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Thread: 180 mile SHTF (only) comm plan

  1. #1
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    Default 180 mile SHTF (only) comm plan

    So I'm basically a VHF guy. Never saw a need (or had much of a desire) for a HF transceiver, or nothing longer than 10m anyway, for a long list of reasons that aren't really important. But over the holidays my cousin is visiting and says he's interested in getting a station that would allow us to communicate between his home and mine (about 180 miles) and is willing to spend up to about a grand if necessary. He's preparedness-minded, but new to survival generally, and we've discussed and planned alittle on how he and his family would bugout of his metro-suburban area and get to my place if the SHTF. It'd be a big win-win for both our families, but plagued with potential problems due to the distance and the possibility of no communication in a grid-down SHTF event. I wouldn't even know if he left for our place, or the route(s) he planned on taking.

    He has no interest in amateur radio as a hobby anymore than I do, "short test just often enough that we know it still works, but just for SHTF use", is what he's thinking. So we discuss comms some more in general, and agree the first step for him is to get a VHF radio so he quits borrowing one of mine every time he's here visiting for the weekend, so he orders a Baofeng before he heads home

    But I've been thinking about this the past couple weeks: 180 miles, phone/voice mode, reasonably reliable, stealthy, relatively simple operation, and under the $970 remaining (after the Baofeng) in his radio budget. Thinking about (for him):

    - ICOM IC-718
    - 40m/80m dipole in his attic (40m full wave, 1/2 wave 80m, in a "Z" layout to fit), about 15 feet above ground (NVIS). Commercial, with a 4:1 balun.
    - Auto battery and an automatic charger as the power source

    I'd help him set it up at his place, tune the antenna for low SWR on 4 different freqs (2 in the 80/75m phone band, 2 in 40m) and program them with names of "0", "15", "30", and "45" to designate the minutes after the top of the hour to attempt to make contact on. Shouldn't require a tuner then?

    I'm thinking of the same transceiver and antenna (mine at about 25' in our two-story home), about the max height for NVIS on 40m? The choice of the IC-718 was partly on cost and partly for the easy mod to open it up for full TX which I'd probably do on mine, but not until he has more radio knowledge/experience. Thoughts?
    Everything marked, everything 'membered. You wait, you'll see.

  2. #2
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    From post I am assuming you have a tech amateur license, and you are near Canadian border ? Not sure if you cousin is or isn't.
    I too like vhf, and 95% of my everyday comms with other hams is 2m simplex within about 70 miles of my location.
    I'm sure you know that HF is Not really plug and play, and there are butt loads of variables that go into the equation. including time of day, time of year, weather, ground moisture, solar conditions, noise level, knowledge of your gear under ever changing conditions, just to name a few.
    Now , "just for SHTF USE", 1st, need to make very sure that what you think SHTf is, and what the FCC thinks it is are one in the same, Yes the FCC still enforces the rules, and they are helped all over the country by licensed hams, and some other hams that are called OO's, official observers, you really don't know exactly who all these guys are , You will be contacted if one of them happens to hear something that's not supposed to be going on.( I know people that have received letters as a first warning.) I'm not trying to be a prick here ,but in the ham community the proper license IS important, If your licensed you know it is illegal for a licensed ham to even talk to an unlicensed person.
    Anyhoo, enough of the mandatory ham rule warning stuff, my main point is that you need to both Get on the air and learn your gear Just my opinion of course,you can do what you want.

    Now if all your gonna do is have him put out a call it is bad and they are bugging out, then sure you wont have a problem I'd guess. If I was in a suburban metro area and it got bad enough to bail, I damn sure wouldn't hang around long enough for a series of QSO's . Time will be very important especially if their bugout plan includes leaving such an area by vehicle, Lots of others will probably have the same idea and you want to beat to outbound flow.

    The chicom HT of course will be very limited on the tx side if an event occurs for no other reason that repeaters most likely wont be up for long, and it sucks for simplex range, it will be handy for monitoring ham and some of the LEO,
    simplex analog freqs that may still get used. Baofeng HTs will work of lots of non ham freqs ( disclaimer: It's illegal ) as I' sure you know.

    Budget wise, you could do worse than what you have in your plan, and It looks like a doable option, The band choices will work fine, and nothing wrong with the radio,I hate attic antennas, BUT ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
    This all is just my opinion ,Good Luck to you and your cousin.
    Last edited by jnr0104; 01-09-2016 at 11:39 AM.

  3. #3
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    Wish I could get your range simplex using VHF jnr0104 - think you mentioned that kind of range before and it's 4X what I get. Rolling hills and pine forest here, LOS (+/-) is IT for me. Even with my base antenna tip at 60', mobile at about 8', no more than 20 miles TOPS if the mobile is on a bit of a hill to help out.

