POTA in Poland: Damian activates five parks in five hours

Many thanks to Damian (SP9LEE) who shares the following field report:

Field Report: 5 Parks in 5 Hours

by Damian (SP9LEE)

Okay, to be totally frank with you and as not to lose your trust, I have to admit that the title, however technically 100% true, may be slightly misleading. If you’re wondering to what extent, I suggest you keep reading 😉

I live in Krakow, the second-biggest city in Poland, and I’ve always complained about not having enough green areas there. But starting my QRP outdoor adventure and joining the POTA program helped me realize that I couldn’t be more wrong. I live in the city center (20 minutes walking distance from the Main Square) and as it turns out, there are 11 POTA parks within a 20-minute drive (outside rush hours, of course), and around 30 if you decide to drive 40 minutes.

That’s just crazy, especially compared to the places where some POTA Brave Souls live, giving Thomas (K4SWL) as an example – a few dozen activated parks, but only a couple of them in close range. Mine I could reach by foot or bike! I don’t like to waste anything (not only tangible goods, but also opportunities or this great potential that a lot of nearby POTA parks give), so I rolled up my sleeves and started activating one by one in May 2022.

But when December 31 comes, it tends to provoke reflections of the happenings in the last year. This happened to me as well. I asked myself: “Hey, isn’t it also a waste if you have a few parks clustered and never try to do them all in one day?” As you read this, you already know what the answer was. I decided not to hesitate and do it as soon as possible, on January 2nd, 2023.

Since I’ve never tried to do more than one activation per day, I felt quite insecure. What I do like during an activation is to practice quick antenna deployments (this may be useful one day), then experiment with different antenna configurations (such as sloper angles, heights, azimuths, counterpoise placement), and finally make as many contacts as possible during a given time limit. This time limit is usually set by my family schedule or other errands I need to run.

As you can see, that’s the complete opposite to the requirements that RaDAR or POTA Rover awards make: proficient antenna deployment, gathering 10+ QSOs for a valid activation, collecting the equipment, and speedy drive to a next spot. Sounds challenging? But isn’t it what the New Year usually brings? It’s just a matter of making proper adjustments in one’s procedures and attitude. At least, that’s what I thought.

I picked three park entities 20-25 minute car drive from my home, which in total would give me 5 POTA references:

  • SP-0997 Kowadza Protected Area (3-fer)
  • SP-0994 Skołczanka Nature Reserve (3-fer)
  • SP-2274 Skawiński Obszar Łąkowy Natura 2000 (2-fer)

They are all located on the territory of Bielańsko-Tyniecki Lanscape Park (SP-0993) and/or  Dębnicko-Tyniecki Obszar Łąkowy Natura 2000 (SP-2122). So now you know why the title might be a bit misleading – I actually planned to take advantage of having 2- and 3-fers around and work 5 entities in total from only 3 different spots.

Kowadza Protected Area (SP-0997)

I hopped into the car just after I left home (yes, some of us have work or school duties… and some of us have a day-off to play radio!). I’ve never been to the Kowadza Protected Area, so even after researching it on Google Maps, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Besides my standard set, I also packed my fiberglass 6m fishing rod in case there was no convenient place to mount the antenna, and my portable PV panels in case the LiPo 5Ah battery died.

As I reached the destination, I saw that the entire area was shrouded in fog. I didn’t expect that. But as I started climbing the hill, the fog cleared, and I just couldn’t believe how beautiful the view was. Krakow lies at the bottom of a bowl and has a generally flat surface. But the landscape from the top of the hill was nothing like Krakow.

If it wasn’t for the POTA, I probably wouldn’t have discovered this little marvel!

With no time to lose, I found the tallest tree and deployed my 40-20-15-10 end-fed antenna, supported it with the fishing rod on the transceiver’s end (so it did come in handy!), and hopped on the air. Since it was Monday morning, a working day for most people, I wasn’t sure how much time I needed to collect 10 QSOs for a valid activation. Usually, I start with the high bands, as they are more unpredictable, and go down to the more reliable 20m and 40m. But this time I turned everything upside down and called “QRL?” on 7.032 MHz (I’m a software engineer, so .032 and .064 are my favorite frequencies – that’s my flaw!).

