Category Archives: Articles

Guest Post: Combining POTA with an FBLA national competition road trip!

Many thanks to Doug (KO4WDE) for sharing the following guest post:


POTA and FBLA

by Doug (KO4WDE)

I have recently found myself fully immersed in the world of Future Business Leaders of America, as my wife is the chapter leader for the middle school where we teach.  She started the program with just a handful of kids, and they performed so well their first year that six students qualified for national competition in Atlanta, Georgia last year.

To save money, and help provide this experience, we loaded them in our camper and took to the road.  Fast forward to this year and they have continued to grow and develop to the point where they now have more than twenty four members!  Now here’s the cool part: they didn’t just grow, they have developed into a powerhouse of Kentucky’s FBLA. Of the twenty four members, fifteen placed either 1st, 2nd, or 3rd at the state level competitions and qualified for national competition in Orlando Florida this summer.  Of those fifteen, eleven went to Florida.

The costs for this trip were huge.  Fuel alone for the vehicles to get us there was nearly $1000, and lodging, registration fees, and food drove the cost per student to well above $1500 per student.   The students voted that they would not go unless they could all go.  So they hit their computers and applied for grants and scholarships.  They were successful in obtaining a local  grant for $3500 to cover their registration fees, and came up with a battle plan for fundraising as much as possible. They formed a team that would go out into the community and present to local business owners in efforts to gain sponsorships to help lower the cost of the trip.

Goal Achieved

To say that they were successful was an understatement.  The students were able to gain enough financial support to lower the cost of the trip to $300 each.  This includes opportunities for the kids, (some of whom have never been out of Kentucky) to see the ocean, and experience many attractions that Orlando has to offer including Universal Studios and downtown St. Augustine.

That Ocean experience is where POTA plays a part.  Our travel plan had us staying at Anastasia State Park (US-1832) for two nights.  A couple of the FBLA members attending are also members of the School’s radio club (KQ4CWT) and were looking forward to the club’s first POTA activation (although the ocean was far more fun for them).  I had not activated Florida  myself and was greatly looking  forward to the experience.

Traveling with fourteen people total, in two vehicles (a Nissan Armada, and a Honda Pilot) space is extremely limited so I started the process of streamlining several separate systems into one specific mission bag.

The Field Kit

The host radio was my Xiegu G90 kit seen here combined with a small folding camp table and a Wolf River Coils vertical antenna to use on the beach.  My G90 kit is designed to be as simple possible for voice and digital modes, but it is completely based on using trees and wire antennas to get on the air, and picnic tables to operate from, so a few changes needed to be planned.

The nature of the beach itself is the most important change to plan for: no trees… no wire antennas.  I don’t own a mast, so the WRC needed to be in the kit.  Secondly, we would be on the beach for our planned activation, so I would need a small portable table to keep the gear out of the sand.  I chose a cheap amazon table [QRPer affiliate link] that is small enough to fold up into my host backpack (a maxpedition Riftcore) and sturdy enough to hold the G90 and my Evolve III laptop.  Preliminary testing on this little table was promising.

Testing the Amazon table

The Bioenno battery can wedge under the table while also supports lowering the center of gravity and freeing up the table top. The radio itself has lost the cooling stand as it was just too big and clunky for my go kit.  It now rests on a small laptop stand [affiliate link] that is suspiciously similar to the radioddity version for a quarter of the price.  I planned on sitting in the sand, under an umbrella using this little table to activate the park.

The Merging of the Bags

The G90 bag consists of the radio, battery, laptop, coax, power cables and adapters, stand, Digirig and backup wire antennas and tree line kit.  The coax has been replaced with RG-316 to save weight but the kit is essentially the same as seen in the article linked.

The Wolf river coil bag is an old camelback hydration pack.  It contains the SB-1000 coil, three legs, three radials, a 25 foot run of RG8X, and the whip.

The Riftcore has two main compartments and two secondary compartments. The front the main compartments consist of a large deep area in the back, and a slightly smaller and thinner area directly in front of that.  The main compartment holds the table top, the table frame, and the WRC system with just enough room to zip up.  The zippered pouch opposite holds the coax.

The main rift core compartment

The second compartment holds the radio, battery, stand, and ground coverings that double as padding and chargers, as well as the evolve III POTApotamus laptop.

The secondary rift core compartment

The front compartments hold the backup wire antenna, tree kit, power cables and Digirig.

The small outer rift core compartment

The kit, as planned, was much larger and heavier than the Redrock outdoors bag I’m used to carrying, but I thought it to be better since I would only have to keep up with one bag.  Especially since I would be carrying other beach gear out to the beach, and would have the kids with me.

Success All-Around

So how did it go? Success, and major FBLA success!

We arrived in St. Augustine around 7:00pm.  The boys and I setup camp, three tents.  A boys tent dubbed “Brozone Zero”, a girls tent “The She Shack”, and “Smalls” a small tent for my youngest daughter, my wife and me. The girls took the Armada into town to get pizza for dinner on the beach.

I usually RV camp, but when I do tent camp it’s in a Kelty.  Our little tent wasn’t a Kelty. We stayed in a Walmart special 3 man tent while the ladies enjoyed the Kelty tent.

When they arrived back, my wife laughed at our little tent and asked if it was like the magic one in Harry Potter.  Bigger on the inside.

It wasn’t.

The boys blowing up floats to use as mattresses in “brozone zero”
Pizza on the beach

The kit worked out better than I had planned. I was able to snag eleven SSB contacts between rain storms on the beach.  I was unable to sit down and really do an activation because of a change in plans. We planned to stay two nights but we canceled one and moved to the local Hilton to avoid tent camping storms the second night, so it was more of a “set up as fast as you can and get ten” type deal.

The table worked perfectly, although the beach wind blew my WRC vertical over.  Propagation was fair on 20 meters and I was able to get my last couple contacts via P2P hunting.  I was excited to add Florida to my list of activated states.

Admittedly, it was a fun challenge to setup and get those contacts as fast as possible and repack. I need to pack some flags for the radials in the future.

The camp table was perfect
Even with the feet of the WRC dug into the compacted sand the wind still managed to knock the system over

Once we left the beach for the hotel, radio time was over and I dedicated myself to the FBLA mission at hand. We spent five days competing and exploring Orlando. Our FBLA chapter performed very well overall and my daughter placed 2nd in the nation for her performance in the learning strategies competition.

My lovely wife was named the middle school chapter advisor of the year!  We had many, many more successes across the event but we will learn final scores in August.

