Can a Field Day or contest contact count as a valid POTA contact?

Many thanks to @thogevoll who asked the following question following my field report and video from Field Day 2023:

Thomas, I’m still new to POTA and have not done an activation yet.

How does a Field Day contact from a park count as a POTA contact? Is it simply that you are operating from park? Do you have to send the park ID number? Or, is that actually not even required for POTA contacts?

These are great questions.

The short answer is, YES: almost any simplex contact you make as an activator counts as a POTA contact regardless of the exchange used.

I’ll try to break this down…

Contests, as a rule of thumb, have a defined exchange and the elements of that exchange must be logged with each contact. This often includes things like signal report, section, region, and/or serial number.

ARRL Field Day is no exception.

If you look at the Field Day video I posted, you’ll note N3CZ and I were logging our Field Day contacts on N3FJP’s Field Day version of ACLog. Two key components of the Field Day exchange are the section, and the category (1B, 2A, etc.). We were running 1B (one op, QRP, battery) NC (North Carolina).

Those elements must be logged in order to have a valid Field Day Contact.

POTA ≠ Contest

Parks On The Air, on the other hand, is not a contest. It’s simply an on-the-air activity that has no defined start and end time. You can activate or hunt a park any time of the day or night, any day of the year.

While there is a generally accepted convention for POTA exchanges (which varies based on country/region), there is no formal required exchange. The POTA activator guide is very clear about this.

True, we POTA activators in the US and Canada tend to exchange both the signal report and the state or province, but this isn’t done in most other countries in the world. It’s up to the activator if they send the park number.

Convention in voice modes is to send the park number, but it’s less common in CW unless a hunter asks for it or if you’re completing a Park-to-Park contact. That said, there’s nothing preventing you from sending the park number with each contact if you like.

For a POTA contact, you really only need to log the station/call, time, mode, and frequency. Those details are submitted with your logs that detail the park number, date, activator, etc. and then uploaded to the POTA database in an .ADI file.

Working contesters as an activator

If I happen to pick a crowded contest weekend to activate a park and don’t have a rig or antenna that can escape to the peace and quiet of the WARC bands (and, yes, POTA is very much allowed on the WARC bands) then I often hunt and work contest contacts. I especially do this if band conditions are rough and the contest activity is dense.

I prefer, of course, to run one frequency as a POTA activator in order to open the park to POTA hunters–that’s why I use the WARC bands on contest weekends–but in a pinch, I might work contesters in order to get the ten contacts needed to validate an activation.

Of course, I need to sort out the contest exchange and use that with each contact, but that’s not too difficult. Those random folks I log have no idea I’m activating a park.

I should also note that many contests (Field Day may be one of these) don’t allow self-spotting, so when Vlado and I worked as a Field Day station this year, we did not spot ourselves on the POTA network. We were actually making Field Day contacts first and foremost, with the side-benefit of activating a park at the same time.

In other words, we simply logged our Field Day contacts per FD requirements, then (with a bit of log tweaking) uploaded the log to both the ARRL and the POTA network.

In POTA, only the activator is required to submit their logs, not the hunter; they get credit via your uploaded activator logs.

POTA: Some QSO exceptions

To be clear (and redundant), any contact you make at a park–even when the other op isn’t a POTA participant–counts as a POTA contact, with a few side notes and exceptions:

  • Contacts via a land repeater are not allowed. I can’t hop on a local repeater and make/log valid POTA contacts. I can, however, hop on a local repeater and ask for someone to spot me or meet me on a simplex frequency for a contact.
  • Satellite repeaters are allowed. All satellite contacts are allowed.
  • Fully automated QSOs are prohibited. I can’t set up one of those fully-automated digital mode applications that will run unattended. As the POTA rules state: “Each contact must include direct action by both operators making the contact.

I believe every POTA activator should read through both the POTA rules and Activator Guide prior to your first activation.


We’re entering the heaviest part of the contest season at present. If you arrive at a park on the weekend and discover that the bands are absolutely chock-full of contest stations–and you can’t find a free frequency to do your activation–feel free to work and log contest stations!

Otherwise, do what many of us do and either escape to the WARC bands or move closer to the band edges (being careful not to go too far) where you’ll typically find more free space.

Do you combine Field Day, contests, and special events with POTA? Feel free to comment with your approach!

18 thoughts on “Can a Field Day or contest contact count as a valid POTA contact?”

