While I’d had this radio on loan from Radioddity since December 23rd, I hadn’t had an opportunity to truly hike it into an activation site. Between the weather and my tight schedule, I haven’t had an opportunity to plot out a proper Summits On The Air (SOTA) Activation. SOTA activations that involve hiking usually take a much bigger bite out of my day and, lately, I’ve been to busy to plot one.
I do live near a vast trail network, however, and it so happens that much of the trails run through overlapping public lands: Pisgah National Forest and Pisgah State Game Land.
So I packed my Spec-Ops EDC tactical pack, grabbed Hazel’s harness, and headed out the door.
Hazel knows me too well.
When she sees my pack and my hiking boots, she waits in front of the door so there’s no possibility she’ll be left behind.
Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) & Pisgah State Game Land (K-6937)
There were only two other cars parked at the trailhead; this is a popular trail network, so more often than not it’s parked full with overflow along the entrance road. I suspect it was a little too early and too chilly for many.
Hazel and I hiked for maybe 30 minutes, took a little spur trail, and discovered a nice shelf with some southern exposure.
New Marlow 2mm marine throw line
You might have noticed in recent field reports and videos that I’ve been testing a new, super-compact, 2mm throw line.
Again, many thanks to Mike (W4MAF) for giving me the tip about this throw line.
Update: I just ordered two more reels of this Marlow marine line from Wespur. After doing a little online searching, I found a coupon code that shaves off a bit of the cost. I paid $10.35 per 50M roll.
Watch the first portion of my video for an in-depth look at this new compact throw line kit.
- Xiegu X6100
- Muji A6 Notepad and Koh-I-Noor .9 mm Mechanical Pencil (affiliate link)
- KM4ACK 40M EFHW Kit
- CW Morse “Pocket Paddle”
- Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC
- Bioenno 3 aH LiFePo Battery (Model BLF-1203AB)
- Mini Arborist throw line kit: Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray, Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Tom Bihn Large Travel Tray
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch (affiliate link)
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera with portable tripod (affiliate links)
I had heard that the X6100 was prone to overloading, but I’ll admit I was surprised to hear a station 4-5 miles away. It wasn’t exactly “next door.” I quickly checked and found I could literally hear it across the entire 40 meter band.
I won’t go into details because you can hear it for yourself in the video and I also wrote about this overloading in detail in a previous post.
On The Air
Shortly after calling CQ a couple times, I was already logging hunters.
That morning, I enjoyed pileups both in both CW and SSB on 40 meters.
It was insane, actually. I can only think of one other time I was so busy in SSB and that was on a weekend where many more hunters would have been on the air. I would have never guessed I’d have such an active pileup on 40 meters early in the morning on a Thursday.
Obviously, the X6100 overloading didn’t cause any noticeable barrier to working these pileups. In addition, it seemed to handle the signal density relatively well which was surprising. (Perhaps Xiegu can sort out the overloading in a firmware update?)
I had planned to also work stations on 20 meters, but I simply ran out of time.
Again, I’ll let you hear it for yourself in the activation video below. It was pure fun!
Here’s what a Xiegu X6100 and EFHW pair can do in about an hour (green = CW, red = SSB):
Here’s a video of the entire activation including an intro where I talk about what makes for a good activation site, details about my new throw line kit, the antenna deployment, and the activation itself. As always, I don’t edit anything out of my videos; they’re unscripted/real-time, and there are no ads to get in the way. You’ve been warned!
What an amazing activation!
It was great doing a little SSB and I’ll admit…I felt a bit out of practice!
I’m happy we ventured to higher ground where I could get enough signal to ask my buddies Mike (K8RAT) and Eric (WD8RIF) for an SSB spot.
One of my favorite activation spots from this trailhead has no mobile phone access and is so deep in the valley it even takes my Garmin In-Reach Mini a while to get a good lock for texting.
Keep in mind: It’s crucial as an SSB op to have a backup plan in case you have no means to self-spot in the field. SSB ops can’t take advantage of the Reverse Beacon Network to auto-spot you. I’ve discovered that announcing your SSB activation via the POTA scheduling page has little to no effect. (Do it anyway, though!)
If you’re an avid SSB operator and you don’t have a satellite texting device, make friends with some of your most frequently logged hunters. Why? Because they typically can hear you from their location.
Plan ahead and give them your schedule with an approximate activation time and an approximate frequency. With any luck, they’ll be listening and will not only be your first contact, but will make sure you’re spotted!
Of course, return the favor by offering this service to other POTA friends.
While I primarily do CW activations these days, I do love SSB as well. It’s fun to hear hunters’ voices. In fact, although I’ve worked and communicated with Scott (KN3A) for over a year, I think that was the first time I’d ever heard his voice in SSB!
I’m hoping to shift my attention to SOTA activations soon to take advantage of those winter bonus points! The weather has thwarted one SOTA activation this year already.
Indeed, I penciled in a local SOTA activation for today (January 16, 2022), but we’ve got one foot of snow on the ground already with more in the forecast for today. I’ll be hunkered down at the QTH today chasing parks, summits, and tweaking my field kits. And drinking lots of coffee.
I’d like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been 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. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and I’m most grateful!
I hope you get an opportunity to chase some activators or hit the field and put a park or summit on the air this week!