NORTHWEST APRS FAQs
- Q. What area is
covered by the NWAPRS system?
- The NWAPRS group provides assistance
to those interested in promoting APRS in Washington,
Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Alberta, and British
Columbia. We have members in all major cities within
the region, and most are willing and able to help.
- Development began in 1996 with a
handful of stations located around Spokane WA,
Vancouver WA, Seattle WA, and Vancouver BC. At the
time there were about a dozen RELAY digipeaters and
at most, a half-dozen users.
- Activity was at a rapid pace from
1997 for about six years, resulting in very good VHF
coverage of the larger cities and towns, along
freeways and busy regional roads. RELAY digipeaters
were upgraded and reconfigured to S node WIDEn-n
digipeaters as they exist today.
- I-5 from southern Oregon, through
Portland and Seattle, and north to the Canadian
border, is well served with APRS digipeaters.
- I-90 from Seattle, across Washington,
Idaho, and Montana, is well served with digis except
for a few less-populated areas. Ditto for I-
- I-84 from Portland, across Oregon,
through Boise to the eastern boundary of Idaho is
well served with digipeaters.
- Alberta has great coverage throughout
Edmonton and Calgary, near the national Parks around
Banff and Lake Louise, and along the major east-west
route Hwy 3. This should be reason enough to head
north of the border and take in some of the natural
beauty that surrounds Alberta!
- British Columbia has excellent
coverage along the major east-west Hwy 3, and the
northern east-west Hwy 16. Vancouver Island coverage
is oriented more toward the southern part of the
- Q. What frequency is
the NWAPRS group operating on?
- The NWAPRS group operates on the
national APRS frequency of 144.390 mhz.
- The NWAPRS group also operates HF on
10.151 LSB (Tune 10147.5 MHz for USB only radios)
and on 10M (28.120 USB).
- In the Puget Sound area there are two
alternate freqs, 144.35mhz and 440.800 at 9600 baud.
- Q. I have a tracker in
my car, what outgoing path should I be using?
- We recommend using WIDE1-1,WIDE2-1
for all mobile trackers. This will get your signal
out throughout a large region. If you have a mobile
on M or H power, you can probably further optimize
with WIDE2-2 only.
- Please do NOT transmit more than once
per minute for mobile stations. Doing so adds alot
of QRM to the frequency. Once every 2 mins is even
better if you are located in a high-density APRS
area (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver BC).
- Please shut off trackers when the
vehicle in NOT in use. Thanks.
- Q. What is the right
outgoing path for my home station?
- The latest recommendation is WIDE2-2
for all fixed stations. If you cannot reach a
WIDEn-n digipeater, then try the aid of a neary
fill-in digi or other home station by using
- Q. How often should my
station transmit its position or status report?
- If it's your home station, software
will set this to once every 30 minutes.
- If it's your mobile station, you
select the periodicity of the packet. If you're
using a longer path, then extend the time to, say, 3
minutes. If you're using the standard
WIDE1-1,WIDE2-1 path, once a minute is OK.
- Q. How do I program my
TNC settings for the new tracker?
- It's important that you use a regular
packet program, not APRS or PaKet, to initially
program your TNC with tracker settings. The reason
is that APRS and PaKet have a start-up and shut-down
configuration file that changes settings in the TNC
when you quit the program. If you use PacTerm or
some simple comms tool, then you can make all the
necessary changes and not worry about the program
configuration file changing the settings again at
- Q. Where can I get
more information about the NWAPRS network?
- Q. I see some station
icons with a Blue Circle and a line coming out of it,
moving around. What kind of station is this?
- This is an integrated weather
station, and the line signifies the direction at
which the wind is originating. The longer the line,
the higher the wind speed.
- These stations are using typically
Peet Brothers, Davis, or other weather stations
capable of outputting data in APRS format. Typically
the cable from these stations connects to a serial
or USB port of the computer. In some cases a remote
WX station may not have a computer connected. In
that case, the WX station is connected to the TNC
much like a GPS would be connected. So new devices,
including Pi-Star and Arduino kits will facilitate
getting your weather data on the air, or to the
- Q. There's a line
coming out of the little car symbol on the map. What's
- This line represents the vehicle's
heading. It is derived from the GPRMC line of data.
