Since I have seen the Band Hopper III antenna at the website of SOTAbeams, I have been thinking about it. Most of the time I have used end-fed half-wave (EFHW) antennas when operating portable – vertical attached to a fiberglass mast or in a sloper configuration with a tree. Those EFHW antennas seemed to cause way less troubles than a dipole with its centerpiece and coax at the thin end of the fiberglass mast. However, there was this “other” dipole from SOTAbeams. So I thought I could give it a try and ordered it.
Two days later -including customs procedure- the antenna arrived. The antenna is a linked dipole for the 20-, 30- and 40-meter band and weights less than 500 g / 18 oz. That includes the coax and guying material. I already had the Tactical Mini ultra, a 6 m / 19.6 ft fiberglass mast that is a perfect fit for the Band Hopper antenna.
The weather was fine, my manager at work was on vacation, so there was no reason for not leaving the home office early and go for a quick activation. I went to the SOTA location for Kaltes Feld (DM/BW-659), which is also POTA (DA-0410). I have been there a couple of times this year, but offering chaser points for both programs promised more QSOs, especially when conditions are difficult. The other advantage of this place is that you can drink cold beer if the antenna fails to work. 😉
You may, or more likely may not, remember this image from an activation report in March this year.
The place looks much more inviting now with kids playing, people enjoying barbecue and a cold beer, and operating a radio is much more pleasant.
Many thanks to Mark (W8EWH) who shares the following field report:
Right Place – Right Time
by Mark (W8EWH)
This is the story of how I was able to introduce about 40 elementary school kids to Ham Radio and more specifically, POTA. All by just being at the right place at the right time.
I was activating K-1518 (Maybury State Park) on the morning of May 16th while my wife was at the dentist. As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw a yellow school bus (Holy Redeemer), but no kids. I figured they must be on a hike or already at one of the many shelters. So, I parked, grabbed my gear, and walked to the spot where I wanted to activate. This is a spot I’ve used before – a picnic table under several tall, mature trees with great branches for hoisting a wire antenna. The location is on the top of a rise at the far end of an open field surrounded by forest. Turns out the shelter at the near end is where the students were, busy with whatever the teachers had them doing. My activation spot seemed available, so I walked back to it staying well clear of the class.
Set up was straight forward (KX3 and EFHW) and I was quickly on the air on 40M. Band conditions were good, and I quickly had my 10 contacts to make the activation. After about 20 contacts there was a break in the action, so I switched to 20M and decided to speak to one of the teachers which, while I was activating, had brought a group of about a dozen students to my end of the field for some sort of activity. I waived to her and introduced myself, first asking if I was in their way. She said no, and asked if she was in my way. Of course not. I explained what I was doing and offered a demonstration if she wanted to bring some or all the kids over. She enthusiastically agreed to this.
So about 10 minutes later, the teachers brought the class over to me. I had them stand behind me in a way that kept them from getting tangled in the antenna and coax. I introduced myself and explained that I was an amateur radio operator using a portable radio and antenna to contact other people like me as part of an activity called Parks on the Air.
In this case I said, I’m set up here in this state park which makes me the “activator”, and everyone else the “hunters”. They thought that was funny. I then told them about the contacts I’d already made to various states around Michigan, and this seemed to get their attention. I then explained that I was not speaking with them, but instead using Morse Code. They all seemed to have heard of this before. OK I said, I’m going to unplug my earbuds, turn up the speaker, and let’s see if we can make a couple contacts.
Before I started calling CQ POTA, I explained what I was going to be sending in morse code. That I was letting anyone listening know that I was operating from a park, so please call me, and here is my call sign – my amateur radio name. I also warned them that just like when you go fishing, you don’t catch a fish with every cast. You must be patient. They understood. I was nervous – I’ve never had an audience like this before. But then I thought, they won’t know if I make a mistake!
It took about 5 or 6 CQ’s before I got bite. Yes, I was starting to get a little worried! But then we had a catch and after I finished the back and forth of the contact I said – that was Georgia – and was greeted with a cheer. Another I said? Yes! I sent another CQ and right away another bite. The kids listened to the back and forth and then I said – Kansas! Another cheer.
I this point I answered a couple of questions (including one about how I was it that I could understand the noises they were hearing) and then the teachers called an end to the demo so that they could start a nature hike.
I finished up the activation with a handful of additional contacts on 20, 30, and 17 meters, then called it a day. See Figure 1. My wife was on her way home from the dentist and she would stop by so we could go for a hike before going home.
