Where have all the 2m folk gone?

Have all the 2m folk deserted to D-star in NE Scotland?! If you fancy a challenge - try 2m only activations on GM/ES summits. Patience and good waterproofs are a must!
More seriously - any top tips on waterproofing my Yaesu VX6 would be appreciated. I know its shower proof, but not once you add a decent antenna (e.g. 5/8 Super Rod 2) all too often I am rained off the hill in fear for my wee hand held. How do others bag it (or the FT817 which is my other rig) effectively?

In reply to MM3ZYS:

I gave up 2m only activations very quickly due to the paucity of contacts and that was from the much more populous Central Belt. Robin GM7PKT always seems to work a good number but I think I have less patience and 60m SSB and 40m CW seem more productive.

I have 3 rigs used on activations. Yaesu VX-170, a bulletproof workhorse that is seriously waterproof and built like a brick what-not! You can use a VX-170 to knock in tent pegs and you wont do too much damage to the tent pegs :wink: I don’t worry about it and the weather. It goes in the outside mesh pockets of the rucksack. No point having a fully waterproof unit and then treating it with kid gloves.

Rarely used is an Icom IC-X21ET (70cms/23cms handheld). This was obtained secondhand and is about 15 years old but is mint. It came in its original plastic bags and tie wraps inside its box. That is transported in a box which doubles as a both antenna and protection. See http://www.flickr.com/photos/mm0fmf/3422214972/ It’s too mint to consider getting it wet or dirty so it’s a fair weather only radio. If it’s wet it stays in the box.

Finally I have an FT-817 and its case. For average Scottish drizzle the carry case with the control flap closed is enough to keep the 817 dry. For proper rain or when the wind is making the rain fall horizontal then I simply put the 817 back in its transporting bag. This is a large plastic bag made from bubble wrap. It’s what I put the 817 in when it is shoved inside my rucksack. I setup the 817 and close the bag. Works well enough and was free.

If you are worried about waterproofing the antenna to VX6, then make a mount for the antenna that you can mount onto a walking pole, it can also have a decent groundplane and run a cable from that to the handheld. You can then place the handheld inside a plastic bag. Trying to waterproof the radio with an antenna on top sounds hardwork.


In reply to MM3ZYS:

I find 2m FM contacts to activate a summit no problem but as I activate in the GM/SS area, within view of Glasgow mostly although there are regular SOTA chasers in the West/ Central belt scattered throughout who keep tabs on the Spot page. I have tried 70cms both FM and SSB with very little success…I will try HF at some point…once and if I recover from my last outing.

Why not treat yourself to one of the small tents, I’m lazy I try to choose only dry days. I’m sure your local supermarket could supply.


In reply to MM3ZYS:


I too use a VX-6. Front end as wide as a barn door, but apart from that its done me good service. I have on occasion used it with a 1/2 wave on 2m (Diamond RH-770) when its just been too wet and windy for anything more substantial. I use one of the low profile black rubber and anodised metal SMA to BNC adapters - there’s loads on eBay nowadays. Never had a problem in the wet with this setup. It couldn’t hurt to wipe the antenna over with a rag and a spray of WD-40 afterwards.

Andy is quite right about the nature of the VX-170. Geoff 2E0BTR has one and we once forgot to take it off the car before pulling off - we were doing 40MPH when it hit the deck - a couple of dinks but other wise fine. The VX-6, though seemingly more plasticky than the 170 also does well - mine went bouncing down the roadat 15MPH when I was cycling along!


Dave M0MYA.

In reply to MM3ZYS:

How about packing a bothy bag?

I was in Scotland last several years ago, and the only 2 metre activity I heard in a week was a single FM contact in Glasgow - even the repeaters were dead!

There seems to be a general decrease in VHF activity. I put it down to the ending of the Morse Code test. In the days of A and B licenses, many of the B’s were on 2 metres because it was the best of the bands permitted to them. When the B license was eliminated those committed to VHF stayed, the ones who preferred HF moved. It didn’t all happen at once, when you first dip your toe into HF you find that there is a lot to learn!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to MM3ZYS:

If you fancy
a challenge - try 2m only activations on GM/ES summits. Patience and
good waterproofs are a must!

Yes, pile-ups are a bit rare on 2m up there :slight_smile:
Although Robin, GM7PKT did give me a bit of good advice last year, “beam at Inverness and put out a call on 145.575”
It did take me 1hr and 20min to get the 4 contacts from ES-027, Meall a’Buachaille earlier in the year, mind you it was a stunning if breezy day and I got to lie on the hill top looking into the northern corries of the Caringorms. The view is stunning, so I wasn’t in a hurry to be anywhere else. Contacts from Nairn, Elgin, Orkney and rather surprisingly (to me anyway) the Isle of Lewis.

