Thoughts on portable and field day type operations

On setup time

I've fooled with a bunch of ideas for field operation over the years, and partially implemented some of them. The thread of a problem that runs through all of this is that a theoretical portability doesn't translate into a real one. I have packed up my HF rig, a bunch of wire, antenna tuners, slingshots, etc. in preparation for some casual portable operating during travel on more than one occasion, and wound up leaving it all in the bag. Same for VHF. Why is this? It's because it is a pain to get all the stuff out, set it up, get the antenna strung up, find power, etc. Even such mundane stuff as connecting coax up to the boxes takes time.. you have to untangle the inevitable mess of coils of wire, etc. And, don't forget, you need to dismantle the gear and/or move it, too.

The other day, I was at the park early in the morning staking out a spot for my daughter's birthday party which was going to start around 11AM. I had a bit of party setup stuff to do, but after half an hour, I found myself with 3 hours to kill. An ideal opportunity on a quiet Sunday morning to do some portable operating, however the prospect of spending a half hour or more setting up, and then a half hour to dismantle and pack up, for some speculative contacts, just didn't seem reasonable.

So, my new guideline/requirement: Setup time, from parking car, to on the air, must be less than 15 minutes. Packup and go home time, from shutting down to ready to go (strapped to the car rack, etc.) has to be the same.



A philosophical rant on Field Day, particularly bonus points for emergency power.

The ARRL field day rules allow you to claim Class A if you operate off emergency power, like a battery or generator. {Rule 4.1 ... All contacts must be made with transmitter(s) and receiver(s) operating independent of commercial power mains...} In fact, Class A- Battery excludes the possibility of a generator.{Rule 4.2 ...the power source must be something other than commercial power mains or motor-driven generator (e.g.: batteries, solar cells, water-driven generator).} Class E is for home stations running off emergency power.

And, it really helps when the "power multipliers" are used:

{Rule 7.2..
7.2.1. If all contacts are made using a power of 5 Watts or less and if a power source other than commercial mains or motor-driven generator is used (batteries, solar cells, water-driven generator) the power multiplier is 5.
7.2.2. If all contacts are made using a power of 5 Watts or less, but the power source is from a commercial main or from a motor-driven generator, the power multiplier is 2.


Technically, it is legal to have a pair of batteries, one running the rig, the other sitting on a wall powered or generator powered charger, and then swap them periodically. Yep, you're running off batteries...claim those points. I think this is antithetical to the intent of the rules, though.

Also, if the idea is to show the ability to provide communications during an emergency where commercial power is out (i.e. using battery power for the rig), then using commercial power to run the lights, microwave, refrigerator, and the PC running the logging program. etc., seems a bit over the top.

Finally, the idea of setting up a day in advance is also a bit unrealistic. Perhaps viewed in a "wartime preparedness mode" in an earlier day, advance setup in a "civil defense response" mode might have been realistic, but these days, the disaster strikes (tornado, hurricane, earthquake), and then you go set up.

A proposal

To make this less of an empty rant, and provide a constructive suggestion, here's some ideas. In today's environment, rapid response is an advantage. Why not declare that FD will occur on the same weekend, but that advance setup is not allowed (or that you get bonus points for no setup), and that the setup time will be randomly determined and "the emergency" will announced in some reasonably public fashion (the mechanics of this might be a bit tricky). Then, you can start setting up, and the point value for contacts gradually gets lower, the longer it has been since the "disaster declaration". Sure, propagation might be flakey at the time the start occurs, but heck, nature and global war are no respecter of the clock.

This would transform field day from what it is today, a primarily social get-together for hams with an opportunity for some contest afficionados to rack up points; into something that is more demonstrative of the public service hams can provide.


radio/field.htm - 25 August 2002 - Jim Lux
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