Kids are Not the Future of Ham Radio

ham radio kidsYou’ve heard it a million times: our kids are the future. That statement gets applied to almost everything, including amateur radio. How can you argue with an obvious fact like that?

But I am starting to think it is incorrect.

We’ve had really good success on creating new hams of all ages in our Technician License Class (at the Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association). We’ve been doing this for a while now and I think I am seeing a pattern emerge. We’ve been able to attract middle schoolers to the class and help them get their ham radio license. I’ve talked to many of them on the air. They’ve helped out with public service events. They seem to have fun playing with radios.

Then this thing called high school happens. The high school phase in the US is filled with tons of stuff to do: studying, homework, AP classes, science competitions, sports, dating, movies, driving and after school jobs. Way too much stuff. Ham radio starts to take a backseat to these normal high school activities. Then we don’t see the kids at the radio club meetings or chatting on the local repeater because they are busy doing other things. Have we lost them forever? Not sure.

High school is often followed by college which has its own set of challenges: a totally new environment, away from home, a new set of people, new studies, etc. There might be a ham radio club on campus but maybe not. If a kid is not off to college they are (hopefully) out doing something to establish themselves in this world. Eventually they emerge on the other side, get a job, get themselves established, sometimes with a spouse and maybe a kid or two. By this time they are 25 to 30 years old, depending on the individual.

I recently posted about the demographics of our students in the Tech License Class. The chart below shows the age distribution of our students from our most recent class. Hmmm, clearly most of our students are 30 or older. (Sorry, we have not collected age data with finer resolution.) This particular class is light on the under 18 crowd…sometimes we have a clump of kids in the mix.

chart1For whatever reason, it seems that most people find themselves in a situation as an adult that causes them to say “I want to get my ham radio license.” When asked why they want to get their ham license, the top response is always emergency/disaster communications, followed by backcountry communications, pursuing electronics as a hobby and learning about radio communications. I suspect that starting to be established in a community and having some disposable income also play a role.

My hypothesis is that the most effective way of growing a vibrant ham radio community is to target adults ages 25 to 40.

This age range is more equipped and ready to be ham radio operators and are still young enough that they will be around for a while. Of course, we still want to work with all age groups, including kids and retirees. We’ve all seen very young hams get the bug for ham radio early and carry it throughout their life. And we also see plenty of older folks get interested in the hobby as they approach or enter retirement. We don’t want to miss out on either of those groups.

So that’s my read on the situation. I’ve got some data to support my theory but I can’t really prove it. What do you think? What are you seeing in your ham radio community?

73, Bob KØNR

Where Are The New Technicians Coming From?

W0TLMWe just wrapped up our Technician license class sponsored by the Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association. Thirty people took the Technician exam with 27 passing (90%). Four people went on to pass the General exam.

We offer the class twice per year and it always fills to capacity. Invariably, we wonder “where are these new hams coming from?” and instituted a survey to try to find out. Here’s the data from the most recent class, which is typical of previous classes.


The class was almost all male (90%) and mostly above the age of 30. From time to time, we’ve had groups of Boy Scouts come through the class which shifts the age profile a bit lower.

chart1We ask about how they found out about the class. These responses overlap so we have them check all that apply. Most of these people find out about the class through normal “ham radio channels”, including the ARRL web site. A few people in the “other” category mentioned notices published in local weekly newspapers.

chart 2Here’s where it gets interesting. Why do they want to get their amateur radio license? Disaster and emergency communications continues to be the most common answer at almost 90%. This is followed by the closely-related Backcountry/Remote Communications (about 80%). About 60% of the respondents selected radio and electronics as a hobby. More than half said they want to learn about radio communications.

chart 3Not to be overlooked is the influence of family and friends at 45%. We often see family members of current radio hams that were badgered encouraged to get their radio license. We do see more than 20% that see a ham radio benefit to their involvement with fire, search and rescue, law enforcement and similar agencies.


Emergency and disaster preparedness rank high in the reasons why these people are interested in amateur radio. This may be fueled locally due to the recent devastating wildfires in Colorado. Many people experienced first hand what happens to the mobile phone and landline systems when disaster strikes. When All Else Fails. The other major motivation is the traditional hobby aspect of amateur radio. People like to learn about technology and have fun experimenting with it. Lately, this has taken the form of the Maker Movement.