My daughter winning 2nd place
The entire chapter before the closing ceremony party

This adventure was so much fun. It was very tiring, but worth every second of work to make it happen, and of course it’s always okay to sneak a little radio wherever you go.

73!

Doug (KO4WDE)

Construction Notes: VO1DR Monopod Antenna Mount

Many thanks to Scott (VO1DR) who shares the following guest post:


Construction Notes – VO1DR Antenna Mount for Camera Monopod

by Scott Schillereff,  VO1DR

Further to my article about radio during trip to Portugal, a number of readers asked for details on how I mounted my whip antenna system to my camera monopod for /P use.  Here are some photos and notes on this.

General notes:

  • This is a “straight-through” design.  Just direct connections from the BNC center pin to whip (via brass nut), and BNC housing to radial connector.
  • This is not a cook-book construction article, rather just a show-and-tell of how I built mine.  You can use what you have on hand to build something similar.
  • I suggest you start with your telescoping whip, so you know the size and threads for mounting bolt.
  • You could use any type of connector for the radial (wingnut, knurled nut, spade lug, alligator clip, whatever you like).  I prefer banana jacks since a) I can push in the radial banana plug fast, b) the plug is a weak release point (pulls apart if someone walks into the radial), and c) I can easily attach additional radial wires, if desired.
  • Use a strong case (metal clamshell or cast aluminum work well).  With the whip extended, there can be substantial forces (bending moment) from wind or handling. A tiny plastic case would be fractionally lighter but might fail.
  • For size, the one I used (25 x 25 x 50 mm; 1” x 1” x 2”) is about as small as I would go.  It needs to have a big enough footprint to sit firmly on a camera mount fitting.
  • Use high heat (e.g., Weller 100-140 W solder gun) when soldering the center pin wire to the brass whip mounting nut.  Solder the wire to the brass nut before you epoxy the nut.
  • I custom made the white plastic insulating bushing (where whip screws in). This was from a nearly-right bit from my junk box.  You can be creative here.  You could also epoxy on short piece of close-fitting, thick-walled PVC pipe around the outside of the whip mounting hole as a supporting sleeve to give some lateral support to whip when it is screwed in.
  • Dry-fit everything (before epoxying) to make sure nothing touches that shouldn’t and you can screw in the camera nut and whip fine.  Test proper continuity of center pin and radial connections to BNC fitting.  Once glued, there’s no going back!
  • For surfaces to be epoxied (metal nut sides and bottom, insides of mounting case), slightly roughen with sandpaper or jewellers file, then clean with isopropyl alcohol and Q-tip.  This will increase adhesion and strength.
  • Use good-quality, high-strength, long-cure epoxy (e.g., JB Weld), not el-cheapo 5-minute epoxy from the Dollar Store.  LET THE EPOXY COMPLETELY CURE BEFORE MESSING WITH IT!  Just walk away from it for a day… (your patience will be rewarded).

Figure 1 – VO1DR Antenna Mount, clamped onto top of monopod.  Coax goes to BNC on left; whip screws into top; raised radial connects by banana plug on right

Figure 2 – Antenna mount unclamped from top of monopod.  The black plastic fitting (at right, with wedge-shape) fits into slot on platform at top of monopod (at left) and clamps in with cam arm.  Large steel screw attaches wedge fitting to antenna mount case. Ruler shows scale of things.

Figure 3 – Antenna mount case (right) unscrewed from camera mount fitting.  Steel screw is standard camera mount size (1/4-20 thread size).  Black silicone cap keeps dust out of BNC connector.  If your camera mount does not have a detachable wedge fitting (like the one on the left), you would simply screw the camera mount screw directly into the bottom of the antenna mount case.

Figure 4 – Top of monopod dissembled to show (clockwise from top): black monopod tube with telescoping whip stored inside (stainless steel with 10 mm brass mounting bolt), antenna mount case, detachable camera mount fitting, and round top plate of monopod.  For my monopod, I had to remove one tiny screw and apply gentle torque to break a weak glue joint of this round piece on top of the monopod leg.  It remains a snug hand fit (no screw needed).

Figure 5 – Fully assembled whip antenna mount with wiring.  Radial (blue wire) with tie-off cord (yellow) at left; RG174 coax (5 m) at right.  Whip is only ever screwed in hand-tight.  Deploying in the field, I first tie off the monopod to something (park bench, picnic table, fence, tree), then screw the collapsed whip into the antenna mount and clamp mount on top of monopod, then plug in radial and tie the yellow cord off to something (straight out at 2 m height or slope down to ground anchor), and finally connect the coax to the rig.  When all in place, I carefully raise the whip (slowly, with two hands to reduce bending forces).  Take-down is all in reverse.

Figure 6 – Detail of antenna mount case.  Case is 50 mm x 25 mm x 25 mm aluminum clam shell box with square metal end plates.  These end plates are screwed in to hold the two halves together.  White plastic bushing provides additional lateral support for the whip when it is screwed in.  The bushing is glued to outside of case with CA (Krazy) glue.

Figure 7 – Inside of antenna mount case.  On left, a ¼-20 steel nut is epoxied to inside of case with strong JB Weld epoxy.  In main case, a 10 mm brass nut is epoxied to inside of case with an insulating washer beneath.  This brass nut connects to the whip and is “hot”, so must be insulated from the black aluminum case.  Yellow wire connects center of BNC to brass nut (soldered).  Black wire connects ground side of BNC to radial banana jack.  Use plenty of epoxy; there is a lot of force exerted on the steel and brass nuts.

Figure 8 – Detail of inside of case.  Note separation of banana jack solder post and edge of 10 mm brass nut.  Solder yellow wire to nut before epoxying in nut.

Hope you find this useful.  Just use what you have on hand and some ingenuity to make yours!

Best 72, Scott  VO1DR

QRP in Thailand: Drew’s Journey to Get Licensed and On the Air

Many thanks to Drew (W8MHV) who shares the following guest post:


QRP in Thailand

by Drew (W8MHV)

I travel to Southeast Asia each year and usually have a few weeks in Thailand, but this year we planned on a longer stay. My XYL (N8MHV) has family in Thailand and we own a condo in downtown Bangkok. This year I was intent on getting my Thai ham license; I have never previously been licensed there.

You might be surprised to know that Thailand doesn’t make it easy for a casual American visitor to be awarded a ham license, even though the country has a bilateral agreement with the US on licensing.

