In the context of amateur radio, Field Day is an event that takes place each year, where amateurs erect temporary radio stations with self-generated power and outside of any permanent buildings. Field Day is also a contest, in which the clubs and individual amateurs score points and multipliers in much the same way as other amateur radio contests.

Despite the name, Field Day takes place in a 48 hour period, usually a weekend. The different ITU regions have their own Field Day, region 2 (the Americas) in June, region 1 (Europe and Africa) in September. I have so far not been able to determine whether region 3 (Asia and Oceania) has a Field Day.

Field Day has a number of different purposes. In North America, Field Day is almost purely training and preparation for emergency communications. In Europe, amateur radio is considered less a community service and more a hobby for personal edification, and the focus of the European Field Day is recruitment of new radio amateurs. There, it is advertised as one of the two yearly events (the other being JOTA), where unlicensed individuals are allowed on the air (supervised by a licensed amateur, of course!). Another element that is present in all versions of Field Day, is the building of public awareness of amateur radio. Many extra points are awarded for setting up a station in a public place, for getting media coverage, etc.

Many hams' fondest memories come from Field Day. Apart from the thrill of simply operating, which only hams can appreciate and understand, there is the fresh air, the bustling activity all over the site while erecting antennas, and that special sound of squawking voices or telegraphy through the night.

During my first Field Day, in 2001, I had the fortune of being a member of Akademisk Radioklubb, the student's radio club in Trondheim, and one of the most if not the most active radio club in entire Norway. There were about 25 of us, and we drove our equipment out to our regular QTH at a cabin by a lake in the forest. As earlier mentioned, the rules prohibit Field Day stations to operate from within "permanent buildings", so the cabin itself was only used for eating and sleeping. We rigged up two stations a couple of hundred meters apart, one in a tent in the forest, the other one by the lake in a GMC truck from the days of WWII. Each was powered by a generator that we borrowed from the Civil Defence.

As is good and proper, Murphy's Law struck in a number of different places. Firstly, putting up the antennas took an inordinate amount of time compared to earlier years, making us lose many contacts. We also experienced that our quad loop snapped in half as we were trying to put it up. Our Ten-Tec OMNI VI refused to work in the cold and humid climate, and the back-up transceiver turned out to have a microphone that didn't work at all. It was "fixed" with a cheap microphone element and duct tape, but people we contacted on the air kept complaining about poor transmit audio. No-one had brought software or cables for digital modes, or any satellite equipment. We ended up making all contacts on SSB only, which doesn't give as many points as the alternatives.

But there were bright spots. We put one laptop with logging software at each of the two stations, and connected them via Wavelan. It worked at first try! I had a great time sitting in the tent in the middle of the night working stations from around the world, all the while being able to watch real-time which stations the fellow down in the GMC got in his log. Our Field Day was also a success as regards recruitment to amateur radio. Many of the club's members had invited their non-ham friends to come along, and a few of them eventually got their licence.

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