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GO TO A HAMFEST – A RV or Camper’s Goldmine Awaits.

February 10, 2012 by · 9 Comments 

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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.

Rows of small parts boxes await buyer inspection.

NO, IT IS NOT CITIZEN BAND.  While CB is often a fun and convenient form of radio transmission, it is not a licensed radio service that requires proof of radio knowledge.

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.

Old fashion dial telephones have made a decorator's comeback.

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.

Old vacuum transmitting tube destined to become a conversation piece lamp.

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.

ANYONE IN NEED OF A FLUX CAPACITOR?

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.

An assortment of battery power LED lams great for camping.

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!

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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

Comments

9 Responses to “GO TO A HAMFEST – A RV or Camper’s Goldmine Awaits.”
  1. eric says:

    Oh, wow…

    Your article just sparked, or perhaps I should say resparked, an interest in me. Back in the late 60′s as a kid, my Dad and I bought my neighbor’s “ham radio”. In reality, it was just the receiver. Dad worked some magic, being the engineer he was, to hook it up to a make shift radio, and I spent hours in the evening with my friends. “DXing” I think we called it… finding distant radio stations, recording their programming, then sending them a copy of that record, and getting in return, either a nice letter or a post card… I much preferred the postcard! And then… I don’t know, but I went off to boarding school, I guess, and the ham radio receiver went away.

    But your article here has perhaps resparked an interest in getting into Ham Radio again. Could we perhaps correspond offline? I have questions… and there are probably questions that I SHOULD have that maybe you’d be willing to help me discover!

    eric

  2. jimjan says:

    Sonds like an entertaining afternoon. Certainly an entertaining account. I’d be like a kid in the perverbial candy shop.

  3. eric says:

    Hmmm… I say Dad hooked it up to a “make shift radio”. I meant a make-shift antenna.

    And as I dwell on that fond memory of some wonder “father-son” time, I think I recall Dad thinking that we’d have more fun with a CB, as those were just coming out and making big news (breaker! breaker 19! comes to mind… a song, wasn’t it?) Perhaps Dad thought those were destined to replace Ham Radio. In any event, a CB replaced that old receiver… and of course, we NEVER got the satisfaction from it that we did from simply “DXing”!

  4. Prof95 says:

    Eric,

    Try WB4BZX at gmail dot com

  5. Prof95 says:

    jimjan wrote “I’d be like a kid in the proverbial candy shop.”

    Jim, It is a real challenge. I always leave my CC cards at home and only take a specified amount of money. In addition to what I mentioned in the article I left with a neat six transistor radio from the late 50′s, a really nice 1/3″ CCD camera module for $5 that will focus down to a few mm. Not sure what I am going to use it for, but I will find something – most likely RV related. Plenty of zip-ties, heat shrink tubing, coaxial connectors, wires, switches, crimp connectors, fuses and fuse holders – all “stuff” that I would buy retail in the course of a year to complete RV and tow vehicle projects. They are great fun and if you know what you are looking at (true of any flea market) you can find some great bargains.

    I’ll show you some when we get to Florida in a few weeks.

    We are getting ready to leave for the Richmond RV Expo in a few minutes. I am looking forward to seeing some of the new RV’s and campground improvements/offers from the exhibitors.

    Randy

  6. Glen Jones says:

    Do not get on the air like I used to lost some interest after a heart attack and forgot most of what i knew
    so still just a no code tech, also only have a mobile.
    KC7MBM Portland Oregon

  7. Karl Littman says:

    Candy Hill Campground in Winchester VA will be having a first this year, Ham Radio Weekend. Come Join us August 17 – 19 and help make this a great event! http://www.candyhill.com

  8. David Hardy KB3RAN says:

    I have a handheld for hikes and my dual band mobile in my Roadtrek. Not on the air much, but it’s nice to have for emergencies and such. Thanks for the heads up about the Ham Weekend at Candy Hill. Am adding it to my calendar.

    If you’re not a Ham and are interested in radio communications for fun and service opportunities; write or look at the ARRL website. There’s something for everyone in Ham Radio.

    Dave Hardy
    KB3RAN
    Roadtrek 190 Popular

  9. Dave Mohr KA9NYN says:

    Good article, Randy.
    One small point: it is the American Radio Relay League, not Amateur Radio Relay League.
    Link works fine.

    Thanks for helping to bring Amateur Radio to the attention of RV’ers.

    Dave Mohr KA9NYN
    Chamberlain, SD

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