VHF SOTA Activation (W0/ SP-081)

It was another great day for Summits On The Air (SOTA) activity. I hiked up to Kaufman Ridge HP (W0/SP-081) with Joyce K0JJW to do the first SOTA activation of that summit. This summit is just south of Kaufman Ridge North (W0/SP-085) mentioned in this post.

Unlike some of my previous SOTA activations, I actually kind of sort of planned this one. I had my Yaesu FT-60 HT with a decent omni antenna for 2 Meters (the MFJ-1714). I also took along the VX-8GR handheld for use as an APRS station. Note the innovative In The Tree mounting scheme for the FT-60:

On the way up, I heard Steve WG0AT on the summit of Mount Rosa (W0/FR-034) calling on 146.52 MHz. I gave a quick call to Steve to let him know I was hearing him but that I was not at the summit yet. About 20 minutes later, I was on top and worked Steve and his hiking partner Frank K0JQZ, for a summit-to-summit contact.

A call on 146.52 MHz got a reply from John N0EVH who was operating mobile. Then I worked Bill KD0PFF who was driving up a 4WD road to Red Cone Peak. Later, I worked his 4WD partner Stan KD0PFC. Fred WA0SIK, a regular in the various VHF contests, came up on five two to give me another contact. Then I got a call from Dave K0HTX who spends many weekends over on the other side of South Park. Finally, I caught Randy KN0TPC and Jeremy KD0MWT on 147.555 MHz, near Divide at a Boy Scout Camporee.

It was really cool to catch all these folks out having fun in the mountains. It was a glorious fall day and the aspen trees were at their peak fall color.

73, Bob K0NR

How Much Does That Second Band Cost?

I encourage newly licensed radio amateurs to go ahead and get a dual-band FM rig…handheld, mobile or both. I think the additional cost of the dualbander with both 2 Meters (146 MHz) and 70 cm (440 MHz) is justified by having the ability to operate on the additional ham band. I have noticed that the price of the single-band 2 Meter mobiles are pretty low, less than $200… a real bargain in terms of technology. This made me wonder what the price premium for the second band (70 cm) really is.

I pulled all of these prices from the same major ham radio web site, trying to keep some consistency among the price of the various models. (I ignored specials and coupon pricing.) I looked at a basic 2 Meter FM rig and any comparable dual band models from the same manufacturer. I tried to stick to the basic transceivers and not include models that had advanced features such as D-STAR and APRS in them.

The data is captured in the table below. Note that I differentiated between a single receiver (one frequency at a time) dual-band radio and a two receiver dual-band radio, since the latter variety is much more expensive. I calculated a percent premium for each of the dual-band transceivers, calculated as the percent increase in price over the single-band radio from the same manufacturer. I think this is the most objective way to describe the extra cost of a dual-band radio.

Transceiver Price Bands Percent Premium
Yaesu FT-2900R $185 2M
Yaesu FT-7900R $330 2M/70cm 78%
Yaesu FT-8800R $460 2M/70cm Dual Receiver 149%
ICOM IC-2300H $260 2M
ICOM IC-2820H $670 2M/70cm Dual Receiver 158%
Alinco DR-135T $170 2M
Alinco DR-635T $320 2M/70cm Dual Receiver 88%
Kenwood TM-281A $145 2M
Kenwood TM-V71A $395 2M/70cm Dual Receiver 172%

It is worth noting that only Yaesu and Alinco offer a single-receiver dual-band rig. These two radios are 78% and 88% more expensive than their single band counterparts (less than twice the cost). The two-receiver dual-band radios are consistently more expensive, with a price premium ranging from 149% to 172%. While these rigs are often described as having two radios in one, they are more than twice as expensive as a single-band radio.

Although I appreciate the extra utility of the two-receiver radios, it looks to me like the best value is with the single-receiver dual-band rigs.

What do you think?

73, Bob K0NR

Reminder: TechDay 2012 in Monument, CO

Just a quick reminder of TechDay 2012 coming up this Saturday. This event is designed to help the new Technician Licensee get started in amateur radio. However, everyone is welcome!

Come join us on Saturday, September 15th, 2012 (9:00 AM to 2:00 PM) at the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Administration Complex at 166 Second St. in beautiful Monument, CO for a half day workshop aimed primarily at the new Technician Licensees to help them get started in ham radio. While you’re here you’ll learn what it takes to be a ham radio operator, brush up on your DXing skills, test  your own ham radio equipment, check out some sweet mobile radio installations, and ask an Elmer “What’s so cool about 10 meters?”

Bring your questions, bring your radio and join us for TechDay!

More information is available here.

Note that TechDay is being held at the Tri-Lakes Fire Admin Complex in downtown Monument and not at one of the fire stations.

73, Bob K0NR

Ham Radio Action Next Weekend – Sept 8/9

There are three excellent ham radio activities going on this coming weekend. Check these out and see if there is an activity that catches your interest. This is written for people in Colorado but items #1 and #3 are North American wide.

