This past weekend was the 2012 ARRL Field Day, which is the biggest amateur radio event of the year in the US. The reason it’s called field day is that you’re supposed to get out into the field and operate on temporary equipment, power, etc. Lots of folks do it from their homes or some other established location, but last year we decided to make a point of getting out and doing it “for real.” This year, we returned to the same spot and did it again.
Unlike our previous trip, the weather did not cooperate this time. A storm was moving in from the Pacific on Friday, which gave us almost constant rain, heavy at times. This made it relatively challenging to get camp set up without getting all of our “inside gear” wet. Luckily, we had two large canopies (like last year) which allowed us to create a dry spot to set up the more sensitive sleeping tents. We were able to keep our sleeping quarters dry and comfortable the entire time, which makes everything else easier.
Starting a fire on the saturated ground was a bit challenging, but we brought dry wood and paper and were able to get it going much quicker than expected. Taylor was even able to enjoy a glass of wine around the fire during one of the breaks in the rain.
Operating the radios in these conditions required a little more care as well, to keep things dry. My large operating tent is really intended to protect from sun, not rain, and thus it was a little leaky during the heavier periods of precipitation. However, some creative use of tarps and other devices allowed us to keep our equipment protected. Luckily, we were able to throw the expensive ones back into the pelican cases at night in case the wind kicked up and blew rain into the tent.
This year we both used IC-7000 radios, but with a set of band-pass filters I quickly assembled the week before the trip. These helped a lot and allowed us to work QRO on different bands without interfering with each other. Power came from a Honda EU2000 inverter generator, which we used to charge our A123 batteries (for the radios) and our single 100AHr gel cell (for the computers). Again we used FDLog for logging and duplicate checking, over an ad-hoc wireless network.
This year we made 196 contacts, up from 122 last year. Given how much of the time we were away from the radios dealing with the weather, we’re quite happy with the result. We definitely plan to do it again next year, although we might shoot for a less-rainy part of the state than the Coast Range!