The longer the line, the indication of greater
speed. The shorter the line, then a slower speed.
- Q. What are those
green stars I see on the map display?
- Those represent remote WIDEn-N area
digipeaters, and are typically atop a mountain
somewhere and offer long range digipeating of APRS
- While you can send APRS one liners to
a regular APRS station, these digipeaters are
typcially not manned. They consist of a TNC and
radio only. One liners to a digipeater will not
normally be acknowledged.
- Q. I want to put up a
WIDE area digipeater, what equipment do I need?
- We'll assume first you have
authorized access to a site, and have already gained
permission to put up a digipeater. If not, please
take care of this business first.
- The basic necessities of an APRS
WIDEn-N digipeater site include a mobile-type radio,
a Kantronics KPC-3+ digipeater (w/8.2 or greater
eproms), an antenna capable of surviving harsh
winter conditions (wind and ice), good coax, power
supply (or also UPS), and cavities or filters.
- TNC programming notes can be found on
the nwaprs.info home pages.
- NWAPRS WIDEn-N digipeaters are
typically named with a geographical reference, like
KOPEAK, BALDY, etc. When a station callsign is used,
the standard SSID is -10.
- If you're going to use an alias name
for your digipeater, check to make sure it is not
already used ANYWHERE on Earth before proceeding. If
you put a digi up with a duplicate name, problems
- Q. I want to put a
tracker in my car, what equipment do I need?
- This is one of the more fun
applications of APRS; vehicle tracking.
- There are several ways to easily
implement a tracker in your vehicle. If you already
have a 2M mobile then all you need is a TNC and GPS.
- The TNC can be a Kantronics KPC-3+
(8.2 or greater preferred).. Most operators here in
the NWAPRS group use the Kantronics KPC-3+. On the
other hand, you can use a TX-only TNC like the
TinyTracker III, or TigerTrak modules, which are
great if you only need one-way communications.
- The GPS needs to output NMEA data,
and there are a host of models available from
Garmin, Magellan, Delorme, and others.
- There are a lot of solutions now for
mobile trackers. If you have one that has the
settings all configured, and power is controlled by
simply starting the car, then it's perfectly
acceptable to put one on the air, like in the wife's
car, or hubby's truck when he goes to the ham radio
store after work, or to the flower shop!
- The Kenwood D710AG is the BEST mobile
solution, because it has a built-in TNC and GPS. You
don't need a laptop, and you can send messages with
the mic keypad.
- For further comment....
- Q. What kind of
computer do I need to operate APRS?
- There are versions of APRS for
Windows, Linux, the Web, and Google Play apps.
Practically any computer will work. Of course a
newer computer will work fastest, but an older one
will work just fine.
- Instead of dumping that old PC, how
about setting it up for 24/7 APRS operation?
- Q. Where do I get the
software, and how much does it cost?
- Nearly all versions of APRS software
are shareware, and can be found on the web. A
donation to the author of the application or
software is highly encouraged, and helps with
further development. Please consider giving when you
find an app you like.
- Once you get your software/app loaded
and configured, you will also want an APRS-IS code,
which is typically a five digit number, so you can
uplink your received APRS signals to the APRS-IS.
- Q. I've heard there's
an HT with a TNC built in. What's the scoop?
- You're referring to the Kenwood
TH-D74, with packet and APRS capabilities built
directly into the radio. Check the ham radio
magazines for details. These radios go for about
$500 from the outlets.
- Due to a 2020 fire in the Japanese
transistor plant that makes.... err made.... the
chips for the Kenwood TH-D74, Kenwood is no longer
making this fine little radio. Hopefully that will
be resolved in soon enough, and we can all anxiously
await the new Kenwood TH-D76 which will also include
DStar and DMR capabilities, according to a dream I
- You can also run APRSdroid on your
Android smart phone. While this app doesn't operate
on the APRS RF frequency, it does use the APRS-IS to
upload your GPS location, and can be used for
- Q. I've heard there's
a mobile radio with a TNC and GPS built in. What's the
- This would be the Kenwood TM-D710AG.
