Are you hibernating this winter?
Where I live, and for most of you, it’s really cold! It seems like after the Christmas season is over no one is motivated to do much winter ham radio. It is a great time to keep going with radio activities. Of course, we need to find a way to make it interesting and fun, otherwise why do it at all? What can you do to stay engaged? Well, here are some suggestions:
Winter Field Day. winter ham radio
Winter Field Day takes place on the last weekend of January and the format is pretty much the same as the much more well known June Field Day. WFD is the neglected stepchild of amateur radio because it get no where near the support & attention of traditional Field Day. Even the ARRL doesn’t seem to care. I had to dig deep into the ARRL website to find any reference to it. Winter Field Day is organized by the Winter Field Day Association, which is not connected to the ARRL. The website has the complete rules and background information.
The event is really meant for those interested in EMCOMM, but of course anyone is welcome to participate. If you are an EMCOMM person or into survival/preparedness, then surely you must understand the importance of being able to operate in hostile weather environments. If you only venture out when the weather is nice (or you never venture out at all), then you’re not serious about EMCOMM or for that matter survival or preparedness. winter ham radio
The OH8STN YouTube channel and blog is the go-to resource for rugged, outdoor operating. Julian doesn’t just wander out for a few hours here and there. He walks the talk and operates for extended periods in very hard weather, then documents his experiences on line. Anyone who truly wants to learn how to communicate while in “survival mode” would be doing themselves a huge favor by first checking out OH8STN’s videos. He personifies Winter Field Day.
Ham Meets Military-The Royal Netherlands Army.
By late April it won’t really be winter anymore, but on April 22 the Royal Netherlands Army will be participating in a 12-hour “ham meets military” event. The purpose of the event is to familiarize military personnel with amateur radio. Eight stations will be up and running on several bands. The Netherlands is a strong ally to the United States, so here is a chance for American hams to bag some DX and extend international goodwill. I would love to see the American military do something like this, and I’d even volunteer to help! I never heard of this project until I was tipped off by a reader so I don’t have details regarding logging, operating rules, etc. Here is a an English-language QRZ and Facebook page with frequencies and times.
Fly solo. winter ham radio
I’ve said this before many times and it’s worth hitting on again: You don’t need an organized contest or event to practice your skills! My home station is fully off grid, so I can do this anytime. Still, for the purpose of training for emergency communications and survival/prepping, I take my portable gear out to the field once in a while. I’m going to guess that everyone who reads this blog has an interest in in EMCOMM or survival/preparedness on some level. Getting out in bad weather may not be everyone’s idea of grand time, but if you are serious about EMCOMM and/or survival/preparedness, then you have to take the bad with the good. So get out there and do it! winter ham radio
If a contests or events are your primary motivator, the WA7BNM calendar lists hundreds of them. There is something going on every day of the year. While many events may be active only in limited geographical areas, no one should have any problem finding an on-air event that suits them. In addition to contests, there are several daily nets on HF that provide excellent opportunities.
Get organized! winter ham radio
Many hams take a break from amateur radio over the winter. If you are in this club, use the down time to go through your gear. Clean and organize everything. Fix that cable that’s been flaky since last summer. How are you doing on supplies and spare parts? Do you need to restock replacement fuses, connectors, wire, and other basic necessities? Are your antennas in need of attention? Check your tools and test equipment too. If you’re not going to operate radio, then at least get your house in order for when you do return to the air.
My winter project is to reconfigure my portable station. The goal is to have a complete HF-UHF setup that is light and compact enough to be transported a modest distance (3-5 miles, 4.8-8 km) on foot by one person. The package must include an off grid power source, antennas, and be effective for worldwide communication.
My current portable station already meets most of these requirements. The biggest unresolved problem is fitting it into a package that is comfortable to carry 3-5 miles. The backpack I use now is not appropriate and very painful after just a short walk. Since bringing a chiropractor along on every outing isn’t practical, I’m on the hunt for a backpack or other mode of transport that won’t twist my back & shoulders into a knot before I get to the end of my driveway. I am otherwise more than physically fit enough to carry the load; I just need to fine tune the mechanics of packaging everything.
As I write this, at my house it is about 20F (-6C) outside and we got about an inch (2.5 cm) of snow overnight. This is not considered a big deal at all in these parts. The sun is bright and strong, perfect for feeding a hungry solar panel. Whether you go it alone or in a group, work a contest or do everyday operating, it doesn’t matter. Get out there and practice your skills in the worst of times as well as the best.
What are you doing to stay engaged with amateur radio this winter? Leave a comment below or send me a message on my contact page