Issue #2 - POTA Lessons Learned

Discussion in 'Trials and Errors - Ham Life with an Amateur' started by KF7WIS, Nov 21, 2022.

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  1. KF7WIS

    KF7WIS QRZ CEO Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Issue #2 – Trials and Errors – POTA Lessons Learned
    By Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

    Recently my ham buddy, Steve (W7DJ), and I were out on a Wednesday morning activating a POTA site that is halfway between his QTH and mine. One of the benefits of being semi-retired is that I can ditch the office whenever I feel like it, and I really needed some radio time and the outdoors. (In Arizona, we seem to have fewer parks than some States and I hope this is corrected soon.)

    Everyone has a different style when they hit the road with their radios; this is quite evident when Steve and I are out in the field. When we activate a park, he puts what seems like his entire shack into the car . . . complete with a monster battery pack, an IC7300 Transceiver, card table and more. And he is consistently more comfortable and more successful with his POTA contacts than I am.

    That’s because I am a knapsack kind of ham. My gear either fits into the pack on my back or it’s not going. I activate with a Xiegu G-90, a paddle and about 20 feet of coax. We both use the same portable antenna system, however -- an offshore vertical whip antenna (styled after the BuddistickTM) that has been a joy in many cases but a real annoyance on other trips. The antenna comes from China with only a 10” long spike that you shove into the ground for support. If you’re at an Ohio park (somewhere with grassy, soft dirt) that might be fine. But we’re a couple of Arizona hams, and we must deal with harsh conditions now and again. You should have seen Steve trying to jam that antenna spike into rock hard dirt that hasn’t sprouted a weed in years!

    The antenna mentioned is the PAC-12, available from AliExpress.US. I feel a bit ashamed for even mentioning it, as my friend Budd (W3FF) is the founder of Buddipole; this company clearly copied their product in a reverse engineering approach. The coil tunes up nicely on 40, 20 and 17, and is supposed to work with other frequencies as well, but these are the three I have experience with. It includes radials which are easy to deploy, and the tune is very adjustable with a sliding clip on the loading coil. I generally get a 1.6 to 1 or thereabouts when I am on the frequencies mentioned. The cons are significant, however. The material used in its construction is not beefy enough to withstand a lot of abuse – Steve’s broke right in half after a drop. I’d give this antenna a C minus overall, with a bit higher rating for its on-the-air performance. Also, we initially had a heck of a time putting it up, due to the aforementioned spike. This antenna costs $130 landed. [​IMG]

    All of that ended when W7DJ, always on the lookout, found one of the handiest ham accessories we’ve ever locked onto . . . a large “bulldog clip” that will attach to just about anything, whether it be (ideally) a metal cattle fence, or (not so ideally) a pad from a Prickly Pear cactus. These clips changed our POTA activations from the moment we brought them along. The Workman QRCS3 is a simple and inexpensive connector, built like a Mac truck, that allows a mount from just about any angle – vertical or horizontal. It has a great big jaw that adjusts to 2.5 inches in full open, and which ensures an electrical connection due to the many ”teeth” built into the jaw. A smoothly rotating bracket can be adjusted with an Allen wrench to any position; it holds up our 10 ft. vertical (or one end of a dipole) with no problem. It’s produced by Workman Electronic Products out of Ohio and is available from several sellers on eBay and Amazon for $25-$35 shipped.


    Another area where Steve consistently beats me in the POTA process is with logging. He’s got his computer set up on the card table, working his logging program and ensuring that each contact made is noted. While I have the same intent, of course, I’m scribbling into a note pad and the result is not pretty. It’s not all that complicated, is it? A call sign, a time of day, a signal report, frequency and perhaps a first name . . . but when things get hectic, paper and pencil fail miserably in comparison to logging software. My average rate of return on POTA logging, when I eventually transfer my scribbles into the computer, is about 85% due to legibility issues. Somewhere, some operator ends up unhappy because he didn’t get the park he thought he’d added to his POTA score. I’ll be adding an iPad to the field kit soon and if anyone has a suggestion on logging software for this purpose, please let me know in the forum.

