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Joel Gambino

Hi Bryan,

I got into ham radio specifically as a way to communicate when camping where no cell service was available. IMHO the most robust Ham radio solution is HF. VHF and UHF (which includes GMRS and FRS) are line of sight, so if you are unable to hit a repeater, communication will be hit or miss. This is especially true when you have mountains in the way. Any of these are good options for car to car communication however.

I use a Yaesu FT-450 which handles 160 meters through 6 meters. I also have the matched LDG antenna tuner for that radio. I think having a good tuner is a good idea because it allows you to tune up a poorly tuned antenna and will allow you to tune up on multiple bands with a single antenna.

Antenna 1 is a 20 meter center fed dipole which I made with 14 gauge insulated Home Depot stranded wire attached to a coax connecter feedpoint. With the LDG tuner, I can tune this on 40m, 20m, and 10m. I use a slingshot/fishing reel gizmo (also homemade) to hang the wire antenna in the trees. I have used this antenna on several camping trips and so far have always been able to make contacts.

Antenna 2, which I use when there are no trees, is a pair of 20 meter hamsticks that I run up on a telescoping fiberglass mast that goes up 30 feet or so. I can also tune this up on 20m and 40m. I used this antenna when I was at the SCCA championship races at Road America last fall. I made contacts on 20m and 40m.

Since installing the Ham radio in the camper, I have yet to not make a contact. Usually I make contacts on both 20m and 40m.

I also mess around on 2 meters. I find that being able to hit repeaters is hit or miss, but I try to find repeaters local to where we will be camping. On 2m I might make contacts half of the time.

Also, the 2 meter rig in my truck and my handheld both have APRS. If we go hiking, I’ll leave the truck radio on and carry the APRS handheld so we always know where we are relative to the campsite.

Anyway, that’s my HAM camping setup. I also play radio at home and have racked up about 60 countries and 49 states so far.

Happy to answer any questions you might have. Here’s a link to some photos of my install: https://halethorpephotography.smugmug.com/Truck-Camping/Ham-Radio-Install/