The Amateur Amateur: “Dump” Bag

By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
Contributing Editor
May 26, 2007

In my jump bag, I discovered a wad of used “Caution” tape, definitely a bad sign. Some housecleaning and reorganization clearly were in order.

Dump bag

It was more of a dump bag than a jump bag.

Dump bag contents

Crimpers, power adaptors, Caution tape, Super Glue,..

Last time I talked about how I discovered that my emergency preparations had, essentially, “unprepared” themselves. I went on to describe how I had to relearn how to set up a digital field station. This time, I’ll reveal what else I discovered regarding my alleged “state of readiness.”

Last time I said: “My go-bag had unzipped and unpacked itself.” But I was being too kind to myself. My jump bag was never in any shape to be deployed. Moreover, its contents were less a result of careful planning and more a matter of impulsive buying. If I saw something at a hamfest or even at the $1 store that looked like it might be vaguely useful, I would buy it and toss it into my bag. It wasn’t a jump bag so much as it was a dump bag. Thus my understandable dismay when I eventually got around to inventorying it.

Let me be clear: There is not a single go-bag but three of them. The first, and oldest, consists mainly of personal gear. There are spare eyeglasses, a compass, a whistle, waterproof matches and all that camping and hygiene stuff you see on lists of items recommended for your go-bag. I went nuts in a Bass Pro Shop one day and bought everything in sight. I won’t say this bag is complete, but I believe it’s in reasonable shape.

The second bag was intended to hold radio-related hardware. At some point I bought a smaller bag for tools, intending to put it in the larger bag. But the larger bag quickly ran out of space, so the tool bag is now bag number three.

When I inspected the three bags, it was the radio-related hardware bag that seemed to be in the worst shape. Here’s what I found:

  • a voltmeter, something I’m proud of including in the bag. But I shouldn’t be. I was searching for it just a few weeks ago and couldn’t find it because it was buried under so much other stuff. It now resides in a special box prominently marked “Voltmeter,” but if things get so bad out in the field that I actually need to use it, I’m in deep trouble indeed. I’m not much of an electrician.

  • a roll of duct tape. That’s promising.

  • a roll of coaxial cable connector weather sealant. I’m not looking forward to any deployment during which I might actually need to use this.

  • an Anderson Powerpole crimper. I sure hope that I remembered to include the Powerpoles themselves.

  • a roll of yellow tape marked “Caution.” I’m not sure what I had in mind when I threw that in the bag.

  • a package of Super Glue. I’ll have to remember to add a package of Super Glue remover as well.

  • an awful lot of power adaptors. Good for me!

What else?

Cheap cutters

An impulsive buy at the $1 store.

  • some Anderson Powerpoles. Ahhh, good, but gosh, not very many. Has someone been borrowing from my bag?

  • more Super Glue. I was either expecting some serious breakage or I just bought a new package every time I was in the $1 store.

  • a package of cheap plastic knives with disposable blades. This was definitely a $1 store purchase.

  • a couple of bundles of red and black power cable. At least I have something onto which I can crimp the Powerpoles.

  • a pack of twelve AA batteries. Good thinking, but there don’t seem to be any other kind of batteries.

  • a cigarette lighter plug and a cigarette lighter socket. Obviously I was obsessed with power when I loaded this bag.

  • a wad of used caution tape. That’s a bad sign.

  • a small platform with swivel-arm clamps and a magnifying glass. Either I was expecting to fix something tiny or I bought it cheap at a hamfest.

  • a roll of electrical tape. No doubt about it, I was expecting to fix something.

  • a roll of Velcro tape. I definitely don’t want to be without this.

  • a magnifying glass with a built-in light. Did I really think I could fix very small things in the field?

  • a handful of yellow and orange ballpoint pens. This is a legacy of Chuck Wehking, KC0QKS, and it defies explanation.

  • near the bottom of the bag are a couple of medicine vials containing coaxial connector adaptors. Naturally the one I will need won’t be in the bag.

  • and finally, a few empty medicine vials. Those are to hold screws if I have to take apart something. If I don’t cage those screws, they will most certainly escape.

So that was it for the radio-related hardware bag. Some of you are shocked, no doubt, at the absolutely vital stuff that I don’t have in there. Feel free to write and tell me (gently, please). I’ve only been on one practice deployment, so I haven’t learned much yet.

The tool bag contained every wrench I might need to put up and take down my field antenna. It also contained more random tools that I picked up at the $1 store. Startlingly, there wasn’t a single screwdriver. I quickly corrected that oversight, but I suspect that the bag will never contain all of the tools that I’ll really need in the field.

You know, I’m beginning to believe that I’m going to have to purchase bag number four.

Editor's note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant, Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name -- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related Web page. Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail, [email protected].

© 2007 American Radio Relay League

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