Big Beam antenna and 1kW linear!
Joking aside Adrian, many here run mobile
setups with some utilising homebase style antennas strapped to poles in the ground, drive on mounts or else lashed to the nearest fence for better performance. Obviously there'll be those flattening their vehicles battery (or using an extra leisure/marine battery) to run a bit of 'extra' power too.
We seemed to have had some great propagation recently but even though you might be hearing the 'big' stations there's no guarantee you'll get back to them unless you're a big-gun yourself. When the prop is really good you can get back with minimal power and the proverbial bit of 'wet-string' antenna.
I think if you were hearing as well as getting back to local stations that the prop wasn't as good or easy as it first seemed. (Usually you lose all the 'local' stations on a good lift except for ground wave contact.)
It's all frustrating I know but also part of the challenge and fun with the radio interest. I tried desperately to get back to Greenland the other day (would've been nice for the log!) for at least a couple of hours with no contact made. Similar failures with Africa after hearing stations romping in from there too. But I did grab Malta & Andorra to add to my DX100 list.
I utilise digi-modes as well as SSB with my paltry Foundation 10W but surprising what you can do. I still get a thrill that I catch some 'big-fish' with my 'bamboo & bit of string/bent needle' QRP operations and there's no guarantee that the 'best' gear will herald any better at times.
We're often at the mercy of the radio 'Gods', propagation, 'Skip' or Mother Nature.....and she can be a fickle cow!
Enjoy yourself, keep at it and don't be too despondent with what may appear to be 'failures'.
At least you got to have a good old chat with some locals.
All the best,