a week ago I purchased it's 6M brother, a Kenwood TS-600.  While there are certainly better, newer, more flexible, digital equipment on the market, I find these older, analog rigs a lot of fun and quite the challenge. Both the Kenwoods ran very well. Although the 6M rig needs some TLC on the bandswitch/controls. As with everything electronic, moisture and "mung" accumulate inside the rigs on the switch contacts necessitating a liberal application of DeOxit, which is the next major shack undertaking. 

The "new" 2M station consists of the TS-700A (about 9-10 watts of RF) driving an old Lunar 85 watt 2M amp with a 15dB receive preamp inside to boost the RSLs on the weak stations.  The amp is of thbe same vintage as the radio and they play together very well. Employing this Luna amp gives me a bit more RF not to mention flexibility.

The "new" 6M station consists of the TS-600 running barefoot at between 8-10 watts of RF output. The receiver on the  TS-600 seems to be very sensitive, but a good pre-amp probably would not be a bad idea, as long as the gain can be controlled so as not to destroy the receiver performance by over driving the rig's RF front end. I will be looking for a 6M amp with or without a receiver preamp. To be technically adroit and focus on sound station engineering practices, I should actually add any receiver pre-amplification at the "head end" meaning at the antenna feed point. Mast mounted pre-amps are not cheap and the engineering that goes into their proper application makes this a major K7SZ upgrade project for the future. Although I have used the MFJ mast mounted pre-amps several years ago, I will probably go with the pre-amps manufactured by Advanced Receiver Research due to their better overall design. Of course, with mast mounted pre-amps comes the always-fun-to-design transmit/receive sequencing which can become a real pain in the tail. 

All in all, it has been a great Father's Day. Peppermint Patti (KB3MCT) and my daughter Gwen (ex: KB4UNT) went together to give me a great present: a years membership to the brand new gun club and indoor range that just opened up about 4 miles from the Bent Dipole Ranch! Thanks, girls!!

That is about it for now.  I have a lot to blog about in the near future, including my grand daughter, Kielan, who just went on active duty with the USAF!

Here is hoping that some of you readers wander onto the VHF bands (no, not on the repeater sub-band) so I can QSO you. Till then, Vy 73

Rich K7SZ 





Monday, April 7, 2014

The Tower Project that Just Won't Die!

Well, here it is, the first part of April and the 60 ft tower project with the HF Yagi, the 2M long-boom Yagi and the 2M/70cms vertical omni is still bogged down in logistics. My main tower guy and climber, Bill Wilson, KJ4EX, is thankfully recovering nicely from his heart attack around Christmas time last year. I have been in contact with a person who owns a commercial tower company in Winder, GA and he has surveyed the situation and thinks it will take him and his crew about 4-5 hours to complete the installation, run the coax, mount the antennas, rotator, etc. and run the guys....cost: $around 400-500 Buck-a-roonies!! That's a whole bunch more cash than K7SZ has available on short notice. Ryan, the tower company owner, said he would be available in April and May so maybe, if I can find the cash, the installation will be completed.

Originally I had decided to include an HF Yagi, a 6M Yagi and the V/UHF Omni on the mast that would protrude about 12 feet above the 61 ft tower top section. This would give me a total installation height of about 73 feet above the dirt. Not bad, considering. Sure, I would have liked to have a 90 or 100 ft installation, but I cannot complain, especially in light of the cost of the project todate.

Bill, KJ4EX, had constructed the 6M Yagi but was having all sorts of difficulties getting it to tune properly before installing it on the tower. Since I have a 6M Cushcraft Ringo on a separate mast on the roof, I decided to leave that 6M Yagi off the tower installation and substitute a long-boom Yagi for 2M in it's place. After scrounging around the area I came up with a KLM 14 element Yagi from the 1970s, which I picked up at a reasonable cost. In inspecting it, I noticed that the antenna had a log-periodic feed system and one of the element clamps had broken, which would take some work with some high grade epoxy putty to put right before it could go up in the air.

In addition to the KLM, I also found a local ham who had a Cushcraft 13 element long-boom Yagi that I picked up at a great price which was fully functional. All I had to do was assemble the boom (again) and bolt it together, which I did. I enlarged the through-boom screws from #8 to #10 size to give it added strength. I have to put this antenna on a test stand and insure that it is tuned for the lower portion of the 2M band (144-145MHz) for terrestrial weak signal work, but that shouldn't take all that long to accomplish. I was able to obtain copies of the Cushcraft manual so I am good to go.

