In this video, Thomas K4SWL shares his experience of doing an impromptu amateur radio activation at Zebulon Vance Birthplace. Thomas is a passionate amateur radio enthusiast, and he loves to share his real-life activation videos. In this video, he shares how he sets up his radio and antenna, which he had on hand in his car, to get on the air quickly. 

Thomas also explains how he picks a spot to set up his equipment in a park or a summit, which is ideal for radio transmissions. The video is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to learn about amateur radio activations, setting up radio equipment quickly, and finding good spots for radio transmissions.

Thomas K4SWL Bio:

Thomas K4SWL is an amateur radio enthusiast and blogger who shares his experiences and knowledge of the radio hobby on his blog, His blog has articles on various aspects of amateur radio, including radio gear reviews, antenna building, and field operation. He also runs a YouTube channel, which has videos of his real-life amateur radio field activations.

Key Takeaways:

  • Setting up a radio and antenna quickly is possible with the right equipment.
  • Finding a good spot for radio transmissions is essential for a successful activation.
  • Amateur radio activations can be impromptu and fit into a busy schedule with the right planning.

Step-by-step Process:

  • Choose a good spot for radio transmissions.
  • Set up the radio and antenna quickly, preferably with equipment on hand.
  • Tune into a frequency and make radio transmissions.
  • Validate the activation by getting a response from other radio operators.

“So pretty much I’ve got everything I need to do a quick activation. I’ve got my radio kit in my backpack, I’ve got my antenna kit in my backpack. And so it’s just a matter of deploying it and getting on the air.” – Thomas K4SWL

Resources Mentioned:

  • Zebulon Vance Birthplace – A historic site and state park in North Carolina.
  • Reverse Beacon Network – A system of radio receivers that automatically detect radio transmissions and report them online.
  • Elecraft KX2 – A compact and lightweight portable radio for amateur radio use.
  • Inverted L Antenna – An antenna that uses a vertical element and a horizontal element to transmit signals.
  • AX1 Antenna – A compact and lightweight portable antenna designed for use with the Elecraft KX2 radio.

As an expert in amateur radio activations, my advice is to start with simple equipment and gradually build up your kit as you gain experience. Don’t be afraid to try impromptu activations, but be sure to plan ahead and choose good spots for radio transmissions. And most importantly, have fun!

Additional Resources:

  • QRPers Unlimited: Elecraft KX2 and AX1 – Seriously, how effectively can such a compact field kit work? [1] – This article provides a review of the Elecraft KX2 and AX1 portable radio and antenna system, including its compact design and effectiveness in the field.
  • QRPers Unlimited: Speedy POTA: An impromptu post-hike activation with the Elecraft KX2 and AX1 [2] – This blog post details an impromptu Parks on the Air activation using the Elecraft KX2 and AX1 antenna.
  • YouTube: Thomas K4SWL: Elecraft AX1 Portable Antenna: Real-time On-air Comparison [3] – This video by Thomas K4SWL provides a real-time comparison of the Elecraft AX1 portable antenna with other antennas.
  • Thomas K4SWL School of Radio:– This website is the home of the Thomas K4SWL School of Radio, which offers a variety of online courses and resources for amateur radio operators.


What is field operating with amateur radio?

Field operating with amateur radio refers to the practice of using portable radio equipment to operate from outdoor locations, such as parks, beaches, or mountains, rather than from a fixed location such as a home or club station.

What equipment do I need for field operating?

The equipment you need for field operating includes a portable radio, antennas, power sources, and accessories such as headphones and a microphone. You can use a variety of different types of antennas, such as wire antennas or telescoping poles, depending on your location and frequency band.

What frequencies can I use for field operating?

You can use a range of frequencies for field operating, depending on your license class and the equipment you have available. Common frequencies for portable operations include the HF bands (3-30 MHz), VHF/UHF bands (30-300 MHz), and microwave bands (above 1 GHz).

How do I find other amateur radio operators to talk to when operating in the field?

You can find other amateur radio operators to talk to by tuning your radio to a frequency where other operators are known to congregate, such as a popular calling frequency or a designated frequency for a specific activity. You can also use online resources to find out about scheduled field operating events or to connect with other operators in your area.

How can I ensure my safety when operating in the field?

To ensure your safety when operating in the field, it is important to choose a safe location that is free from hazards such as power lines or steep drop-offs. You should also bring appropriate safety gear, such as a first aid kit, and let someone know where you will be and when you plan to return.

What are some tips for successful field operating?

Some tips for successful field operating include researching your location and potential propagation conditions ahead of time, practicing setting up and taking down your equipment, and experimenting with different antennas and operating techniques to find what works best for you. It’s also important to stay patient and persistent, as conditions can change quickly in the field.

Do I need a special license to operate in the field?

No, you do not need a special license to operate in the field, but you do need to have a valid amateur radio license issued by the FCC in the US or a similar regulatory body in other countries. The privileges granted by your license will determine which frequencies and modes you are allowed to use while operating in the field.

KE2YK’s Notes:

As an avid portable QRP amateur radio field operator, I can tell you that operating QRP portable for POTA activations can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Here are a few tips that can help you make the most of your next POTA activation:

Choose the Right Equipment: When operating QRP portable, it’s important to choose equipment that is lightweight, compact, and reliable. Look for radios and antennas that are designed for portable use, and consider investing in a good quality battery that can power your equipment for several hours.

Scout Out Your Location: Before setting up your station, take some time to scout out your location. Look for a spot that is away from sources of interference, such as power lines or buildings. Consider the terrain and weather conditions, and be sure to choose a location that is safe and comfortable for you to operate in.

Set Up Your Station: Once you’ve chosen your location, it’s time to set up your station. Take care to ensure that your antenna is properly tuned, and that your radio is set up correctly for the frequency and mode you’ll be operating on. Be sure to follow all local rules and regulations regarding antenna height and placement.

Make Contacts: With your station set up, it’s time to start making contacts! Be sure to listen carefully for other operators, and try to make as many contacts as you can. Remember to be patient and courteous, and don’t be afraid to ask for repeats if you need them.

Most of All Have Fun: Finally, remember to have fun! Operating QRP portable for POTA activations can be a great way to get outside and enjoy the outdoors while pursuing your hobby. Take some time to enjoy the scenery, and make some new friends along the way.

KE2YKs Bio:

 Gary Utz (KE2YK) is an amateur radio operator and blogger based in New York, USA. He is the author of the blog and, which focuses on amateur radio topics such as antenna building, radio contests, and equipment reviews. Gary has been a licensed amateur radio operator for more than 30 years and is an active member of the amateur radio community. On his blog, he shares his experiences and insights about the hobby, as well as tips and  advice for other amateur radio enthusiasts.