16th Floor QRP: Coffee break portable at the office

Many thanks to Bill (KG4FXG) who shares the following guest post:

Return to the Office:  Operating portable during coffee breaks (Atlanta to England)

by Bill Carter (KG4FXG)

Have you ever thought about operating from your work location?  Perhaps during lunch or a coffee break?  What if that location was downtown in a big city?

In my case, I work in a 17 floor Skyscraper.

The building has several large outside balconies on the 5th, 10th, and 17 floors.  There is also a green space on the 5th floor that is a grassy area with a lawn and trees.  What are all the possibilities here for portable operation? Let’s find out!

Amateur Radio is about learning, and to that end we may build antennas, perhaps QRP Rigs, and other things.  I’ve been building many QRPGuys and Tufteln antennas.  I also use a few that I’ve purchased, such as the Chelegance MC-750, AX1, Gabil Vertical Antenna GRA-7350TC [gear links below].

Sometimes, the weather does not play nice and I’m forced to try operating indoors.  Here I am using the Chelegance MC-750 on the 16th floor where I have clearance all the way to the top of the 17th floor.

The antenna almost touches the ceiling on the 17th floor.  I was able to make a contact in England: John G4RCG.  His location was in Kirkhamgate, Wakefield–about 11 miles from Leeds. We were able to exchange names but that was about it on 20M.

This antenna is amazing, I can’t wait to try it outside in our green space.

I was using the Elecraft KX2 but I have several QRP Rigs that I have brought to the office.  Such as the Norcal 40, Elecraft K1, both of which were kits I built.  I started QRP back in 1999 before there was POTA.  Back then, you had to build your radio.  Most did back then.

Learning about propagation has been interesting.  It is not ideal to operate indoors.  One simple way I test conditions is to see if I can hit the reverse beacon network.

Here’s a screenshot of the Reverse Beacon (below) while I was using the Chelegance MC-750 on 20 meters:

(Click to enlarge)

Simple Office Setup

I work for the railroad.  You will notice my mug says Taggart.  Some humor here, but that is from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  Story about a railroad and so much more.

Here is the Green Space on the 5th floor.  Could you use this space for portable operations?

Here is pictured where I operated off the 10th floor balcony.  The view is amazing!

For the balcony, I just throw a wire over the glass railing.  The balcony is huge with many tables and chairs for lunch.  I have used K4SWL’s Speaker Wire antenna build here.

My hours are very unusual.  I normally work from 2AM to 5PM and I leave to drive home at 11AM.  I love telecommuting for work these days.  So, when I operate, it is around 3AM or 4AM.  Not ideal times for POTA, but a great time of day to work DX!

I have so much more to try.  I have a Spiderbeam Pole and SOTABEAMS Pole that I am playing with as well.  I also have the Alex Loop Antenna that I will try from work.

Another operating position: here I am inside running RG-316 through the door to the 10th Floor Balcony.  I am using Thomas’s Speaker Wire antenna here.

One of the challenges that I face at 3AM is cold temperatures and wind.  There can be wind around these large buildings that can make operating difficult.  In cases of cold weather, I just opt for the little table and chair next to the door.  Besides, the coffee stays warmer longer inside!

New buildings make it very difficult if not impossible to get an RF signal out.  Getting an antenna outside is key.  And even then, that does not guarantee success.  The building’s corners have glass conference rooms.  You feel like you are outside, but I haven’t found a really good location for QRP.  That said, there are many more options to try.

Have you tried operating from your work location, perhaps at lunch?  Maybe as a POTA chaser?  What is your go-to method and set up?  Check out more of my shack on QRZ.



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13 thoughts on “16th Floor QRP: Coffee break portable at the office”

  1. A very interesting report Bill! Most of us haven’t tried “Bring your radio to work days.” That 5th floor green space looks amazing. Yes, I would definitely try radio there.

    Question: You didn’t mention using any radials with the MC-750. Did you use any?

    I have sometimes used a vertical antenna inside a building, but always with radials or sitting atop a faraday cloth “magic carpet.” Works OK, but not nearly as well as outside.

    1. Hi Bob,
      I used the four radials that came with the antenna. Hard to see them in the picture. Indoors not ideal. Depends on the weather. So many opportunities to try so many antennas. And I can check to see if I hit the reverse beacon.

      My hours are unusual, so I am often playing radio at 3AM. Not a good time to chase POTA. Hope others try Bring Your Radio to Work.

      I do catch DX. I worked France twice this week at 2AM driving to work. Only CW in the car. Mostly listen, but I could not pass up France and got 599 both days. Using FT-891 and ATAS on my car. Just hard to send CW driving over railroad tracks.

      I need to try the magic carpet idea. I also have the Gabil and Alex Loop antenna to try as well. Besides all the antenna kits I build from QRPGUYS and TUFTELN and others. So much fun trying portable operations from work!

      72 Bill KG4FXG

  2. Thanks for posting this! I worked at a couple office buildings right around where you are, and it never occurred to me to bring my radio and figure out a way to operate. You should post updates from time to time as you try out different options. It would make for fascinating reading. 73 Skip

    1. Skip
      I am glad I am not the only one who has tried bring your radio to work. Experimenting is so much fun. Very easy to deploy my SOTA BEAMs Carbon 6 Pole. I also have a Spiderbeam Pole. Early morning weather can be cool 40s-50s. I can use sliding doors to operate inside next to balconies. Before this opportunity, I never really built antennas. Been making my own and building antenna kits. And I would love to post an update in the future! 72/73 Bill KG4FXG

  3. Bill, I agree with Cesar that your mag loop may do well. I’ve had surprising luck with mine indoors. I’m curious to see how the elevation will affect performance.

    I love the mug. My typical POTA gear includes my Rearden Steel cap. I’ve always waited for someone to ask where they’re located or what I did there, but it hasn’t happened yet…

    Best Regards,
    Keith KY4KK

    1. Keith
      Looking forward to trying my Mag Loop at the office. Weather should be getting better at the early hours. I bet this will be a game changer! It is the Alex Loop.

      Love the Rearden Steel Cap. I have a black hoodie that I use as a sweater and has a picture of Taggart Transcontinental on it. Some ask me if I came from that railroad. I just smile and say I only wish I did. 72 Bill KG4FXG

  4. Operated many times from the work QTH at lunch breaks. Indeed a MLA is for me the most practical antenna at that time. Easy to setup and easy to put in my bag. 73

  5. The authors work hours leave me confused. 0200-1700 and leave to drive home at 1100? He works 15 hour days but goes home halfway through?

    Regardless, fun write up to read. That balcony looks amazing.

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