  1. ARRL September VHF QSO Party – noon MDT on Saturday until 9 PM MDT on Sunday    http://www.arrl.org/september-vhf
  2. Colorado FM Sprint – a mini version of the September VHF QSO Party,
    using FM only on these bands: 146 MHz, 222 MHz and 440 MHz
    Saturday from noon to 7 PM MDT
    Suggested frequencies: 146.58, 146.55, 223.5, 446.000, 446.100 MHz FM simplex
  3. North American Summits On The Air (SOTA) Weekend
    SOTA activations all over North America
    Go here to see announced summit activations: http://www.sotawatch.org/
    VHF contacts are usually on 146.52 MHz
    (Note: this frequency is NOT allowed for contacts in the
    Sept VHF QSO Party and Colorado FM Sprint)
    HF contacts are on frequencies listed on sotawatch.org

Wow, lots of stuff to choose from!

At the very least, I’d suggest getting on the air Saturday afternoon to see if you can work some of the VHF contest stations. They are likely to be some mountaintop SOTA stations active at that time, too. Some of these folks may try to work the VHF contests AND do the SOTA thing on the same expedition.

73, Bob K0NR

A Great SOTA Weekend

For the long Labor Day weekend, Joyce (K0JJW) and I headed to the cabin in the mountains. My main objective was to work the Colorado QSO Party. See previous post.

When in the mountains, I try to remember to monitor 146.52 MHz. You never know who might show up on that frequency…some of the locals chatting, a mobile station passing through, people camping or…a SOTA (Summits On The Air) station.

Sure enough, on Saturday, I heard Eric (W0ECE) calling from the summit of Mount Evans on 146.52 MHz. Joyce and I gave him a SOTA contact (and I got a new county for the CO QSO Party). Then, on Sunday morning, we heard Dave (KI6YMZ) calling from the summit of Mount Shavano, also on 146.52 MHz. We were mobile at the time and both of us worked Dave to give him two contacts. Then on Monday morning, again listening to 146.52 MHz, we heard Bob (AD6QF) on Quandary Peak. We handed out two more contacts.

Sometime on Monday morning, we started thinking of doing a hike. That led to the idea of hiking up Kaufman Ridge North (W0/SP-085), a SOTA peak about 2 miles from our cabin. It had not been activated before,  so that seemed like a good idea.

Except for the fact that I did not bring along any of my SOTA gear. (Note to self: whenever you are in the mountains, take along the SOTA gear.) I scrounged around the cabin and found a dualband HT with fully charged battery. Unfortunately, the only antenna was the rubber duck. (The World’s Most Convenient Crummy Antenna.)

Oh, what the heck, we gave it a try anyway. It was an easy climb to the summit. I got out the HT and called on 146.52 MHz. I quickly got a reply from Ben (KD0ELP) and Mark (KE0P). A little more calling and I raised Jerry (N0VXE) in Salida, CO. To get the minimum four contacts, I tried calling on two of the local repeaters and found Dave (K0HTX) who QSY’d to 446.00 MHz for a simplex contact with me. That made it an official SOTA activation, so we headed down the mountain.

A good weekend for SOTA activity. Keep listening on 146.52 MHz.

73, Bob K0NR

K0NR Colorado QSO Party Results

It was a fun day working the Colorado QSO Party from the cabin near Trout Creek Pass. State QSO parties are contests designed to focus attention on a particular state, with an emphasis on activation of counties. This brings out the County Hunters and other folks interested in working that particular state.
The contest format is quite flexible, including CW, Digital and Phone on most bands from HF through UHF. There were many mobile stations out activating counties…which is important in Colorado since some counties are sparsely populated and there may be (literally) no active ham radio operators living there.

I decided to operate from our cabin near Trout Creek Pass in Park County, which is considered “rare” by most folks. My station was a Yaesu FT-950 running 100W to a trap dipole up in the trees. I mostly operated phone since I don’t consider my CW skills up to that challenge of a contest. I did make a few CW contacts at the request of a few folks than wanted Park County on CW.

Thanks to all of the mobile stations out there, both in Colorado and out of state. I was surprised how many people were mobile or operating portable (often camping out for the holiday weekend). I normally monitor 146.52 MHz while up at the cabin for anyone out hiking or mobile. I heard Eric W0ECE doing a SOTA activation on Mt Evans and worked him for QSO Party points and SOTA points.

The score below includes the CW contacts so the score will drop a bit when I submit in the phone only category (77526, I think).

I was disappointed with the Qs on 15 Meters but I looked in my log from last year and it was also light on 15 Meter contacts. Twenty meters is always a bit crowded and I really like when 15M and 10M open up. I almost doubled my score from last year, so I was happy with the result.

        Band  Mode  QSOs    Pts   Sec   Mul
            7  CW       3      12    2    0
            7  LSB     93     186   23    1
           14  CW       1      4     1    0
           14  USB    400     802   41    0
           21  USB     23      64    5    0
           28  USB      1      2     0    0
          144  FM       4      8     3    0
        Total  Both   525    1078   75    1
           Score : 81,928

Thanks to the Pikes Peak Radio Amateur Association for sponsoring this event.

73, Bob K0NR