Tuesday, July 16, 2013

K4KPK's guide to the Yaesu VX-8GR

Since I am still new to the whole APRS setup I have been researching how to setup my VX-8GR.  I found this great writeup on K4KPK's (Kevin Kleinfelter) blog.

 You can see his blog here, CLICKY! 

 So a little about the VX-8GR

      Description       Accessories       Files

VX-8GR – A Devoted APRS® User Dual Band Version of the VX-8R Series of Handheld

• Full 5 watts FM 144/430 MHz.
• RX 108-999.90 MHz
GPS unit included with radio!
• Water spray resistant - meets IPX5 - 3 feet for minimum of 30 minutes.
• 7.4 V 1100 mAh Lithium Ion battery included. 1800 mAh LI Battery & 3 x AA battery case optional.
• Small (2.4” x 3.7” x 1.1”) without knob & antenna
• Simultaneous independent 2-signal dual receive function. Both V + V or U + U
• Weather receiving with Weather Alert.
• Dot matrix LCD display provides up to 16 character Memory tags, High-resolution Spectrum Analyzer with ±50 channels indication, Wave monitoring of received/modulated signal.
• DCS and CTCSS ENC/DEC included.

Key Addional APRS® Features of the VX-8GR include:
• APRS® 1200/9600 bps data communication (B band only).
• Smart Beaconing ™ Function: When using APRS® for position tracking, the beacon timing is automatically adjusted to your traveling speed and location to plot a smoother trace to match your position and movement on a map.
• The number of Station List memories increased to 50.
• The number of APRS Message memories increased to 30.
• DIGI-PATH route indication function: The APRS® Packet data includes Digipeater routing info.
• Heads up compass display to the GPS Screen: Traveling direction is always toward top of the display.
• The Message received LED flashing rate is selectable.
• The number of DIGI-PATH route settings is increased to 7.

The VX-8GR APRS®/GPS Handheld Transceiver is a Dual Band version of the VX-8DR.  The VX-8GR includes most of of the solid features and specifications found in the VX-8DR, plus a built in GPS and new expanded APRS® capabilities to meet the needs of even the most active APRS® user.

Yaesu VX-8GR Set Up for APRS Beaconing

  • Note: Circle with dot in upper left, on Station List indicates that beaconing is active.
  • Enable GPS ++
  • Set call sign, SSID, icon (One time, when new.) ++
  • Enable APRS modem ++
  • Enter APRS (144.390) into the B frequency:
    • Tap <Bv> to select the B-band.
    • Use the digit keypad to enter 144.390
  • Enable Beaconing:
    • Access APRS Settings Menu ++
    • <turn> to 14: BEA- CON TX.
    • Tap menu
    • <turn> to Auto
    • Tap menu
    • to 12: BEACON INTERVAL.
    • Tap menu
    • <turn> to select interval
    • Tap <PTT> to save

Enable APRS Modem

  • Access APRS Settings Menu ++
  • Turn to 3 APRS MODEM.
  • Tap <menu>.
  • Turn to 1200bps.
  • Tap <PTT> to save.

Enable GPS

  • Tap <menu> until GPRS screen.
  • Hold <menu>.
  • Turn to select 18 GPS Power
  • Turn to toggle On/Off
  • Tap <PTT> to save On/Off
  • Note: <mode> toggles North-up/Heading-up. White arrow = heading-up; black arrow = north-up.
  • Tap <menu> to return to non-GPS mode.

Set call sign, SSID, icon:

  • Access APRS Settings Menu ++
  • Turn to select 22 My Call Sign.
  • Tap <menu>.
  • Tap <mode> until pointer is in 7th call sign column.
  • Turn to select SSID -7 (unless you used -7 on other HT).
  • Tap <menu>.
  • Turn to 24 My Symbol.
  • Tap <menu>.
  • Turn to select running man.
  • Tap <menu>.
  • Turn to 23 My Position.
  • Tap <menu>.
  • Turn to GPS.
  • Tap <menu>.

