POTA Activation K-2939 Cumberland Mountain State Park

I try to get out camping about once a month. It’s good for the soul. While out I am often activating the park. Also fun and relaxing. I book my campsites 3-4 months in advance to ensure I have a place to go. Campgrounds in the southeast fill up fast. This trip was up into Tennessee to the Cumberland Mountain State Park. It was a lovely 4-hour trip with only 44 miles being on an Interstate Highway. The park is located in the Cumberland Plateau Region of Tennessee and my drive included driving through Sequatchie Valley. The valley is rather narrow and you can see the walls of the valley on both sides. I couldn’t ask for better weather. Highs in the 70’s and lows in the ’50s. After a hot summer, it’s was a welcome relief.

The campsite was cozy. This park had a higher density than I normally like, but there was lots of foliage and greenery around to set my karma right.

Band conditions were not that good and I operated FT8 on this trip. I am working on my N1CC award which is working 10 different bands from 10 different parks. Because the park was so far away (200 miles) with gas prices what they are, I wanted a one-and-done which is why I stuck to FT8. My setup was what I have been using on the past couple of trips.

The radio was my IC-7300 and the tuner was an old LDG Z-11 Pro. Since I had shore power, I used a Powerwerx Switching power supply. The computer is a Lenovo Thinkpad T14 which I bought refurbished from Lenovo. It’s a really nice computer. The mouse is a Logitech Pebble which is Bluetooth. For FT8 I also use a GPS dongle to keep the clocks on my computer and radio synced. On FT8 the further you drift from the actual time, the probability to connect to another station goes down. Even at home I sync my computer every day that I use FT8. I also keep a flash drive plugged into the computer. I use ACLog and I have it set up that it makes a backup copy to the flash drive every time the program shuts down.

The antenna is my homebrew random wire. It’s a 29-foot wire setup as a vertical using an MFJ-1910 pushup pole attached to my truck’s trailer hitch. I use one 17-foot counterpoise with a homemade 9:1 UnUn and a 1:1 current balun for a choke. I highly recommend a choke on any portable operation. Keeping RF at the antenna prevents all sorts of things on the radio. I really like this antenna. It has become my go-to antenna. I have probably made over 1,000 contacts with it from all over the world. Since there are no holes in the ground or wires in the trees, the park staff remains happy. On this trip, my campsite was next to the campground host. I can’t say enough about the antenna, it just works, it goes up and down in a couple of minutes, and didn’t cost that much to make. You do need a good tuner though. With this antenna I managed to get my 10 bands. 6-meters was dead the whole weekend so I had to to the other end — 160 meters. On digital modes, my antenna can tolerate about 65 watts max before toroids get saturated. On 160, it’s more like 35 watts. 160 was looking a little sketchy, however, I managed 2 contacts, here is one. I have used this antenna from 6-160 meters.

The IC-7300 has become one of my favorite field radios. Compact, lightweight, and full of features. It has never let me down. I bought mine back in 2017. The only protection I use on it is a set of Portable Zero rails. When I transport it, it rides in a Dewalt Tough System box with no additional padding. Every time I pull it out and plug it in, it works. I have had other brands of radios, but I always seem to head back to Icom at least for HF.

I operated from Friday afternoon until Saturday night. I made 350 QSO’s from 43 States and 18 countries. I worked them from 10 meters to 160 meters. It was a blast. I now have 8 parks with 10 different bands. I have one with 9 and one with 7. I should be able to wrap those up in the next couple of weeks. Then I think I’ll go back to low power (less than 10 watts) and get my CW mojo back in order. See you out there — Scott

Bicycle Mobile

For the past 7 months, I have been walking to improve my health. Recently, I bought a bike to change up the routine a little. I think it would be fun to ride while I am camping and the times when I am not at the highest point in the park, I could ride my bike there. When I bought the bike I had them put on a rack. This left a very nice mounting tab for the antennas.

I had some angle aluminum from a prior project so that is where I started. I cut the aluminum to match the width of the rack and then started shaping it. I only had hand tools and there was a lot of filing involved.

