Springer to Neel Gap

Our hike from Springer to Neel Gap took us up 6000 feet and down over 7200 feet, over 31 miles through Georgia’s back woods. With this being prime Appalachian Trail hiking season, we were never really alone the whole time. We saw plenty of other hikers heading north and south, and more than a few day hikers doing Blood Mountain on Sunday.

We started out getting shuttled by Tom Basemore, a nice guy but his van reeked of dog. His van, his rules, but when you are in the transport business, it would be nice to keep the family pet stench out of the business vehicle. The ride to Springer was bumpy and curvy, but he finally dumped us at the trail.

Unfortunately, Springer Mountain is the wrong way from the closest drop off point. But one of our group had done the walk up several times, and watched the packs. So we walked a mile uphill to Springer unencumbered, and ran into a group of women out for the day hiking and birdwatching.

Pictures taken, we headed back downhill and began our Northward Journey with the full weight of three days of food and supplies on our backs. We spread out quickly, a few having gone on ahead, and a few lagging behind. 9 miles in we passed Hawk Mountain Shelter. Clay elected to stay at some tent sites, and the rest of us soldiered on. I had intended on staying a but farther than the shelter, and the other hikers apparently agreed. We found a site near the summit of Sassafras mountain wide enough for everyone, after a long 12 mile day with a good bit of uphills. I can see why people give up in Georgia who are attempting a thru-hike. Georgia is pretty tough. Temperatures were supposed to be in the mid 70s, but the sun was bright and the trees hadn’t fully leafed out yet, so there was little shade.

I tried my hand at doing some Ham radio stuff at sunset, but I couldn’t get anyone to call back. I’ve decided against taking my 2 meter walkie on any more trips. I’ve taken it on three now, with no answer. 2 meters seems to be more of a local hobbyist thing and repeater-user group anyway. Because of weather and so much poison ivy off the trails, I didn’t pull the HF set out again, but its battery was handy for charging the phone.

Day 2 was long and arduous much like day one. We covered about 12.5 miles going up and down a lot. It stayed a bit cloudy most of the day, which was a nice change. All in all, day 2 was great. I stopped at a shelter and boiled some water so I could scrub some grunge off myself and have a shave. It felt great having a “bandanna bath” and getting some of the crud off my body.

We finally found a place to camp, that evening, really at the intersection between two trails near Lance Creek. The whole group was back together by this point. There was a fire restriction and no streams nearby, so some people just sat around by the empty fire pit. I went to the hammock for a rest until near sundown. After a brief reappearance, I retreated once again to the hammock to watch Game of Thrones episodes I had copied to the phone. Right about 9pm I heard the first few raindrops hit my tarp. I was glad we were expecting the rain, because I had set my doors up for it. I will say the UGQ Winterdream tarp performed admirably in a good downpour for about 30 minutes.

The rain quit and I drifted off to sleep. I didn’t sleep as well the second night because the hammock was not even and I kept sliding downhill. My underquilt (I used the summer underquilt I made) was perfect. Temperatures were in the 50s and I wasn’t too hot or too cold.

The last day was one of the hardest. We had to go uphill over 1800 feet or so, up down up down up down, up to the top of Blood Mountain. The day was really breezy. Even though the thermometer said it was in the 60s, most of us were in jackets, even using gloves. The air whipped through the hollows and over the ridges. At the top of Blood mountain I ran completely out of food. I had timed it just right, carrying not an ounce too much. I had even eaten an offered bagel. Coming down from Blood Mountain was harder than going up. The North side was definitely a bigger struggle than the south side. But finally the store at Neel Gap was in view. I headed down to the car, and shuttled Pete to his.

It wasn’t long before the group was together again in the parking lot, and had to figure out where to eat lunch. We wound up at El Campesino in Cleveland, Ga., and then split off for home.

Our hike video:

Our hike on DailyMotion

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Georgia’s on my mind. This weekend’s hike is almost over.