How to Use the Keypad

  • Multi-press the digit keys as you do on a cell phone, to cycle through the characters assigned to that digit.
  • Special characters: *
  • <Band> is cursor-left
  • <Mode> is cursor-right
  • <Hm/Rv> appears to be select (and it stands for Home/Reverse)
  • To append an SSID to a destination address, complete entry of the base call sign and then rotate.
  • Lock/unlock = tap Power. Lock icon in bottom center shows lock status.
  • V/M is the Delete key (sometimes)
  • To enter "@", press 1 and rotate clockwise 15. (It is right after "?".)
    • Or press 0 six times for "?" and rotate clockwise 1.
  • To enter ".", press 0 eight times or press 0 and rotate counter-clockwise 2.
  • Space is 00.

Access APRS Settings Menu

  • Tap <menu> until Station List.
  • Hold <menu>.

Send APRS Message

  • Tap <menu> until APRS MESSAGE
  • <Hm/Rv>
  • Enter call-sign-with-SSID (destination)
  • <mode>
  • Enter msg up to 67 char
  • Press TX/PO (the 'atom' key)
  • The radio tries 5x, one per minute. IF it gets an ACK, it puts an asterisk after the "TX" in the message display. Otherwise, it displays the remaining attempt count, or a period if it timed out.
  • To erase the current message buffer (to send a NEW message):
    • <Band>
    • A/B to select CLEAR
    • <V/M>

Delete APRS Message

  • Select the message
  • Press <V/M>

Yaesu VX-8GR Cheat Sheet

  • Volume - Hold_Vol + Turn_knob
  • Squelch - FW, Mon, Turn_knob, FW, Mon
  • MONI/T.Call = Suppress squelch
  • F/W = Alt (i.e. access the other function of the keypad)
  • Change transmit power = F/W + Atom
  • Check power level = L1/L2/L3/Hi in the lower-left on the display

  • "Tap" means a brief button press.
  • "Hold" means to hold the button about 1 second, until its secondary function activates.
  • "Turn" means to turn the only knob on the radio. (Since the knob is the only thing that turns, I don't say "Turn knob."
  • "++" means to see procedure defined elsewhere on this page.
  • "x+y" means "at same time"; "x,y" means "sequentially"
  • There's a key in the lower left, with TX/PO as its alternate function, that looks like an atom with revolving electrons to me. I call this the 'atom' key.

I hope this helps otherslike me that are just getting their feet wet in APRS


Monday, July 15, 2013

A Wet Day on Mount LeConte

Up early and out the door I arrived at the trail head to Mount Le Conte at 6 AM. Mount Le Conte W4T/SU-003 is a mountain in Sevier County, Tennessee located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At 6,593 ft (2,010 m) it is the third highest peak in the national park.  Mount Le Conte has several trails to the summit and I picked the Alum Cave Trail.  Although the shortest access to the summit Alum Cave Trail is one of the steepest gaining 2763 feet in 5.5 miles. 

As you can see it was dark at the trail head.  I thought I would need a flashlight but with sunrise at 6:30 there was just enough light to see the trail.  The trail starts off easy and follows Alum Cave Creek. 

The trail crosses over the creek several times.  The crossings are facilitated by neat little log bridges.  Yea I said neat.... because they are.  The trail was damp from all the rain we have had lately so I crossed all the bridges and rocks with care, I didn't want to fall and bust my butt. 

The first prominent landmark on the trail is Arch Rock.  Arch Rock is a tunnel running thru the bluff sloping upward.  Cut into the rock floor are some steep rock steps.  The rocks were real slick today from the rain but I made it.  The steps are made easier by the steel cables acting as handrails which are placed at numerous points along the footpath. 

Continuing up the trail at about 2 miles you will hit Inspiration Point.  The views here are awesome.  From here you can see  Little Duck Hawk Ridge and the Eye of the Needle (a round, see-through hole cut into the side of Little Duck Hawk Ridge)  During my research I read that on clear days one can see Peregrine falcons swooping in and around the ridge line here.