The hole on the left is for a SO-239 mount and the one on the right is for a 3/8-24 bolt. The SO-239 is attached to some thin coax probably RG-174 and terminated in a female SMA connector. Perfect for an HT. To get the wide radius I cut in the metal with a Dremel tool.

This is where the hand filing came in. After the filing came sanding the old finish off and applying coats of primer, flat black paint, and a clear coat. Installed on the bike it looks like this with a Diamond NR-770HA dual band antenna.

Out by me, the repeaters are VHF, I tuned it for that band. I ended up with this.

With an HT on the other end, I was able to hit repeaters 10 miles away while under my carport. I called it good.

I also wanted to work HF using my bike as a stand. I won’t ride with the HF antenna installed but rather set it up when I stop. I mounted a 3/8-24 coupler to the antenna mount and wanted to use my Buddipole 12′ fiberglass antenna. I tried several different combinations and the one that worked best was using my Chameleon Micro Hybrid transformer with one counterpoise.

SWR on 6 meters through 40 was acceptable and can easily be handled by a tuner.

I didn’t try HF on the bike but I have used the configuration before. It’s part of my Frankentenna system. The only thing left I have to add is a handi-talkie mount which I will probably order today.

There you have it. A fun little project that will add to the adventure of ham radio. I hope this may spur some of you to try a few projects of your own. Most of these projects I do are with hand tools. I do have a cheap drill press that only seems to be a little better than a hand drill. Get out there and do it. 73 — Scott

POTA Activation K-2174 Florence Marina State Park

Wow! What a weekend. 438 QSO’s successfully uploaded to POTA. What a blast it was. I had a great time, got little sleep, and tried some new gear. Thanks to all who worked me and thank you for your patience as I worked through some of the pileups. Mode this weekend was FT8. I was going to try some CW but FT8 was running non-stop. Much of the time my WSJT software looked like this.

I was QRV from Friday 1800 hrs Zulu until Sunday 0500 hrs Zulu. Band conditions were good. I didn’t see as much DX as I have in the past, but I still managed to work quite a few. This time I got about 98% of my contacts by activating, that is calling CQ. I did hunt a few, mainly P2P and a few call signs that interested me. So, you don’t have to hunt to get the Q’s. The secret is picking a frequency and holding it. There were times I held a frequency for hours.

GEAR
For this trip and the past few, I have been bringing my IC-7300. I am trying to complete my N1CC award and having a few extra ponies under the hood helps. There has been some discussion about packing radios. I put mine in a box with the rest of my stuff. I do have Portable Zero Escort side rails, but that’s about it https://tinyurl.com/45dcupe5. They keep the knobs away from the box sidewalls.

Shack setup is pretty straightforward.

I can be QRV within 30 minutes from the time I pull into the site. The computer is a Microsoft Surface Go2. I use a USB hub to attach everything to it but if to jiggle it even slightly, it drives WSJT software bonkers. I may look to replace it. The tuner is my old LDG Z-11 Pro which I have had for over 15 years. It takes a lickin’… For coax, I run RG-316. I don’t see the need to use anything bigger. After this trip, I am redoing my radio box. After every trip, I do a mental after-action report. This time I decided I am bringing too much stuff.

What is new? This time I brought the KK4Z enhanced random wire antenna. This is a 29.5′ random wire antenna with a 17′ counterpoise. Same old, same old. What is new, is I added a 9:1 UnUn rated at 250 watts PEP and a choke balun.

I use my truck hitch and an MFJ-1910 – 33′ pole to get it up in the air. No holes in the ground, no rope in the trees.

This was a pretty exposed campsite. I had Park Rangers and Camp Hosts drive by all day long. All they would do is wave at me. The other secret is don’t make excessive noise. With FT8 I keep the volume turned way down and with CW I use Skull Candy Ear Buds https://tinyurl.com/2p89mz8u. The benefit of this antenna setup is the amount of power I can use. With my Chameleon transformers, I am lucky to run 35 watts and only 6-80 meters. With my antenna, I can run up to 65 watts without anything getting warm on 6-80 meters. On 160 meters, I have to reduce the power down to 25-35 watts. A larger choke balun may solve that problem. This past weekend I was running 50-65 watt range just to see and I had no problems. This antenna will become part of the Frankentenna system. So I guess I have a new favorite antenna. It gets the job done (see map above) and it keeps the campground staff happy. One of the real benefits is how little space it takes up and its low visual profile. If I am beyond the eyes of those who care, I can easily sling it up into a tree.

