Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

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Grant
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Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by Grant » Mon May 05, 2014 8:13 pm

It’s common to see people asking about ’50 mile walkie talkies’ and the like, so I figured I’d throw this in for sheer weirdness value. I went to Whiteside mountain this weekend to help one of the schools I’ve been to run a small biology expedition. Things worked great, and one of the other professors asked me if I’d bring a ham radio for a demo for the kids (term used loosely as several of them were older than I was).

As my ham radio fits in my back pocket I said sure, as I’d have a much easier time dragging mine than most anyone else. Despite having an Extra-class license all I own is a THF6A. When we got to the mountain top, I explained repeaters and the like, and how it could work when there was no cell signal, which there wasn’t, but then decided to send out a call on 2m simplex to see who might answer.

While the kids watched, I got a reply from a guy who was over a hundred miles away in a different state, who noted that my signal strength was pretty much nothing, but my voice was ‘booming’, which made no sense. I told him I was running five watts from a handheld but he didn’t believe me until I explained I was also 4,930 feet in the air, too, standing on the peak of the mountain.

Turns out they key to long-distance walkie-talkie is to stand on top of a literal mountain. I’m going to send the guy a brochure from the mountain too as he wants to be able to prove he did speak to a guy from a hundred miles away on an HT.

I really need to make some QSL cards. This beats my prior personal simplex record (40 miles) by quite a bit!

Unfortunately, it's still nowhere near as good as someone else I knew who, using the SAME mountain, managed to contact Alaska with a Rockmite in an altoids tin. That makes my accomplishment look rather pathetic.
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Re: Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by Stercutus » Mon May 05, 2014 10:21 pm

lack of intervening crests, horizon and radio interference from outside sources all work wonders on range.
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Re: Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by TacAir » Mon May 05, 2014 10:31 pm

Fun,huh? We've worked Kodiak from the hills outside of Anchorage on 6 meters. I worked a guy in San Francisco from Anchorage on my 2 meter hand-held, via an OSCAR. Working bog DX is one of the bigger thrills of ham radio. Thanks for sharing the tale.
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Re: Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by KYZHunters » Tue May 06, 2014 5:41 am

Nice work on that contact; I'm glad you had that moment a lot of hams never have, when the question, "when does this get fun?" gets answered.
I predict more radios and antennas in your near future.
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Re: Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by CitizenZ » Wed May 07, 2014 2:18 pm

That's great. Every time the subject of the mythical 50 mile walkie-talkie (for less than $100 per pair, of course) comes up I like to point out that it is possible... with mountain top overlooks, directional antennas and scheduled contacts. Just like military, commercial and amateur radio operators have been doing since radios first became portable.

I made a 1900 mile contact with a 3 watt FM HT to another HT radio. Using a hand held directional antenna bouncing off an amateur satellite the size of a coffee mug.
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Re: Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by Grant » Wed May 07, 2014 9:15 pm

Well, to be fair, my radio was more than a hundred by quite a bit, and my contact wasn't that well organized, it was just a fluke. I didn't expect it to work that way, I was just doing and demo and suddenly it happened. I don't know what the other guy was using...I guess I need to ask when I send him the card and brochure. For my 40 mile contact I know he had a yagi that he had pointed in my direction, and I was on a (much lower) hill then, too, so both of us cheated in that respect.

Hey, I bet I could save a lot of money on a tower if I could just buy a mountain to sit on! Those are cheap, right?

Either way the kids were very impressed at being able to get hold of someone with no cell service. They were even more impressed when I told them the local autopatch can hook the radio up to 911 (I didn't demonstrate that part...). Maybe a few will take the plunge.
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Re: Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by Big Bird » Sun May 18, 2014 12:33 pm

An excellent demonstration of the capabilities of radio!

Of course, the guy on the other end may have been using a high gain yagi pointing in your direction, but that type of thing is pretty much needed for that kind of range.

I did once get a reply (not a complete QSO) from a guy in the states on a handheld CB (I'm UK), but that had to be a fluke of propagation plus one heck of a lot of luck. :)

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Re: Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by rhi » Sun May 18, 2014 5:41 pm

During a tropo duct opening a few summers ago, I was able to work a ferry captain on the James river in VA on 440 simplex with 5W from here in southern NJ.
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Re: Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by zommoz10 » Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:21 pm

100 miles with a portable from a moutaintop isn't uncommon.
But what gets to be problematic is when new hams only get an HT expecting it to get mad range like that in the city or suburbs while they're in their car only to find out that they aren't even putting a workable signal into the local repeater.
I'm not saying YOU, just that in the current climate of mobile devices, people have unrealistic expectations about what a portable ham radio is capable of doing in most scenarios.

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Re: Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by Radio guy » Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:15 pm

That's a little different than a radio to radio simplex contact. The satellite was receiving and rebroadcasting your signal, so that's like cheating. I've used 5W at UHF and talked through a satellite 23,000mi away using a two element crossed Yagi to access the satellite.
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I made a 1900 mile contact with a 3 watt FM HT to another HT radio. Using a hand held directional antenna bouncing off an amateur satellite the size of a coffee mug.

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Re: Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by Grant » Sat Jun 14, 2014 9:04 pm

I did make sure I told them that the sort of range I just got was due to how high up we were. I also told them how repeaters worked, too, and demo'd that later, so they got a good intro. I know better than to have something happen like that and try to pass it off as normal. That would guarantee a problem later. Instead I put it forward as what it was, a way to contact someone in areas where there is no cell coverage or the like, as ham radio works most anywhere without necessarily having to have extra infrastructure (though in the case of repeaters it can certainly help).

I figure if I just do the basics like that they know what it's largely for, and then they might be interested later on.
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Re: Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by Doctor Jest » Tue Jun 17, 2014 7:32 am

The QRP guys can really stretch it out. There's even a "1000 mile per watt" award given to anyone that makes a contact whose distance/power ratio is 1000 mi/W or over. They are usually using CW, though.

With the right antenna / propagation conditions / luck, it's amazing what radio can do.
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Re: Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by Tater Raider » Sat Jun 21, 2014 9:56 pm

Radio guy wrote:The satellite was receiving and rebroadcasting your signal.
In all fairness both y'all were talking to something that wasn't even on the planet, traveling at high velocity, and the size of a coffee mug with a handheld antenna so I'm counting both y'all's contacts. :mrgreen:

Got to talking to some folk about EME bounce once. Talk about high gain antennas...

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Re: Made a 100 mile contact with a handheld!

Post by Purple_Mutant » Tue Jun 24, 2014 6:45 am

Doctor Jest wrote:The QRP guys can really stretch it out. There's even a "1000 mile per watt" award given to anyone that makes a contact whose distance/power ratio is 1000 mi/W or over. They are usually using CW, though.

With the right antenna / propagation conditions / luck, it's amazing what radio can do.
I have done that on 10 meters with PSK31. 5 watts + PSK31 + wire dipole got me from the bay area in CA to Japan. A little over 5000 miles away. I have also managed New Zealand on 10 meters running 5 watts though a solarcon A99 antenna. PSK31 rules. Not that long ago I managed a 5 watt SSB contact with a station in the Netherlands. It was a contest station with yagis on big towers, so that helped. Once I get a 10 meter yagi or moxon built, I should do even better. QRP > QRO!
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