Tag Archives: Camping

POTA camping in West Virginia and focusing on the radio journey

As I mentioned in a previous post, instead of going to Hamvention this year, I went on a POTA expedition with my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) and his son Miles (KD8KNC) in West Virginia.

Just a random roadside waterfall.

In short? It was a brilliant trip!

Amazing WV

The New River Gorge

West Virginia is such a beautiful state and it’s absolutely chock-full of state and national parks. Eric and I were left scratching our heads as to why there are so few activations in many of West Virginia’s most accessible parks.

The iconic New River Bridge

In fact, though it’s still relatively early in the season, we found the parks to be rather busy with tourists from across the globe.

We set up camp at Babcock State Park and used it as our home base to activate numerous parks in the area. In the late evenings we activated Babcock from the comfort of our campsite.

The Grist Mill at Babcock State Park.

I didn’t bring Hazel on this trip, but Eric brought his little dog, Theo– A.K.A “The Great Warg”–who was our little POTA mascot and certainly our ambassador at each site.

The Great Warg enjoying a little ice cream at Dixie’s Drive-In in Anstead, WV.

Theo attracted a lot of attention from pretty much anyone and everyone. That little guy never meets a stranger.

On a mission

Our goal wasn’t to activate as many parks as possible, rather it was to enjoy camping, sightseeing, and simply hanging out together during our activations.

Wow–what a success!

I stole Eric’s K1 field kit and used it to activate Hawk’s Nest State Park. Only made me wish I’d never have sold my K1 some 10 years ago!

If you’ve been on the air the past few days, you’ll have noticed that band conditions have been pretty rough and unstable at times.

We met this confident little guy while hiking at Hawk’s Nest SP.

We had to allocate more time than normal to work our ten contacts needed for a valid park activation.

That was perfectly fine, though, because the scenery at our activation sites was simply spectacular. I just hope the rushing waters didn’t create too much QRN in my videos!

Gauley River at the Summersville Hydroelectric Project

We also learned early on that (since we had no band pass filters in tow) it was best that we work non-harmonically-related bands simultaneously and, of course, separate our stations as far apart as reasonable at each site. When Eric was on 40 or 20 meters, I was on 30 and 17 and vice versa. It worked out pretty well.

Time management…

Now that I’m back at the QTH, I’ll pull the videos from my camera then process and upload them. I’m currently a good four weeks behind on field reports.

Thurmond Depot

If you’ve tried to contact me recently, you’ll notice I’m also at least two or more weeks behind on email as well. Unfortunately, there’s simply not enough time in the day and I need to sort out a better way to handle questions from readers and subscribers. I love answering emails and attempt to reply to each and every one, but the amount of time it takes to manage email is actually now taking a significant bite out of my content creation time. Between QRPer.com and the SWLing Post, I receive an average of 25-40 messages per day from readers, many of which are new to the site. Those stack up rapidly when I’m traveling or out and about doing activations.

I receive questions about choosing gear, asking about operating practices, and general advice on a variety of radio topics. They’re all great questions, but I feel like I’m a bit of a bottleneck in terms of delivering answers.

I might build a discussion board or create an email group where people can find community support. I certainly welcome your thoughts and comments on this.

I need to take action soon, because I’ve got a lot of travels planned this summer and will be off-grid for days at a time.

If I’m being perfectly honest, another reason why I didn’t attend Hamvention this year is because I knew it would only add to my work and correspondence load right before nearly two months of planned travels.

Our POTA camping expedition was a more relaxing option than Hamvention for 2022. (You can bet I’ll be at the 2023 Hamvention, though!)

Sharing the journey

Indeed, this trip reminded me why I do what I do here: I love to share the radio journey.

On that note, I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed with kind comments from readers and subscribers. It’s humbling and I’m most grateful to each and every one of you. Thank you so much!
Sharing the radio journey is indeed my main focus here on QRPer.com and on my YouTube channel. Sharing my journey and yours via the many excellent guest posts I’ve received.

I’ll sort out a way to manage correspondence in due time and, in the meantime, I appreciate your understanding.