I do have a short video about the activation on YouTube.

Lightweight Choke Balun

I like to use random wire antennas. My favorite is a 29.5′ antenna with a 17′ counterpoise. I usually use a 5:1 (Chameleon) or a 9:1 (homemade UnUn with it. I have noticed with either combination, some stray RF finds its way back to the radio and me. To combat this, I have a Chameleon Choke balun which is nice but it is rather clunky and uses RG-8X coax. There are times when I am operating QRP, I use RG-316. So I decided to see if I could make a Choke balun using RG-316.

For a toroid, I found a FT114-31 from KF7P Metalwerks. These are rather small.

The toroid I believe cost about 3 bucks plus shipping. I had a 3′ RG-316 jumper with BNC connectors on each end. With a little bit of fiddling, I got 6 turns through the toroid without having to cut a connector. The next step was to straighten out the turns and set them in hot glue. I also applied a ty-wrap at turns 1 and 6.

Hot glue is never an easy medium; this time I managed to keep it off of me. Even though it is messy looking the turns are secure. Toroids are generally brittle and can easily break. I am not always gentle with my gear so I decided to first wrap the toroid in coax seal or “elephant snot”. This will seal out the weather and provide a little bit of a cushion. After putting it on I molded it to the toroid.

Because this stuff is very sticky, I then wrapped it in Scotch 88 electrical tape.

The whole thing weighs in at 3 ounces and should handle somewhere up to 70 watts. It ain’t pretty, but I have less than 10 bucks rolled into it. I will be taking it out this weekend to a park to try it out. I to hear you out there. 73’s Scott

UPDATE 08/16/2022

Today I managed to get into town and buy some wire for my choke project. While there, I bought some heat shrink tubing for my first project. The heat shrink cost more than the little box I had for my second choke. Here is the revised choke with the new heat shrink along with the new choke.

The new choke is made with 16 ga wire, I could’ve and probably should’ve used 18 ga. The toroid is a FT114-31 and it is wrapped 6 turns. the toroid is secured to the bottom of the box with hot glue. Here is a picture before I put the lid on.

Here is the final product.

The box weighs about half an once more than the coax choke. Of the two, I prefer the box, mainly because the toroid is wrapped with primary wire and not coax. It’s a little easier to wrap and looks neater. More than likely, both will perform about the same. For my next outing, I will have an antenna totally made by me. 73 de Scott

POTA Activation Cheaha State Park Support your Parks Weekend

Cheaha State Park (K-1037) is one of my favorite parks and it is also the closest. It will probably be my first Kilo Award. The summer POTA Support your Parks Weekend fell on July 16 and 17 (Zulu). I got to the Park Friday morning to work a guy on 2 meters who was about 60 miles away. I did this as a part of N1CC award. I needed 2 more bands for this park. I stayed all day Friday and packed it in mid-morning Saturday. The whole activation was done using FT8 with a new app for my iPad.

GEAR
I brought a lot of gear with me mainly to try to accommodate the 2 meter sked and to try to have an antenna or two for 6 meters. Six meters turned out to be a bust this weekend. The radio was the IC-705. Normally my radio gear goes in a box like this along with a few antenna bits and a tablet/iPad.

The antenna was my K4SWL antenna was is a 29.5′ random wire antenna with a 17′ counterpoise. The antenna was matched with the Icom AH-705 tuner which did an excellent job.

The antenna was held up with a MFJ-1910 33′ push-up pole. The pole was attached to the truck with a Flagpole holder and hitch extender so I could flip the tailgate down. The campsite was a group camp and while it had spectacular views it also had little shade. This was a primitive campsite, so I could not bring my camper with me. Since this was a one nighter, I decided to sleep in the truck bed. It would be a little cozy, but doable. In the end I stayed up all night anyhow. The shack looked like this.

I had plenty of batteries with me as this site does not have electricity. I discovered that my Bioenno Power BPP-160 power pack could run things for a long time. I also brought my Bioenno 40 watt foldable solar panel to help keep the power pack charged up. Next time I won’t bring near as many batteries. The fan you see is USB powered.

