SIG POTA - First Activation

First Park Activation by VE5VK

Prior to my first park activation, I spent almost two months as a Hunter answering the CQ POTA calls and getting familiar with the HAMRS logging program.  With the delivery of a Chelegance MC-750 Portable HF Vertical Antenna purchased from DX Engineering, I was ready to pack up my gear for a road trip.  I used the following:

  • Clipboard with my modified POTA logging sheets.
  • HAMRS logging App (free for Windows, minimal cost Android, Apple)
  • iPAD
  • Kenwood TS430s HF 12v Transceiver
  • Chelegance MC-750 Portable HF Vertical Antenna
  • 25ft of RG8X Coax (50ft as well just in case)
  • 12v Deep Cycle RV battery
  • 100W Solar Panel
  • Renogy Rover 40A charge controller (originally for our camper, but I switched the camper to a DC-DC charger)

This is the same setup I have been using at our campsite except I have a ground mounted Hustler 4BTV vertical for an antenna.  It has been working great with contacts across the USA and even into Europe mainly on 20 metres SSB.

I like hand logging then entering my contacts into the HAMRS logging software later.  POTA has some logging sheets that can be printed out however I found I wanted more space and a different layout so I modified them to suit myself.  Click Here if you would like to download one and print it out.  I use these sheets when operating as a Hunter and Activator.  Head on over to the POTA Website, Documents if you would prefer to use their version.

I chose to activate in Wakaw Lake Regional Park which is a short 15 minute drive from our full-time campsite nearby in Deep Woods RV campground.  I found a nice shaded spot near the public beach and set up the equipment on a picnic table.  Remember to always look up!  Above the tables was a High Voltage power line so I erected the antenna to the right between some shrubs where it would be a safe distance from the power line.  The SWR was 1.1:1.

VE5VK00Look UP!  Watch for overhead power lines

Once everything was up and running, I found a clear frequency, went into the POTA App and put in the details of my activation in Park VE-1158.  As soon as I started calling CQ POTA, park VE-1158 on 20 metres, I had a pileup answering.  With my wife Jane helping, we soon recorded 15 contacts which made this an official activation.  Things slowed down so we took a break to transfer our written log into HAMRS.

VE5VK01Ready to call CQ POTA, Park VE-1158

As an activator, you are the one sending in log files.  It is very important to get the contacts recorded into logging software as you must send in what is know as an ADIF format file to POTA of your contacts.  I used HAMRS but as long as whatever you use can export the log in the correct format as listed on the POTA website then you are good to go.  With HAMRS, this is very simple as an export (ADI), then sending it off within the POTA App.  I did that later in the evening after checking to be sure there were no errors in the log.  Better to be accurate than fast.

Once we caught up putting the contacts in HAMRS, I made a couple of Park-to-Park contacts as a Hunter within a designated POTA park.  With the day warming up to 32c, we decided that was enough for the first-time activation but I will definetly be doing more.  My setup is not as portable as many others and certainly not good if I had to backpack into a more remote park, but it did work.  There are many YouTube videos of well thought out portable setups, equipment, antennas and lots of ideas in the POTA Facebook group too.  As seen in the HAMRS map below, I had good penetration into the USA with my simple setup.

VE5VK05Great coverage with my setup

While I elected to purchase a portable antenna and I think the one I got is well built, homebuilt antennas can be as good or better.  This antenna is nothing more than a 1/4 wave ground mounted antenna with a loading coil that can be added for 40 metres.  Changing bands is a snap as the telescoping part is marked with the various bands to easily extend/retract it as needed.  So far, the vast majority of my POTA work has been on 20 metres, usually in the late morning and early evening.

VE5VK07Tway Lake National Wildlife Area VE-0103

There are some 380 designated parks in Saskatchewan, many waiting to be activated for the first time.  The POTA website App will show you where they are and give a brief description.  After activating at VE-1158, we took a drive to check out Tway Lake National Wildlife Area, VE-0103.  Lots of tall grass there and just off a grid road.

Many parks are even more remote, walk in only.  That would be more challenging but a great way to see areas you might otherwise never visit.  I encourage you to get out there and get more of our parks activated in the POTA world.  Start out as a Hunter to get the feel of it and move on as an Activator or feel free to just stay as a Hunter.  It is fun for me to be back into the hobbly after being inactive for more than 20 years.  I'll be on the air lots as a POTA Hunter and now and then in a park as an Activator.  See you on the airwaves or perhaps in the parks.

Wes, Va5MuD has created his own YouTube channel with many short videos.  Check them out at Mr Muds Radio Time on YouTube

Rob Westhouse, VE5VK
SIG POTA - Coordinator