As I noted last week, I participated in the W4G SOTA campout at Lake Winfield-Scott Campground in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in north Georgia.
In short? It was amazing!
I thought I’d share a few photos and memories…
Campsite and friends
These SOTA campouts typically involve an announcement via the W4 SOTA group then we all make individual reservations at the chosen campground. Since we’re not reserving the whole campground as a block, we tend to share our individual camping sites with others who might not have been able to reserve a spot.
At Lake Windfield Scott campground, the SOTA group did reserve one large group campsite, but only a couple months ago it was canceled by the park service due to a trail maintenance group that needed it.
Typically, I camp with my friend Monty, but he had other family plans that weekend.
As you can see in the photo above, both of our tents fit on the tent pad with absolutely no extra room to spare. 🙂
It was such a pleasure getting to know Joshua. What a kindred spirit and super nice fellow.
We ended up doing all of our SOTA activations together as you will see in upcoming activation videos and field reports.
Joshua is as pack and organization obsessed as I am. A proper pack nerd! I really enjoyed checking out his bags, cases and all of the brilliant accessories that are a part of his field kits.
He brought both an IC-705 and TX-500 along for the ride. He logs in the field using the HAMRS app (same one I do) but on an iPad Mini (see photo above) and I must admit that the size of the iPad mini is nearly ideal–much better than a phone for logging.
He also used the SDR-Control app to connect wirelessly with his IC-705 and operate digital modes.
We activated a total of three summits during the weekend (Big Cedar,Black Mountain, and Yonah Mountain). It would have been easy to activate six or more if that was the goal–the area is chock full of accessible summits.
Many thanks to Mike (VE3MKX) who has shared a large gallery of photos from the 2022 Milton, Ontario Hamfest.
“The Burlington Amateur Radio Club organizes the event and confirms that they had 108 vendor spaces sold and over 475 general admin passed through the gates. A great day of meeting friends, lots of deals and smiling faces!”
I’ve created a gallery of 132 images that can be viewed on our sister site, the SWLing Post.
Many thanks to Kevin (VA3RCA) and Mike (VE3MKX) for taking and sharing these excellent photos!
Since I began my ham radio journey in 1997, I’ve always looked forward to one event more than any other: ARRL Field Day.
No doubt, this is due to the fact that one of my earliest experiences after being licensed was participating in Field Day with my (then) local club ACARA in Athens, Ohio. We were operating 1A battery which meant “One transmitter, club or non-club group, power output of five watts maximum.”
In short? It was a blast and a proper introduction to the power of QRP.
I was already looking forward to the next field day as we were packing up our site that year. It was insane fun.
2022 Field Day
I had hoped to spend Field Day 2022 with the amazing crew at C.R.A.Q (Club Radio Amateur de Québec), but it just didn’t work out due to our family schedule which included some beautiful hikes. I’ve spent Field Day with C.R.A.Q. twice before and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I did, however, make a couple dozen random Field Day contacts in CW on 20 meters from our condo.
I’m grateful to Vince (VE6LK) who held a Field Day Zoom conference call all weekend hosted by his local club, the Foothills Amateur Radio Society. It was a drop-in, drop-out 24 hour session and was a brilliant substitute for all of the amazing side conversations one would typically have during an in-person club Field Day event. It was great meeting members of FARS, friends like George (KJ6VU), and so many others who popped by for a visit.
Field Day Everyday!
I’ll admit that I get a bit of that Field Day feeling each time I do a park or summit activation.
There’s none of the in-person camaraderie because my activations are typically solo, but on the air I’m connecting with my POTA family and friends. It often feels like a little on-air reunion where we all check in.
Of course, it certainly scratches that Field Day itch of setting up my radio gear in the great outdoors, operating from battery power, experimenting with antennas, and sometimes even managing small pile-ups.
Hamvention weekend is one of the big highlights of my year and–until the pandemic–I hadn’t missed a single on in more than a decade.
I was really looking forward to this year if for no other reason than to connect with friends I only see at Hamvention.
