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Ham Radio Workbench Podcast

This podcast is your bi-weekly deep dive on making, DIY, electronics, and technical topics of interest to the ham radio operator. Join your hosts George KJ6VU and Jeremy KF7IJZ as they discuss current developments in ham radio while introducing listeners to a plethora of topics and skills such as test equipment, 3D Printing, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and more.

Jul 31, 2018

HRWB056 Field Radio Workbench Banner

Get geared up for field operating and setting up your field workbench with John Jacobs W7DBO from the Field Radio Podcast.  In segment 1, John outlines his method for organizing and planning your field radio adventures. In segment 2 we list essential tools, parts, and test gear you need for light weight trail ops and full scale Field Day deployments.  We wrap up the show with an introduction to the Powerfilm Lightsaver MAX portable battery and solar panel.

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Segment 1 - Plan your Event

Mission First Gear Second

Identify what you want to accomplish and select gear to match

What is your goal?

  • Day trip vs overnighter?
  • Hotel vs camping vs backpacking?
  • Travel focus or radio focus?

Field Expediency

Doing work in advance selecting gear to maximize time on air versus time setting up / breaking down

Field Tested Gear: Load out in living room, then load out in back yard, then load out in local park, then once gear is tested, attempt the big trip. Field test in your driveway or at the park first.

Personal prep / Safety First:

Personal Emergency Preparations, travel itinerary, weather observations, red flag warnings.

4 Goals:

  • Get On The Air
  • Stay On The Air
  • Be An Effective Communicator
  • Have Fun

Gear Must Be:

  • Modular
  • Tested
  • Portable
  • Understood

Field Radio Podcast

Comms To Go

Segment 2 - Field Workbench

Light weight radio events – SOTA, travel, casual operating, emergency prep

Have a common simplex frequency

Review the wilderness protocol

Simplex frequencies:

  • 146.52  <-- primary
  • 446.0
  • 223.5
  • 52.525
  • 1294.5

Times to Monitor

  • 07:00 - 07:05
  • 10:00 - 10:05
  • 13:00 - 13:05
  • 16:00 - 16:05

EDC – Every Day Carry bag

  • Leatherman / Gerber multi-tool
  • Pocket knife
  • Multi bit reversible screwdriver
  • Flashlight
  • Duct tape, electrical tape, gaffer’s tape wrapped on a credit card
  • 5v USB external battery and cell phone cable
  • Radio, antenna, battery pack,
  • Lighter
  • Survival tin
  • Cash
  • Micro first aid kit
  • Pen / pencil / notepad


  • Minimalist set of gear – small, lightweight
  • Easily carry in a backpack
  • Fix common problems – fix connections, cut stuff / fix stuff


  • Multi tool – Full size Leatherman or Squirt ES4
  • Pocket knife – Swiss army, Victronix, Gerber, etc.


  • Wago wire nuts
  • 2’ Solid wire
  • Gaffers tape – small roll
  • Fuses if your radio has fuses

Other stuff

  • Head lamp
  • Mini volt meter


  • Practice setting up your gear and see what tools you use.
  • Look at your gear and imagine what could break.  Figure out what you need to fix it.
  • Focus on the weakest items.  Cables, connectors, batteries, wires, adapters.

Big radio events – Field Day, Contesting, Public service events


  • If anything breaks you can fix it
  • Balance between being well prepared and going light and easy.

Mechanical tools

  • Screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutters, socket set, wrenches, hammer, pry bar
  • Allen wrenchs, hex drivers, wire strippers, tape measure, box cutter,
  • Xacto knife and spare blades, scissors,

TIP:  Get a good cheap tool kit at Home Depot – HDX tool set $20.

TIP:  Get a bunch of cheap tools at Harbor Freight for the club.

Electronic tools

  • Power pole crimping tool
  • Coax connector crimping tool with die for N, UHF and BNC connectors
  • Lug crimp tool
  • Butane soldering iron
  • DC AA batt soldering iron
  • Jet lighter
  • Helping hands or small vice
  • Head lamp and LED desk lamp


  • Electrical tape – Scotch 33
  • Rescue tape
  • Zip ties
  • Shrink wrap
  • Solder and solder wick
  • Paracord


  • Spare coax connectors
  • Coax adapters
  • Crimp lugs
  • Fuses
  • Various resistors, caps,
  • Power Pole connectors
  • Wago wire nuts
  • Audio adapters – ¼ to 3.5mm
  • Wire
  • Various stranded and solid
  • Buss wire (solid)
  • Batteries – AA and AAA
  • Various screws, nuts washers

Test equipment

  • Antenna analyzer
  • 12 VDC power monitor with power poles
  • VOM – you are not  making precise measurements – cheap is OK.  You are mostly measuring voltages or resistance.
  • TIP:  Harbor freight $5 VOM.  Get 2.
  • Coax jumpers
  • Aligator clip jumper wires

General TiPs

  • Look at your radios.  Assume any cable or connector can and will break.  
  • Have spares for all breakable components
  • Organize your stuff in modules
  • Mechanical tools and parts
  • Electronic radio tools and parts
  • Electronic test equipment


  • DeWalt stackable drawers
  • Heavy duty tool bags

PowerFilm Solar Lightsaver MAX

Portable battery and flexible solar panel

Battery: 18000mAh 66 Wh

LiPo batteries are 3.7v so the capacity is 4.8 Ah

Solar panel guess is about 10 watts

Input: USB-C (3A), 12V (2A)

Output: Dual USB-A (2.5A), 12V (5A peak)

Weight: 1.5 lbs Size: Rolled: 13.5” x 2.5” Unrolled: 34.5” x 13.5”

Solar Charge: 6-8 hours full sun

Wall Charge: 3-4 hours (12V) 6-7 hours (USB-C) 8-10 hours (USB)

Battery state indicator is a row of LEDs.

Built in flash light LED on the end

Cables Included:

USB-A to USB-C Cable

12V Input Charging Cable

12V Output Cable

Runs the KX2 fine.  No charge controller noise detected on initial trial.