Field Day 2014 and RAC Canada Day contest

This year the ARRL Field Day and RAC Canada Day contest were coincidentally only 1 day apart. As I had a campsite booked for 3 nights in Bon Echo provincial park, this presented a great opportunity to test my new FT817ND in the field and participate in both events in QRP CW category.

We arrived very late in the evening and started setting up when it was already getting dark. The weather was cooperating – the mosquitoes didn’t. Neither sprays not citronella candles seemed to work so I had to retreat to a tent as soon as antenna was up and the tent erected.

4-photo 1 (1)

Another challenge was setting up my 20m dipole – not to mention the mosquitoes, the pine trees had many low branches and the site was almost fully shaded so I ended up having a dipole only 4-5m (14′-16′) above the ground at best and in a V-configuration pointing to the West. The SWR wasn’t perfect either so antenna tuner came handy.

45-degree dipole pointing West

By the time everything was ready, it was dark and the Field Day was well under way. The noise floor was very low; the 20m CW was alive and kicking with occasional gems like VE8RAC (Nunavut) and many more coming loud and clear. The dipole worked great on 20m – mostly towards the West as expected but with coast to coast contacts (from NB to BC). Stations to the South and East obviously had problems copying me (my apologies). Any attempts to transmit on 40m / 15m with it (with a tuner of course) weren’t successful either. Neither any QSO on SSB worked out – both the power and the antenna were too much of a compromise.

I also tested my new portable MFJ-1899T telescopic antenna. I had it secured on a tripod with a raised counterweight radial made of a ruler tape. The plan was to use it on 10m closer to the end of the field day (around noon). Tuning the antenna presented a bit of a challenge as both legs (the radial and the stick) need to be tuned simultaneously. The best SWR I could get from it was 1:1.6. I couldn’t make any QSO with it although the band seemed somewhat open.


Some observations and lessons learned:

  1. Batteries don’t last very long, a solar charger would really help for long events
  2. Lighter and more compact antenna tuner / SWR meter would be nice to have
  3. Dipole is not too easy to erect when the forest is too dense; should try a horizontally polarized delta loop with a long fiberglass support mast
  4. Logging contests using pen/paper takes too much time; next time use a small netbook laptop + winkeyer
  5. Vertical antennas don’t seem to work in a dense forest; use horizontal polarization antennas instead.

The final results (minus dupes) in QRP CW SO-20m mode when not fighting the mosquitoes 🙂 were as follows:

  • Field Day – 37 sections and 76 QSO on  (3 hours after dark S&P)
  • RAC Canada Day – 8 provinces (incl. Nunavut) and 32 QSO (2-3 hours occasional running S&P)



About va3paw
Ham radio enthusiast, software developer

2 Responses to Field Day 2014 and RAC Canada Day contest

  1. VE3EFQ says:

    Any shots of how you had your mfj1899t set up? I just got one myself and I am trying to figure out the best way to deploy it…

    • va3paw says:

      Thanks, I may have some to post later. Basically the most common option I used was putting it on some tripod and using a ruler tape or better 3-4 pre-cut wires as counterpoises. The challenge was to make a proper somewhat 135 degree angle between the counterpoise wires and the antenna to achieve 50 ohm impedance. I think ideally I should have got one more and use it in a dipole configuration – like a buddipole.

      Have mine for sale btw – let me know if interested.

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