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Friday, June 08, 2018

Check List: Summer VHF Contest

With fantastic weather just ahead for the June VHF contest, here is a handy check list of things to remember for a successful contest at home or away.

VHF Contest Check List

Feed-lines: This past winter in the North Eastern US was horrible.  Check your feed-lines now for any damage that can prevent every bit of precious RF from making it out of your antenna as well as signals entering your antenna, down your coaxial cable and into your radio.  VHF and up frequencies are not as forgiving to feed line loss compared to HF.
Antenna Polarization:  Most VHF contesting for voice modes is done on SSB, so a horizontally polarized antenna for 6m, 2m and 70cm are a must have.  Even a simple dipole will do much better than your vertical antenna used for FM.  Here is a quick 6m antenna to build and mount outside for this weekend
Mode Experimentation:  Gain valuable points and experience by trying something new.  You may be surprised to hear that the 6m and 2m band has PSK31 and FT-8 activity.  If you use these modes on the HF bands, give them a try on VHF for a new challenge.  Also,  2m and 70cm is not just for FM and SSB.  What about giving some of the digital voice modes a try on common simplex channels.  DMR and Fusion have some interesting characteristics for long distance communication worth giving a look to.  Here are some frequencies and tips for DMR simplex activity.
Grid Square: Being at home means your location does not change often.  Make sure you know your grid square to easily exchange location data as part of a contact.  You may be located in a rare grid for those on 6m, so be ready to make contact if you hear something on the "magic band". Here is a general guide where to find what sorts of activity on 6m
Weather Conditions:  Early June in the North East has some weird weather, especially with all the micro climate zones in the Hudson Valley.  Check your local weather and pay attention to lines of cold and hot weather plus incoming humidity and barometric pressure trends.  Timing your contest activity around temperature drops or other weird weather may mean grabbing a few contacts further away on 2m than you thought was possible. The Wunderground website has all sorts of data and predictions. Pay close attention to the real time weather charts such as these or these.
Radios & Power: It is easy to check your power source and radio at home, but if you are going to operate portable, top off your batteries and check your radio programming before heading out. There is nothing worse than having not enough battery power to get through a content while out portable or not knowing what frequencies or modes to find activity on.
Logging:  Even if you are operating casually, its still good to keep track of contacts on a simple pad of paper. Here are instructions for logging contacts per the ARRL 
Have Fun:  If a contest feels more like a chore than having fun, step away from the radio for a bit.  The VHF contest is unique in that you can be more effective by spreading out your operating time compared to sitting at the radio for one long length of time. If you need something to pass the time, the HVDN website lots of articles in the archive since we launched last year worth taking a look at.  Feel free to add some comments to them to if you want.

The Hudson Valley Digital Network (HVDN) does have a club call sign of N2HVD, so be sure to listen out for it on the bands. This will be the first public use of the call sign, so we may even send you a real QSL card with a low serial number too.

N2HVD will be active on 6m SSB and 2m SSB in the usual windows of operation.  We will also be beaconing our operating location via APRS on 2m as well as on DMR via  Lastly,  working N2HVDN via satellites such as Ao-92, So-50, Ao-85 and Fo-29 are possible along with some DMR contacts on 2m and 70cm.

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