Category Archives: Morse Code

Morning POTA with KM4CFT: Back-to-Back activations with the venerable Yaesu FT-818!

As I write this report, I’m on the road with my family–we’ve been spending the week on the coast of North Carolina and are now (at time of publishing) in Raleigh. I’ll keep this field report short and sweet so I can publish it quickly and also fit in an activation before record temps heat up the region!

Blue Ridge Parkway (US-3378)

On the morning of July 4th, 2024, Jonathan (KM4CFT) and I arranged to meet and activate on the Blue Ridge Parkway (US-3378).

Jonathan was in town visiting family over the holiday weekend, and I had a brief window of time that morning to join him. My schedule had been packed since Field Day, making this my first chance for a POTA activation for a couple of weeks.

We knew it would be an interesting activation right from the start: we both arrived at the Folk Art Center at the same time and were greeted by a large black bear strolling down the road in front of the entrance! A bear walking away from your POTA spot is always a good thing.

After a quick catch-up, I grabbed my arborist throw line and deployed the 30/40 meter linked end-fed half-wave antenna I’d built using the KM4CFT antenna kit.

It would have been rude to use another antenna with KM4CFT standing right there! (Note to N5FY: Yes, I know I’ve been rude to you on many previous activations, haha!)

Gear:

Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

On The Air: The Accidental Self-Spot

Jonathan took to the air first. Since neither of us had announced our activation, I opened POTA.app to spot him. Except, I didn’t. In a moment of confusion, I accidentally spotted myself!

It turns out there’s no easy way to delete your own spot once you’ve done that. (If there is, I’d love to know, though I hope to never make that mistake again!)

What followed was rather comical. Jonathan noticed people thought he was me, even though he used his own callsign in each exchange. I guess it’s easy to mishear a callsign when you think you already know it!

I kept spotting myself “QRT,” but many kind operators kept re-spotting me. I even moved to 14,000 kHz (an out-of-band frequency I’d never use) and spotted myself QRT. People were still re-spotting me on Jonathan’s frequency!

It was funny, and the early morning hour on a holiday probably contributed to the confusion.

After Jonathan logged his ten contacts, he handed the radio over to me. I swapped out paddles (his TP-III setup mounted to the FT-818 wasn’t comfortable for me).

I started calling CQ POTA de K4SWL, spotted myself (correctly this time!), and the real activation began.

In the end, I worked 25 stations in 26 minutes. Thanks to all the hunters!

Then it was time to call QRT and continue our day. It was great seeing Jonathan and fitting in a little POTA before the day really started!

QSO Map

Here’s what this five-watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO 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.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me during this activation! (And thank you, Jonathan, for joining me!)

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 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 makes 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 a brilliant week ahead and be kind to one another out there!

Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

New 3D-Printed Paddle Kit from KM4CFT

Yesterday, I met up with Jonathan (KM4CFT) who happens to be in town visiting family over the holiday weekend. Before our POTA activation, he mentioned that he is now selling a 3D-printed paddle kit for $34.95 on eBay:

https://ebay.us/GhLOYz
(note: this is an eBay partnership link)

Jonathan told me that he’s using the kit as a bit of a fund-raiser for a much more ambitious project he has in the works.

Jonathan gave me an early prototype of this key many months ago (see photo above) and I’ve used it in the shack and in the field. It’s a good one.

This kit version has either red or blue finger pieces.

As with all of Jonathan’s kits, he’s selling this kit via the eBay shop of Dan (W7RF). Go check it out!

Friedrichshafen: Christian and Andrea’s Multi-Country POTA Rove

Many thanks to Christian (IX1CKN) who shares the following field report:


Friedrichshafen: POTA Across Borders

by Christian (IX1CKN)

The Friedricshafen fair is one of the most interesting events for its social aspects, where you can finally put a face to colleagues whose voices you’ve only ever heard. Among the various OM (radio amateurs) I met this year was Gabriele IT9RGY, a flagbearer of the Italian Contest Club. When he recognized Andrea IW0HK and me, he said, referring to our respective SOTA/POTA activities: “You two are the real deal.”