73, Bob K0NR

HF Slacker Operation for CQ WW SSB

The CQ Worldwide DX SSB contest was last weekend and I applied my signature HF Slacker™ operating methodology to this event. Most of the HF gear I have is kept at our cabin in the mountains but I had to be at the house this weekend due to some commitments. I decided to apply Field Day principles and rig up whatever I could with equipment on hand.

FT-847I dug out the Yaesu FT-847 transceiver, an MFJ antenna tuner and a half-size G5RV antenna to configure a basic HF station. Using a fishing pole to cast a steel washer over a tall tree in the back yard, I rigged up the antenna between the tree and the house. The G5RV is a compromise antenna…I’d much rather have something like a trap or fan dipole. But it’s what I had on hand, so I made it work. The impedance presented by this antenna is all over the map, so a decent antenna tuner is a must.

G5RV editI started out on 15m with a few contacts to Europe and Central America. Later I moved up to 10m and made even more contacts there. I was mostly searching around for the best DX but still working a few stateside stations. Later in the afternoon, the bands swung towards the west and I managed to work KH7CW and JR3NZC before going QRT for the day.

Sunday morning brought more propagation, first to Europe, then the Caribbean and South America. The high point was working AHØBT in the Mariana Islands and VK2GGC in Australia. AHØBT was not real strong, maybe S5 at my location so I thought I’d struggle to punch through the noise and QRM on the band. However, it only took a couple of calls to make the contact. That’s what I like about the 10m band!

I used the N1MM logging program during the contest. A snapshot of the log is shown below.CQ WW SSB 2015 K0NR LogI only worked the contest intermittently on Saturday and Sunday, maybe 5 or 6 hours total operating time. Still, I managed to work 49 countries and 30 CQ Zones. That’s half way to DXCC on one weekend with a very basic HF station. Radio contests stimulate activity and DX contests bring out the DX. I point this out to encourage others to give it a try, even if they don’t have huge antennas on a tower and a linear amplifier.  Almost all of my contacts were on 15m and 10m, which tend to be more productive when conditions cooperate. Twenty meters gets jammed with high power stations so it is often tough going for the little pistols.

 Band     QSOs     Pts  Zone  Country
    14       2       3    2    2
    21      30      70   13   21
    28      52     136   15   26
 Total      84     209   30   49
Score: 16,511

Another weekend of having fun messing around with radios. Even if I’m an HF Slacker™. :-)

73, Bob K0NR

Digital Voice Balkanization

Digital transmissionWouldn’t it be cool if we had one digital communications format for the VHF/UHF amateur bands with all equipment manufacturers offering compatible products? The basic modulation and transport protocol would be standard with manufacturers and experimenters  able to innovate on top of that basic capability. There would be plenty of room to compete based on special features but all radios would interoperate at a basic level. You know, kind of like analog FM.

Yeah, we don’t have that. :-(

73, Bob K0NR

Graphic: Adapted from

Religion and Ham Radio

300px-International_amateur_radio_symbol.svgWe need to get the religion out of ham radio. No, I am not talking about the HF nets that support missionaries or similar activities. (Those people might actually be doing something good for the world.) I am talking about the religious debates concerning new technology…this technology is better than that technology.

Amateur radio is a technical hobby, one based on technology, hobbyist pursuits and mutual interest. One might think that this means issues are looked at objectively and discussions are based on logic, scientific principles and facts. Of course, this is completely wrong. What often shows up in ham radio are religious debates about technology or operating modes.

Here’s a definition of Religion:

a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.

You can tell when you are stuck in a religious debate…the facts quickly fade and statements like “this is the right way to do it” become louder. Underneath this is a fundamental belief trying to come out that the person may not even be aware they have.

A long running example of a religious debate is Linux versus Windows. On the surface, people argue about which one has more defects, which one is more secure and which one ultimately serves their needs better. Underneath the surface is the religious belief: software should be free, Microsoft is evil, etc. Then there are those Mac enthusiasts (you know who you are)….these folks tend to act like a cult as they attempt to convert other people to their group. (Where is the line between enthusiast and cult member?)

