Field Report July 2021

The family vacation in July provided the opportunity for some portable QRP field operation. This outing made for a lot of “firsts.”

First time getting on HF in many years. First CW qso in even more years. First time putting my FT-818 on the air. First time participating in POTA and SOTA.

Originally I had hoped to activate Calaveras Big Trees State Park K-1134 for POTA. But with all the other firsts going on and the effort invested in learning how to setup and operate the portable station, tearing it all down to setup it up again with less supporting infrastructure was more than I was in the mood for. So I just left the EFHW where it was, strung up between the deck and the trees and was content to operate from the comfort of the cabin.

Overall I made five QSOs, which may not sound like much, but I consider it an unqualified success, given I haven’t even been active on HF for ages.

Here is the log:

  • W7ZDX 20m CW First CW qso in many years, I was a little rusty.
  • KG6AUU 20m CW First SOTA as a hunter W7U/NU-026
  • NK8O 30m CW POTA K-2340 but not sure if I got my call sign through. POTA is not confirmed.
  • KW5CW 20m CW POTA K-2991 first confirm POTA as a hunter.
  • K1SWL 20m CW POTA K-5536 best DX, CA to VT on 5 watts. Radio is like magic!

The highlight for me was working Dave Benson K1SWL on 5W CW. If only I had been running a Small Wonder Labs rig! It’s okay, it was thrill even as an “appliance operator.”

Lessons learned:

  1. Using a 16 oz. throwing weight to get a line into a tree is harder than it looks. Consider a lighter weight (or do some pushups).
  2. A narrow CW filter is a must. I love the FT-818 sofar, but there were times when I really could have used the narrow filter option. I imagine it would be hard to be an activator on CW without a narrow filter.
  3. I can see where a memory keyer would be great help when making a lot of calls.
  4. It takes more than watching all the YouTube videos to get to know your portable equipment and kit. You really need to spend time actually doing it.
  5. Need to improve the EFHW antenna system. Cut it for resonance and put the matching transformer in some enclosure so it’s not just flopping around. Turns out I needed to use a tuner to get the SWR down, even though I “tuned” the antenna system with a NanoVNA prior to deployment in the field.
  6. Don’t worry about not being incredible at CW. If you know the alphabet, just get in there and do it, even if it’s happening way faster than you can copy. It’ll be fine. I think most ops actually want to work you and they are patient with those whose skills are developing.


While I’ve been licensed since 1986, I owe thanks to Thomas Witherspoon K4SWL for the inspiration to jump back into HF ham radio. Thomas’ YouTube channel content offers a lot of motivation, encouragement, and practical advice on portable ops and making it fun.

July 21, 2021 4:25 pm

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