As far as things I have to accomplish before Ryan and his crew arrive some time in May (or June, or July, or.......): wire up the rotator and control box, (I have already tested them out together, I just need to get the long cabling set up and labeled), obtain some low-loss coax/hardline and connectors for the two V/UHF antennas, get the coax and connectors on the cable for the HF Yagi, set the screw-in guy anchors for the tower, and fabricate a piece of angle iron to act as an anchor for the center feed point of the 40M EDZ that will be side mounted from the 55 ft level of the tower.

Stay tuned....I might have this installation completed before Christmas 2014 yet!!!

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ

Power Mites of Old!!!I'

I saw an ad for my first Ten-Tec Power Mite transceiver when I was stationed in the Azores in the early 1970s. The price was attractive but other things took priority. Thankfully, Jake Ritzen, CT2AZ, loaned me one of his Power Mites and I had my first experience with direct conversion receivers. I was suitably underwhelmed.

In 1973 I procured a Heathkit HW-7 QRP rig and built it according to the manual. It, too, had a direct conversion receiver. Again I was suitably underwhelmed! It seemed that any time the base MARS station came on the air (irrespective of the band) I was unable to use the HW-7....something I also experienced with the PM-2 from Jake.

Over the years I have had several of the PM series....the PM-3A being my favorite. It covered only 40 and 20 M but had break-in keying, which was nice. Not having to switch from TX to RX on the front panel, as with the previous models made the PM-3A a joy to use. Power output on the 3A was around 2.5 watts (5W input power).

Some how I ended up with a PM-2B while I was in Japan (KA2AA) in the late 1970s and that rig followed me to England (RAF Mildenhall), my next duty station. We were relegated to quartering off base, in our case, the town of Bury St. Edmunds, the place where the English Barons met at the Abby of Bury St. Edmunds and vowed to force King James (you, know.....Robin Hood and all that) to sign the Magna Carta (circa 1214).

Our house was positioned in a housing estate located on the end of a huge soccer field next to a school. Surrounding the field was a very large chain link fence. Lacking a suitable aerial at the time, I affixed a piece of wire from the fence into my bedroom and hooked it up to the PM-2B via a AC-5 antenna tuner. My first contact was Colin Turner, G3VTT, a member of the G-QRP Club. That started a 35 year love affair with the G-QRP-C. I met many fine QRPers during that time period and on the occasion of my 37th birthday, my wife, Patricia (KB3MCT) conspired with George Dobbs, G3RJV, head honcho of the G-QRP-C and his wife, Jo, to put on a surprise party for me at the Dobbs' home near Birmingham. With about 25-30 QRPers in attendance we had a grand time and I even was introduced to that old Scottish tradition, the Haggis! (Hint: If you get past the smell you got it made!!)

On a recent trip to Norm Schlar's, WA4ZXV, to pick up an antenna analyzer, I was presented with Norm's ailing PM-2, in hopes of getting it back into running condition. Unfortunately, I had off-loaded all the T-T literature I had amassed on the PM series of rigs dating back to the mid-70s, so troubleshooting this little QRP rig is proving to be somewhat problematic.

So, I am now on a quest to obtain a schematic of the PM-2 (I have one on the PM-3A but that is an entirely different radio) so I can get this old gal back on the air for Norm. Therefore, if anyone who reads this posting might happen to have a copy of that schematic and possibly the entire 9 page manual, I would be very grateful if you would contact me directly (k7sz@live.com).

Looking over the PM-2 I am amazed that anyone was able to make a QSO with these simple rigs. The receiver is just this side of "horrible", and the power output is around 1W going flat out with a tail wind! All that being said, those were the things that made life using QRP "interesting".

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

More on Go-Bags and EmComm

I do a lot of reading, mainlly about emergency communications, disaster preparedness, etc. Having been a deployable member of the Gwinnett County ARES group for about 5 years, I have noticed a few things that give me pause to reflect on my own EmComm preparedness.

