2022 is in the rearview mirror. Seems like the right time to look back at the year in ham radio for KC8JC. Let’s do that, shall we?
At the end of 2021, I was looking for some Stupid Arbitrary Goals for my hobby. I set four of them. Let’s see how I did.
- The plan was to activate 10 parks for POTA. Well, I crushed that one. I got 15 parks in three states. Not bad!
- One portable operation adventure per month. Oh yeah. DONE!
- Build another kit. Well…no. I have a QDX on the bench, but I spent more time outside than I did at the bench this spring and summer. I do plan to build that one this winter, but being outside and operating took priority when there was free time.
- Learn to operate CW. Yeah. Again. That fell off. I’m back at it! But I didn’t make any appreciable progress in 2022. I’m certainly not doing activations in CW.
With the goals out of the way, what did I do with radio this year?
Parks on the Air (POTA) was familiar to me before 2022 and it was something that sounded like fun. Portable operation with some loose framework for keeping a score that doesn’t mean anything in the real world. This is exactly the kind of thing that, in my opinion, the world needs more of. It is wonderful to be a “Conquistador of the Useless”. Why not embrace it?
In February, I set off on my first attempt. It was a failure. But…it didn’t matter. I had fun trying to solve the problems while out in the field. I thought about the gear I had. Wondered if I knew enough about what I was trying to do (nope!). And rather than acting as a turn off to the whole concept, it was engaging. Even a day in the field with only 3 or 4 contacts is still better than a day spent not doing that.
Digging in was easy. Different antennas came into play. More research. So many great blogs exist out there talking about QRP and portable operation techniques. There was so much to take in. And it’s a blast!
It took three failed attempts to get my first activation, but I got there!
Mixing POTA with other hobbies and interests is really easy. This summer, we took our new camper out on the road. I took the radio with me and was able to do some activating in Ohio and in Michigan. With increased fluency in the processes of setup and teardown, activating alongside other activities has been a breeze.
It has also been great to mix it with cycling. With eBikes coming into our lives, my wife and I do a lot more riding. Every time we head out to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, I toss the radio into my pannier and have a little fun. That’s kept me inching toward my Repeat Offender award for that park.
Without a doubt, POTA is the best thing to happen to the hobby for me. It incentivizes getting outside and playing with the radio. I have to believe it also acts as good training for emergency communications. The better I get with that stuff, well, the better I’ll feel.
What did 2022 look like for my POTA activity? Some stats:
- States activated: 3
- Parks activated: 15 (16 attempted)
- Parks hunted: 315
- Total QSOs as activator: 861
- Total QSOs as hunter: 578
Other cool awards!
- Ouachita Mountain Goldenrod Hunter for working 300 different parks
- Fishing Hole Hunter for working Quail Hollow SP K-1987 80 times
- 100 contacts with WA8KHP (largely at Quail Hollow SP)
- 50 contacts with KD4MZM
- Support Your Parks Activator: Spring, Summer, Autumn
- Support Your Parks Hunter: Spring, Summer, Autumn
All told, I collected 22 pieces of paper for my ham radio scrap book.
I did a write up of OSPOTA 2022 and my experience with it. It wasn’t my first contest, but it was my first contest in the field. I guess I don’t count Field Day because ahem Field Day is NOT a contest.
Anyway, it was fun to get in the camper and try my hand at a couple of new things all at once. One of them being phone contacts. I hadn’t done much phone outside of the local repeater and digital modes like D-STAR and DMR. I learned how to handle a pile up quickly and how to do exchanges without frustrating too many people. Mostly, I learned that it’s not scary because hams are kind on the air. It takes two people to make a contact, so there’s no need to be intimidated. That was a big lesson for me.
OK. Let’s talk about it. I have some gear that I acquired in 2022 and I want to talk about some of it. There was a lot of good stuff that I added to my kit. But let’s start with a bummer.
My mAT-705 v1 died. It was an unceremonius death and a darned shame. It served me well. But when it failed? It failed hard. I was hesitant, but I picked up its successor, that is to say, the v2 of the unit and it’s a lot better. Rechargable batteries so I don’t ever have to open it and otherwise provides great performance. I hate it when gear dies, but it happens. I may pull it apart this winter to see what the deal is.
For great gear that I added in, let’s start with the piecemieled Chameleon vertical. I mixed the HybridMicro with a stake and the whip with extension and got a fantastic antenna that can be stuck in the ground anywhere or screwed into the mount on my Jeep. The shockcord design makes assembly and breakdown easy and quick. It can go up anywhere so there’s no worrying about people fussing over lines in trees and that sort of thing. The performance is very solid for a compromise antenna. It’s my general go-to for most portable work.
All of those kudos handed out to the Chameleon could be given to my End-Fedz EFHW. It did really well at OSPOTA and is the most portable solution I have. That and a throw line makes for a great combo for POTA. It’s also really light. I keep it handy, but I try to avoid using trees. I did also did stress a little bit when trying to use it on a mast as the coil near the top bends things a bit more than I’d like. Still a fantastic antenna.
The addition of the Garmin Bluetooth GPS has been fantastic. It’s great to sync the time on my Microsoft Surface GO 2 because it’s small, independent, and wireless. I can always plug the IC-705 into the Surface to get GPS time, but that USB cable is gross and noisy. This is a better solution.
A silly thing I did was pick up some tent pole bags for my Chameleon antenna and for my mast. It is nice to have something to keep all the parts in when I’m attaching it to a backpack or strapping it to my bike. Very inexpensive and very useful.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Xiegu X6100. It’s the radio that saved OSPOTA for me. I’m still learning it and it shows great promise. I’m not sure why I haven’t taken it along for an activation yet, but that will be a goal for 2023.
The biggest winner in gear? It’s that dumb piece of foam that I put in my pannier or backpack to sit on. It saves the day when a picnic table bench or the ground is wet. I learned how wonderful it was when my son and I took them on a multi-day backpacking trip a while back. They’re just brilliant. No, it’s not radio gear by any stretch, but everyone should probably carry one if they’re gonna be out and about. It’s light, versatile, and very useful!
With 2022 in the books, it’s time to think about what might come next. I have a few ideas about little adventures and expeditions that I’d like to do in 2023. I’d love to do an ATNO (all time new one) activation. I want to hit a kilo on K-0020. There are so many fun things to do with a radio that it’s genuinely hard to narrow down into goals for a year. So why not make it simple? My goal is to do a little radio every week. And if I would put a hardline goal out there it would be to get my CW copying to a place where I could do an activation in CW. That’s going to require a little time every day to push along, but why not?
The calendar is flipped. It’s time to radio!