The latest one on the ham radio front is the debate over digital technology in the VHF and higher bands: D-STAR versus DMR (and now Fusion). The debate starts out rational with a discussion of the merits of each but soon the deeply-held beliefs come out: D-STAR is bad because ICOM is pushing it, DMR is good because it is the commercial standard, D-STAR is good because it is an amateur radio standard, D-STAR uses a proprietary vocoder chip so it is bad, etc. Then don’t forget the guys that say “all digital is bad, analog FM is good.”

Again, you can tell when the religion kicks in because the facts start to fade and the beliefs rise to the surface. Usually, these arguments can’t be resolved because you can’t really debate beliefs. What you get instead are flame wars on the various email groups.

What other religious debates are out there? Android versus iOS, Open Source Software versus Commercial Software, My favorite rig versus Your favorite rig, … what else?

-73, Bob K0NR

This post is recycled and updated from a 2007 post. Some things never change.

New Satellite (Fox-1A/ AO-85) is Operational

amsatCongratulations to AMSAT for the successful launch and initial deployment of the Fox-1A amateur radio satellite.This bird has been designated AO-85 and has an FM transponder on board (435.180 MHz uplink, 145.980 MHz downlink).

I have not heard or worked this satellite yet but early reports indicate that it has a strong signal on the downlink. So start out by trying to hear the bird on 145.980 MHz. To find out when it will be overhead, use the AMSAT pass prediction page or your favorite satellite tracking software.

Download the Special Issue of the AMSAT Journal to get the full story.

73, Bob K0NR

What’s Wrong With the ARRL?

Every so often a blog posting takes on the topic of “the ARRL needs to change.” A recent one came from Dan KB6NU, referencing some worthwhile ideas he has encountered via Rotary International. (I like Dan’s blog and read it fairly consistently.) Whenever I see this kind of article, my brain immediately thinks:

The ARRL is the worst US national amateur radio organization, except when compared to all others.

Yeah, its easy to criticize the ARRL, but it is the only game in town in terms of a national organization. And they do a lot of good for amateur radio and probably don’t get sufficient credit for that. (I should point out that Dan is very clear that he just wants to see the ARRL improve, especially in attracting new hams. I believe him and I share that motivation.)

Amateur radio is not really one hobby, it is a collection of hobbies and activities. We’ve got CW-enthusiasts, QRP folks, Emcomm volunteers, HF contesters, VHF contesters, tinkerers, 75m AM operators, repeater operators and on and on and on. Because the ARRL is a member-driven organization, it tries to balance these competing interests. Just listen to the random-vector criticism that spews forth: the ARRL is too focused on QRP, doesn’t do enough for QRP, only cares about HF, doesn’t do enough for HF, is against new digital modes, is always promoting new digital modes, thinks CW is the only way to go, gave us the No Code license, hung on to the Morse Code requirement too long. This list goes on and on. It really is impossible to keep everyone happy.

It is hard being the ARRL.

Like every large organization that I belong to, the ARRL is not perfect. But the good it does clearly outweighs the stuff I don’t like, so I enthusiastically support it. Said another way, I get enough benefit out of the membership to justify the dues. The key benefits for me are: QST magazine, Logbook of the World, contests, awards and representation with the FCC. QST is clearly the biggest benefit of membership and many people just view the membership fee as a magazine subscription.

A huge threat to an organization with such a print franchise is the shift from print to new media (video, web, blogs, podcasts, social). The ARRL web site has a lot of good information and most of the bugs have been worked out of the major redesign of a few years ago. They have a basic presence on twitter and podcasts. The ARRL has a youtube channel but the content is weak. At the same time, other people are putting out some good video content. Look at what HamNation, HamRadioNow, are doing. The ARRL is trailing in new media, which is an existential threat.

The ARRL is a long-lived institution and like most long-lived institutions they tend to be grounded in the past and are a bit old school in nature. Attracting newly licensed radio amateurs, especially Techs, is the big challenge for the ARRL. I don’t know what market research the ARRL does but I suggest they establish on on-going program that gets inside the heads of newer licensees and potential hams to understand how they view the ARRL. This requires an ongoing investment that is coupled to strategy. I’ve seen marketing pros do “voice of the customer” focus groups, interviews, surveys, etc. that bring customer needs to the surface so an organization can respond to changes that attract new customers members.