For starters, you must have a visa for a long stay. A visitor can stay in Thailand for 30 days without a visa, and I have always limited my stay accordingly. But this year we stayed for of two months and getting a visa was necessary. That wasn’t especially difficult once my Thai-speaking wife helped figure out the necessary paperwork. In Thailand my wife’s calls to government offices led to a contact with the Radio Amateur Society of Thailand (RAST). Once I joined the organization, they helped push through the application and award of the license.

The RAST Secretary whose nickname is Top was a very great help. I felt like this was a big achievement as there are fewer than 1,000 ham licensees with HF privileges in a country of about 70-million.

QRP operating from anywhere in Southeast Asia requires great patience. This is because if you operate in a DX location, then everyone you work is DX to you, as by definition there are few if any local stations!

I brought my newly-acquired Elecraft KH1 for on-air use. Its tiny size made it easy to pack for overseas travel. It worked flawlessly, but the built-in whip antenna was far less useful than a 20.5 foot random wire with counterpoise I included in my kit.

Operating the KH1 from my condo.

In my 12th floor condo noise levels were terrible—typically S7, but at the top of the building on the 24th floor there is a garden where the noise levels were a manageable S3. See the photo above.

I also operated from an island in the Gulf of Thailand at a resort and noise levels there were even more quiet, as you would expect. Also, this was a comfortable operating location as the photo shows.

During my stay propagation conditions were poor mostly and I struggled to work any stations. A typical example is my final night in Bangkok I repeatedly called a station in Hong Kong whose signal was about S5, but I never got an answer. It was about the closest station I heard, but the signal path was about the same as the distance between New York City and Caracas, Venezuela.

I have operated from other Asian locations with QRP radios many times and the results have varied, chiefly depending on the kinds of antenna I could erect. Sometimes it has been lonely, other times control of a big pileup has been a challenge.

Finally, a few thoughts about the KH1.

It is an unparalleled performer for its size. It has most features you would want and its ergonomics are good. The weakest point was the paddle set, and since returning, I have replaced them with the KM4CFT aftermarket set. That said, in my travel to Thailand next year, I think I will take a KX2. It offers a few more features at a small increase in packing size.

Thanks for listening es 73 de W8MHV

Sam’s Thunderbird Mk 1 Takes Flight: A Homebrew Radio Field Report from the American Southwest

Many thanks to Sam (WN5C) for sharing the following guest post:


Homebrew in the Field

by Sam (WN5C)

What a week it’s been!

I have the opportunity to spend a month traveling through and camping in the American Southwest (specifically, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado) doing archaeological work. And of course, that means the prospect to operate portable at weird times and in lots of places.

I’ve been planning for this trip for a couple of months, about the same length of time that I’ve been trying to achieve my amateur radio dream: to build a complete transceiver. So why not try to do both things at once?

This is just a quick note of my experiences in the first quarter of my trip of taking a homebrew rig into the field.

First off, I have absolutely no background in RF engineering, or electronics at all. But the literature is good and Elmers are priceless (thanks Kenn KA5KXW!). I started small, with kit projects, and then very basic transmitters.

I’ve always appreciated how much satisfaction my father gets by building things by hand, and finally I have a similar hobby. I called the radio I designed the Thunderbird Mk 1 based off the fact that I cut my CW and POTA teeth at Lake Thunderbird State Park in Oklahoma and will probably continue to work there the most. It’s a 6-band (40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 10) CW QRP transceiver with SSB receive.

The receiver is direct conversion and is an amalgamation of VU2ESE’s DC40, KK7B’s Classic 40, and W7EL’s Optimized QRP Transceiver. The VFO is an Arduino/si5351 combo based on the schematics and code written by VK3HN (who has helped me from afar, thanks Paul!). It’s crude, but I use a 6-position rotary switch to manually switch between the band-pass filters.

The transmitter is based on W7ZOI’s Updated Universal QRP Transmitter, married with VK3HN’s Arduino code that acts as the oscillator, keyer, and side tone generator. I get about 3 watts output for 40, 30, 20, a little less for 17 and 15, and about a watt on 10 meters. Like the receiver, I manually switch the low-pass filters.

Here’s a picture of the digital parts (ignore the second Arduino Nano, I thought I would need it but did not), the power board, and the filters. It’s on the bottom:

On top is the main board with the receiver, the transmitter, and T/R switching. Also, you’ll notice the green PCB. I *really* wanted to build NM0S’s Hi-Per-Mite from scratch but I couldn’t get the circuit to run right before my trip so I opted to install one that I built from a kit. It’s a fantastic CW audio filter that I can switch in and out (everyone should have at least one!).

I can switch in a little speaker and added a straight key jack. I printed the box on a 3D printer at the local library. It works great for the shack. In the sun, it’s starting to warp in the heat, so I’ll have to address this, but things still work!

Getting out the door on time with a finished radio was tough! I had finished right before I left on my trip (end of May 2024) and had no time to field test. The best I got was taking the rig to the table in the back yard and firing it up during the WPX contest.

I made amazing DX contacts on all the contest bands I had and called it good. But working superstations isn’t real life, and over the next week I’ve had to MacGyver the radio (rigging a car jump pack, an inverter, and a soldering station together at a picnic table to replace a bad transistor, for example). I think I’ve finally shaken out (literally) all of the loose solder joints and bad grounding. Continue reading Sam’s Thunderbird Mk 1 Takes Flight: A Homebrew Radio Field Report from the American Southwest

Guest Post: Preparing radio and trail gear for a once-in-a-lifetime, epic through-hike

We’re excited to welcome Bryce Bookwalter (KD9YEY) as a guest contributor on QRPer.com!

I had the pleasure of meeting Bryce at the 2024 Hamvention, where he shared his plans for an ambitious hiking adventure next year. Knowing he wanted to incorporate radio into his journey, I asked if he’d be willing to bring us along by sharing updates on his preparations and experiences on the trail.

To help fund his adventure, Bryce has started a GoFundMe campaign, which you can learn more about at the end of this post. Additionally, please note that some of the gear links below are affiliate links that help support QRPer.com at no extra cost to you.

Bryce, take it away…


Backpacking Booky: A Quest to Hike the Appalachian Trail

by Bryce (KD9YEY)

The dream is formed, and it always seems so attainable. It’s as easy as the desire to walk in the woods and explore the beauty of nature. To find community with the world around you and discover your reflection is no different than the hills and streams that stand steadfast against time. I feel like anyone who wishes to pursue a long hike starts with these feelings and lofty ideas of what the trail will be like and the experience they will have…and then you realize you’re going to have to poop out there.

Hello, my name is Bryce Bookwalter and in 2025 I am attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. This has been a goal of mine since I was in my freshman year of high school in 2005 and first learned about the trail.

