MAINE SECTION - Amateur Radio Relay League
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Worked All Maine Award
Take It To The Field
by Jeff Hanscom KA1DBE, Assistant Section Manager, Maine
Greetings all. I am Jeff, KA1DBE, and these are some of my experiences with HF portable operation. I am no expert and do not pretend to be but hopefully some of you may learn from my mistakes.
Like many other hams, I tend to mix ham radio into all my other hobbies. From camping to hiking to a day at the beach, I usually have a radio within arms reach. It wasn’t until I read an article on the SOTA (Summits on the air) and the NPOTA (National Parks on the air) that I really started to venture out and planned hiking trips specifically for NPOTA and SOTA.
My First SOTA adventure was on the top of Beech Mountain on Mount Desert Island. My gear list was very minimal and I was really surprised that I made enough contacts to qualify for an Activation. It wasn’t without obstacles. My First obstacle was getting my end fed antenna up into the minimal trees. I eventually tied a rock to the line on the end and heaved it up. Problem one solved. When I unpack the rest of my gear, my paddles had gotten broken on the way up. With no other paddles or keys, I took both paddles off and used it without. Not comfortable but workable. Problem 2 solved. Carefully pick a spot to sit. I just happened to sit on top of a black ant nest. I was mid QSO when I realized that I had ants crawling all over me. I managed to finish but it was not easy! A lot of lessons learned on this outing! My future outings were a lot less painful.
Inventory your gear before you head out. I was going to work some portable satellite operations from Luray Caverns and I was kept off the air by a PL-259 to BNC adapter! Now I always set everything up and that put it in my pack. Be mindful of where you are going and what you are taking. It is nice to have all the wingdings and wiffer dills but everything has weight! I learned this lesson hiking up St. Sauveur Mountain with 35 pounds of gear on my back. I have pared down a lot of the equipment that I carry.
You are in the log! For logging I just use simple pen and paper. I transfer everything when I get back to the home QTH. I have tried laptops, tablets, and cell phones. I find it very cumbersome. Especially when you have a good run going.
Pick your mode. I personally use CW for just about every adventure. Most of the time I have a QRP radio and CW works well at that power level. I have watched a friend of mine operate FT8 in the field with a tablet and an IC-705. It looks viable and auto logs.
Another advantage of CW is that you can eat your lunch while working the QSO!
I hope my mistakes were helpful and Look forward to seeing you down the log!
73 de KA1DBE