March 28, 2020

Backpacking Amateur Radio Ten Essentials

In my post, Amateur Radio Backpacking Checklist, I offer a list of helpful items to include when backpacking including the "ten essentials".  So what are the ten essentials?

The ten essentials are your non-negotiable life-saving items to include in your pack when you go on any outdoor adventure:
  1. Knife - A knife is an extremely useful tool in the field.  You can use it to make a shelter, prepare food, tighten a screw, carve wood into gadgets, cut 550 cord, ... 
  2. First-aid kit - Backpacking requires self-sufficiency.  When you are are in the backcountry you typically can't call for help.  Your life may depend on your first aid kit.  Mine is a homemade kit stuffed into a lightweight zippered water resistant sack.
  3. Extra clothing - This is a tough one since it easy to overpack clothing and what to pack depends on your location and conditions.  For backpacking in the California Sierras in July, I always minimally bring two pair of wool socks, a fleece, one pair of synthetic pants with zipper-off legs, a wicking t-shirt, and wool knit hat.  For a day hike, I will pack a fleece.
  4. Rain gear - I pack a waterproof rain jacket minimally.  If I know I am going to be trekking in rain then I will pack rain pants.  Staying dry means staying warm and avoiding hypothermia.
  5. Water storage - I carry a US military surplus water canteen on my belt.  I like being able to easily access water while I hike without stopping.  I also pack a full Platypus water bag as backup.  Two containers provides me with peace of mind between refills.  It is also handy to use one to treat water while drinking from the other.
  6. Flashlight - I pack a lightweight headlamp with adjustable brightness that runs on two AA batteries along with a couple of extra batteries.  I use the minimal brightness necessary for the task at hand to conserve battery so they last longer.
  7. Trail food - When backpacking, I pack enough food to last for the entire trip plus an extra day's worth.  An extra day's worth of food is for backup in case of delays.  Pack high protein food (not junk food).
  8. Matches and fire starter - I pack a waterproof container with high quality waterproof stick matches.  I also carry my favorite windproof Zippo lighter.  Fire can mean survival.
  9. Sun protection - I typically wear a broad brimmed hat to protect my face, ears, and neck against the California sunshine.  I also carry a small stick of solid sunscreen.  I wear a collared long-sleeve ventilated shirt that protects my arms, shoulders, and neck.  Long pants protect my legs.  No fun suffering through a sunburn and important to save our skin since we will be needing later in life.
  10. Map and compass - There is no substitute for a good topographic map, compass, and the ability to use both well.  They are lightweight lifesavers.  GPS devices are a wonder of technology and relatively fragile.
  11. Amateur Radio - A 2m / 440 Mhz handy-talkie with a fully charged battery is a potential life-saving communicating device in an emergency.  I program my HT with the repeaters local to the area I will be backpacking in before I go.  I also monitor NOAA weather radio transmissions on my HT for potential hazards.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

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March 22, 2020

So what is a scout to do when sheltering at home?

So what is a scout to do when sheltering at home, with no school, no sports, no scouting activities, ....???

A great use of extra time on your hands is to study to earn your very own FCC Amateur Radio Technician License!!!  Earning your Amateur Radio Technician license allows you to operate radio equipment on the amateur radio bands.

Amateur radio is a really fun and interesting STEM hobby and is a great way to communicate during emergencies when other forms of communication fail (be prepared).  It also prepares you for the largest scouting activity in the world: the annual Jamboree On The Air.  With your technician license you can communicate with people all around the world with basic radio equipment or join in exciting radio contests or communicate using amateur radio satellites or even talk to  astronauts on the international space station.  One of my favorite radio contacts was with a science expedition in Antarctica!

You can study for your Amateur Radio Technician License online from home using  Many people find they are able to prepare with around 20 hours of studying.  My Son Shea (KC2VSR) is an Eagle Scout and earned his license when he was 9 years old.  You can earn your FCC license too!  Once you earn your license it is yours for the rest of your life.

Scouts who earn their amateur radio license are eligible to wear the awesome BSA Amateur Radio Operator strip on their uniform.  Earning your license is also an excellent way to work on your radio merit badge.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

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