mikecwMan, there’s nothing like exposure to a new way of doing things to make a man re-think his philosophy on a given topic. The topic is camping and the man with the good ideas is Mike, KF2EW. I’ve done a bit of backpacking but Mike knows how to Camp! From this point on, whenever I write of Camping with regard to Mike, the word Camp will be capitalized. It has to be. Let me explain:

Although the contest didn’t start until Saturday morning, Mike and I decided to Camp out Friday night near our operating sites. This would allow us to check our gear, install his windom and fend off any bear attacks. And of course standing around the campfire after dark discussing all manner of topics while every now and then poking the coals with a stick. Important stuff. We met at our campsite at Worthington State Forest, NJ on the Delaware River. Beautiful place. I’ll be returning there with the YL before the summer is out.

All my camping and radio gear will fit in my backpack. My camping stuff is as QRP as my radio stuff – small. The radio gear fits into a

AE5X and Station-in-a-Bag

Ziploc baggie (for weather protection). And there’s Mike with a Jeep-load of gear! A tent bigger than my house. Furniture for the tent. Rugs for the tent floor. A 2-burner stove. An awning for the picnic table. Of course the roominess of his tent allows him to bring his radio accessories: wattmeter, auto-tuner, power station, etcetera. Heavy on the etcetera. I asked about all this gear, and let me say this: There are times when the most potentially complex questions have the simplest answers. What’s more, these answers are usually as profound and Earth shattering as they are simple. This was one of those times. Mike’s answer to why he Camps with all this gear was, “I don’t have to carry it in a backpack so why not be comfortable?” Yeah, why not?!

I’ve been so into backpacking that I’ve ignored the fact that backpacking gear is a handicap when car camping. I’ve been unnecessarily burdening myself with cramped quarters and limited cooking facilities on those occasions. But no more! I made the mistake of telling Mayra about the “De Luxe Method” of Camping and now I’m going to have to work overtime until Y3K just to pay for all the new gear she now keeps pestering me to get.

The next morning, Mike and I awoke to cool temps and a thin layer of ice on our tents and vehicles. After a quick breakfast, I packed my icy tent and everything else into my backpack and headed up to Crater Lake to operate the contest. Mike left for Sunfish Pond. Only after setting up camp and erecting a kick-butt antenna did I notice that I was in tick country. These ticks meant business – they were numerous and big, and there I was without my Mk1 Mod 3 flame-thrower. After 5 QSOs I had to leave, so I QSYed to a beaver pond in Stokes Forest to operate the remainder of the contest/campout.

Ah, this is the life!

I’ve spent many a starry night camping at Stokes and really love the place. I have a favorite campsite there with dipole-friendly trees and an unobstructed view to the south in case I bring the telescope. I finished up the contest here with a quickly-erected groundplane. The change in QTH cost me about 2 hours of contest time but it was a much better place to camp and the night was not as cold or windy as it would have been up on the ridge at Crater Lake.

I got up with the sun early the next morning, threw everything in the back of the pickup and high-tailed it back to Mike’s site at Worthington Forest. He’d mentioned something about bacon & coffee and I didn’t want to miss out. So we breakfasted, compared notes on the contest (including Mike’s bear sightings!) and then took down his windom. Then the 45 minute drive home, during which I made a mental list of all the differences between camping/casual QRPing and camping/contesting and have got a few changes planned for next time

During the contest I used the following gear:

  • Wilderness NC40A
    ZM-2 tuner
    Whiterook paddles
    Nova 71 headphones
    10 alkaline C cells

I contacted 27 SPCs and operated WT category for a score of 71,400 points. It was a fun contest and I’m looking forward to the next one!