I never thought of learning Morse code for emergency preparedness. Spending untold hours learning an archaic mode of communication wasn't on my list. I started looking for a small, portable SSB (voice) radio that would fit in my bug-out bag. The FT-817ND and MFJ-9420 caught my attention. The price of the Yaesu put it temporarily out of reach, and the MFJ was still around $300 shipped. Both radios are small, but not quite small enough for my bag. Maybe I would use one of them as my main radio, but I still needed a BOR (Bug-Out-Radio. I coined that one.. ;-)
After a few hours of web browsing, I somehow stumbled on the Rock-Mite kit, a CW ('Continuous Wave,' i.e. Morse code only) tiny transceiver from Dave Benson at Small Wonder Labs. Here was a very small radio with a 'sporadic range' of thousands of miles, for a mere $29! ($70 with MityBox and connectors). Many people mount them in a mint tin can. It took me a few hours to build the kit, which worked the first time, with no tuning required. My 20m version transmits on 14,059kHz. I just finished a 40m model as well. By the way, if you visit http://smallwonderlabs.com
, see how Dave Benson built his own house in the woods! Pretty inspiring.
As I was pondering about learning Morse code, which I mistakenly considered a small detail, it hit me.. Morse archaic, when? Aren't many of the skills we like to learn archaic? Trapping, hunting, food preservation, living off the land, field medical procedures, camping, building shelters, etc. The kind of skills that can save your bacon when everything else fails. Morse is one of them! It can be used without a radio. You can tap your fingers, blink your eyes in Morse, and nobody but the intended recipient across the room would know.. You can bang on a pipe with a wrench, hit a drum, squeeze someone's hand, use a flashlight or a laser pointer to send a message in Morse. If regular means of communications were down, because of an electromagnetic pulse for instance, a simple telegraph could easily be built without using semi-conductors. The wires are already all around us.
With that epiphany in mind, I bought an Elecraft K1 kit. It is a 2-band version, 20 and 40m, covering 175kHz at the bottom of each band. I added the internal automatic tuner to be able to use random long wires as an antenna if needed.
Now I really have to finish learning Morse code!
Communications within your group would be via VHF or UHF, maybe 2m or FRS, even CB. For HF long distance, CW simply gets you more bang for your buck, especially in very small packages. It will punch through the ether with less power and more reliability than voice. My K1 uses very little current on receive (60mA), and runs for many hours on a small 2.9Ah battery. I will be getting a 10W solar panel soon to complete my kit. The Rock-Mite lives in my bag. The K1 will get a waterproof Pelican case (1200 model). Both will get Faraday bags for EMP protection. My antenna is a PAR 40/20/10 end-fed dipole. It packs into a small pouch. I also have a SOTA tuner from http://qrpkits.com
, and wire for a 20m antenna. I really like the tuning bridge and SWR LED on the tuner. Perfect for the Rock-Mite 20.
Morse code is not archaic, far from it. It is an excellent mode of communication usable in many different ways, not just radio. The more I think about it, the more I find possible uses for it. Prepper families and groups should learn it. You never know when the need may arise.