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GO TO A HAMFEST – A RV or Camper’s Goldmine Awaits.
Lot’s of campers and RV’ers, are HAMS! No, I’m not talking about the ones that like acting as if they were in a play or movie. I’m not making a derogatory reference to those that have a tendency to overeat, either. I’m talking about a different kind of HAM. This kind of HAM can actually be anyone of any size and their ages may range from middle school to the most senior of Senior Citizens. The thumbnail picture to the left is a joke to get your attention – these Hams have little to do with pigs unless it is enjoying sausage links at breakfast.
The HAM I am referring to is formally known as a Licensed Amateur Radio Operator. Hams must pass a test to show their knowledge of radio communications and operating rules, and as a result have been issued a license by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate radio transmitters and possibly communicate with other “Hams” all over the world.
In my many years of camping experiences, it seems I always find other Hams whenever I camp. You can usually identify them quickly since most display their FCC call letters on a license plate or separate plaque for all to see. Their vehicles are often adorned with “strange” looking antenna and they may even have a temporary array of wires hanging from the trees connected to a portable ham radio that act as a field antenna.
In all cases, what you discover about these Hams is the combination of being a camper and a Ham is sure to produce an individual that is not a stranger and, upon meeting, becomes an instant friend.
One of the many things Hams do is go to HAMFESTS. Of course, a group of Hams must first host the hamfest. A hamfest is an Amateur Radio Flea Market that usually offers FCC testing and training for prospective Hams. You can find out about future hamfests in your area by checking here.
Last Saturday, Nancy, a close friend from Lynchburg and I set out for the Richmond Amateur Telecommunications Society’s (RATS) annual Frostfest. The term Frostfest is used here because this is a winter hamfest – sort of unusual since most are held outdoors during the warmer months. This one is inside where it is heated and dry!
The thing about a hamfest is you never know what sort of ancient, new or amazing electronic or communications gear you may find. In fact, not all of the vendors at hamfests deal with radio gear. Some sell cupcakes, jewelry, and vacation packages. But, we go for the “good stuff” – which you never know what you will find.
At this particular hamfest there were literally tons of stuff that could be of interest to campers and RV’ers. I noted miles of nylon rope of all sizes and grades, power inverters to change DC to household AC power, surplus AGM batteries, and wire by the miles, lanterns, beacons, and LED lights. Tools that could outfit either a plumber or dentist, solar panels, bicycle type power generators, zip-ties, tape, flagpole supports and tall steel towers. One fellow even had a 1985 DeLoran Flux Capacitor. Of course, the usual array of radios ranging from antique to today’s state-of-the art transceiver are all there as well – along with every vacuum tube, transistor or IC need to fix or build them.
Hamfest’s are open to anyone and provide an array of goods even non-hams can enjoy. I came home from this one with a new Wouxun KG-UVD1P handheld dual band transceiver with every imaginable bell and whistle. The price was about 1/10th of what I paid for a Kenwood “brick” I purchased 20 years ago. Technology has advanced and prices of equipment have fallen. In fact, this little $120 radio and a license is all anyone needs to enter the wonderful hobby and community service world of Amateur Radio.
I’ll tell you more about Ham Radio and camping in future articles. There is a lot to tell! In the mean time check out the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) to find out more about this still great and enjoyable hobby.
If you want to take a break from everyday routine, find and attend a hamfest!
If you are one of the many camping HAMS out there, let us know!
I was once asked by a friend looking at my Ham Radio gear, “How far can you talk on that thing?”
My answer was, “Half-way around the world.”
This evoked a rather puzzled look from my friend, so I continued, “If I go any further than half way, I start coming back the other way.”
Satisfied with that answer, he left with a smile on his face.
HAPPY CAMPING TRAILS TO ALL!
73′s and 88′s
Randy (aka Prof95)
ARS – WB4BZX, Amateur Advanced