Field Day: The Ultimate Ham Radio Event

Field Day is one of the most anticipated events in the amateur radio calendar. Organized by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), it combines elements of contesting, emergency preparedness, and social gathering. This guide explores what Field Day is, its objectives, how to participate, and tips for making the most of this exciting event.

What is Field Day?

Field Day is an annual event held on the fourth full weekend of June, where amateur radio operators across North America set up temporary stations and operate under simulated emergency conditions. It is a 24-hour event designed to test operators’ abilities to set up and operate portable stations quickly and effectively.


  • Emergency Preparedness: Practice setting up and operating in remote or challenging conditions.
  • Public Outreach: Demonstrate amateur radio to the public and promote the hobby.
  • Skill Development: Improve operating skills and learn new techniques.
  • Fun and Fellowship: Enjoy the camaraderie of fellow hams and the excitement of making contacts.

Preparing for Field Day


  • Location: Choose a suitable site for your Field Day operation, such as a park, campground, or open field. Ensure it has enough space for antennas and shelters.
  • Team: Assemble a team of operators, including experienced hams and newcomers. Assign roles and responsibilities.
  • Equipment: Gather and test all necessary equipment, including transceivers, antennas, power supplies, and logging software.


  • Transceivers: Ensure your radios are capable of operating on multiple bands and modes (CW, SSB, digital).
  • Antennas: Use portable antennas like dipoles, verticals, or Yagis. Consider using NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) antennas for regional coverage.
  • Power Sources: Plan for off-grid power sources, such as generators, batteries, or solar panels.
  • Accessories: Bring coaxial cables, connectors, masts, guy ropes, and grounding equipment.


  • Shelter: Set up tents, canopies, or other shelters to protect equipment and operators from the elements.
  • Food and Water: Plan for meals, snacks, and hydration for all participants.
  • Safety: Ensure you have first aid supplies, fire extinguishers, and safety protocols in place.

Operating During Field Day


  • Antenna Installation: Set up antennas securely and ensure they are properly tuned.
  • Station Setup: Arrange your operating stations with transceivers, logging computers, and comfortable seating.
  • Testing: Test all equipment to ensure everything is functioning correctly before the event starts.

Operating Techniques

  • Calling CQ: Use the standard Field Day CQ call to attract contacts.
    • Example: “CQ Field Day, CQ Field Day, this is [Your Call Sign].”
  • Exchange: Exchange the required information, typically your class and ARRL/RAC section.
    • Example: “2A [Your Section]” (2A denotes two transmitters in a club or non-club group, running off the grid).
  • Logging: Use logging software to keep track of contacts and ensure accurate recording of information.

Strategies for Success

  • Band Selection: Monitor propagation conditions and switch bands to maximize contacts.
  • Operating Modes: Use a mix of CW, SSB, and digital modes to increase your score.
  • Operator Rotation: Rotate operators to keep everyone fresh and alert throughout the event.

Public Outreach and Education


  • Public Information Table: Set up a table with brochures, flyers, and information about amateur radio.
  • Hands-On Demonstrations: Allow visitors to try making contacts or learning about radio equipment.
  • Educational Displays: Showcase different aspects of amateur radio, such as digital modes, satellite communication, and emergency services.

Media Coverage

  • Press Releases: Send press releases to local media to generate interest and coverage.
  • Social Media: Use social media platforms to share updates, photos, and videos from your Field Day site.

Post-Event Activities

Log Submission

  • Deadlines: Submit your logs to the ARRL promptly after the event.
  • Formats: Ensure logs are in the correct format (e.g., Cabrillo) and include all required information.

Debrief and Evaluation

  • Review: Conduct a debrief with your team to discuss what went well and what could be improved.
  • Feedback: Gather feedback from all participants to identify strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Report: Submit a Field Day report to your club or group, summarizing the event and key takeaways.

Recognition and Awards

  • Certificates: The ARRL offers participation certificates and awards for various categories and achievements.
  • Club Recognition: Celebrate your club’s achievements and recognize the contributions of all participants.

Real-World Examples

Successful Field Day Operations

  • Large Club Operations: Clubs like the Potomac Valley Radio Club and the Northern California Contest Club often set up extensive Field Day operations with multiple stations and elaborate setups.
  • QRP Operations: Groups like the QRP ARCI (QRP Amateur Radio Club International) focus on low-power (QRP) operations, demonstrating the effectiveness of QRP communication.
  • Youth Involvement: Clubs that emphasize youth participation, such as the Boy Scouts of America, often integrate Field Day into their activities to introduce young people to amateur radio.

Field Day is a unique and exciting event that brings together the best of amateur radio: emergency preparedness, public outreach, skill development, and fun. By planning carefully, setting up effectively, and operating efficiently, you can make the most of this event and enjoy a memorable experience with your fellow hams. Whether you’re a seasoned operator or a newcomer, Field Day offers a fantastic opportunity to learn, connect, and celebrate the hobby of amateur radio.

Mobile Ham Radio Setup

Mobile Ham Radio SetupSetting up a mobile ham radio station in your vehicle can significantly enhance your amateur radio experience, allowing you to communicate on the go. Whether you're traveling, commuting, or participating in events, a mobile setup offers...

Setting Up Your First Ham Radio Station

Setting Up Your First Ham Radio StationSetting up your first ham radio station is an exciting step in your amateur radio journey. Whether you aim to communicate with fellow hams locally or globally, the process involves careful planning and the right equipment. This...

Echolink: Connecting Ham Radios via the Internet

Echolink: Connecting Ham Radios via the InternetEcholink is a revolutionary system that combines traditional ham radio communication with the power of the internet. It allows licensed amateur radio operators to communicate with each other using their radios,...

Operating Ham Radio Repeaters

Operating Ham Radio RepeatersRepeaters are a fundamental part of ham radio, extending the range of communication and allowing operators to connect over greater distances. Understanding how to operate ham radio repeaters is essential for effective and enjoyable...

Getting Started with CW (Morse Code)

Getting Started with CW (Morse Code)Continuous Wave (CW), commonly known as Morse code, is a time-honored mode of communication in amateur radio. Despite its simplicity and age, CW remains popular due to its effectiveness, especially in weak signal conditions. This...

Field Day: The Ultimate Ham Radio Event

Field Day: The Ultimate Ham Radio EventField Day is one of the most anticipated events in the amateur radio calendar. Organized by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), it combines elements of contesting, emergency preparedness, and social gathering. This guide...

Working DX

Working DXDXing, or making long-distance contacts, is one of the most exciting aspects of ham radio. It involves communicating with stations in distant countries and regions, often requiring skill, patience, and an understanding of radio propagation. This guide covers...

The Role of Ham Radio in Disaster Response

The Role of Ham Radio in Disaster ResponseHam radio is an indispensable tool in disaster response, offering reliable, flexible, and independent communication. By understanding the role of ham radio in emergencies, joining relevant organizations, equipping yourself...

Getting Your Ham Radio License

Getting Your Ham Radio LicenseGetting your ham radio license is the first step in a rewarding hobby that combines technology, communication, and community service. By studying diligently and passing the exam, you'll join a global network of amateur radio operators and...

Understanding HF, VHF, and UHF Bands

Understanding HF, VHF, and UHF BandsHam radio operators have access to a wide range of frequencies, categorized into different bands: High Frequency (HF), Very High Frequency (VHF), and Ultra High Frequency (UHF). Each band has unique characteristics and applications,...