Home Forums Truck Camper Adventure Forum Communications – Opinions wanted

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    • #49779
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Susan and I both have HAM licenses, but no longer have radios and it has been so long we’d be pretty much starting over so we started wondering what everyone else is doing. Sorry if this has been addressed in the past, but a brief search back through the forum was unproductive, so here goes…

      Looking for opinions on communications options. What is everyone using and briefly why that particular option? HAM, GMRS, FRS, smoke signals, SAT Comm, carrier pigeons, etc. I did find a good article here: https://midlandusa.com/gmrs-or-frs-radio-how-to-choose/ but the question persisted, “Yeah, but what are truck campers **actually** using?”

      We seem to be getting farther out and more often than not there is no cell service, which can be awkward if you traveling solo have a real issue. There’s also the thing of traveling in a group and car-to-car.

      If you’re using a radio with an external antenna, how/where do you mount it? Camper overhang would seem to be an issue. When I considered a new HAM rig, that was one of the first questions that popped into my mind for some reason.

      Anyway, what are your thoughts?
      Bryan & Susan

    • #49781
      Joel
      Participant

      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/

      73,
      Joel

    • #49783
      Joel
      Participant
    • #49813
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Hi Joel, Thanks for the input and no, I had not seen that thread. I don’t know why not – I must be doing something wrong in my searches. I’ll check it out. At any rate, thanks again.
      Bryan

    • #49829
      2Z Bundok
      Participant

      We use cell phones. Our motif is to move every day or every other day so going through town and getting signal is usually just patience. High on the wish list is a cell booster like WeBoost. Notable that 80% of the cell use is internet access rather than voice communication.

    • #49878
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Thanks for your response 2Z, but other than you and a couple of the hams, I guess there’s not much interest in this.

      When we were RV full-timers we used a Wilson “trucker’s antenna” that we could plug into external antenna ports on our cell phones. “They” no longer make that an option for cell phones. As I’m typing this, I see an ad for “weboost” cell signal boosters to the side of the screen.

      I’m thinking I’ll go with GMRS since I’m not enough of a ham fan to go through the antenna setup and tear down when I need to talk to someone. We only got our ham licenses because we needed it for search and rescue communications.

      Bryan & Susan

    • #49891
      Joel
      Participant

      I forgot to mention the screwdriver antenna. It can be mounted permanently and can be tuned for multiple bands. It’s what a lot of guys install on their vehicles and use to make mobile HF contacts. You could install one on your truck or camper and wouldn’t have to put up an antenna. That’s probably the best solution if you’re not into hanging an antenna at every new campsite.

      On another note, I’m waiting to see how portable Elon Musk’s satellite internet will be. It could provide communication wherever you can see the sky.

    • #49909
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      The screwdriver antenna is pretty cool, gotta admit. But on the other hand, you make an excellent point about the satellite internet coming on board. Long term, that might be the all-round best option for remote communications. I found one reference to Starlink possible cost at $80 a month, which seems fairly reasonable.

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