I decided to try to operate during Field Day this year. My two goals, in keeping with the spirit of firld day, were:
- Operate to simulate real-world disaster conditions (Under emergency power, outdoors, minimal equipment, field expedient antenna deployment)
- To demonstrate and generate interest in amateur radio to my nephews.
In keeping with my goals, the set up was very minimal. All of the equipment needed to be packable/transportable for field operation in an emergency. Power was supplied by a gas-powered generator. The operating station was a foldable table under an E-Z Up tent with camp chairs. The transmitter was my TS-590SG to a G5RV strung in an Inverted-V configuration in a nearby tree, approximately 40ft up. For SSB we would use the stock hand mic and Heil headset. I also had my Kent paddle and straight key available for CW (neither of which saw any use). There were some other misc gear (dummy load, other keys for show-and-tell).
As far as accomplishing my goals it was a success. The boys enjoyed helping set up the gear, playing with the keys, etc. Thomas (8), asked if he could take a straight key home and ended up with a vintage Speed-X. He learned how to send his name pretty quickly, and I’ll send him a practice oscillator so he can continue learning if still interested.
In an emergency, I would be able to set up, whether at home or in the field, and can make contacts. While I didn’t send any traffic, I did hear some nets so if needed, I could relay info and assist as needed. If I hadn’t used the generator, I could have used battery and solar, since we already have this set up for our electric fences. It would be simply a matter of moving the panels, batteries, chargers, etc.
Next year I think I would like to try QRP and mobile. Depending on the equipment I acquire in the next year (and on COVID-19) will shape my decision. I would also like to operate more CW and less SSB. This would help with poor conditions and my compromise antenna, etc.
I did not have any intention of setting any records… My expectation was that I would make contacts and get some bonus points and not finish last. I think I did that. With the antenna as it was set up, I didn’t have the best signal and most contacts were fairly local. The farthest contact was South Carolina. A number of contacts were difficulty and required repeats. If I had been using my home set up (Class D) I might have faired better, but this was not the point. I did enjoy the challenge, and look forward to trying again next year. Since this was my first Field Day experience, I have nothing to compare it to. In fact, starting my Ham radio career during the low point in the solar cycle, and during COVID, makes the future look pretty bright. As I increase my skill and confidence, and as the conditions improve, it should only get better!