Something interesting surfaced while doing an inventory of the majority of the ARES group's volunteers. I find that most of the members do not have a "real" Go-Bag. Looking through the various member's bags I find lots of radio related stuff, connectors, power cords, antennas, coaxial cables, headsets, speaker-mics, etc. Very few, if any, have food items, water, shelter options,etc. Having the necessary radio gear and associated cabling, mics, etc, is fine BUT you NEED to have the other major areas of a 72 hour "survival Go-Bag" covered in order to be really autonomous. This means you need to take a critical look at your radio gear, pare it down to bare essentials, and add items designed to make you independent for a minimum of 72 hours.

As discussed in an earlier post your emphasis must include (in order of importance), water, security, shelter and food items if you are to be truly able to survive in a disaster scenario for the minimum 72 hours. This doesn't mean that you need to scrap your entire Go-Bag and get a huge backpack. It does mean that you have to take a serious look at your present bag with an eye toward autonomy and not just comm gear.

For several years my go-to radio set was the Yaesu FT-817. True it had only a 5 watt output on HF through 70cms, but with the addition of a very small Mirage dual band V/UHF amplifier I now had a station capable of 30+ watts! The antenna that I settled on was a Diamond dual band base station antenna and 35 ft of RG-58 coaxial cable. The DC power source was a trade off. Originally I had a 7.5 A/hr gel-cell but I later changed that to a 20 A/hr battery. It was a lot bigger and much heavier, but it gave me more power budget to play with while deployed. Of course, you could opt for one of the new Lithium-ion batteries with their special charger. This would drastically reduce the size and weight of your power supply. However, many of these exotic batteries are extremely expensive. The choice is yours. I also had an Arrow V/UHF beam that could be placed on a fiber glass collapsible mast set that was carried in it's own bag. That way I could have either an omni directional vertical antenna or a directional beam, depending upon the need. I had also experimented with RG-174 mini-coax....this stuff is great for video lines and short runs on HF, but for serious V/UHF work it has too much loss at the higher frequencies.

As of a couple of years ago, I have dispensed with the FT-817 (no real need for HF EmComm in this area at this time) and went to a Yaesu FT-90 dual band HT with 5 W output. It is much smaller than the 817, and provides me with the necessary RF coverage I need. Power budget is now governed by the size and type of batteries I use with the FT-90. I  no longer need to drag a heavy gel-cell which is a real blessing.

Some ARES folks take a notebook computer or I-pad type tablet. I have a General Dynamics Go-Book (their answer to the ruggedized  Panasonic Tough Book computers) laptop for those times I need to go digital (FL-Digi, etc). I rely on a 300 watt inverter to furnish 120V AC from a 12 V DC source to power the laptop. I find the GD Go-Book, although heavy, to be a great laptop and I am not afraid of taking it into the bush.

As you can see my Go-Bag is not just one bag. It is a collection of several bags, each one dedicated to a specific task for EmComm. My radio gear fits into the top section of a small backpack. The GD Go-Book fits into it's own carrying bag with strap, and my food, water, shelter, security items fit into another portion of the backpack. Finally, the 40 ft collapsible mast with guy ropes, fits into it's own carry bag.

Obviously it is advantageous to make up an inventory of your entire Go-Bag to insure that what ever goes on deployment comes back from deployment. My inventory list is on my computer hard drive (HDD) and I can add/subtract/change it quickly and print out an updated listing of my gear. All my gear is labeled with my call sign for ID purposes. I also have TOPO USA installed on my Go-Book along with a small GPS receiver that I can plug in to get a real idea of the terrain and routes into and out of the affected area. This takes the place of a stack of maps, giving me more room of other items.

Well, that is about it for now. We have pretty well beaten this Go-Bag thing to death. If you have any ideas, send them along in comments and I will include them in an update sometime in the future. While you may agree or disagree with my individual plans and assessments that is fine. Each deployment will be different and circumstances will change, sometimes quite quickly in a disaster scenario. While it is impossible to cover everything, "all bases" if you will, the more flexible you are with your Go-Bag and your preps, the better off you will be to meet your EmComm obligations.

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ



Birmingham (AL) Hamfest 2014

This was the second year in a row that I attended the Birmingham (B'Ham) Ham Fest on March 1 & 2, 2014. Last year Pat and I, along with Ken Evans, W4DU, motored the three hours to B'Ham where we set up a QRP ARCI table where we waved the QRP flag and sold a bunch of my "stuff".