If you are an ARRL member, what can you do to change things? Your avenue to make your views known is via your Division Director, so I suggest you reach out to him or her. (Contact information is listed in the front of every QST.) Don’t be surprised if your voice is mixed in with a whole bunch of other people’s views…kind of like Congress :-)

If you are not a member and spend a substantial amount of time having fun messing around with radios, I encourage you to join the ARRL. You might like it.

That’s my view, what’s yours?

73, Bob K0NR

You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers

teacherK3NG has performed an important public service by tabulating the answers to the top ten amateur radio questions swirling about the interwebz. This will save thousands of hours for hams searching for this critical information.

Unfortunately, K3NG did not include the questions, so you will have to use your imagination. But it’s not difficult.

73, Bob K0NR

This Spewed Out of the Internet #31

0511-0701-3118-0930 This is another update on important stuff spewing forth from the interwebz. It has been a while since I’ve done this, so we’ve got some catching up to do.

The KØNR Radio Site has expanded to Facebook. “Like” us there.

Check out the statewide email list available to Colorado radio amateurs. Join us there to stay informed about regional events.

Grid locators are important for VHF/UHF operating. I came across this web site that does a good job of mapping the grids. Over at, I wrote a Shack Talk article that explains Simplex, Duplex, Offset and Split. Also, Stu WØSTU posted a very helpful article explaining NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) Antennas.

In June, Keysight Technologies donated some professional measurement software to the ARRL. Yeah, I had something to do with that.

From the Cheaters Gonna Cheat Department:

The Ham Hijinks crew continues to contribute some outstanding literary works stuff to the ham radio community. Recently, they’ve latched onto the theme of hams using cheap radios to not make any contacts on VHF:

Dodge uses Morse Code in one of their car commercials. Speaking of cars, check out Wired’s article: Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway.

Steve WGØAT created another great goat-enabled SOTA video, this one with Clay NF1R on Mount Herman.

I heard this song by Phil Collins on a the radio recently and I’m convinced it’s about the heartbreak of trying to work a rare DXpedition. Give a listen.

And then there’s this…a very well done video about ham radio that has lots of people talking.

Well, that’s all for now.

73, Bob K0NR

Meet the Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter

afci-receptacleYou are probably familiar with the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI), also called Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI), Residual-Current Device (RCD) and a few other names. While doing some electrical work for a family member, I discovered Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) in the breaker box. Having a genuine Electrical Engineering degree (two, actually), I’d like to believe that I am reasonably up to date on basic house wiring. But somehow AFCIs had escaped my attention, even though they started appearing in the National Electric Code over 10 years ago.

A bit of searching on the internet revealed that these newfangled devices are intended to detect arc faults are below the trip level of a normal circuit breaker. Think in terms of a frayed extension cord that arcs over, creating a fire hazard, but not exceeding the 15 ampere rating of a typical house circuit. As usual, the Wikipedia entry is a good place to start. AFCIs detect arcs by monitoring the current behavior throughout the 60 Hz cycle. There are characteristics in the waveform that indicate an arc condition exists, causing the AFCI to disconnect the circuit. This article goes into more technical detail if you are interested:

New Technology for Preventing Residential Electrical Fires: Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)

Just like GFIs, AFCIs are available for installation in the main breaker panel and for installation at the electrical outlet. The diagram below shows the block diagram of a typical single-phase AFCI. This is not your old school circuit breaker but a complex system that performs both arc and ground fault detection. As already mentioned, the arc detection is performed by sensing the current behavior. The ground fault detection senses the difference between the current leaving and returning to the device. If there is a significant mismatch between the two currents, a ground fault has occurred.

From New Technology for Preventing Residential Electrical Fires: Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)

From “New Technology for Preventing Residential Electrical Fires: Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)”

This post is just a quick introduction to AFCIs, with a USA perspective. Your local building codes are now or will soon be requiring AFCIs on new construction, so you’ll probably encounter them sooner or later. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association has a website with additional information:

73, Bob K0NR

A Few New Ham Radio Podcasts

podcast-clipartListening to podcasts has been part of my daily habit for almost a decade. I lean heavily towards audio podcasts (as opposed to video), so I can listen to them while driving. My smartphone is always loaded with hours of content on a variety of topics which is especially useful for international flights.

