QRP Afield 2020 Sleepy Tale

QRP Afield 2020 Food

It’s often said that outdoor radio resembles a food club that dabbles in radio. I first heard that from Lee Hillsgrove, Sr. KB1GNI at a sled dog public service event.

Yesterday I participated in the QRP Club of New England‘s annual QRP Afield contest. This low-intensity end-of-summer low-powered radio contest is always scheduled for the third Saturday in September. It turns out it coincided with several other contests. Here are a few that came through my Elecraft KX2 speaker:

  • Scandinavian Activity Contest
  • Iowa QSO Party
  • NH QSO Party
  • NJ QSO Party
  • WA Salmon Run

My 90 Acres In the Sun

I decided to operate in the field on a stunning 90-acre tract of land I own in central NH. There’s a small clearing that faces south and west with no nearby hills or mountains that might block radio signals. The WX served up brilliant sunny skies with the temperature kissing up against 60 F. It felt much warmer in the sun and every now and then a puff of light wind would rustle the tree leaves that are just starting to change color.

QRP Afield 2020

You should be able to see my vertical 29-foot wire antenna about to go up. It’s the yellow wire to the left. The lime-green string dropping to my truck is the halyard I use to get the antenna wire up into the tree. I was able to catch the exact branch in the tree with my first water-bottle throw. Watch the video below to see how I do it.

My Outdoor Radio Setup

Everything I need to operate outdoors fits into a wonderful OGIO daypack. My Elecraft KX2 with its set of Elecraft paddles has become my trusty friend. Just about all I need fits into my dandy Pelican 1200 box. This adds extra weight when walking, but I’m willing to put up with that to protect all my fragile gear in case I slip and fall.

I use a 29-foot wire for my antenna connected to a 9:1 unun. I’ve also started using a 17-foot counterpoise wire that attaches to the ground post on the unun. The counterpoise produces a 1:1 SWR match on all bands from 40 meters and up.

I’ve mastered the art of setting up. In great weather, I can be on the air in a relaxed five minutes or less. Just after powering up my radio just after 11:45 AM using the BioEnnoPower 4.5 Ahr battery, I heard my first contact – W0ITT. I didn’t even have my logbook open so I wrote his callsign on a scrap of paper.

Eating and Logging

I wake up each day around 5:30 AM. That means I’m ready for lunch at noon. I had packed a variety of food and decided to have a W3ATB buffet on the tailgate of my Ford F-250 Super Duty 4X4. The salsa was delicious!

Rite in the Rain

I’m starting to fill my logbook. Luckily there are no salsa stains on it. I could have wiped them off easily as my Rite-in-the-Rain logbook has waterproof paper.

The 20-meter band was alive and well. I immediately started roaming around 14.060 – the accepted QRP watering hole. My third contact, K1RID was another member of the club and almost next door in Kittery, Maine. It was hard to believe 20 meters was so short, and yet I felt it was impossible my puny 5 watts of power was generating a ground wave that would reach the ocean. I felt this was a good omen for how the day would turn out.

Napping Surrounded By Signals

It’s important to realize I made my first contact about 13 minutes before noon. My next twelve contacts tumbled into my logbook over the next hour and twenty minutes. Just after I logged K0AJW, a tsunami of fatigue washed over me. I think it was a combination of the delicious lunch, the glorious warm sunshine, and the fact I had some poor sleep a few days ago.

I decided to crawl into the bed of my truck and catch a quick nap. What could it hurt, right? Within minutes I was fast asleep. At least three times my catnap was interrupted by my 9:1 unun. A light breeze would move the antenna wire and allow the unun to clunk against the right-rear taillight of my truck. That innocent breeze was tousling my antenna wire much like someone might do to your hair in a spriteful way. I remember it only took seconds to drift back into slumber awash in the toasty southern sunlight.

Once I woke back up, I operated for another thirty minutes or so. My neighbor Bob and his wife Teri had walked up the hill with their two dogs. We spent the next hour catching up. It was a great way to end the adventure.

Here’s my list of contacts for the fun afternoon of QRP radio: