Thoughts on POTA Activating
2021-08-11 I made my first three POTA Activation contacts in August of 2019. Didn't know that was what I was doing, though! I had gone on a fishing trip to a nearby lake in the Wisconsin Kettle Moraine State Forest, K-4352. I'm not a fisherman but wanted to go with my friend so brought my fairly new Xiegu X5105 and even newer Wolf River Coils TIA 1000 antenna. I had almost no portable operating experience outside an occasional Field Day and had little idea what I needed or how it would go. It actually went fairly well. In the couple hours we were at the little lake my friend caught three fish and I caught three contacts! One of his fish was pretty respectable size and one of my contacts was with a SOTA activator in Colorado, about 1000 miles west! I wasn't a registered POTA member at the time so only later learned that my contacts qualified! All three were CW on 20 meters.
My next six qualifying contacts were about a year later when on a birthday campout for my teenage grandson at K-1458 Kohler-Andrae State Park on the shore of Lake Michigan north of Milwaukee. I was the chief cook and bottle washer for the group of about ten teenage boys along with my son! While they were off on a hike I set up my X5105 with a QRPGuys 40-10 meter EFHW antenna using a fiberglass fishing pole for center support of the inverted vee. The six contacts were all CW and on 40 meters. No particularly exciting distances but I was amazed at how well this kind of tossed together QRP setup worked. It whetted my appetite for more and led to my registering with POTA and becoming a pretty active hunter about a year later.
My first intentional POTA Activation as a registered POTA member was about a month later in August 2020. I went to K-4265 Bong State Recreation Area about ten miles from my home. My setup was a Xiegu G90 and the QRPGuys 40-10 EFHW. Came home with ten 40m CW contacts in my log running 20 watts. I was wiped out and glad to get the tenth. Thankfully they all qualified, my first full activation! I've gone on from there and now have just over 1000 activation contacts in my log. The rest of this page will talk about things I've learned or better said, am learning about activating rigs and antennas and power as well as some about preparing and operating.
Radios for Activating
The first questions when it comes to portable operating for most of us are about radios. I've been interested in low power very portable radios for years. My first "good one" was a Yaesu FT-817nd I got back in late 2009. I had big dreams for it but never really did much other than field day that took advantage of its unique portability. I just hooked it up from time to time to my station antennas and played with it. But after about six months it did get me playing with potentially portable verticals, dipoles, etc. It even inspired me to build a PAC 12 vertical which I was never very pleased with.
For me the real break in my low power portable asperations came when in 2018 I purchased the Xiegu X5105 truly all-in-one 5 watt rig. With it's unbelievable internal auto tuner and most importantly for me, broad range SWR sweep function the world of portable and antennas opened up. In the early days it had lots of software problems but has now matured to a very capable, reliable rig. I've logged just under 350 activation contacts with it, most recent just five days ago. I've used a variety of antennas from "random wire" end fed with a 9:1 unun to EFHW, to verticals, trapped and inked dipoles, etc. It has never disappointed and is always packed in a little case ready to go.
The next step in radios for me was a Xiegu G90, 20 watt all mode rig with everything internal except the battery. I've logged just under 300 activation contacts with it. It went on my most "exotic" trip also, a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe area in k-4491 Superior National Forest in northern Minnesota. I logged 21 contacts, most distant was to Oregon, most distance to France, 4194 miles! I used my EFHW inverted vee there.
Finally, early this year, clearly smitten beyond reason with the portable/POTA bug I got an ICOM IC-705 earlier this year. In the five months I've had it I've logged 430 activation contacts. The most distant was with a station on some island in the south pacific or somewhere over 9000 miles away. I was running ten watts using my Wolf River Coils antenna with a 17' whip and four ten foot counterpoise wires from K-1440 Big Foot Beach State Park about 15 miles from my home here in SE Wisconsin. Expensive, the IC-705 is a dream radio for portable operations.
For me, any one of the three above radios is more than adequate for POTA activations. They each have some unique features none of which "make the difference in a successful activation. These are just the ones I have experience with. I've dreamed of playing with a more pocked sized one but as of yet have not done so.
Antennas for Activation