Ever since I managed to get a SDR dongle running on a tiny Dell notebook I’ve been itching to get up on a hill with it. Being busier than usual recently and the crappy wet weather (along with a week long bout of Flu 🙁 ) has rubbed out those plans more than a few times, but finally managed to pop out for a few hours today and give the portable setup a whirl.
Even though the location used isn’t insanely remote, it still removes a big lump of the man made noise that comes from modern living and gave me the chance to have a crack at some of the weaker SSB signals found on the 2m ham band. I also know that its possible to sit down on one of the handy benches without being bothered by anyone prying at what I’m up to (which can be very annoying).
As most of this session was going to concentrate on (or around) 144 MHz I choose not to overthink the antenna and plumped for stripping the core out of 2 meters of RG58 coax and connecting it straight to the SDR dongles pigtail.
Making sure the antenna was doing enough of a job before leaving the house (and a wasted trip) was done by having a quick listen to the VHF air band and making sure it was picking up planes calling into my local airport. Also packed some strong garden twine that’s proved great over the years for stringing up portable antennas.
Tying the bottom end of the coax off on the back of the bench and the other end to the trees just behind gave a (almost) straight vertical antenna.
Giving that it was a Sunday afternoon I was expecting a lot more SSB on 144 MHz and even though I sat there until the sun started to completely disappear, apart from a few brief bursts around the side-band calling channel there wasn’t a lot going on.
That said I had no reference (like another radio) to work out if everything was working properly but all the local ham repeaters and a good deal of simplex stuff was coming in fine. Still worth the hour walk down to this spot just to access repeaters that I can’t get from the house along with a good crack at the PMR band between 166-174 MHz (you’d be surprised how much activity there is on this band once you gain a bit of height).
I’m Still hampered a little bit by the fact that HDSDR doesn’t fit the screen properly and mentally added this problem to the list of ‘stuff’ that needs to get fixed ASAP. Other than that I’m very happy with the setup and looking forward to dryer/warmer days when it will get dragged to a higher altitude along with a more efficient antenna system.
Its no mistake that half the weight in my summer wild camping kit comes from radio gear with radio scanners, SW radio and CB all getting a trip up mountains for the lovely range bonus that gives.
Please Bring Back the Summer
I’ve always been an outdoor person and go a bit mental if stuck in the house for too long and could have happily chilled out with this SDR setup until I’d drained every last bit of juice from the battery if it was only just a little warmer. Luckily the sun was directly on me while the thick hedge behind done a great job of blocking most of the wind.
This weather is great for walking around in because you hardly break a sweat but sit down for more than 20 minutes and the cold finds its way into your bones no matter what your wearing.
I’ll leave you with a view from the hill I spent the afternoon on 🙂