Calling all ham radio people – HF op in a Scamp? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-31-2015, 09:13 AM   #1
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Calling all ham radio people – HF op in a Scamp?

CQ CQ... This is a question for amateur radio operators with fiberglass trailers. I have seen a few of you on this forum, but to the rest of you, this might sound like Greek because of the “ham speak.”

I hope to operate portable 40-2 meters from a Scamp 16 and I am looking at antenna options. I have poked around on a few other web sites for suggestions but found most discussions were centered on larger motor homes. Of course, fiberglass trailers present some unique issues for HF operation.

I have not been on the air for about 15 years until this summer. At home, I just put up a half size G5RV dipole (which, despite its name, will not work with RVs We all know the G5RV is a compromise antenna with serious shortcomings, but I have been quite happy with it, making a number of DX contacts. With the auto-tuner, it’s a simple matter to work all bands (40-10), and similar simplicity is what I am aiming for in the Scamp.

No mobile operation is contemplated, only stationary. I was thinking of using the 2-inch hitch (bike rack) receiver on the back of the camper to mount a mast. I do not want a setup that requires guy wires. Instead, I was thinking that a bracket on the spare tire carrier would be sufficient for a small HF antenna in normal weather. I will be using an Icom IC-7200 (100 watts max) and maybe the companion LDG Auto tuner.

I considered mounting a screwdriver antenna above the camper on the mast for some reduction in RF exposure but as I understand it, the screwdriver would then need ground radials or a counterpoise. I doubt the body and frame of the scamp would be effective for that, and I do not want to bother with running wires every time I deploy.

I thought maybe I would forget about the mast and use a TW antenna on the ground, but in small campsites it might not be a good fit, and it could become an attractive nuisance at a campground. It is also quite expensive.

Next on my radar was the Buddiepole. This one seems like it would be a good solution on a hitch receiver mounted mast up about eleven feet or more. But the Buddipole requires changing taps for each band, which I do quite often. If the antenna was at 11 feet, I would not be able to reach it to change the taps. Looks like it performs very well if you spend the time to tweak it however, one reviewer said, “Setting it up takes time to do it right” and another said, “is very difficult to tune.” I do like that it can cover all bands.. even 2 meters. Still I wonder if there is something easier to use so now I am leaning back in the direction of a screwdriver with radials, or maybe a BuddieStick. Seems its going to be a bit of a pain to set up anything that works reasonably well.

Maybe I should forgo 40 meters and just use a 20-meter dipole, inverted V style with the center on the top of the mast. Then again, it seems like there are often too many trees in the way to do that.

So I am open to suggestions. The Shelby (NC) hamfest is this weekend so I will be looking for an antenna there at a fair price.

My wants and needs for this portable antenna are:

• 20 / 15 /10 meters at the minimum (40 and 6 would be nice too)
• Less than 10 minutes to set up.
• Limits exposure to RF both to operator in the dinette and any curious passerbyers.
• Reasonably compact and lightweight



PS, I am also out of the loop (so to speak) when it comes to logging. Any suggestions for logging software that is both eQSL and LOTW compatible, and is a good general purpose logger but at least OK for contests. I am leaning toward DXLabs suite of software. However, I used Winlog32 in the past so the learning curve would be less with it.
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Old 08-31-2015, 10:44 AM   #2
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You may have already have read this: KØBG.COM I regard him as authoritative.

I have't been on HF since the pleistocene era. Actually I'm not on the air at all except for APRS.

Alan,,, n4lbl
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Old 08-31-2015, 12:52 PM   #3
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Gordon2:

PM me your email address and I'll put you in touch with a friend of mine who's an RF engineer, built his own HF antenna for his home-brew RV, and might have some suggestions.

