I’ve had nothing but trouble trying to get on the not-so-local Keller Peak repeater. At first, I figured this was just due to my limited equipment at the time (a handheld radio with the stock rubber ducky) and had all but accepted the fact that I would have to either drive up the mountain, or live with EchoLink delays and drops (which are really bad on Time Warner’s horrible service). Later, after getting a decent mobile radio and antenna set up in Dani’s truck (and verifying it was installed right by testing on simplex), I realized equipment might not be the whole problem after all. I did several trial runs by sitting on EchoLink to verify there was, in fact, traffic and listening in on the mobile with the squelch turned off—still nothing but sleep-inducing white noise. I mentioned this to a friend not long ago, and with his help was able to get this elevation profile:
So, I’m just over 55 miles from the Keller Peak repeater, and half of that is through solid rock.
Enter the Elk
On his recommendation I ordered an Elk Antennas 2-meter/70-cm antenna, along with their carry bag since I figured this would end up becoming part of my standard kit in the truck. The antenna packs down small in the bag (about 24 x 6 x 1.5 inches) and is very light and easy to assemble. All of the individual rods are color-coded so there is no confusion getting them in the right order, and everything goes together without tools. The mount fits snug onto 1-inch PVC conduit readily available at any hardware store, which I have since cut to the length of my roof rack for easy transport.
I was able to test it out for the first time under less than ideal conditions (mostly my fault), and I am very impressed. Despite my hastily assembled “pile of firewood and a ratchet strap” mounting bracket, only knowing generally what direction the repeater was in, using the only very poor coax I had on hand, and with strong winds blowing the entire assembly around I was able to hear the repeater crystal clear, and transmit to the repeater with a scratchy-but-useable signal.
With a proper mount and an accurate bearing from here to the repeater I’ll be in business. I might order a second Elk to leave in Dani’s truck—something so useful and so easy to carry, it almost seems silly to be traveling the back country without it.