My setup is an FT817 and a 3 ele Sotabeam, when it rains/drizzles/snows the rig is in a drybag inside the rucksack, which has done me okay so far although I do wonder if one day I’ll have to get a new mic.

That said it doesn’t always go to plan, I’ve got a good handful of summits with 1-3 contacts, but the way I look at it, that just gives me an excuse to get back onto the hills again.

Iain, M3WJZ

In reply to MM3ZYS:

Yes I noticed the huge reduction in 2m activity when I returned to amateur radio after a long time away (1993 to 2007 - and I did very little from 1984 to 1993), even in central Scotland.

SOTA is one of the things that’s really got me going again - it allows me to combine a couple of favourite activities. Even in the old days I used to take my homebrew 2m FM set up hills sometimes. I’m still a VHF and up fan though - witness my persistence at trying VHF only activations; I get a great buzz out of a long distance 2m contact with an antenna and linear I built myself, whereas HF (to me) doesn’t hit the note - when I first used HF, I felt that it was so easy to get contacts from a summit (especially if spotted) that it seemed like cheating! However, I’m sure I’ll use HF again (maybe even later this week to try an S2S with the Ailsa Craig crowd, in case VHF fails me!), and of course conditions have to be used appropriately else you can get nowhere with HF as well.

My plans are certainly for more, not less, VHF and up activity - a little linear for 70cm is one of the next projects (one for 6m as well).

On waterproofing, I have the FT-817 plus various homebrew bits. Long ago I learned to use plastic bags inside the rucksac. If the rain starts to come down then I’ll give up an activation rather than get water in the gear. I prefer my hillwalking in decent weather too.

Look forward to some 2m S2S contacts with you!


In reply to MM3ZYS:

Have all the 2m folk deserted to D-star in NE Scotland?! If you fancy a challenge - try 2m only activations on GM/ES summits”

2m up here is dire, most of the ops (and there are zillions of them) have forgotten where the PTT is or only chat with their chums - mind you, you need to be local to have any idea what is being said, the accent is rather broad!

Years ago you could come onto 2m, 70cm or 23cm and be certain of a contact with the guys at Lossiemouth or Kinloss (RAF stations); not any more. On activity nights if I work one station I look upon it as a bonus - this results in the self fulfilling prophecy that “nobody is on so I don’t bother coming on”.

I admire Robin’s tenacity activating on VHF before HF, life is too short for that!

The tip about 145.575 and beaming at Inverness is very valid.

Barry GM4TOE

In reply to GM4TOE:

Its not just D star, either. Friends of mine that I regularly joined in nets now do most of their chit-chat via computer, and I hear them on 2 metres less and less. They say they get better quality and less bother, so why use the radio? And that is in Birmingham where few amateurs are in locations that are really difficult for VHF, so imagine how many people are abandoning VHF in more hilly locations! We have to face up to the fact that fewer people actually need to use VHF, and it will be underpopulated except in contests, openings, special events (and those are all fading, too) and by the committed chasers and activators.


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:
I think more are on HF now you dont need morse, before the introduction of the new licence system 2m and 70cm had to be used. Sean M0GIA

In reply to G8ADD:

Hi Brian

Just done a quick tot up of UK CQ100 members and there are in excess
of 3000. It’s a fair bet that most of these amateurs are active on CQ100
as most people wouldn’t be paying for something they weren’t using. I
don’t know how many UK amateurs there are now, but it would be interesting
to know what proportion are active on ‘real’ radio. Of course I wouldn’t
be including those using EchoLink etc, or repeaters! (LOL)

By the way, you nearly deafened me yesterday. I was listening to Richard
G4ERP on Little Mell Fell and he had faded down in the QSB. I put my ear to
the speaker to hear him better, and then you called him! Serves me right!!

Kind regards

73 Dave G0ELJ

In reply to G0ELJ:

I just looked up CQ100, not having heard of it before. Amazing, and somewhat disturbing! I would rather that Sean’s theory that they have moved to HF was correct.

Sorry I deafened you, Don does it to me sometimes - I’ll swear that my headphones straighten out and then spring back and thump my ears!


Brian G8ADD

Good points made in this thread about VHF operation.

Eagle eyed observers may have noted that I had already got a slot booked to present SOTA in the VHF track at the RSGB Convention in October.

Programme here: http://www.rsgb.org.uk/rsgbconvention/events_programme.php

The organisers have introduced this dedicated VHF track with a goal to reinvigorate operation on these bands. SOTA is seen as one way to get more people using VHF on the air.

