MINI Portable: Conrad’s POTA field report from Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:

Field Report :POTA Activation K-0228, Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, Great Meadows Unit

by Conrad (N2YCH)

January 21, 2023

Parks On the Air’s Support Your Parks weekend event for winter 2023 is the third full weekend in January and I found myself without my Jeep. I sold my ten-year-old Jeep Wrangler and my new Jeep wasn’t due to be delivered until the following week, leaving me without my “POTA activation vehicle”. I ended up borrowing my XYL’s MINI Countryman to activate K-0228, but let’s face it, a MINI is not a Jeep. It didn’t have all of my “stuff” in it. I needed to get creative about what to bring along with me that would fit easily in the MINI, yet work well enough to activate the park.

I started with my backpack kit which contains an Elecraft KX3, battery, Signalink and computer (for FT8 and logging).

It includes everything I need to transmit and it’s easy to toss in the car. I just needed to decide on what antenna to use. Since it’s winter here in Connecticut and pretty cold outside, this would be an “in-the-car” activation and without the Jeep, my antenna options were limited. I could have brought my Sotabeams Tac-Mini which could fly my PackTenna EFHW up about 20’. However, anchoring the mast would be a challenge in the cold weather. In the end, I decided to bring my Buddipole tripod and nested mast, which are compact and fit in a small bag which fit right in the passenger seat.

The tripod with the mast fully extended is about 10’ high. Since I planned to activate on 20 meters, I decided to use a vertical configuration with a counterpoise. Rather than use the Buddipole coil and have to adjust the tuning in the cold weather, I substituted the Buddipole telescoping antenna and coil with an MFJ 17’ telescoping whip using the top port of the VersaTee. The 3/8 x 24 thread at the base of the MFJ antenna fits right into the top of the VersaTee. The 17’ antenna is resonant (or very close to it) being a quarter wavelength of 20m. And, taking a tip from a friend, I have become a fan of the “Amazon Basics 33’ Self-Locking Tape Measure Counterpoise.”

It’s a metal tape measure modified to be used as a counterpoise wire. Rather than mess around with counterpoise wire lengths to find resonance, the ruler can be lengthened or shortened very easily to get the length just right for the frequency. My formula for this configuration is to fully extend the 17’ telescoping whip, fully extend the Buddipole mast to it’s maximum height and use 15.5’ of counterpoise. The ruler is conveniently marked with the length so I don’t have to measure anything. I have a plastic electric fence post I picked up for a few dollars from my local building supply store and use that to keep the counterpoise elevated off the ground.

With the antenna all set up and tripod braced against the wooden fence post in the parking lot, I hit the ATU button on the KX3 and it immediately gave me a 1.0:1 reading for SWR. All set to go. Using the KX3, which is QRP power, my expectations were low on just how far I’d be able to reach compared to my usual setup with an Icom IC-7300 and dipole at 30’ high and whether I could be heard in a busy 20 meter band to make some contacts.

I was not disappointed. In a two hour activation, I completed 71 QSO’s. Here’s a look at my QSO contact map.

Of those 71 QSO’s, eight were park to park contacts, a few of which were 2fers for a total of 12 parks. One of those park to park QSO’s was with CU3HY, Mike Maciel, who was activating CU-0134 – Terceira Island Nature Park in the Azore Islands. In the screenshot below, you can see JTAlert running alongside WSJT-X. I have a “Directed CQ” alert set up to notify me when anyone calls CQ POTA. Those are the dark green stations appearing in the lower middle panel of the right window. One of the stations I was able to contact was not spotted on the spots page, but yet I was able to see them calling CQ POTA and get the park to park.

I was pleased to make contacts in California, Utah, Colorado, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Canada along with many others here in the US. The coverage was excellent. My activation took place at 9am ET in the morning on the East coast, which is challenging on 20 meters trying to make contacts West of me because of propagation. I usually get more European stations during morning activations here in Connecticut than I do US.

I’m not sure if it’s the improving band conditions or the antenna that was responsible for my good US coverage, but I’d say that my modified Buddipole with the MFJ whip and the Amazon counterpoise was a good antenna pairing with the Elecraft KX3 transceiver, all of which was very easy to transport in a MINI Countryman.

A final note of thanks to my wife for use of her MINI so I could get my SYP Winter 2023 Activator Certificate!

7 thoughts on “MINI Portable: Conrad’s POTA field report from Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge”

  1. This is a great report, Conrad. I suppose the MINI time also helps you assemble a good “rental car” mobile/portable set up as well!

    I love how you’re using a tape measure for an elevated counterpoise. Very clever because the trick with those elevated counterpoises is having the right length for each band.

    Thank you once again for sharing your field report!

    Thomas (K4SWL)

  2. I used to support my MFJ-1979 whip on a tripod but it fell down in the wind too many times. It is now bent in several places and some of the sections are no longer a tight fit. It still works FB but will soon be honorably retired and replaced by a similar whip from AliExpress.

  3. I don’t own a Buddistick. Yet! But I’ve played around with elevated radials, and I’m semi-convinced the have gain.

    At my QTH, I primarily use wire. I love my 40m wire vertical. It’s supported by a 12m Spiderbeam mast, with an elevated radial, pointed southeast. I’ve made it all the way down to Brazil SSB on my KX2.

    Thanks for the report Conrad! I like to sit comfortably inside my vehicle during these winter months.

    72 de W7UDT (dit dit)

  4. An addendum…

    My Wrangler is my ‘Happy Place.’ In an earlier post, I’d built a ‘Shotgun’ desk, where my various radios, laptop, and sundries are arranged within comfortable reach.

    It’s a simple project, and highly recommended.

    Thanks again Conrad!

    1. Thanks Rand, I remember your post and thought the idea of the suspended shelf was brilliant. I just bought a steering wheel mounted tray for the computer and plan to test it out on my next activation.

  5. “Amazon Basics 33’ Self-Locking Tape Measure Counterpoise.”
    The name says it all, and I’ve got one of those at home! Thanks for the great idea!
    Might try that this coming weekend when I will be doing Winter Field Day and POTA from Wildcat Mountain (K-1480).

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