When I was young, it was a simpler time. All you needed was a pen knife, cap gun, your dog, and a Radio Flyer red wagon to put your stuff in. The world was your oyster and adventure was right around the corner. Even though I am much older now, and my horizons have expanded; adventure is still right around the corner. It was fitting that my new camper is also a Flyer. I thought it fitting to name my camper the Radio Flyer, big boy’s red wagon.
For my first adventure, I chose to go to the Stephen C. Foster State Park located within the Okefenokee Swamp. It’s about a 6-hour drive from my home QTH. Getting off of the interstate at Valdosta; it’s about a 45-mile drive down a highway that is largely uninhabited. For a man who likes his solitude, I felt alone. I pulled into Fargo, GA for gas, and then it was another 18 miles of desolation to the park. The first gate was entering the refuge. Then another lonely stretch to the park entrance.
The park was quiet with several different species of Owl providing commentary. The park never got noisy while I was there. I liked it. The campsite was rustic and nice. In short order I was set up and ready to go.
One of the things I like about the camper is its simplicity. The interior is open and spacious. there is enough room for me and my gear plus I can sit comfortably. The AC and heater work well. The galley is all I need. I added a microwave that fits on the storage shelf.
My intentions were to operate CW and FT8 while out. However, the propagation gods were not with me and band conditions were rather poor. Often only one or two of the bands were open and even then they suffered from heavy QSB or fading. You could see it on the WSJT waterfall. Now you see it, now you don’t. I tried CW a couple of times but to no avail, so FT8 it was. Here is a shot of my screen at 40 meters. Normally, it would be wall-to-wall signals at the time the image was taken.
I tried a couple of different radio configurations inside the camper and the one that had the most promise was this:
I set up at the rear of the camper facing sideways. I was using a lap desk, leftover from my last camper. I was sitting in a canoe chair and balancing the desk on my legs. Not the best setup, but it gave me some ideas for next time. I was much more comfortable in this camper operating.
Station Setup. The antenna was my 29′ random wire antenna and 17′ counterpoise. It is fed with a homemade 9:1 UnUn and a 1:1 current balun. Here’s what the outside looked like.
Coax is RG-316. The radio was my Yaesu FTDX10 with a Mat-30 antenna tuner. I will comment more about the radio in a separate paragraph.
How did I do? I was on the radio pretty steady from 1800 hrs lcl Friday night, unitl about 2200 hrs lcl Saturday night. I would have worked a little later on Saturday, but the bands made it a struggle. I came out okay. I made 353 contacts from 45 states and 11 countries. Band break down as follows: 10m – 5, 12m – 2, 15m – 4, 20m – 130, 30m – 48, 40m – 151, 80m -13, and 160m – 6. I should have had more contacts on all of the bands, but conditions were not that good. I think the only reason I got the 6 on 160m, is people were trying to find propagation — any propagation.
FTDX Woes. I continue to find things I do not like about this radio. I plan on keeping this radio for a while to really give it a shakedown. You really can’t give a radio a good review if you only use it for a short while. I am keeping my IC-7300. On this trip, the biggest niggle I had was the main dial lock. It also locks the MPVD (outer ring) dial. Why is this bad? To use the clarifier, you have to use the MPVD. I recently wrote about split operation and some of you asked why not use the clarifier. The answer is you can but. The Yaesu main dial is large, too large in my opinion, and it is easy to bump it off frequency. This is important if the other station is running split. if you bump the main dial, you no longer hear the other station. You may not notice right away if something is wrong and you can miss your opportunity. If you are the station being worked and you bump your transmit frequency, no one can hear you. With the IC-7300, you can lock the main dial and still operate the RIT/DeltaTX (clarifier) with the multi-function knob.
Woe #2. You cannot easily operate FT8 on 60 meters. Yaesu programmed the 10 channels into memory and to get it to operate on 60 meters, you have to jump through some hoops, more than you should for a modern radio. The Icom will run 60 meters right from the WSJT app.
Woe #3. Using the Mat-30 tuner, the FTDX10 refuses to tune my antenna on 17 meters. I have 3 other portable tuners that work just fine on 17 meters including my 15-year-old LDG Z-11 Pro.
I don’t know, Yaesu, just misses the mark. I still kind of like the Yaesu, there seems to be a lot of almost, but not quite there. The reality is, whatever I can work on the Yaesu, I can work on the Icom. The Yaesu has a more refined receiver, but the Icom has a lower noise floor. For now, I am keeping the Yaesu, and I will continue to take it to the field and use it. I want to have a good feel for it before I decide which one to keep. Like I said, you really can’t do a good review over a short period of time. I really want to give the radio a good workout on CW, which I think will be its niche, if only the propagation gods will favor me. If one of you has an in with Yaesu, send them the link to my blog.
Below is a link to the accompanying YouTube video.