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Messages - STN

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Batteries & Solar / Re: Man Portable Off-Grid Power for Amateur Radio
« on: October 14, 2017, 11:46:24 PM »
Here's the playlist for the portable power for ham radii series.
There's also another battery build incoming based on A123 26650 LiFePO4 cells. It's a 5Ah 4S2P protected pack with simultaneous charge and discharge in the field.

I have really started to move away from this idea of counting on using what I can find in the field (eg 18650 batteries) versus  building my gear the best way that I can in the first place. Puerto Rico and the island country of Dominiqu are perfect examples of a real preparedness or survival event. During the first week of the event, people were reaching out to ham radio operators through social media for news and information into and from the region. The biggest problems in Puerto Rico were ham radio operators lost their fixed operating locations, were forced to evacuate, had no grid power, and were lacking portable field renewable power sources. Where are we going to find fresh 18650 batteries, when the entire region is scrounging for them!?
Now I focus on building my knowledge and skills on portable power, while simultaneously building my own reliable gear. This last part was just thinking out loud.


Tactical Corner / Re: All Weather Shelter for Field Communications
« on: August 08, 2017, 03:31:08 AM »
I like the combat shelter's too, they just don't work in Scandinavia during winter.
I enjoyed that second video you woke up showing the shelter and we hear the sound of a sheep in the background. So now we know how you stayed warm over the cold Pyrenees night 😃

Tactical Corner / Re: All Weather Shelter for Field Communications
« on: August 08, 2017, 12:20:19 AM »
I used to go backpacking in the New England states in winter.  The one thing I learned, and it seems to be a universal rule for those that winter camp, is either get the proper gear or don't do it.  Without an appropriate tent, sleeping bag, pad/mattress, boots, clothes.... it's at best miserable and risky. 

That TipiTent looks interesting, but not having a floor is disqualifier for me.  Between bugs and critters having access when not on snow, and that a high wind could get under the edges.  Ohhh, but to have all that room and a wood stove would be luxury!

Totally agree!
My cold weather sleep gear is Finnish Army winter kit. The tipi has a floor and inner tent,  but they are not shown in that photo. I figure a 2.9 kilos for the whole system plus the stove make it a winner. Have to remember my conditions up here at 65 degrees north are a little different than New England, although we don't have very many nor'easters up here, winter temp can kill you.

General Discussion / Portable Solar Powered GoKit for Ham Radio
« on: August 02, 2017, 12:56:13 AM »
Hello Operators.
Over the past few weeks I've published several articles entitled "Man Portable Off-grid Power for Amateur Radio", on This video is the result of that research & field testing. In this video, I'll breakdown each module & component of my Portable Solar Powered GoKit for Ham Radio. Later on I'll do individual build/review videos for each component.
The  kit follows a "Lego block" approach, and is designed to be modular. The kit is based on three unique  modules:
- Power & DC distribution
- Radio & Computing
- Antennas & Support

The entire kit weighs between 7-10 kg depending on the options chosen (including 1L water and rucksack) .
You can find links to the original blog posts, research, field testing, and the usual plethora of full HD images, in the video description, or by visiting the companion blog post at
de oh8stn

Tactical Corner / All Weather Shelter for Field Communications
« on: August 02, 2017, 12:34:56 AM »
Hello Operators.
Today we're talking about field stations, or actually the shelters we use when operating man portable or as portable field stations. Last April 2017 I participated in the radar challenge. I suffered some pretty awful conditions with snow, freezing rain, frostbite. After that, I began to realized it was time to reconcile my all-weather operating conditions.
This article discusses an all-weather shelter for amateur field communications. It shows you what I'm using now, and what I'm upgrading to in the near future.
If you've also been thinking about shelters or already have a solution, please tell me about it in the comments.
de oh8stn

Batteries & Solar / Re: Man Portable Off-Grid Power for Amateur Radio
« on: June 29, 2017, 11:21:18 PM »
Thanks SCARRY.
Yeah we all need to justify the costs find the balance for our needs.
Looking forward to your show & tell.

Batteries & Solar / Re: Man Portable Off-Grid Power for Amateur Radio
« on: June 28, 2017, 01:48:27 AM »
Thanks Gil.
Honestly, I've had so many different solar panels, and wasted so much money, that I finally just wanted to get the real deal. The PowerFilm is lightweight, flexible, redundant, and proven in the field. (I'm not getting paid to say that @VBM) Everything else is compared against the PowerFilm. Just like those baofeng radios, I'm not going to bet my life, on something that looks "Tactical", but is too heavy, too rigid, has no spare parts availability, and will fail during the first serious rain, sleet or snow storm. 😉
To be fair, please send me a link to that 50 watt solar panel. I'll order one for the channel at some point and compare it against the PowerFilm.  There should always be a budget option as long as we realize the budget option is not necessarily a one-to-one comparison.