I found that to be a very powerful statement, and I am grateful to him for it. Personally, I try to document each outing to capture the sensations it gave me, but also in the hope of inspiring someone. Andrea is more succinct than I am (if we were all the same, the world would be boring), but his spirit is identical. Parks on the Air (POTA) is a state of mind. It was no coincidence that, being in Germany for the Hamradio Messe, we had planned a series of activations.

Our schedule was tight and ambitious, and just completing it was a source of happiness, but there’s more to tell. In Germany, dinner time isn’t synchronized with Roman schedules. So, on Friday evening, after leaving the restaurant (for dinner with the Summits On The Air group) at 20:23, I looked at Hotel-Kilo and said, “If I go to bed now, I’ll digest in a week; let’s go activate a reserve!”

The easiest option in the area (after a disastrous experience last year in DE-0156, the park in the town center hosting the fair) was DE-0766, the Seewald Landscape Reserve. It’s near the FRN airport (and thus not far from the fairgrounds), in a fully bucolic setting. A narrow road cuts through meadows, with footpaths and bike paths leading into a wooded area.

We parked the car in one of these spots. It took only a moment to set up the vertical antenna in the field, but the presence of a swarm of mosquitoes as big as F-18 Hornets advised us to operate from inside the car to save our skin (literally).

Andrea turned on the KX-3 (10 watts would be our fixed power for this trip), and the 14 MHz calls began. Right away, a very strong IZ3QFG Dario (just 380 km from us) answered, highlighting an unusually short skip.

We logged 20 QSOs in 30 minutes… Many were from Italy (Spartaco from Grosseto at full scale, Mauro I1JQJ always active, and Beppe I1WKN a constant), with two “park to park” contacts. A classic for many OMs in the area, but also a great mood booster and a tasty appetizer for the next day… Continue reading Friedrichshafen: Christian and Andrea’s Multi-Country POTA Rove

Experimenting during Field Day 2024

by Vince (VE6LK)

Field Day 2024 started out with the best of plans to be spent with the best of friends and ended up totally different – and, unexpectedly, I had a hoot! With my carefully made plan behind me, my new last-minute plan was to run solo for Field Day in the backcountry of Kananaskis Country and bring along my new-to-me Nikon D3400 and lenses and rekindle my interest in (D)SLR photography at the same time as doing some experimentation with radio gear.

I grew up in a home with a scratch-built enlarger and a darkroom, so a love of taking pictures has been with me for a long time. My Father taught me patience to get the shot as he would set up a 120 format bellows camera on an air-triggered remote release to get closeups of chipmunks while we were camping, a process that took hours and yielded excellent results. My Brother, AG7GM, has attempted to instill within me the basics of composition, rule of threes and such and his wonderful skill in editing both stills and live video. While I have plenty of patience, with composition I think I’m fair to middling at best.

Thus photography has always been on my mind.

With a recent sale of a few ham radio related items, I had fun money, so just for fun I started looking [on Thursday before I activated] at used DSLRs and was shocked at how much camera I can get for such a relatively low cost compared to new. I had said once, 25 years ago when I divested out my 35mm kit, that when I could get a DSLR with a 25 to 300mm lens for <$500 I’d jump in… and finally that day is here, even if it means carrying two lenses. Of course, I started looking on the day before Field Day for deals – and scored them too! 🙂 Around these parts, good quality pre-owned consumer grade DSLRs are easily available. I purchased this as much for still photography as for ability in shooting high-quality video for my YouTube channel.

These peaks form part of the border between Alberta and British Columbia to the west

For me, Field Day has always been about the experimentation rather than chasing points. Trying new things. Changing up from the normal way I operate in the field. Comparing, analyzing and making notes as I go.

