I am writing this after reading some emails received from a fellow Radio Amateur.
John ZS6AA and friends, are planning to undertake a 12 day hike in the Drakensberg. The question was, what would be the most appropriate communication medium to use.
APRS via VHF, amateur satellite, HF radio or sat phone?
The APRS would be a novel and interesting option, but the chances are good that the coverage would be erratic and most likely be unavailable when needed most. The situation could be assisted by a well placed base station with a serviceable digi-peater and I-gate. On the plus side, it serves a locator beacon that could be used during an air/ground search.
The amateur satellites could work, but at this time we cannot rely on them in a life and death type situation. The FM easy satellites are not always available due to various problems being experienced at the moment.
I believe a low powered HF station on 40M would work very well indeed. A simple low dipole, that is easily erected would work fine. This should result in reliable communications from 400 to 800 km and from zero to 800 km (no skip), when the foF2 allows NVIS propagation.
I would recommend setting up daily schedules with 1 or 2 base stations, that in turn will keep track of the hiking group, their present position, their plans going forward and relaying any other info as required, including passing on weather forecasts that will affect the hikers.
This info can in turn be placed on a Blogsite or Facebook or some other facility, where the family and friends can follow and share their experience.
Sounds like fun…