This past weekend, I got the opportunity to visit Kolomoki Mounds State Park in SW Georgia. It’s about 180 miles away and I can get there and back on one tank of gas. I like this park, it is a little out of the way and it is nice and quiet. Cell service/Internet is almost non-existent. What not to like, right!. This time I got a drive-thru campsite that was well-shaded.
Because of the trees, I had to mount my antenna to the truck instead of the camper. However, the shaded provided kept the camper cool and I only had to use the A/C intermittently. This was the first time I had to use the A/C and it will quickly freeze you out if turned up too high.
The setup was pretty normal, I used my K4SWL antenna which is a 28′ random wire with a 17′ counterpoise. It has a homemade 9:1 UnUn and a 1:1 current balun. The tuner is an LDG RT-100. I love this antenna. It is easy to put up and take down, and it performs very well. I include the stats a little later.
Inside everything is pretty much the same except this time the radio is my new Yaesu FT-710. This will be its first real workout. I plan on using FT8 with a little CW if the bands’ permit. As it turns out, the bands were not in that good of shape. I ended up running the FT-710 at 45 watts. On Saturday a G2 magnetic storm hit and wiped out the bands. Saturday during the day was rather slow. Here is a look at 20 and 30 meters. Normally the whole waterfall from east to west is orange.
The radio got a good workout. I went QRV on Friday at 1400 hrs eastern and ran until 0200 hrs eastern Saturday morning, then again at 0730 hrs Saturday morning until about 2330 hrs eastern Saturday night. Operation was a pretty steady diet of FT-8 at 45 watts. The FT710 didn’t even get warm. It’s one of the reasons I like to bring a big radio — I can run them pretty hard without them skipping a beat.
First impression of the FT-710? I like it. I feel it compares favorably with the IC-7300. Each one has its pluses and minuses but in the end, either one will work for my intended uses for them. What are my intended uses? These radios are my field radios. I use them mainly when I am doing outdoor/portable activities such as camping or public service. I look at amateur radio from two different perspectives. First, is amateur radio for fun doing things like POTA, SOTA, or the like as well as some public service events like bike rides, parades, etc. My second perspective is from Emergency Communications. I am quite involved with EmComm at the local/state/region/national level and participate regularly in training events as well as provide training. I have in the past deployed to several disasters as an EmComm Specialist. So, when I look at radios, it is from the point of view of whether can I use them for both of my endeavors. Radios like the FT-710 or the IC-7300 fill that bill nicely. EmComm is one of the reasons I like POTA and camping, It gives me a fun way to practice my craft and ensure my equipment is in good working order. The only way to get to know your gear is to get out and use it.
How’d I do? Not too bad, over the weekend I made 571 FT-8 contacts 46 States, and 19 countries. My best operating times were at night after the earth turned my location away from the sun. You can see that in the map below where I don’t have any contacts from the Pacific which were still sunlit. I had intended to operate a little QRP CW, but the propagation gods had different plans. I was glad to have a big radio with more power. Every time I go out, I learn something new, either about my gear or about myself. Each trip is a nice weekend in a park but also a training exercise to prepare me to deploy if need be.
Here is a video of the activation.