Tag Archives: Camping

The POTA Babe Goes Back to Florida – Day 1

In pursuit of my 60 new-to-me park activations, I headed back to Florida for six days the first week of April. The weather forecast looked promising – high temps in the upper 70s falling to the upper 60s by the end of the week. Rain might dampen my spirits on Wednesday but otherwise, the sun was likely to shine during my journey.

Day 1 of my April 2024 Florida Trip

Daisy and I packed up the car and headed out early Sunday, May 31st. It was an easy journey – three and a half hours south down I-95 and then southwest across Florida. Of course, we stopped at the Florida welcome center and got our picture snapped, this time just the two of us.

Here we again in Florida!

We arrived in Branford which actually did look like a nice place to live. Lafayette Forest Wildlife & Environmental Area (US-6315) is just outside the town. Unlike the wildlife management areas in Georgia I’ve visited, this one looked more manicured. The road into the park could have been the entrance into some genteel Southern plantation.

Not far inside, we found a fenced-in parking area and kiosk. I figured this would be the easiest place to set up. Checking the kiosk, I confirmed we were out of hunting season though we would still wear our blaze orange items for our walk after the activation. (Before we arrived at the park, we actually saw a turkey crossing the road.)

Map of Lafayette WMA

I opted to use the Chelegance MC-750 on the tripod mount because I need more practice with it. That proved to be a good choice as I had to re-read the instructions to set it up – hi hi. This is what happens when you don’t use equipment on a regular basis.  Continue reading The POTA Babe Goes Back to Florida – Day 1

Cabin POTA with the IC-705 and MC-750 at Gorges State Park!

As I mentioned in this previous field report, my buddy Mike and I spent the third weekend of March at Gorges State Park (US-2732) in Sapphire, North Carolina. We had a great weekend of hiking and just hanging out. Of course, I fit in a few activations!

On the morning of Sunday, March 17, 2024, after a nice breakfast and beautiful sunrise, we started packing up. Since we rented a cabin this year, it was an easy process–especially since it was also raining lightly. While I love tent camping, I’m not the biggest fan of packing up a wet tent and gear because later in the day I have to attempt to dry it all out back home.

The cabin also made it very comfortable to do a little Parks on the Air (POTA) until the rain passed and we could start our hike.

I set up my MC-750 vertical next to the cabin.

Inside, assuming I might have more radio frequency interference (QRM) to deal with, I chose my Icom IC-705.

The cabin had a small side table attached to the wall which was the perfect spot to set up my station close to the front door and porch. The weather was very temperate that morning, so I simply left the front door of the cabin open while I operated.

I was correct about the QRM: its pervasive throughout most of the park and is due to arcing on the high-tension power lines that run through the site.

Other than the QRM, Gorges is an amazing park to do POTA.

While I played Parks on the Air, Mike caught up on a book he was reading. Neither of us were pressed for time, so it was a pretty laid-back morning.

QRM Mitigation

After hooking up the IC-705 to the MC-750 and turning it on, the QRM was not only audible–that unmistakable frying sound–but it was clearly visible on the IC-705’s color display.

The noise level was about S5-S6 and persistent.

The IC-705 is a 21st-century radio and I decided to use some of its 21st-century, SDR-powered features in order to improve the audio.

First, I turned on the Noise Blanker (NB). While this feature works best for pulse noises (engine noise and electric fences, in my experience) it also removes a layer of noise from persistent arcing as well.

Next, I also used the IC-705’s built-in DSP (Digital Signal Processing). By turning on the DSP, another layer of noise is removed.

With both NB and DSP engaged, the audio was much more pleasant and less fatiguing.

Keep in mind that even though the noise was minimized in the audio, it was still there in the receiver so this didn’t help much with recovering weak signals under the elevated noise floor. It just made playing radio much more pleasant! Continue reading Cabin POTA with the IC-705 and MC-750 at Gorges State Park!

Pairing the TR-45L Skinny and the MC-750 at Gorges State Park!

Once a year, I meet up with my friends Monty and Mike for a weekend of camping. We’ve been friends for over 30 years, so it’s always brilliant hanging out with them, hiking, and just enjoying the break in our busy family lives.

This year, we planned our weekend campout for March 15-17, which is slightly earlier in the year than we usually do, but all of us have complicated schedules in April, May, June, and July. So March it was!

We chose to camp at Gorges State Park (US-2732) in Sapphire, North Carolina.

