Field Day is the largest operating event in the country, and to me it is the most fun. Field Day is a lot like religion - it is what you decide it is. There is no right or wrong way to participate in FD (as it is often referred to) and you have many options. FD is a combination of a social event, a contest, an emergency drill, a training class, a camping trip and a lot more. On FD you can:
Hold a major event in a public place, complete with feeding tents, portable toilets, media coverage, visits by government officials - the whole works.
Run a major contest operation with round the clock operating, high power and gain antennas.
Conduct an emergency drill held in an Emergency Operations Center
Operate from home
Operate alone or in a group from a remote location
Personally, I prefer to go to a new FD location each year in a remote location so I will encounter a new set of operating conditions. I like to go alone or with a small group. To me, the key is participation and learning. I have not missed a FD in 35 years, so I have a lot of free advice for new FD operators. (We all know what free advice is worth). These items are presented in no particular order.
Do your homework. Go to the ARRL FD webpage and learn all about it! http://www.arrl.org/field-day . You will find a lot of valuable resources on how to participate, deal with the news media, submit your FD entry and a lot more.
Participate. The big club Field Days are major operations, and new hams tend to drop by for a visit, have a cup of coffee, observe the operation for an hour or so and then claim that they participated in FD. A club effort takes weeks of participation, and a lot of help is needed to assemble the equipment, set up, coordinate the activities, tear down and clean up. All of these are learning experiences, and you will receive a cordial welcome if you offer to actively participate.
Make safety a priority. This is especially important during setup. There will be a lot of simultaneous activities and it is easy for things to get out of hand, especially when working with large antennas and towers. Come equipped with proper safety equipment such as climbing harnesses, hard hats, gloves, etc. and inspect all equipment with safety in mind before proceeding. Bring a well equipped first aid kit, and make sure that you have personnel trained in first aid on site.
ARRL FD package. Download and print the whole FD package from the ARRL website and have it with you at your FD location. It is an invaluable reference. You should pay particular attention to the bonus point section - it changes from year to year to encourage new activities and making the bonus points can be a lot of fun.
Goals and strategy. Prior to FD set some goals and make a strategy to achieve them. Examples of goals for a small operation would be to work all states, work all ARRL sections, make 50 CW contacts, make 20 contacts on each band, receive the W1AW FD message in CW, etc. Examples of goals for a large operation would be to operate all hours of FD, assist ten new hams or non amateurs in making their first contact, make a set number of contacts per band, run a public information booth, host a local government official, host reporters from the news media, etc.
Make a FD report! This is really important. FD is a huge emergency exercise, and the ARRL needs all stations to submit reports to document the tens of thousands of hours that hams put in to make it a success. This participation proves to government agencies that we are using the spectrum, are ready and able to help out in emergencies, and are well organized.
Operating Advice. These are things that I have learned over the years.
Make a list. There is nothing more frustrating than to be setting up for FD out in the boonies and discovering that you did not bring an important item. The list should include all tools necessary for setup. When you are on FD, add to the list and save it for next year. Prior to leaving home, lay out all radio gear on the floor and double check to see that you have everything you need. Stuff to take on FD. (Under Construction)
Make a list of fuses for your radios and bring spares.
Make sure that your power cables can handle the load. All FD stations are temporary installations, and it is very important that you use heavy gauge power cables.
Bring a multi-meter and polarity tester and check all circuits prior to powering up your radios.
If on generator power, have a power kill switch at each operating position. A power strip works nicely. Generators tend to gallop when running out of gas, and you can get power surges and drops that will damage equipment.
Schedule generator refueling. Prior to shutting down the generators make sure that all stations are shut down. A portable marine air horn can be handy to signal generator shut-downs.
GROUND your AC power!
Install your FD software well in advance of the event and test it.
If you are setting up a FD logging network set it up at least a day in advance - getting it all to work can be a major headache.
Do your software training before FD, not during FD!
I have used the N7FYP software package for years and highly recommend it. Be sure to download it in advance of FD - their website gets swamped at the last minute. http://www.n3fjp.com/
Bring backup paper logs and dupe sheets. You can download them from the ARRL FD website.
Bring spare hardware for anything that has to be bolted or screwed together
I carry a portable operations toolkit in my truck. The tools are spray painted bright red which makes them a lot easier to find in the tall grass when (not if...) I drop them.
Most antennas use 7/16" and 1/2" nuts and bolts. O'Reilly auto parts sells an Exide battery wrench that has these sizes - they don't normally occur on the same wrench. The battery wrench is small and easy to carry in your hip pocket and will meet most of your needs.
You can never have enough black PVC tape, wireties, flagging tape and yellow poly rope.
Manuals & Schematics.
Bring manuals for all equipment.
I travel light, so have them on my netbook in PDF.
Safety. A lot of small items add up to a safe FD.
NEVER fuel a generator until it has cooled off.
Bring flagging tape and use it to mark cables, guy wires, antennas, etc.
Put up "Watch for wires" signs.
Designate a welcome area (with a sign) for guests, and require that they be escorted when in the area.
GROUND your AC power!
Make sure that your first aid kit is in a central location and is marked.
Know the locations of local emergency services in case you have to transport an injured person.
Know exactly where you are and have written driving directions available in case you have to call 911!
Have basic fire suppression equipment (Axe, shovel, water) available.
Use your poly rope to fence off areas that you want to keep visitors out of.
Be a good guest.
You will likely be operating in a park, on public land or private property. Make sure that you remove all trash, fill holes in the ground and otherwise return the area to pre FD condition.
I like to use the fluorescent colored wire-ties from Harbor Freight. Don't cut the ends off when you use them to secure cables, etc. - this doubles the number of pieces you will have to pick up and the small cut ends can be hard to find. http://www.harborfreight.com/8-in-fluorescent-cable-tie-assortment-100-pc-69415.html
If you have RVs with toilet facilities, great. If not, rent a portable toilet!
Keep a neat camp, and regularly patrol the area for low hanging wires, tripping hazards, etc.