ETH023 – Portable Stations


Hello everybody and welcome back to the Everything Ham Radio Podcast! In this episode we are going to talk about Portable Stations. While the episodes this quarter have been about “Things to do on HF”, this topic is more of a general ham radio topic and ties into our mini theme of Field Day which is coming up this weekend. For more information about Field Day check out episode 20, and check out episode 11 where we talked about Go-Packs.

When you think about a portable station, or really any stations, there are three main components that you must have, a radio, an antenna and a source of power. Depending on the size of your portable station determines the size of equipment that you will need or want. If you are looking for something to use for SOTA or for a go pack, you will probably want smaller antennas, smaller low power radios and a lighter power source. If you are talking a setup for things like Field Day or a QSO party or even some public service event, you might want something a little bigger. We are going to talk about several different options for each part of a station.


The first part of the station trifecta that we are going to talk about is the Radio. Without the radio, it is pointless to have an antenna or power source. The first thing that you need to figure out when you are setting up your portable station is what you are planning to use it on. If you are talking about something like SOTA, where weight and power consumption plays a big factor, you would go with a radio that puts out less power, therefore uses less power. If power consumption or output isn’t a factor in your setup, then you would just go with personal performance

If you are looking for the lighter side of things for things like a SOTA activation, probably one KX3 - Portable Stationsof the best radios on the market right now is the Elecraft K3. It is a full 6M to 160M HF portable radio that transmits up to 10 watts PEP and only draws up to 150 milliamps!! One of the other things that makes this radio so good for portable use is that it only weighs 1.5 pounds(0.7 kilograms)! It can do all modes, CW, SSB, Data, AM, FM. You can also buy a plug-in module that allows you to talk on 2 meters as well.

On the flip side of this though, if you are working on a portable station to use in things like Field Day, QSO Parties or emergency events, you may want a radio or set of radios with more output power and where power consumption isn’t a big deal. This portable station may be like a Go-Pack like we talked about in episode 11 or maybe a communications trailer where you can have several radios, a generator, and several antennas ready to go at a moment’s notice. The choice of radio for this type of portable station if more of a personal choice, or maybe a club choice or maybe you just got a great deal on a radio and that is what you use.


For the next part of the station trifecta, let’s talk a little about antennas. Without an antenna, a radio is pretty much useless. Antennas come in all shapes and sizes, little ones,PackTenna Mini - Portable Stations big ones, verticals, beams, inverted V, End fed dipoles, etc. Much like with the radios, depending on what you are looking to do will direct your decision on what antenna you are going to use. Another thing that you need to think about is what you are going to put your antennas on? Is it going to be a tower, a push up pole, or maybe just drape it over a tree branch. The answer to that question will also direct what your portable station will look like.

First off, let’s talk about stations like you would use for SOTA. With things like SOTA, you
need something that is small and light because you have to carry it wherever you are going to operate; and by carry I mean, more than likely on your back and in only one trip. This is where my friends over at
PackTenna comes in. The PackTenna Mini is an awesome little
antenna that is literally the size of your hand. Don’t believe me? Check out the picture to the right. Told ya! Anyway, this little antenna can go anywhere with you and can do pretty much whatever you want it to do.14-Inverted-Vee Antenna

If you are looking for something with a littlemore umph to it for your communications trailer or Field Day setup then you might have to take it a step further and get a dipole, vertical, long wire or something of that nature. On my clubs old communications van we had two 20’ push up poles that mounted in holders on the bumper. On top of the pole we put a dual band(2m/440) vertical and a 20 meter verticals and an inverted v on a pulley.

Power SourceGas-Generator-power-inverters

The third and final part of the station trifecta is power; without it, nothing will work. Whether you are going to be using commercial power, a generator, or batteries with solar or wind power to charge them, this is something that you need to figure out before you go to set up your station. If you are using solar power for example and you radios end up drawing more power than the solar panels will put out, then you might be in the middle of a QSO when you batteries drop below minimum level and you will not be able to operate anymore. So you always want to make sure that if you are using something other than commercial power, that you figure out how long you battery charge will last, or how long your fuel tank will last before you get to a point where you need power and don’t have it.

For more information on Emergency Power, check out my last episode, episode #22.


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Amateur Radio Club Spotlight

KARS Logo - Portable StationsKent Amateur Radio Society





  • The club holds regular meetings on the first Wednesday of every month at 7:00 PM at Heron Point of Chestertown, 501 East Campus Avenue, Chestertown, MD 21620-1682, in the conference room.


  • Every Tuesday at 8:00 PM there is a club net held on our 147.375 Mhz (+) PL 156.7 repeater.



  • 147.375 + PL 156.7 Autopatch –  Located on the tower of Kent County High School with links in Rock Hall, Galena, Chestertown and Betterton, it offers handheld coverage to all of Kent County. This main machine consists of a Motorola MTR2000 and DB products antenna with an effective radiated power (ERP) of 200 watts. The link controller is an Arcomm RC210 with an LDG RJS-8 voter. The machine uses a PL of 156.7 in and out.
  • 449.175 + PL 156.7 – Located on a tower adjacent to Chester River Hospital, this UHF repeater offers handheld coverage for the Chestertown area. The machine is a Motorola MTR2000 and DB Products antenna with an effective radiated power (ERP) of 200 watts.



  • Field Day
  • Bike Races, Walk-A-Thons, and other type events
  • VE Testing
  • APRS


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73 de Curtis, K5CLM

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