(Written Thursday before the trip. Thanks to Auto Scheduling this will pop up Sunday, because I don’t want you all knowing I’m gone!)

After a long debate I decided to take both my HF and my 2m radio this weekend on a hiking trip. It seems that the weather is going to be nice enough that I’ll be carrying a lighter load than usual, so I shouldn’t have any problems toting both the radios. The HF kit only weighs 3 pounds, and the little walkie weighs 10 ounces. 

I learned a lot from a few radio groups on Facebook that I hope will aid me in my travels. First thing is my antenna. I used a sloping antenna on my last trip, but it was pointed pretty much east, which from what I understand makes the area of greatest transmission/reception in that direction. Since I was in Georgia, the majority of my signal went across South Carolina and out to sea. This time I’ll have my compass, and point the antenna more northeast, so I should catch parts of NC, TN, WV, VA and PA with my little 10 watt radio. I also tuned the antenna I’ll be using, so it’s more efficient. The last time my antenna was tuned for 7.2mhz, and I spent a lit of time on 14.2mhz, which it wasn’t working as well on. 

I’ve also gone back to my LNR Precision Trail-Friendly antenna. Why? It weighs a heck of a lot less than anything else I have, and it’s easier to deploy than the dipole from my last post. No matter what I do, those damned pink wires get tangled up. The trail-friendly antenna packs up really neatly in the camera bag with the other radio parts, so nothing is outside the case. I found out one of the reasons it was causing such a headache – it wasn’t tuned! I just plugged it in and didn’t read the instructions, figuring a radio antenna I bought from a company would come cut to exactly the right length. Nope. It took about 30 minutes, but I go it clipped to a reasonable length, and even got instructions from a Facebook group how to point it the right way for maximum effectiveness.

Always check the antenna for every band you use. In addition, the little radio I’m carrying puts out more power on 7.2mhz than it does on 14.2mhz or 28mhz, although I’m not sure why, this was part of the design.

There are several decent POTA and SOTA spots to transmit from on this hike. We will be doing Springer Mountain to Neel Gap, and both Springer and Blood Mountains are designated Parks on the Air spots. There are a half dozen good spots to try Summit on the Air transmissions, which encourages people to get on the air from mountaintops which may not be parts of any park system. The AT runs close to a number of Mountaintops in Georgia, even right over a few designated spots. 

There’s a saying some people use: “If God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it.”

On the AT, it is more like, “If the AT brings you to it, the AT will bring you over it.”

If you’re ever lost off the Appalachian Trail, just look for the tallest peak around and head that way. As you near the summit you’ll likely find the trail. 

There is a chance of thunderstorms so I hope that it’s clear enough for a while that I can put up an antenna. Throwing a 40 foot wire into a tree when there are thunderstorms in the area is generally considered a bad idea. Lightning is bad for radios and their operators, generally. Someone recently asked me in a hiking group about lightning, and how to deal with it. I told them not to worry about it. If lightning hits you, you either wake up, or you don’t. But you can avoid attracting it when possible, and staying off the air during a thunderstorm is considered good practice. Also, my home-made radio is NOT waterproof, so if it starts to rain I’ll have to take some steps to protect it. Thankfully the little walkie radio IS waterproof so I’m not worried about it getting wet. 

This weekend there are a few events on the air, so I’m hoping to find a clear spot where someone can hear me yelling into the ether. But either way, I’ll have a nice big battery to charge my iPhone with.

This section will be strenuous. Lots of people give up in Georgia, after thinking their hike will be more like a walk in the park. Georgia is tough, with lots of steep ups and downs. North Carolina in places is more gentle, with a steep up followed by lots of ridgeline walking. Georgia seems to have two attitudes: Up and Down, with not a lot of in between. I can see why lots of hikers give up before hitting NC and Virginia. If I thought the whole trail was like the first 60 miles, I probably would give up, too. 

QRP on the AT part 2.

I haven’t gone hiking since my last adventure, mainly because the weather was NOT cooperative. I like cool weather hiking pretty well, but When there’s a sudden snow storm and 30mph winds and -17 wind chill, I’d rather stay home and play video games.

