29 June 2020

A Ham Shack On Wheels

A few weeks ago my wife and I did something we've been talking about for years - we went out and bought a camper.

This is a first for both of us. I spent 23 years 'camping' with the US Army and did more than my fair share of time sleeping in mud, dust, freezing rain and 100 degree heat, eating out of cans and plastic pouches, drinking gritty coffee, showering once a week, shaving out of a helmet (yes Virginia, we really did shave out of our helmets - the old 2-piece 'steel pots', not the newer Kevlar noggin' protectors) and generally getting my fill of 'roughing it'. I told The Missus that the next time I go camping, it'll be with air conditioning, a shower and a flush toilet. She didn't argue.

And of course, being the devious SOB that I am, I viewed the camper as something of a rolling ham shack. In fact, I just spent Field Day 2020 operating out of it while it was parked in my driveway.

In buying the camper we learned the four universal truths about RVs:
  1. Buying the camper is just the beginning, as far as spending $$$
  2. You can't run the air conditioner on a 15 or 20 amp household circuit
  3. Towing, setting up and tearing down a camper is real work - and not something you can out-source to the neighbor's kid for a few bucks
  4. Backing an RV into a tight spot is best done when the little children are out of earshot - ideally somewhere in an adjoining county. Both my wife and I were yelling, swearing and arguing like drunken sailors on shore leave
Also, the 'black water tank dump' ritual seems specifically designed to remind you why we need to appreciate modern plumbing and sewage treatment. Nothing like having to flush your own poop out of a holding tank to remind you why we're a first world country and those without working sewage systems are third world countries. Yummy.

Other than gaining a mobile ham shack, there are other benefits. For example, that air conditioner circuit thing. Once we figured out that running the AC on a household circuit was a no-go we realized a generator was in order. Gee, imagine that - a ham radio guy being forced to buy a generator. Go ahead, twist my arm.

But I was also forced into the realization that ham radio in a small RV takes up too much space, if you are thinking conventionally. The picture above shows my Icom IC-7100 set up along with my laptop. That left my wife barely enough table space to put down a cup of coffe. Suddenly something like the old Yaesu FT-857D is looking pretty good for this type of activity. What this world needs is a small form factor all-mode/all-band radio with a built-in sound card interface and tuner. But where to shave weight and size? Simple - make it a 20 watt rig. Yaesu? Icom? Bueller?

So stay tuned for more adventures from the mobile ham shack. I'm not sure where this will all lead, but I'm sure it'll be an interesting trip!

W8BYH out

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