For my upcoming extended trip out west, I plan on doing a lot of boondocking in some fantastic spots with gorgeous views and wide open country. However, that leaves me smack in the middle of nowhere. No matter how high I hold my cell phone and recite “Can you hear me now”, there will be no response. I’m fine with that. Cut the cord for a while and just enjoy being unconnected.
However, in an emergency I’d be alone. No lifeline. No one to call for assistance. No help on the way.
I do have an amateur radio license, and those radios can talk around the world under the right conditions with good antennas and decent transceivers. But they are usually stationary stations due to the size and type of antennas required.
While talking around the world would be nice, I really just need a range of a hundred miles or so. VHF radios on the 2 meter band work well when there are repeaters within 30-50 miles. Out west the repeaters are spread thin in the boondocks. They will be useful when present, and I have a VHF/UHF radio installed to call for help on those repeaters if needed.
The above shows the radios for 2m/70cm/10m and CB bands. These are fed through two antennas mounted at the rear of the van, one for 10m and 11m, and the other for both 144mhz and 440mhz. These radios cover communications up to a 50 miles radius.
For day hiking, I will setup the VHF/UHF radios in the van on Cross-Band repeat. This allows my portable hand held radio with a limited 5-6 miles range to communicate with the radio in the van, which will then re-transmit my signal using higher power and better antenna and on a longer range frequency. Any responses received and will be transmitted back to my portable. This effectively gives me the same long distance range as the higher power radio in the van as long as I am within 5-6 miles of it. The solar panels and battery bank in in the van has the capacity to power the radios indefinitely when sunny, or a solid week if not. It’s a good backup emergency communications plan.
The recent update is a Yaesu FT-450D (abov) that will cover the high frequency bands for longer distance communications. Using this radio I can reach out easily for hundreds of miles, across multiple states, or across the country. Even with a less efficient portable antenna, I should be able to easily communicate in a two hundred mile radius from my location. The portable antenna could quickly be deployed when needed, and would be packed and stored to be used if needed for long range communications.
Along with the handheld radio and spare batteries, I’ll also have my pack filled with the essentials. I’m looking forward to exploring, hiking, and mountain biking out west. Its been a long time since I’ve been out of the wooded Northeast and into something more flat and desert like of the west.