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Issue No 3 2021

On the Air Email - Issue No. 3 (August 2021)

Magazine | Blog | Podcast | Join or Renew | New Ham Resources | Band Chart

Past Issues...
No. 1 | June 2021
No. 2 | July 2021

There's still time this summer to get outdoors and on the air! Whether you're going camping, hiking, or visiting a park for the day, taking a portable station with you is a fun way to operate.

"Peak" Your Operating Interests

Portable operators who want to take their activations to the next level can do it literally, in the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program. Activating peaks can be fun even if you’re not a champion mountain climber — SOTA uses a points system to rate the altitude of various peaks. Rack up enough points, and you can earn fun awards like the “SOTA Goat” (for activators) and the “Shack Sloth” (for chasers). Read "Summits on the Air" for more details about the program.

Find a Place to Park

Parks on the Air
Portable operating is tremendously popular among hams. It’s fun, challenging, and endlessly customizable to your own interests — you can go portable from a mountaintop, your own back yard, and any number of places in between. Parks are a popular spot for portable operating — so much so, that an operating program, Parks on the Air (POTA), exists to help hams keep track of their activations and earn awards for them. Read "Parks on the Air" to learn more.
National Parks on the Air
In 2016, ARRL held National Parks on the Air (NPOTA), a year-long on-air event to commemorate the centennial of the National Park Service (NPS). Over the course of the year, hams activated 460 of the 489 NPS units that qualified for the event. The top five most-activated NPS units were: Appalachian National Scenic Trail, North Country National Scenic Trail, Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, and Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park. You can still enjoy activating National Parks, so be sure to take your radio along when you hit the road this summer!

Straight Talk from a First-Time Portable Op

In the On the Air podcast’s Episode 16, from April 8, 2021, new ham Audrey Hance, KN4TMU, talks about how she put together her first POTA activation. Listen now.

Knowledge is Key

The ARRL Learning Network, a collection of webinars just for ARRL members, includes a suite of Summits on the Air information from Brian Betz, W7JET. This three-part series for beginners includes, “Getting Started with Summits on the Air,” with general information about the SOTA program; “Your First SOTA Activation,” which lays out the basics for planning and executing your first summit operation, and “HF, VHF, and UHF Antennas for SOTA,” which will help you choose the right antenna for your outing. Best of all, you can watch each webinar at your own pace.


In ham radio, “activating” or “doing an activation of” a park, summit, lighthouse, or other location means to travel to that location with radio gear and make contacts from the location. Various operating programs have rules about what does or does not constitute a valid activation. These rules may stipulate a minimum number of contacts that must be made, the manner in which the activator arrives at the location, what parts of a certain location qualify as a true activation, or other factors.

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