We also decided to opt for one of the park’s five cabins instead of tent camping. The park ranger I spoke with on the phone prior to making the reservation convinced me that we should reserve one of their newly built cabins. The cabins can sleep six, have electricity, and even have heating and air conditioning.

Mid-March in the mountains of western North Carolina is a fickle part of the year. It can be cold, hot, dry, or wet–all easily within one weekend. Choosing a cabin would mean packing in a lot less gear. Done!

Unfortunately, only a few days prior to the camping trip, Monty had to duck out to attend a funeral. We really missed hanging out with him.

Gorges State Park

To my knowledge, I had never been to Gorges State Park. It’s one of the newer parks in the NC system and, frankly, it’s located in a part of WNC that I rarely travel through these days.

The park is vast, and there are a number of trails that lead to waterfalls.

The visitor’s center was built in 2012 and is really impressive. We stopped by there and spoke with staff about some of the hiking options.

I’ve always preferred state and national park camping facilities over private campgrounds. They’re typically well-maintained, and the sites are spaced apart (so I can easily set up an antenna!).

Cabin #5

The camping area at Gorges is one of the nicest I’ve ever seen. It’s all very new. The cabins and shower/bathroom building are only two years old.

The weekend, overall, was warm during the day and cool at night with periods of rain. We both felt pretty happy we’d picked a cabin for the weekend–packing up wet camping gear is never all that fun!

Saturday morning, Mike and I planned to do a bit of hiking, and I wanted to fit in a short activation.

Picnic Shelter Activation

At one of the trailheads for a short hike, we found a spacious picnic shelter. Despite the amazing weather that morning, there was no one else at the shelter.

I scoped out the trees around the perimeter of the shelter, and most were pretty small trees with larger trees behind them. I decided that it would be easier to simply deploy my Chelgence MC-750 vertical.

I brought three radios along on this camping trip: my TR-45L Skinny, Icom IC-705, and Elecraft KH1. I chose the Skinny for this activation! Continue reading Pairing the TR-45L Skinny and the MC-750 at Gorges State Park!

Planning a POTA Babe Trip – Part 1

by Teri (KO4WFP)

Many of you QRPer readers know I am headed to Florida the first week of April for POTA. This will be my first POTA trip on my own. Of course, I’ll have my trusty POTA pup Daisy with me as there is no way she’d want to miss such an adventure. My previous trip to Florida with my brother in December 2023 gave me a better idea of what I need and how to streamline my routines for such a trip.

I am a divorced, single mom so I will not be staying at a hotel or Airbnb but tent camping because that is less expensive. I found staying in state parks during my last trip a pleasant experience. Most people camping at a park are friendly but mind their own business. Traveling as a single woman could be a fearful endeavor but being with a dog and in a campground full of people makes that endeavor doable.

I thought I’d share what I am taking in case there are other aspiring POTA Babes (or POTA Dudes for that matter) who are up for the same kind of adventure. So, let’s dive into my equipment.

An overview of what I am taking

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Shelter

I have a Sierra Designs two-person tent I purchased nearly 30 years ago. That tent was used for a summer cross-country road trip my brother Joseph and I took. Though Joseph and I used a four-person Ozark tent of my parents’ for our December Florida trip, I like the features of the Sierra Designs tent better – the grommets for holding the tent poles, three instead of two tent poles which makes for a more stable design, and tent poles that don’t pull apart easily as you move them through the sleeves on top of the tent. My Sierra Designs tent does not have a dedicated slot for inserting an extension cord into the tent but I’ll make do running it in through the corner of the door.

Tent without rainfly

Sleep is of paramount importance so I use a LuxuryMap Thermarest and it is well worth it. How do I know? This sleeping pad has been my bed for the past six months so I have lots of experience with it. Being in the townhouse now, I could certainly purchase a bed but I’ve become so used to sleeping on the floor, I actually prefer doing so now. My other sleep items are a Northface sleeping bag and a Sea-to-Summit inflatable pillow. Daisy has a sleeping pad and bag of her own from Ruffwear.

The last items rounding out my shelter set up are a brush/dust pan, a mat to minimize sand/dirt getting into the tent, and a head lamp.

Sustenance

A confession – I dislike spending time in the kitchen so I keep my meals as simple as possible. To save money, I make my own meals. I learned last December it is easier to pre-package the meals before the trip than to take larger food containers from which to make the meals during the trip.