 Just a little further up the trail I reached Alum Cave Bluff.  The only dry spot on the trail today I decided to stop and grab a bite to eat.  While not an actual cave the bluff is pretty impressive. 
Alum Cave has some interesting history behind it. The Epsom Salts Manufacturing Company was established at Alum Cave in 1838. Until it was sold in 1854, the company mined epsom salt, which was used by mountain folk to dye homespun clothing a reddish brown.
During the Civil War the Confederate Army mined saltpeter out of the cave, which they used to manufacture gunpowder.

 I left the protection of the bluffs and continued on to 
Gracie's Pulpit.  This is the halfway point on the trail and is named for the matron of the mountain, Gracie McNichol, who famously hiked the trail on her 92nd birthday (and also over 200 times!)  This site clicky has some cool info on her as well as
Paul DinwiddiePaul has climbed Le Conte over 1000 times.

Onward and upward the trail gets a bit more difficult.  On the way up there are several areas that have some pretty steep drops right at the trail edge.  Again steel cable handrails are in place to assist you.

After a long wet hike I finally made it to the lodge.  I didn't have reservations for the lodge, they are booked several months in advance, so I knew I wouldn't be staying long.  But I did poke my head in to check it out.  I will have to return and spend the night at the lodge.  The lodge website has great info if you are interested in spending a night on the mountain.

I took the close up picture of the lodge on the way to High Top.  I took the lower on the way back.  As you can see things got a bit wetter while I was on the summit.  I setup on the trail near High Top and set up my Buddy-pole in a vertical configuration. As you can see below I was real close to the edge but the mist had moved in and the visibility dropped to about 50 yards. 

I started off on 17m and tuned around the band for a bit.  I made contacts with VE3AXW, K5SL, and GD6IA.  GD6IA is located on the Isle of Man in the British Isles.  Distance 3853.2 miles!!!!  That was a cool contact for my KX3 on 10 watts!!!

I then proceded to 20m and made contacts with AD5A, W0MNA, N4KV, VE2JCW, ND0C, NS7P, W7RV, W0ERI, WA0AFD, and my buddy Larry W6UB.

Here is a great picture of Larry on Max Patch!  This man knows how to activate!

While on the summit it started to rain.  I packed up and began my trek down.  The rain persisted most of the way down and really picked up as I got closer to the trail-head.  I threw on my pack cover and poncho and slogged my way back down the mountain.  There were a few times the rain stopped and the sun tried to peak thru.  So I took a few shots.  All in all it was an excellent day despite the rain and lack of beautiful views on the summit. 

I tried APRS today on my Yaesu VX-8GR.  I had thought I had the settings correct and everything was working.  The radio was showing that I was making contacts with the relays, but when I got home I was unable to track my progress.  I guess I will reread the manual and see what I missed.  Hopefully next time I can get it figured out.\
A big thank you to all the chasers today!! I got the chance to speak with operators I have worked in the past which is great.  I look forward to speaking with everyone again!


Thursday, July 4, 2013


Climbing mountains and making contacts is what brings excitement to all activators.  To make it easier for the chasers, the people that make our activations possible, I have decided to incorporate APRS into my repertoire.

I have downloaded the APRSDroid app for my phone and I have recently purchased a Yaesu VX-8GR "Still waiting on the delivery"  Living in the Knoxville, TN area I have been using APRSDroid on my Galaxy Note 2 while in the car to get a feel for how it works.  As many of you know it is a great tool.

Once my VX-8GR arrives I will begin to use it on my activations.  It is my hope that this will make the job easier on the chasers chasing me. It will allow chasers to track me and know when I am about to summit.  Once I have some experience with this radio I will do a write up on my experiences with it.

73's and Keep Climbing!!!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Hi guys!

I wanted to create a video review of the new pack I purchased.  I had the opportunity to use it on my last activation and I love it.  The pack is an Eberlestock X3 Lodrag.  I believe it is one of the best assault packs I have ever used.  Designed with a weapon carrier it makes an excellent SOTA backpack.  Feel free to check out my video and let me know what you guys think.  Also feel free to ask any questions.