Thanks for reading this post and many thanks to Eric and Miles for an amazing trip exploring the rivers and mountains of West Virginia! I can’t wait to do this again.

Indeed, this trip has me absolutely energized about the activations I’m plotting in Canada this summer. Stay tuned!

A little off-grid radio and offline camping!

If you were hunting POTA contacts last week, you might have seen my callsign pop up in the spots quite a few times at New River State Park (K-2748).

Morning reading along with a proper brew in my C.R.A.Q. coffee mug!

Our family decided to take a little break from everything–including the internet–and simply enjoy the great outdoors and a little camping in our small travel trailer (caravan).

Our ferocious guard dog protecting the camp site from hostile invaders. Note that she’s actually awake and alert. A rarity indeed!

It was amazing fun.

In terms of radios, I limited myself to two. While we had room for more, I decided in advance I wanted to spend some proper bonding time with my Yaesu FT-817ND.

I’m so glad I did.

I also brought the Elecraft KX2 but primarily planned to use it when operating off-site. This way, I could keep the FT-817ND system hooked up and ready for action at our camp site.

In fact, the KX2 remained in my SOTA pack for the duration of the trip as a grab-and-go. I had an absolute blast with it activating the summit of Mount Jefferson.

Solar power

This camping trip gave me an excuse to use a station accessory I purchased last year: my Buddipole Powermini 2.

The Powermini 2 is a very compact and capable charge controller with an input for solar panels, a battery, two DC outputs, and even a USB power output. A genius little device.

I’ve been asked a number of times why I don’t do solar charging in the field during my activations. There are a few reasons, actually:

  • First of all, my activations tend to be short in duration–perhaps 45 to 75 minutes. I could easily operate for a few hours on one battery charge with most of my QRP radios. In other words, I rarely need to recharge in the field.
  • Often, my field activation sites are shaded by choice. Since I like to hang wires in trees, those same trees would block sunlight from ever hitting my panels.
  • Finally, unless I’m testing a new radio, I tend to take the least amount of accessories necessary to complete the activation. This is especially the case with SOTA activations. Since I’m unlikely to use solar panels, I leave them in the car or at the QTH. I do, however, keep them packed and at-the-ready should the need arise.

I paired the Powermini 2 with PowerFilm Solar folding panels I purchased many moons ago at Hamvention (I’m guessing in 2012 or so–?). These were blemished units and I snagged them for a brilliant price. Looking back, I wish I would have purchased a few more.

They’re only 5 watts each, but I run them in parallel to feed the charge controller with the equivalent of 10 watts.

QRP gear is so efficient, these modest panels actually do a respectable job keeping the battery topped off. At New River State Park it helped that our picnic table was in full sunlight most of the day.

Sure, we had shore power at the site, but where’s the fun in that?

QRM

During the week, the site had low levels of RFI/QRM. That all changed during the weekend when new campers moved in along with their leaky switching power supplies and noisy inverters.

On Saturday, I found it too frustrating to try making contacts from the campsite–the noise floor was a steady S7 with peaks around S9 simply washing over all but the strongest signals. I regretted not packing my Chameleon loop antenna.

Instead of fighting the QRM, I abandoned it. I drove to a large isolated picnic shelter at New River and set up the KX2 and CHA MPAS Lite antenna.

The site was noise-free and I had amazing fun.

Videos

I made quite a few activation videos, so I’ll eventually post them with abbreviated field reports.

Frankly, I am still catching up from having been offline so long.

Thank you

Massive thanks to my good friend Eric (WD8RIF) who took care of QRPer.com while I was gone. He’s been moderating comments and making sure scheduled posts published properly. In fact, my friend Robert Gulley (K4PKM) was holding down the fort over on the SWLing Post too. I’m so thankful to both of them.

Also, many thanks to all of the hunters who worked me on multiple bands and in multiple modes. A special shot out to NE4TN who was a life saver and spotted me on several occasions when the connection between the POTA site and Reverse Beacon Network were down. Many thanks, OM!

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. Your support actually helps to make radio fun like this possible.

Here’s wishing everyone an amazing weekend!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)