For example, and as a tribute to Chip Margelli K7JA (SK) after corresponding with his brother David, last year I attempted to wet a piece of string and see if the KX3’s tuner would match it and radiate a signal. Chip was known for many things, among them his proficiency in CW as he demonstrated on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2005. David told me that he and Chip would do crazy and fun experiments like loading up clotheslines and wet string to experiment .. and it fostered a new direction I could take each FD and on some days between. The string experiment was a failure last year but I haven’t given up yet!

This year, I wanted to work with a few different antennas and a Charmast 100W battery pack from Amazon along with a USB-C PD 12v power cable for my KX3 [note: Amazon affiliate links!].

I wanted to know, in no uncertain terms, that the Charmast would or wouldn’t be as quiet as my trusty Talentcell LiFePO4 pack. The Charmast is also used in my field soldering kit with a Pinecil as it delivers USB-C PD. What better way to test this out than to head as far away from noise sources as possible, see the Canadian Rockies in their early summer glory with snow on the peaks, rivers running high (and cold) and the sun in the sky? Just for grins I would ensure that I was in POTA entities while doing Field Day.

Continue reading Experimenting during Field Day 2024

UK POTA Rain and Shine

by Matt (W6CSN)

Bletchley Park

Most readers of this blog are probably familiar with Bletchley Park and the significance of this place in breaking the codes used by the axis military forces during the second world war.

The electromechanical systems developed and used here to aid the codebreakers in their daily work led directly to the electronic digital computers of the mid-twentieth century, and then to the modern world as we know it.

After boarding the London Northwestern Railway at Euston station, the hour long train journey took us from central London, through the suburbs, then the pastoral English countryside to the station at Bletchley, just south of Milton Keynes.

Bletchley Park is a five minute walk from the train station at Bletchley, the town of the same name. In keeping with the formerly clandestine nature of the work at Bletchley Park, there are no loud signs to welcome you, just the Union Jack flying over the nondescript visitor center in Block C.

Exiting the visitor center, any ham will quickly spot the three-element SteppIR Yagi perched atop a roof-mounted tower. Also from the tower, a folded dipole extends over the the Block B building which houses the Alan Turing museum exhibits. The other end of this antenna farm is plugged into GB3RS, the amateur radio station for the National Radio Centre of the RSGB.

The friendly and helpful staff of amateurs at the NRC played a crucial role in my hoped-for plan of activating Bletchley Park for Parks On The Air.

Surprisingly, the POTA page for GB-0507 showed only a handful of activations of this iconic location. Seeing as this is a heritage site, I sent an email to the NRC about week before my visit asking for advice on how to be a welcome guest POTA operator.

Note, the NRC is colocated on the grounds of the museum but they are not a part of Bletchley Park. The NRC is a separate organization.

Martyn G0GMB, the Director of the NRC, kindly responded to my enquiry and informed me that individual amateur radio activity is not generally permitted on the grounds of Bletchley Park due to the number of visitors they receive and concerns about RF safety. This could explain the low number of activations.

The sharp eyed will spot the GB3RS beam across the pond.

Martyn suggested I could set up in the overflow car park few minutes walk down the road from the visitor center. While not on the grounds of Bletchley Park proper, the parking lot operation would still be in the spirit of POTA and would reasonably count as a valid activation location.

When I arrived at Bletchley Park on Friday afternoon, I was met by Mervyn G4KLE who was expecting me thanks to a note left by OM G0GMB. Mervyn asked where all my equipment was and I motioned to the pack on my back.

Because my radio and antenna was a low impact, minimal footprint QRP setup, I was told that I could make use of the picnic table just out the side door of the GB3RS shack, with my antenna setup just beside it. This dead-end spot was not on any of the paths frequented by park visitors and my antenna would not be easily visible.

