It’s not you, it’s the bands! (Also, see you at Hamvention!)

I’ve received a few messages from readers and subscribers about failed park activations over the past few days.

It’s no surprise, really, since we’ve had several extended periods of HF radio blackouts with powerful solar flares and CMEs bombarding our planet.

I experienced this firsthand on Sunday. We celebrated Mother’s Day with a picnic and hike at Tuttle Educational State Forest on our way to visit my father in the hospital in Hickory, NC.

I didn’t plan on activating, so I didn’t bring my radio pack or camera gear. I wanted the day to focus on celebrating my amazing wife. After we finished eating and before hitting the trail, everyone encouraged me to get on the air for a bit.

I didn’t have my radio pack, but I did have the Elecraft KH1 in my EDC pack. I went back to the car, grabbed it, and then started calling CQ POTA after spotting myself on 20 meters.

I only heard crickets. After 25+ CQ POTAs, not a single hunter responded. I knew conditions were terrible, but I figured I’d work at least one station. Nope!

I tuned around to try contacting one of the half dozen or so activators on the air, but I couldn’t hear any of them. In fact, I only heard one ongoing conversation on the entire 20-meter band. Even the FT8 frequency was quiet.

In fact, I only heard one rag chew in progress on the entirety of the 20 meter band. Even the FT8 frequency was pretty quiet.

If I had my radio pack (and my goal would have been to activate) I would have deployed a 40M EFHW and settled in for a very long activation. I’m sure I would have eventually worked 10 stations, but it could have taken a couple of hours or more.

All this to say, if you had a failed activation in the past few days, it’s not you. The HF bands have simply been dead at times.

I packed up the KH1 without making a single contact, which was fine because we were there for family time, and that part was absolutely amazing!

Hamvention 2024

I’m heading to Ohio today for the first leg of my journey to FDIM (Four Days in May) and Hamvention. I’ll be at FDIM all day Thursday and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings.

At Hamvention, you’ll find me at the Halibut Electronics/Ham Radio Workbench Podcast booth #3011 when I’m not browsing the indoor and outdoor exhibits. Stop by and say hi!

Also, during Hamvention, I’ll have very little time to check email and comments, and I expect a backlog by the time I’m back home next Tuesday. I appreciate your understanding.

If you have a pressing question, please sign up for our discussion group at There are loads of mentors there who can help you!

If you’re also going to Hamvention, travel safely!

Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

30 thoughts on “It’s not you, it’s the bands! (Also, see you at Hamvention!)”

  1. My streak of (at least) one CW QRP contact per day got busted by the solar storms. Time to start over again. Looking forward to seeing you at FDIM.

    de Karl Heinz – K5KHK

  2. I was activating Friday lunchtime (1200utc) in the UK and literally heard the first wave hit us. Suddenly all contact was gone and the noise floor went from near zero to s9+ across the entire 20m band. I was on 8 contacts at that point. Thankfully I was using a linked dipole and was able to very quickly drop to 40m and got a couple of local stations in the log before that too failed. Finished on 10, at a 2fer with one p2p all in under 40mins.

    And that’s how the bands stayed, certainly for me for the rest of the weekend. Thankfully things are returning to normal ish…


    1. Wow, Sam. I’ve always wanted to do a spectrum recording as we’re being hit by a wave like we most recently were–as you describe. I think it would be fascinating to see the signals simple disappear on the waterfall.

  3. I had the same experience, though I didn’t hear anyone after 9am CDT on Saturday, and it stayed that way through Sunday. I made one QSO early Saturday before everything went dark. 72 de AI5DD

    1. And that’s exactly what happened to the HF bands. They went dark. The one activator I worked (N3CZ) I worked on multiple bands and multiple modes, but it was all via groundwave. He was at Mt. Mitchell which is only 6 miles from the QTH.

  4. This is why I didn’t even bother to go out. Thankfully I’ve never had a failed activation & I don’t ever plan on it either. I will never do digital modes, I don’t believe in computers making contacts for me.

    1. I think the conditions lately has been about as rough as I ever remember them being.

  5. Alas, my pilgrimage to the promised land to meet the Grandmaster of POTA-Fu will have to wait for another year. Like you we recently had a change in the status of being caretakers for an older member of the family and still are cleaning up the massive bureaucracy involved afterwards. It has been so busy I’ve had the TR-45L for a month and barely checked the function on it yet. I was too late to register for the FDIM livestream but will be following all the coverage provided by yourself and others from Xenia.

    1. I understand what you’re going through, Jeff. In truth, had I not been on the roster to present at FDIM, I would have been tempted to stay in NC due to my father being in the hospital. That said, my sister is taking care of him and I was encouraged to take the break which I will gladly accept. I completely understand the level of bureaucracy you’re having to deal with my friend. All the best to you. Thomas

  6. Thomas, please bring back good news from Halibut on the dedicated satellite transceiver that was under development for a while (and maybe still is…). Have fun and 73

    1. I will have plenty of booth time with the Halibut Prez, so I’ll nudge him a bit.
      Wish you were joining us, OM. All the best! Thomas

  7. Yeah, I had big plans for Saturday: Armed Forces Day Cross-band Test, a POTA activation, and the 50 MHz Sprint that evening. I managed to work WAR, NSS, and N3S, but that was all I got for the entire weekend.
    I think it was worth it though, in exchange for seeing my first aurora on Friday night!

