Tag Archives: Field Reports

Brian puts a new antenna to the test during Winter Field Day!

Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following guest post:


A shelter for Winter Field Day operations in a field

Field Report:  Winter Field Day with a New Antenna

Winter Field Day (WFD) 2022 found me operating indoors, despite my best intentions to get out in the field.  I was recovering from a bad cold, and did not want to risk having complications arise from sitting out in the cold and damp.  So for WFD 2023, outdoor time with my radio was a must.  I wanted to operate a 1-Oscar station, and to do that I had to set up more than 500 feet from my home QTH.  So a site next to the pond in our back field, about 800 feet from the house, became my WFD shack.

I started planning and collecting kit for the operation in mid-January, with the long term forecast hinting at near-freezing temperatures with the potential for rain or snow.  Let me introduce you to my WFD station.

Shelter

A shelter was needed to keep out rain and snow, and to provide a barrier against the winds whipping across the adjacent field.  A few poles lashed together, and steadied by stakes, provided the frame to support the shelter.  With a poly tarp secured to this frame, the resulting a-frame shelter, while not completely enclosed, did provide effective weather protection for both operator and equipment.  There was about 3 inches of snow on the ground when I set up the shelter, and I was able to pile some of it along the bottom edge of the tarp to keep the wind from getting under it.

A-frame shelter constructed of a poly tarp stretched over a frame of poles

Antenna

I know that when setting up a station, the antenna is not generally the first thought, but I had recently finished building a homebrew 9:1 random wire antenna with a 144 ft radiating wire, and I wanted to test it out.  There are better ways to put a new antenna on the air, but the opportunity was a good one.  Besides, I had backup antennas that could be quickly substituted if the need arose.  In the event, things worked well, and the antenna proved agile and capable on all activated bands.  I particularly wanted to see if it would tune on the 160m band.  More on that later.

The feedpoint of the 9:1 random wire antenna is built into a wire winder to support transport, deployment, and recovery for field use.  The RF functional components include a female BNC connector, a 9:1 unun, and miniature banana jacks for connecting the radiator and counterpoise wires.  There is no wire on the winder, because a corner was broken off during WFD deployment, and a mechanical repair is needed. (Click to enlarge)
The 9:1 unun is mounted near the BNC connector, and is electrically connected to a one miniature banana jack for the radiator and another for the counterpoise.  The unun and wiring are covered with hot melt glue to provide mechanical integrity and protection from the weather.

Radio

The goal of trying the antenna on 160m left me with only one choice for a radio.  I would use the Lab599 TX-500 Discovery, because it is the only transceiver among my field rigs that is capable of operating on the 160m band.  Since a tuner is required, I paired it with an LDG Z-11Pro II, a wide-range autotuner.  I also included a Monitor Sensors Power and SWR Meter in the feed line to help assure that I was legitimately running less than 5 watts to qualify for the QRP power multiplier. Continue reading Brian puts a new antenna to the test during Winter Field Day!

Jonathan takes the Yaesu FT-818ND on an inaugural POTA activation!

Many thanks to Jonathan (KM4CFT) who shares the following guest field report and video:


Chatfield State Park (K-1212)

January 20, 2022

by Jonathan Kayne (KM4CFT)

The honorable Yaesu FT-817/818. You all know it and love it. I had been wanting to get myself one for a while but after just buying myself a shiny new ICOM IC-705, I had been planning on getting myself an 818 in the spring to play around with. December came and I find out that Yaesu was going to discontinue the 818, so I went and bit the bullet and bought one from Ham Radio Outlet.

I had been getting into CW for portable operations lately after wanting to learn CW for a while and my friend Zach Thompson (KM4BLG) had pushed me to learn it. I learned it over the course of two months through an app called “Morse Machine” and listening to Thomas’s YouTube videos while working so as to get used to the exchanges and pick up words. Then I activated and all the rest is history! (If you want to see my 3rd time activating see this video here.)

Why is this important? Because the FT-818ND does not have a narrow 500 Hz filter for CW operation by default, and since I consider myself to be still a newbie I wanted to install a Collins Filter before I take my new 818 into the field. Since these filters are hard to obtain, I went with the build your own route. The method I used has been outlined in this blog and I have made a video of it here.

Now that I had my radio all ready to go with a filter, side rails, and Windcamp Battery, I wanted to get it in the field as soon as possible. Unfortunately due to a snow storm, the temperature in the Denver area was quite cold.

