POTA Field Report: Coffee & QRP at Tuttle Educational State Forest

Thursday, October 28, 2021 was a wet, rainy day but I wanted to do a POTA activation on the way back to the QTH after having visited my parents for a couple nights.

I didn’t have a lot of radio gear with me on that trip, but I had the right gear: my Elecraft KX2 transceiver and AX1 antenna. If I could activate a park under a covered picnic shelter, I knew I would stay dry while playing radio.

There are only two parks within a reasonable detour that have covered picnic shelters: Lake James State Park and Tuttle Educational State Forest.

Lake James was the shortest detour, but they tend to be busier than Tuttle and last time I was there? Yeah, the picnic shelter was occupied.

On the other hand, I was nearly certain that I would have the picnic shelter all to myself at Tuttle. It would be a slightly longer detour, but worth it.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

As I pulled into the Tuttle parking lot, I could see that I had the entire park to myself.

I had never used the picnic shelter at Tuttle for an activation, but I had scouted it out during my many previous activations. It’s a very large shelter with a large double-sided fireplace in the middle.

The shelter is large enough to easily hold two classrooms of students.

The entry was roped off, but having spoken with Tuttle park rangers in the past, I knew I was welcome. That and, frankly, the likelihood of a large group arriving mid-afternoon on a rainy Thursday was all but nil.

There are really only two negatives about the Tuttle picnic shelter from a POTA activator point of view: 1.) it’s in a bit of a depression in the land and 2.) it has a very large metal roof.

A metal roof can certainly have a negative effect on antenna performance and I did worry that–the AX1 already being such a small antenna–I knew might struggle to get a signal out.

The only way to find out, though, was to try!

I found the perfect spot to set up.

Is this not idyllic?

But first, coffee time!

Over the past few years, I’ve assembled a compact, portable coffee kit that I take on camping trips and most of my POTA and SOTA activations.

The kit is incredibly lightweight and built around a small alcohol burning stove.

Sometimes when I do an afternoon activation, I crave a good cuppa’ coffee or tea; this kit always comes to the rescue.

Someday, if there’s interest (let me know in the comments) I’ll make a post detailing each component of the kit.

I do speak about this kit to some degree in the activation video below.

Gear:

Instead of brewing a cup of coffee off-camera, I actually boiled the water as I set up the KX2 and AX1 antenna.

Yes, my videos have reached an all-time low by giving you an opportunity to watch water boil in real time!

Side note for fellow coffee snobs: in the video you’ll note I’m using an instant coffee during this outing. While I have a pour-over filter in my coffee kit, I hadn’t planned to make a cup during this trip, so I defaulted to the least objectionable instant coffee I know (made by Starbucks). It’s nowhere near as good as proper coffee, but much better than other instant coffees and it has a good shelf life. If I’m going on an outing where I know I’ll likely brew a cup of coffee, I grind beans in advance and use the drip method instead. I prefer this instant coffee over coffee grounds that have been tucked away for a few weeks.

On The Air

I wasn’t sure what to expect using the AX1 antenna under a large metal roof, but once again I underestimated this little antenna.

I started calling CQ on 40 meters with 5 watts of power. In eight minutes, I had already worked the ten stations necessarily to validate this activation.

I worked five more stations in six minutes on 40 meters before moving up the band.

On 20 meters, I worked an additional five in eight minutes, including one Park-To-Park (thanks, K5TER!)

I’m sorry, but I still have a hard time wrapping my head around this kind of performance from such a super compact portable antenna; especially operating under a large metal roof.

QSO Map

Here’s the QSO map from this activation. (Note that I believe K7REL was in New York instead of California.)

Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation, coffee included!

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you

Thanks for accompanying me on this rainy day activation.

I’ll admit that this was a lot of fun. Something about a chilly day, playing radio, while sipping a hot cup of coffee and listening to the rain fall under that big metal roof…

My Danish friend, Mads, might even call this feeling “Hygge.”

A special thanks to those of you who are supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free–I really appreciate the support.

73,

Thomas (K4SWL)

27 thoughts on “POTA Field Report: Coffee & QRP at Tuttle Educational State Forest”

  1. Thank you very much for these reports. Due to your “reviews” I’m ordering an AX1 to try on some of my excursions. Hope to have success like I see you having. I seem to have an affinity for compromised antennas and making them work. Also. That Boker is the same knife I have in my backpacking kit. Great knife.

    1. I’ll admit, that I too have an affinity for these super portable antennas. I think the allure is that I can take them anywhere and operate. The AX1 is super easy to pack in my carry on for air travel. Also, if I go to a site where they frown upon antenna installations, it’s hard to complain about the AX1 as there’s no impact on the environment at all (no stakes, no trees needed, nothing).

