Subsections of Operating Activities
POTA Kick Start
A guide for kick starting your Parks On The Air adventure
Subsections of POTA Kick Start
1 - Prep
Things to do before heading to the field.
Parks On The Air Specific
Get a POTA account set up
Familiarize yourself with the Parks On The Air program rules
Check out the POTA YouTube Becoming an Activator playlist
Scope out your park. Use the website to determine if the park you are interested in is in the POTA program.
Research the park rules and park events.
Do a recon trip or reach out to previous activators.
A successful activation
10 contacts makes for a successful activation
Before going into the field, write the following in your log book: park name, park number, grid square, county, and state.
Alerting and Spotting
Alerting is I’m going to be at this park, I think I’m going to be active during this window (UTC), and I’ll most likely be using these band/mode combination.
Spotting is I’m activating now! Right now, I’m at park #, on frequency, and operating mode.
To post an alert or spot, first open the pota.app website. Then login. Next you will user the hamburger menu to select to add an Activation or a Spot.
- Copy of your FCC License
- Power Source
- Key / Mic
- Logbook and pen or pencil
- Memory keyer
- Long CQ: CQ POTA CQ CQ DE callsign callsign K
- Short CQ: CQ POTA DE callsign K
- End QSO: 72 callsign
- Park Identifier: park identifier
- Coax, cord, throw weight, back pack, mast, tripod, …
- Shade tarp
- Digital audio recorder, camera
- Know your limits - WX, etc
- Food & Water
- Buddy up?
Optional, but recommended
Set up a QSO Map account
Logbook of the World
The ARRL does not have an affiliation with the Parks On The Air program.
POTA does not require Logbook of the World log submissions.
It is a totally optional activity for you.
It does take quite a bit to get LOTW set up. So, why do it? Do it for those hunters that are after you in order to complete ARRL awards. If you are going to use LOTW, take the additional step of creating a location profile for each park you activate.
2 - QRV
Setting up your station
Questions and ramifications to consider when setting up your station:
- Will you be able to utilize a shelter?
- Are you operating from your car?
- Is there a bathroom facility nearby?
- Is there potable water nearby?
- Are you hiking in?
- What natural hazards (critters, plants, terrain) do you need to watch out?
- Are there other people nearby? Make sure your fun doesn’t yuck their fun or pose a hazard to them. Be prepared to answer questions. Maybe have an informational hand out ready.
Improving the station setup
Make note of any lacking equipment, or something that could have been useful. Address it when you are back at home. For example, an extra stake or s-biner would have been handy when hooking up a transformer. Or, the specific pen/pencil being used didn’t work well. Swap it out.
Consider the following:
- Beaconing your location with APRS
- Keeping a radio on 146.52 for local 2m FM contacts
- In areas with lots of traffic on 146.52, try 146.58 Adventure Radio Frequency
The more you have in the air, the better off you are. Be aware of the locaiton rules and regulations. Some places are permissive and you’ll be able to get your wire up in a tree. Use an arborist line and throw weight. Do not use paracord or fishing line. They are not designed for use in trees and have a good chance of snagging or breaking. As ambassadors of the hobby we want to take care to follow leave no trace principles. Nice options for these locations are EFHW, “random” wire, and trapped vertical
Some locations like National Parks, and wild life refuge areas are very restrictive. For locations like that be prepared with an option that is self supporting and does not require any ground penetration. Good antenna options for locations like this could be: Elecraft AX1, AX2, QRP Guys DS1, Buddipole or BuddiStick, or Gabil GRA-7350TC.
I typically paper log (Rite in the Rain notebook #73 size) with a pen or pencil. If you make a mistake, don’t try and erase it. Simply draw a line through it. The log book is clipped onto an A5 size clipboard. The clipboard also has an elastic band to help keep the journal page down in windy conditions. A small cord runs from the clipboard to the pencil. This makes for easy retrieval of the dropped writing implement.
Have your Park name and number handy. You may occassionally be asked for your county, state, or grid square.
What should I log? Log Band, mode, UTC Date Time, Station worked, Report sent, Report received, State|Province|Country received.
Write down the band, mode, and UTC time on a line. Then on subsequent lines the UTC time (if there is time), call sign of the station worked, RST sent, RST received, and SPC received. When you work the last station in a run, or are getting ready to call CQ again, make sure to note the UTC time. Missing times can be “fuzzed” in later.
When changing bands make sure to note it in the logbook.
You may optionally use a digital audio recorder to record your activiation. It can be helpful to have as a backup to your paper log. The model linked to can also serve as an audio level control for rigs that don’t have one. Get experience with connecting and using the recorder before you go into the field.
Make sure you’re in a comfortable and safe position. Have your easily accessible drink nearby.
If you start to feel overwhelmed by a pile up or the pace of things, take a breath and remember, it is your show. You determine the flow and pace.
Use a band change as an opportunity for a bio-break or to hunt other parks.
- Start at a faster wpm, then slow down
- start with your filter wide, then narrow filter only as necessary
- Listen for stations that are off zero beat, use RIT as needed
- If you need a break to move to a new page in the log, etc, you can use the Morse code prosign AS along with a number X. This says, stations please stand by X minutes.
- Hunters sending faster than you copy? Ask them to please slow down: PSE QRS
Working a pile up
If you have a large pile up, you may find it useful to call for specific stations:
- QRZ P2P? Any P2P (Park to Park) stations?
- QRZ QRP? QRP, portable, or mobile stations call now
- CQ DX? DX stations call now
- By the numbers (call district)
- very rare are you running a special event station or some other highly sought after location?