I can handle myself pretty well in the cold if I put on enough layers, but my fingers are another story. I have found that I cannot write properly unless my fingertips are exposed. The solution: do the activation in the car! Continue reading Jonathan takes the Yaesu FT-818ND on an inaugural POTA activation!

Pairing the Elecraft KX2 with a 28.5′ random wire for a rapid POTA activation

On Wednesday, January 11, 2023, I was on my way back to the QTH after a brief trip to Raleigh, NC.

Later in the afternoon, I needed to take my daughters to a class, thus I had a strict deadline to meet. Still, it was a beautiful day so I decided to pop by Tuttle Educational State Forest for a nice walk and possibly an activation if I time allowed.  I’d spent so much time in my car the previous couple of days, I really wanted to stretch my legs.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

As I drove to Tuttle, I made a decision to film a Hike & Talk session–I had a topic on my mind and thought the timing was right to make a recording. You can check out that (previously published) Hike & Talk session here.

After that casual walk, I found that I had a good 45 minute window–no more–to fit in a full activation including set-up/take-down. Very doable!

The radio I had packed away for this road trip was my Elecraft KX2 field kit which included a Tufteln no-transformer random wire antenna (compact equivalent of my 28.5′ speaker wire antenna) and my AX1 portable antenna. I had this particular kit because I’d hoped to do an urban park activation in Raleigh, but simply didn’t have the time to fit it in.

Setting up the KX2 is a swift process.

I chose a picnic table, deployed the Tufteln antenna and was on the air in no time! Continue reading Pairing the Elecraft KX2 with a 28.5′ random wire for a rapid POTA activation

New Penntek TR-35 Field Kit, Canine Welcome Party, & Brilliant 20 Meter POTA Conditions!

There are few things that make me happier than radios and pets.  On Saturday, January 7, 2023, I got copious amounts of both.

On the way back to the QTH, I stopped by Table Rock Fish Hatchery (K-8012) for a nice, leisurely POTA activation.

En route to Table Rock I gave some though to the antenna I might deploy. In the end, I decided I’d once again set up the Chelegance MC-750.

There was no question which radio I’d use: it’d be the brilliant Penntek TR-35 packed-up in its new field kit!

Table Rock Fish Hatchery (K-8012)

Table Rock Fish Hatchery isn’t open on Saturdays, but that really isn’t a problem because the picnic area where I set up shop is open 24/7.

And the best part about Table Rock? The welcoming committee…

These two dogs are so incredibly sweet and always a highlight of activating Table Rock. You may have seen them in my previous field reports and videos. Continue reading New Penntek TR-35 Field Kit, Canine Welcome Party, & Brilliant 20 Meter POTA Conditions!

MINI Portable: Conrad’s POTA field report from Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:


Field Report :POTA Activation K-0228, Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, Great Meadows Unit

by Conrad (N2YCH)

January 21, 2023

Parks On the Air’s Support Your Parks weekend event for winter 2023 is the third full weekend in January and I found myself without my Jeep. I sold my ten-year-old Jeep Wrangler and my new Jeep wasn’t due to be delivered until the following week, leaving me without my “POTA activation vehicle”. I ended up borrowing my XYL’s MINI Countryman to activate K-0228, but let’s face it, a MINI is not a Jeep. It didn’t have all of my “stuff” in it. I needed to get creative about what to bring along with me that would fit easily in the MINI, yet work well enough to activate the park.

I started with my backpack kit which contains an Elecraft KX3, battery, Signalink and computer (for FT8 and logging).

It includes everything I need to transmit and it’s easy to toss in the car. I just needed to decide on what antenna to use. Since it’s winter here in Connecticut and pretty cold outside, this would be an “in-the-car” activation and without the Jeep, my antenna options were limited. I could have brought my Sotabeams Tac-Mini which could fly my PackTenna EFHW up about 20’. However, anchoring the mast would be a challenge in the cold weather. In the end, I decided to bring my Buddipole tripod and nested mast, which are compact and fit in a small bag which fit right in the passenger seat. Continue reading MINI Portable: Conrad’s POTA field report from Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge

Pairing the Penntek TR-45L and Chelegance MC-750 on a swift POTA activation

Friday, January 6, 2023, was a beautiful day and my route took me within 10 minutes of South Mountains State Park (K-2753).

Of course, I had to activate it!

In truth, I had only a short window to do the activation, but I knew it would be seriously fun.

I’d packed my Penntek TR-45L and Chelegance MC-750 for the trip and was looking forward to pairing the two.

