Many thanks to Paul (W0RW) who shares the following guest post:
Can you See Me Now? Portable Operation From a Web Cam.
by Paul (W0RW)
There are now thousands of web cams operating around the world and they make great portable operating locations.
By watching a webcam stream, the stations who works you can watch you live as you talk to and log them.
When I am activating a site with a live webcam, I post the web cam link on my QRZ.com page and then stations who contact me can then go to QRZ, click and watch. I usually have a big sign that shows up on the web cam with my call and my frequency. Even DX guys who can’t hear me can watch me operate.
Many web cams are now live streaming; they give you fast refresh rates and real time video. Other bandwidth limited cams refresh at slower rates and may give only 1 frame every minute.
I was at the ‘Teller 1 Web Cam’ on 8 June 2022 (see photos above) and made 10 Q’s on CW and 10’Q’s on SSB. It has an almost real time video but with a delay of about 10 seconds. It is at 10,000 feet.
This camera is down now and won’t be back on line until July.
That makes for a fun dimension in playing SOTA, Paul! Thank you for sharing. So far, I haven’t activated a summit with a webcam, but it looks like there are numerous ones in Colorado. I’ll have to keep this in mind before heading out there!
“Look at this, Tom! Only the stuff I need and nothing more,” cheerfully noted my good friend and Elmer, Mike (K8RAT). It was Field Day two decades ago, and Mike was gazing at his TEN-TEC Scout. I glanced over, and agreed. “So simple and so effective,” Mike added.
I’ve never forgotten Mike’s sage words. That Scout (Model 555) was about as simple as a then-modern HF transceiver could be: it had a total of three knobs––one for AF gain and IF bandwidth, one for RIT and Mic gain, and an encoder. It also had three mechanical switches on the front: one for power, one for TUNE and NB, and one for CW speed and RIT. It also had an analog SWR/power meter. The Scout used plug-in band modules for each HF band and featured a large segmented bright green LED frequency display that was characteristic of so many TEN-TEC rigs of the day.
And Mike was right. For those of us who appreciate radios with a simple, uncluttered, and an almost utilitarian interface, the Scout was, in vintage parlance, “the bee’s knees.” And that the Scout also performed beautifully was just icing on that cake.
When the Scout first appeared in 1994, embedded menu options and spectrum displays were not yet commonplace among amateur transceivers. Embedded menu items can open the door to near granular level control of your radio’s functionality and features. Then again, if those embedded menus aren’t well thought out, it can lead to awkward operation practices in the field, during a contest, or even during casual operation.
As a radio reviewer, I spend a great deal of time sorting out embedded menu functionality and design. Perhaps it’s for this reason that I so enjoyed reviewing a radio that bucks this trend and reminds me of a time that was simpler, not to mention, easier.
All of his transceiver kits are available at his website WA3RNC.com.
I was first drawn to the TR-35 after reading the opening paragraph of the product description:
“Compact but powerful 4-band, 5-watt CW transceiver kit that uses no tiny push buttons, and without those seemingly endless and hard-to-remember back menus. There is a knob or a switch for every function!”
I considered buying and building the TR-35 kit, but I wanted my eventual review––this one!––to focus on the radio’s functionality and performance. So a factory-assembled and tested unit was right for this purpose, just so that any performance issues wouldn’t be a result of any shortcomings in my kit building skills.
A number of readers and friends here and in the SOTA community are simply chuffed that Countryfile on the BBC recently featured a short segment about Flat Holm, its historical ties with Marconi, and modern portable amateur radio.
I tried my best to view this yesterday from the US, but shows like this on BBC One are geo-blocked via the BBC iPlayer…which is, evidently, clever enough to recognize VPNs.
However, I notice the segment has recently been posted on YouTube, so if like me you’re outside of the UK, I encourage you to watch it quickly before it gets pulled.