I have a hike coming up soon, and thankfully Spring has fully set in, even in Georgia, so we don’t expect any temperatures under 30, and nothing over 75 at this point. It is a three day hike from Springer Mountain, the place where a lot of AT hikers sign their first log book and take a picture by the iconic bronze plaque on the rocks. We will be traveling from there to Neel gap, the one spot on the trail (I think) that runs through an actual building.

I’m taking my ham radio again. It’s Spring, which means less winter stuff and a lighter pack. I have been wlaking on the Dreadmill at the house about 2 miles each night, and I made a new antenna, all of which I hope mean a better trail radio experience. My old antenna was a purchase, and while it was supposed to work fine with a replacement wire, I wasn’t really happy with it. So I got online and looked around, and made a good old-fashioned Dipole.

I used 1/8″ coax (I forget the number, but its the thin stuff used for wi-fi antennas and such, 50 ohms like real radio cable. And it’s only about 10 feet so the loss should be minimal. I found an old 1 pound lead/tin solder spool and wound the solder onto a second spool. I don’t know if they even sell Lead/Tin solder anymore, but I still have enough to last the rest of my electronics life. I put the coax through the bottom and wound about 10 turns around the spool to make a 1:1 Balun. Basically it’s function is to choke off any radio waves that try to travel back down to the radio, and make the coax itself radiate. The stripped end I left in the middle of the spool.

I then measured out the appropriate length of wire, using that #26 silicone coated stuff. I soldered one wire to the center of the coax and the other to the shield, looping the end through holes in the spool as a strain relief, and tying them to thin cords. After a generous application of electric tape, I was done with the basics.

I strung it up between the house and a tree and plugged in the radio. Then antenna was too long for 40 meters (7.2 on your car radio FM dial) so I started cutting. I hate tuning antennas. Transmit, check the reflected power. Drop the antenna. Cut an inch or so off each end, test it again. Repeat as necessary until the reflected power is flat when you transmit. After about 6 cuts I got it right.

Its ugly and basic but its light and pretty easy to deploy. I only wished I had a coax connector on the bottom of the spool, so I could unclip the cable when winding up the wires. Overall the wires are about 66 feet long (33 feet  each), so I still need a good open section to put the thing up. The hardest part about transmitting off somewhere is stringing up the antenna. I swear a lot when I’m doing it, because no matter how I roll them up, the wires get tangled.

It is much easier to carry the 2 meter walkie-talkie but it doesn’t have near the reach of the 40 meter transmitter. I have talked to New Jersey on 40 meters with the 10 watt radio and my big antenna at the house (from South Carolina)

Unfortunately, the antenna I built should work on 40 meters AND 20 meters, because a half-wave 40meter antenna is a full wave 20 meter antenna, but this one reflects too much power on 20 meters, which is generally where the foreigners hang out in mid afternoon trying to talk to the states. But 40 meters is a good all-around talking band, and there is an emergency net that practices for several hours every day I hope to be able to talk to from the AT.

My last improvement was my microphone. I went ahead and bought a real lapel mike, with a little fuzzy wind guard on it, instead of the home made mike I had with the kit. The mike was $12 and works better with the radio. I tested the audio and there is a definite improvement in what I hear. I spent a good bit of time tuning the thing as well, as it was slightly off frequency. It is still about 50hz low on the readout, but it works.

First Time in Georgia… on the AT

On Saturday March 3rd a group of us left Columbia, SC for a Georgia AT Section. It was particularly interesting since another group had gone down on Friday morning for a short hike and campout, so we were going to do a key swap hike. It was also the AT Kickoff weekend at the Amicolola Lodge 40 miles south of us, so we were pretty sure everything would be busy. We weren’t disappointed.

We barely found a parking spot just down the road from the Mountain Crossings store at Neel Gap, and the 6 of us headed up the hill to the store. We saw the famous “shoe tree” where hikers throw their boots (for a reason unknown to me). 