    Speaking of POTA activations (which are just so much fun), have you ever felt like you were getting beat up by the process, and you’d like to get up and stretch, perhaps to see some of the park you’ve activated? On one recent outing my fingers were blistered from hitting the push-to-talk button. I must have caught the propagation just right or maybe the park I was in was really in demand. Anyway, I felt like a DX station on some rare entity, and after an hour or two of that, a person needs a break. How about inserting a nice hike or a couple of hours under a shady tree while still “hamming it up?” My suggestion is to take all your gear back to the car, but leave that antenna up and attach one of Zachtek’s tiny little WSPR transmitters on your coax, along with a cell phone battery pack. It’s about the size of a cigarette pack, so you can hide it under a cactus and walk away securely. Harry Zachrisson builds these great little devices by hand over in Sweden, and they pack an unbelievable punch for the money ($140). (QST reviewed this in their Sept. 2022 edition.)


    I bought one and matched it up with that offshore vertical I mentioned for a couple hours of one-way beacon transmissions. I came back to my laptop after a hike and found out that my little transmitter of about a fifth of one watt had been heard on both coasts of the USA, in Australia, New Zealand, British Columbia, and get this . . . Antarctica! All of this on an inexpensive POTA vertical whip. It also showed me a giant gap to the Northeast that I will remember on my next field trip. Even if you’ve had a dismal POTA outing, you’ll feel good about the map the WSPR website builds for you showing your antenna’s performance. With the right gear, WSPR can be just another fun aspect of portable ham radio.

    73 for now,

    K0UO, US7IGN, VK4KL and 1 other person like this.
  2. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    This is the forum discussion for anything related to Issue #2! Join us for commentary or suggestions here, Dave W7DGJ
  3. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'd like to note here that the Workman bulldog clip (that's what my ham buddy and I call it) is also sold by other manufacturers who buy it and resell (at a far greater cost than an Amazon or eBay purchase).
    KN6KTI and KL7KN like this.
  4. G5WCW

    G5WCW Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm puzzled, Who is posting this Jamie or Dave?
  5. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi, good question. I asked Jaime for some help because she's an old hand at the forum moderation tools and so on. I'm the one responsible for this forum discussion, however. Jaime got me up and running by establishing it, and then as the author of T&E, I'll be the one responding to questions and comments and moderating the site. You can also write me at my QRZ email. Regards, Dave W7DGJ
  6. G5WCW

    G5WCW Ham Member QRZ Page

    So do you get notified of replies or do people have to put a @W7DGJ to inform you?
  7. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I would likely see the new post in my daily "Messages" section of QRZ. However, I don't wait for those and review the site and the forum every day, multiple times. At this stage, ensuring it gets kicked off correctly, but likely to check at least every morning in the future.
  8. W8ETD

    W8ETD Ham Member QRZ Page

    I hope you are having better luck with your G-90 as I bought the X-5105 and thought it was quite nice for what it was but after two weeks I was updating the firmware and the recieve is now just static with no signals heard , no matter how strong. I tried to reinstall the firmware again and got the same results. Gigaparts would not repair or replace and I now have a brick... The only place I've found for repair is returning it to China and hope you someday get it back. Any ideas? By the way I like the forum so far and hope it continues, thanks to a fellow Buckeye...
  9. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hey Buckeye - Wow, I've heard horror stories like this before, even with big brands like ICOM or Yaesu. If something goes wrong during a firmware update . . . ZAP. You've got a brick. I'm surprised that they can't exchange it if it was only two weeks old. Xiegu radios are almost ALWAYS sold with older firmware in them. So far, I've left my original firmware intact in the G-90 as the radio works fine, but I'm tempted to see how they've made improvements. My IC-7300 as well needs firmware update. Ugh!
    W8ETD likes this.
  10. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have the Bulldog clip (under another name) and it works well with an old tripod. I have now switched to the $20 Frisbee antenna.
  11. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've found that most of this brand gear is supported by users and not the company.
    I just checked the Groups.IO for this radio - and nothing is there - all but plank.
    Radiooddity - the vendor - has this
    How to Update Xiegu X5105 Firmware? | 2022 Latest Guidance– Radioddity

    The key to success seems to be using TeraTerm 4.96. HTH
  12. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    You've got a great working situation there for outings. How do you like that Frisbee?
    KL7KN likes this.
  13. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I took it out on a (semi) dry afternoon. Mostly to check the tuning.

    The area has so little noise, I thought my KX2 had a bed RX!
    Called CQ to no avail - bad propagation day.

    Now I can pull, up, put up my antenna is less time than it takes to deploy the radials and be on the air.
    Going to be fun this coming Spring.
    W7DGJ likes this.
  14. AE3NE

    AE3NE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Can you describe this "$20 Frisbee antenna" in greater detail?
    KL7KN likes this.
  15. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

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