Our Portable Ham Shack


We began refurbishing this 1988 Prowler Lynx in April 2008 to use for camping and ham radio use. Thankfully we had a neighbor who has let us park it on his lot so the make over, though slow, went more quickly than it otherwise would have if we had to park it elsewhere. The plan was to have it totally ready for Field Day use in June 2009, and it was.

We have since sold the trailer, however I have left this on the website for those who might be working on a similar project and may pick up an idea or two to help them along.

We began by checking all interior and exterior electrical sockets, taking down all the faded "box type" valences above the windows, removing three magnetic knife holders glued to a wall, removed a soap dispenser, old wallpaper and filled and sanded nail/screw holes in the kitchen walls. We re-wallpapered the kitchen and bathroom, putting window tinting film on all the windows (notice the difference in the photo of Jane working on the window), installed window blinds, curtain rods, drapery rods and one venetian blind and rebuilt three window screens. I cut the homemade bed to bunk size, and installed a water heater bypass, a new city water inlet and check valve, and placed a valve on the inlet side of the water pump so anti-freeze can be pumped into the water pipes for winterizing.

A check of the propane lines and appliances showed no leaks. The furnace was tested, and Jane has cleaned the refrigerator, kitchen stove and oven. The awning required a complete replacement, arms and all, and the old cracked roof vent in the bathroom was replaced with one that has a fan (and also lights that I didn't know about). Roof seams were re-painted, and miscellaneous caulking was done. The brakes were checked, and the wheel bearings were re-packed. A new smoke detector and a fire extinguisher were added. Jane made four curtains and two drapes for the windows.

When the water system was tested, it was found that a new kitchen sink faucet was needed. The old one was leaking around the valve stems. It had leaked so long that the wood under it had swollen, and the shop had a heck of a time getting it unbolted. After the new facet set was intalled, the kitchen shown in the photo at the right was finished.

Since we will not have enough power on board to run the air conditioner while dry camping, a TurboMaxx II vent/fan was installed on the front vent and the smaller MaxxAir hood that had been over the front vent was moved to above the bathroom vent.

A double step replaced the single step that came with the trailer. That was a chore, but it makes it much easier to get in and out. They had to cut the old welds on the single step and then bolt and weld the new steps in place. I had hoped to have a ladder installed, but they couldn't do it because there is nothing solid to hook it to since the former owner extended the rear of the frame and bumper -- our "back porch." Oh well, I probably shouldn't be up on the roof anyway.

After sanitizing the water system (though we still carried our own drinking water separately), we joined Leon, N0VWX, and his wife, Pauline, KB0VMX, at a rock and gem show near Buena Vista on the weekend of August 8-10, 2008, (See our trailer at left below). It was our "shake down cruise," and we did find a few things still to be fixed. The refrigerator refused to run on propane, so we used dry ice in it that weekend. On the way home, we also ran into a heavy downpour and discovered a leak above the front window. After two unsuccessful attempts to locate the source of the leak, it was finally found. The refrigerator problem turned out to be a faulty switch.

On the list of good experiences, we were very happy with the TurboMaxx II vent/fan unit and the amount of power conservation we had. The battery showed little discharge for the three day weekend. The new double steps were also much appreciated.

There was little room behind the propane tanks on the trailer tongue for batteries, and no room for battery boxes of the Group 27 size. On our outing, we used only one battery. That was fine for our basic use, but for longer trips or cooler weather, at least two batteries would be necessary. I elected to put them on the extended the frame at the rear of the trailer.

I considered building a 40" box from wood, but found a lighter 35-inch "truck box" at Walmart. The smaller size box was not large enough to hold two individual battery boxes, and I wanted to use them to further protect the batteries and contain any acid leaks that might occur. Finally, I found two Group 27 battery boxes that could "modified" to sit in the truck box. The handles had to be cut off, as well as a bulge on each side of the lids. The boxes would then sit inside with no room to spare. The exterior box was painted white, and insulation was added across the top. Vents were drilled in the back, and they were covered with window screen to keep insects out. Small holes were drilled in the bottom just in case moisture gets into the box.








The large battery box was mounted on the "back porch." I placed #4 AWG stranded copper wire in a 3/4" PVC pipe along the frame, and made the connections from the front of the trailer to the battery box. The new wiring system was tested with one battery, and the trailer survived the "smoke test." Later a second battery was added in parallel with the original one.

Four stabilizer jacks were installed, and they do help keep the trailer from bouncing around in the wind or when walking in it. They can be used to help fine tune the leveling as well. With winter coming, the water system was drained and winterized.

Two exterior SO-239 connectors were added near the front of the trailer and are connected to two matching connectors on the inside. Anderson Power Poles were also added inside. The larger terminal (75 amp size to accommodate larger wire) was connected to a #8 wire to supply power to an MFJ-1128 power strip (up to 40 amps). The smaller terminals are connected to #10 wire.

To use the radios at the kitchen table, a different wiring scheme had to be used. While not as fancy as the other area, it serves its purpose. The same size Anderson Power Poles were used there, with the lines connected to #6 wires running to the battery box on the back of the trailer. The coax from here goes to another metal plate with two SO-239 coax connectors on the rear of the trailer for easy connection to primarily HF antennas while operating portable.

The Rest Of Our Playhouse

The dining area provided a nice area for ham radio operations between meals. As shown in the photograph above, power and antenna connections were located under the far side of the table near the wall.

This bunk, the "bear's den", is where our dog Heidi napped in the daytime, and I slept at night. Notice on the far end of the cabinet at the far left that there are coax and Anderson Power Pole connectors. These were used for VHF/UHF operations.

The last project of the 2008 season was to make a bumper mount for the back bumper that would hold a Hustler mobile antenna. I started with a mount I have had for many years and at one time was used on another travel trailer and more recently on a utility trailer.

The plates that hold the mount to the bumper were cleaned as well as possible and painted to match the trailer's bumper. The mount has an additional piece of metal added to hold an SQ-239 connector for a coax jumper to connect it to the coax connectors on the trailer.

While not the ideal antenna mount for portable work, it sufficed until the larger tilt-over portable antenna mount was constructed the next spring. The Hustler also has the advantage of covering many bands. Individual coils are available for 80, 40, 30, 20, 20 cw/digital, 17, 15, 12 and 10 meters. Longer whips for the 75 and 40 meter coils make it possible to use them in the lower sections of their bands. The Hustler, mounted on the bumper of a car or pickup, enabled me to make thousands of contacts through the years.

When the first snows came, it was decided to put the rest of our project on hold until spring.

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