      I do love this Boker knife. I’ve another German knife I’ll try to remember to include in a video someday.

      Thank you!
      Thomas

  2. Instant coffee when I try to make sure that you have good coffee. It broke my heart.

    At the coast and am going for an attempt at portable operation. It is a dry run, but if I have everything I am going to fire up the 5105 on twenty meters.

    1. At the coast, you may find that even a modest antenna will serve you well. The ground plane and ground conductivity doesn’t get any better!

      And, yes, instant coffee is a huge compromise. I had hoped my coffee snob readers would look the other way. 🙂

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  3. Usually I am not a fan of antennas like the AX1 antenna, a whip with lots of L at the base. But I think I will get one. I bet would be good for portable/mobile use. Would use on 20m and above only.

    Thanks for the article, looks like fun.

    73, ron, n9ee/r

    1. Your mileage may vary with the AX1, but I must say that I always seem to underestimate it. I’m sure it’s a more efficient antenna on 20M and 17M.

      Thomas

  4. Great Field Report. Loved the idea of coffee and i’d be interested on more info on the titanium pan support you used with the alcohol stove. I’m in the UK

    1. Hi, Fred,

      I’m going to put together a post and possibly a video about the coffee kit. I’ve gotten so many questions about it.

      Since you’re specifically interested in the cross stand, here’s the one I use: https://amzn.to/3Crw45Y This is an Amazon US link, but I’m certain this brand/style is available from other sellers in the UK.

      If size wasn’t a concern, I would have opted for one of the partial wind screen/cup stands that the alcohol burner slips into, but it would have added much more bulk to my kit. Since I hike with it, I prefer the cross stand.

      Best,
      Thomas

  5. I have a US military canteen with canteen cup and a mount that fits on the bottom for raising so one can put heating unit under. All fits in canteen pouch to wear on my belt.

    But I prefer my small burner with real old camp fire coffee pot, purks the coffee the right way, hi. But instant is good.

    73, ron, n9ee/r

  6. Thanks for a wonderful article, again. I just ordered the AX1, with 40m, and bipod. Hopefully before price goes up tomorrow.

    Looking forward to using it, and having hot chocolate sitting out in the cold, up here off of Skyline Parkway.

    73
    WB8YXF

  7. Thomas,
    I really enjoy your articles and videos. I learn something
    everytime. Thank you for what you do.

    Robert-KG4ZSB

  8. After watching your past couple of videos using the Elecraft AX-1 antenna, and actually hearing myself in your video, I decided to purchase one with the 40 meter add-on. I didn’t put much hope that I would have much success with it, but to my surprise in 35 minutes yesterday I worked a total of 22 QSO’s in 35 minutes, 20 on 40 meters and two on 30 meters using my IC 705 and mAT 705 tuner. This is a game changer when I’m hiking and doing POTA/SOTA. Not only was I being heard, I was getting incredible signal reports back. Thanks for your real time videos of this antenna in action. 73 de KN3A.

    1. Wow, Scott! Yes, it is a game-changer. I know, too, when I’m back doing my one-bag travels, the X1 will work as a proper portable antenna for impromptu SOTA and POTA activations. It almost feels like cheating, it’s so easy. 🙂
      73,
      Thomas

    1. Eric, I should think you and V would have a lot of opportunities at the QTH and in the field to enjoy some proper Hygge! (I really need to convince you to become a coffee drinker, though! 🙂

      -T

  9. Hey next time bring a multimeter and see if the roof is grounded. If not, see if the whole roof will load up with low swr on a tuner, hihi

    1. Ha ha!

      You know, that thought did cross my mind!

      At Tuttle, however, their metal roof is problematic. For one thing, is a coated roof, so it might be difficult getting good contact. Also, it’s difficult to get to due to the wide overhangs. Frankly, I’d really need a ladder for access and as kind as the rangers are, I suspect that might get their attention in a negative way! 🙂

      I could string up an antenna inside that space, though. It’s vast.

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  10. Hi Thomas,
    Another excellent activation of a POTA.
    That AX1 antenna worked very well under that tin roof.
    I am wondering could the roof be acting as a Capacitance hat making the antenna appear electrically longer and making it a bit more efficient, because every time you have used it under that kind of shelter it has worked exceptionally well.
    Have you used it out in the open and been able to make comparisons?
    Anyway thanks again for your video’s I enjoy trying to pull out the cw stations at the same time as you do.
    72 GØNMY Mark

    1. Hi Mark,

      I have used this antenna on 4 activations so far. All of them were out in the open and I have not had a failed POTA activation yet. I used it on Sunday and my first contact was 2,200 miles west of me. This antenna is amazing. I have not used it under a shelter yet. 73 de KN3A

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