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FIeld trip with MFJ-9200 station

Discussion in 'Survival Communications' started by DKR, Oct 26, 2015.

  1. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    So, this last week (ending 9/24) I headed for the Hill Country of central Tejas to do some ham radio operating. Lots of nice trees on nice hills. What could possibly go wrong?

    Hurricane Patricia.

    I got in some op time on 20 meters Tues and that night on 40 meters – which was cooking. Even a bit on 30 meters the next day before weather forced me to tear everything down. The biggest part of this trip was really focused on:

    1) Pack my MFJ-9200 w 20,30 and 40 meter band modules, battery, key, etc and a limited antenna setup packed as carry-on commercial airline transport.

    2) See how little I could take and still operate on more than one band.

    3) Confirm my antenna/tuner setup was operational and also up for the rigors of field use.

    4) Weigh the final loadout/setup so as to know much all this fun would cost my aching back....

    5) Make notes as to what I will want to add to the load-out for future trips.

    I was also introduced to a joint called Mightyfine Hamburgers – any joint that sells beer with their burgers gets an A+ in my book. The chow was great and the place was a fun experience.

    Weights were recorded from a digital scale that is accurate to + or - 1/8 ounce. Yes, it also had a gram scale, but since this was in Texas....metric didn't seem right.

    Packed up, small case is all of the antenna components and two extra band modules.

    Opened. Everything needed to operate but the antenna & tuner.

    MFJ-9200 w/installed band module 12.5 oz.
    The MFJ site claims 7.5 oz weight for the radio. I weighed my band modules separately – they ran from ½ to 5/8 oz in their 35 mm film containers. I cannot explain the seeming 5 oz difference.

    Sideswiper key - 1.375 oz, with the cable to connect to radio - 2 oz

    SOTA Tuner 2.75 oz w/ adapter, 3.25 oz. Adapter required.
    (Hendricks 40m - 15m SOTA Halfwave Tuner)

    Battery pack (8xAA) - 7.625 oz – with power cable, 8.625 oz

    30 meter antenna (wire) 1.75 oz 20/40 m ant est at 3 oz.

    Earbuds .5 oz

    Pelcan 1060 carry case (waterproof) 15.125 oz. antenna carry case 3.75 oz

    Total carried onto airplane - call it 50 oz. all told. 3.125 pounds.

    Note – SOTA external tuner weighs less than most internal tuners. The carry case(s) were over 1/3 of the total 'system' weight. I could cut some weight by going with 4 x AA lithium cells for 14.8 VDC supply at a ~3 oz saving, but then would have the hassle if using commercial air transport. With the manual ant tuner, I'm kinda stuck with separate 30 and 40/20 meter wires. Other than finding lighter carry cases, I don't see how I can strip much more weight.

    Future stuff
    Collapsible fishing pole. Won't always have trees, so....probably going with a fiberglass pole vice carbon fiber and eat the weight penalty for the added 'ruggedness'.
    10 x AA NiMH battery pack and solar panel. I have both, just didn't take them.

    Operating notes
    When I set up an antenna, in this case, a an End Fed Half Wave, I put a splice in the antenna wire using a so-called Western Union wrap. I'm always careful where I string up the antenna, but just in case, this splice acts like a 'human fuse'. Which is to say, if someone wanders into the wire, it will 'break' before anyone gets hurt. Something everyone should think about unless you are able to always get your wires way up high.

    The SOTA tuner worked. I'm not done playing with it, but it is operational. Tuned the 20M EFHW fine business and also worked well using the same wire on 40 meters, so I've finally gotten the antenna parts sorted out. I have a second wire for 30 Meters and a stub if the setup requires a counterpoise.

    Pic of human fuse splice in antenna

    Station set up and ready to go. The key is a Whiterook MK-32 Mini SideSwiper Cootie Key. Packs nicely, works well enough for travel or field ops. For fixed station, not so much. I may wind up with an all metal key, still looking at this part of the station.


    Yes that is a barstool. You operate where you want to, I'll operate where I want to... The arrival of the remains of Hurricane Patricia put an end to station ops almost as soon as I got started. Still, I did get some time on 20 M and snagged a K7, a KD5, and an N9 in Wisconsin along with an A8. All good copy with just a bit over 5 watts from my end. They did the heavy lifting, but it worked.

    I scooted up the band to read the mail and ran across a QSO in progress with KA0KA (KAzeroKA -- check out his website, BTW) giving a demo on SSB4K software. Wow. With tailored filtering, his compressed audio sounded just like he was sitting across from me. Take the time to visit his site and listen to the audio files. Very good stuff.

    So – success. Got the station through as commercial air carry on, set up and operated on 40, 30 and 20 Meters, if only briefly and had a lot of fun (not) watching the local area flood out... I need to find a better carry case setup owing to the weight cost, but otherwise, this thing is ready to rock!

    The MFJ-9200 represents a solid value for a lightweight CW (w/ SSB reception) station rig. No internal adjustments to make. Just set the operating frequency, add resonant antenna and power, a key and you are on the air. Packs small enough to carry easily, not to hard on the battery pack and the receiver is both very sensitive and quite. All in all, a good value in new ham radio gear.

    PM me if you have any questions.
    3M-TA3, Georgia_Boy, Ganado and 3 others like this.
  2. stg58

    stg58 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+ Founding Member

    Nice review, Thanks
  3. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Sounds interesting. You could lose more weight by going AAA instead of AA, if you chose to.
  4. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    I suppose so, but in the end, how much weight do I save vs operating time lost with smaller batteries....
    The low hanging fruit is the carry case(s), then battery pack and then the rest....

    A nice LiPo 4S battery (2250mAh) is just 219g (7.7 oz), pretty good power density. No weight saving tho.
    Lithium Ion batteries can be had at 3300 mAh per cell, and at 3.6 VDC per cell, a 4 call pack would weigh in at around 12 oz.
    Both would be problematic for air travel.

    NiMH AAA can be had @ 1000 mAh, but I would like to have 10 cells for 12 VDC (I have this in AA) and at 1 oz for each cell, I have a 10 oz battery pack. No gain, a loss actually.

    I've gone around and around, 10 x AA NiMH or 8 x AA alkaline... I have both, just carried the 8 pack for the smaller size...

  5. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    If you are going for longest run time, then leave the solar charger out of the equation. With a solar charger, run time really doesn't matter much, unless you will be listening all night.
    What is the output of the charger vs requirements of the radio? Run the charger and battery pack in parallel for the feed. (If 12vt) or add one of these (or similar) for charging the batteries as you use them . http://Amazon.com: Sunforce 50012 1.8-Watt Solar Battery Maintainer: Automotive

    Look into 23A rechargeable batteries. They are 12vt each and smaller than a AA battery. Build your battery pack sized to your run time.
  6. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    @DKR Operations on a bar stool!! love it! If I ever get into ham radio I'm following you around cuz you look like you have more fun ;)
    Really nice report!
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