I was in Front Royal Virginia at the time and one weekend we went hiking and our trail passed by the A.T. I remember hearing that this same trail traveled all the way from Georgia to Maine and it blew my mind.

I wanted to hike it right then, and I still want to hike it today. Life happens of course, and I had to let the dream go for some time. I have found myself in a unique time of my life recently where I will be between schooling and a new job and I realized that if I don’t hike the trail now, I may never get the opportunity again. My education has been off and on throughout the last decade and 5 years ago I ran out of my GI Bill that I received from the Army. With only 2 semesters remaining until I received my degree, I started doing construction to save money to return to school. 5 years later I have returned to Indiana University, and I am now 1 semester away from finally receiving my degree in Community Health. With this milestone accomplished, I have decided that before I start another job I need to try and complete my long-time goal of hiking the A.T.

It is an interesting turn of events that brought me back to the love of backpacking. It would seem an illogical path to say that Ham Radio is responsible for my rekindled passion for the outdoors, but this is in fact the case. Two years ago, my stepdad Joe (W9NVY) got into Ham Radio, and I decided to at least get my Technician License so that we can communicate through the local repeaters. Later that year we both participated in the GOTA team for a local Field Day club out of Indianapolis. After working to set up the antennas and operate for 24 hours, I was hooked on HF!

Since then, I have received my General License and am currently working on my extra. I learned about Parks on the Air and discovered that there is a whole side to this hobby that involves preparing gear, packing it, and carrying it into the wild to set up and operate remotely. This speaks to me in so many ways. Not only do I get to play radio, which I love, but I also get to add hiking and backpacking to the mix.

I am a gear junkie! I will admit it openly. I love researching gear and seeing what works for others and obtaining gear and putting it to the test in the field. This harkens back to some of my favorite aspects of the military and Civil Air Patrol before that.

Civil Air Patrol days.

So, let’s talk gear! When preparing for a thru-hike, there is a lot to consider. You’re not just planning for a weekend outing but for a 4–6 month long adventure. It’s hard to know what to take…and even harder to know what NOT to take. There is a saying that I agree with that says, “Backpacking is the art of knowing what NOT to take.” This is so true.

There are different levels of backpackers, from conventional to ultralight.

Conventional backpackers can find their packs weighing 30-40 lbs. or more. Ultralight typically have their base weight (weight without food and water) down to under 10 lbs. I find myself somewhere in the middle. I lean towards lightweight, but I certainly do not consider myself an ultralight backpacker. Especially considering I will be carrying radio equipment with me along the trail.

The journey of finding the right gear is a constant process, though I believe I have narrowed the list down considerably. So, I will break my gear down into two sections: Backpacking Gear and Radio Gear. Continue reading Guest Post: Preparing radio and trail gear for a once-in-a-lifetime, epic through-hike

Getting Started with HF Digital Modes (Without Breaking the Bank)

Many thanks to Joe (N0LSD) who shares the following guest post:


Getting Started with HF Digital Modes – Without Breaking the Bank

by Joe (N0LSD)

Amateur radio can be an expensive hobby:  the reasons are myriad, made more difficult for newcomers because they tend to not have the experience to know what their requirements might be.  Brick-and-mortar stores where one might bounce ideas off knowledgeable staff, browse the aisles, and walk away with a suitable set-up are pretty few and far between.  Similarly, asking on various internet forums will often be met with, “It depends…” –followed by a wall of text filled with jargon and terminology that can be…intimidating.

For newcomers that maybe don’t have the time to invest in learning CW right off the hop, and perhaps get a bit of mic fright, digital modes such as FT8, JS8, and the like tend to be a great fit.  While “shack-in-a-box” solutions by the big-name manufacturers offer convenience, this convenience comes at a price that can be cost-prohibitive.

What follows is a QRP digital modes kit that I’ve experimented with over the last year.  No single piece of this kit cost more than US$150, and the entire kit can be had for under US$600.  What’s more, nearly everything can be purchased from Amazon.

We’ll start with the most expensive part of this kit:  the radio, which is the Tr(u)SDX.  It can be had on Amazon for US$138, and covers 20m, 30m, 40m, 60m, and 80m bands.  It is a quirky little radio with a sub-par speaker and a tiny little microphone.

The Tr(u)SDX is just about as bare-bones as one can get with an HF transceiver, and is decidedly a compromise.  However, unlike other ultra-compact transceivers, this one will do CW, it will do voice, and it will do *any* digital mode.  It can run on USB power at 1 watt output (micro-USB port on the side of the case); but it can also run on 12v (nominal) power via a 5.5mm x 2.1mm barrel connector on the top of the unit.

I’m powering this radio with a US$43 battery bank (Romoss Sense8P+), and a USB-C to 5.5 x 2.1mm cable (US$8.99) –both available on Amazon.  This battery bank will keep the Tr(u)SDX going for hours –long enough to do multiple POTA activations.  And, because there’s no special adapters, the battery bank can be re-charged in the same manner as a cell phone –or even off a small solar panel.

The sound card interface is the Digirig (US$57) with a US$19.97 cable that is TRRS 3.5mm on one end, and breaks out separate Mic and Speaker 3.5mm TRS.  Now, I will say that a recent firmware revision on the Tr(u)SDX has been demonstrated by the developers of the radio to allow for audio through the micro-USB connector of the radio – so the use of a sound card interface *may* be redundant.  However, in viewing the demonstration video for this, it seems rather dependent upon finding the right micro-USB to USB-A cable; with no clear indication on where one can obtain a cable that meets the specification.  Now, add a USB-C to USB-A or a USB-C to USB-C cable to interface with the computing device, and we’re in business!

So far we have a radio, power, and a way to get sound in and out of the radio.  Now, let’s talk about antennas.  Of course, one can homebrew an antenna for the cost of parts and time in construction and testing.  For the kit I’m using, I went with the N9SAB OCF Dipole –specifically because I do a lot of 80m QRP work.  Also available from N9SAB is a 6m-80m random-wire end-fed for US$89.99 from his eBay store.

If using a non-resonant antenna, an antenna tuner will be needed:  I went with the ATX-100 (US$126 from Amazon).  The reason I went with this is because it recharges with USB-C, which is consistent with everything else in this kit.

For coax, I personally use Times Microwave LMR-240 –a 50-foot length terminated in BNC is US$65 on Amazon.  For something less bulky, perhaps RG-316 from ABR Industries (abrind.com) might fit the bill  The ABR-240 coax at 50-feet in length is US$58.  For a jumper from the tuner to the radio, I use a 3ft RG316 cable from Amazon – which cost me US$13.99.