... Greg
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Old 08-31-2015, 05:32 PM   #4
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  • Thanks Alan, that will keep me busy reading for a while. PS, I'm looking at the improvements in various digital modes also. I used to do packet but so much of ham digital stuff seems so efficient.
  • Greg, PM sent.
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Old 08-31-2015, 06:31 PM   #5
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KE4MD here...
What year scamp? If it is an older one with the rhino hide insulation or a newer on with the reflextix they may behave differently for RF.
The bubble insulating aluminum flashed insulation may act as a shield and perhaps as a ground plane at some frequencies.
Perhaps a regular mobile antenna set or almost any piece of wire with an antenna tuner.
A nice automatic antenna tuner might be nice. As I have also been off the air for a very long time, I don't know what the tuner is capable of.
My last rig was a Collins S line. So it has been a while.
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Old 08-31-2015, 07:22 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by redbarron55 View Post
...
What year scamp? If it is an older one with the rhino hide insulation or a newer on with the reflextix they may behave differently for RF....

A nice automatic antenna tuner might be nice...
JD, it will be a new one with the foil sided insulation that is glued onto the roof and walls of the trailer. The effect of this insulation is one of the major factors I had in mind when I made my post. I suspect it will have largely unpredictable effects on radiation from the antenna, and I hope it will also provide some RF shielding for the operator in the camper, although much of the trailer’s shell is taken up by windows.

I do have the LDG Auto tuner already so I would be fine with using it in portable operation from the camper also. Various wire antennas (including a dipole) might work well if I don’t require 40 meters. Since I like to chase DX more than rag chew, I would be OK with that limitation.

In fact 15 and 10 are pretty much dead now.. and will be for some time. I have been on 20 almost exclusively, along with a little 40 meters So a mono-band antenna on the Scamp is not a bad idea.
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Old 08-31-2015, 08:41 PM   #7
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I have a small 2 meter -440 antenna mounted on my truck. I find it somewhat useful while traveling.

For HF I use a mono EndFEDZ by Par Electronics, now LNR. I'm made a number of contacts with it.
I purchased two telescoping fiberglass poles a 19' from a kit shop and a 32' from another ham. I carry about 4 short steel fence posts, the kind you drive into the ground. Drive one into the ground and bungie one of fiberglass poles to it. If you're going to operate from inside the trailer put another close to power port of the trailer and her I would use the shorter fiberglass pole. String the antenna between the two in slopper configeration. A short pieced of coax to the radio and you're in business. No tuner needed.

I would suggest a secondary battery since hf at 100 watts draws close to 20 amps on the peak voices. I use a 50 amp hour battery and a 65 Watt solar panel to the keep the battery charged.

Most of the places I go 2 metes is useless. I do have the repeater book installed on my GPS so I can easily find the closest repeater. Since my wife is a ham also I can just let here do the radio settings while driving.
Equipment Yeasu 8800 with on receiver set to 145.62 and the other to some repeater.
Yeasu 857D. Operating at 100 Watts on either 40 meters or 20 meters.

The EndFedz antennas are tuned to the their specific band.

I find that a Buddie Pole works great but is alot of fuss tuning. It also take up more space and is heavier than EndFEDZ and associated poles.

That's what works for me.

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Old 08-31-2015, 09:30 PM   #8
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Hamstick Dipole

One thing you might want to consider is a hamstick dipole. I used to have a setup that I used when I had a pickup truck camper many years ago.

Another is something like this:
versa-tenna.com - Our Story
or this (some assembly required):
http://www.earchi.org/92011endfedfiles/Endfed6_40.pdf

Both of these are like the EndFedZ except that they are non-resonant designed for use with a tuner.

I'll be very interested in what you come up with since I'll want to do something similar. Of course I still have to get a trailer and get it set up for camping but having a radio is high on the list.
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Old 09-01-2015, 12:53 AM   #9
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Ham in a Scamp

I have a side dinette 16' Scamp. I have two batteries on the tongue, one feeding a 12 position power pole panel mounted under the front table. The battery can be separated from the trailer battery by a switch. Radio dc runs on a #12 pair under the trailer. A hole drilled through the floor under the seat provides power wire in and two RG 8 mini flex out with connectors on the end. I use a 40 Meter hamstick mounted on the belly band with a beam clamp. I also use a dual band vhf antenna mounted the same way.
If I can help let me know.
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Old 09-01-2015, 02:27 AM   #10
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Gordon, had to chuckle when you said it was Greek to most of us. I was stationed in Greece and did learn a lot of the language but you are right...what you're talking about IS Greek to me . I never got past the CB thing in the 70's. Calle nichta (?) good night.
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Old 09-01-2015, 09:10 AM   #11
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N0HJ here - not a FG trailer owner yet, but someday soon...

