Sunday, January 1, 2017

NPOTA Is Over - Now What?

ARRL's National Park on the Air event is complete.  Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, this event likely exceeded the wildest expectations of whoever came up with the idea.  Every day seemed to feature multiple activations and some operators planned multi-day trips for the sole purpose of activating as many parks as possible.

Many of the activators were names and calls well known within the QRP and portable operations community, but I suspect many were more casual participants.  Perhaps they were planning a vacation in or near a national park and decided to throw a radio, antenna and accessories into the car.  Many of them hopefully discovered the fun of outdoor operating and learned that low power doesn't necessarily equate to low performance.

Now that 2017 is here and the NPOTA event is over, many of these operators may be wondering how they can continue the fun.  The ARRL may have something else up its sleeve as a replacement event...or not.  Either way, I have a few suggestions for your consideration.
  • Perhaps the most natural successor to NPOTA is Parks On The Air (POTA).  Unlike NPOTA, POTA is not restricted to only national parks, monuments, or trails.  At latest count, there are over 3300 entities available for activation.  More information is available at their website at http://wwff-kff.com.  This is one that I plan to check out in 2017.
  • Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society (ARLHS)  The ARLHS is devoted to maritime communications, amateur radio, lighthouses, and lightships. Its members travel to lighthouses around the world where they operate amateur radio equipment at or near the light.  Now under new management, check out their website at http://arlhs.com and explore the opportunities.
  • U.S. Islands Awards Program (USI)  USI is an amateur radio award program centered around chasing and activating river, lake and ocean shore islands within the 50 United States and its Territories and Protectorates.  Their website at http://usislands.org has additional information on how to activate and chase islands in coastal areas, lakes and rivers near you.
  • County Hunters  The goal of County Hunting is to make a two way contact with a station in each of the 3077 counties in the United States.  As you can probably imagine, some of the counties are sparsely populated and in high demand.  You may live in or near one of these counties, or perhaps you backpack or take a family vacation to or near one of them.  Any way you get there, you can likely be assured of being on the receiving end of considerable radio activity.  More information is available at http://www.countyhunter.com.
  • Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR)  RaDAR is about movable amateur radio stations be it fixed, mobile or on foot.  What makes RaDAR totally different to other amateur radio activities is the requirement to move quickly from one point to another and to communicate from each deployment position. It is a prerequisite within the bi-annual contest to move after every 5 QSO’s before further contacts are allowed.  There is a dedicated Google+ community at https://goo.gl/Zfnq6D where you can get additional information.
  • Summits On The Air (SOTA)  One of the best known outdoor operating activities, SOTA is a worldwide award scheme for radio amateurs and shortwave listeners that encourages portable operation in mountainous areas. For additional information on how to participate, you can visit the SOTA website at http://www.sota.org.uk.
I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the Second Saturday Sprint.  Sponsored by the QRP Field Ops Google+ community, this event runs monthly from May through October and provides an opportunity to get outdoors and operate.  Outdoors can be as close as your backyard or as far away as you desire.  More information can be found at https://goo.gl/mLrS5r.

NPOTA certainly generated a lot of interest in portable operations from many unique and exciting places, but its end doesn't need to be the end of your portable operations.  Pick one or more of the above activities and get outdoors for some radio fun!

72/73 and Happy New Year!
Jim - K0RGI