The Genasun  controllers are amazing. I will order a second one with higher amperage rating, for the 10Ah battery pack I'm working on. I've had good luck with the Morningstar 10L & 6L (after mod) charge controllers also, but they only work with lead acid. My backup system uses the 6L, and the hamshack runs off of a 10L.

Will you ever build a new boat Gil?
Very informative Julian, thank you!

Do you think the 20W PowerFilm is worth the $220 when I can get a 50W foldable panel for $150? Is quality that much better?

Batteries & Solar / Re: Man Portable Off-Grid Power for Amateur Radio
« on: June 28, 2017, 01:26:19 AM »
Here are all the photos and article behind them.
de oh8stn
I almost forgot the proof-of-concept. Here's my field station from last weekend

Is there a photo attached to this post?  If so, it hasn't been approved and we can't see it.


General Discussion / Digital "Field Day" 2017 New article up.
« on: June 27, 2017, 03:35:54 AM »
Hello Operators
 I just posted a new article on Field Day 2017, which may be interesting to some of you and this forum.
 Now unlike ARRL field day in North America, I approached field day from Comms preparedness and digital Comms perspectives. My goal was to use a very specific digital mode or digital system (FSQ), to establish effective low-power communications with two stations (Norway & Netherlands ) using an off-grid, solar powered, qrp field station.
I also want to reach out to thank PE4BAS & LB9YH, for unwittingly helping me to prove or disprove my station capabilities, during what we called "Digital Field Day".

Here’s a breakdown of the goals

- Testing FSQ for Effective low-power data Communications in the field.
- Testing the PowerFilm F15-1200.
- Testing the Genasun GV-5 with a protected 4s LiFePO4 pack.
- Testing the effectiveness of the Chameleon P-LOOP 2.0 with the Booster kit.

Enjoy the read.
de oh8stn

Batteries & Solar / Re: Man Portable Off-Grid Power for Amateur Radio
« on: June 26, 2017, 03:26:55 AM »
I almost forgot the proof-of-concept. Here's my field station from last weekend

Batteries & Solar / Man Portable Off-Grid Power for Amateur Radio
« on: June 26, 2017, 03:20:11 AM »
Hello Operators.
I've been watching this thread for some time and thought I would share my own Journey and evolution with portable power for amateur radio communications. Not too long ago I was using in nickel metal hydride batteries, as the primary power source for my radio communications. Although I enjoyed using the Enelope nickel metal hydride batteries, their energy density is nothing compared to lithium ion or lithium iron phosphate. The price was right however.
But after walking 40 kilometers on an off-grid emergency deployment exercise, I realize I needed to increase the storage capacity of whatever energy storage solution I decided to carry with me. That left me with two options.
  • a larger or parallel nickel metal hydride pack with increased weight
  • finding a battery chemistry with increased energy density for the same weight
I did go on to use the nickel metal hydride packs with it pwm charge controller for quite some time. Now I've repurpose that charge controller, as a standby power go box with a 9 amp slab, wall mounted inside a small Pelican case.

The first upgrade
That's when I built the QRP battery pack . This first pack was a lithium ion battery pack with 3.4Ah capacity. I used four 18650 batteries in series and a battery balance and protection board, to manage low voltage, overcharge, Short Circuit, and balance the cells.

I could connect the qrp battery pack to any of my solar panels, using the combination of battery pack and solar panel for sustained Communications in the field. Although the complexity of the build might seem daunting to many operators, the result is a stable lithium ion energy storage solution, with simultaneous charge and discharge capabilities. Fortunately I needed to use a DC/DC CC/CV power supply with the qrp battery pack. That was okay until later on when I found a better solution.

The second upgrade
The qrp battery pack was the first step in ultra-portable off-grid power for amateur radio. Unfortunately that pack could be looked at as nothing more than a rapid deployment, high speed low drag storage solution. Up until that point my solar panels we're still critically underpowered or overweight. I had the 10 watt solar briefcase from Harbor Freight. This was a total waste of money. Then I settled on two Goal Zero Nomad 7. The Goal Zero panels held me over for a while. They were not too heavy, they had both 12 volt and USB output and they could be chained together easily. Unfortunately their pieces of crap and the designer should be burned alive at the stake. The point of failure on The Nomad series of solar panels is the little box which holds all of the electronics. The cable breakout box works itself loose causing a short circuit in the worst-case or no connection at all. And despite their best marketing these is neither waterproof or water-resistant in any way. This led me to the PowerFilm F15-1200 20w  flexible thin-film solar panel. By itself it weighs less than one of the Nomads, but brings in 1.2A of energy collection with a big reduction in weight. It can also be damaged without becoming completely useless. The only downside is the price.