My buddy Eric (WD8RIF), his son Miles (KD8KNC), and sometimes our good friend Mike (K8RAT) attend Hamvention together. We split accommodation, car pool, and fit in park activations before, during, and after. We also fit in an annual pilgrimage to the USAF museum. It’s incredibly fun.
As fun as Hamvention is–which is insanely fun–I realized that it was going to be a pricey 3-4 night excursion when I already have some pretty epic, much-anticipated travels planned this summer with my family.
Since I had literally no items on my Hamvention shopping list (Eric didn’t either) and since I wanted to funnel all of my travel monies into the amazingness that awaits us this summer, I had a hard time justifying the costs of the trip.
So I reached out to Eric who, turns out, was feeling much the same way.
I was asked by the organizers of the “Ham Meets Military” event to spread the following announcement. This sounds like a very interesting on-air event, especially accessible for readers in Europe:
On Friday the first of April 2022 (this is no joke) the Royal Dutch Army will organise ”HAM meets military”. Eight special stations consisting of 2 military operators and 1 amateur with callsigns PA01MIL up to and including PA08MIL will be on air on HF from 0700Z (GMT) until 1900Z (GMT).
The main goal is to introduce young military operators to the world of amateur radio. Of course there is a little challenge involved, because soldiers love to be pushed to the limit. Which callsign makes the most contacts? The amateur is there to help and improve their antennas but all contact have to made with military equipment only! They will operate with manpack radios or with a vehicle setup in a Mercedes 290GD.
We would like to hear as many amateurs as possible to train these operators. Please use the NATO-phonetic alphabet and have some patience. The best operators could be active in the future on PZ5JT.
As mentioned in my last field report, on January 26, 2022, I decided to fit in multiple park activations in one day as a RaDAR (Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio) run. My hope was to activate four or five sites between 14:00 – 21:30 UTC.
The first activation at Lake James State Park went so well, it started me out a little ahead of schedule.
After packing up my gear at Lake James, I began a 40 minute drive to the second site–Dogback Mountain–where I hoped to do a POTA two-fer along with a Summits On The Air activation.
The drive was beautiful. Only twenty minutes into the trip, I came to the forest service road that lead to Dogback Mountain. For a six mile drive, Google Maps was telling me it would take about 20 minutes, so I knew the dirt road would require slow driving.
The road was actually in pretty good shape, but there are rocky and rough spots that pretty much require good vehicle ground clearance. My Subaru had no issues at all–in fact, I love driving on back roads like this!
Three or four miles into the forest service road I reached an impasse.
While there hadn’t been snow in the area for at least a week, the north slope portions of the road were quite icy. The thaw and night time freezing pretty much meant that there was no snow to navigate–only ice, and I’m not a big fan of ice.
I already passed through two sections of ice where I could still manage a little traction on the side of the road (at least half the car had traction). At one point, though, I saw a large section of icy road ahead, so I parked the car to investigate what it looked like over the crest of the hill.
It was so icy, I struggled to find a spot to walk on to peek over the hill and almost slipped once. That hill was pretty steep and I could see no spots for the car to get traction. Remembering what my wife said that morning (“Don’t do anything crazy, okay?“) and knowing that the worst thing for my RaDAR run would be getting stuck in a spot recovery vehicles might struggle with, I chose the option of forgoing the summit activation.
Frankly, if the summit activation was the only thing on the schedule that day, I would have likely parked, then hiked 3 miles to the summit along the forest service road. But my RaDAR run left no time for this.
Fortunately, where I parked was firmly in the two-fer zone of Pisgah National Forest and Pisgah Game Land!
Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Pisgah Game Land (K-6937)
If you’d like to participate in a contest that balances the playing field between fixed, high-power stations and QRP portable stations, you might take a look at the 2nd annual Portable Operations Challenge.
The POC will take place September 4-5 during three, 4 hour periods. The exchange is very simple: your 4 character Maidenhead Grid Square. You can even combine this event with a scheduled summit or park activation.
This contest even includes prizes for the winners.