I would put up a mast and create an inverted V fed with ladder line to a coax balun before running coax into the trailer. Then I can use either an auto or manual tuner inside. My KX3 has a nice tuner for such use. Since I run QRP, I could have the inverted V ends almost to the ground.
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Old 09-01-2015, 11:38 AM   #12
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I will be interested to see what everyone says. I run digital JT9 at home and on the road I am too tired to do any Dxing as it seems I never stay in one spot more than a day. Perhaps some off-road in the future next year and stay put. Good luck
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Old 09-01-2015, 04:35 PM   #13
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Antanna

I have been doing lots of portable operating from my Casita with a variety of antennas. I recently built what I call my Field Day Special wich is 85' of wire strung up like an inverted V end feed with a bifilar UnUn (home brew). I place a 50 ft counterpoise on the ground below the antenna. I use a 40 ft fiberglass push up pole for support. It tunes 80 through 10 meters with my AT-200 and Z11 tuners and has given me some great DX as well as good reports on 80 and 40. I worked over 300 stations with this antenna at Field Day this year.

I power the radio with a 100 amp AGM battery with a 150 watt solar panel charger which allows me to run 100 watts if I need to.

My QRZ page has pictures and I can send you more pictures if you like.

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Old 09-01-2015, 05:16 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Casita-Freak View Post
I have been doing lots of portable operating from my Casita with a variety of antennas. I recently built what I call my Field Day Special wich is 85' of wire strung up like an inverted V end feed with a bifilar UnUn (home brew). I place a 50 ft counterpoise on the ground below the antenna. I use a 40 ft fiberglass push up pole for support. It tunes 80 through 10 meters with my AT-200 and Z11 tuners and has given me some great DX as well as good reports on 80 and 40. I worked over 300 stations with this antenna at Field Day this year.

I power the radio with a 100 amp AGM battery with a 150 watt solar panel charger which allows me to run 100 watts if I need to.

My QRZ page has pictures and I can send you more pictures if you like.

John WD5IKX
Casita-Freak

You don't need quite that much power to run a full 100 Watts. I powered my radio 2 years in a row for field day, day and night, using a 50 amp hour battery and a 65 Watt solar panel. My poor old 50 amp hour batter is about gone so I'll replace with another 50 amp hour battery. And still run 100 Watts.
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Old 09-01-2015, 06:27 PM   #15
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Scamp and Ham

We should start a Scamp n Ham group maybe??
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Old 09-01-2015, 06:36 PM   #16
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Perhaps a less exclusive Ham and Eggs?
Or if the RV is painted Green Eggs and Hams.
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Old 09-01-2015, 06:39 PM   #17
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Ham in Eggs

Great redbarron55,
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Old 09-02-2015, 06:04 PM   #18
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OK lots of great comments! Let me address a few of them and then tell you what I will be looking for at the hamfest this weekend.

@ Byron: At first glance the PAR EndFedz end-fed wire looks interesting, but they are mono-band. And, outside of maybe more flexibility in how they are erected, they seem to be about the same as a dipole. I need to research these more.

@ Elizabeth: Yes I see the Versa-Tenna is similar to the PAR EndFedz that Byron uses. The hamstick is interesting but again monoband. I expect to be on 20 meters most often, but I would prefer the option of trying out a few other bands without having to buy more and re-configuring. I am considering a monoband wire antenna and it could be hard to find places to anchor the ends and the hamstick would solve that problem. It would also be out of reach to other campers and therefore safer. If horizontal and on the hitch receiver mounted mast, it could also be rotated to take advantage of the directional characteristics of a dipole. Did you run it vertical or horizontal? PS for Elizabeth, I’m still 23 days from getting my camper myself, and might not get the radio running in it for some months, but remind me and I will be sure and let you know what I do and how it works for me.