    This HF setup will be all strictly legal, my cousin has no interest (yet?) in any other use beyond SHTF comms with us, and the primary use will be for advising us he's bugging out and the route(s) he'll be taking. There's a major river for him to cross and a couple smaller ones, and more than a couple different routes he could take. Have already planned the routes out, with printed directions and a map in his BOB. We have a copy of his plan and the same map. I might have some ability to help him if he and his family got trapped somewhere between, depending on a number of factors, but not unless I have some idea of where he might be and when. Already planted the seed that he should think about putting a mag mount antenna on his vehicle for use with the Baofeng, there's a ham repeater about 40 miles from me in the general direction he'll be coming from, but he'd be well over half way here before he'd have any hope of hitting it even with a better antenna, and that's assuming it's still operating.

    Thanks for the general confirmation that the gear might fit the task jnr, I have a lot to learn about HF and no experience myself. Personally I think that his $1k would be better spent in improving his preparedness situation at home first, but his primary plan (and I suggested it) is that everyone is better off if he and his family, and as much of our shared family that lives near him as possible, can make it to my place safely.
    Everything marked, everything 'membered. You wait, you'll see.

  4. #4
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    I agree with you Marked, HF and NVIS will probably be your best simplex solution for the distances you are talking

    Like you, 20 miles is about the best I can do simplex VHF, and this distance certainly is not normal. 8-15 miles is normal with my vehicle mounted 75 watt IC-V8000/Wilson 5/8ths antenna........ and I live in the DFW area, so no mountains, hills or other obstructions. My only obstacle is the curvature of the earth. Now repeaters are a different story, I can hit repeaters 40+ miles away without issue if the repeater antenna is high enough. With VHF/UHF it's all about line of sight

    One thing I would change in your proposed set-up is the automotive battery, IMHO a deep cycle battery would serve you much better, and you could keep it charged with solar if you are concerned about a grid down scenario. AGM is the way to go if cost is no issue, barring an AGM it's hard to beat the Trojan T-105. I can get them locally on craigslist for $100 ea. Wire up 2 T-105's for 12 volts and you'd have a decent reserve capacity for days without any sunshine.

    I also agree with jnr0104, a HF/NVIS setup is definitely not plug-and-play, but that's what's great about getting ready before the SHTF, you have time to practice and work out what will work best for your specific situation

    His other point mirrors my own opinion, the last thing I would want to do during a SHTF event is try to make contact over a base station radio, I'd be busy getting out of dodge.

    Food for thought, if you have the ability to make this a vehicle based system they do have mobile NVIS antennas that can be used on a vehicle, it shouldn't be too hard to DIY one if cost is the limiting factor. Pair a Yaesu FT-857D (http://www.gigaparts.com/Yaesu-FT-857D.html) with a DIY mobile NVIS antenna and a good 2 meter/70 CM antenna and you'd still be in the same ballpark price wise and this would give him the option of communicating while on the move on HF, VHF, and UHF
    Last edited by Tdale; 01-09-2016 at 10:38 PM.
    Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

  5. #5
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    I agree with going the route with the FT-857. While you are limited in Freq spread (assuming you don't get the radio opened up), you do add VHF/UVF which could be a huge advantage when he gets closer to you.

    I applaude you for working out a plan in advance. I would strongly suggest testing this set up and use it regularly to make sure you both understand how it works and any nuances to expect due to time of day, year, and atmospheric conditions. These can and do change on a regular basis. The better you know your system, the more likely you are at being successful when the time comes. Best of luck to you both.
    Greater love hath no man than this, That a man lay down his life for a friend.
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  6. #6
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    Something else to consider would be some sort of digital mode on NVIS...I personally like Olivia, and use it mobile and transportable with a Signallink USB. Again not plug and play but allows quicker, less detectable comms.

    And if you're both General class, try some of the new bands - 5MHz (60 meters) or 10MHz (30 meters) rather than the big 4. Less traffic.
    Good medicine in bad places

  7. #7
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    Shame there isn't a thank you button here so you can let folks know you agree with them. Marked ,looks to me like you are headed the right direction, keep working on your cousin, this radio stuff can be kinda fun, it can also drive you nuts cause nothing is a 100% deal. TDale, Backpacker , Fidel , I agree with yall too.

    And in reference to the 70 miles range on 2m. I can't do that in all directions without a bit of perfect conditions, but several directions I can, and the 70 miles works out to 2 stations to the SW that have really nice towers and beam antennas. My daily simplex qso's we have every morning are 26-30 miles from my HQ to 3-5 bases along the coast, and a couple guys that are mobile going to work in Corpus Christi.