After a brief visit inside, we started the bulk of the hike, which consisted of a roller coaster of steep ups followed by gentle downs. I can see why a large part of the hiking population gives up in Georgia. Parts of TN and NC seem much gentler, with short steep ups followed by rolling ridge lines and great views.
There wasn’t much water along this section of the trail. I stopped at a spring and was soon surrounded by a group of 6 hikers. One guy got the trail name “Colonel” because his last name was Sanders and his first bit of trail magic he got was a piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Two others were trying a thru-hike just like Colonel. Another couple were first-time section hikers, trying to fill a sawyer bag laying it down in the spring. They watched me fill mine with my red squishy bowl, and wound up borrowing it.

On down the trail we had split up pretty well. I ran into Mark and Mike, out in front of me, but Ron, Karen and Carol were behind us, having stopped at the store for a moon pie. Everyone I ran into seemed to be planning on spending the night at Low Gap Shelter, which was kind of concerning since I didn’t know how big the area was. Some shelter areas are nothing more than a little hut forced onto a hilltop, while others surround a large low spot or saddle between hills, with a wide tenting area.

I stopped as planned on the top of Wildcat Mountain, which is a “Summit on the Air” spot for Ham Radio activity. I set up my radio and wire, and started trying to call people. It was very noisy on the air, with lots of band fading and static, plus a CQ contest was going on, and it was hard to find a clear frequency. I finally gave up on my SotA stuff and just started trying to answer some contesters. I got one guy in West Virginia who gave me a clear signal report, and I was happy.

After that, I packed up and headed on. I had 5 more miles to go before dusk, and the sun was sinking. I made it into Low Gap with sunlight to spare, but it was behind a mountain and was edging on towards darkness. Thankfully Low Gap wasn’t the “shelter on the hilltop” kind of place, and there was a huge tenting area around it. We camped right off the trail on a slight slope, only going near the shelter for water, which had a nice flow of creek water next to it. The shelter itself was packed with thru-hiker hopefuls. After all, everyone is a section hiker until they get to Maine.

By this point I was exhausted. 2 hours of sleep and a 4 hour drive, plus a 12 mile walk uphill… I made my food and got in the hammock, after briefly talking to my hiking partners. The group had already swapped keys, so Jim, Pete, Dorothy, Chris, and Laura could drive our cars into town the following day. I intended on staying awake in the hammock for a while, but by 8pm I had fallen asleep. I woke up at 1am and hadn’t moved. My tent lights were still on, so I switched them off and fell asleep again.

At 6 I reluctantly awakened, needing to go to the bathroom. The sun wasn’t up yet, but the nearly full moon made it quite bright outside. I started laboring at packing some of my things, not wanting to give up the warmth of my hammock, as it was still 31 degrees outside. Finally I gave in and went to get water and make breakfast. When everyone started moving out, I slung the pack on and headed north, needing to do ten miles before getting to the car. It’s amazing that even though you eat the food and drink the water, the pack never seems lighter. In fact it almost seems heavier the second and third days.

Walking to the car was pretty much uphill all the way, with teasing downhills that lead to another uphill. Finally we reached another shelter with a privy (a kind of outhouse). I had run into Mark and Mike, but I was out of fuel by this time and in desperate need of the privy services. Thankfully it was still cold, so the privy didn’t smell. I took full advantage of it, before cleaning my hands and sitting in the sun to eat what was left of my food. I brought the perfect amount, as I ate everything I had before getting back to the car.

After the shelter was a brief up and then a long 1000 foot descent into Unicoi Gap parking area. The parking area was full, as a local ministry set up a hiker feed with hamburgers and water. The burgers were overcooked, but tasty any way. I met two deaf people with their hearing interpreter, and a blind guy named “Vaper” who was being helped slowly along the trail by his seeing-eye wife. They would do around 5 miles a day. I was amazed at his resilience, as it is all I can do not to break my ankle on the rocks, and I can see them.

