This past Saturday (05-07) was the Georgia POTA Meetup. It was held at Don Carter State Park (K-2171). The park is about a 2 hour drive so I decided to take my new teardrop camper out on its inaugural run. I drove up on Friday. One of the reason for purchasing the camper was to extend my POTA activation range. The camper is made by NuCamp and so far I am pretty impressed with it. It pulls well behind my pickup truck and I only lose about 1/2 mile a gallon for gas. Set up was easy. Since I didn’t disconnect the trailer from the truck, I was set up and good to go in about 15 minutes. Here is a shot of the camper set up.
The camper next door told me some strong winds and possibly a storm were coming so I added some additional guying to the awning. There were no problems.
Friday was a rather chilly day and because of the winds I did not set out my folding chairs and table until Saturday. I brought two radios and a couple of antennas with me. Traveling QRP doesn’t take up a lot of space even if you bring a couple of each. I wasn’t sure I was going to make enough contacts on Friday since I started late but I gave it a go anyhow. The first radio up was my Xeigu X6100 and I hooked it up to Chameleon Micro on a spike with a Buddipole 12 foot fiberglass antenna and two aluminum extensions. I also ran a counterpoise. I was only able to make 5 contacts Friday evening, furthest being Colorado. Band conditions were not that good from this location. The Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) didn’t even pick me up. I did start outside.
I worked this way for a little while until the temperature dropped and I started seeing chiggers on the table. I move the operation inside. I wanted to see how well I could operate from inside the camper.
The answer was quite well. I bought a lap desk for this purpose and I was quite comfortable. For logging, I used the Hamrs App on my phone. This was the first time I did logging solely from my phone. Band conditions were still not very good, so I spent most of the time hunting P2P. It was fun, doing a search and pounce while operating CW QRPish (10 watts).
How does the X6100 play? First let me describe the environment. I was in a a RV camping area that was mostly full. There were a lot of big trailers loaded with all sorts of electronic devices, switching power supplies, and whatnot. I was also down in an RF “hole”. The X6100 is fun to use and the display is top notch. Most of the controls are fairly intuitive. I had no problems operating CW and did use the memories. It does have its nits. As others have said, the receiver does overload rather easily, and while I can still work stations, I felt I may have missed some because of the added noise. Along with that, the audio is also rather harsh. While at a park, I often wear ear buds to be respectful of my neighbors. The audio can become tiresome. Adjusting the RF Gain helps. The last real nit was the Digital Noise Reduction. It needs work. Turning it on even at the lowest setting is way too much. Hopefully they will fix this in future firmware updates. The digital filters on the other hand are very good, almost on par with Icom. I did run the radio with a Bioenno 3AH battery so I could have 10 watts. There is a lot to like about this radio. You get a lot of goodness for the money, and Xeigu so far has been good about updating the firmware. When I use this radio again, it will be in quieter RF environments. such as, less popular parks, National Forests, Wildlife management Area, and SOTA. It really is a fun radio to use.
Saturday morning, I walked over to the GA POTA meeting up. It was about a mile and gave me the opportunity to get a little exercise in. There were about about 20 or so people there and they had a couple of stations set up. They also had the special event callsign W4P. It was good to meet fellow POTA operators and have a chance to chat with them. They served hamburgers and hotdogs along with chips, soda and condiments. After a few hours of chatting and a couple of hamburgers, I decided to head back to the camper and see if I could complete my activation for the day.
When I got back I broke out the X6100 again and used it for a while. Not having a lot of luck, I switched over to my IC-705. Yes it is a much better radio and it is more refined, and it does cost twice as much. The X6100 is an excellent value at its price point. I set the 705 up with the AH-705 tuner. I really like the AH-705, as is very versatile, much like its big brother, the AH-4.
One nice thing about the Icom, is it works just like my other Icom radios. Easy to remember. The paddles du jour are my N0SA SOTA paddles. They are one of my favorites. With the better receiver and audio on the Icom, I made a few more contacts, but still not what I was expecting. QRP antennas can be light and small so it is nothing to bring a few along. I decided to swap out antennas. I took down my Chameleon/Buddipole antenna and put up my K4SWL 28 foot vertical with counterpoise. It is a homebrew antenna, but I got the idea from Thomas Witherspoon K4SWL. After putting this antenna up, I continued to slowly add contacts to my log. My method was simple. If I could hear them fairly well, I figured they could hear me, so I tried to work them. There were plenty of stations on the POTA spot page that I did not hear at all. By the end of the day, got enough contacts for an activation on Saturday. Here is a map:
Wrapping up and lessons learned. First, I had a lot of fun both at the meetup and at the campsite. I enjoyed taking up my camper for its first go. Everything worked except for the heater. I may have to bring it back to the dealer, but I had plenty of blankets. I am already planning a trip for next month.
Radios. If I am going to do a drive up POTA activation, my first choice will be the IC-705/AH-705. I like the X6100, its fun to use, and I imagine as time goes on it will get better. The X6100 will do well in quieter RF environments. I haven’t given up on it yet as I think there is still a lot of potential there.
Antennas. I had a surprise here. When weight is not a problem, I bring my my Frankentenna which is a mixture of Chameleon and Buddipole parts. On Saturday, when I switched from my Frankentenna to my K4SWL Random Wire antenna, it was on par and maybe even a little better than the former. The idea of carrying less on an activation has endeared itself to me. I can fit everything I need in a small 8 Liter Bucket Boss Bag https://tinyurl.com/3mwbk95r.
The important part is to get out and have fun. So pack those radios up, 10 watts or 100 watts SSB or CW, drive or walk, around the corner or around the world. I hope to work you and if I have, thanks for the contact. de KK4Z