Hams Gone Wild: Amateur Radio Field Day 2019

Of all the images that amateur radio conjures up, the great outdoors doesn’t usually figure heavily. People seem to think hams sit in a dark room at a desk heavy with radio gear, banging out Morse code into late into the night and heedless of the world outside the window. All of which sort of sounds like hard-core gaming, really.

And while that image certainly applies in a lot of cases, hams do like to get out and about at least once a year. That day is upon us with the 2019 Amateur Radio Field Day. Hams across North America reserve the fourth full weekend of each June to tear themselves out of their shacks and get into the world to set up operations in some kind of public venue, generally a park or other green space. Part cookout, part community outreach, and part slumber party – it lasts all weekend and goes around the clock – hams use field day as a chance to show the general public where amateur radio really shines: real-time worldwide communications under austere conditions.

It’s also a chance to get folks excited about getting their license, with many Field Day locations hosting “Get on the Air” stations so that unlicensed folks can try making a contact under the supervision of a licensed operator. Licensed but underequipped hams also get the chance to spin the knobs on someone else’s gear, and maybe line up that first rig purchase. And there are plenty of opportunities to learn about new modes as well, such as FT8 and WSPR. As an example your scribe is looking for some guidance on getting started with APRS, the automated packet reporting system that’s used for things like high-altitude balloon tracking.

If you have any interest at all in learning how to properly operate radio equipment, you owe it to yourself to track down the nearest Field Day location and stop by. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) has a ton of Field Day information, from a map to locate the 1500 Field Day sites to rules for the contests that will be run that weekend to guides for setting up and operating an effective Field Day setup. There will be 40,000 hams out there this year, and they’d all be thrilled if you drop by and ask a few questions.

30 thoughts on “Hams Gone Wild: Amateur Radio Field Day 2019

        1. GOTA station serves general public. Extra points are awarded if non-amateurs make more than a certain # of QSOs, so for clubs that offer it, it is important to attract as many operators as they can.
          Any licensed operator with sufficient privileges can ask to use any of the other stations. Unless the club is very competitive, guests ops are welcome and allowed to work. Quite often it will be possible to find a control op, who can supervise technician working on HF.

        2. I’m a desert rat, (California)and use APRS in areas far from cell phone coverage to send short email messages as well as text messages to non-hams friends and family. My local club is hosting field day at one of their remote repeater stations, on a mountain peak above Ventura, CA. Taking two newly-licensed 12 yr old hams with me, they help me with Chirp programming.

  1. Thanks to the availability of sophisticated, worldwide mobile communications to anyone who wants to pay for it monthly and the proliferation of many electronics hobbies besides amateur radio, the average age of a ham in the US is 61. But they’ll be the only ones communicating during the zombie apocalypse, so be nice to them.

    1. Amateur radio isn’t about communicating anymore. We’ve had telephones since before most living hams were born.

      It’s a hobby. It’s about the hardware, the physics, the community, seeing how far away you can make a contact, etc. It’s like people who build kit cars. You can just buy a car, or call an Uber, but some people like to go to the extra trouble because it is fun for them.

      As for the statistics, I’m 27.

      1. All quite true. But at times it WILL be all about communicating, such as when the hurricane or the wildfire destroys the landline cables which deliver our voice or Internet connectivity. Or destroys the cell towers and/or the landlines connecting them to the MTSO. Or the aforementioned zombie apocalypse. Everyday practice in amateur radio maintains our level of emergency preparedness, and Field Day especially helps readiness for the REALLY bad times and someone in our household or our neighborhood needs help beyond what we can provide.

    2. There’s a lot of gray-hairs in our local RC airplane clubs too (I am one of them), and in golf. I think that when people get to a certain age, they take up the hobbies that they were interested in as children.

      Plus a lot of hams that I meet were introduced to radio at their jobs (military, police, fire, etc.), and take this up when they retire.

      For sure: I totally agree with you. The ARRL likes to talk about yearly growth, but when you’re growing slower than the bulk of the population that are hams (in this case: slower than the baby boomers), then perhaps you really aren’t growing.

      1. There was a time which when a ham license was the only way to do RC. Specific license s came later.

        Two way radios people were a staple, though you had the reverse, hams going into the profession because of the hobby.

        But, there’s been a shift. 2m to is the entry now, public service the reason for becoming a ham.


  2. I have been asked to be part of two clubs in my area for the “overnight operations” of contesting. For those non-amateurs out there, get your SDR dongles out, and tune into anything from 1.8 to 10Mhz at LSB and anything else below 50Mhz on USB. There will be a lot of chatter on the Amateur Radio Bands from Saturday at noon till Sunday at the same time. If anyone catches me on there, I’ll share a small QSO about this ol’ hacker. 73 and good luck. DE KC8KVA

  3. The article didn’t mention one of the serious reasons for Field Day: setting up a site for emergency communications under total field conditions. Everything is portable, some bits more portable than others, and all power is from generators or battery.

    This is going to be my first Field Day. I am soooo looking forward to it!


  4. I know there’s quite a few Hackaday readers / contributors in the Kitchener-Waterloo Ontario area. You’re all very welcome to come join in KWARC’s Field Day from Breithaupt Park, the picnic shelter just north of Breithaupt Center. Very informal, not too competitive, we’re not going to break any records, we WILL try to get you on the air regardless of whether you have a license or not (we can supervise, you’ll be fine). We’ll have everything from Phone to CW to digital modes, maybe even satellite, operating as VE3IC, N-alpha-ontario-south category, various bands, lots of fun, free food, see you Sat afternoon or Sunday morning!

  5. And I was at mine yesterday. Turns out that local crowd was also part of the same group who’s normally keeping the NY Hall of Science abuzz. Not quite enough young people to make it interesting.

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