When I was first getting into Ham radio a couple years ago, I ran across a slide presentation done by Fred KT5X on “Ultra-lyte” QRP. In it, Fred has pictures of a trail running hydration vest that contains a complete SOTA station, water, snacks and a jacket. I was sold on the idea, and made it my goal to start making my own ultralight setup.
As time went on, I really got into the ultralight approach to SOTA, taking every opportunity to reduce weight and shrink my pack down. I enjoy some trail running, mountain biking and combining SOTA/POTA with either is the ultimate combo of adventure and ham radio. Continue reading Matt’s “Ultra-Lyte” Hydration Vest QRP Field Kit→
As I mentioned in a previous post, if all goes according to plan (and we never take that for granted anymore) our family is plotting an extended road trip into Canada this summer. We’ve got most things lined up: a brilliant house sitter, an home base in Québec, a doggy “summer camp” for Hazel (my kind father-in-law), and, oh yes, a list of parks and summits I hope to activate.
What I’m still sorting out is the radio gear.
Let me be the first to admit that I’m blessed with a number of field radios (so be warned: this is going to sound very much like a first world problem) and there are aspects of each one that I appreciate. On a road trip like this, though, space will be at a premium. I can really only justify two compact HF radios and their associated accessories. I plan to bring at least one of my Bioenno 3Ah 12V batteries and charger as well.
Fortunately, I can take a few antennas. We have a roof top Thule cargo box that is actually perfect for my CHA MPAS 2.0, MPAS Lite, and TDL–they’ll fit on the floor of the box and essentially take up no room in it. Otherwise, the cargo box will be dedicated to all of our bulky camping gear.
My HF radios will have to fit in the car trunk/boot along with food, clothes and other supplies.
I already made a decision about one of the radios that will come with me. In fact, it was a bit of a no-brainer:
The Elecraft KX2
I’ve taken the KX2 on all of my major road trips since 2016. It’s incredibly compact, feature-rich, and can handle any situation I throw at it.
In fact, as with two previous years in Québec, I’ll use it to do a little shortwave radio listening (always an important aspect of my travels) and record the BBC Midwinter Broadcast to Antarctica.
Indeed, recording this particular broadcast has become an annual event over at the SWLing Post. It’s one of the highlights of my summer and always falls on my birthday.
The other thing about the KX2 is since it has an internal ATU, I can pair it with any antenna: resonant or not. If the need arises, I can also build an antenna from speaker wire, computer/phone cable, or pretty much anything that conducts.
And, of course, if I pair the KX2 with my low-profile AX1 antenna, I can operate anywhere. I do have a number of urban parks in Ottawa and Québec City that I plan to operate super low-profile and on foot.
The KX2 batteries require that I bring the rapid battery charger and that does take up a little more space (almost the same amount of space as the radio itself!).
As for a second radio…
I think I can get away with packing one more radio. That way, in the unlikely even I have an issue with the KX2, I would have a backup. Plus…hey…variety, right?
I don’t have the room to take my Mission RGO One, Icom IC-703 Plus, or Ten-Tec Argonaut.
I’ve even excluded the KX3 from the list because it wouldn’t offer me much more than the KX2 (just 160 & 6 meters, plus a little extra power output if needed it). The radio I choose needs to be one of my more compact, lightweight, and efficient models.
I’ve also left out the QCX-Mini because I want more than a mono band radio.
Hmmm…then again, the QCX-Mini is so extremely small, I could throw it in my glove compartment and no one would be the wiser [shhhh…let’s keep this between us, shall we?].
[…]I just wanted to give you a quick update on my 1st SOTA activation (May 18th). We spent a few days in the south of France with the extended family. From the garden of the house we rented we were constantly looking towards a beautiful mountain front and it turned out to be SOTA summit FR/CR-205 (726m, 2382ft). So I decided to try and activate it since we had enough people around who offered to watch out for our kids.
Next morning: 6am my dear XYL and I started our ascent.
What a wonderful scenery with morning mist covering most of the mountain landscape and the sun in perfect shape for an early hike.
