Monday, May 13, 2013

Field Day 2013!

It happens at about the same time every year - Amateur Radio Field Day!


Held during the fourth full weekend of June - this year on the 22nd and 23rd - Amateur Radio Field Day is an event where amateurs throughout the country go out, away from their normal shacks and antennas and set up stations using temporary antennas and emergency power!
Manually tilting the tower up during setup for the 2011 Field Day


One of the main points in the FCC rules that justify the existence of  amateur radio refers the need for maintaining a pool of technically competent volunteers that are willing to volunteer in the event of an emergency - and this is ostensibly the very reason why many people, especially in Utah, get their amateur radio license.

It would, therefore, make sense that one might actually want to do something to gain experience toward this end - that is, operate under conditions where one must set up a usable station out in the field and then operate it for a period of time!


This year, UARC's Field Day will be where it has been for the past several years - an open meadow near the Payson Lakes campground in Payson Canyon.  In this meadow, in a clearing among the trees, we will set up (at least) two towers with Yagi antennas, multiple wire antennas, and several operating tents.  Around the periphery will be many people's camping arrangements varying from the tents to the backs of vehicles to fancy trailers and RVs!

From Salt Lake, the Field Day site is about a two hour drive and 20-40 minutes of this is the ascent of Payson Canyon where one emerges into the cool mountain air - quite a contrast with the typically warm valley of that time of year!

For directions to the field day site, keep a look out for the upconing June issue of the Microvolt, or you can look at the directions in last year's Microvolt which may be found here:

What to expect
Some of the antennas at the Field Day site

In contrast with the valley, it can get quite cold at nights at 8000+ feet in the mountains so dress accordingly and prepare for temperatures as low as the high 30's and low 40's in the wee hours of the morning!  In the day it may get into the 80's, but this is cool compared to the oft 100+ temperatures of the valley!

Because of the altitude, it's also advised that one brings sunscreen as well if you plan to spend any time out in the open.  While bugs aren't usually too much of a problem, it would be a good idea to bring mosquito repellant, as well.

Make sure that you bring all the food and water that you'll need for the time that you'll be spending on site.  Fortunately, there are a number of places to shop for food in Payson - a 20-40 minute drive (each way) at the bottom of Payson canyon.

For the meal on Saturday Night, UARC will supply the main meat item while the rest of the meal is pot-luck, provided by the attendees.

On site, there will be porta-potties as well as a reasonably-sized pool of generators:  If you have something that you wish to plug in, please check with a neighbor of yours that might have a generator - and also, the club will have a large-ish generator on site from which a reasonable amount of power can be pulled.

Setting up for Field Day

The Utah Amateur Radio club has two towers:  A large one (80 feet) on a trailer (along with a generator) that requires a 3/4-1 ton vehicle to tow it and a much smaller tower that, with the mast, extends to 30-35 feet and on each there will be a multi-band Yagi antenna.  Between these two towers as well as into the trees surrounding the clearing will be strung several wire antennas for the lower HF bands such as 80/75 and 40 meters.
Much of the setup at the 2012 UARC Field Day

With recent rules changes, we will now be allowed to start setting up as early as Thursday afternoon (with certain restrictions on the amount of time we can take to do the setup) and because of this, it is common for a number of people to show up on Thursday - or even earlier - to stake a claim for their camping spot.  On Sunday afternoon, teardown takes much less time - typically 2-4 hours - and help is appreciated to do so!

Field Day operations

The actual time of Field Day operations commence at precisely 12:00 noon on Saturday and continue until 12:00 noon on Sunday, around the clock!  Because of this, we'll be asking for volunteers to help "man" the various stations during this 24 hour period.

The Utah Amateur Radio club will have either two or three main stations from which anyone - licensed or not - can operate.  In addition to these stations, there will also be a "Get On The Air" station where there will be, on hand, people to assist those who have never been on the air - or are just new at this whole "radio" concept!  On the other extreme, there is always at least one station devoted entirely to those who use Morse Code to communicate and, typically, another station that is somewhere in-between.

To learn more about Field Day

To learn more about Amateur Radio Field Day, you are encouraged to come to the June UARC meeting which will be held on June 13 at 7:30 PM at the University of Utah campus:  See the UARC web site for more details on how to get to the meeting:

Also, be on the lookout for the June Microvolt for instructions and details about this meeting, Field Day itself, and the upcoming planning for the event.
It takes quite a few volunteers to set up even the smaller antennas!

Volunteers needed!

An event like this cannot occur without the help of people willing to volunteer time and effort.  Prior to Field Day, there will be one or two planning meetings to make sure that the necessary equipment is on hand, organized and working as well as to make sure that everyone involves knows what needs to be done.

An incomplete list of such things is:
  • Radio operators.  We would like to keep as many stations operating as possible during the entire 24 hour period, particularly the CW station and at least one Phone (SSB) station.  As you can imagine, things often get a bit lean in the wee hours of the morning when it comes to volunteers!
  • People willing to bring/tow things.  In particular, it's always a bit of a challenge to find someone to tow the club's larger tower/trailer.  Although equipped with surge brakes, it will take at least a 3/4-ton vehicle to tow this trailer (a 1 ton will do so comfortably) up and down Payson canyon.  There are a number of smaller items to be towed such as the small tower trailer and the porta-potties, but these are such that practically any vehicle with a hitch will do!
  • Field Day Committee members.  There are a number of people who are required to make sure that everything that needs to get done actually does get done!  These responsibilities range from making sure that all the necessary equipment arrives on site to helping set up the tents, setting up antennas, setting up the stations, running power and data lines, and assisting those in the GOTA (Get-On-The-Air) tent with having their first on-the-air contacts!
We look forward to seeing you there!