Task: Given HF or VHF equipment, get on the air making as many contacts as possible in a 24hr period.
Condition: Run a station in a less than ideal setting, be it from a field setting or other improvised environment.
Standard: Make as many contacts as possible using emergency power and wire antennas.
As the usual this station was run as a Tactical Operation Center (TOC) with equipment run off-grid. Every year is a learning experience and in some ways is more challenging than the ARRL’s summer counterpart. With a 40/80 fan dipole and a 160m Inverted L, our group performed extremely well over the 24hr period.
- Common knowledge doesn’t always apply as the solar minimum approaches. 40 behaved very much like 20, with trans-continental communications being made especially as the night pressed on. During the day it faded in and out.
- 80 ran very long. Contacts as far west as Colorado and Wyoming were made, but short hops across NC and VA were impossible. Due to this fact and the point above, operator experience IS CRITICAL to knowing what frequencies to choose depending on the task. NVIS is not a constant propagation effect and takes continuous experience only gained by working with people who know what they’re doing.
- Sometimes QRP levels simply won’t work even when everything with your equipment is perfect.
- Battery management and knowing the consumption on your rigs. In our case, running two IC-7200s and an IC-746, much more power was required than for a QRP-only operation. Surprisingly, the inexpensive 35aH SLA batteries from Harbor Freight held up far better than expected. I plan on investing in a few more.
- Start smoking your pork shoulder for the crew earlier, so you’re eating before 1900L.
I want to thank everyone involved for making it a fun and very worthwhile event. To everyone who participated on the air, I hope is was a fun learning experience also.