This year, Dave Kuechenmeister, N4KD, made the trek with me. We took my "new" (old) truck, a recently procured 2001 Chevy Silverado 1/4 ton pickup with a full cap and a full length pull-out bed tray. This time I managed to install an Icom 2100 H 2m FM rig so we had mobile VHF comms. 

Dave and I arrived in time for the B'Ham DX Club's dinner. The food was great but the companionship was even better. My good friend, Don Keith, N4KD, was there with his wife, Charlene. Dave Cisco, W4AXL, was sitting next to me during dinner. Dave is one heck of a DXer and lover of all radios that glow in the dark!

The hamfest was good. It is a two day affair, and is housed in the Zamora Shrine Temple just outside B'Ham. The flea market was always interesting. However, I was under orders from Peppermint Patti to off-load a bunch of my "stuff", which I did. Sort of....more on that later.

We got the last table available and were positioned directly across from the Alabama Historical Radio Society (AHRS) display. I met these folks last year and joined their club on the spot. Their reflector is full of good info and the membership is absolutely fabulous when it comes to helping out a fellow collector/restorer. I had brought along two boxes of Sam's Photofacts on CB radios....almost a complete set from #1 to #111. I had arranged to give these to the AHRS prior to the hamfest to add to their unbelievable library of technical books and information. In addition, I had packed up my father's old Arvin Silver Prince AM/SW console radio (sans console) for them to work on, and ultimately I will donate this radio to the AHRS collection. Dave (W4AXL) is fairly sure they can find a console that will fit the chassis.

At 12 noon on Saturday Dave and I attended an AHRS power point presentation given by Dave, W4AXL. This was an overview of the 100th anniversary of the ARRL combined with the history of the Birmingham ARC and AHRS., complete with a vintage radio program at the end. There were about 40-45 people in attendance and Dave's briefing was terrific.

After the AHRS presentation Dave took Dave K and myself to their "club house" in down town B'Ham. To say this place was astounding is an understatement. Literally hundreds of radios of all makes and models. Vintage televisions by National and Hallicrafters. There is also a complete AM radio station control console complete with cart tapes, 16 inch reel-to-reel tape decks, a Gates audio board, dual turn tables, etc. Right out of 1964!!!! That brought me back to KCLX (Colfax, WA) where I started as a Dee-Jay in August of 1964!!!

As I stated before the AHRS technical library is nothing short of fantastic. All copies of QST from 1915 to present in hard copy, only 4 or 5 magazines short of a full set of CQ Magazine from inception to present, along with all sorts of books, service manuals, service bulletins, etc. Amazing, truly amazing. 

The AHRS repair facility was also a treat to view. They do restorations for almost any antique radio or piece of amateur radio gear. They even wind their own voice coils and transformers! What a great place!

Back at the hamfest I proceeded to slowly off-load my stuff. I had purchased a Heathkit MT-1/RT-1 transmitter/receiver along with the power supply, speaker and cables from a local ham. This set was an AM/CW station from the 1960s. I had wanted to put an AM station on 80/40 meters just for grins. I tried this set out prior to plunking down my money. The radios sat for about a year while Pat and I discussed whether or not I would move my ham shack from the back of the house (with no air conditioning and/or heating) into the spare bedroom. When I went to fire this rig up about a year later, I noticed that the transmitter bandswitch was binding. It turned out that it was something I could not fix without major surgery so I packed it up with the rest of my stuff to take to B'Ham.

There I met a fellow ham who had a number of boatanchor receivers for sale. He seemed interested in my Heath twins, so we made a deal...sort of...We traded gear. His SX-122 Hallicrafters general coverage receiver for my Heath twins. For me it was an outstanding trade since I had been looking for a SX-122 for quite a few years. The styling on the 122 is the same as the SX-117/HT-44 receiver/transmitter by Hallicrafters, which is the station I used in college. The SX-122s would turn up on e-bay once in a while, but the auction prices were in the high $200s, sometimes climbing to over $300, which was way out of my price range.



While at the AHRS club house I was presented with an Eico RF generator and B&K 3 inch oscilloscope, both of which I sorely needed. These two items were surplus to requirements at the club, so with a donation to the club I ended up with two very handy pieces of test gear for my workbench. My sincere thanks to the AHRS folks for those two items.