All that’s left is a device to run software…this can be a Raspberry Pi, or one’s laptop, certainly –however, these are bulky and require special power…and are a pain to re-charge easily.  Another solution is something one might already have:  an Android smartphone.  There are apps (some free, some paid) for RTTY, PSK31/63, WSPR, SSTV – these have been out for some time.  Additionally, one can do many of the modes contained in FLDigi, using the AndFLMsg app (not available on the Play Store –one has to download the .apk file from a 3rd party).  However, what I’ve been using –especially on POTA activations – is FT8CN.  This allows for full-function FT8 using just an Android phone –which can also be charged via USB-C.

[Note: eBay, Amazon and ABR links below are affiliate/partner and support QRPer.com at no cost to you]

Tr(u)SDX $138.00 Amazon
N9SAB Random Wire End-Fed $89.95 N9SAB eBay Store
ATU-100 Antenna Tuner $126.00 Amazon
RG316 Coax Jumper (3ft) $13.99 Amazon
USB-C to 5.5×2.1mm cable $8.99 Amazon
ABR-240 50 ft Coax $58.00 abrind.com
Romoss Sense8P+ Battery Bank $42.99 Amazon
DigiRig MobileSoundcard Interface $49.97 digirig.net/store
uSDX Cable for DigiRig Mobile $19.97 digirig.net/store
Total $547.86

This kit is –for sure– a compromise:  one isn’t going to bust pile-ups or win contests with it  However, for a “starter kit” that can easily be carried in a small backpack that can not only be used for HF digital modes, but also can do SSB voice and CW, it will at least get an operator on the air and enjoying the bands –without breaking the bank.

Planning a POTA Babe Trip – Part 1

by Teri (KO4WFP)

Many of you QRPer readers know I am headed to Florida the first week of April for POTA. This will be my first POTA trip on my own. Of course, I’ll have my trusty POTA pup Daisy with me as there is no way she’d want to miss such an adventure. My previous trip to Florida with my brother in December 2023 gave me a better idea of what I need and how to streamline my routines for such a trip.

I am a divorced, single mom so I will not be staying at a hotel or Airbnb but tent camping because that is less expensive. I found staying in state parks during my last trip a pleasant experience. Most people camping at a park are friendly but mind their own business. Traveling as a single woman could be a fearful endeavor but being with a dog and in a campground full of people makes that endeavor doable.

I thought I’d share what I am taking in case there are other aspiring POTA Babes (or POTA Dudes for that matter) who are up for the same kind of adventure. So, let’s dive into my equipment.

An overview of what I am taking

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Shelter

I have a Sierra Designs two-person tent I purchased nearly 30 years ago. That tent was used for a summer cross-country road trip my brother Joseph and I took. Though Joseph and I used a four-person Ozark tent of my parents’ for our December Florida trip, I like the features of the Sierra Designs tent better – the grommets for holding the tent poles, three instead of two tent poles which makes for a more stable design, and tent poles that don’t pull apart easily as you move them through the sleeves on top of the tent. My Sierra Designs tent does not have a dedicated slot for inserting an extension cord into the tent but I’ll make do running it in through the corner of the door.

Tent without rainfly

Sleep is of paramount importance so I use a LuxuryMap Thermarest and it is well worth it. How do I know? This sleeping pad has been my bed for the past six months so I have lots of experience with it. Being in the townhouse now, I could certainly purchase a bed but I’ve become so used to sleeping on the floor, I actually prefer doing so now. My other sleep items are a Northface sleeping bag and a Sea-to-Summit inflatable pillow. Daisy has a sleeping pad and bag of her own from Ruffwear.

The last items rounding out my shelter set up are a brush/dust pan, a mat to minimize sand/dirt getting into the tent, and a head lamp.

Sustenance

A confession – I dislike spending time in the kitchen so I keep my meals as simple as possible. To save money, I make my own meals. I learned last December it is easier to pre-package the meals before the trip than to take larger food containers from which to make the meals during the trip.

Breakfast is simple – oatmeal, cranberries, nuts, and protein powder with hot tea to drink out of a large thermos for the morning. Dinner is also simple – noodles, canned chicken, a canned vegetable, and shredded cheese with hot tea to drink once again. For lunch, I snack on fruit or protein bars.

I purchased a new stove – the SOTO Windmaster – for the December trip after reading reviews of backpacking/camping stoves on Gearlab’s website.  It was easy to use and quick to bring water to a boil in which I cooked our food. I do not like using gas appliances; however, lightning the stove provided simple and I never felt like I was going to fry off my eyebrows from the flame.

I also have a spork, can opener, dish soap, towel, fuel canister, and lighter to ignite the fuel for the stove.

I debated about bringing a cooler. If one is going to use canned food and does not anticipate using the entire can, obviously the food has to be safely stored overnight.  I visited Gearlab again for cooler reviews. The RITC Ultralight 52 quart cooler is a Best Buy and received a 70 rating, only 8 points down from their top rated cooler – the Yeti Roadie 60. But what a price difference – $450 for the Yeti and $210 for the RITC. I realized I didn’t need a 52 quart cooler and looked for something smaller. There is a 32 quart size which is only $140. Sold! In tests, the RITC 52 quart cooler kept items cool for 6 days, long enough to last on my trip.

Power

We live in a world of gadgets and those need to be powered. I purchased a Jackery 300 Plus portable power station for my last trip even though I had access to the RV power outlets. This little unit is sweet! It charges items quickly, is quiet, and has a solar panel option for recharging if you do not have access to an outlet.

For my upcoming summer trip, most of the places at which I’ll stay will not have power available so the Jackery will come in handy. I will purchase a car charger to assist in recharging the unit while driving on that trip.

extension cord in campsite power connection in Florida Dec 2023

Niceties

While lounging around camp, it is nice to be able to sit. I possess a Helinox chair I use during activations when the weather is warm outside. But I don’t want to use that in the tent due to the flooring and low ceiling height. I found on the December Florida trip not having something to support your back while operating or reading or typing up a report, to be taxing. Therefore on this trip, I will use the Thermarest chair made to use with my Thermarest sleeping pad.

from Thermarest website

If you are going to spend time outside, you will share the space with insects. Several of the trails I want to walk with Daisy warned about mosquitoes and ticks. To protect me, I will spray my clothing and tent entrance in advance with Sawyer Premium Insect repellent. I’ve used this stuff before and it works well. I also have Ben’s 30% DEET Tick and Insect Repellent wipes, top rated by Consumer Reports. As for Daisy, she is already on an oral flea and tick preventative. However, neither of those cover mosquitoes which of course can carry diseases and are irritating. Before the trip, I’ll apply an Advantix II treatment for her protection.