The antenna is low profile

This was a much better arrangement than trying to activate from a car park without a car! I quickly deployed a GRA-GNT micro tripod with center spike pushed easily into the soft ground. The GRA-7350T loaded vertical and a set of short radials provided an SWR of 1.05 to 1.

I chose the QMX as a travel radio while in Britain because with it, the overall kit is very lightweight and compact. With the exception of the tripod the whole kit fits in my carry-on. The GRA-GNT antenna mounting kit has to fly in checked baggage due to several aggressive looking spikes that would certainly be flagged by airport security. Continue reading UK POTA Rain and Shine

Xiegu X6200 SSB Field Test: A Morning POTA Activation at Lake James

On Tuesday, June 18, 2024, I needed to make a morning trip to Hickory, NC, to take care of some family business and visit my father.

I started my day early because I also wanted to be back in the Asheville area by noon. Some quick calculations over morning coffee and I decided I had just enough time to fit in one POTA activation en route to Hickory.

I left the QTH around 7:15 AM and made my way to the Paddy’s Creek Access of Lake James State Park, arriving around 8:15 AM.

Lake James State Park (US-2739)

Two other reasons I fit in my activation en route to Hickory instead of on my way back:

  • Paddy’s Creek has a lakeside beach area that gets very busy in the summer, especially on clear, sunny days (like Tuesday).
  • Temperatures that day were forecast to push near 95F/35C.

When I arrived at the parking area, I was pleased to see I was one of the only cars there. This made it much easier to find a spot to set up!

I started my activation video (see below) then walked to a picnic table under some trees that would not only provide shade but also antenna support!

I deployed my KM4CFT end-fed half-wave kit that I cut as a 30M EFHW with a linked 40M extension. When I launched the arborist line into the dense canopy, I thought I snagged a high branch, but it turned out I hadn’t.

In the end, my 40M EFHW had more of a low inverted vee, almost NVIS-height, configuration. I was fine with that, though, knowing on the 40M band that early in the morning, I’d snag contacts in NC and the surrounding states.

My goal was to finally make some SSB contacts with the Xiegu X6200. My previous mid-day activation with the X6200 provided no results, so I was hoping I’d be more successful in the morning.

One other thing I did that I haven’t done in over four years: I started out my activation with more than 5 watts of power. I added an external battery to the X6200, turned off its internal charger, and ran the transceiver at its full output power of eight watts.

My goal was to see how warm/hot the chassis would become during the activation. This is one of the questions I’ve been asked the most about the X6200 so far.

Setting up the radio was simple. I was careful to make sure that the internal ATU was bypassed on the 40M (and later 20M) band.

Gear:

Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

On The Air

One of the other reasons I chose the Paddy’s Creek access of Lake James is that I knew for sure that I had mobile phone reception there, which I would need to self-spot in SSB mode. Continue reading Xiegu X6200 SSB Field Test: A Morning POTA Activation at Lake James

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

From Hamvention to History: A POTA Excursion with friends through Indiana’s Past

You might recall that my friends Eric (WD8RIF), Miles (KD8KNC), Brian (K3ES), Kyle (AA0Z), Charlie (NJ7V), and Joshua (N5FY) all played hooky on the final day of the 2024 Hamvention (Sunday, May 19) and instead activated a couple of POTA sites.

I wrote a short field report about our first activation at Pater State Wildlife Area (US-9492). It was a lot of fun despite the rough bands.

Our next stop was Whitewater Canal State Historic Site in Metamora, Indiana, about an hour’s drive from the first park.

Only four of us continued to the next park; Kyle and Charlie needed to head to the airport, and Joshua needed to start his drive back to Georgia.

Whitewater Canal State Historic Site (US-6977)

I was excited about visiting Whitewater Canal because it would be my first official POTA activation in Indiana.

We arrived around 1:00 PM and opted to grab lunch at a nearby pizzeria before activating.

Around 2:00 PM, we grabbed our gear from the car and walked across the road to the park grounds.