Breakfast is simple – oatmeal, cranberries, nuts, and protein powder with hot tea to drink out of a large thermos for the morning. Dinner is also simple – noodles, canned chicken, a canned vegetable, and shredded cheese with hot tea to drink once again. For lunch, I snack on fruit or protein bars.

I purchased a new stove – the SOTO Windmaster – for the December trip after reading reviews of backpacking/camping stoves on Gearlab’s website.  It was easy to use and quick to bring water to a boil in which I cooked our food. I do not like using gas appliances; however, lightning the stove provided simple and I never felt like I was going to fry off my eyebrows from the flame.

I also have a spork, can opener, dish soap, towel, fuel canister, and lighter to ignite the fuel for the stove.

I debated about bringing a cooler. If one is going to use canned food and does not anticipate using the entire can, obviously the food has to be safely stored overnight.  I visited Gearlab again for cooler reviews. The RITC Ultralight 52 quart cooler is a Best Buy and received a 70 rating, only 8 points down from their top rated cooler – the Yeti Roadie 60. But what a price difference – $450 for the Yeti and $210 for the RITC. I realized I didn’t need a 52 quart cooler and looked for something smaller. There is a 32 quart size which is only $140. Sold! In tests, the RITC 52 quart cooler kept items cool for 6 days, long enough to last on my trip.

Power

We live in a world of gadgets and those need to be powered. I purchased a Jackery 300 Plus portable power station for my last trip even though I had access to the RV power outlets. This little unit is sweet! It charges items quickly, is quiet, and has a solar panel option for recharging if you do not have access to an outlet.

For my upcoming summer trip, most of the places at which I’ll stay will not have power available so the Jackery will come in handy. I will purchase a car charger to assist in recharging the unit while driving on that trip.

extension cord in campsite power connection in Florida Dec 2023

Niceties

While lounging around camp, it is nice to be able to sit. I possess a Helinox chair I use during activations when the weather is warm outside. But I don’t want to use that in the tent due to the flooring and low ceiling height. I found on the December Florida trip not having something to support your back while operating or reading or typing up a report, to be taxing. Therefore on this trip, I will use the Thermarest chair made to use with my Thermarest sleeping pad.

from Thermarest website

If you are going to spend time outside, you will share the space with insects. Several of the trails I want to walk with Daisy warned about mosquitoes and ticks. To protect me, I will spray my clothing and tent entrance in advance with Sawyer Premium Insect repellent. I’ve used this stuff before and it works well. I also have Ben’s 30% DEET Tick and Insect Repellent wipes, top rated by Consumer Reports. As for Daisy, she is already on an oral flea and tick preventative. However, neither of those cover mosquitoes which of course can carry diseases and are irritating. Before the trip, I’ll apply an Advantix II treatment for her protection.

Other additional items will be clothing, toiletries, a quick-drying towel, a leash, a lead & tarp on which Daisy can lie down, my laptop for writing up reports and checking email, AirPods, my journal, and a few books to read. I tend to travel on the light side.

Well, now you have it – what the POTA Babe uses on her trips. I’d love to hear from y’all what you think would be a great addition to my set-up or a piece of equipment you prefer.  For part 2, I’ll share what is currently in my POTA QRP kit. Stay tuned…

K4RLC’s December 2022 Adventure at Stone Mountain State Park

Many thanks to Bob (K4RLC) who shares the following POTA field report from December 2022:


K4RLC’s December 2022 Adventure: Stone Mountain State Park North Carolina

by Bob (K4RLC)

As 2022 was coming to an end, I wanted one last Summits on the Air/Parks on the Air (SOTA/POTA) activation. Stone Mountain North Carolina is around 3 hours away in Northwestern North Carolina, near the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a huge state park of over 14,000 acres and some wilderness areas.

A little background about this year might be helpful.

Earlier last year, both Alanna K4AAC and I were diagnosed with COVID, which turned into long serious COVID, lasting almost 3 months of acute illness, followed by several months of recovery. We are both healthcare professionals, and were vaxed and boosted and being very cautious, so it’s somewhat of a mystery what happened. One of us does have multiple medical risk factors which may have added to the complexity.

Nevertheless, we did what a lot of Americans did last winter and spring, with buying RVs and campers, and bought a Winnebago Solis camper van.

The Solis is Winnebago’s smallest van, built on a Dodge Pro Master commercial chassis. What appealed to me is that you can be completely self-sufficient, boon-docking with it. It has a 140 Watt solar panel on the roof which charges two 100 amp hour AGM batteries.