My TR-45L actually has the built-in Z-Match manual antenna tuner, but I wanted to, once again, configure the MC-750 as a resonant antenna (much like I did in my previous activation).

I also had my new VK3IL pressure paddle along for the ride and wanted to see how nicely it might work with the TR-45L.

If I’m being honest, it was a bit strange not to use a wire antenna at this particular park because South Mountains has some very large old-growth trees that are ideal for hanging antennas.

That said, I also had my choice of spots to deploy the MC-750 vertical. Continue reading Pairing the Penntek TR-45L and Chelegance MC-750 on a swift POTA activation

Guest Post: A QRP Labs QDX POTA Field Portable Report

(Photo: QRP Labs)

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:


QRP-Labs QDX Field Report

K-1716, Silver Sands State Park, Milford, Connecticut

January 13, 2023

By: Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

A digital mode multiband transceiver for $69? Yes! QRP Labs has the QDX kit available for $69 US. Add $20 if you would like a very nice black anodized aluminum case to mount it in and if you want it assembled and tested add another $45. Visit the QRP Labs web site for all of the details (QDX 4-band 5W Digi transceiver (qrp-labs.com)

How well can a $69 digital transceiver work? Read on…

I ordered my QDX kit back in May 2022. It arrived in June, I assembled it and ran some tests at home. It worked well on FT8 into my home antennas. It interfaces nicely with WSJT-X and I liked the idea of using a low power transceiver to band hop on WSPR. My QDX is an early four band version, which does 20, 30, 40 & 80 meters. I set it to band hop on all four bands not remembering that my multiband offset center fed dipole is not resonant on 30 meters. Since the QDX does not have a tuner, it didn’t like the higher reflected power of a two minute long WSPR transmission into a bad load and smoke resulted. I was fortunate that the failure was isolated to the RF power amplifier transistors and replacing those got me running again. This was my own fault, not the transceiver. Now, it band hops on 20, 40 and 80 meters with no issues, I eliminated 30 meters from the hop schedule.

I share this important story at the beginning of my field report as a warning to anyone considering using a QDX to be very careful when connecting an antenna to it. Since the QDX does not have an internal antenna tuner, you either need a resonant antenna or must use an external tuner to provide a 50 ohm load with low SWR to the QDX. The QRP Labs groups.io site has a number of posts from users with different tuner suggestions.

Now comes the fun part. I visited Silver Sands State Park, K-1716, located on Long Island sound in Milford, CT on January 13, 2023 in the afternoon. While it was Friday the 13th, I had nothing but good luck. Knowing I would be running QRP power, I decided to use what I consider to be my best 20 meter antenna. It’s a modified version of a Buddipole, which I call my “no coil” Buddipole dipole. I use a Buddipole VersaTee mounted to a WILL-BURT Hurry Up mast, which is a push up mast that extends to about 25’ high. The dipole consists of two Buddipole 32” accessory arms, one for each side of the VersaTee and two MFJ 17’ telescoping whips, extended to just about 17.5’. This provides a very broad bandwidth and low SWR on 20 meters. See the screen shot of my antenna sweep from the RigExpert analyzer below.

Here’s a photo of the antenna in the air.

The temperature on this January day was a mild 55 degrees so I was able to set up my equipment in the back of my Jeep. Here’s everything I needed to do the activation. Since the antenna is resonant, I did not use a tuner.

My iPhone gives you an idea of just how big the QDX is, which is sitting just to the right of it. There are only three connections needed, the antenna cable, a 12V power cable and the USB cable. I was using my Bioenno 9ah battery for power. I brought the Bird Model 43 with a 25 watt element in it to monitor the output power and also to measure the reflected power, which barely even nudged the meter. It was effectively zero watts reflected. In the photo above, I was in a transmit cycle and you can see the power meter just a touch above 5 watts. On the computer, you can see a mini pile-up of six hunters in the queue. One thing to note about the QDX is that you can’t adjust the power by lowering the PWR slider in WSJT-X. It’s recommended to leave that at maximum. The way to adjust output power is to adjust the power supply voltage. In this case, the Bioenno had a full charge, so the radio was running full power.

I began the activation without spotting myself, just to see who’d hear me. Here’s a map of the pskreporter showing my spots.

I eventually spotted myself so hunters would know what park I was at. I was amazed that during my activation, I never ran dry or had to call CQ POTA, there was a steady stream of hunters the entire time. The QDX does a fine job receiving, here’s a screenshot of WSJT-X including the waterfall to show what it was receiving.