I’m so glad I had the opportunity to conduct this demonstration. I’ll never forget it. I hope a least a couple of the kids will remember this and become hams in the future. I only wish I had a handout or two that I could have given the teachers so if they wanted to explore amateur radio with the class later, they’d have some background info and links. I’ll be ready next time.
My wife and kids were with her parents for some days, the weather forecast 25° C / 77° F and the following Monday was a public holiday in Germany – perfect condition for an activation day trip during the weekend. With France and the Czech Republic already visited this year, there were two other neighbor countries waiting to be visited: Switzerland and Austria (the one without kangaroos). Austria is on my schedule for the Ham Radio fair in Friedrichshafen, so it became Switzerland.
The area northwest of the Swiss town Schaffhausen was perfect.
The region has been inhabited for more than 10,000 years. Schaffhausen started as an independent city-state around 1000 AD and became a Canton later. A canton is a type of administrative division similar to a state, but in European dimensions. The Swiss Confederation, as a whole, is smaller in size compared to West Virginia and has a slightly smaller population than New Jersey. Anyways, in 1330, the town lost all its lands and its independence, but regained its independence back in 1418. Schaffhausen joined the Swiss Confederation as the twelfth member in 1501. In 1944, Schaffhausen experienced a bombing raid by aircrafts from the US Air Forces, which misidentified the town in the neutral Switzerland as their target Ludwigshafen in Nazi-Germany.
The region is not too far from my home, it has a SOTA summit, which is in a POTA and WWFF area, is history-rich and has a second, although German, SOTA summit not too far away.
I started early on that Sunday morning at 8 a.m. The autobahn was nearly empty and just like an invitation to drive a bit faster. Since Corona, I haven’t been using my car very often, so I still had winter tires on, which are limited to 160 kmh / 100 mph.
Since 2008, Switzerland is in the European Schengen Area, so there are no regular border checks. Even before, it was a so-called “Green Border”, i.e. you could often pass it without checks. Without this old, unused border station, you would barely notice that you have crossed the line.
Some minutes later I approached the area, where the first summit is located.
Activating (sort of) Lake Thunderbird (K-2792) with a homebrew transmitter
Sam Duwe WN5C
When I dove into radio a couple years ago a few sub-hobbies caught my attention: QRP, portable ops, CW, and homebrew. Of course, these all fit nicely together, but in my mind there was a huge leap between soldering an unun and a building a radio. But why not try? What’s the worst that could happen by melting solder and then sitting at a picnic table? This is how I built a simple transmitter and kind of activated a park.
The Michigan Mighty Mite
Nearly everyone has heard about the Michigan Mighty Mite (MMM), a QRPp transmitter popularized by the Solder Smoke blog. There are countless YouTube videos and posts across the internet. It’s very simple: a single transistor, a variable cap, a coil, a crystal and some resistors and a cap. Supposedly one can get up to half a watt of output (I couldn’t). But with a small purchase from Mouser one can oscillate. That seemed pretty cool.
I hadn’t touched an iron until I started playing radio. But I’ve been drawn to homebrew projects. I built a regenerative receiver last year which was very rewarding. I’ve also put together kits (a QCX mini and a TR-35). But my dream has always been to construct a transmitter/receiver combo, or a transceiver. I thought a good place to start was the MMM.
I built the transmitter based on the common schematic for the 40-meter band. The MMM is crystal controlled but I opted to solder in a socket and buy a handful of crystals, so I have the luxury of operating on 7056, 7040, and 7030 kHz. I made a few other improvements, too. The first was to build a low pass filter to attenuate harmonics. Second, although I haven’t finished it yet, the switch on the right will be to choose between multiple crystals. And third, I added a BNC jack to connect a receiver, with a transmit switch. When not in use the transmitter will dump into a dummy load. This receiver switching idea was lifted from the design of the MMM that QRP Guys produces.
When I tested the transmitter at home the best I could get with my charged Bioenno 3 Ah battery was about 300 mW output. The filter is reducing things somewhat, but maybe I need to look into a different transistor or rewind the coil. But I was able to get a 339 signal report from Illinois (no sked) in the midst of distance lightning crashes, so I had a little confidence going forwards. School is out for me this summer, so I decided to head to the park. Continue reading Guest Post: Lake Thunderbird (K-2792) with a homebrew transmitter!→
Last year, I read about Thomas K4SWL’s trip to Canada and plan to activate while there and thought to myself, “Wow! Wouldn’t it be cool to do that one day?” Well, it so happens that my family decided our 2023 summer trip will be to Nova Scotia and immediately I began thinking of how I could work POTA activations into the trip.