Other additional items will be clothing, toiletries, a quick-drying towel, a leash, a lead & tarp on which Daisy can lie down, my laptop for writing up reports and checking email, AirPods, my journal, and a few books to read. I tend to travel on the light side.

Well, now you have it – what the POTA Babe uses on her trips. I’d love to hear from y’all what you think would be a great addition to my set-up or a piece of equipment you prefer.  For part 2, I’ll share what is currently in my POTA QRP kit. Stay tuned…

QMX – From Kit to Field!

by Matt (W6CSN)

The Radio

The QMX by QRP Labs is a five band, multi-mode radio introduced by Hans Summers G0UPL at FDIM in 2023. The QMX is the next logical step in the radio development journey at QRP Labs, bringing together the innovative approach to FSK modes like FT8 from the QDX and the CW performance of the QCX series. This is all done in same enclosure as the QCX-Mini which is not much larger than a deck of playing cards.

Size of the QMX compared to standard deck of playing cards.
The QMX is about the size of a deck of cards.

The keen observer will notice that the QMX also sports a built-in microphone which, along with associated circuitry, supports future introduction of voice modes by way of firmware update. Other notable features include SWR metering with protection as well as solid-state “PIN” diode T/R switching, plus the option for “high band” coverage of 20 through 10 meters in addition to the original 80m-20m version.

Most hams have, at one point or other, forgotten to throw the antenna switch, adjust the tuner, or even connect an antenna before transmitting. The SWR meter and protection really sets the QMX apart from earlier QRP Labs radios. There are plenty of sad tales on the QRP-Labs forums from QCX or QDX users that “smoked” the BS170 mosfet finals in a moment of operating into a badly mismatched load. It’s remarkably easy to do, ask me how I know!

The Build

Based on experience with the QCX-Mini and having put together several QDX’s, I admit to being hesitant to starting assembly of this radio. The level of integration in the QMX as a multi-band, multi-mode unit is probably the highest yet to come out of QRP Labs. The components that were merely small in earlier radios are absolutely tiny in the QMX, specifically the LPF toroidal cores. The main board, internal switching power supplies, display, and controls board are all sandwiched together in a tight fit for the custom enclosure.

photo showing a partially completed circuit board
Most of the electronic components installed on the main board.

The build started with a slow and methodical approach of doing a little bit each day and working in the morning when my mind was fresh and there was good light on my workbench, a.k.a. the dining room table.

The first “disaster” happened when performing the factory recommended modification to Revision 2 boards shipped in 2023. The mod calls for a protection diode to be installed across a SMD mosfet. Several leaded 1N4148 diodes were available in my “junque” box so I attempted to carefully fit one of these in the right position on the board. While soldering the diode in place I managed to lift C508, a microscopic .1uF SMD capacitor, clean off the board!

photo of circuit board with modifications
The suggested modification adding a protection diode.

Given the tools at my disposal, there was no way I was going to be able to get that capacitor back into place. Therefore, I grabbed a standard through hole .1uF cap and painstakingly got it connected in the right place, verified by lots of continuity testing.

Once finished with all the electronic components on the main board, I was feeling pretty cocky and also the completion of the project was more clearly in view. The cautious and methodical approach gave way to a faster build pace, which directly lead to the second “disaster.” While installing the headers that connect the main board to the display board, I failed to CAREFULLY READ THE ASSEMBLY MANUAL and soldered the male pin headers where I should have installed the female sockets!

This misstep might have ended the project right then and there if I had not at some point in the last year bought a proper desoldering tool. This is not an expensive automatic vacuum pump powered solder re-work stations, but rather a heating tip and manually actuated solder sucker built into one tool. Twenty-two unsoldered connections later, we were back on track. Continue reading QMX – From Kit to Field!

SOTA and POTA in Japan: Ara combines travel and radio with a little help from friends

Abroad in Japan: SOTA and POTA

by Ara (N6ARA)

Getting the License

Several months ago, my wife and I were planning our first trip to Japan, and I couldn’t help but look at all the nearby SOTA summits and POTA parks and entertain the idea of activating one of them. While stunned by the sheer number of high point summits and local parks (many of which are easily accessible via Japan’s incredible public transport system), I realized one question I hadn’t asked myself yet: Can I even operate in Japan?

I recalled the concept of a reciprocal licenses from the ham test, but never really looked into it. A quick Google search yielded the JARL (the ARRL equivalent in Japan) foreign amateur radio license website, which details the process for submitting your documents to obtain the license.

However, I quickly learned that the application must be submitted at least 60 days prior to the date of operation. Problem was… I was 58 days out.

Around this time, I let my friends, Waka-san (JG0AWE), Kazuhiro (7N1FRE), and Ted (JL1SDA), know that I would be visiting Japan. They leaped into action and helped me figure out if there would be a way to obtain my reciprocal license in time, and advised me on which summits and parks would be doable with my constraints.

Thankfully, Waka-san was very generous and offered to make an appointment with Japanese government to apply for the reciprocal license on my behalf. I was absolutely stunned by this. I struggle to make appointments at the DMV office for myself, let alone for someone else!

Two weeks later, I was surprised to learn that my license had arrived. I was now JJ0XMS in Japan. This news fittingly arrived around Christmas, making it easy to remember the “XMS” part of my call. The reciprocal license I received was classified as “1AM”, meaning 1st Amateur license for mobile. This meant I could operate on all bands at power levels below 50W, which is perfect since I tend to operate QRP most of the time anyway.

It helps to have friends around the world, but please learn from my mistake, submit your JARL-96-04 application at least 60 days (plus margin) prior to your trip and obtain your license the right way. If you have any questions about the form or the process, contact Mr. Ken Yamamoto (JA1CJP) via email at [email protected] 

Band Plan

With my license sorted, the next step was to familiarize myself with the Japanese Band Plan. After careful review, I learned it is entirely possible to accidentally transmit out of band or mode if you are not careful. For example, in the US the 2m band ends at 148 MHz, but in Japan the band ends at 146 MHz. So in theory, an operator with a US radio could accidentally transmit on a forbidden frequency.

It’s also important to note that the calling frequencies are different for all bands and that some bands have dedicated emergency communications frequencies. Thankfully, the translated Japanese Band Plan covers these extensively.

