This was to be my first POTA (Parks on the air) activation. POTA is like WWFF (an award scheme in which I haven’t taken part) but was formed in the US as a follow-on from the ARRL National Parks on-the-air celebration. It has taken off in the US and now is spreading internationally. They have a good spotting and logging web infrastructure, which is essential nowadays. The award definitions are very varied and nothing like the other schemes that I take part in. A minimum of 10 contacts are required to qualify a park activation and the activation itself can take place anywhere within the park’s boundaries. For some POTA awards, the park can be activated more than once a year.
What attracts me is that this park is only a 30-40 minute drive away from my home (in fact it’s even closer but I picked a nice spot by a large lake to go to). There are no rules forbidding motorised transport or operating from a parked car, so for this first one, I decided to do just that. I wouldn’t even put up the mast and linked dipole, rather I would use the Komunica HF-PRO2 on a three-magnet mount on the car roof and operate from within the car. as it turned out with temps between 4 and 8 degrees centigrade, this was a wise plan!
I installed the appropriate POTA spotting App on my phone and checked it was working.
This activation would take place late morning, so that I could take the dog for her morning walk before leaving and get back just after lunchtime having spent about 90 minutes operating. Nothing needed to be loaded in the car until the morning of the trip with this later-than-usual start.
This was going to be a trial of this “luxury” set-up and my, chosen from maps, location to see if it was indeed accessible.
I decided to take the country road route rather than the autobahn as according to Google it would only take about 5 minutes longer. This was true however the number of small villages this took me through was a pain, so the return route would be via the Autobahn.
On arriving at my site, I took a walk around and made some photos before returning to the car, setup up the radio and antenna and tuning around to see what I could hear. I started on the 40-metre band which was full of stations from end to end (and this was a Friday, not a weekend). I found one portable station calling CQ, so I decided to give him a call to make sure I was getting out. No Issues – a short, 59 each-way contact with Luc, who was actually activating a WWFF park location.
I then saw another POTA activator on the spotting page and called Stuart M0OVG for my first “park-to-park” contact with 55 reports each way.
Now that I was happy that everything was working, I found a free frequency and spotted myself on the POTA website and got a couple of calls from Poland. At this point, I managed to contact Mike 2E0YYY who was still out in his local park (not POTA), so I moved to 20m to work him and to test out the new QRP radio – a Xiegu G-106 which I had along as well as the Xiegu G90. Tests were performed and while the little G106 with my external RF-Clipper speech processor was workable it was down a couple of S-Points on the more powerful G90 radio, which was running 20 watts of the speech-compressed signal. I still have the feeling that the G-106 is not as loud as it should be however in these tests the 20m band was up and down with QSB and so a really accurate test was not possible.
When I finished with Mike, I re-spotted myself on the POTA website on 20m and the calls started. I ended up with 20 contacts in 45 minutes. A lower rate than when I do a SOTA activation but not bad for a scheme that is still new in Europe. I finished off back on 40m to get another Park-to-Park contact with Dave G8XDD/P who was in two different parks at the same time, in the UK.
All in all, I think this went very well for my first POTA activation. Although the site was fine, I may try a different location the next time that I activate this park, given that there are locations all over the 1100 square kilometre park to choose from!
- Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
- Xiegu G90 radio & Xiegu G-106 radio.
- Komunica Power HF-Pro2 loaded vertical antenna with a three-magnet car roof mount base.
- Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast (not used).
- SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
- 4 Ah and 2Ah Eremit LifePO4 batteries.
- 4 Ah LiHV battery (not used).
- Painter’s thick plastic sheet (not used).
- Gardener’s kneeling pad (not used).
- Lightweight headphones (not used).
- Smartphone for spotting.
DA-0006 Augsburg Westlische Wälde Naturpark
- For a first activation, this went well but I think (unless the weather stops it), I’d prefer to operate away from the car in the future.
- I’m still not convinced that the G-106 radio is performing as I expect it to. It’s good that the added speech processor is making it easier to hear but I’m not sure that I could rely on its signal if I used this radio on holiday. Receive is fine but there’s something “lacking” on transmit, even for a 5w QRP radio.
73 ’til the next summit(s).