So, how did the $69 radio do? In a one hour and 17 minute activation, I completed 46 FT8 QSO’s. Here’s my coverage map.

I managed to complete three park to park QSO’s, too. One park called me and I called the other two who heard me and answered. I use JTAlert which helps me keep track of the order of who called. I always try to answer the hunters in the order they called me. I’ve set up a Directed CQ alert in JTAlert for anyone calling “CQ POTA” which helps me to see who else is at a park while I’m activating. If I’m able to contact them, I use the POTA spot list to include their park number in the SIG_INFO field of my log, which is N3FJP. N3FJP is handy to use since I start a new log for each activation and I’ve configured it to upload to LOTW and QRZ when I’m done for the day.

Another thing worth noting is that there is no speaker on the QDX. I’m one of those digital operators who actually listens to the cycles while I’m on the air. It provides a certain cadence to hear each cycle go by so you know what to be looking at or clicking on and when. With no sound coming out of the QDX, it forces you to find that cadence by looking at the computer screen. For me, it means watching the receive audio levels and the progress bar to see if I’m transmitting or receiving. The QDX does have a single red LED on the front panel that will flash during transmit cycles, which is also a helpful indicator.

I’d say the results shown here speak for themselves. I had a steady stream of hunters, I had just one or two QSO’s that needed a second RR73 to confirm and the coverage was as good as most activations I’ve done with more expensive radios and more power. Despite the self-inflicted hiccup I experienced at the beginning, I’d say that If you’re looking to try activating digital for Parks On The Air or even for your home, the QDX certainly works very well and provides a lot of value for the money.

VE6LK’s #POTAThon1231: The RAC Portable Operating Challenge

Many thanks to Vince (VE6LK) who shares the following POTA field report:


Canmore Nordic Centre VE-1167, Alberta

#POTAThon1231 – The RAC Portable Operating Challenge

by Vince (VE6LK)

It’s the final day of December 2022 and I find myself, a non-hiking non-climbing city kid, trudging around in the snow on a nature preserve not far from my home. I’m in shape -round- and it’s not helping me much. I’m not really dressed for this but I’m not far from the warmth of my truck. My goal is to do an activation and move on, for I’m in the middle of the final day this month of a set of #POTAThons and I still have one more park to get to.

#POTAThon is what I call it when I plan on getting to more than one park in a day. Usually these things aren’t thought of for weeks in advance, they are more like a “tomorrow morning” kind of thing. Opportunistic, if you will. Please feel free to adopt the hashtag on social media as it is free from all royalties and encumbrances.

VE-3477, British Columbia

But, before I tell you the story of how I happened to be trudging through the snow, let me tell you that someone said something to me that set me off on the journey that had me trudging through snow on that day and hefting a wire into a tree.

Revelstoke National Park VE-0061, British Columbia

I do public service events throughout the year, and in December I travelled from my home in Alberta one province westwards to Kelowna B.C. to the Big White Winter Rally. RallySport is fun to get involved with as a ham radio operator, and is especially trying -for all the right reasons, as you’ll see in this clip from 2015– in Net Control where we run logistics for the event. You’ll be able to read that story in the March-April edition of The Canadian Amateur magazine.

In Net Control, set up and ready to run the race. 6 people will be in here. (Click to enlarge)

Anyway, I’m to the point in my life where a long one day drive is no longer enjoyable, thus along the way to BWWR, I planned to activate parks and take two days to make the trip each way. A week off to play radio sounds like a great vacation to me at any time! Thus, the plan was struck to do this and have fun. This means that multiple #POTAThons would be required! Continue reading VE6LK’s #POTAThon1231: The RAC Portable Operating Challenge

Pairing the Penntek TR-45L and PackTenna 20M EFHW for a Quickie POTA Activation

We need to do a little time-travel in this short field report…

In 2022, I accumulated so many activation videos that I have a small backlog and some that got lost in the shuffle. The following activation report is one that I meant to post in November, but it got lost in the shuffle.

So let’s time-travel…

On October 20, 2022, I pulled into Tuttle Educational State Forest to enjoy quick a POTA activation with my Penntek TR-45L.

I remember now that I wanted to hold off publishing this video until John (WA3RNC) at Penntek had time to ship the bulk of the radios from his first production run of fifty units. Demand has been very high for this sweet rig and for good reason: it performs brilliantly, is fun to use, sports amazing audio, and (with its Apolloesque design) strikes the right nostalgia chord for many of us.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

I had a very short window to do this activation–a maximum of 45 minutes or so.  You see, I still had a good 1.5 hour drive back to the QTH and needed to pop by the post office to pick up parcels before they closed at 17:00 local.