Planning the Activations

I started planning my activations by setting the goal of activating at least one SOTA summit and POTA park. I figured I’d gain the experience of doing both to see how they differ from what I’m used to in the US (and writing this blog post).

For this trip, we mainly stayed with our friend in Tokyo, so I was limited to the summits and parks near the city. To start, I figured I’d take a look at the POTA map since Tokyo is a flat city (read as, no SOTA summits to be found within the city itself), so worst case, I’d only do a POTA activation.

Much to my delight, I learned that Tokyo has 146 POTA parks within the city alone… and best of all… they are accessible via Tokyo’s public transportation system! Overwhelmed with all the options, I figured the best thing to do next is to try and see which nearby parks had the most space and activation count. I figured that would improve my odds of activating without any issues.

To be honest, my main concern was putting up an antenna in a park which I’m not allowed to in, or folks approaching me to ask what I’m doing, only to run into a language barrier issue. After looking through several options, I landed on Yoyogi Park JA-1255. The park was near where I was staying, fairly large, and had almost 100 activations. 

Next was planning the SOTA activation. Since there are no SOTA summits in the city proper, it meant I would have to travel a little to get to one.

Coming from Los Angeles, one of the most car-centric cities in the world, I did not expect to find that most Tokyo residents (including my friend) don’t own a car. Renting one is an option, but I figured it’s not worth the effort. Especially since Japan drives on the left hand side of the road – which I’m not used to. That meant driving to a trailhead was out of the question for this trip. Thankfully, that wasn’t as much of a problem as I initially thought.

Looking through the SOTA map, I found several trailheads to the east of the city that are easily accessible via train/bus and short walk. Again, I looked at the activation count to get a sense of what is attainable and found Mt. Arashiyama JA/KN-032. The summit had 84 activations with a relatively easy 762ft gain across 2.25mi and the trailhead is a 15 minute walk away from the train station. The only downside was that the train ride itself was about an hour and a half away from Tokyo. But as those who do SOTA know, the commute to the trailhead is part of the journey. (I think there’s something wrong with us.)

Packing

With a game plan settled, it was time to configure the kit. One important thing to note here is that when I submitted my paperwork to apply for the license, I forgot to include the radio make/model I planned to use (required for the application process). Thankfully, Waka-san registered the ICOM IC-705, an HF/UHF/VHF all mode transceiver (which I so happen to have). This afforded me the flexibility to work a wide range of bands and maximized my odds of having a successful activation.

With the radio figured out, I thought to pair it with a portable antenna that strikes a good balance between volume/mass and performance. My hope was to cover 10/15/20m for DX and 40m for working locals, so naturally I gravitated towards my trusted K6ARK End Fed Half Wave EFHW with an added load coil, making it resonant on 10/15/20/40m. I like to use this antenna in an inverted-V configuration using a 7.2m fishing pole. Since I had one shot at each activation, I figured it would be wise to pack a back up antenna just in case something broke mid-transport, so I also decided to pack my Elecraft AX1 vertical whip antenna and T1 tuner.

For CW paddles, I couldn’t resist packing my recently acquired Ashi Paddle 45 from Mr. Haraguchi 7L4WVU in Japan. Only seemed fitting! Finally, I thought to print out copies of my US and Japanese ham radio license, and a translated note describing ham radio, SOTA, and POTA just in case someone asked what I was doing.

Packing List:

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Welcome to Japan

As soon as we landed in Japan and settle in at our friend’s apartment, we couldn’t help but go out for a nice bowl of warm ramen at Ichiran. It was a cold night, I was jet lagged, and this was exactly the “reset button” my body needed to adjust to the new timezone. I slept like a log that night. Highly recommend. 

Since this was my first time in the country, I tried my best to absorb as much of the food and culture as possible. From the Yakitori, to the Tonkatsu, to all the various Japanese curries, and Onigiri, I was glad to be walking around the city to burn off all the calories I was consuming. Everything we ate tasted incredible!

One of the first orders of business was to visit Akihabara, the electronic town I had heard so much about. Walking through shops, I found every possible component imaginable. Want a transformer? There’s a small shop that has every variant you can think of. LEDs? There’s a shop with a selection that will make you see floating dots when you close your eyes. It was like living in a Digi-Key or Mouser warehouse.

Walking through streets and multi-story markets, I was constantly running into small radio shops. Some selling commercial radios, many selling various ham radios and ham radio accessories. One golden nugget I found was a shop that sells home-brew radios, one of which was a 47.1GHz Transverter! Where else are you going to find something like that for sale in a shop?!

One last stop in Akihabara was Rocket Ham Radio, one of the largest ham radio shops in Japan (think HRO in the US). I couldn’t help myself from buying a 2m/70cm whip antenna for my IC-705 for portable VHF and UHF operations while in town. Would feel wrong leaving without buying *something*!

POTA Activation and Logging

POTA activation day was finally here, and much to my delight, Mr. Haraguchi (7L4WVU) reached out to say he was available to meet me at Yoyogi Park for a joint activation. Continue reading SOTA and POTA in Japan: Ara combines travel and radio with a little help from friends

Building Positive Park Relations: Elevating Our Role as POTA Activators

Our Parks On The Air (POTA) community has experienced exponential growth since my introduction to POTA activations in 2019. Today, POTA boasts over 500,000 participants, including both hunters and activators.

Gone are the days of awkwardly explaining our hobby to park staff who were unfamiliar with amateur radio, let alone park activations. Nowadays, when I approach park staff for permission to operate, they often direct me to areas where other POTA activators have set up in the past, showcasing a growing acceptance and understanding of our community.

Goal: Positive Impact

With such a large and expanding community, we have the potential to significantly impact our park systems positively. It is crucial for POTA activators to not only leave a positive impression with park staff but also actively support and contribute to the well-being of our parks.

Why now?

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for several months. I hesitated to publish it because of my inclination towards positivity and reluctance to dwell on the negatives.

However, recent conversations with park rangers and staff from three different sites between June and November last year prompted me to share these insights. While acknowledging that interactions with POTA activators are generally positive, all three shared some concerns and criticisms.

I was surprised, in one case, that they hadn’t banned POTA activators from their site entirely. (I detail two examples at the end of this article.)

I imagine each and every one of these park rangers has had more negative interactions with the general public, but we POTA activators and amateur radio operators are a cohesive community that they lump into one group for better or for worse.

For instance, while a rowdy family gathering might disrupt the peace in a park, it doesn’t lead to a ban on families. However, repeated negative interactions involving POTA activators could result in our exclusion from parks or even escalation to wider park networks since many individual parks are tied to state, provincial, or national park systems.

