First Winter Activation Attempt - WA2AKV

Original html deleted after Barry’s fix posted

Here’s the translation:

Winter Outdoor QRP Operation WA2AKV

I am a real newbie at this and there are many folks far knowledgeable and experienced than I, but I am eager to learn and to share any bits of information with the amateur radio community in this endeavor. Like any journey, each begins with a first step. So here is my little diary of a recent outdoor winter QRP adventure. I hope it spurs interest and helps those of similar persuasion. Comments and questions are welcome –

Date and Location
42.035 , Longitude: -74.497Summit Route and Hike-In

I entered the Big Indian Wilderness area From Burnham Hollow Rd thence to Huron Trail, then bushwhacked to summit approx. 2.5 miles – 5-6 hrs. round trip. The terrain is very steep and rocky with some stands of old growth hemlock, rushing streams and abundant wild-life, deer, bear, bob-cat and coyote. I saw plentiful tracks of each except bear.

I did NOT make the summit on this trip due to my first-time experience with a heavily loaded internal frame backpack. I also forgot to bring a camera and a watch, a big mistake, no way to determine rendezvous time with my hiking partner and to accurately log contacts. So I erred on the side of caution and did not press for the summit. Instead I setup on a broad flat area within sight but 500-800 feet below summit.

During the morning hike-in, I eventually learned how to adjust the hip-belt of my pack. The hip belt affectively transfers most of the pack weight to the hips. Totally amazing how comfortable the load became once the strain came off my neck and shoulders. The hip-belt really works.

I used the QRPGuys Multi-Band, end fed trapped antenna for 40/30/20 meters. It includes a built-in tuner and SWR indicator!! This eliminates the need to pack a tuner. I arrange the antenna as a sloper. First, the antenna is laid out full length on the ground; this gives an idea of where to setup the radio. The upper end of the antenna is set high in a tree using monofilament and stone throw technique.

Operating Position
Yaesu FT-817ND, Key – Palm Radio micro paddle. Two (2) LiPo Admiral 4000 mAh (40C) RC batteries.

This was my first experience with a full-sized backpack, I chose an entry level pack to gain experience and serve as a baseline for upgrading. In retrospect, I think the pack I chose is quite good at $119 considering top line packs go well over $400! The pack is a Field & Stream Wasatch Internal Frame model with a 3400cu in main compartment.

During the hike-in and equipment setup, I wore a single base layer EMS Bergelene thermals, Cordura outdoor tactical pants and light-weight windbreaker, hat and gloves. I layered up with three additional layers and toe warmers after equipment setup. I learned the minimal clothing and layering trick from Boy Scouts, you never want to sweat in the winter outdoors.

Nourishment, Food and Water
I’m old school and pretty good at orienteering and dead reckoning. I do have a Garmin GPS, but generally operate with a topo map and compass with moveable bezel on a lanyard around my neck. I can layout and run a compass course and estimate distance over ground well enough to strike my target. Other equipment in this area is as follows:

  1.  Whistle
  2.  Flint stick, water proof matches, candle, fire starter sticks
  3.  Basic first aid kit
  4.  Space blanket
  5.  Buck knife
  6.  Walkie-Talkie
  7.  Parachute cord
  8.  Led flashlight

Hal – WA2AKV


Welcome to SOTA Hal and hope you had a good time despite no activation.

A few quick comments:

  1. I wouldn’t be carrying a “heavily loaded” pack on a SOTA day hike, even in winter. Of course safety is the primary concern, but I’d suggest a target of 15-20lb total pack weight, off the top of my head.

  2. Two 4000mAh batteries is WAY overkill. One 4000mAh is more than enough. One 2000mAh battery is probably more than enough for an experienced op.

  3. Were you on snow shoes? Was W2/GC-106 your original goal?

fwiw, I’ve activated several times in the area you were in, including winter bushwhacks. Lots of fun.