All in all, the station performed very well. I made 250 contacts all FT8 from all over the world. I even managed to get Alaska and Hawaii during the activation. Ten watts and a wire.

Glitches
One of the things about getting out with your radios, is you actually see how they work in the field and then you can improve your setup. Apart from bringing too much stuff, I only had a couple of glitches. I’ll do the easy on first.

This is the first time I left my push-up in the flag holder for any length of time. I had some mild wind there and it caused the pole to rattle around some. Rubbing against the flag holder, scored the bottom tube a little.

The cure was simple. When I got home, an application of some Gorilla Tape, should take care of things.

The second glitch was the app I used on my iPad. It’s called SDR Control for Icom. It’s a really sweet app with a lot to like about it. Here are a couple of screenshots.

The interface was easy to use. I did not use a keyboard or a mouse with this. I did put the app through he wringer. I used it straight for almost 24 hours. I like using my iPad because I can power it from the same batteries as my radios — no AC adapters. I also liked being able to hold it in my hand to use it. The app does have a few short comings; enough to put it aside and allow the developer to iron out a few bugs. I spoke at length about these on my YouTube channel, so for here, I’ll give a summary:
1) The app randomly disconnects from the radio or completely shuts down. Restart/reconnect often take multiple tries and all data in the FT8 window is lost.
2) During FT8, the app will pause while another station contacts the DX. The app waits until it hears a CQ before it will transmit. The DX will often work several other stations without calling CQ. This allow other stations to “jump the line”.
3) The app will auto-log after both stations give a “73”. However, if another station call you prior to the “73”, the app will jump to the new station and the old station will not get logged. need to set the auto log to maybe RR73.
4) The logbook needs at least one user defined field that can be sticky. In POTA we use the ADIF field my_sig_info, to log which park we are at. RumLog has this feature.

It was a fun activation and I enjoyed pulling an all nighter; something I haven’t done in a long time. I didn’t plan on it but the DX stations kept rolling in. Until next time 73 –Scott

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

The Marines got this right. When planning for a POTA/SOTA trip. It pays to plan for contingencies. I am not talking about going overboard with this. You should still try to carry only what you need. This past weekend I did a POTA camp-out at Ft. Mountain State Park in northwestern Georgia. I usually reserve campsites several months in advance, so everything may not be perfect by trip time. Part of my planning was considering band conditions. The week prior, propagation was unstable. In addition, I was not sure about the geography of the campsite. My planning was to bring two radios; my IC-7300 (QRO) and my IC-705 (QRP). I brought my Frankentenna with an extra EmComm II transformer to handle more power.

The planning paid off. My campsite was down in a hole and the bands were not good. The site was great for camping and only so-so for radio.

One of the POTA awards I am working on is the N1CC award which is operating on ten different bands at 10 different parks. I needed 2 more bands at this park to check this park off. I chose to use the IC-7300 for more power. Since I had shore power available, I wasn’t worried about running out of juice. Station setup looked like this.

Band conditions were less than optimal, so for this trip I decided to use FT8. There were times when the waterfall on the 7300 went completely black, even on the FT8 frequency. Normally I run about 25 watts, but this time I had to go as high as 50 watts. QRP would have been a tough row to hoe. The antenna was my Frankentenna and I ran the Chameleon EmComm II transformer instead of the Hybrid Micro so I could run a little more power.

I operated from Friday afternoon until somewhere around 0100 hrs Lcl, with a couple hour break due to a thunderstorm. The next day was beautiful, much cooler than the day before when we were under a heat advisory. I operated most of Saturday until early evening when I pulled the plug with another round of thunderstorms inbound.

I made 161 Q’s including DX from Alaska and South America.

I was trying for 200 Q’s, However, the propagation Gods were not with me, but I was satisfied with the results. I have a couple of YouTube videos.

I am former US Army, so a tip of my hat to all those who serve(d). God Bless, God Speed, and 73 de Scott KK4Z

A Little More UnUn fun

This past week I wound a few more toroids using a 77 mix. The toroids are 0.5″ in diameter and wound with 22 awg insulated magnet wire. I wound one with a single core and one with a dual core. My goal was to try to get a little better low band performance. I get a kick out making a few contacts on 60-80-160 meters. The finished UnUns are 9:1.