Due to time limitations, we are opting to fly which means my Yaesu FT-891 will not work. As much as I have come to enjoy using this radio, it is too bulky and heavy for airplane travel. So I started looking into QRP setups.
I chose the Elecraft KX2 and AX1. Whenever I mentioned to someone I had ordered the KX2, the immediate response was “You’ll love it!” I wasn’t sure it would arrive before the trip, though, given Elecraft’s order fulfillment estimation of 12 to 16 weeks. (Yikes!) Thankfully, the rig and antenna arrived early May giving me six weeks to familiarize myself with the rig and antenna before my summer trip.
So this past Wednesday May 17th, the KX2 and I headed to Wormsloe State Historic Site (K-3725) for my first POTA QRP activation. Quirky note: I’ve actually named the KX2 “Craig”. I figure it and I will be spending lots of time with each other so we might as well be on a first-name basis! Continue reading A YL + KX2 = QRP POTA Fun!→
The last weekend was too rainy to operate outdoors. So I welcomed the public holiday on Thursday, which allowed me to take a day off on Friday and have four days off. We call such days “Bridge Day” in Germany, they “bridge” a public holiday to the weekend.
Some time ago, I have suggested a new protected area to the WWFF, the World Wide Flora and Fauna program. The nature reserve Eybtal covers an area of over 1331 hectares / 3300 acres and is the largest nature reserve in the Stuttgart administrative district. The nature reserve is on the edge of the Swabian Alb, and the ruins of the medieval castle Helfenstein are well within the WWFF activation zone.
The Helfenstein Castle is a historic fortress can be traced back to around 1100 AD when it was constructed as a strategic stronghold to protect the surrounding territories.
During the 13th and 14th century it was the seat of the Earls of Helfenstein. After a lost battle in 1372 things went south and in 1396 the family of Helfenstein had to sell a large part of its territory, including its family seat.
The new owners expanded the castle into a formidable fortress. They extended the castle walls to include a fortified tower and a second ring of walls.
Around the year 1400, a tower was built on the nearby rock. It served as a lookout and was intended to prevent the castle from being cannon-fired from that location.
During the Second Margrave War in the 16th century, Helfenstein Castle was besieged and heavily damaged. It was subsequently abandoned and fell into ruins. In the 19th century, there was a renewed interest in medieval architecture, and efforts were made to preserve and restore Helfenstein Castle. The ruins were partially reconstructed, and today, visitors can explore the restored sections. Continue reading Park and Castle activation at the medieval Helfenstein castle→
Many thanks to Scott (KK4Z) who shares the following post from his blog KK4Z.com:
EmComm and FunComm
by Scott (KK4Z)
As I have said earlier, I practice EmComm to prepare for natural or man-made disasters when normal means of communication fail. FunComm is pretty self-explanatory, it’s things I do for fun. Fun things may include POTA, Field Days (winter and summer), supporting bike rides, and other club activities. I always like it when I can blend the two together. When I participate in POTA either for a weekend camp-out or a day activation, isn’t it kind of a practice run for an EmComm event? I use the same antennas and most of the time the same radios. My equipment gets a good exercise and I learn more about how they operate under different conditions.
Recently, I bought a new camper, the old one wasn’t working well for the things I like to do. The new camper is so much better but not without its growing pains. I had to find a better way to use the radios inside the camper. To save words, here is a picture of what I have been using. It works okay but because it uses part of the bed, it made sleeping uncomfortable. After this last camp out when I woke up all sore and twisted feeling, I decided it was time to find a better way.
The new desk stacks the radio and power supply above the computer. This reduces the overhang on the mattress. The desk area for the paddle does overhang a little but sliding the desk to the right when not in use alleviates that.
The other thing I did was make a cut-out on the door side to make it easier to get my legs out. This works really well and does not impair the stability of the desk.
The last thing is the main desk is 30″ deep and the shelf is 20″ deep. This leaves plenty of room for the radios and enough room to slide the computer under the shelf if I need the desk space for something else.
Sitting behind the desk, the radio controls were easy to get to.
The desk is made from one sheet of 3/4″ plywood with (2) 1×3″x8″ boards. The stain was a can of Minwax I had laying around, I think it was Golden Oak.
Construction was simple, using hand tools found in most garages. It is not a piece of art, I don’t have the time. My philosophy is that “Perfection is the enemy of good enough”. The desk is glued, screwed, and nailed without any fancy joinery. If I waited until I had time to do a better job, the wood would still be at Lowe s.
