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Old 05-16-2019, 06:42 PM
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Ham radio repeater use while in the back country

I am reasonably new to ham radio and I understand that they depend on the antennas "seeing" each other. That is, the signal won't go through the earth. My use has been limited to local repeaters around town and direct to another users. But I am wondering what the availability is of repeaters when you are out west on the trail. For example, in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, etc. Or are the repeaters mostly at the cities and unreachable from the trail? I'm asking because I am planning a trip to Colorado and hoping to use APRS to allow my wife to see where I am. But not sure how often I can get a signal out.

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Old 05-16-2019, 07:00 PM   #2
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Repeater range can vary... It depends how high they are and what the surrounding area is like. A repeater on top of an 80 foot tower might only cover 40 miles in every direction, but a mountaintop repeater can cover hundreds of miles. It's not uncommon to find them in the country.

While traveling, you can locate nearby repeaters using a smart phone app from Repeaterbook.com. The app uses your phone's GPS to tell you how many repeaters are around you at any given time and how far away they are. Both iOS and Android are supported. https://www.repeaterbook.com/index.p...eaterbook-apps

APRS is a little different. There is no voice, it's only data and you need an APRS capable radio, (or external APRS equipment connected to the radio). One good thing about APRS is that there is a net accessible map showing where everything is.. You can find APRS repeaters in your area using it.. See: http://aprs.fi Just look in the area you will be traveling in to see what's available.
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Old 05-20-2019, 12:52 PM   #3
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I run a Kenwood TM-D710GA. I use the A band for APRS on low power and B band on high power for voice. I love being able to text and email almost anywhere to my programed APRS favorites from my radio. So much fun. Experimentation and communication is what this hobby is all about. APRS = Fun.
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Old 05-20-2019, 04:16 PM   #4
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Repeaters in general, and APRS specifically, in the mountains is hit and miss. I've been able to pick up a number of repeaters in the mountains but then as soon as I go over the pass or around the side of the mountain it disappears completely.

Coverage won't be 100% but you should be able to punch through on APRS for a good portion of your trip.
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Old 05-26-2019, 06:38 PM   #5
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Get yourself the Repeaterbook app for your phone. It locates the closest repeaters to you and gives you their PL codes, frequencies, etc.
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Old 05-30-2019, 11:10 AM   #6
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I just returned from an offroading trip in Northern Nevada. Repeater access was spotty at best in that particular area. There were also occasions when the group was split and we could not communicate by ham simplex due to the terrain and distance between us.

If you want to ensure that someone at home knows where you are and can communicate with you in an emergency (or you with them) - no matter where you are - you might consider a Spot satellite messenger or Garmin inReach. Some in the group had them so we were still able to communicate by text even with no cell service and no ham signal.

Last year I was able to track the real time progress of a group of friends doing the Alcan Highway on my laptop and they were able to reach me via inReach when one suffered a breakdown and needed parts shipped to the closest town. Another time they were able to communicate with me and I was able to determine that someone who had been separated from the group was actually in front of them rather than behind them as they had thought. APRS would not have helped us in those situations.

I'm sold on the concept. Now I need to research available options and choose the best one for me.
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Old 07-21-2019, 03:39 PM   #7
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I've installed my ham rig in the jk, we are planning our annual trip to Colorado-back country trout fishing and off grid camping, I must say the repeater app for the iPhone is a must have, going from okla to Colorado it will give me many options for back country communication if cellular is not available, the crew I run with all have ham radios in the jeeps, it really makes trail running fun and gives me another resource for communicating if something goes wrong.
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