We’ve been going through a heat wave this week with a heat advisory every day. I got up early and tried a couple different antennas. Using antenna wire from my Frankentenna, I built an end fed with a 65′ antenna and a 65′ counterpoise. I also tried the 65″ antenna with a 17′ counterpoise. The set up looked like this.

For this antenna, the best combination was a 65′ antenna wire, a 17′ counterpoise and the single core 77 mix 9:1 UnUn. I got the following readings from my Rig Expert Prostick with 6′ of RG316. As a control I also tested my Sparkplug transformer.
Band SWR (17′)—–SWR (65′)——Sparkplug 65′
160 – 2.4 ———— 4.2 ————– 5.6
80 – 5.4 ———— 1.1 ————–8.3
60 – 1.7 ———— 2.3 ————– 12
40 – 2.9 ———— 3.5 ————– 1.7
30 – 6.9 ———– 4.5 ————– 16
20 – 3.8 ———– 4.0 ————— 1.5
17 – 5.2 ———– 5.7 ————— 9.7
15 – 4.1 ———– 4.3 ————— 1.1
12 – 6.2 ———– 6.9 ————— 10
10 – 4.5 ———– 4.6 ————— 2.6
6 – 5.9 ———– 5.8 —————-14
Fiddling with the counterpoise length could make things a little better, but overall the SWR’s are low enough to match with a good tuner. I realize that running a short feed line would affect the Sparkplug so in another test I added a counterpoise and it did bring down the SWR on some bands. However, to me the winner is still the single core 77 mix 9:1 UnUn.

Another antenna that I like is a random wire antenna I call the K4SWL antenna https://kk4z.com/2022/06/05/k4swl-antenna-plus/. I call it that because it was Tom K4SWL who I got the basic design form. It’s a 29.5′ antenna with a 17′ counterpoise. I built an UnUn based upon a QRP Guys design but wanted to try to get a little better performance on the lower bands. In this case I used a two core 77 mix 9:1 UnUn and got the following results.
Band – SWR
160 —- 2.0
80 —- 1.7
60 —- 1.5
40 —- 1.5
30 — 1.5
20 — 1.4
17 — 1.3
15 —- 1.3
12 —– 1.2
10 —– 1.2
6 —— 1.2
Realize that this is a small antenna and will not be as efficient as a full half wave dipole (on 160 meters, that is 270′). However, it would be fun to see if you can make a contact on 160 or 80 meters in a park with a small antenna. So get out there and play radio! 73 Scott

Frankentenna

I have been playing with portable antennas for years. When operating portable, the antenna probably has the biggest effect on how well you portable station works. I have quite a few portable antennas. Some are specialty antennas and some are my “go to” antennas. When operating at a park for Parks on the Air (POTA). My Frankentenna is my go to. It has evolved over the years, but now I mostly tweak to get it how I like it. Here is the antenna and its parts:

What makes it a Frankentenna is it uses parts from different companies, mainly from Buddipole and Chameleon. Here is a list of the components and links to their websites:
(1) Buddipole 7 section Lightweight Shock Corded Whip Antenna https://www.buddipole.com/mistshwh.html
(3) Buddipole 22″ accessory antenna arms. I am swapping out the blue arms for black ones to better reduce the visibility of the antenna (out of sight, out of mind) https://www.buddipole.com/exanar.html
(1) Chameleon CHA Spike Mount – https://chameleonantenna.com/shop-here/ols/products/cha-spike-mount
(1) Chameleon CHA Hybrid Micro https://chameleonantenna.com/shop-here/ols/products/cha-hybrid-micro
92) Buddipole Wire Assembly Low Band (66′) https://www.buddipole.com/wireassembly.html

This is the basic kit. With it I can make a vertical antenna, and endfed with a counterpoise, and even a dipole. The kit is pretty lightweight and easily fits into a standard Buddipole bag. While at park campgrounds, I usually run it as a vertical. I keep an arborist throw line and weight in with my station equipment. I have some tweaks and mods I have done. Two that you see here are the phenolic insulator and a mod to the spike.