The Fox Mike Hotel Portable Operations Challenge is designed to optimize equal operating conditions for portable operating during a contest involving non-portable stations. The scoring allows and encourages regular home-based station operations to take part while offering a handicap-style scoring algorithm to be more equalized for portable stations. The approach is akin to the handicap index in the sport of golf. More difficult courses are scored with a higher slope value, indicating a greater challenge to achieve a normal par score of 72 on that course with a handicap of subtracting strokes for golfers who do not typically shoot as low a score as other golfers. A number of factors go into deriving the slope rating for a golf course but they represent the challenge that the course presents to each participant golfer and the golfer’s capability for playing the course.
The POC aims to make portable operations “on par” with more typical fixed-based operations while preserving the enjoyment of being in a new operating environment. Moreover, fixed-based operators can also easily participate in the action, challenging the handicapped-scoring for portable ops. Can the Super Station contester best the Little Pistol portable operation? If we use a scoring metric that reduces the advantages of fixed stations to that of pure radio sport operating, is there a chance that an efficient portable operator or team can come out ahead of the current winning contest station operators? That’s why this is called the Portable Operations Challenge!
THEORY OF THE CONTEST SCORING FACTORS
Several aspects of fixed (permanent)-station contesting can be stacked in the operator(s) favor when compared to most portable operations. One is the use of greater RF power output. Another is a permanent tower with directional, gain producing beams. A third is that it is easier to have multiple transceivers and operators, allowing for a “per-transmitter production” that yields superior scores. A fourth is the mutual attractiveness for fixed-station ops to work other fixed-station ops and ignore the weaker (especially QRP) signals. The addition of having the full force of Internet communications (when allowed), spotting sources, better ergonomics for operating positions, food/drink conveniences, and climate-controlled shelter all add-up to give “course advantages.”
While some portable operations (an example can be some large Field Day teams) can meet or exceed the advantages to contesting identified above, the vast majority do not.
Our scoring metric equalizes some of these advantages. Four factors are used in scoring each contest operation submission. These are the same regardless of whether it is a single operator or a team of operators, unassisted or assisted through the use of operation spotting. These include:
a. Kilometers-per-watt (KPW). Using the Maidenhead Grid Square, the distance in miles divided by the reported power output in watts for the reporting contest participant.
b. Fixed (permanent) vs Portable operation (favoring portable).
c. Mode of contact: Phone vs. CW vs. Digital (favoring phone over CW over digital)
d. Number of transmitters in use (points X 1/t where t = # transmitters)
The logic underlying this metric is as follows:
The KPW metric will tend to equalize power used as well as antenna gain. The km-per-watt is computed per-contact using the centroid lat-lon of the Maidenhead grid square exchanged during the contact. Favor goes to the greater miles-per-watt which equalizes to some degree the antenna gain, power, and point-to-point propagation conditions. The MPW is the basic contact score. Fixed (permanent) station operators have their resident setup which gives an advantage over portable ops, although a team could replicate a Field Day setting with portable crank-up towers, amps, generators, and so forth. Favor goes to the portable operator. The amount of this multiplier can be adjusted much as a competitive “tuning parameter” in future contests.
All things being equal in a QSO, phone is most challenging, followed by CW and then digital (especially weak signal modes like FT8). Favor goes to phone first, CW second, and digital third.
The more transmitters shape the number of contacts so more transmitters get increasing decrements in the points awarded, regardless of the number of ops. This emphasizes the per-transmitter production rather than just the amount of equipment and number of operators. We are experimenting with what seems appropriate discounts for the number of transmitters in simultaneous so as to render a more equitable competition, favoring sport over equipment.
SEPTEMBER 4-5, 2021
For portable and fixed stations to work as many other portable and fixed stations as possible during the contest
The contest consists of three individual and separate 4-hour periods on September 4 & 5, 2021 UTC.
The sessions are:
Session 1: 0800 – 1159 September 4, 2021 UTC
Session 2: 1600 – 1959 September 4, 2021 UTC
Session 3: 0000 – 0359 September 5, 2021 UTC
Stations may be worked once per band and mode by session for a maximum of 15 contacts between stations per session. Duplicate contacts will be removed without penalty. Scoring will be done by each individual session. Participants may operate one, two or all three sessions. Overall champion will be determined by aggregating scores from the three separate sessions. The Individual with the highest aggregated score will be crowned Grand Champion. The single station with the longest distance in KM per watt will be the Distance Champion.