Like the TH-D74A mentioned above, the D710 has the
components of a TNC built-in. Many of our users have
the D710 installed. You will NOT be sorry about
buying this radio!
- Alinco and Yaesu both have
APRS-capable mobile radios. These are all good
solutions to a mobile use of APRS.
- Q. Why should I leave
my home station TNC and radio on all the time, even
when APRS is not running?
- Your own TNC has an ALIAS setting of
WIDE1-1 If you leave your radio and TNC on, it will
automatically digipeat packets using an outgoing
path of WIDE1-1,WIDEn-N, which is a standard setting
for mobile ops.
- This helps the overall system, as
many portable or mobile trackers use low power,
which may not be able to reach the nearest WIDE digi
on the mountain. Your station digipeats these
packets to the nearest WIDE.
- Q. How do the NWAPRS
signals get onto the Internet?
- There are many locations throughout
the NWAPRS where the radio/TNC signal is fed, via
computer, to an internet gateway. All signals that
are received at those locations are transmitted via
the internet to the national APRS server via
"secondary" servers, several of which are located in
the NWAPRS. It is estimated that these gateways
receive 90% of all the NWAPRS signals.
- Q. What's the scoop on
the TOP 200 Heard Stations linked from the nwaprs hog
- The Top 200 is a web page that lists
the "most heard" stations in the nwaprs region. It's
a useful tool when trying to determine if your
tracker or home station is transmitting too much.
- Your station should not normally
appear in the top 3-5 stations listed. If it is, it
generally means you have your station set to
transmit too often. If you have your tracker set at
once per minute, there should be either no digipeat,
or a RELAY only digipeat built in. If your tracker
is at home or work, turn it off. Only trackers on
the road should be transmitting periodic position
- Everyone should routinely check the
TOP 200 list to help optimize their station
- Q. I'm traveling. How
does someone back home see my location via the
internet? They may or may not be a ham.
- First, they need to know the exact
callsign, with SSID, that you are using.
- Next, have them log onto the internet
and go to the URL http://map.findu.com/callsign-ssid
and replace the callsign-ssid with your own
information. If your station has been heard
recently, it will give course and speed information,
how long ago the last update was received, and three
maps (closeup, nearby, regional).
- You can also lookup any APRS station
on the http://aprs.fi web site, even directly by
entering http://aprs.fi/k7gps-9 for example.
- You can actually do this routine with
any APRS resource (WIDE digi, WX station, home
station, etc, to check to see when it was last heard
via one of the iGates).
- Q. The Kenwood TM-D700
and D710GA can be outfitted with the VS-3/VGS-1 voice
chip, and speak APRS messages. Where do I find more
- Check the Kenwood site or outlets for
more details. These chips allow radio to speak APRS
messages when they are received.
- Q. What kind of TNC do
I need for a mobile tracker?
- If you plan on taking your laptop
along, you will want to get a KPC-3+.
- If you just want a transmit only,
rather portable setup, you have several options:
- TigerTronics TigerTrak TM-1/TM-1+,
has multi functions, VHF/HF tracker.
- Byonics TinyTrak3+, may be bought
in kit form, has great features for a VHF tracker
- Byonics TinyTrak4 which will work
on HF/VHF/UHF and 300/1200/9600 bps (coming soon)
- OpenTracker 1 or 2 (coming soon)
- Others are out there, and this
needs to be updated.
- Q. I have a gazillion
more questions, how do I get them all answered?
- First, find an APRS guru who lives in
your area and ask for help.
- Next, if you can't find someone
local, expand your search to statewide and solicit
- Be patient, as there is a learning
curve to becoming familiar with APRS.
- Sign up for the NWAPRS sig mailing
list on Google Groups!