I had planned to pair the TR-45L with my PackTenna random wire antenna and use the 45L’s Z-Match tuner, but I discovered I’d packed the PackTenna 20M EFHW instead.

No problem there as the PackTenna 20M EFHW is very efficient and (of course) resonant on 20 meters, so I needed to make sure the TR-45L’s ATU was bypassed before hopping on the air! Continue reading Pairing the Penntek TR-45L and PackTenna 20M EFHW for a Quickie POTA Activation

Conrad packs the Elecraft KX3 and AX1 for a New York City POTA Rove

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:


New York City Park Rove, December 30, 2022

Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

After being bitten by the Parks On The Air (POTA) bug, I became an activator in early 2022. I was hooked. Digital, and specifically FT8 & FT4, is the mode I prefer. A lot of experimentation ensued until I was able to refine my POTA setup to an Icom IC-7300 powered by a Bioenno 20ah battery mounted in a four rack unit Gator case and a Buddipole dipole antenna on a push up mast.

As a radio broadcast engineer by trade, I was very focused on maximizing performance and coverage and after much refinement and trying different things, I feel like my POTA kit performs well. I’ve made contacts as far away as Indonesia, Japan and Israel using the POTA setup in a park… so mission accomplished.


The POTA kit above is not something I can easily take with me on a business trip however, especially by air, so I turned my sites to a Xiegu G90 and various end fed half wave antennas and fiberglass masts and more Buddipole parts to pack into my carry-on luggage. Now I could activate parks wherever I could fly to and I’ve completed successful activations in Wisconsin and Georgia.

Still, I needed to pack a second bag and check the luggage to do these trips. What I really wanted was something I could carry on the plane with me.

I knew I had to change my point of view on what I could achieve using a portable kit. A small radio and antenna wasn’t going to get me contacts in Indonesia, but I could transmit far enough to have someone hear me and get my ten contacts to activate a park. Researching my options online constantly brought me to videos and blog posts here on QRPer.com. Thomas loves his Elecraft KX2 and in a few field report videos he demonstrates an Elecraft AX1 antenna connected directly to the radio for some fast CW POTA activations. This setup was appealing because of the size and he always has a successful activation.

I researched the Elecraft options and the KX3 seemed like the right radio for my digital activations. It has a DATA mode, it can run split operation, it’s got a wideband filter setting and while Elecraft only recommends 5 watts for data modes, it can do up to 10 watts. I managed to find and purchase one gently used on eBay.

I installed the Pro Audio Engineering Kx32 aftermarket heat sink to be sure I protected the final output transistors from overheating and use a Signalink model USB SLUSBKX3 as a sound card interface to the computer. The Signalink can key the radio using the audio keying feature, but I chose to use the Elecraft KXUSB cable to use CAT control and let WSJT-X key it instead. It also allows WSJT-X to read and control the radio’s frequency for easy band changes. I have a Bioenno BLF-1209A 9Ah battery to run it rather than use the internal batteries and I haven’t come close to running the battery out on an activation yet.

Then I bought the Elecraft AX1 antenna with the 40 meter AXE1 optional antenna extender and the AXT1 tripod adapter. It is tiny. There’s really no other way to describe it. It’s a little, baby antenna. Fully extended, it is about four feet tall. I was highly skeptical of how this might perform given its size. I’m using a 25’ Buddipole RG-58 A/U 50 ohm MILSPEC-17 cable terminated to BNC connectors to get the antenna away from my computer because I’ve found that RF and USB do not play well together. I typically try to get the antenna situated in a nearby spot, with a little distance between it and the computer. I bought the Maxpedition Fatty Pocket Organizer Thomas suggested on QRPer.com and a little Amazon Basics Lightweight Mini Tripod.

The AX1, the adapter and tripod all fit in the organizer with room to spare and it fits into a backpack with the radio, battery, cables and my Lenovo Thinkpad 3 laptop. I’m also able to fit in the the Bioenno battery and laptop chargers. At the urging of my XYL, I also have a printed copy of my license in the backpack, too. I haven’t had to show it to anyone yet, but I’m ready, just in case. The backpack is a Mindshift model 18L, designed for photographers, but is easily adapted to contain all of the components I need for a portable activation. Here’s a photo…

So now I’ve got a completely self contained POTA kit in a backpack that can be carried aboard a plane. Continue reading Conrad packs the Elecraft KX3 and AX1 for a New York City POTA Rove