    We also do a regional simplex net every week and net control is in Victoria ,Tx, he is 43 miles from me to the NE, and we talk without a problem in all but the Worst band condition, he also uses a yagi ,75 watts, and a 50ft tower.
    The every morning group all have basically the same base setup, GP-9 antennas with the base of the antenna at least 35ft agl. Radios are minimum of 75 watt but all but one are 100watts using amp with a pre amp. The guys that are mobile are running 75 watt radios into 5/8 wave antennas mounted center of roof and the drive crewcab pickups ,so plenty of metal under antenna. And of course it's pretty darn flat down here other than the towns and Corpus. So nothing special , just good location, and friends with equal or better antenna systems. Also we are always trying to improve them, we have all changed our stations several times in the last year trying to get as much as we can from them without getting a divorce.

    Now if you want to see a real station , google N5XO up in Converse, Tx Wow, when I grow up I want an antenna farm like his! He is 107 miles from me and we have been talking off and on for a year on 2m fm simplex, during good conditions, not just ducting, and entirely because of His setup. I am in process of setting up 2m SSB at this time and plan on joining his ssb group.
    Last edited by jnr0104; 01-09-2016 at 08:52 PM.

  8. #8
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    Thanks guys.

    He doesn't even have his tech now and no interest in learning much theory or any mode beyond phone. For the cost, time, and trouble to get on the air and test I would hope he'd have an interest to learn and do more - maybe even drag me into it. A mobile rig would be a good idea, but more complexity and cost, and his BOV is just as likely to be one of his employer's trucks that he has personal use of as his own truck.

    There's a lot of holes in his desired plan for sure, and I think he'd be better off using the money elsewhere at least for now. Mostly wanted to get your takes on the gear and setup. If he really wants to go this route I'm willing to do the same, and actually had an ulterior motive on the IC-718 besides the cost too, gives me 10 and 12 meter and that one in between. I could blow the dust off some old gear and set up a base/mobile solution pretty cheaply for my own use around my AO.
    Everything marked, everything 'membered. You wait, you'll see.

  9. #9
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    Default 180 mile SHTF (only) comm plan

    You guys do what you want. I know how I would do it.

    On a Yaesu FT 857 or the Ft 100 I own ..or my Icom 706Mk II...

    On VHF I would work SSB....low on the 144 MHZ area. Preferably with a beam like my 13 element Yagi turned on it's side..Horizontal. You need such an antenna to be of sufficient altitude...on both stations. I believe these radios do some 50 watts on FM. Not sure what the SSB wattage is on them...but SSB will get you out further... with clarity than on FM mode.

    I have myself done over 100 miles on SSB on VHF. I would not bother trying to use UHF even on UHF SSB.

    IF you are that Ambitious you might want to try VHF in CW Mode...on such an Beam antenna.

    Horizontal will get you away from most of the traffic out there.


    But over such an distance...75 Meters will do fine on SSB. I am also wondering if 60 meters in the 5 MHZ band will also do the same. I believe 30 meters or 10.100 MHZ to 10.150 MHZ is a CW band only for the hams. Your call...your responsibility...your RISK.

    If You are not going to be licensed...I recommend not using the Ham bands. That is totally your responsibility...your risk. I have heard freelancers out there on occasion. They do not transmit for long. Your call..your responsibility...your RISK.

    You want to stay away from bands where there are heavy hitters running a lot of power. Power will not only help you get out better but it will also make you discovered much easier. It is a two edged sword. Be warned.

    My friend and I often use 2 meter SSB locally on very low power..vertical. We need to fabricate ourselves some horizontal antennas for this. I have a home made quad four element beam with vertical and horizontal elements. I need to get it up in the air. I am planning to put it at his direction without a rotor...for now. He is about 17 miles from me simplex. We meet on a repeater and then QSY to another simplex frequency....when we can in SSB mode.

    For 75 meters or 60 meters a dipole antenna properly erected should do it. Dipoles are simple.

    I run a 300 foot loop antenna with a tuner here. It works well on all the bands and will even tune 6 meters.

    A tuner is a good idea. You need not spend a lot of money on a tuner if you don't run a lot of power. Most of the inexpensive ones are made for less than 300 watts...so they will do fine with most barefoot radios.

    My .02,

    Orangetom
    Last edited by orangetom1999; 05-10-2016 at 11:38 AM.

  10. #10
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    I would forget about relying on repeaters.
    Grid could be down.
    Most of the repeaters are owned by the HAMS themselves, are they hooked up to a reliable backup power source?

    I do not want any type of antenna sticking up at 40 or even 20 feet.
    As I have said earlier, I had just rather listen to what is going, both on HF and 2m.

    Then again if an EMP, have to cover for that also (tube radio).

    On HF, I would prefer to run a long wire with a tuner.
    Easy to put up and take down. You really don't need much wattage at HF to get out.

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