After 20 minutes there and a switch to 20m, I got my 10 calls for a valid activation, and ended up with 14 CW contacts (plus a “local” FM one on 70cm with a friend of mine, Johnny SQ9NIL). Wow, that was quick! I worked primarily with operators from Western Europe (Great Britain, Italy, France, etc.) except for one contact from Latvia. The reports were exceptionally good, only 559s and 599s – very promising for the rest of my rove!

Enjoying the success, I packed my things and headed to the next place.

Skołczanka Nature Reserve (SP-0994)

I’ve been here once before. It’s a forest area spread over small hills, and if I’m not mistaken (I’m not a dendrologist), it’s nicely covered with beeches. I parked off the gravel road that splits this wood in two, and went for a walk to enjoy nature and find a perfect spot. I aimed for a small clearing among the trees, to catch some sun and have some room to span the antenna.

Deploying the antenna was super simple (the beech’s bark is very smooth), so I was QRV within 10 minutes after I arrived. I felt I was a bit ahead of time, so I took the risk and started my activation by chasing other activators – HB9AFI with his SOTA summit was the first one.

After 25 minutes, I had a valid activation, and finished the entire thing after 50 minutes with 15 QSOs. I ended up working on 4 bands and having some POTA friends and reliable chasers in the log, such as Fabio IK2LEY, Jean-Pierre F8NUH, Manuel EA2DT, Stuart M0TTQ, and Andy SP8QC. Everything was CW only – something I couldn’t even imagine half a year ago, when I started watching Thomas K4SWL’s activation videos and learning Morse code!

Feeling successful for the second time, I was ready for the last challenge. I felt I could really do it!

Skawiński Obszar Łąkowy Natura 2000 (SP-2274)

Even though the spot was very close to the previous one, less than 2 km (around 1 mi) as the crow flies, it was a 20-minute drive using available public roads. The landscape changed significantly, and the temperature dropped a little – “obszar łąkowy” means a meadow area, which should explain everything.

Deploying the antenna was a piece of cake – just look at these easily accessible trees and all the space to span the wire. Even though I had a lot of power left in my battery, I was curious if my PV panel would power the radio in case of an emergency. I bought it on AliExpress as a “60/100W foldable 5V/18V DC solar panel,” but there’s no way it can provide what’s promised. The vendor says the maximum current is 2.66A, and multiplied by 18V it gives 45W at most.

I set up my rig and connected the solar panel instead of the battery. Using my ATU-100 as a power meter, I measured fluctuating 3.5W – 6.5W during the CQ call. If I’m understanding correctly, it was a clear sign that the panel couldn’t produce enough energy, and the Icom IC-705 was switching between the internal battery and external power source back and forth. Maybe it’s the sun’s fault (what do I expect from it in early January at this latitude?) or maybe it’s the panel’s fault. Nevertheless, time was ticking, so I decided to test the PV later this year and focus on the activation.

I started on 18.089 MHz and made one contact in 10 minutes. Believe it or not, I wasn’t that slow – there were virtually no chasers on 17 meters. 20 meters and 40 meters were much kinder, bringing me 4 contacts each with no time to rest in between. When the radio went silent for a couple of minutes, I realized that I hadn’t made any SSB contacts yet. I chased two activators, one of whom (Vicente EA2EZ) activated a 3-fer. I couldn’t miss that opportunity, as my 2-fer combined with his 3-fer gives 6 P2Ps as a result. I finished my activation of SP-2274 with a quick CQ on 20 meters and 3 more nice contacts.

When I looked at my watch, I realized all three activations took me exactly 5 hours, if you include setting up and packing. I was amazed! Firstly, I didn’t even think I could try such a challenge – it’s so against my natural way of performing activations, and I usually had a hard time fitting one activation into my schedule, let alone more. Secondly, it was Monday – a working day after a Christmas break – who in their right mind would expect a lot of chasers that would make the activation valid? Nevertheless, we did it, and I learned a lot.

The most important thing I learned is that POTA is incredibly fun. No matter how you do it and where you live. You can always enjoy working QRP in the field, looking at beautiful natural surroundings, explore new places and work with your friends or other people that share similar interests.

Finally, I take my hat off to Thomas (K4SWL), a great ambassador of POTA/SOTA, CW, and QRP. I love watching his videos and I wait for a new content each day. That’s partially why I decided to write this field report – to share my experience and spread QRP around the world.