Although I live in the mountains of North Carolina and am surrounded by SOTA summits, it’s much easier for me to activate a park rather than a summit.
Parks can be quite easy: find the park on a map, drive through their main entrance, find a good picnic table to set up, and next thing you know you’re on the air! Of course, wildlife management areas and game lands can be more tricky, but typically you can drive to the activation site.
Summits–speaking as someone who activates in North Carolina–take much more planning. If it’s a new-to-me summit, I typically need to:
find the GPS coordinates of the true summit
map out the drive to the trail head
read through previous activation notes (if they exist) to find out
what type of antenna/gear I might pack
and any notes I might need to find the trail or bushwhack to the true summit (quite often published, well-worn trails don’t lead to the actual summit)
look up the trail map and make sure I have a paper and/or electronic copy
pack all needed gear for the hike, activation, and emergencies
sort out the time it will take to travel to the site, hike the full trail to the summit, activate, and return home
If you ask most any SOTA activator, they’ll tell you that the planning is part of the fun.
It really is.
One summit I’ve had on my activation list for ages is Craggy Dome (W4C/CM-007). Out of the higher summits in this region, it’s one of the easier ones for me to reach from the QTH. In fact, as with Lane Pinnacle, I could simply hike from my house directly to the summit (although one way to Craggy might take the better part of a day). The trailhead is about a 50 minute drive, and the hike about 30 minutes.
SOTA notes and All Trails indicated that Craggy Dome’s trail isn’t always easy to follow and that it’s steep and slippery.
Craggy has been activated loads of times, though, so I wasn’t concerned at all.
Living here and knowing how much brush there was on the manway to the summit, I knew that Craggy would be a pretty easy summit if I could activate it after the parkway re-opened for the spring and before the mountain “greened-up”; about a five week window.
My schedule opened up for an activation of Craggy Dome on the morning of April 21, 2022 and I was very much looking forward to it.
I wouldn’t be alone on this hike either. Bruce (KO4ZRN), a newly-minted ham, contacted me and asked if he could join me on a hike and simply be an observer during a SOTA activation.
As I drink a cup of coffee and type this post, I’m also packing my camping and radio gear in the car for a four day POTA expedition with my buddy, Eric (WD8RIF). As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s what we’re doing in lieu of going to the 2022 Hamvention.
I’d planned to write up a field report this morning (I’ve a few in the pipeline) but I simply don’t have the time to do a proper job and I like taking my time with these reports.
Instead, I unearthed a “Hike and Talk” video I made earlier this year and completely forgot about.
My “Hike and Talk” videos aren’t for everyone. I don’t edit them–they’re pure unscripted stream of consciousness. And they’re quite long by YouTube standards.
If this isn’t your sort of thing, just skip this one–I won’t be offended.
On this particular day, I had the future of amateur radio on my mind.
Since it’s been a couple of months since I made this video, I listened to it this morning while packing if for no other reason than to simply refresh my memory. Since I don’t typically do this sort of thing (sharing my thoughts and opinions out there in the public space) I always find it a bit cringe-worthy to review these after the fact. I’m no authority on any topic and never want to paint myself as one, so I typically only discuss these things in interviews and even then, I rarely, if ever, listen my interview post-broadcast (save this one, perhaps).
But this rambling “Hike and Talk” session reminded me of something that still makes me swell up with pride. I mentioned one ham radio class in particular that I taught for the high school students in our home school cooperative.
It reminded me of a couple of photos I took during that class:
In this first photo (above), I took the class out to the parking lot at the school and I had them set up a (then prototype!) Mission RGO One transceiver on a folding table under a large tree. I had the students erect both an end-fed resonant antenna and a simple 20 meter vertical. I picked the RGO one because all of the adjustments we had talked about in the classroom—AGC, Filters, A/B VFOs, Direct Frequency Entry, Pre Amp, Attenuation—are on the front panel and one button press away. Plus, it’s just a cool radio!