Podcasts come and go (or podfade) and recently I’ve noticed a few new ham radio podcasts. Well, they might not be all that new…perhaps I just woke up and noticed them. Anyway, I am passing them along in case you have not come across them.

The QSO Today Podcast by Eric 4Z1UG:

QSO Today is a weekly conversation between me,  Eric Guth, 4Z1UG, and my amateur radio operator guest. Each guest tells his or her’s ham radio story to the present time.  I select guests based on their contributions to the hobby through their publishing of articles and books on ham radio, their involvement in the creation of new technologies that enhance the hobby, and the role that they played to bring the amateur radio to others.

The Fo Time – The Other Ham Radio Podcast by Cale K4CDN:

It’s a new Podcast for the Up and Coming Amateur Radio Operator aka Ham Radio Operator. Whether you’re looking for the latest news, a different take on an idea, or just some good humor, Fo Time is the Podcast for you.

If you aren’t sure about the name, this might help.

The 100 Watts and a Wire by Christian KØSTH:

Created by Christian Cudnik, KØSTH in 2015, 100 Watts and a Wire is a program celebrating amateur radio through the eyes of a new ham. The show features topical conversation and interviews, news and an entertaining look at the adventures of a ham trying to figure it all out.

I’ve found all three of these podcasts to be well done and interesting. They all typically run about an hour long. Frankly, that’s a bit much for me, mostly because it does not fit my commute time. Not bad for an airplane ride, but too long for driving to work. More importantly, my smartphone is overflowing with interesting audio content, so I have to be selective.

Other Podcasts

I’ll mention a few other podcasts that deserve attention: The Ham Nation podcast has set a new standard for ham radio video podcasts. Hats off to Bob Heil and crew for their efforts. The Amateur Radio Newsline got its start by delivering audio programs via telephone for hams to play on their local repeater. Many repeaters still play their program but I get their feed via my smartphone. They continue to do an excellent job of stuffing interesting content into a 20-minute format. While not a ham radio podcast, This Week in Tech from TWiT remains a quality source of tech news and opinion (lots of opinion).

Give these podcasts a listen and let me know what you think.

73, Bob K0NR

Colorado 14er Event: Mount Antero (W0C/SR-003)

For the 2015 Colorado 14er Event, Joyce K0JJW and I activated Mount Antero (W0C/SR-003) on the 2m and 70 cm bands. Alan NM5S joined us on the summit, operating mostly HF plus some 2m fm.

We took our Jeep Wrangler up the moderate 4WD road and parked at 13,800 feet. This makes for a very manageable hike to the 14,269 foot summit. Of course, you can always choose to start the hike from lower on the mountain, but you’ll end up walking along the road. This web site provides a good overview of the 4WD road.  The web site and are additional sources of summit info.

Here’s a short video of our operation on the summit.

Here’s the K0NR log on the 2m band, fm and ssb:

August 2, 2015 K0NR Log, time in UTC
15:09     144MHz     FM     K0JJW     
15:13     144MHz     FM     W0CP     
15:16     144MHz     FM     KC5JKU     Mt Elbert 
15:17     144MHz     FM     KD0WHB     Grays Peak
15:21     144MHz     FM     N0XDW      Pikes Peak
15:37     144MHz     FM     KD5HGD     Mt Elbert 
15:42     144MHz     FM     KD0MRC     
15:42     144MHz     FM     KE0DMT     
15:44     144MHz     FM     NQ0L       Franktown 
15:45     144MHz     FM     KE0EUO     Mt Democrat 
15:46     144MHz     FM     K7SO       Mt Democrat 
15:50     144MHz     SSB    KD0YOB     W0C/PR-005 
15:53     144MHz     SSB    W0BV       Buena Vista
15:53     144MHz     SSB    K0YV       Buena Vista
15:57     144MHz     SSB    W0STU      Monument
16:06     144MHz     FM     KD0WHB     Torreys 
16:13     144MHz     FM     KI6YMZ     Mt Elbert 
16:19     144MHz     FM     KE0EKT     Mt Elbert 
16:29     144MHz     FM     WZ0N     
16:29     144MHz     FM     KE0DAL     
16:31     144MHz     FM     WO9S     
16:33     144MHz     FM     K0UO     
17:10     144MHz     FM     KD2FHB     Pikes Peak

I used my Yaesu FT-817 driving a 3 element Arrow yagi antenna (shown in video) for both FM and SSB 2m operation. It was a great day on the mountain with quite a few Summit-to-Summit (S2S) SOTA contacts. See you next year on a Colorado mountaintop!