Dave and I drove back on Sunday, after packing what was left of my stuff into the Chevy. One-way mileage was just under 200 miles and I used slightly under 10 gallons of gas in the truck so the mileage is great compared to our Jeep Commander with the 5.7L Hemi!!!!

After dropping Dave off at his place, I continued on home where I hooked the SX-122 to an antenna and fired it up. Everything worked as it should and the calibration was spot-on all the way across each of the four AM/SW bands. I verified this by using a calibrated signal generator coupled to a digital freq counter which was plugged into the receiver's antenna socket. This SX-122 was in excellent cosmetic shape with only a small blemish on the front panel. The chassis was clean above and below. In short, I got a great deal on the #1 item on my "Equipment to be Acquired List". It's great to enter the shack, catch the smell of warm vacuum tube electronics and listen to the SW bands while I work at getting the place straightened up and on the air. My new SX-122 sits atop the ops bench above my cherry Drake TR-4 station!

Next year I plan on another trip to B'Ham to attend their fest. It is a great venue and the people involved were extremely friendly and full of southern hospitality. My only regret about this year's event was that we were unable to spend more time with Don, N4KC and his wife. However, Don and I have made plans to hook up at the Huntsville hamfest in August.

So if you want to have a great time at a ham radio flea market/hamfest give the Birmingham hamfest a try. Hope to see you next year.

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Some Realities of EmComm

Well, Peppermint Patti (KB3MCT) and I made it through the New Years Eve celebration unscathed. As a matter of fact we were engrossed in a movie at home and almost missed the countdown to 2014!!! We are such "party animals!!"

Pat and I both take our commitment to emergency communications (EmComm) via our involvement with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) very seriously. Unfortunately, our ability to participate in drills and simulated emergency tests (SETs) in 2013 were drastically curtailed due to family obligations and Pat's work schedule. It is our desire to interact with the local Gwinnett and Barrow county ARES groups in the upcoming year.  A major part of the commitment involves being ready to deploy without tearing the entire house and shack apart to find the necessary radio gear and other things we will need for the magic 72 hours after we are deployed.

One of the realities of EmComm is the onus placed on the volunteer to have, at the ready, a "Go-Bag" (also commonly called a Bug-Out-Bag, Get-Out-Of-Dodge-Bag, etc). This one piece of ARES hardware is a key element within the EmComm community and many, many words have been written about the "Ultimate Bug-Out-Bag". Now it's my turn.

As one gains experience in EmComm and subsequently endures numerous deployments and activations the reality of the "ULTIMATE" go-bag rapidly becomes a myth. Right up there with the Holy Grail and five cent cigars. To the uninitiated it is advantageous to have "everything" in your bag. Reality quickly sets in and it becomes painfully apparent (italics mine)  that you can't take it all with you.

You (along with the rest of us) need help. I have read and reviewed quite a few bug-out-bag how-to books over the last couple of years. The best of the lot, by far is "Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit" by Creek Stewart (available through Amazon.com for under $10).

Ideally your B-O-B should contain the bare necessities to enable the EmComm volunteer to be self-sufficient for a minimum of 72 hours. I've often wondered why 72 hours was the "magic number"? Personally I'd shoot for the at least a week, possibly two if possible. Unfortunately expanding the B-O-B to include life support for a week or more leads to a very large (and heavy) container. Therefore, lets concentrate on the standard 72 hours of self-sufficiency for starters. We can always expand our kit at a later date.

So, exactly what does one put in a B-O-B? Let's look at the basics for life support: water, security, shelter, and food in that order.

Water:  Water is the staff of life! Period! You can survive for roughly 6-7 days without water. After that you are dead! Period! Unfortunately no one has managed to invent/manufacture dehydrated or instant water! Water is heavy; 8 pounds per gallon. You should consume at least one gallon of water per person per day. Three days worth of pre-packaged/bottled water equates to 24 pounds. That's heavy. Therefore, the logical conclusion would be to keep one or two bottles of water in our B-O-B kit and plan on using a water filter and/or water purification tablets to provide us with potable water after our initial water is consumed. Water filters, good ones, are not cheap. Plan on spending between $50-$125 on a good quality portable water filtration device.