I am still preparing the material but if any of you prolific VHF activators (or chasers) have some nice anecdotes, images, equipment tips etc that you would like to share, I would be very grateful to see/hear them direct to my email address (it’s OK at qrz.com).

Otherwise, if you know of anyone visiting the convention, please let them know about the VHF programme and get them to drop in. I would be very pleased to see you/them.

73 Marc G0AZS

In reply to MM3ZYS:

Is it really that different? I used to operate from JO02 25-30 years ago and it was hard work making 2m contacts then. The only real difference I notice is that now on SSB, stations are less willing too scrabble in the noise and wait for QSB to bring signals up, for me thats half the fun. I work G6XLL in London randomly often and he always makes an extra effort to complete even when I must be an awful signal with him. Also more need to learn CW and switch to that when the going gets tough, I could work loads more if, like the “old days” that happened. I agree with john GM8OTI, reeling endless reports in on HF for me is mind numbing, but each to their own thing of course, thats what a hobby is all about.
I agree with plastic bags for WX, I use bubble wrap ones also which add protection.
Hear you on 2m SSB/CW!?

In reply to GM4GUF:

It seems very different to me! 25-30 years ago it was sometimes impossible to find a clear channel of an evening on SSB, and though I worked little FM I deduce there was similar pressures on their channels judging from the number of FM stations that encroached into the SSB and Beacon allocations - and they would complain bitterly if anybody started operating on SSB anywhere within the barn door passbands of their receivers!

JO02 is a bit surprising, I never had too much trouble working that square from the SW corner of IO92, but JO01 was always a problem, the London area seemed to be an RF black hole on 2m and 70cm with little activity heard, though in a lift I got plenty of signals from further SE into Kent. Of course, London is in a hollow surrounded by higher ground, which doesn’t help!

One problem now is the high noise levels, if I beam up or down the road (SW or NE) the background increases to S3-4 which makes weak signal work more difficult, plus all the birdies…a regular dawn chorus nowadays!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:
You are right the noise is much worse today. TVI was worse in those days as I recall, we used to get complaints with 10watts! There were 4 hams in our family!
I can recall the 2m band being completly full on SSB and FM, you are right and not finding a space to call, but only when there was a good lift which sadly is less frequent these days, we are overdue for a good one Brian. Interesting your different view, maybe Lowestoft was out on a limb. I really cant remember it being that good on an average evening on our 10 ele jbeam at 50feet, especially in the winter.
All I can say is I spent many mispent hours listening to white noise on 2m and 70cm which was my interest, pity there was no SOTA then… where were you!?
Robert G(M)4GUF

In reply to GM4GUF:

Tnx for the ideas for protecting the rig.
I’m used to the hills, but grew up in the school of ‘eat on the hoof - no we don’t stop for picnics!’ I enjoy taking time for SOTA but it is amazing how fast you can loose the feeling in your hands (in Summer!) and can no longer ket the PTT. Particularly in solo activations it is no joke getting cold. It is often the cold that has me leaving the hill after a couple of hours whether I have 4 contacts or not. I know the obvious thing is wear more, but I dress like Nanook of the North already! So a bivi bag will probably be my next purchase, that and a PL259 right angle adapter for the back of the FT817 Having rig tipped up on its tail to see the display is putting strain on the socket and causes a break in signal at tmes.

Like the bubble wrap idea.

73 & 88


In reply to MM3ZYS:

Moonraker do a right-angle adapter for £2.50 but postage will probably double that!

I, too, grew up in the “eat on the hoof” school, but broke the habit when I bought a camera!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to MM3ZYS:

and a PL259 right angle adapter for the back of the FT817

You should give up with PL259s as soon as you can. They’re bigger and heavier than a BNC. They give a worse quality of connection (admitedly not a real problem with 817 powers and frequencies) and they’re naff to assemble and solder. Also they’re a pain to connect and unconnect when wearing gloves. More so on the back of an 817 with its softcase in place.

Many right-angle 259’s are diabolical. I had one once that was intermittent and caused some 2m gear to behave funny even when it was showing a perfect DC connection. Disecting it showed that the bend connection was provided by a bit of springy wire. Who knows what impedance it was but 50Ohms would be optimistic! It was a great example of quality Chinese engineering… cheap, nasty and about to fail at any time.

BNC connectors are a much better choice.


In reply to MM0FMF:

True, Andy, but the BNC socket on the front of the 817 is notoriously weak and I would hesitate to replace the socket off the back with either a BNC or an N socket!


Brian G8ADD