The spike mod is an improvement on the current ground screw. It was a red plastic knob with about an 8-32 screw thread.

I felt it was too small since most counterpoises have either 1/4″ OR 3/8″ eye on the end. I carefully drilled out the hole and tapped it for 1/4″-20 thread.

This now allows me to use a Buddipole Counterpoise Wire Adapter https://www.buddipole.com/noname2.html which is 1/4-20 on one end and 3/8-24 on the other. It gives a more secure connection between the spike and the counterpoise. These are the same adapters that come with the Buddipole Wire Assembly and you can buy them separately https://www.buddipole.com/noname2.html. finished, it looks like this.

One of the things I didn’t like about the Chameleon Micro was the shackle it comes with. The shackle is used to support the transformer when it is used as an end fed or a dipole since it is too heavy to be supported by the antenna wires. It was always kind of hincky getting the shackle setup right. Now I use the Buddipole Counterpoise Wire Adapters. So much easier and so much lighter.

The other mod is a phenolic (micarta) insulator. This allows me to use the vertical with something other than the Chameleon transformer. An example might be one of my homebrew 9:1 UnUn or a Buddipole coil. The insulator is threaded on one end and has an insert on the other, both 3/8-24.

How does it play? Quite Well. I tested 2 configurations I would most likely use during a POTA activation. The first is a 54′ end fed with a 50’ish counterpoise using the Chameleon Micro. Using my RigExpert Stick Pro I got the following. Format is Band — SWR
160m — 5.7
80m — 3.2
60m — 3.5
40m — 4.1
30m — 3.2
20m — 2.1
17m — 3.7
15m — 1.7
12m — 2.2
10m — 3.6
6m — 2.1
The second setup was using the Micro as a vertical. The antenna is approx 17′ (very close to the Chameleon) and running a 50’ish counterpoise.
160m — 6.7
80m — 3.7
60m — 3.5
40m — 2.4
30m — 1.5
20m — 1.3
17m — 1.3
15m — 1.9
12m — 2.8
10m — 3.1
6m — 1.8
During this last activation, I mainly used the vertical arrangement as that suited the space I had. The antenna performed well. I made 100 contacts here and abroad. To see a map check out my post about my activation at Kolomoki Mounds State Park.

What’s next for this antenna? I have two Black Accessory Arms and a Counterpoise Wire Adapter coming from Buddipole. The arms will make the antenna more stealthy and the extra adapter will reside on the spike. I may try the Buddipole coil to see how it plays and I just got some new toroids to see if they work any better. Overall, I really like this antenna. It’s light and compact and goes up anywhere. The SWR is low enough that almost any tuner, can tune it, even on the low bands.

Vertical Antenna Support

I like to tinker. Always have and probably, always will. This past weekend while I was activating K-2171, I swapped out antennas to see if one was any better than another. My first antenna was my Frankentenna set up as a vertical. Later in my activation, I switched to my random wire vertical. To use this antenna, I had to shoot a line up into a tree. Band conditions were not that good, and truth be told, I am not sure which antenna was better; however, for this activation, I gave a slight edge to the random wire.

For those that have operated within State Parks, rules and regulations sometimes seem to get a little blurry when it come to operating amateur radio within park boundaries. There is a general consensus that Park Rangers do not like things in their trees. I personally have not had this issue, but I was never approached by a ranger. I operate CW with earbuds on, so I do not really attract attention to myself.

Recognizing, that it might be a matter of time before I get “caught” with something up in a tree, I thought I would look for a solution to solve a potential problem. I have a B&M Black Widow 20′ fishing pole that should work just fine for my random wire antenna. A trip to TSC got me a 4 foot piece of 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ Aluminum Angle Stock. Tools used were:

Layout was pretty simple. The angle for the pointy end was 20 degrees and the slots for the straps were 3/8″ by 1 1/4″ (approx). The total length of the stake is 28″

I got everything cut out and deburred. I added a coat of zinc chromate primer and a finish coat of flat olive paint.

I have two small Velcro straps that I had lying around that work perfectly,

Then by turning the stake around, it stores nicely on the fishing pole. Together the outfit weighs a touch over 1 1/2 pounds. This is easy to carry and by moving the stake more to the center, it would be better balanced for walking.