The Whitewater Canal State Historic Site offers a glimpse into the 19th-century canal era.

Built between 1836 and 1847, the Whitewater Canal was a 76-mile waterway that connected the Ohio River to Hagerstown, facilitating the transport of goods and agricultural products.

This engineering feat played a vital role in the economic development of the region, contributing to the growth of towns and industries along its path.

Today, the preserved section of the canal, along with the historic grist mill and other structures, stands as a testament to Indiana’s rich industrial and transportation heritage.

I’ve always been fond of railroads and canals, so this site was brilliant as it featured both running parallel to each other!

Eric, Brian, and I (Miles didn’t activate) were careful to set up within the actual park boundaries.

In this case, it was a little difficult to determine the exact boundaries because the town and park blend together.

I used the Parceled app on my phone to confirm our location.

Eric set up his Elecraft KH1 station at a picnic table under a large tree.

Brian set up his KX2 on a covered bench next to Eric, using his Elecraft AX1 antenna mounted on a clamp secured to the bench.

Brian’s site was super stealthy behind the sign–since he operated with earphones, you couldn’t hear him and barely could see him!

Can you spot K3ES in this photo?

I wanted to put some space between my station and theirs, so I set up under the shade of a tree (it was blazing hot that Sunday) and deployed my Helinox camping chair.

Local ducks enjoying the shade–I picked a different tree.

I then deployed my Chelegance MC-750 vertical for 20-meter operation since Brian and Eric were on other bands.

I connected the MC-750 to my Elecraft KX2, which I mounted on my kneeboard, and was ready to play radio! My hope was that band conditions would be decent. Continue reading From Hamvention to History: A POTA Excursion with friends through Indiana’s Past

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

New to Morse Code? Embrace Your “Fist”! A message to budding CW operators

Are you a new CW operator, fresh on the airwaves?

Do you find yourself worrying about what your Morse code “fist” sounds like to others, or about making mistakes on the air?

If that’s you, then this message is for you:

Public Service Announcement: Stop worrying about how you sound on the air!

Several times a month, I hear from new CW operators who I’ve logged during POTA and SOTA activations .

This is no surprise! As I’ve said before, I wholeheartedly encourage new CW operators to get started by hunting stations in these on-the-air activities. After all, CW exchanges in POTA and SOTA are predictable and straightforward, giving you a great opportunity to practice your sending and receiving skills.

More often than not, new CW operators who’ve reached out will apologize for their “fist” or code sending skills. I get it…still…and I mean this is the most positive light possible… 

No Apologies Necessary

Give yourself a break! If your sending isn’t perfectly smooth or machine-like, that’s absolutely fine.

If you stumble and make mistakes, that’s absolutely fine too.

In fact, it’s a beautiful reminder that there’s a real human being on the other end of the signal, someone at their own place in their CW journey.

Yes, we should all strive for a good, readable fist, but especially in the beginning, no one expects you to sound like a seasoned operator.

And remember: every single Morse code operator on the planet has been a beginner at some point. We’ve all felt nervous, made mistakes on the air, and even flubbed our own callsigns. I’m certainly guilty of all three, and, to be completely honest, far, far more than once!

Embrace the Learning Curve

So, who cares if you stumble a bit? I can confidently tell you that most of us on the other end of the contact are cheering you on! We’ve been in your shoes, and we know the thrill of mastering this challenging but rewarding mode of communication.

Instead of apologizing, you deserve congratulations for diving into one of the oldest and most skill-demanding wireless communication modes out there!

Mistakes Are Badges of Honor

Photo from my first POTA CW activation int he summer of 2020.

Be proud of those mistakes! They’re not setbacks, but rather milestones on your CW journey. Embrace them, learn from them, and keep sending.

Your ham radio community is here to support you every step of the way!

73/72, and I look forward to putting you in the logs!

dit dit

Thomas (K4SWL)