Off the grid, this powers a small refrigerator, house LED lights, water pump,  and a ceiling fan.

The Solis also has a 20-gallon propane tank, which runs a two-burner stove and a really nice furnace for cold nights. It sleeps two comfortably with a Murphy bed. Also has a sitting area with a table for dining, which can be used as a desk or an operating position for the radio.

Since getting the Solis, we have really enjoyed making trips to the beaches and mountains of Virginia,  North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition to enjoying exciting POTA/SOTA activations, we have been replenished by nature’s beauty and feeling safe in the fresh air.

Returning to my Stone Mountain adventure, I guess not many people camp in the middle of the week in December in the mountains. Initially, I was the only person in the large campgrounds. Eventually, a couple with their dog and a trailer set up at the far end. We never had any contact. It was really eerie, especially with the pea soup fog that hung around.

The most prominent feature of Stone Mountain State Park is Stone Mountain itself.

It is known as a “Dome Monadnock,” as it is a large dome of granite/quartz still standing from the Devonian Age about 400 million years ago, while the earth around it has eroded over thousands of years. (Stone Mountain Georgia is the same geologic feature). Continue reading K4RLC’s December 2022 Adventure at Stone Mountain State Park

Guest Post: EmComm and FunComm!

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

Scott takes the Radio Flyer on a maiden voyage

Many thanks to Scott (KK4Z) who shares the following post from his blog KK4Z.com:


The Maiden Voyage of the Radio Flyer

by Scott (KK4Z)

Radio Flyer Logo (PRNewsFoto/Radio Flyer, Inc.)

When I was young, it was a simpler time. All you needed was a pen knife, cap gun, your dog, and a Radio Flyer red wagon to put your stuff in. The world was your oyster and adventure was right around the corner. Even though I am much older now, and my horizons have expanded; adventure is still right around the corner. It was fitting that my new camper is also a Flyer. I thought it fitting to name my camper the Radio Flyer, big boy’s red wagon.

For my first adventure, I chose to go to the Stephen C. Foster State Park located within the Okefenokee Swamp. It’s about a 6-hour drive from my home QTH. Getting off of the interstate at Valdosta; it’s about a 45-mile drive down a highway that is largely uninhabited. For a man who likes his solitude, I felt alone. I pulled into Fargo, GA for gas, and then it was another 18 miles of desolation to the park. The first gate was entering the refuge. Then another lonely stretch to the park entrance.

The park was quiet with several different species of Owl providing commentary. The park never got noisy while I was there. I liked it. The campsite was rustic and nice. In short order I was set up and ready to go.

One of the things I like about the camper is its simplicity. The interior is open and spacious. there is enough room for me and my gear plus I can sit comfortably. The AC and heater work well. The galley is all I need. I added a microwave that fits on the storage shelf. Continue reading Scott takes the Radio Flyer on a maiden voyage

POTA activation with WD8RIF at Beury Mountain WMA in West Virginia!

Grist Mill at Babcock State Forest Headquarters

This year, instead of attending the 2022 Hamvention, my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) and I hatched another plan.

Eric and I–along with his son Miles (KD8KNC) and sometimes Mike (K8RAT)–attend Hamvention every year it’s held.  We’d planned to do the same this year especially with it being the first in-person Hamvention since 2019.

As Hamvention approached though, we both had a lot going on in our lives and decided to save a little money, a lot of travel time, and meet in West Virginia for several days of POTA activations and just hanging out. I explain a bit more about the decision in this previous post.

We camped three nights and performed activations together for four days. It was an absolute blast!

Setting up camp

On the afternoon of Thursday, May 19, 2022, we (Eric, Miles, Theo the dog, and I) met at Babcock State Park and set up our tents at the adjoining campsites we’d reserved.

Babcock would serve as our home base for the entire WV POTA expedition.

As a bonus, Babcock State Park (K-1798) is also a POTA entity, so we activated it in the late shift after dinner each evening.

As soon as the tents were deployed that afternoon, we all jumped into Mile’s Subaru with our radio gear and hit our first park!

Beury Mountain Wildlife Management Area (K-7036)

Beury Mountain WMA is so close to Babcock State Park, I have to assume they share a common boundary.

The drive to the site was very brief but as with many WMAs and Game Lands, the entry road isn’t paved and there are rough patches you might need to avoid. Of course, Mile’s Subaru was way over-engineered for this task! Continue reading POTA activation with WD8RIF at Beury Mountain WMA in West Virginia!

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)