Truth is, I like both.
I like SOTA because I love hiking and playing radio on the summits of some pretty impressive mountains. I’m often treated to amazing views and the DX can be spectacular. I love the sense of accomplishment when the activation goes well and I’m back home later feeling a bit tired from a long hike. Good stuff!
I like POTA because it’s incredibly accessible (thus fits in my tight schedule easily). Many of the parks have great hiking trails, and there’s almost always a picnic table available making set up so much easier. Here in western North Carolina it’s almost a given that park picnic tables are surrounded by large trees and have a reasonable amount of space, thus POTA sites can be ideal for antenna experimentation.
I don’t typically experiment with antennas during SOTA because after hiking 2-3 hours to a summit, I feel pretty invested in the activation and the last thing I want to do is roll the dice with my antenna. With POTA, I can bring a few extra supplies or “plan B” antennas if something goes sideways. Plus, unlike parks, summits are often lacking in tall trees so I stick with shorter wire antennas and self-supporting verticals.
On the morning of October 20, 2021, I decided that I wanted to try a new antenna or an antenna I hadn’t used in quite some time. My intention was to dig out my Wolf River Coils TIA vertical, but when I reached into my antenna bag, I pulled out a nondescript Shure microphone pouch. I scratched my head for a moment…
For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what this was, so I opened it up and discovered a doublet inside! Not just any doublet, either–based on the use of a 35mm film canister in the antenna’s construction, I knew it had to be a creation of my buddy Eric (WD8RIF).
Then my memory kicked in.
A stolen antenna?
So “stolen” might be a strong word, but “antenna kept very well beyond the intended loan period” is simply too wordy.
You see, back in May 2016, Eric introduced me to NPOTA (National Parks On The Air).
On the way to and coming back from the 2016 Hamvention, Eric and I stopped off at a number of parks and activated them. Eric was one of the leaders in NPOTA and was totally addicted to activating. Of course, I got the NPOTA disease too.
I purchased a Par End-Fedz trail-friendly antenna at Hamvention, but at some point during our multi-activation run, Eric handed me this homemade doublet and said, “why don’t you give this a try as well?” He likely follow that statement up with, “but I do need it back.”
[Eric: if you have the misfortune of reading this post, you can correct me. Oh…and hey! Good news! I found your doublet!]
So I’ve had this doublet a good 5 years beyond the loan period.
Don’t judge me.
Keep in mind that only a couple days after Hamvention that year, our family went on a two+ month trip to Canada. We spent about one month in an off-grid cabin on PEI, then another month or more in the town of Beaupré, Québec.
When we came back to the QTH, I think my wife being the organizer she is, recognized the antenna as mine and tucked it away in our storage building along with my antenna-making supplies. I completely forgot about it until sometime last year when I put it in my large antenna pack and then forgot about it yet again.
Fast-forward to October 20th when I rediscovered this doublet and decided it would be wrong–no, unethical(!)–not to put this antenna on the air before returning it to its rightful owner.
Table Rock State Fish Hatchery (K-8012)
Although a doublet was my very first HF antenna and I’ve used them at home a number of years, I haven’t deployed one in the field in ages. I decided Table Rock Fish Hatchery would be a good spot to deploy this doublet due to the number of trees and perfect open space to tie off the doublet ends.
I arrived on-site and unrolled the antenna. The legs were a bit tangled, so I spent a few minutes pulling them apart. Based on the leg length, I figured the antenna might tune up on 40 meters, but I doubted it would be resonate there.
Turns out, if I would have only spent 2 minutes searching Eric’s incredibly comprehensive website, I would have discovered everything I needed to know about this doublet. He mentions how he built it and where he got the idea.
I decided to deploy the WD8RIF doublet as an inverted vee so I’d only have to launch one line into the trees for the center support. Of course, this could also be configured like a dipole or sloping dipole, if I wished.
The antenna deployed rather quickly.
- Elecraft KX2
- WD8RIF’s homemade 40-10M doublet
- N0SA SOTA Paddle
- GoRuck GR1 USA
- Arborist throw line
- Weaver arborist throw line/weight and storage bag (affiliate links)
- Tom Bihn Large Travel Tray
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch (affiliate link)
- Jovitec 2.0 mm Mechanical Pencil (affiliate link)
- Muji A6 Notepad (affiliate link)
On the air
This activation reminded me just how incredibly effective doublets are in the field.
I made a real-time, real-life video of the entire activation (see below), so you can see how it all played out, but in short: the doublet kicked arse and took names!
Lots of names and callsigns, in fact!
Within 9 minutes, I had my ten contacts for a valid activation. Benchmark performance, that.
While putting this field report together, I realize that I forgot to change the mode in my HAMRS app as I logged everyone, so the submitted logs need to be altered–everyone is showing up as SSB contacts.
Here are snaps of my paper logs for clarity:
Again, all of these show up as one mode (colors are not different for CW and SSB), but I think you’ll get an idea of how well the doublet performed running 5 watts of power:
And here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation including a visit from my favorite Table Rock canine welcoming committee:
It’s time to put a few doublets in my antenna arsenal. I plan to build a Norcal doublet soon, and might try one very similar to this WD8RIF 40M doublet.
What I really liked about Eric’s doublet is the fact that, not being terribly high at its center point, it had NVIS qualities. I was able to work all of the states around North Carolina: Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and even contacts within North Carolina. Yet I still managed to work contacts out west and into Spain.
Now I simply need to return Eric’s doublet so he can enjoy it during his many POTA activations.
But maybe just a few more activations with it first???
I mean, he’s been without it this long…what’s a few more weeks, months, or years?
(Just kidding, Eric! Maybe.)
Check out WD8RIF’s website!
If you’ve been a QRPer for very long, it’s likely you’ve stumbled upon Eric’s website numerous times. He’s had his amateur radio site online for more than two decades (going on three, in fact).
His site is a true treasure trove of QRP goodness and I reference it all the time.
Do yourself a favor and bookmark his homepage!
Again, 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.
If you get a chance this week, get involved in POTA, WWFF, and/or SOTA by chasing a few stations or even activating. I must warn you, though: this stuff is insanely addictive!