Have a great time QRPing in 2023!


From what I can see, my gear is different from the “standard” equipment used by my friends in the US. Except for the radio, I rather use equipment from Chinese, German and Polish vendors.

  • Icom IC-705 with BP-307 (extended) battery
  • Homebrew 40-20-15-10M end-fed antenna with switchable 1:49 / 1:64 unun
  • 5Ah LiPo 14.8V battery + adjustable step-down voltage converter
  • ATU-100 EXT (reprogrammed for QRP power levels) to work on non-resonant bands
  • full-metal iambic paddle (no-name AliExpress purchase)
  • 5m RG-316 feedline with integrated HF choke-balun
  • Xiaomi True Wireless Earbuds Basic 2
  • Portable 60/100W 5V/18V solar panel (another AliExpress purchase)
  • Caperlan Lakeside 100 Travel 6m fiberglass fishing rod
  • 2mm arborist throw line with homemade 340g weight
  • Mil-Tec Assault Large 36l backpack
  • Magnum Castor size 4.5 first-aid bag (perfectly fits my IC-705 with the cage on)

17 thoughts on “POTA in Poland: Damian activates five parks in five hours”

  1. Damian, thank you so much for sharing this field report!

    I love seeing how POTA is played out in other countries and you certainly live in a beautiful one. I absolutely love the view with Krakow in the fog below–no doubt, a little inversion that day.

    I really like your kit and your pack as well–very comprehensive. A reminder, too, that I need to get the larger battery pack for my IC-705.

    Also, thank you for the kind comments.

    I hope this isn’t the last field report you share. I think you’re going to do a lot of POTA in 2023!

    Cheers & 72,

  2. A thorough report and a great read. Just like Thomas’ regular reports, you’ve captured the details so that every operator, from novice to expert can glean some very useful nuggets that they can use to improve their equipment, their setup and deployment or their operations. I’d be very interested in a follow up on the solar power you were trying to test. This is no doubt an area of interest for many readers- going completely solar powered!
    Rod VA3MZD

    1. Thank you very much, Rod, for the kind words!

      When it comes to the solar panel, I don’t have high hopes – vendor’s specification is inconsistent, to put it mildly. But I’ll definitely give it a go when the spring comes. It would be terrific if it could recharge the 705’s internal battery. Providing all the needed power to transmit without any battery is rather over its head. But… we’ll see 🙂

  3. Great field report Damian. Thanks for sharing.

    Like Thomas, I need to get the larger battery pack for my 705. I don’t do CW so I normally use an external battery so that I can get the full 10W on SSB.

    I like the look of your pack. I just ordered the new Explorer Modular Backpack from GigaParts and I can’t wait to try it out. The LC-192 didn’t fit me very well so I think I’m going to sell it.


    1. Thanks, Marshall!

      Since fall last (sic!) year, I’m doing CW mostly, so technically BP-307 should be more than enough. But every time I go for an activation, I take the external battery “just in case”, and then I always use it at some point ? So my next challenge should be to do it with the internal one only ?

  4. Hey I did 5 parks in less than 5 hours back in November

    It is doable with close by parks in hand

    I will do it again this Saturday

    John VEIPS

    1. Congratulations, John! Now it’s time to raise the bar and aim for 10, isn’t it?

      I’m really wondering how doable Rover Ostrich is, not to mention Rover Lion with 30 references in a single day. Frankly, I’m not sure if I could get 10.

  5. Thank you, Damian, very nice! Really enjoyed your detailed report, it was so interesting to read about POTA in other countries, and to see the sights in other forests! Like Tom, I look forward to reading more from you in the future.
    I have observed that the sellers of solar panels seem to quote figures representing the absolute maximum outputs under the most optimal test conditions; I suspect that maximum voltage is measured at no-load, and maximum current is measured at a much lower output voltage.
    In the field I have come to expect 50 to 60% of those numbers (at best!) and often much lower as a realistic expectation.

