I was going to pull the trigger on this poor man's APRS but then I had a quick question. I think the Baofeng is a dual band so I can be on the APRS channel and be on another band at the same time? Anyone use this set up? Do they like it?
I don't have that setup, but I've always thought it would be a fun project.
However, I have read in other forums that 5W of an HT is not ideal if you want to use APRS any distance from an urban area. If you really want APRS to hit digipeaters while in the backcountry you will want higher power output.
I just purchased a Baefeng UV-5RV2+. So far I've listened to local radio stations on FM and NOAA weather. I've not touched that transmit button yet as I'm still studying for my tech test. I've purchased the ARRL manual and I'm using a flashcard study site that Brad mentioned in another post. Should be a week or two before I test.
That's funny! It took me a good year before I actually touched the transmit button and that was after I had my license. I didn't listen in a lot though.... I finally started using my ham in simplex on trail rides with other ham folks. I used an app and was able to pass pretty easily! Good luck and reach back out and maybe we can try to communicate on our ham radios.
This is very similar to my APRS set up. I'm using a old MotoX with APRSdroid tethered to a regular UV-5R with an 18" mag mount antenna.
The good: It receives everything! I tested it on a drive to Grand Lake from Lakewood, set to transmit every 10 minutes. The whole trip I received packets from all over. Sheriffs, weather stations, and a handful of other hams; both houses and cars. With APRS I had full maps for where I had saved google maps to the MotoX at home through WiFi. Since the MotoX is old and not connected to a cell network I leave it in airplane mode out in the bush. I was really impressed with how well it worked!
The bad: and this re enforces what was already said, the radio doesn't reach far enough. Aprs.fi shows that I was connected all the way through Empire along I-70, and my last packet that got through shot a full 6 miles, bouncing off the mountains until it hit a digipeater to the southwest! From there I didn't get through to a node until I was three miles outside Grand Lake. I didn't hit anything going over Berthoud Pass, Winter Park, Granby,...nothing. It may have had something to do with my timing for the transmissions, but still, for a long time nothing got through.
In Summary: I think this will work for my intended uses. The main reason I wanted APRS is so I can keep track of the groups I'm out with. My comms radio has way more power (up to 50w) so if it becomes necessary I'll get a cable and transmit through that in an urgent situation. For just keeping track of my group and tracking my own movements on a map it's up to snuff.
Honestly, if I were to replace/upgrade my APRS system, I'd go with a transmitter that has variable power up to at least 25 watts (or even better, 50). I'm not a true blue "overlander", I'm a medium-core adventurer. With more power, APRS becomes a lifeline. Anyone looking for you can get on the internet and see the last place you transmitted from. The way I'm using it with 5 or even 8 watts, it's just a novelty buddy-tracker.
I agree with Redone. If you want to use VHF APRS as a real tool for location/communication, then you will definitely want more power and ideally a great antenna since VHF is so line-of-sight.
Jerdog53, 8W is better than 5W, and your external antenna is a huge improvement over the stock antenna inside your vehicle. However, to double the signal you need to quadruple the power. So, 20W is much better than 5 or 8.
Your setup will work very well if you have line-of-sight to any APRS repeater or I-gate. Much like cell service, here in Colorado if you are on a ridge top there is a very good possibility of service. In a valley or canyon, your group will definitely get your beacon, but probably not the world. Even 20W+ might not be enough for APRS repeaters or I-gates to get your beacon from a valley or canyon.