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]
15 thoughts on “Rand’s “Shotgun!” Mobile QRP Station”
Wonderful post, Rand! I also do a fair amount of operating from my Tacoma.
I recently purchased some Hustler mobile antenna items. My intent was to do away with shooting a line into trees. A number of things can go wrong with that process. For one, It’s surprising to me how fast my fingers will go numb when it’s near-freezing and windy. Tying knots to transition from monofilament to support line becomes a challenge.
Anyway, I’m up and running with a stationary setup using the Hustler gear and a mag-mount. I was initially pretty disappointed with it- I was seeing the issues with common-mode current. I’ve solved that definitively without the need for a 1:1 balun. I’ll send Tom a writeup shortly. 73- K1SWL
Yep… I use my 1:1 balun, unless my coax is a long one (15’ plus).
By the way… I just rec’d the newly minted SP4 paddles. I adjusted them to my liking. For the price they’re a great set of paddles. Unless you have a Begali traveler collecting dust, I’d recommend buying them.
72 de W7UDT
Thanks for the reply. To judge by the number of comments to your message, there’s lots of interest in it. Nice!
Good also to hear about those SP4 paddles. With my vehicle-based activations, weight is no object. I bring along my Begali Expedition for CW activations.
FWIW- I bought the Begali- and a Pelican case for it- after destroying my Vibroplex. My operating surface- V1.0- just rested on the door handle. I forgot- and opened the passenger side door from outside. Watched the paddles slide off and hit the ground. Version 2.0 is chained to an overhead hand-hold with ‘biners. 73- K1SWL
Nice post. That’s exactly what I do. The exception is I use a 20 meter Hamstick, but still manage to work plenty of CW/SSB contacts on 20 meters and above.
73, DE WA4JM
Great story and I am psyched to do the idea… again. When traveling from Brookline to Manchester NH to teach my morning classes, I put my IC-703 on the front seat of my Dodge Caravan, paddle in position, and 20m m
HAM stick attached to the rear side mount (HB) hatch. It worked pretty well and even had skeds with guys in PA along my. commute. It all came to an end when I upgraded to my Camry, but your experience just pushed me over the edge. I won’t be using the Ham Stick, but that can be overcome. TNX 👍 for interesting story. 72 Dennis K1LGQ.
To try it again
Home Depot can cut the plywood. I recommend a piece of hardwood plywood. A quarter inch works great. If you have a grab bar, great! But if not, you’ll need to design a leg system of some sort.
“Measure twice, cut once!” They say.
72 de W7UDT
It was good to pick up the QSO the other day!
Next time, I’ll drive further up the hill… Bogus Basin Rd, here in Boise offers beautiful views, and plenty of elevation up near the ski resort (5,000ft plus).
I hope to work you again soon!
72 de W7UDT
Two weeks ago it was sunny and +20C here in Oscar November Sierra (ON South) and suddenly we are dealing with -7 and heavy snow squalls off Lake Huron (not Buffalo level heavy snow but wintery just the same). I was resigned to the idea that this year’s POTA activations were over and I’d have to wait until next Spring. It hadn’t occurred to me that a simple piece of wood in the front seat means I could go out to at least 3 local POTA sites, park in their ploughed lots, launch my antenna into the same trees I use in fair weather, and in just a few minutes and be operating from the comfort of my vehicle. Thanks for the inspiration to do POTA this winter. Even in Canada.
Canadian winters are a challenge… and I doubt you’ll ever resort to operating from an igloo. So stick to the relative comfort of your vehicle.
Again, take advantage of having Home Depot cut your plywood.
Stay warm, and get out there!
72. de W7UDT
Since I operate exclusively portable, I can identity with the “shotgun” idea. When it’s cold, I operate from the truck. Portable operators are always looking for new “setup” ideas. Thank you for yours.
73 – KE5VDC
Great story. Thanks for sharing. I love it.
Although I prefer a park picnic table or if not available have a small very portable table. I use a 20 ft portable flag pole, comes down to like 4 ft, and an end fed wire or a 40m OCF dipole. Put the end fed on the pole, host it up, connect the balun end to my Jeep Wrangler and run 10 ft RG58 to the rig. If using the 40m OCF I use 50 ft of RG58 to the balun on the pole. Main thing use a reasonable good antenna and one that can be put up quickly.
73, ron, n9ee
Another Jeep’r! Cool!
I still like to deploy my antennas up in a tree. So long as I don’t get covered by an avalanche of snow!
72. de W7UDT
Great article Rand!
Thank you for the “Shotgun” concept and accompanying photos. Like you and others I also operate this way on occasion, but you idea of a nice, stable, and level operating surface is both simple and eminently “doable.”
I use a 5” mag mount with a Terlin Outbacker antenna. The Outbacker has taps that make changing bands a breeze (even in very cold or rainy weather). The key to getting this arrangement to work well seems to be an efficient ground (so Terlin says). A grounding wire is run to a handy frame mounted bolt and nut under the lip of the rear hatch. It only takes a minute or so to attach the grounding wire to the mag mount with an o-ring connector attached to the antenna end of the wire.
The grounding wire makes all the difference in the world to the Outbacker vertical. This year QRP international QSOs are common now that propagation has gotten better (and all from the comfort of the weather-protected inside of your vehicle).
I also prefer a park bench but when the weather doesn’t cooperate, “shotgunning” is a great alternative!
72, Barry WD4MSM
Sometimes the weather isn’t our friend… just like propagation, we have to find ways to overcome it. (If we can.)