Thursday, June 22, 2006

Weight. The Final Frontier.

This might be a good time to start the discussion about weight. The 100 pound figure was originally conjured by me because of the recent airline restrictions on checked baggage: two bags each no more than 50 pounds. That gives you 100 pounds total. This might sound like a lot until you start checking out these statistics:

  • Pelican 1610 case -- largest checked bag size is 22 pounds empty

  • FT-897D + LDG bolt-on tuner + internal PS is 12 pounds

This brings me up to 34 pounds. Now watch what happens...

  • "Big" Buddipole system, 16' mast, etc. is 12 pounds

  • "Little" Buddipole system, 8' mast, etc. is 8 pounds

  • MFJ 259B analyzer is 2 pounds

A couple of antennas and the analyzer is 22 more pounds (56 total)

Now we need coax:

  • Each 100 foot RG8 coax run is about 9 pounds

  • Each 100 foot RG8X coax run is about 3 pounds

  • Each 50 foot run of RG8 is about 4 pounds

  • Each 50 root run of RG8X is about 2 pounds

I brought about 300 feet with me to St. John and it was barely enough. I had four antennas and had to switch the coax between two of them. Assume 10-15 pounds of very lightweight coax, more if you go for the RG8 instead of the RG8X. Coax 10 pounds (too little, but let's just see) brings us to 66 pounds.

Then there are tools. In my first effort I had omitted tools from the bag and ended up buying them in San Francisco. Now I pack 'em. This is a must have. Soldering iron, pliers, wicked Leatherman knife, screwdrivers, etc. Figure 5 or 7 pounds of tools, tape, and handy stuff. Our total is now 71 pounds

Now try to inventory all the stuff you haven't brought such as dacron rope, masonry line, manual tuner, baluns or center insulators for wire antennas, Heil headset, power strips, extension cords, paddles or key. Let's throw another, say, 5 pounds for that. Our total is now 71 pounds (and likely more).

What if you get there and your radio is broken? If you don't bring some kind of backup, you'll be totally hosed. I brought an FT-817 to St. John. Yeah, QRP would have been harsh--but it beats nothing. A full backup radio would be another 12 pounds PLUS the case to put it in.

The second case for me was a hard-sided golf bag. Empty, the bag weighs 20 pounds. I had also brought fishing poles and collapsible masts for verticals so I needed the big case. But, even if you bring something smaller, it has to protect the backup radio. Assume a 12 pound case and another 12 pounds of radio -- and you have 71 + 24 = 95 pounds.

By the way, are we packing tooth brushes, clothes, etc. That has to be counted towards our weight, too. It is pretty easy to get to that 100 pound limit. The key is having enough resiliency in your equipment that you can overcome some failures, but not have so much that you completely blow your budget (weight or money!). It is managing these trade-offs that make this kind of DXpeditioning a challenge.


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