My standard UHF/VHF ham “go” kit for vacation:
- GL.iNet “Mango” GL-MT300N-V2 router
- MMDVM hotspot for digital
- Home-built portable Allstar node for analog
- TYT MD-UV380 HT
If you travel and haven’t yet discovered the magic of the “Mango”, do yourself a favor and pick one up. It’s basically the Swiss Army knife of travel routers. With full NAT, DNS, firewall, MAC cloning, and an arsenal of other nifty network tools, I have yet to find a hotel WiFi portal I couldn’t get around. When all your wireless devices are pre-configured for the Mango, deployment is crazy easy 99% of the time. Simply boot up the Mango, join the hotel WiFi via your laptop or phone that’s connected to the Mango and boom – all your devices are instantly online. The Mango can even provide a VPN tunnel to your favorite provider, if you’re so inclined.
I know many hams have had mixed success with the $50 Chinese “Jumbospot” MMDVM boards but mine has been bulletproof for years now. If I were to do it again, I would save a few bucks and pass on the OLED display as I never look at it. Running in DMRGateway mode, any DMR/DMR+ TG, XLX reflector, or YSF room are just a click away on my HT, though I’m most typically monitoring PRA Local (310844) and Colorado MEGA (310759).
I’m not sure why Allstar hasn’t gotten more traction over the years, especially when super-affordable Raspberry Pi based implementations are so well documented now. I suspect it’s partially because building a node often involves busting out the soldering iron and hardware-hacking hams are a too few (and shrinking) breed. Another issue is unless your club happens to have an Allstar node deployed on the repeater, you’ve actually got to build two. In my case, I have just that – a node attached to my shack Kenwood TM-V71A and a portable node I built from a Baofeng 888 board, RA-40 radio adapter and a Raspberry Pi 3B+ as pictured above. With this setup I can link up to my shack from anywhere in the world and keep up with all the local UHF/VHF analog nets. Allstar is highly customizable so I even added out-of-band CAT control so I can remotely change channels on the Kenwood from my HT.
So, why no HF gear? Fair question. I guess I’m not super-comfortable dropping a $500-1K QRP rig into the checked baggage, plus there’s antenna challenges to think about, etc. If I meet my new-years resolution to get my CW copy skills up to snuff, I could see tossing a Mountain Topper and end-fed antenna in the bag at some point. We’ll see…