Back at the van, the whole party united once again, and we headed down to Helen, Georgia. As we were leaving the Unicoi lot, we saw a hiker looking for a ride into town. We had seen him at Neels and at the Shelter. He had black curly hair and a brown/green outfit and pack on. I kept calling him Frodo because from a distance his face and hair strongly resembled the hobbit. We gave him the trail name, to spare him from such indignities as “Donkeybutt” or “stinky”.

The video in this case was a bit difficult to make, as I had to deal with two groups going two directions over multiple days, so I just kind of tossed the pictures wherever. Anyway, if you walk from Neel Gap to Unicoi, you’ll see this stuff..

 

QRP on the AT.

This past weekend I had the chance to test out my little uBITx radio while backpacking. Maybe it wasn’t such a good thing to try.

First of all, the radio is pretty light, but it’s not weightless. The radio, the antenna, battery pack, case, etc. all weigh in about 4 pounds. Not that bad, considering. BUT – it was still winter, and winter hiking means carrying extra clothes and such. Also, on the first day there wasn’t going to be a lot of water so I had to carry a little extra, and water is heavy. 2 liters of water weighed the same as my radio stuff. Thirdly – because of cold weather and flu, I hadn’t backpacked or really exercised much since there was a tree in the den with brightly colored boxes underneath. So I was out of shape carrying a lot on my back, walking up 3000 feet the first day.

But I set out with my backpacking friends for a jaunt across part of Georgia. About 1:30 I stopped and figured I had about 45 minutes to an hour to myself. The first chore was setting up the antenna. I’m using #26 wire with a silicone casing, which makes it about the diameter and feel of a rubber band, without the stretch. I tossed it into a tree and then had to run out 66 feet of wire. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the woods, that’s a lot, because there isn’t much space free of limbs. I wound up draping it over the limbs of 3 trees.

I sat my radio on the rock and put the antenna straight out towards the horizon right through the empty space towards the little pile of rocks, about 25 feet up or so. Having glued the little antenna “matchbox” to an empty spool of household wire was a big help, because it gives me somewhere to wind up the wire and its support cord.

The rest of the setup was easy. Plug in the battery pack, the headphones, the mike, the antenna, and turn it on.

The bag is a LowePro Adventura 140. It holds everything but the antenna spool. The radio is in a custom 3D printed case ($25) which weighs very little. The battery pack is a 12v 6ah battery, which also has a 5v output so I can charge my iPhone overnight on the trail. Its a little bulky, but really no heavier than my Anker 20ah 5v battery pack I have at home for the phone, which is half the physical size.

So I started tuning around. The 66 foot wire gives me both the 20 meter and 40 meter bands (7mhz and 14mhz). I was immediately surprised by the noise. 20 meters around lunchtime is always full of foreigners on the low end, and US people on the higher end. The entire band was full of people. Then I realized it was a contest. These people were sitting at home running hundreds of watts, and I was on the top of a mountain running a glorified walkie-talkie. I tried broadcasting my location as a “Summit on the Air” location. I had even picked out a peak to work from, Wildcat Mountain W4G/NG020 but it was no use. I dropped to 40 meters, and tried again. Same problem, either nets of people talking that couldn’t hear me, or contesters firing off numbers rapid-fire back and forth, trying to talk to as many people as they could in a weekend. No time to try to pull a weak station out of the noise. To make matters worse, the band was fading in and out like waves on the seashore. One second you could hear someone from Italy coming in clear, and then he was gone, and twenty seconds later, he was back.

I switched back to 20 meters and gave up trying to find my own frequency. I hit a few contesters but was drowned out by the bigger radios with better antennas. Then Finally I got through to one guy who read my call sign back to me in one try. I wrote his call number down and thanked him “From the Appalachian Trail” and moved on. I tried a few more people. None of the foreigners could hear me, and a couple people said I was just too light to get a good read on. So I packed up my stuff and left. After all, I had 5 more miles to walk.

