Video: A complete POTA field activation from planning/scheduling to QRT

A few weeks ago, one of my YouTube channel subscribers asked if I could make a video showing the entire process of activating a park: everything from planning, scheduling, packing, driving, setting up, to activating.

Why not, right?

So on January 20, 2022 I scheduled an activation of K-6856 and recorded a very, very long activation video!

It’s 1 hour 42 minutes long, in fact, but I broke the video into chapters to make it easier to navigate and digest.

Activation Video:

Click here to watch on YouTube.

Since the entire process has been captured on video, my field report below will simply focus on the various sections of the video along with my results. That and I didn’t even think to take a single photo I was so busy with the camera (images here are all screen shots).

In the shack

My OSMO Action camera does a brilliant job outdoors, but in the shack it did struggle with my monitor brightness/contrast while I scheduled the activation. When I checked the quality from the camera’s built-in monitor screen, it looked pretty acceptable, but after being uploaded to YouTube, it was less so. Sorry about that!

Knowing this could be a problem, I did my best to describe everything I was doing on the screen. Frankly, I couldn’t go back and re-shoot this if I wanted to because it was all happening in real-time.

Before I scheduled the activation, I did sneak in a wee bit of park hunting! After all, this is how I do things in the shack.

Oh yeah, my shack wasn’t exactly tidy that day as I had a project on the table. You’ve been warned.

Packing gear

After scheduling, I put together a field kit.

I decided to take the IC-705 because I planned to do a little SSB in this activation and thought voice messages might come in handy. For the first time ever, I took my relatively new IC-705 Pelican case to the field!

In the end, I packed way more than I normally would, but I thought I’d include extras since I’d be activating so close to where I parked the car. This also made it easier to describe the components and accessories one would normally pack for a park activation.

The Drive

Yes, I even include a bit of the drive. One of my viewers in Australia asked that I, on occasion, include a bit of the trip to the activation site. (I hope they’re happy!)

Setting up

On site, I quickly deployed the antenna and full station. I say “quickly” but, frankly, I took my time as I was in no rush for once.


I even brewed a cup of coffee using a Kujudisposable pour-over pack.

I purchased this Kuju dark roast pack on a whim while picking up some items at REI.

Overall, I thought the brew was quite good, but it is very pricey per cup ($2-3 US).  I prefer grinding my own coffee and using the pour-over filter in my coffee field kit (which I need to detail in a future article!).  Still, I see the appeal of Kuju packs as they’re incredibly convenient.

On The Air

I started by calling CQ on the 40 meter band in CW. I was using the IC-705’s own battery pack and running 5 watts.

I worked 18 stations in 19 minutes on the air.

Next, I switched to SSB, connected my LiFePo4 3Ah battery, and turned the power up to a sky-scorching 10 watts!

I worked 12 contacts in 9 minutes. Each time I run SSB I’m reminded how quickly one can rack up QSOs even though I don’t exactly keep the exchange as short as many other ops.

Frankly, at the end of the day I feel like POTA is a fun field activity and not a contest. When I activate, I’m fine with including a little extra banter.

Next, I moved up to the 20 meter band and back to CW.

I worked an additional 11 stations in 14 minutes.

Hazel (who was sitting behind me) started whining during my last couple of contacts. She was bored and wanted to take a little walk, so I called QRT. She’d been pretty darn patient during this activation after all.

She’s such a good girl.


Here’s a QSO Map of the activation–note that the red pins are SSB contacts:

Thank you!

I’m not sure if I’ll ever do a video like this again, although I’ve also been asked to do one for a SOTA activation.

Despite having to do a little editing to trim the non-radio bits, it was quite fun to put together. If I could go back in time, I might have tidied up the shack a bit.

As always, 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 truly appreciate the support.

I’ve got a number of activation videos lined-up as January 2022 turned out to be a very radioactive month! Stay tuned.

I hope you get an opportunity to play radio this week.  Stay healthy and safe out there!

Cheers & 72/73!

Thomas (K4SWL)

10 thoughts on “Video: A complete POTA field activation from planning/scheduling to QRT”

  1. Love your episodes as always , learn so much , even got the bug fired up again, even thinking about upgrading to EXTRA …
    Better half is an EXTRA, and she’s been after me to study…
    Was watching the latest episode, and you was talking about UTC time , you said add five hours, do you not subtract Five hours in Standard time , and subtract four hours in daylight savings time…
    Was just wondering, Thanks LEE ….

    1. Hi, Lee,

      Go for the Extra! Your better half is correct! 🙂

      So when I’m jotting down UTC time and am in EST (Standard) then I add five hours to get UTC. During EDT (Daylight) I add four hours. That’s from my perspective here in the Eastern US time zone.

      So glad you enjoyed the video!


  2. Super happy to be your 2nd CW contact on 20m. I always listen for you when I see you spotted (secretly hoping to make the video hi hi ). Coincidentally I was drinking pour over coffee when I worked you! 73 Thomas, de fellow POTA activator K7CO Jon Utah

  3. To: [email protected]
    Subject: Nomination for the Outstanding Operator award

    Hi, I would like to nominate Thomas Witherspoon, K4SWL for the POTA Outstanding Operator award

    With his kind, empathetic character, excellent tips and large amount of YouTube videos of his numerous POTA activations, Thomas represents the best example of what a POTA operator should be.
    He is a real POTA influencer in the truest sense of the word, motivating many of us to get out and operate POTA.

    See for example his latest video:

    73 de Serge, ON4AA

    1. Serge, this is so kind I don’t know how to respond other than to say thank you. It’s an understatement to say that it really makes my day.

      73 de Thomas

  4. It looks like you’re logging using your phone and paper, why the redundancy? Have you had issues with HamRS?

    1. Hi, Scott,

      I’ve had no issues with HamRS other than a couple minor quirks. I simply like having paper logs in addition to digital logs–also, I log to paper so subscribers can read or double check contacts in my videos.

      There’s no real need to do both, it’s just how I do it.


      1. Howdy,

        Thanks for replying…I did my first activation last week, and had issues with the logging software. I purchased HamRS on Monday, and have been using it during the week to log POTA contacts, so glad to hear it’s worked well for you. I’m using HamRS on a tablet and concerned maybe I was missing something. Thanks for the great video’s

        73 KE5ET

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