[aprssig] How to do a HIKING APRS event!

Joseph M. Durnal joseph.durnal at gmail.com
Wed May 11 20:47:38 EDT 2011

Two years ago, the APRS operation for this event consisted of one
hiker, myself, and two fixed stations, one I set up at the finish line
and one other APRS able ham who setup where I started at the mid
point.  This year (biannual event) there were 13 APRS enabled
stations.  All with different levels of APRS experience and

One thing we could have done better is keeping the drop list bulletin
board up to date.  The drop list is a list of hikers that have dropped
out of the event so we didn't have to go looking for them all the

The 144.99 digipeaters really seemed to help, while hiking, I knew a
lot more of my packets were being digipeated just by the beeps.

My messages were a little less interesting, the sweep hike position
generally only got to see one participant.

I think the best result was that many area hams with APRS equipment
were able to put it to good use.  So many spend the extra money on a
radio and do little with it but basic tracking, if that, so having the
chance to do more than the bare minimum with their rigs, was welcome

I'm already thinking about the next event in 2013.

73 de Joseph M. Durnal NE3R

On Mon, May 9, 2011 at 5:52 PM, Bob Bruninga <bruninga at usna.edu> wrote:
> APRS provided great tracking of the 4 SWEEP hikers and nearly 150 event
> runners at the Hike Across Maryland event.  We used 144.39 +600 split
> digipeating for a tripling of packet reliability to well above 90% from the
> poor 30% or less on previous attempts with normal operations on 144.39
> simplex.  You can see a summary of these techniques on the web page:
> http://aprs.org/HAMsupport.html
> Unbeknownst to most hams, APRS is easily used to record the positions and
> sttus of almost all 150 Hikers during the day too by using text messaging
> (from two young hams under 25 who have no fear of texting on a key pad)...
> I handed my two kids a TH-D72 APRS radio for their sweep hike duties and
> asked them to MESSAGE every hiker # they passed.  My son got to see the
> radio the night before, but daughter only got instructions on how to operate
> the radio and APRS during her 10 minute breakfast.  TO them, learning the
> radio was no big deal.  It was as simple as their cell phones!
> After the event, I was amazed! AJ's dozen or so messages reported the TIME,
> Location and hiker number of 98 different runners.  My daughter's dozen or
> so messages reported about 48 during their few hours on the trail!
> THey said it was no big deal,  No different than sending a tweet or an
> email.  And remember, that my daughter had only seen a D72 for the 10
> minutes while I trained here during breakfast before her hike (never used
> APRS before).  She picked it up instantly.  AJ had only seen the radio the
> night before but was an expert overnight.
> In contrast, I just dont understand why hams have such a complete aversion
> to the value of APRS text messaging!  We have hams that have owned their
> APRS radios for nearly a decade and do not send or respond to any text
> message information.
> Looking at the message list in my kids radios AFTER the event when they got
> home, there in their radios were the TOTAL 40 or so APRS messages sent by
> everyone at the event, containing the time and hiker number reports from
> HIKER-1, HIKER-2, NE3R-7 and WASHMT.
> With just an APRS HT anywhere over the 40 miles of maryland, anyone could
> just hit the MSG key, scan the messages, and FIND the last report of the
> hiker # they were interested in.  There was just no need for us doing voice
> to call a station to ASK when did they last see hiker X.  It was all there
> in every APRS radio that was ON.
> THe reason I didnt see this during the event, was because I was at the
> finish line at Harpers Ferry and did not get setup and receiveing anything
> until the late afernoon, and by then the messages from these hikers were
> finished.
> Actually, I was very bored there at the end of the trail, because there was
> no hiker # info for me to ENTER, since by then the other checkpoints were
> closed down and there was no one to see the data. APRS ACTIVITY AT ANY EVENT
> IS A *** DATA *** INPUT *** function.  Not a sit and watch event.  If you
> think APRS is just for displaying moving GPS units, then you miss the whole
> point.   Your APRS job at any event is to ***ENTER*** information so others
> can access it!
> BOttom line, there is no reason why we cannot report the passing of every
> runner at every checkpoint and have it accuulated in EVERY APRS radio at the
> event.  Two kids did it who had never even seen an APRS radio before.
> With the hiker numbers reported in APRS messages,  Then ANYONE with an APRS
> radio can answer the "where is runner XXX" question by just scrolling
> through the messages from the last checkpoint and seeing WHEN that runner
> passed a point.
> We can do this.
> Using the 144.39 +600 offset, we had very reliable APRS coverage the entire
> route!  BETTER THAN VOICE too.  I could text my son when he was in a
> marginal area when voice was not working that well.
> The THD72 and maybe the VX8R APRS radios have 100 deep message memories now.
> SO capturing every message during the event is possible.  THe older D7 and
> D700 radios would only retain the last 16 messages or so, and would only be
> able to review only the last hour or so of hiker # reports, but in most
> cases, those 16 messages each one containing 10 runner numbers would still
> cover the most recent info on the 130 runners who actually finished the
> event.
> There were LOTS of other lessons learned, but it will take me a while to
> write them up.
> Bob, WB4APR
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