A few things I learned:

My antenna support line was way too long. It kept getting tangled. When I got home, I cut it in half. I also cut down the support line for the spool of wire, as it can hang no more than 15 feet away from me any way, because that’s the length of my feedline.

I made a second antenna that was half the length. I figured 33 feet would work better in the woods, trying to put it up. The problem is, it was too short for both 40 and 20 meters. It worked 20 meters GREAT, but on 40 it was out of tune. So it looks like I’m back to the longer antenna, if I plan more carefully with my setup I hope it will be okay.

My battery pack is actually a little too big. I played with the radio for close to an hour and I lost one dot out of 5 on the battery pack. I charged my phone overnight and didn’t lose another dot. So, I could get away with a smaller, lighter version. I’ll stick with it, though, because it was $35.

I got a new mike (or mic if you want to use the common abbreviation). My homebrew one has been reported as being very “tinny” and almost free of any bass response. So I ditched my home made mike and got a decent lapel mike from amazon, which sounded pretty decent on my shortwave receiver set across the room from me.

Oh – and the guy I talked to. Strange call sign. His address was listed as West Virginia, but the call sign was from the Cayman Islands. I’m going with West Virginia I guess…

All in all it was a good hike. We had fun, and walked up a lot. But maybe I’ll leave the radio stuff for warmer months where I carry less clothes.

By the way: QRP is “ham speak” for low power, under 10 watts, which was what I was running.

So pissed at Vimeo, the free ride is over.

I got an email last month from Vimeo, and I’ve been pissed at them ever since. Here’s my thing… Vimeo promised free hosting for videos as long as you didn’t upload more than 500mb a week. That’s not an easy thing to do, if you make a moderate movie with more than ten minutes of stills and video, its easy to push 500mb.
But, I soldiered on. Now, suddenly they are ending the free side, unless you host less than 5gb total. Since I’m up to 7gb, I either have to delete stuff, or pay per month. I’m not paying $10 a month to host videos that make no money and get like 23 views. That’s crazy. So I don’t have much choice, I think I have to go back to YouTube.
Ugh, I hate YouTube. The thing about Vimeo was it was always kind of an artsy sort of place. No morons driving around in their cars ranting about the atheists or the jews or the globe being flat. No twerking idiot teenagers or  guys in their backyard blowing stuff up while shooting a video vertically and getting you seasick with their phone wandering all over the place.
Vimeo was for people that cared not only what they were representing, but how it was presented. Also – no forced ads. They didn’t stop the videos to show ads, and they didn’t have popup ads in the middle.

So now I’m looking for a new place. Apparently theres another site called “dailymotion” that does pretty much what Vimeo did, but they push an ad at the end of your video. I can live with that, since once my video is over, you could just close it and not watch the ad, much like skipping out on the credits at the end of a movie. So hopefully I will be able to use it for my backpacking and ham radio stuff.

Until then, I guess I can put up my final Vimeo video…

Ham and Hiking

I haven’t been any where in a while. It seems the family has taken turns with colds and flu, and the winter hasn’t been very kind. Two hiking outings have been cancelled due to extreme weather – down to -17 with wind chill at one point.

However, I’ve been having fun on the ham radio, I’ve gotten a lot of states and 4 continents so far this winter. I’ve been looking for a way to mix hiking and Ham radio. I took my 2 meter handheld on my last trip, but got nothing. Apparently in the mountains, 2 meters isn’t great. I got a longer antenna which works better, but I’m still not sure how well it will work.

But – back in December I ordered a radio kit from HF Signals in India. An engineer over there designed a little radio controlled by an arduino microcomputer, sort of like a raspberry pi. The computer is barely the size of the 16×2 display, and fits behind it. The computer takes care of most of the radio functions, and controls a board which switches between filters and such as necessary. The whole thing is 6 inches square, puts out ten watts, and is 2 inches high. The radio came last Tuesday, and I began the simple process of putting it together.

Since I’m not running morse code (I don’t know it, and don’t intend to learn any time soon), I got to skip the whole morse key jack and just put a resistor across two wires. 

