Keying In The Rain: One rather soggy but incredibly fun POTA activation!

I’m lucky enough to live in a part of the world where–by and large–the weather is pretty darn nice.

In fact, I recently received a comment from a reader who jokingly said that I should work for the tourism board of western North Carolina because the weather always seems so pleasant in my POTA/SOTA videos.

It’s true: most of the time I hit the field to play radio, the weather is very pleasant.

That said, you see more of these “fair weather” activations because I tend not to make videos of ones in poor conditions mainly because I don’t like managing the camera in high winds, heavy rains, or even super cold conditions–especially when I want to get in and out of the field quickly. The camera tends slows everything down.

On Friday, December 1, 2023, though, I decided to do a park activation in the rain and make a video! Here’s my field report:

Pisgah National Forest (K-4510)

That Friday morning, I dropped my daughters off at classes, then made my way to the Mills River library to put the finishing touches on a field report and publish it. It was rainy and I wasn’t complaining; it had been a very dry fall in WNC up to that point.

After I published my field report and attempted to catch up on the email backlog a bit, I hopped in the car and headed to the Sycamore Flats picnic area in Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Pisgah Game Lands (K-6937).

That day, knowing it would be soggy, I packed my Discovery TX-500 which is pretty much rain-proof. By this, I mean that it’s designed to cope with rain, but it’s not designed to be completely submerged in water.

Truth be told, I had no intention of making an activation video. Once I arrived on site, though, I thought, “Why the heck not?” After all, other than being rainy and chilly, conditions were pretty pleasant. That and my OSMO action camera is completely waterproof.

I grabbed the camera and started filming the activation while closing up the car.

Setting Up

When playing POTA in the rain, I tend to select picnic tables or sites that are under the canopy of trees if at all possible. Trees not only provide antenna supports, but they also help divert a bit of the rain.

I found an ideal site under the canopy of a few hemlocks.

I deployed my PackTenna end-fed half-wave (EFHW) oriented (nearly) vertically and with the feed point close to the tree trunk so that it would be better protected from the rain. I wasn’t worried about the antenna getting wet, but I also didn’t want the toroid and windings to get completely soaked either. It’s never a bad idea to use what bit of natural protection the trees can offer.

As you can see in the photo above, I had my TX-500 completely exposed, but the battery, in-line fuse, and (to some extent) the speaker mic were all protected in the TX-500’s Telesin Case.

As always, I used my Rite In The Rain notepad which is a champ at handling wet conditions.

Normally, if it’s raining, I try to use a key that has contacts protected under a cover. Since I had my TP-III packed with the TX-500, I used it. The TP-III has a clear plexiglass (?) plate over most of the inner workings of the key. The contacts are covered as well, but only barely. I did find that at times a little water did cause problems because the contacts are so close to the edge of the clear cover.

To help keep water out, I simply operated the TP-III with the finger pieces pointing down. In the end, it performed quite well, but I think a key like the CW Morse Pocket Paddle would have even been a better choice since the contacts are completely covered.

Gear:

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On The Air

I hopped on 20 meters, started calling CQ POTA, and within a minute started logging stations.

In fact, I worked my first ten stations in ten minutes. A little pileup ensued.

Herein lies the reason you shouldn’t let a little wet weather stop you from hitting the field: you might miss out on some exciting activation action!  In the end, I worked 44 stations in 42 minutes.

It was amazing fun!

QSO Map

Here’s what this five watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map. As I mentioned in the video, 20 meters was hopping, but had a slightly shorter path than normal. It’s brilliant to see the footprint on the map:

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Keying in the rain!

I’m so glad I decided to film this activation. It was brilliant fun. The icing on the cake was just how long that 20 meter pileup lasted!

I mention this in the video, but after packing up and taking my gear back to the car (if I’ve been operating in the rain) I always lay out the gear in the trunk/boot to allow it to dry out. The last thing one wants is to pack up wet gear in a water-resistant backpack, zip it up, then forget to unpack it back at the QTH!

Back at the QTH, I set everything out on the floor and allowed it to completely dry out.

Again, other than thunderstorms (never play radio in them–!) I rarely allow weather to stop me from doing a POTA activation when I set my mind to it.

With POTA, I can almost always set up a rainfly (I’ll show you how I do this in a future video) or even find a covered picnic shelter. Worse case? I’ve been known to set up in the passenger seat of my car.

SOTA (Summits On The Air) is a bit of a different story; I tend to find acceptable weather windows to play radio on a summit especially if the activation involves a long solo hike. Things can go south quickly on a summit if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Thank you!

Thank you for joining me on this soggy activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.

Of course, I’d also 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.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me! Have an amazing weekend!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

8 thoughts on “Keying In The Rain: One rather soggy but incredibly fun POTA activation!”

  1. It is great to have a portable rig the can stand a bit of rain or snow. Not many rigs are suited for these conditions.

    The Mountain Topper series of rigs can be operated while they are safely in a large clear freezer bag to protect them from moisture because they only have push buttons and no knobs. I also find that this same trick works with the Xiegu X5105 because of the recessed tuning encoder knob.

    Cheers

    Michael VE3WMB

  2. I have to admit I’m a fair weather activator and especially don’t like getting wet. I can handle cold just fine. Nice activation Tom!

  3. I mostly use an Elecraft KX3 for SOTA and have done so in all weather conditions, each with its own unique challenges. For the rain and sleet conditions that I have operated in I found that using a clear plastic shower cap (obtained several while staying at hotels while traveling for business) to protect the KX3 seemed prudent since it is not as weather-proof/resistant as some of the radios.

  4. Thomas, here’s an idea for you; pick an empty plastic bottle (e.g. a mineral water one, the smaller ones), cut the upper portion of the bottle and ensure to keep the cap, unscrew the cap and drill a small hole at its center, slide the antenna wire through the bottle neck, do the same for the cap (through the hole) slide everything so that the “half” bottle will cover the antenna transformer (toroid) and screw the cap, now the bottle “assembly” will protect the transformer from rain 🙂

  5. I’m new to Ham, and because of posts like these and all of the great comments here, I can’t wait to become more proficient at CW and get to a park near me. All the best!

  6. As an active participant in GORUCK events AND a CW op, great to see a GR1 being used to transport gear to the field. 72, K9KHJ.

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