I’m looking to acquire my first HT w/ APRS (for spotting SOTA). I’m on a budget and completely open to buying used for a cost savings and I’m ok with ‘last years model’. There are not any other features that I can think of that I would consider ‘must haves’ as APRS spotting and making 2m FM sota contacts would be my primary objective. That said I would like to stay with one of the ‘major’ brands… I’ve looked some but there are so many different models. What are some suggestions. FYI I have an FT-60r and a few UV-5r’s now.
I bought the Yaesu VX-8 for this purpose. Not sure I would buy it again.
- robust design
- watertight (no problem to be attached to your rucksack in snow or rain)
- technically quite good, as far as I can tell; lots of functionality.
Not so good things:
- Mechanical solution for GPS is suboptimal. You can use the external mike to attach the GPS unit, which is quite a good solution, but not very usable if you want to put the rig into your jacket. Attaching it to the rig directly looks not very stable.
- Terrible user interface. You need to read 140 pages of a manual to understand it, and can’t memorize even frequently needed functions (e.g. setting the squelch level).
My plan was to use this to
- be able to self-spot via APRS without using a cellphone via APRS2SOTA and
- be able to give chasers an indication of where I am on my way to a summit.
This has worked only rarely. I did not try APRS2SOTA yet, because I was to complicated for my taste in the sense of the combination of the VX-8 user interface and the general procedure.
As for APRS tracking: I mostly do alpine summits, and even with a 40 cm antenna (like the Diamond SRH771), I get spotted only within the very last part of a typical ascent (like the last 200 m in altitude). I only managed one FM QSO from a summit so far.
And then again, the FM rig weighs as much as my TinySOTA HF station.
Personally, I have mostly abandoned the idea of using APRS and FM voice for SOTA, and focus instead of CW QSOs on HF, which are more predictable and also faster for me.
73 de Martin, DK3IT
Edit: The situation might look very different in other regions of the SOTA universe - it seems the UK etc. activators are pretty successful with 2m FM.
I don’t think you want an APRS handheld but an APRS solution to use with your current handheld.
VX-8 et al are frighteningly expensive and the RX is mince. Your FT-60 is a brilliant handheld for SOTA. An add on solution will be cheaper and more flexible.
As far as I know there is no add on solution?
Well for a start your can run APRS on a phone and connect the audio to the handy to send posits. Plus there are all sorts of solutions to trackers you can buy/build.
I sometimes use the app APRSDROID on my Android smartphone to generate the audio AFSK packet right out of the phone’s speaker. I hold the phone up to my HT or the Mic of my FT-817, key the mic, hit the ‘send packet’ on the phone and we’re off to the races. This solution has saved me when the phone has no service to spot via the internet or text. I like this solution because I typically have my phone and a VHF capable radio with me anyway so I didn’t add anything to my kit.
I also have a Yeasu FT-1XD which is a dual band C4FM and APRS HT. It’s a fine HT, and it does APRS just fine. However, punching in the text string for a SOTA spot is a bit of a chore. When I do that I usually que up pre-written messages for spots so I don’t have to take the time to do it on summit.
Gotcha! I didnt even think about the whole phone audio to the mic thing. This seems like a good solution. I will have to look for an iPhone app.
What happens when you have no cell service? still works fine as long as you have GPS reception?
Set your Baofeng to 144.390 (I think that is the USA APRS channel), buy one of these below
Then all you need is an interface lead to your HH
Job done, you will need a small battery (12v) I have used a 11.1v lipo for this to power the Microsat products
You could build it all into a self contained box
This is the system I use in the car, but have a Wouxun instead of a Baofeng and it is powered off the 12v cigarette lighter socket in the car!
$90 seems reasonable!
My other system is a Yaesu FT1D, works really well for APRS, but is costly!
Mobilinkd is a great solution if you have an Android phone. Seamless integration over Bluetooth and pretty reasonable priced for what it is.
I have done something similar to what Matt is suggesting. I got the Mobilinkd TNC2 (http://www.mobilinkd.com/tnc2/. It has a built in battery that easily lasts long enough for our purposes and it connects to the cell phone via bluetooth. You just get the correct connector cable to go to your HT’s mic and speaker jacks. I have hooked it to my baofeng and it has worked quite well.
As others have said, maybe not as snazzy a solution as the radios with APRS built in, but it is a bunch cheaper.
sigh ki7est is a faster typist and I am.
I have a Yaesu FT2D and it does APRS very well. That is, after the difficult setup and required tinkering with different settings. From perusing the internet, it appears I’m not the only one that has had difficulty setting this it up on this radio.
The major drawback with using APRS for self-spotting on the FT2D is that typing out messages is laborious on the touchscreen.
Maybe a used Kenwood TH-D72?
great radio, been using it for years
does not only support APRS but has an inbuilt TNC and can handle all APRS functions
SIRFIII GPSrx built in
not-so-complicated to send SOTA spots via APRS, do it quite often from summits
Depends what you call a budget
I’m using the Kenwood TH-D72 for about 4-5 years now and I just love it. Never had any issues with that radio. Also tried a Yaesu VX-8 … but was not happy with that radio and sold it again!
I’m sure you will find some used one’s for sale on the web …
73 Martin, OE5REO
Haha sorry, digital is a bit of a passion of mine.
FWIW I have a VX-8DR and prefer the mobilinkd. The interface is just too cramped + hard to use. Plus I can get APRS on my DMR HT.
Another benefit is mobilinkd is a proper KISS TNC so if you want to experiment with rolling your own protocol that’s also possible :).
I purchased a Kenwood TH-D72 HT in 2011 and have been using it for SOTA since 2014 as WA9STI-7. When hiking to a summit, I have the HT in a side pocket of my pack sending out beacons. I will put in a text message such “Enroute” with the name/ ref of the summit while walking up and “Returning” while walking down. When on the peak, it sends out a beacon “In Service.” I post my spots via APRS2SOTA regularly to SOTAwatch with the summit and frequency information stored in memory. I am able to receive other APRS beacons and have sent short text messages to/from other SOTA operators. Besides for SOTA, I have used and carried this HT for APRS while riding a bicycle, driving a boat, paddling a kayak, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.
The D72 is being replaced by the new Kenwood TH-D74A although it is still available new at $200 less than the D74A. The only issue I have had is the volume/channel knob became very loose where I had to open the radio up and tighten a nut on the knob shaft. However the knob would still become loose again so I had sent it back to Kenwood where the knob was replaced. So if purchasing a used D72, I would verify there is no issue with the knob. The power level is either high at 5 watts or very low at .5 watts or .05 watts so if transmitting a beacon continuously, one is usually at 5 watts and an extra battery may be needed. However for almost any single SOTA to include hiking up and down and sending APRS2SOTA spots, one battery is sufficient.
I have used and set up a Yaesu VX-8GR HT on APRS for a relative but found it more complicated than the D72. However the VX-8GR has mid-level power outputs at the 2.5 and 1 watt levels besides a 5 watt position which is an advantage over the either high power or very low power setting with the D72.
A used D7 or D72 is perfect for spotting from SOTA peaks. The D74 will work as well, but last I heard/read was that you lose some of the extra functions with the newer D74. Like using the packet Winlink system and RMS express. I have the older D7A and have used it quite a bit, mostly for sending short texts or emails, while in remote areas not having cell svc on the APRS side…I did have to purchase a new Lion battery to replace that old NiCad that was sold with it
73, Todd KH2TJ
For purposes of an APRS message containing a self-spot, it works fine even WITHOUT GPS reception. The packet with a message doesn’t include coordinates.