This gives you options. You should be able to use this anywhere you can drive a tent stake into the ground. With this setup, you can use many different antennas besides a vertical. I am going to try it with my 40m OCF dipole (I may have to mount it a little down from the tip).

When I do an activation, I like to carry a minimum amount of gear. Sometimes, I feel my Frankentenna is too big even though it fits in a small Buddipole bag. It is fun trying to operate with a small amount of gear. For my next activation, I will bring the pole with everything else fitting in an 8 liter Bucket Boss bag. Instead of the Bucket Boss Bag, I could use a small backpack. In fact, I am thinking about doing a couple of SOTA activations this year. I hope to hear you out there! de Scott KK4Z

POTA/SOTA Antennas and More

My amateur radio club, West Georgia Amateur Radio Society (WGARS) decided to participate in Winter Field Day. We are going to operate from Talladega National Forest in Alabama. It doesn’t take much to get me out in the woods with a radio. As a club, we will be operating QRP and I will be doing CW.

Since joining POTA, I have been more inclined to build things. I had forgotten how much fun this can be. So today, I thought I would build a couple of antennas for the outing. My first antenna will be a replacement for my speaker wire non-resonant vertical. The idea came from Thomas K4SWL using speaker wire. It was an okay antenna but it was bulky and heavier (12 oz.) than I wanted it to be.

A British company, SOTA-Beams sells some remarkably thin antenna wire. It is insulated and approximately 24 AWG. The best part is they sell a 100 meters for $10.37 and their shipping rates are reasonable. You can find it here: https://www.sotabeams.co.uk/antenna-wire-lightweight-100m/.

A non-resonant antenna is an antenna that is not resonant on any of the frequencies you plan to use. In non- resonant antennas only forward waves exist. A non-resonant antenna radiates as well as a resonant one. Here is what I started out with.

The end insulator and the wire winders were 3D printed by my son. The battery is for scale. The antenna length is approximately 28-29 feet and the counterpoise is approximately 17 feet. Putting it together was straight forward with the end result looking like this. It weighs 3 oz.

I have discovered that I like working the low bands while on a POTA activation. It takes a little more doing as the antennas get more complex and heavier. My Frankentenna can reach 160 meters but it is a pretty heavy antenna. Again, taking a clue from K4SWL, I acquired a piece of military surplus radio gear. I found an antenna winder for a dipole that is fed with 30 feet of twinlead. I got excited! A doublet is one of my favorite wire antennas as the vertical element can also radiate giving you some DX capability. It will also tune a broader range of frequencies than a dipole. Here is what I started out with.

Note that it is made by the Hughes Aircraft company. I cut the wire at 67 feet per side which should give me an approximately 132 foot dipole. I should be good to go down into the CW portion of 80 meters. While it won’t be efficient, I am thinking I can get an impedance match on 160 meters with my Elecraft T-1 or AH-705 tuner. A half wave dipole for 160 meters is about 270 feet and would be too unwieldy for the field. Getting things hooked up was straightforward.

Everything wraps on the winder. I added a balanced to BNC adapter and two 25 foot lengths of reflective cord I picked up at Tractor Supply. It all weighs 1 lb 3 oz and it all fits in a gallon size freezer bag.

There will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 operators at our site, so I don’t know if I will have the room to get the big antenna up. I hope so.

In case you couldn’t tell, I am a big fan of Ziplock Freezer bags in the quart and gallon sizes. They are tough, waterproof and cheap. I buy them in bulk at Sam’s Club. When one wears out, I pull a new one from the box.

Low band POTA activations can be a challenge, but not impossible. My activation at Ft Mountain State Park in GA. proved that. I am one step closer to being ready for Winter Field Day. Should be a lot of fun. It’s supposed to be cold (cold for us southerners) Night time in the mid 20’s and daytime south of 50 degrees. I’ve lived in cold climates; but, what will get me is my hands. I get pretty fumble-fingered on the paddles when my hands get cold. Thank goodnes for propane heaters. We will be operating under the callsign W4D and hopefully be turning in a log to POTA as well. Hope to hear you out there.