73, Barry N1EU

Barry, tnx for the info. My pack was heavy for me - probably about 25 lbs, next time I’ll weigh everything. Yes w2/GC-106 was the target. Snow was about 12 inches and yes probably should have taken my snow shoes. This was my first winter radio expedition and I was quite comfortable. I was able to make two contacts - some how that section of the post went missing perhaps in my lame attempt to add the html?

Good to know you have activated in the area - yes lots of fun.

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A fairly strenuous, solo bushwhack in 12 inches of snow up to an 8pt summit was a very ambitious first activation attempt Hal! :astonished:

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Well thanks for the acknowledgement Barry. BTW love your QRZ page. You seem to have captured the spirit for sure. I’ve day hiked extensively this area for the last 20 years and know it pretty well. Seems as if you do as well.

I’m no stranger to the outdoors; navigation, piloting, dead-reckoning either land, sea or air. I did have a hiking partner so was not solo - we were in touch via Walkie-Talkie (my hiking partner is not a ham) and we did rendezvous later in the day.

Perhaps January for another attempt if the temps are not too low.

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Hi Hal,
I think you’ve got the right approach - certainly a willingness to change your original plans due to circumstances (weather, time, trail conditions etc) is very important in winter - safety is more important than contacts for sure. And you’ve already hit the important points: layering is even more important in winter SOTA than is is in winter hiking. You generate much more heat when plowing uphill through snow than you do while sitting perfectly still trying to dig that weak station out of the noise. On Saturday, even though it wasn’t that cold, as soon as I got to the summit, on went an additional two sweaters, a down jacket and a shell.

I agree with Barry, you can probably cut some weight on battery, but deciding what to bring and what to leave is part of an ongoing process. I used to repack my pack before every hike just so I wouldn’t be accumulating stuff to carry without thinking about it. The best description I saw on a backpacking blog was that I was trading off comfort on the trail (less stuff) vs comfort in camp (more stuff). For us it it more likely comfort on the trail vs comfort on the air.

Best of luck on your next outing and I hope to catch youon the air.
73, Malcolm VE2DDZ

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Awesome - thanks for the tips. Sounds like you’ve got some trips under the proverbial belt. I’ll re-evaluate the FT-817 current drain in receive and transmit so as to better gauge the battery capacity.

Your approach to re-packing makes a lot of sense. One can certainly accumulate odds-and-ends that eventually build up with unnecessary weight.

Hi Hal

Welcome to the SOTA family and well done on the first expedition even if it was a zero pointer. Living to have another go is the crucial bit :wink:

I find I generally get about 2hrs intensive ssb activating on a 2200mAh 3S LiPo, I usually carry a 1000mAh spare as a light weight back-up just in case…

73 de Paul G4MD

Welcome to this great SOTA family.
My 4S2P 4200mAh LiFePo4 battery has let me activate with long time transmitting my FT-817 @ 5watts for nearly 3 hours some few times when I’ve been that Lucky with no other duties and nice enough weather at the summit.


I bought a 3 AH internal LIPO battery for my FT817. It seems to run for 3 or 4 hours - don’t think I have ever run out of battery power in the 2 years I’ve had it. My 4.2 AH LIFEPO4 battery ran my IC703 at 10w ssb and cw for about 80 contacts over 4 recent activations. Half way through the fifth activation it dropped below 12v and I swapped in a small LIPO 3S that was my backup for the rest of that activation.

Battery requirements estimation is often based on (bad) experiences with FM radios, and FM is the most demanding mode on transmit, as it is 100% current while you transmit. By comparision, ssb requires about a third of that, as does CW. So those modes are definitely better for battery powered operation. My approach is to take a main battery plus a backup smaller battery.

73 Andrew VK1DA

Welcome to the SOTA community Hal. I also commend your decision making in not continuing on to the summit. Those decisions are important. I have just been through my first December hike in the Carolina Mountains. As others have said layering is important. I try to keep my pack weight below 15 pounds and that is including carrying a 3.5 lb portable mast and that seems to have worked OK in this last hike - 1.8 miles 1484 feet of vertical ascent to a 5700’ summit. I am still thinking about trimming that pack weight down just to be able to go faster on trail.

73 Ariel NY4G