Security: This one subject could take up an entire book! Often we do not know where we are going to be deployed, so the idea that you might find yourself in a hotel room or living in a lean-to in a forest are distinct possibilities. In any case you need to be aware of your surroundings and have your personal security set accordingly. What I am about to say may cause some of you to recoil in horror at the idea of including a fire arm in your B-O-B. However, that is exactly what I am going to do. Your personal security is YOUR responsibility. Not the cops, not the military, but Y-O-U! Obviously, if you are going to do this you need training. One of my personal pet peeves is that people are allowed to buy a fire arm, get a concealed carry permit (CCW) and then boldly go on about their lives carrying a deadly weapon without the proper training. This is just plain stupid. IF you are going to include a fire arm in your B-O-B, then you NEED to get some combat arms training from professionals. Watching DVDs or reading a book or two is not a substitute for time on the range with a qualified combat arms instructor. Personally, I prefer either a small J-frame Smith & Wesson 5 shot revolver in .38 caliber, or one of the many sub-compact semi-autos in 9mm Luger. Don't forget a good quality knife. Knives are one tool that is indispensable in the B-O-B. I carry at least three in addition to a large folder in my cargo pants pocket. Lastly, in the discussion of personal security, learn and follow the Jeff Cooper condition colors: White, Yellow, Orange and lastly Red. Just Google "Jeff Cooper or these code colors and you'll find a great method of staying on top of your personal security.

Shelter: For several global engagements the US military has relied upon a "shelter half" or "poncho" to keep her troops dry and relatively warm. Today we not only have military surplus shelter halves and ponchos but we have a plethora of "survival blankets" in various configurations that can be adapted to work as personal shelters, sleeping bags (believe me this is a very loose terminology), and shelter/tent/lean-to. Weight of these modern plastic (Mylar, actually) survival blankets is negligible so packing several in the bag is not a big deal. Obviously you can find single one-person tents (the good ones are really expensive but can be used on the North Face of Mt. Everest!) can be purchased and included but, again, you are adding weight. Remember: ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain. Of course, you can opt for foraging tree limbs and make a lean-to if you are in an area where trees are plentiful and abundant.

Food: The survival manuals all say you can exist just fine for two weeks without food. Beyond that time frame you will loose the ability to think clearly, your body will start devouring muscle tissue to "feed" itself in the absence of any sustenance and in about 30 days sans food you are dead! Resist the idea of packing a few MREs (Meals Ready To Eat) from the military surplus outlets. They are NOT packaged conveniently for use in a ruck sack (bug-out-bag), and they taste like crap after a couple of days. There are a number of freeze dried food outlets, many of which find their way to the shelves of Wal-Mart, REI Sports, etc. They are very light, extremely packable but the are NOT cheap. You can pack three to five days worth of freeze dried meals and add only one or two pounds of total weight to your ruck. Don't forget "power" bars and protein bars, especially the latter. You NEED protein to keep muscle tone. They all taste like cardboard drizzled with caramel and chocolate but they will keep you functional in the absence of a five star restaurant. I pack some "trail mix" that I put together myself (Google it) and some power/protein bars, along with some hard candy (carbs) and some form of jerky.  Some authorities may dismiss the jerky as being too high in salt content, but in an environment where you want to retain water and not become dehydrated, jerky is the answer. It is also very high in protein per ounce. I prefer the brand carried by Costco not the "Bigfoot" brands you will find in Wal-Mart and the gas station convenience stores. The latter I have had bad experiences with all centering on mold. E-mails and phone calls to the manufacturer have gone unanswered. So I say "screw Bigfoot jerky". Stick with the Costco brand (No I do not have any commercial interest or ties with Costco) I just like the taste and the fact that when I open the bag it's not all green/blue and fuzzy! (My aircrew survival school instructor told me many years ago "Arland, their ain't no such thing as eatable navy blue food"!)

OK, that is about all for now on the subject of bug-out-bags. Do your homework and get on the net and find out things for yourself. Remember, these are MY ideas and your situation may or may not be similar to mine, so there is work to do to be ready to deploy with a ruck that is not only useful but easy to carry. Remember, ARES does not employ any baggage porters, so if you bring it you "hump" it, Pard.

Vy 73 and get involved with ARES/RACES EmComm.

Rich K7SZ