Picture this: You finally pull your van-home into BFE. The trees are perfect. The rivers are clean. The nearest Starbucks is 400 miles south, over at least one 14,000 foot snow-covered precipice. Then, some important widget falls off something somewhere, and you’re stuck. Sure, you should have planned ahead and brought the widget-fixing tool, but you didn’t.
Option #1: Start walking.
Option #2: Phone-a-friend.
I choose option #2. I just added a General Class Amateur Radio license, call sign KD0QXJ, to my “bag of communication tricks,” so I can phone-a-friend from anywhere, anytime, as many times as I want.
I intend to travel to destinations well off the beaten path, and I’m carrying several methods of communication for both staying in touch and emergencies.
- I have a cell phone with an amplifier. My rule-of-thumb, however, is that I’m too close to the beaten path if I have reliable cell coverage, so a cell phone alone isn’t sufficient.
- Citizen’s Band (CB) radio works well for short-range communication. It’s ideal for chatting in populated areas, along major roads, and within groups of vehicles. I don’t plan on carrying a CB radio because the next option is better.
- Amateur radio (also known as ham radio) provides much greater flexibility and range, including world-wide communication. I already have a VHF/UHF antenna on the hood, and I’ve pre-wired for an HF antenna. Thanks for Alan Applegate, K0BG, for talking with me about mobile antennas.
- A portable satellite dish, carefully aimed at the sky, provides Internet access almost anywhere. I don’t have such a satellite dish yet, but I’ve pre-wired my van for the dish.
- A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) provides a world-wide method for sending one-way alerts to search-and-rescue indicating a life-or-death emergency. Although a PLB is a single-purpose device, I’ll probably get one because it’s a reliable “hotline” to emergency help.
- Two-way satellite communicators, like the SPOT device, allow two-way “text message” communication via satellites. It’s interesting technology, and I’m undecided if I’ll carry one.
The idea here is “defense in depth.” I’ll have multiple methods of communication, and I can choose the best for each situation. If one method fails, I have others.