Indeed, this has already happened at National Wildlife Refuges in Virginia. Check out the following message posted to Facebook this week from John (AB0O) who is a US mapping volunteer for POTA:

Time to be a positive force!

As John states in his message above, it’s time for us to proactively become ambassadors for POTA and good stewards of our parks and public lands.

I could have easily titled this post, “Ask not what your park can do for you; ask what you can do for your park!”

Let’s delve into some simple suggestions that I personally follow. This list is not exhaustive, so I invite you to share your strategies for promoting POTA positively in the comments below.

1. Obtain permission before operating

Despite the temptation to activate first and ask questions later, it’s essential to seek permission before setting up your station in a park. Some parks may require written permission for activations, regardless of the setup’s profile or impact (remember Leo’s recent field report?).

While most POTA sites allow activations as long as park rules are followed and other visitors aren’t disturbed, it’s prudent to confirm with park staff or experienced activators when in doubt.

In my experience, asking for permission is particularly crucial in parks with historical or ecological significance and limited facilities.

A piece of advice: When seeking permission, showcase your most portable, low-profile radio gear to help park staff understand the minimal impact of your setup. Over the years, this approach has resulted in successful activations for me, with only one instance of declined permission, primarily due to supervisor unavailability.

2. Choose inconspicuous locations

At the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, I received permission to operate and I set up my station well outside the viewshed of the lighthouse.

When setting up your station, avoid obstructing viewsheds or high-traffic areas within the park. Instead, opt for spots away from major attractions or foot traffic, ensuring minimal disruption to other visitors’ experiences.

Most POTA sites offer designated picnic or parking areas that are suitable for activations without interfering with scenic views. When uncertain, seek guidance from park staff to identify suitable locations.

3. Default to low-impact, low-profile gear

Unless you know in advance that a park allows wires in trees, stakes in the ground, or other antenna support structures, default to your most portable, low-profile, low-impact field setup.

Unless explicitly permitted, refrain from deploying antennas in trees or using stakes that could damage park grounds.

I believe every POTA activator should possess a compact, self-supporting antenna system to minimize environmental impact. Additionally, consider operating from your vehicle if uncertain about setup requirements.

An NC State Park ranger told me last fall, “I like to see POTA activators that aren’t taking up a lot of space and yelling at their radio.

Let’s not be the guy or gal he described!

4. Leave No Trace

Adhering to the principles of Leave No Trace is paramount during POTA activations and other outdoor adventures. Always dispose of trash properly and, if at all possible, pick up any litter you encounter at your operating site. My goal is to always leave the site cleaner and tidier than I found it.

In my backpack and car, I keep small litter bags along with nitrile gloves so that I can pick up and dispose of any trash I find.

Over the years I’ve operated POTA, park rangers and game wardens have caught me in the act of collecting trash and thanked me. I made a point of telling them that I’m an amateur radio operator doing a POTA activation. I feel like this can only leave a positive impression in their minds and help future activators who might seek permission to operate at a particular site.

Want to go a step further?  Consider organizing group clean-up events with your amateur radio club. This collaborative effort not only benefits the park but also strengthens park and community ties.

5. Support your park financially

Show your appreciation for park access by contributing financially, especially at smaller locations with visitor centers or donation boxes. Whether purchasing items from the gift shop or making direct donations, your support is invaluable in maintaining park facilities and programs.

For instance, during a recent visit to a historic site, I made a point to purchase items from the gift shop and donate to the park.

The park rangers thanked me and noted that another frequent POTA activator also donates a bit of money or buys something in the shop each time he visits.  They pointed out how much they appreciate that type of support.

While I usually prefer inconspicuous contributions, I intentionally inform park staff of my status as a POTA activator during these interactions. This transparency reinforces the positive image of amateur radio operators as park supporters.

6. Respect park operating hours

Ensure that your activations align with park operating hours to avoid overstaying your welcome. Familiarize yourself with park schedules and plan your activities accordingly to minimize disruptions and inconvenience to park staff.

I learned this lesson firsthand during an activation at Lake Norman State Park in 2021, where I unintentionally extended my stay past park closing hours. This happened during the week they shifted from more liberal summer hours, to winter hours. I was apologetic to park staff. Since then, I make a conscious effort to wrap up my activities well before closing time and communicate my intentions with park staff if I feel like I might cut it a bit close.

Be a POTA Ambassador

Vlado (N3CZ) draws a crowd on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

By following basic guidelines like these, POTA activators can cultivate positive relationships with park staff and demonstrate our commitment to responsible outdoor recreation.

As POTA Ambassadors, let’s engage with park staff, address any concerns they may have, and showcase the respectful conduct of our community. Listening to their feedback and acknowledging past issues can help mitigate negative perceptions and foster mutual understanding.

Real-word example

During a visit to a new-to-me urban park last year, I proactively sought permission to operate, considering the site’s limited space and popularity among POTA activators. Park staff appreciated my courtesy and expressed gratitude for my considerate approach.

Our conversation revealed previous negative experiences involving POTA activators. These included instances where operators failed to comply with park rules and even exhibited disruptive behavior. For example:

  • One operator tried to set up an antenna by tying a short 2×4 to fishing line and attempting to throw it into a tree. However, this park prohibits the use of trees for antenna support, and his “method” was causing damage to small branches. When asked to refrain from using the tree, the operator became confrontational, insisting on his ‘legal right’ to do so. Despite the staff’s polite explanation of the park rules, the operator angrily packed up and left.
  • Another incident involved a mobile activator who parked his truck in the park’s small lot, occupying three parking spaces, while deploying a hitch-mounted vertical. With a public event underway and all parking spaces occupied, park guests raised complaints. Despite staff requests to reposition his truck to free up space, the activator responded angrily, rolled up his window, operated for a few minutes, and then departed.

Despite these incidents, the staff emphasized that they were exceptions rather than the rule. They mentioned several regular activators whom they enjoy interacting with during their visits. Undoubtedly, these individuals serve as POTA ambassadors, exemplifying our community’s respect for parks and public lands.

Privilege and Responsibility

Wiseman’s View in Pisgah National Forest (K-4510)

While our tax dollars support public lands, park staff retain the authority to regulate activities that may impact park ecosystems or visitor experiences.

The recent notice regarding National Wildlife Refuges in Virginia serves as a reminder of this privilege and responsibility.

Let’s strive to represent POTA activators positively and proactively contribute to our parks’ well-being. Together, we can ensure that future generations continue to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of our public lands.

What are your strategies? Please share your tips and advice in the comments section!