Winter The Field-huh? Winter Field Day! It's a relatively new (decade-ish) event where ham radio operators take to the field in the last weekend of January and try to make a bunch of contacts, and maybe even rack up a few contest points. For whatever points are worth; personally, I wish they could be cashed in for beer or an MTB pedal upgrade. But I digress. Three of us ventured forth into the arctic wilds:
Well it wasn't that arctic. It was more like 50F, perfect for hiking the Tuxachanie Trail for a couple of miles before setting up. But you'd definitely need a sweater and it was north of I-10, so that counts. Anyway, we hiked a couple of miles east from the Hwy. 49 trailhead to get out of the swampy parts, set up with a Yaesu FT-857D and a W3EDP mini antenna, and operated our hearts out. I made a grand total of seven contacts. For you non-hams out there, this is technically non-zero, but it is a pitifully small count for a contest. However, considering that these were scattered across two bands and two modes (voice and digital), and we were operating both in a remote location and off of non-grid power, the multipliers and bonuses totaled (ka-ching ka-ching) and I ended up tied for 51th place out of about 97 entries in my class. But, as I already said, the points are only for bragging(?) rights and are not transferable for actual goods such as beer or mountain bike parts. If you want to go look at the results listing or just peruse the WFD site, here's the link.
Lessons learned? There are always things to learn from something like this. Foremost, weight stacks up fast. Take a 4 pound radio and an old ALICE pack, add a few more radio do-dads and a folding table, lunch, and some water, and suddenly it all tops 30 pounds. Next up, make sure to bring a barrel connector for the VHF antenna. Might've gotten a 2 meter contact if I had been able to hook that up. A handful of QR zip-ties would have been nice. The W3EDP antenna wouldn't tune 15 meters, will have to experiment with that before next year. But the biggest question for next? Maybe bring the FT-817ND radio instead. Yes, operating on 5 Watts can be a bitch, but cutting the radio pack weight by 2/3rds may make it worthwhile. Backyard experiments on this (once the weather cools down) will help make this call before WFD '18. (And that reminds me, I need to make up a post on the new-used FT-817ND I picked up last month. Maybe this weekend.)
No snow, but I swear it was the tail-end of January. And we were north of I-10.
And one closing thought. When it comes to abusing those expensive high-energy density lithium batteries, don't.