73, Bob K0NR

2014 September VHF Contest Certificate

The certificate for my entry in the 2014 ARRL September VHF Contest arrived in the mail last week. Given that it has been 11 months after the contest, I had pretty much forgotten about the effort. The ARRL VHF contest certificates look great, even if they do take a while to get issued. It turns out this contest entry was the combination VHF contest plus Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation from Mt Herman that I blogged about.

K0NR 2014 Sept VHF Contest AwardMy blog posting said my score was 767 but the actual score was 780. Not a big score by any standard but not bad for ~4 hours of operating on a Saturday afternoon. As I suspected, this sets a new record for the Single Operator Portable category in the Colorado Section. What I did not expect is placing sixth in the overall contest (for my category). For the most part, this was just a really fun SOTA activation that included some VHF contest action.

Summary: The score doesn’t matter; any day having fun with ham radio is a good day.

73, Bob K0NR

West Buffalo Peak (W0C/SP-018)

Buffalo Peaks are a pair of 13er summits that stick up quite prominently on the west side of South Park in Colorado. West Buffalo Peak is the taller of the pair (13,326 feet) and the SOTA summit (W0C/SP-018). I’ve had my eye on these peaks for a while, wanting to climb then and also do a SOTA activation. Here’s a winter view of the summits, as seen from the south near Trout Creek Pass.

Buffalo Peaks - small

Buffalo Peaks in the Winter

There’s quite a bit of good information on the peaks at

Joyce K0JJW and I hiked in from the north, off of Buffalo Peaks Road (FS 431). The trailhead is not marked and is easy to miss but this trip report on the web site is very helpful. Pay special attention to the photo of the trailhead. This trip report describes doing both East and West Buffalo in a bit of a loop. We opted to focus on just West Buffalo, skipping East Buffalo.

Joyce K0JJW on the trail

Joyce K0JJW on the trail.

Here’s my favorite hiking partner on the trail near the trailhead. The “trail” is not very well marked, following various old logging roads.  We roughly followed the route indicate on Once we cleared the trees we had a good view of both peaks and aimed for West Buffalo. We did make a critical error by going for the summit too early and got onto some very steep talus. Not fun. So the main route finding advice I am going to provide is make sure you approach the summit from the (more) gentle saddle on the northwest side. I marked this waypoint (N 38.99444, W 106.12866) as a good point to aim for on the way up so that you stay far enough west.

Once on the summit, I worked the following stations on 146.52 MHz: KD0MRC, KJ6NES, AF5KS, W9GYA, KE0DMT, W0BV and K5UK.

Bob and Joyce Buffalo Peak

Bob K0NR and Joyce K0JJW on West Buffalo Peak, with East Buffalo Peak in the background.

On the descent we stayed west of the route marked on the trip report with the intent of having an easier route. However, mostly what we did was encounter additional off trail hiking, so that is probably not recommended. It would have been better to just retrace our ascent route. Eventually, we found a different trail that led back to FS 431, popping out about a quarter mile west of where we parked. I had the location of our Jeep marked in the GPS, so it was easy to backtrack to the vehicle.

This was the first SOTA activation for West Buffalo Peak, so it was great to get that in the log. Thanks to everyone that got on the air to work me.

73, Bob K0NR

The Ten Essentials for Hiking (and SOTA Activations)

hike-shoe-printMost backcountry hikers are familiar with the Ten Essentials that you should take with you whenever you head into the wilderness. Over the past few years, I noticed that I was getting a bit sloppy with regard to what is actually in my pack when I head out on the trail. This hit home one day when my GPS battery went dead. I fumbled around to find my compass which was supposed to be in my pack. Well, it was in my pack, the other one that I left at home.