@ jaevans: I do like the idea of your inverted V with ladder line although I think for convenience I would cut it for 20 meters (and give up using 40, at least for now). I believe what you are talking about is what ARRL describes it as a “center-fed Zepp,” “tuned doublet” and “dipole with tuned feeders” in this article. From what I read about this type of antenna, the impedance varies depending on how it is installed, and distance from ground, so a 4:1 balun usually works but if the impendence is off too much then a different ratio balun should be used. Since the campsites would vary, the effectiveness of the antenna and a 4:1 balun might also. This sounds like a good idea for future experimentation from the trailer. It is similar to my G5RV that I just put up at home. It was meant to be temporary but its working very well (13 countries in a week without really trying). Not as well as the tri-band beam at 50 feet I used to have at the same QTH, but still quite well.

@Greg: Spoke to your RF Engineer guy this morning, thanks for the reference. His advice was pretty consistent with everything here except he was not a fan of the end-fed antennas, or running a dipole in vertical config. He also seemed to think that coax was better than ladder line for portable, temporary setups.

@Frank Fox: I had not thought of using the belly band for a mount. How does that work for you? What is the effect of having the antenna there? A photo would be nice too.

@ Mike, K5NAN: Ahhh JT9! This is something that intrigues me. Years ago, I ran packet on 2M and also a little RTTY on HF, both with one of the early TNCs. JT9 was not around then. The digital modes have always interested me but they are so limited, at least when compared to the vast amount of data on the internet. Nevertheless, this is where Amateur radio has the potential to shine. The original mandate for Amateur radio to provide a pool of trained communications specialist for emergencies seems to be lost in this age of the Internet and 4g, but perhaps digital modes used by hams can provide some redundancy for the Internet, when the inevitable worldwide disruptions occur. The idea of effective digital communication over hundreds or thousands of miles with only five watts or so is amazing and I will be interested to see if it goes beyond the basic information exchange to the passing of potentially important and more lengthy messages.

@John, WD5IKX: On your QRZ page I see your bugcatcher and vertical with 8 radials but not sure I see what you described. In any case, lots of wires and antenna on the ground, or even just a 50 ft counterpoise, might not work at most campsites. If you have the area to set it all up, those are impressive antenna and results.

@redbarron55: Well you beat me to the punch. I was going to ask if anyone had laid claim to the name for their trailer of “The Hammin Egg.” I don’t want to steal the name and I have seen similar references, so if that’s the name of your camper, speak now

So where am I with this now?


Right now, I am leaning toward a monoband hamstick style dipole on a mast to start with. Depending on how that works, and my desire to use other bands if they are active, I can then get additional elements or I can try one of the other antennas such as the end fed, and inverted V dipole or maybe the zepp style multiband.

One of the most important deciding factors for me will involve the mast because I very much want to avoid using guys. Since I am have not done this before, I have to ask is it practical to mount a hamstick or buddiepole dipole on a hitch receiver mounted mast at least 12-15 feet high, without guying and with only a supporting bracket to the spare tire? Also would a mast bracket on the spare tire carrier require reinforcement? BTW, I would only use it with calm weather. If guys are going to be needed anyway, I might as well just use an inverted-V and save some money. Perhaps this one from MFJ would be good for a 20M antenna.

I see some people use hitch receiver flag mast mounts but I wonder if the tiltnraise mast mount is worth the extra money. I see you can also spend even more than that if you want.

BTW, I stumbled across this article that seems to echo some of the suggestions in this thread. I like it because its an easy read.

I’m going to stay away from the battery discussion for now.. when chasing DX its 99.9% listening. Even at 100 watts, just saying “59 North Carolina” won’t use much battery juice. Besides I expect to be on shore power more often than not, at least for a while.

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Old 09-02-2015, 06:47 PM   #19
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Depending on what your tow vehicle is perhaps you could consider a mobile antenna on it with coax back to the trailer. Then a screwdriver or other antenna could provide multi-band abilities.

For me installing an antenna means drilling a ¾" hole in the roof and filling it with an NMO mount.
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Old 09-02-2015, 06:53 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by minke View Post
Depending on what your tow vehicle is perhaps you could consider a mobile antenna on it with coax back to the trailer. Then a screwdriver or other antenna could provide multi-band abilities.

For me installing an antenna means drilling a ¾" hole in the roof and filling it with an NMO mount.
That indeed was something I thought about but the tug is only 8 months old so I am not quite ready to drill holes in it. But that might be exactly what I do eventually.
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