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Comment Re:VHF/UHF are mainly line of sight (Score 1) 376

I've carried a VHF/UHF HT on a couple backpacking trips in the Smokies. Even having every repeater in the area programmed in (including all the non-ham ones I could find), I was usually out of coverage of everything. I could sometimes "kerchunk" one on a ridge, but any emergency use would probably require a lot of hiking and trial and error. (Now that's with a decent "rubber duck" antenna. A good directional antenna could help with that to some extent, especially if you know the bearing to the repeater, but can't cut through a mountain.)

I would seriously consider just renting a decent PLB and learning how to best prevent small emergencies from becoming large ones.

Comment Re:HF/low power (Score 1) 376

A 5-watt HF rig just doesn't cut it for reliable SSB (voice) communications, especially with portable / compromise antennas. There are some good semi-portable 100-watt rigs, but they're not anything I would want to take backpacking. The best solution seems to be some smaller 20-watt or so commercial HF radios like the Vertex VX-1210 that could work, but they're not cheap. You could combine a 5-watt radio like the FT-817 with the HFPacker amp to get 35 or 100 watts, but the combined package isn't terribly rugged. The ideal place to research a lot of portable HF options is the "HF Pack" website / email list (

Even if you did get a decent HF setup that you're comfortable carrying, there's a learning curve to operating. You'd want to understand what bands work best at different times of the day, what nets are available when, and how to work a net. That's assuming that there's a net in that area like Southcars that could serve as a good point of contact if you had an emergency. Calling CQ or breaking in on random hams could get you help in an emergency, but having dozens to hundreds of scattered receivers and ears listening at once gives you a lot better chance of making contact.

Of course all of this is assuming that any emergency would still leave you capable of operating the radio. Dialing a sat phone or setting off an EPIRB / PLB is a lot easier than setting up a portable HF station and making a contact even if you have two arms and all your brainpower intact. Imagine doing it with a broken arm or leg, concussion, hyper/hypothermia, etc.

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