This caused me to review the list of ten essentials to make sure I had the right stuff in my kit. A search on the internet revealed that the classic list of ten has been modified and augmented by various people to make it better. (Innovation runs rampant on the interwebz, you know.) One of the better resources I found was this page on the REI web site, which explains how the Classic Ten Essentials have been updated to the Ten Essential Systems:

  1. Navigation (map and compass)
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

Read through the REI web page to get the fine points of this system approach. I won’t repeat that information here. They also include a Beyond the Top Ten list which calls out the need for:

Communication device: Two-way radios, a cell phone or a satellite telephone can add a measure of safety in many situations.

Of course, what they really mean is an amateur radio transceiver and antenna but they probably can’t say that in print due to licensing issues. (Not everyone in the backcountry has an FCC ham license. I know, they all should have an amateur license but many don’t…very hard to understand :-) )

So how are you doing with your Ten Essentials list? Are you consistent in taking along the right stuff in your pack? Any tips to share with hiking hams?

73, Bob K0NR

Summits On The Air at Central States VHF

Recently I had the opportunity to speak about portable, mountaintop VHF operating at the Central States VHF Society Conference in Denver. A key part of my presentation was the Summits On The Air program, portable VHF equipment, VHF contests and other operating events.

CSVHFSThe presentation slides are available here in pdf format. I also submitted a paper on the same topic to the conference a paper on the same topic to the conference proceedings.

73, Bob K0NR

Coming Soon: 146.52 MHz in ARRL VHF Contests

arrlnewlogo-transI’ve been known to whine complain comment about the prohibition against using 146.52 MHz during ARRL radio contests. For example, see The One Frequency You Should Never Use on Field Day and Mt Herman: SOTA plus VHF Contest.

During my presentation on Mountaintop VHF for SOTA at the Central States VHF Society Conference in Denver today, I mentioned this is an issue. Basically, I pointed out that Summits On The Air (SOTA) operators often default to the 2m fm calling frequency, which is prohibited for use in the ARRL contests. This gets in the way when mountaintop stations do a combination SOTA and VHF Contest operation.

During my presentation, Brian Mileshosky N5ZGT, ARRL Director of the Rocky Mountain Division, reported that the ARRL has decided to remove the prohibition of 146.52 MHz in VHF contests. It will take some time for this to work its way into the actual rules, so stayed tuned for further developments.

This is great news…a cleanup of an unnecessary impediment to VHF contesting. Now, will the CQ Worldwide VHF Contest do the same?

73, Bob K0NR

Added 21 Oct 2015, here’s the ARRL announcement:
Use of 146.52 MHz FM Simplex Frequency Cleared for ARRL Contests

2015 Colorado 14er Event

Colo14er SOTA logo smallAmateur Radio operators from around Colorado will be climbing many of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains and Summits On The Air (SOTA) peaks in an effort to communicate with other radio amateurs across the state and around world. Join in on the fun on the first full weekend in August and see how many of the mountaintop stations you can contact. The prime operating hours are on Sunday August 2nd from 9 AM to noon local time (1500 to 1800 UTC), but activity can occur throughout the weekend.

Now including Summits On the Air (SOTA), which adds over 1700 potential summits! If you aren’t up to climbing a 14er, there are many other summits to choose from (with a wide variety of difficulty). See the W0C SOTA web page at

Radio operators who plan to activate a summit should set an “Alert” on the web site. To subscribe to the “ham14er” email list, visit the yahoo groups site at Also, be sure to check out the event information at For climbing info on the Colorado 14ers, see the excellent resources at

Frequencies used during the event
Activity can occur on any amateur band including HF and VHF. The 2m fm band plan uses a “primary frequency and move up” approach. The 2m fm primary frequency is 147.42 MHz.  At the beginning of the event, operators should try calling on 147.42 MHz. As activity increases on that frequency, move on up the band using the 30 kHz steps. Don’t just hang out on 147.42 MHz…move up! The next standard simplex frequency up from 147.42 MHz is 147.45 MHz, followed by 147.48, 147.51, 147.54 MHz.