    1. Thank you, Phil!

      Regarding the solar panel, that’s what I was worried about. You can’t trust the numbers that sellers show. However, I know one model that really works as promised – DOKIO FFSP-110M 100W (there is also 80W variant). I almost bought it (I’ve seen field tests of it, and it was also recommended by a friend of mine who owns it), but it’s not as compact as I wanted (21″ x 28″ when folded). I needed something more for SOTA, rather than for an RV – hence my risky choice 😉

  6. Great article. I prefer doing just one POTA a month, plan with friends. Have another friend who has RV and has done POTA at 3-5 parks in one day, pull up in the park, put up his Hustler mobile antenna, make a few QSOs and then take off to another park. There are many ways to have fun with QRP and POTA. And as Damian said, getting out into the green is a big plus with any POTA.

    73, ron, n9ee

  7. Nice report and congrats on the RaDAR run! I’d love to hear more about your “switchable 1:49 / 1:64 unun”! What circumstances do you use one vs the other? An overview of the design and implementation would be awesome! I’m looking to build one myself!

    1. Thank you, Scott! As not to go too much into the details, I can briefly say that, in general, I use 1:49 ratio. This gives me a reasonably low SWR on 40, 20, 15 and 10 meters in most cases. By that I mean values around 1.1:1 – 1.3:1.

      But since it’s an end-fed, its impedance depends on many different factors: height, configuration (sloper, inv-V, inv-L) and surrounding objects. So sometimes, when the antenna is deployed on a very low height (and this happens every now and then, especially when we speak in the context of SOTA), I get better SWR when I use 1:64 transformation ratio.

      Scott, you’re yet another person (third, I think) who asked me about the implementation of this unun. I didn’t expect it to be interesting at all, so I skipped the part that describes my gear in more details. If you send me an email (my address you’ll find on QRZ.com), I can reply with some photos.

  8. Hi Damian,
    What a wonderful read while in the winter doldrums here in the U.K. Not too much sun around and very wet here. Inspiration is a funny thing, I’ve been subscribing to Thomas posts for quite a while and he infuses that ‘just get out there and try’ spirit and your post does the same. POTA is still yet to catch on over here but SOTA is very active. I use a KX3 with external batteries from the radio control models. Small enough to carry and powerful enough for a few hours at 10 watts if needed. Not ventured into solar yet as I’m doubtful about cost versus return and portability.
    Unfortunately for me I don’t consider myself good enough at CW therefore I have mixed events at SSB and CW (nerves takeover)

    Thank you for posting, the inspiration bug spreads and I’m going to pick my day soon as I miss radio and outdoors very much.

    73 de M0AZE


    1. Hi Mike, thanks for the good word!

      I’ve activated POTA parks four times since Christmas, and it’s been a mix of both warm and sunny days as well as colder and less sunny ones. That’s why I completely agree with Thomas – the most important thing is to go out and leave any excuses behind. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature while doing something you love – playing with your radio.

      I also don’t consider myself good at CW, I’ve just started this journey. Many times I feel totally lost when the QSO goes beyond the standard POTA/SOTA exchange. But there’s no other way to get better in CW than by practicing, right? 😉

      To me, POTA is a safe space where I can practice my Morse skills. I’ve never encountered any unpleasant incidents, even when I was struggling with the exchange or couldn’t send or receive signals correctly. On the contrary, I’ve always met with patience and understanding. It’s just amazing! Can you imagine better circumstances for learning? 🙂

  9. Damian, great field raport and thanks for mentioning our QSO:-).

    Maybe it’s a personal question, but which style do you prefer: “quick” activations and swift changing between activating spots, or “stay and play” in one place? Which one would you suggest to someone who is going to start POTA adventure or what criteria would you suggest to choose between them?

    1. I think you know my preferred style – quick antenna deployment, making as many QSOs as possible in a certain time limit, and packing up long after the deadline that I agreed with my beloved XYL 😉 That’s the result of family SOTA hikes, which make up the majority of my all contacts for the past 2.5 years. I think I’m heavily biased by that. For me, there was never *enough* time for being QRV…

      I don’t know if there’s any style I could suggest to someone who’s just starting his adventure with POTA (or activations, in general). I think it strongly depends on one’s preferences or skills. For example, if you have never practiced deploying wire antennas on trees, it will probably take you some time for the first couple of tries (but hey, practice makes perfect!). In that case, once you finally set everything up, you probably want to make good use of it and have enough time to enjoy it, so a longer QRV period makes more sense.

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