The US Southwest has had a long drought in ham radio conventions.  The Hamcon 2017 event was the last one with a full set of educational seminars in the greater Los Angeles area.  The ARRL Hamfest was held in 2022 at the Yuma Arizona Fairgrounds.  The fairgrounds has plenty of parking for recreational vehicles, but the nearest lodging is 3 miles away.  No surprise, this event is no longer held. An ARRL “specialty” convention was also held in Quartzite, another RV mecca.

Now some of us don’t own an RV and have no intention of even owning one. Like it or not, there is a sterotypical demographic for RV owners – white old retired males with a very conservative outlook.

Many hams also have family who would love to come along on a ham con as long as there are other tourist activities nearby.  Thus I was pleasantly surprised to find a weekend ham event set for Big Bear California, a well know resort within a couple of hours of major population centers and with a plethora of recreational activities nearby.  I was also pleased to note this event seemed to specifically reach out to women hams, including participation by the YLRL.  There was also a promised SOTA/POTA activation on the last day.  The conference was titled Big Bear Mini-Hamcation and was held at the Holiday Inn in central Big Bear Lake.

I attended the conference and unfortunately was unable to make the Friday evening event.  I was able to attend the Saturday seminars and here are my note:

Efficient Antennas for Limited Space and Time – Don’t use stainless steel as it has higher losses that more conductive metals.  A balun or unun has its own losses, keep in mind when selecting an antenna design.  Consider using a drone to measure the actual radiation pattern of an installed antenna.

POTA and SOTA – More POTA than SOTA, fine for me as I am unfamiliar with POTA and found the topic interesting.  POTA is much less structured than SOTA, in general.

NOAA and Skywarn – A type of citizen science where home and mobile weather reports can fill in micro-climate variations to the official government weather stations.

LiFePO4 and Solar – Informative talk by a rep from Bioenno Power.  Main point is that for LiFePO4 batteries, actual voltage is 13.2v as opposed to nominal 12v.  13.2 v works better with more portable ham gear, allowing full output power.

Amateur TV – Very interesting talk about different digital and analog standards for ATV, following trends in commercial TV.  DVB-T is the current state-of-the-art, provides a high quality and is used commercially by mobile links.  There is an active ATV repeater network in SoCal, with Arizona to be linked in the future.  The current repeater network supports regular weekly nets.

The KA9Q Radio SDR project – Phil Karn gave an update on his development of a massive multi-channel SDR, for monitoring dozens or hundreds of channels at once.  Lots of Linux software talk.

Sunday had a swap-meet and a POTA/SOTA activation.  I brought some old stuff for the swap meet to give out for free.  Mostly working equipment just stuff that is outdated or that I never used.  I attempted to activate Butler Lookout on my own, but there was still enough thick snow on the upper half of the trail that I decided to turn around.  I can wait another month and activate again without sinking in foot deep crunchy snow.

The official event link is however it appears to have vanished after the event.

This event will be held again April 25-27 2025, same hotel.