I tried it out in the driveway and everything works and feels good. The radio is easy to get to and the computer is a little high but not uncomfortable. With the cut-out, it is easy to get in and out of the camper. The next test will be at the end of the month during my next camping trip. Hope to hear you out there. 73 – Scott
The last weekend was pretty nice and just like an invitation to operate outdoors. As I wrote in one of my previous posts, I often activate summits on the Swabian Alp, a high plateau, which falls with steep cliff-like edges and many SOTA summits to the northwest. If you approach it from the foothills where I live, the sharp edge is clearly visible.
On the way to the ascent, you came along old, picturesque villages. If you look closely, you can see the “Maibaum”.
The tradition of erecting a “Maibaum” (Maypole) is a long-standing custom in Germany, particularly in the southern regions. The Maibaum is a tall wooden pole that is decorated with colorful ribbons, wreaths, and symbols of the local community. It is usually erected on May Day or the night before and is a symbol of spring, fertility, and community spirit. In some regions, it is also accompanied by folk dances, music, and festivities.
It was my third activation of the summit Römerstein, and every time I used another transceiver.
My transceiver history
When I started with ham radio, I used an old Icom IC-706.
The lack of modern features such as DSP and filters, and the current consumption made it not the first choice for portable operators. I soon switched to an Icom IC-7300 at home and got used to a waterfall and spectrum display. After two activations with the 706 I bought a Xiegu G90.
During the time of my first activation of the Römerstein, I operated only in SSB. So, I was happy with the G90. The display was small, but way better than my old 706. I was satisfied and used the G90 until I started with CW. In CW, I prefer using headphones until today. The sound of the G90 was uncomfortable for me. The lowest volume was too loud, a lot of loud cracks annoyed me, and I was never happy with the filters. Continue reading A Triple activation and why I switched from a KX3 to Icom’s IC-705→
As I have written in my activation report for Klínovec, a summit in the Czech Republic, I am trying to activate places outside my home region DM, Germany – Low Mountains in SOTA or DA in POTA. With the May 1st being a public holiday, the long weekend provided a perfect opportunity for an activation a bit further away.
After a while looking around, I chose Brissetish Kopf (FL/VO-126) in France. The summit was close to the German border, hasn’t received much love with only 8 SOTA activations and was also a POTA spot for F-1697 Vosges du Nord Regional Park and WWFF Parc Regional des Vosges du Nord, FFF-0035. That promised enough QSOs for me and provided chances for chasers.
The small cluster to which the arrow points are the Vosges, actually the northern Vosges (Vosges du Nord). The cluster south of it are the higher part of the Vosges. The Vosges are a range of low mountains in Eastern France, which continues as Palatinate Forest on the German side of the border, with the highest summit being 1,424 m / 4,672 ft.
I started my journey quite early, leaving around 8am. During the drive I could not help but had to tease Thomas (K4SWL), who spent quite some time in France and, as far as I know, enjoyed it.
The French region Alsace, through which I had to drive to the Vosges, is quite interesting. The region was disputed over several hundred years between Germany and France and changed back and forth between the two. Many place names are still German, or sometimes a mix of French and German. After the World War II, the region returned to France – hopefully the last change.
I used Google Maps to drive to a parking place close to the summit, but my first attempt ended here:
Not sure why Google meant to show me this – thanks for the 30 minutes detour.
Roughly a half hour later, I arrived at Climbach, the small village next to the summit. Based on findings, the area is populated since the Middle Stone Age, that ranged from 280,000 to 25,000 years ago.
I live very close to the Swabian Alb (also known as Swabian Jura or Schwäbische Alb in German). The Swabian Alb is a mountain range in German region Swabia. It ranges from Bavaria in the northeast 200 km / 140 mi to the Swiss border in the southwest.
The Swabian Alb is a high plateau, which falls slowly to the southeast but with steep cliff-like edges to the northwest. You can follow the northwest edge of the Swabian Alb by looking at the map of the SOTA summits at sotl.as.
The topology limits the possibilities to cross the Swabian Alb, so the course of the routes are more or less unchanged since thousands of years. I live close to an old Roman road. And where an important road was, there isn’t a castle too far away, since the medieval noblemen were quite keen to get its share from passing people and goods.
During the Cold War, important passes received mechanisms to place explosive charges. In case of an advance of the Soviets and its allies, it was planned to blow these roads up, as there was usually no alternative way around.
First Activation: Plettenberg
The Plettenberg (DM/BW-046) is a summit at the edge of the mentioned Swabian Alb, about halfway between Stuttgart and the Swiss border. It’s 1002 m / 3287 ft tall and has a quarry on top.