Don’t do all of the above at once or maybe, at all. Most operators of QRP, portable, mobile, and DX stations realize that they will likely have a weaker signal. So, they will typically wait until the pileup has dwindled and then try to call you then.
Operating split is a very rare occurrence with POTA. If you end up with a large group of hunters zero beat, try CQ UP. Then use your RIT or split feature to listen around 1Khz UP from your transmit frequency.
3 - Post
Post event activities
Logging your activation for POTA Video from QRV section
NOTE: The primary method for submitting your logs is to upload them using the website. However, you can still email them to your area coordinator.
Fast Log Entry
Check your ADIF file with ADIF Master A common problem is the use of the letter O versus the number zero.
See where you worked by creating a polylines map with QSO Maps
- Start by uploading the ADIF file from your activation
- The site will send you an email of what stations have been added to your log along with callsigns that it didn’t recognize.
- Check your log and files for the callsigns that weren’t recognized.
- Hand waving - create a map, I like to use polylines and colors by band.
- Use screen clipping tool to capture the displayed map.
Submit the log to POTA
With POTA, NO ONE gets credit until you turn in the log!
POTA log uploading This video was in the Activators video play list.
CallSign_K-####_ST_YYYYMMDD.adi where ST is the 2 letter state abbreviation.
If you are in a multi-state park, use the state that you activated from within.
Submit the log to ARRL LOTW
First, set up a location in TQSL with your park info from above. Then submit your log for processing with the correct location.
Share with your buddies, club, other POTA ops
social media: FB, IG, Slack, Discord
Refer to your log and see if there were any station, kit, operating, or other improvements you noted.
72 - Bonus
This kick start guide has taken a very focused approach to get you going. Where can you go from here?
- Try electronic logging in the field. This will also lead to a different way of exporting your log.
- Or try using a spreadsheet program with CSV file along with ADIF Master to create your log
- Try operating digital modes
- Experiment with antennas
- Try different bands
- Can you utilize alternate power (solar, wind, water)?
- How low can you go with your power, QRPp?
- What does it take to operate at 20W, 40W, 100W, or more?
- How light a station can you put together?
- How can you operate from a vehicle in cold or hot weather?
- Can you operate your station after dark?
- Research the different ways of doing a multi-op activation
- Can you bring a solar panel and charge controller into the mix to extend your operating time?
OzarkCon 2023 Event
Specifics for OzarkCon 2023 POTA Kick Start.
This event is for the QRP amateur radio operator that would like to get started with the Parks On The Air program.
Bryan, K0EMT, is your event facilitator.
Mike, AD0YM, will be assisting.
Before you come to OzarkCon:
- Review the Prep materials
- then DO the prep
- Post an activation alert for Park K-1787, hours, your call
- Review the QRV operating guide
- Review the Post event materials
- Review the Field Gear section, then gather up equipment to bring
This is a two part day:
- The park activation during the day.
- Processing the logs in the evening.
- After the banquet, in the hall
Gather at 10:00 AM local time at the Stone Castle Inn lobby.
We will then go to the shelter at Table Rock State Park.
In the evening after the banquet we will gather at in the banquet hall to work on the logs.
Even if you complete your log on your own, please join us. I’ll be aggregating our totals for a report on Saturday.
This is a NO ALCOHOL event.
- If there is ice on the ground, we will not activate
- If there is lightning, we will cease operation.
- If the wind chill is below 32F we will not operate
- If the heat index is over 90F we will not operate
If we are not able to be outdoors, we will do an alternate activity at the hotel.
Make sure you bring proper hydration and snacks for your outdoor time. Temperatures this time of year can vary between 29F and 67F. Layering your clothing is a good idea. Know your limits, don’t push it. If you need help, ask for it. Keep an eye out for fellow activators.
When operating, you will use your callsign. You need a minimum of 10 contacts to have a ‘succesful" activation. No matter, how many contacts you make, you need to submit a log.
Have your park name, park number, grid square, county, and state handy when you’re operating.
Table Rock State Park, K-1787, Taney County, Missouri, Grid Square EM36. NOTE: if you venture out further around the park, you may end up in Stone county.
We will be able to have 2 stations operating at the same time.
- Have an HF transceiver (or bring yours)
- Be on different bands
- Operated at QRP power levels
- 5 Watts for CW
- 10 Watts with phone
- Have antennas and coax (BNC male terminated)
There will also be a 2M FM station set up for simplex operation.
Essential Gear to bring:
- Headphones or earbuds
- A logbook, paper or journal and a pen or pencil
- paddle or key with 1/8" TRS plug
- Your transceiver that has a female BNC antenna connector (or adapter)
- A memory keyer (Program with long CQ, short CQ, 72 your callsign, park #)
- Battery with Anderson Power Pole connectors
- digital audio recorder with 1/8" TRS plug for transceiver side
- UTC time piece
- Seat pad or outdoor folding chair
- lap blanket
Friday evening gathering will be in the banquet hall, after dinner.
- We’ll get your logbook translated into FLE
- Generate ADIF files
- Create Maps
- Submit log to Parks On The Air program
- Set up LOTW location
- Submit log to LOTW
- Check out account on the POTA site
- Do a happy dance
With POTA, NO ONE gets credit until you turn in the log!
TRSP Shelter Directions
Outdoor event location information for the OzarkCon 2023 POTA Kick Start.
Directions to the shelter
The shelter is located at 181 State Park Dr, Branson MO 65616