  8. I set up a WSPR rig running 23dBm to a trap dipole at 8 feet above ground on Saturday, 5/11/24, between 5:00 PM and 8:30 PM CST and again Sunday, 5/12/24 between 6:30 AM and 10:00 AM CST, on 20M,15M &10M to see how the CME effected the bands. I received zero spots on 10M, 16 spots on 15M including one spot from VK5ARG from down under, and 686 spots from South America to NW Canada on 20 meters. Transmissions were at 10-minute intervals. I removed the rig at 10:00 AM Sunday, due to having heavy rains and lightening. Mapping the spots indicated coverage on both the West coast and East coast with the majority of spots to my east from Texas to Nova Scotia. I wanted to run the test all day Sunday, but weather prevented. Closest spot was from W3PM in Alabama at 840 Km. I found the WSPR report and data was most interesting, but not enough data for analysis. You can view the map and data on WSPR Rocks using my call K5SOP.


    1. It’s a brilliant time to run something like WSPR and see just how well a super weak signal mode can eventually find paths. Fascinating stuff!

  9. Whenever I discuss propagation reports online, there’s always a ham who says, “*I* never look at propagation reports. A *real ham* just turns on the radio and tries to make contacts.” I wondered how many of them are shipping rigs off for repair this week ????

    A bad space weather forecast has never kept me from firing up the rig. I enjoy good surprises, and try to minimize the bad ones!

    1. These past week, I’ve had to pay attention to the reports. My openings for doing an activation have all been very short. I’m sure, with time, I could work a respectable number of hunters, but when the window to activate is a max of 30 minutes, it’s challenging to make it all worthwhile when there’s a radio blackout.

  10. Have fun in Dayton. Not there this year as our daughter Lauren KA4LHC is being married, Sat May 18th. It’s in Greenville, NC, not far from the VOA Transmitter site. Tried to get her to have their Reception in the antenna fields, & decorate the rhombics with flowers…oh, well.
    Safe travels de K4RLC Bob

    1. Oh I think the slewable antenna near the entrance would have looked lovely with garlands. 🙂
      Congratulations, my friend! What a proud pappa you must be!
      All the best! Thomas

  11. I get a little activity in the late afternoon and evening. Rough conditions puts it lightly. So friends have better luck using digital modes. How has your Shortwave Listening been working?

    1. Oh, SWLing has been super rough, too. I haven’t done a lot lately, but I dida little SWLing Sunday evening and it was pretty dismal. Still could hear WRMI, though!

  12. I heard you (because I saw your spot) – you were WAY down. I’m sure if you’d had a less compromised antenna OR the bands weren’t wrecked you’d have had better luck.

    73and enjoy FDIM/Hamvention!

    1. I was using the KH1 and whip antenna, so it was a pretty compromised setup. Still, it was a bit crazy the amount of *nothing* I heard on the bands Sunday. 🙂 73!

  13. I am three hours from hamvention, in a Casey, IL campground, home of the world’s biggest everything, from rocking chair to teeter-totter-Google it.
    20cw wasn’t bad, and 20 FT8 has been usual. Great compared to my west coast start to this road trip, even with another solar storm, and heavy rain, today. I have been able to activate one park, or more, each day of the trip. I left a week ago, to be at FDIM tomorrow. Amazing at the “DX” that answers my ft8 CQ from IL. But no JAs.
    SSB has been useless. My KH1 has also been not forthcoming with QSOs. Have had to resort to more substantial antennas. But EM8W from Belarus just answered my FT8 CQ.
    I will be on the road, returning to Southern California in August. Hopefully ol’ sol is better for radio. I did see the aurora in pine bluffs, Wyoming though.

    1. Seeing the aurora would absolutely make my trip! Safe travels, OM. See you at Dayton.

  14. I was at a park Friday and Saturday. Band conditions were okay until about 1115 hrs eastern on Saturday when the FT8 waterfall went blank on 20 meters. Before that I did manage enough QSOS for my 6th Kilo. I cut my trip short and spent the rest of the weekend with my wife.

  15. Have fun at Hamvention. At this time of year I get excited by the thought of new radios being announced. Maybe an IC7300 Mk II? Who knows?

    As for the aurora I nipped up to the 2m band and made 7 auroral CW contacts with best DX being France, Germany and Denmark. Sadly not QRP……the bandscope on my IC9700 looked like 20m CW!

    There are pictures of the aurora on my QRZ page, I was facing south when taking them. In 30 years of being licenced I have never seen an aurora as good as that one. From a VHF propagation perspective it was fantastic.

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