80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 meters
CW, Phone (SSB), and Digital
Digital mode is any data mode that can transmit the required contest exchange. Cross mode contacts are not permitted.
4-character Maidenhead grid square
Total score for the session is the sum of all QSO Values.
I missed the last QSO Today Expo and heard that there were numerous technical glitches. Eric Guth (4Z1UG) has repeatedly described that experience as one of the most stressful in his life. He is making sure that this Expo will run smoothly by keeping all of the presentations and experience on the same platform. Eric is an amazing fellow and has gathered an outstanding group of speakers (over 90, I believe) and has made it so that if you can’t attend live, you can watch the presentations, on demand, for 30 days. Here are a few details from the QSO Today Virtual Ham Radio Expo site:
QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
Opens: August 14th, 00:01:00 UTC or August 13th, 5:01 PM PDT
Full Registration is $10.00 US – includes full access to the Expo, including presentations, 12 subject video lounges, and to the 30 day on demand period.
Full registration will increase to $12.50 at the door when the Expo opens.
Free Registration is limited to lobbies, exhibition hall, exhibitor booths, and prizes offered by exhibitors. If you already have a free ticket, you can upgrade with the button below.
I am pleased to announce the Opening of Ozarkcon Virtual 2021 registration.
Due to your exceptional support of our kit sales efforts for the last year, the 4SQRP Board of Directors has decided that the Conference will be Free of charge.
The event will take place on April 10th at 8:30 am CDT.
We will be broadcasting via Zoom and are limited to 500 participants, so please sign up early.
You can register in several ways, from the main website Ozarkcon Radio button, or direct at www.ozarkcon.com.
The conference will be an open meeting platform so you can come and go as you like. The closing date for registration will be March 26th or until all seats are filled. We have a great lineup of speakers with a variety of topics.
Some of the highlights are:
Special event station K0N will be on the air all week beginning April 4 th.
The Wackey Key and Homebrew contests will take place prior to the conference.
Prize Drawings will be held throughout the day of the conference with the results being posted on the Ozarkcon web page.
Details for all of these events and how to register for them will be announced at a later date. Updates to the conference will be posted on the 4sqrp groups.io email reflector.
Here in portions of North America, we’ve been receiving some seriously cold and snowy weather the past week. It’s the sort of weather that encourages one to conjure up images of warm slippers, sitting by the fire, reading a book, and drinking hot chocolate.
Or, you can choose to Freeze Your B___ Off!
Against my better judgement, that’s exactly what I plan to do tomorrow.
My buddy Eric (WD8RIF) reminds me that tomorrow (Saturday, February 6, 2021) is FYBO: a long-standing winter QRP contest sponsored by the Arizona ScQRPions. FYBO runs for ten hours starting at 1400 UTC to 2400 UTC.
It’s a fun contest that is limited to QRP HF operation only using SSB or CW with 5 watts output max. You can choose to work from home or the field and there are three categories of operators (single op, multi-single, or multi-multi).
FYBO is an easy contest in that the exchange is flexible and there’s no pre-registration required.
The cool thing about FYBO (see what I did there?) is the temperature multiplier which favors those who operate in the coldest temps!
If you’re a POTA, WWFF, or SOTA operator, you can perform a straight-up activation and submit those same logs for FYBO. It just needs to take place during the FYBO contest time frame.
If all goes well, my daughter (K4TLI) and I plan to hike from the QTH up to Pisgah National Forest and perform an activation there.
This will be a test to see if my ankle has healed enough to plot a much longer hike to a SOTA summit from the QTH soon. My fingers are crossed because I’m so eager to get back to hiking.
Plan to Freeze Your B___ Off?
Do you plan to participate in FYBO? Parts of the US and Canada are getting Arctic blasts so those temperature multipliers could be quite impressive! (Just play it safe.) It’ll be chilly here for sure, but I doubt much below freezing.