We hopped on the air with one of my students calling CQ (SSB) on the 20 meter band. Her very first contact was with a station in Slovenia—and she simply beamed with excitement. Thank you propagation gods!
In the photo above–taken a week or two later–we were forced to play radio indoors. I’d planned to set up the ALT-512 QRP transceiver outside and see what sort of DX we could work with a simple home brew mag loop antenna. Heavy rains moved in, though, so we moved back to the classroom, they set up the loop in a small window of this large brick building, and we worked station after station on FT8. You can see one student operating, another logging, another looking up each grid square and address, and one at the board calculating how many miles per watt we were achieving with each contact. We had huge fun!
All of the young ladies in my class passed their Technician exam by the end of the term and are all now licensed amateur radio operators. They were all amazing students.
I couldn’t have been more proud of them.
But I digress. Here’s my “Hike and Talk” video in all its glory:
I hope you enjoyed watching (or skipping) the video!
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 certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support which allows me to open up my work life to write more field reports and film more activation videos.
Here’s wishing you some rewarding radio activity this week!
I get a little thrill out of checking out new parks and summits.
When going to a new-to-me site, I typically do quite a bit of research in advance. With parks, I look up directions to the entrance, hiking trails, park boundaries, and try to sort out the best potential activation sites on a map. With a summit, it can be much more complicated, but reading previous activator notes really saves a lot of headache. That’s especially the case here in the States where many summits are on private/gated land and/or could require bushwhacking off trail with no mobile phone service.
Then again, returning to a site I’ve been to before is also quite nice. I know what to expect and that often opens up the door to more confidence with time planning, antenna choices, and what to pack in terms of gear.
On Friday, March 25, 2022, I re-visited a site I hadn’t been to in nearly a year: Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest.
What’s great about Rendezvous is that it’s both a POTA and SOTA site.
On top of that (no pun intended) the activation zone of SOTA summit 2543 (W4C/EM-082) is on a road where Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest (K-4859), and Rendezvous Mountain State Game Land (K-6941) overlap. One activation yields two parks and one summit!
Last year, it took a bit of research to make this discovery. I studied both the park and game land maps, then compared those with a Cal Topo map. If interested, check out that field report here.
I arrived on site around 12:45 local. The park was void of visitors–I almost felt like I’d arrived on a day when the gates should have been closed.
As I grabbed my SOTA backpack out of the back of the car, a ranger pulled up in his truck and asked if I was planning to hike. I told him about my plans and asked if it was okay that I hike the forest service road to the summit. He said, “Sure. But when you reach the prison crew doing brush cutting on the road, make sure one of the guards sees you before you attempt to pass them.”
My hope was that these little Li-Ion cells might power my Elecraft KX1 long enough to complete a field activation.
The KX1 is a marvel of QRP engineering, in my humble opinion, and it was the first super portable transceiver I owned that could be powered by internal batteries.
When the KX1 was first introduced, Elecraft recommended using non-rechargeable Advanced Lithium AA cells from Energizer and Duracell. These batteries sported a rather flat discharge curve and could power the KX1 for quite a while. Of course, the downside is they’re single-use and expensive. Six of those cells would often set me back nearly $9 or $10. Before I started doing POTA and SOTA, I kept a set of advanced lithium cells in my KX1 for casual, impromptu QRP in the field.
Doing frequent field activations–which tend to have much more transmitting time than casual Qs–it’s just not sustainable to purchase these cells, so I tend to power the KX1 with an external battery.
I couldn’t resist the thought that I could use USB rechargeable batteries in the KX1, so I forked out $60 (mild gasp!) for a set of eight AA batteries (these are purchased in packages of 4).
The cool thing about the Pale Blue batteries is that they can be directly charged from any 5V USB power source. Each battery sports a Micro USB port and its own internal battery/charge management system.
I was well aware these batteries would not power the KX1 for hours at a time, but I was hoping they could for at least 30-45 minutes.