What does it take to work 100 Countries? Not Much!

Even though I have a really modest station at the moment, over the last year I have been able to work over 100 DXCC Entities without too much difficulty.  Today I though I’d share the details of my basic setup; hopefully to inspire other would be Hams or current Hams who don’t use HF to give it a go.  The following gear is all you need to get your Basic Mixed DXCC (at least from Australia), and the total cost should be less than ~$1750 USD:

  • Icom IC-7200 Transceiver
  • Icom AH-4 Remote Antenna Tuner (a remote tuner significantly minimises loss in feed lines)
  • ~5 Metres of 1″ Aluminium Tube (for element)
  • ~100 Metres of 1.5mm^2 Wire (for radials)
  • 1 Star Picket for the ground
  • Miscellaneous insulating material and a few hose clamps.
  • 32 Ferrite Beads (for tuner control cable & feed line)
  • Coaxial Cable (I used Belden LL-195)

The Icom IC-7200 is a great value budget transceiver; it does everything a new Ham could want, and more.  Some standout features are: easy to use IF DSP with dedicated knobs, built in USB for CAT & Audio (digital modes are easy to use), control for Icom AH-4 Tuner, rugged and low cost.

The AH-4 is a wonderful tuner, and the fact it is mounted at the antenna means that loss due to high vSWR (which mostly takes place in the feed line) is significantly reduced.  Not only is it one of the smallest on the market, it also matches a very wide range, and works perfectly with a vertical element of a random wire.  I have found performance to be excellent when used with a vertical element, as the take off angle is a lot better for DX work than a low height random wire.  The only catch is, unless you put ferrite beads on your feed line and control cable, you may run into issues with RFI in the shack, although this is not an issue with the tuner itself.

All in all, the aforementioned basic setup has brought me a lot of joy; I also used a similar setup in Cambodia and managed 70 DXCC entities in 6 weeks.  If the aluminium tube is substituted for a fibreglass telescopic pole with a wire taped to it, the setup makes an excellent portable station, however these poles are best not used in a permanent installation as they will not last as long as an equivalent aluminium tube and are more expensive.

Here are a few photos of the gear (the radio photo I borrowed from Google Images, but mine is the same):

photo 320970

The moral of the story is you don’t need to be rich to enjoy DXing on HF!

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Health Considerations for Backpackers & DXPeditioners

To be clear, I am not a Medical Doctor, so the following is an account of my personal experiences, the health situation in Cambodia, and precautions I’ll be taking in the future.

Background

Whilst operating in Cambodia, especially when operating from Koh Rong Island (IOTA AS-133) I was frequently bitten by all kinds of insects, namely:

  • Bed Bugs
  • Sand flies
  • Mosquitos

While Dengue Fever has been present in Cambodia, it was not endemic while I was there, so I (nor anyone else) placed too much emphasis on protection from insect bites.  Most of the time, I wore a singlet top, shorts and flip flops.  I was bitten all over the place, and as it turned out, the local insects produced greater allergic reactions than whenever I suffer insect bites back home in Australia.

Scratching produced wounds, and the wounds became infected with various results.  Read more for the whole story and advice to prevent experiencing the same issues I did, but warned medical issues are discussed. 🙂

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Diamond X510 (X510MA) Antenna Repair Part 2 (Capacitors)

Last night I got an email from John Isabella, K1IF, stating that he’d read my blog regarding my Diamond X510, and was wondering if I knew what voltage the capacitors inside were rated at.

I confessed that I didn’t, as mine did not seem to be in need of replacing, but with a bit of math we were able to ascertain some suitable ratings, namely 300V rated 2pf capacitors.  If you’re interested in the math, continue reading.

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Antenna Notes #101; Or What Every HAM Really Needs To Know..

Just thought I’d share some notes I’ve made regarding Antenna Theory.  Believe it or not, it took many hours of scouring the web and consulting books such as the ARRL Antenna Handbook to come up with this list.

  • Antenna Resonance is the point / frequency at which an antenna produces a purely resistive load.  That is to say, there is no complex impedance component, eg 73 + j0 Ohms.
  • Non Resonant antennas do not necessarily make bad performers, but care must be taken to ensure that matching components  are correctly placed and efficient.
  • Antenna Efficiency is directly related to how much ‘radiation resistance’ an antenna has.  The shorter an antenna with respect to the driven frequency, the less radiation resistance it will have.
  • Maximizing the current across the element (linear metal segment eg, whip) of an electrically short antenna will result in the greatest possible efficiency (all other things equal).  This is achieved by correct placement of matching components.
  • ‘Short’ Antennas (with respect to wavelength) present a capacitive impedance, they require the use of an inductor or ‘loading coil’ for matching.  The optimal location electrically is at the top.
  • ‘Long’ Antennas present an inductive impedance, they require the use of a capacitor or ‘condenser’ for matching.  The optimal location electrically is at the top.

And that concludes the basics.  Next time we’ll explore the affect matching has on antennas, some of the tradeoffs & other design considerations.