Frequency (MHz)
 147.42 Primary 2m FM Frequency, then up in 30 kHz steps
 223.5 Primary 222 MHz FM frequency
 446.000 Primary 70 cm FM frequency
 446.025 Alternate 70 cm FM frequency
 52.525 Primary 6m FM frequency
 144.200 2m SSB calling frequency
 50.125 6m SSB calling frequency
 14.060 20m CW Frequency
 14.345 20m SSB Frequency
 18.092 17m CW Frequency
 18.158 17m SSB Frequency
 21.060 15m CW Frequency
 21.330 15m SSB Frequency
 28.060 10m CW Frequency
 28.350 10m SSB Frequency
 Other Bands/Modes:
 Standard calling frequencies and/or band plans apply.

Warning: Climbing mountains is inherently a dangerous activity. Do not attempt this without proper training, equipment and preparation.

Sponsored by The Colorado 14er Event Task Force

Use SSB For Better VHF Range on SOTA Peaks

Previously, I had written about how the use of SSB made the difference while activating Prospect Mountain (W0C/FR-069) for Summits On The Air (SOTA). This time I was the SOTA chaser, trying to work Brad WA6MM as he activated two peaks near Breckenridge, Colorado.

Bald Mountain to Black Forest (click to expand)

Bald Mountain to Black Forest (click to expand)

It was the Saturday of ARRL Field Day, so I planned to be out at our FD site in Black Forest. Brad and I had coordinated in advance and pretty much concluded that it would be difficult or impossible to make the contact on FM. Brad decided to take his FT-817 along with a homebrew 4-element yagi to give him 2m SSB capability. Out at the FD site, I saw that Brad was spotted on Bald Mountain (W0C/PR-019) via SOTAwatch early in the morning, so I borrowed the FD VHF station to try to work him. It was an FT-897 pushing 50 watts to a 4-element yagi up about 30 feet. I heard Brad clearly on 144.200 MHz (SSB calling frequency) and we made the contact.

I estimate that the contact was about 75 miles. I did not do a careful analysis of the terrain but the the signal had to get over the Rampart Range and quite a few other mountains to get from Black Forest to Bald Mountain. The summit of Bald Mountain is at 13,684 feet, so that certainly helps.

A few hours later, Brad showed up on the summit of Boreas Mountain (W0C/SP-030), another 13er near Breckenridge. By now, the Field Day station was in use, so I pulled out my own FT-817 and a 3-element Arrow yagi. Holding it in my hand, I pointed it towards Boreas Mountain and tuned to 144.200 MHz USB. This time Brad was even weaker but still readable, so we completed the contact.

In both cases, Brad was fair to good copy but just above the noise, I am sure that using FM would not have gotten the job done. For serious VHF work, 75 miles is not that great of a distance but we were running QRP power levels with small yagi antennas.

Brad and I are both concluding we need to encourage the use of SSB for 2m SOTA here in Colorado. It is common to end up on a high peak in the Colorado backcountry and not have enough range to reach the larger population centers. Sure there are more people active on 2m FM, but if no one is within range, it does not matter.

Congratulations to WA6MM for first activations of two more challenging summits in Colorado and thanks for 18 chaser points!

73, Bob K0NR

Announcing: Oct 2015 WØTLM Technician License Class

W0TLMHam Radio Two-Day License Class

Sat Oct 3 and Sat Oct 10 (8 AM to 5 PM) 2015
Location: Black Forest Fire Station 1, Black Forest, CO

The Technician license is your gateway to the world-wide excitement of Amateur Radio …

  • Earn your ham radio Technician class radio privileges
  • Pass your FCC amateur radio license exam right in class on the second day
  • Multiple-choice exam, No Morse Code Required
  • Live equipment demonstrations
  • Learn to operate on the ham bands, 10 Meters and higher
  • Learn to use the many VHF/UHF FM repeaters in Colorado
  • Find out how to participate in emergency communications

There is a non-refundable $25 registration fee for the class.

In addition, students must have the required study guide and read it before attending the two-day class: Technician License Course $20.95
(make sure you get the most recent edition of this book, updated for the new FCC exam questions)

Advance registration is required (no later than one week before the first session, earlier is better! This class usually fills up weeks in advance.)

To register for the class, contact: Bob Witte KØNR
Email: or Phone: 719 659-3727

Sponsored by the Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association
For more information on amateur (ham) radio visit