After that was done, I wired up the encoder, which is a fancy way of saying the combination tuning and select knob. With it you can tune the radio and jump between bands, calibrate the frequency display, and access setup functions. It has five little solder pins, two of which have to be connected together. The other major front panel connection is the volume control knob, which only has 3 wires, but gave me a headache.

The problem with the volume knob is that the schematic and the instructions don’t agree with the order of the yellow and orange wires. Apparently both work, but if you add stuff on later, like a signal meter, the order matters. So, I did it the way the radio engineer on the facebook group told me to. The last step was the mike jack and the headphones, along with the push-to-talk switch. Those three things were pretty easy. I didn’t want to test transmit yet, so I wired up just the headphone and mike jack and powered it up.

It worked great on my oversized mouse pad. Seriously, if you have the chance, buy a 36″ by 18″ mouse pad. It covers the whole desk, it insulates, and it feels good on the arms. I tuned around but I didn’t hear anything, as the antenna wasn’t hooked up, but there was quite a bit of digital noise. I was told that when I put it in a case a shortened the leads, it would be quieter. So I waited on my case.

What you see above is all you really get. Some knobs, jacks, a mike element, two boards, some wire, two resistors, and instructions to go to the web site and follow the wiring instructions. It’s up to you to fabricate a case, get an antenna, and build your mike cable.

So I ordered a case from Wolfland Hobby in Minnesota. He does a lot of stuff, including 3D printing. Apparently there are plenty of 3D case files around, and I ordered a printed case since I don’t have a 3D printer. It took a week to get here. It was a lot more purple than I thought it was going to be, but this is a case for the woods, so at least I won’t lose it.

The first step was to partially assemble the case and glue the back on, and then solder up the other connections, before shortening the leads on the front panel stuff. The case fit like a dream, but the screw points were a bit more fragile than I hoped. Two of them cracked right off the bat. I’m not sure about the long term durability of 3D printed stuff, so I’ll look towards a different case eventually. I think the front and back panel will be okay, but if the rest was a solid metal case I think that would hold up better.

After rewiring, I had a problem. I wasn’t hearing anything. My first thought was that the headphone jack wasn’t working, so I messed around with the jack and the wiring to the Audio connector, but nothing changed. Then I popped the leads for the potentiometer loose from the connector and put the thing on a meter. Two of the three leads tested good, and I got an open circuit on the third one. I put two resistors in the connector, a 10K across the  end leads to simulate the pot, and a 2K from the middle to one end to simulate 2/3 open. I switched the radio back on and the audio came out clear. After poking around in the knob, I finally just removed and resoldered the leads, and it started working again. Apparently I had a bad solder joint somewhere.

My push to talk switch I just put in the middle of the mike and headphone jacks. The button fit in the pre-drilled hole easily enough, and I took a piece of breadboard and soldered the wires to it on the back, so the breadboard and wires will hold it on. I added a dab of E6000 glue to it, hoping to stabilize everything.

The last step was to make a microphone cable, which I did by soldering on a cable to the mike element, pushing the mike down into a old metal case for a laser pointer pen, and filling the thing with hot glue.

The radio runs fine, although I’m a bit disappointed in the tuning. It is REALLY twitchy. Sometimes it jumps a lot and sometimes it takes forever to tune across the band. In the background is my main radio, the Yaseu 450D, which does 10 times the power output.

I took the pink box outside and set up an antenna and a receiver, and it sounded decent when I transmitted. The band is crap today, partially due to the last Coronal Mass Ejection from the sun, and I’m only doing 10 watts, but I was happy enough with the transmission. Once I get the battery pack for this from Amazon, I will be able to take it out in the woods somewhere and test it. The nice thing about this is, the whole thing fits in a little camera  bag, with the antenna, feedline, mike, and headphones. The battery pack wont fit in the bag I have, but since I’ll be taking it hiking, I’ll have my full size backpack, and it will fit in the side pocket.