  1. I have never activated a park, but from what you are saying I could, for instance, go to a POTA park and do SKCC exchanges, never mention POTA at all and I’m good?

    Are the SOTA rules different?

    1. Correct. As long as you submit the logs to the POTA network, SKCC will count.

      SOTA? There are more nuances. Contest contacts would count for you as an activator, yes, if you submit the logs. For it to count for the hunter, though, they must log it as a SOTA hunted contact on the SOTA system. Random contacts (SKCC for example) wouldn’t know to do this unless you identified yourself as SOTA. In POTA, hunters don’t upload anything–it only pulls from the activator logs.

  2. YES! I had an activation recently where I was prepared to give up after getting six contacts. I’d worked everyone who I could hear and who could hear me. I decided to make one last quick check of the band and discovered that the Medium Speed Test (MST) was in progress. (This is a quick, casual contest that lasts for an hour a couple of days a week.) I did a quick search for the rules so that I knew the proper exchange and proceeded to make ten more contacts, turning my “attempt” into an “activation”!

    1. Oh yes! FT8 is 100% allowed and encouraged in POTA.

      You simply can’t use one of those fully-automated FT8 applications that you “set and forget” while it racks up contacts on its own. As long as you’re the control operator and actively involved in making the contacts, it’s all good.

  3. My first POTA activation was this May, when I went to a park nearby and set up a portable operation primarily for the New England QSO Party. I didn’t spot myself on the POTA site, and was only running about 3W from my little MTR-3, so it took me over an hour to hit 10 contacts.

    Afterward, I learned from the contest organizer that while self-spotting in real time is forbidden, I could have posted my schedule on the POTA site without breaking contest rules. The reasoning is that they allow county activators to post their planned itineraries ahead of time, and schedules posted to the POTA site are the same idea. For other state QSO parties, it’s definitely worth asking in advance about that.

  4. I’m not a POTA hunter, but I work POTA stations whenever I run across them. How do I check my standing as a hunter?

    1. All you will need to do is create an account on the POTA website–it’s free and easy. ONce you have a login and it knows your callsign, your stats will all show up “automagically.” 🙂
      Go to:

  5. As already mentioned, state QSO Parties are a great way to get contacts during a POTA outing. But it doesn’t have to be YOUR state! Last fall I did a /pedestrian mobile activation during the NYQP and picked up several contacts by searching for and pouncing on contesters. Once you submit your log you may be pleasantly surprised to see that some of your state QP contacts are also POTA members so, even though they weren’t “doing POTA” at the time, I’m sure they’re glad to get see the QSO show up in their Hunter log.

  6. My ARES team operated from a POTA park this year, but I used the team call sign, not my own. I assume I can’t submit those contacts that I made.

    1. Since those you worked copied your club call, the uploaded POTA logs would need to use your club call.

      1. Actually, Richard can get credit for his POTA activation.

        First, Richard will need to make sure his ARES team’s callsign is registered within POTA. If the operation’s logging software wasn’t configured to track operator-changes, Richard will need to update the POTA activation ADIF file to include the entry associated with his callsign for the QSOs he made. (In my case, this would look like “WD8RIF” for those QSOs I made using a club callsign. Most contest loggers can be configured to track operator changes. (N1MM Logger+ uses the “OPON” command to identify the current operator, and I think it’s possible after the event to mass-update an N1MM Logger+ log with the operator information. In Fast Log Entry, there’s an “operator” field at the top.) Finally, Richard (or someone in the ARES team) will need to upload the ADIF to POTA for the callsign used *by the ARES team*, and Richard will get POTA credit for those QSOs he is identified as having made.

        My club, Athens County Amateur Radio Association, does this routinely for the annual Ohio State Parks on the Air operation at Strouds Run State Park, K-1994, where we operate as W8UKE. We log with N1MM Logger+ and every time we change operator, we type “OPON” and enter the new operator’s callsign. After the event, I generate an ADIF and upload it to POTA for W8UKE. All the operators who are registered within POTA automatically get credits for those QSOs they made during the operation.

        I hope this helps,
        Eric, WD8RIF

        1. Excellent, Eric! I didn’t realize that the operator field would be used in that situation. That’s brilliant. Thank you for taking the time to clarify.

  7. Thank you for this! I happened to activate my first park during the 13 Colonies event, and wasn’t sure whether my 13Col QSOs would count toward my activation. In the end I logged them separately, and still managed to log 14 POTA contacts w/o the 13Col contacts.

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