Many thanks to @thogevoll who asked the following question following my field report and video from Field Day 2023:
Thomas, I’m still new to POTA and have not done an activation yet.
How does a Field Day contact from a park count as a POTA contact? Is it simply that you are operating from park? Do you have to send the park ID number? Or, is that actually not even required for POTA contacts?
These are great questions.
The short answer is, YES: almost any simplex contact you make as an activator counts as a POTA contact regardless of the exchange used.
I’ll try to break this down…
Contests, as a rule of thumb, have a defined exchange and the elements of that exchange must be logged with each contact. This often includes things like signal report, section, region, and/or serial number.
ARRL Field Day is no exception.
If you look at the Field Day video I posted, you’ll note N3CZ and I were logging our Field Day contacts on N3FJP’s Field Day version of ACLog. Two key components of the Field Day exchange are the section, and the category (1B, 2A, etc.). We were running 1B (one op, QRP, battery) NC (North Carolina).
Those elements must be logged in order to have a valid Field Day Contact.
POTA ≠ Contest
Parks On The Air, on the other hand, is not a contest. It’s simply an on-the-air activity that has no defined start and end time. You can activate or hunt a park any time of the day or night, any day of the year.
While there is a generally accepted convention for POTA exchanges (which varies based on country/region), there is no formal required exchange. The POTA activator guide is very clear about this.
True, we POTA activators in the US and Canada tend to exchange both the signal report and the state or province, but this isn’t done in most other countries in the world. It’s up to the activator if they send the park number.
Convention in voice modes is to send the park number, but it’s less common in CW unless a hunter asks for it or if you’re completing a Park-to-Park contact. That said, there’s nothing preventing you from sending the park number with each contact if you like.
For a POTA contact, you really only need to log the station/call, time, mode, and frequency. Those details are submitted with your logs that detail the park number, date, activator, etc. and then uploaded to the POTA database in an .ADI file.
Working contesters as an activator
If I happen to pick a crowded contest weekend to activate a park and don’t have a rig or antenna that can escape to the peace and quiet of the WARC bands (and, yes, POTA is very much allowed on the WARC bands) then I often hunt and work contest contacts. I especially do this if band conditions are rough and the contest activity is dense.
I prefer, of course, to run one frequency as a POTA activator in order to open the park to POTA hunters–that’s why I use the WARC bands on contest weekends–but in a pinch, I might work contesters in order to get the ten contacts needed to validate an activation.
Of course, I need to sort out the contest exchange and use that with each contact, but that’s not too difficult. Those random folks I log have no idea I’m activating a park.
I should also note that many contests (Field Day may be one of these) don’t allow self-spotting, so when Vlado and I worked as a Field Day station this year, we did not spot ourselves on the POTA network. We were actually making Field Day contacts first and foremost, with the side-benefit of activating a park at the same time.
In other words, we simply logged our Field Day contacts per FD requirements, then (with a bit of log tweaking) uploaded the log to both the ARRL and the POTA network.
In POTA, only the activator is required to submit their logs, not the hunter; they get credit via your uploaded activator logs.
POTA: Some QSO exceptions
To be clear (and redundant), any contact you make at a park–even when the other op isn’t a POTA participant–counts as a POTA contact, with a few side notes and exceptions:
- Contacts via a land repeater are not allowed. I can’t hop on a local repeater and make/log valid POTA contacts. I can, however, hop on a local repeater and ask for someone to spot me or meet me on a simplex frequency for a contact.
- Satellite repeaters are allowed. All satellite contacts are allowed.
- Fully automated QSOs are prohibited. I can’t set up one of those fully-automated digital mode applications that will run unattended. As the POTA rules state: “Each contact must include direct action by both operators making the contact.“
I believe every POTA activator should read through both the POTA rules and Activator Guide prior to your first activation.
We’re entering the heaviest part of the contest season at present. If you arrive at a park on the weekend and discover that the bands are absolutely chock-full of contest stations–and you can’t find a free frequency to do your activation–feel free to work and log contest stations!
Otherwise, do what many of us do and either escape to the WARC bands or move closer to the band edges (being careful not to go too far) where you’ll typically find more free space.
Do you combine Field Day, contests, and special events with POTA? Feel free to comment with your approach!