Upgrade number three
With the acquisition of a good panel I also needed to invest in a good solar charge controller. I'm pretty sure most of you will find this acquisition excessive, but it's my opinion that we spend too much money on trying to hack a solution together instead of buying the right thing the first time just once. That brought me to the Genasun GV-5 solar charge controller for lithium iron phosphate batteries The Genasun is a 5 amp solar charge controller which is completely RF noise free! One can directly connect a lithium iron phosphate battery pack (with bms board), a solar panel,  and a qrp radio on the load port. The BMS board in my qrp battery pack was compatible with both lithium ion and lithium iron phosphate depending on the input voltage. So to use my little qrp battery pack I simply had to swap out the lithium ion batteries for lithium iron phosphate 18650 cells. That was the Prototype!

Digital Field Day 2017
Last weekend (June 34 2017) at field day I used this combination of energy storage, solar collection, and Battery management to power my digital Field Station for 4 hours. I was using a digital mode called FSQ, to interact with two operators. The first operator was in the south of Norway, while the second operator was in Netherlands. Most of you already know I meant 65° North in Finland. We did text chat, exchanged images, interacted with the automated functions of FSQ, ... as a test for establishing reliable low-power digital Communications from the field. The test also confirmed that the combination of gear provided a lightweight Ultra portable off-grid power solution for field communications.
Here are a few things I learned.
  • Hacking cheap chinese gear and learning by doing so are fun, but at some point we need to start engineering reliable solutions for off-grid comms
  • the investment in quality gear will often solve more problems then immediately apparent. For example the two Goal Zero panels were cheaper than the Powerfilm, but the PowerFilm saved me weight, increased solar collection, and reduced the complexity of my system
  • integrating the solar charge controller and lithium iron phosphate battery pack gave me simultaneous charge and discharge capabilities. That means no more fumbling around with AA batteries, swapping out battery packs, ...

The next step
So now that I know that everything works as one integrated system, it's time to increase the storage capacity of my system. The 3.4Ah pack does a great job in the summer months at 65 degrees north, because we have 24 hours of sunlight. For winter operations in the field I'm going to double up on the solar panels (adding a second PowerFilm F15-1200), and in the coming weeks start building a 10Ah version lithium iron phosphate protected battery pack. This offsets the fact that we have almost no daylight during the winter months.

Finally a word of caution. I once review day cheap Chinese solar panel on my channel. It was called Choetech 19w folding panel. I finally realized the gimmick with these cheap Chinese panels. They all have a USB output, and they probably are accurate in regards to the potential wattage they can collect. However they deceive us when saying the USB output has two amp rating or 2.5 amp rating, because the solar panel itself could never generate that amount of amperage, without having several of those panels in parallel. They're not lying they're just not telling the whole truth. If you're into preparedness Communications, it's time to start building or buying your own quality gear.

de oh8stn

My eyes are not what they used to be :) Nevertheless this is an Awesome build!
Thanks for sharing

Digital Modes / Re: HF APRS
« on: October 07, 2016, 11:49:02 PM »
HFAPRS is actually a brilliant idea. PSKMail already has this. WolphiLink is working (very slowly) on an Android version. For apple users, tgere is APRSPro!

I'm already testing the Wolphi version, but it's a long way away.


Digital Modes / Re: Ultra-Portable Digital Kits
« on: October 07, 2016, 11:43:51 PM »
I love when people reply without reading the articles or watching the videos.
The very first example is LINUX BASED!!! :D
I updated the image to show.
I totally agree with you Windows has no place in emergency communications. Android is an excellent lightweight, low current draw solution, when rooted with bloatware removed. Apple? Well everyone has an opinion :D
Thanks for the feedback

Quite interesting, except this operator is not and will not be into things Windows and/or Android.

I already own a Yaesu FT-817ND, and the day I see it configured with a MacBook Air, an iPad, or an iPhone, I will read closely.

Digital Modes / Re: Ultra-Portable Digital Kits
« on: October 07, 2016, 10:44:20 PM »
The MFJ can't be any worse than the YouKits TJ2B which works fine. I also tried with a windows machine, but ultimately decided on Linux for Netbooks, and Android for tablets & smartphones.
The Bluetooth keyboard and mouse are cold ideas!

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