Many thanks to Rand (W7UDT) who shares the following guest post:
‘Shotgun!’ My Mobile QRP Station…
by Rand (W7UDT)
I’ll confess, at our overly stylish home, sadly, I don’t have a shack… my XYL has “concerns.” So, in an attempt to keep my operating license and man card active, I happily practice portable QRP field operations at my QTH and afield.
This time of year however, with winter bearing down on us, I choose to deploy via my ‘Shotgun!’ mobile QRP station. Simply, a quarter inch sheet of birch plywood, cut and finished nicely to fit suspended from the grab bar and headrest of my Jeep Wrangler’s passenger seat. Ergo, ‘Shotgun!’
Grab, hang, stow and go!
It’s not a new idea, but I must say, it has become a very good solution to the chilly problem of posterior frostbite and hypothermia.
As QRP field operators, we seldom discuss mobile operations. We tend to show off our shacks, or boast of our summits. I get it! I love QRP field operations.
But to be entirely practical, at times, we may be restricted to operating mobile. Whether by weather (hi hi), HOA restrictions, domestic politics, health limitations, a busy schedule, any number of reasons or circumstances which may relegate one’s favorite hobby to his/hers personal mode of transportation.
For the Portable QRP operator, mobile operations is an easy transition, and makes sense in many ways. Primarily, it’s warm, dry and comfortable. A comfortable seat, ideal temperature, ergonomic, well lit, quiet (wind noise and/or RF interference), and possibly a nice view.
Here are some additional considerations to ponder…
- Keeping your gear safe and secure. I treasure my Ham gear. To leave it in a vehicle unattended may lead to its theft.
As this is not a permanent install, my gear remains mine. Safely stowed and stored. It takes a minute to suspend the plywood inside my Jeep. Then, on site, I drive on the mast support, deploy the antenna, set up the transceiver, and start operating. Then reversing the process to wrap it up. I’ve found with practice, my deployments are easier, more frequent, and yield success. Ten minutes, both for set up, and break down & stowage.
- Our QRP field kits, are modular and well organized, easily stored inside your home when not in use, as you would with portable operations. This perfectly transitions into mobile operations.
- Location, location, location… Drive up to where you’ll be heard. Here in Boise, we have some handy mountains, accessible even in winter, which offer ideal operating locations, and beautiful views.
If possible, park on a level surface, in a safe location, and facing away from the sun, in view of the antenna, possibly in the shade near trees and needed antenna supports.
In winter, I leave my vehicle running, heater on, til I’m all set up, then I turn it off. Additionally, I chock a tire, and hang a red bandana on the mirror to remind me not to drive off embarrassingly.
- DC Power… I use my field battery. I top it off on the drive to and from my intended operating location. My radios draw little amperage… but I’ve had a dead vehicle battery before, so make sure you don’t. Just saying.
- Ergonomics… Sit warm and comfortable in the driver’s seat and use the work surface beside you.
I use a wooden tray atop the plywood work surface and keep any unused items in gear bags. It helps keeps things tidy.
Gravity and a smooth surface tend to work against you. Even your pen or pencil might roll off onto the floorboard or into a crevice out of reach. A small clipboard holds my pencil, scratch and log. You roll the way you like.
I can even plug my transceiver into the Jeep’s aux input for an ‘enhanced audio experience,’ if needed.
- Antennas… Antennas are of your preference. I like wire. Just make sure it’s well supported and safely away from power transmission lines. Operate safely. Who needs the interference, and/or electrocution?
Consider using a telescopic fiberglass mast. My favorite is a 7m SpiderBeam mast which fits nicely into a drive-on mast stand.
Sometimes, depending on the band, I’ll bring a very tall, 12m SpiderBeam mast, which requires I lash it to the Jeep’s rear-mounted spare. One or the other, whichever makes the most sense.
Additionally, keep station grounding in mind. Common mode currents ruin the fun. Play with it, see what works best.
To conclude, my Shotgun QRP station is simply a mobile work surface, where I can shelter in comfort, and operate in solitude. With such a blank canvas (plywood), you too can play radio in any weather, impromptu, ready anytime, anywhere your vehicle might take you.
All you really need is the plywood… go to a local big box home improvement store, and they’ll even cut it to fit your measurements and vehicles dimensions. That’s all I did, that and drill holes for the cordage to suspend it level, and true. Sand, smooth and finish. Simple. No brainer. You’ve got this!
It’s design and function is all up to your individual equipment and operating style. I keep it simple. My transceiver and paddle of choice, my 12v Battery, DC power cord, a tuner if needed, LED headlamp, wooden tray, small clipboard, scratch, pencil, log, map & compass, iPad, iPhone, spare components, coax, cordage, stakes, tools, yada. All neatly organized in field fashion. You play it your way! Again, use your own imagination, own design and creativity.
I’m now 62, and cresting the hill… I like my comforts. Know your limitations, and practice accordingly. Consider a simple ‘Shotgun’ station for your vehicle this winter.
I hope to hear you on the air this winter! 72 de W7UDT (dit dit)
W7UDT, ‘Rand’, lives and operates near Boise Idaho, with his lovely wife Stacy. Portable QRP operations, along with his Jeep and Harley are his ‘vices.’ Your comments and questions are welcomed. Email at [email protected].