ARRL Field Day is the first "major" contest I've had a chance to operate since getting back on the air earlier this year (no need to discuss whether FD is a contest or not - no matter what ARRL says, as long as they award bonus points and list scores in different categories, it's definitely a contest).
I had never operated FD by myself and initially decided to put in a fairly serious effort in 1B-battery, with a trip out to a friend's farm and multiple antennas...my goal was to make top-5 in 1B-battery. Instead, in the weeks prior to FD, the Georgia heat kicked in and I decided to scale back my efforts a bit. Living in an apartment, all my operations currently are Field Day style anyway. So, I built a new 50' doublet the morning of FD and hung it up, cleared off a table in the spare room for the rig, computer and batteries - although I did operate from our apartment it really was a portable operation. My revised goal was to make 400 QSOs.
The antenna ended up as a sloper, at about 45' on the high end and 15' on the low end. A little less vertical than I've been using similar antennas lately, which have worked pretty well for DX...I figured the more horizontal installation might be better for stateside.
For power, I had charged up a couple of 7Ah SLABs and had an 8-cell D-cell holder for backup. By my calculations I figured I'd use up both the SLABs and most of the D-cell pack, but figured I could re-load the D-cell holder in case I needed more juice. The FT817ND is a bit of a power hog for a 5 watt radio. I'd never used the SLABs, wasn't at all sure about my TX/RX duty cycle, and hadn't run the 817 for an extended period, so I was guessing about the amount of battery reserve I needed.
Putting everything together pre-contest took longer than I thought it would, and I didn't have time to run to the store for D-cells and it was still 15 minutes into the contest before I got going. The first hour was fairly slow, and I hoped it wasn't a sign of a long contest. After an hour or so, the rate picked up and I was happy with 30-40 QSOs per hour. Mostly S&P, at 5 watts, the runs were never very long. At one point, the last 10 rate on N1MM was over 100 - not bad for 5 watts and a 50' wire!
The 50' antenna predictably wasn't very effective on 40m and wouldn't load up at all on 80m, so I decided to go catch some sleep on the couch (hey this is FD - gotta rough it!) and ended up sleeping for about 6 hours. I figured if nothing else, I wouldn't have to take a break and run to the store for D-cells with a little luck.
I was using a Watts Up meter to monitor battery voltage and current used and was surprised how low my consumption was - apparently my estimates were fairly conservative. I ended up getting over 14 hours out of the first SLAB, and total usage for the 18 hours I ended up operating was slightly over 8.6 Ah. And I never had to buy the D-cells!
Sunday morning started a little slow, and never picked back up to the Saturday rates...which is pretty normal for contests...but it didn't seem like the conditions were quite as good on Sunday as Saturday - especially on 10 meters.
All in all, it was a successful contest. Happily, there were no thunderstorms, and really very little QRN on 40m - a rarity for FD in Georgia! The FT817 receiver wasn't nearly as bad in a crowded band as I thought it would be...but I'm still wanting to get a KX3 when they become available. I discovered 5w and even a small wire antenna can be effective for contesting...but I'm looking forward to putting up some bigger wires once we move into a house later this summer. I think SS will be fun QRP.
Final totals were:
Total: 449 QSOs, all CW
With power multipliers and bonus points, total score of 4,740.