SOTA Report: New QCX-Mini, new Packtenna EFHW, and pileup insanity on Mount Mitchell

Do you know what it’s like when you have a new radio and you can’t wait to take it to the field?

Yeah, me too!

Even before I received my QCX-Mini in October 2021, I already knew where I’d take this pocket-sized, single-band QRP CW transceiver for its first field activation: Mount Mitchell (W4C/CM-001).

Mitchell is the highest summit east of the Mississippi river and only about 6 miles from my QTH as the crow flies.  I had yet to activate Mitchell this year for SOTA although I have activated it for POTA/WWFF several times. As I’ve probably mentioned in the past, Mount Mitchell park is my “happy place.” Our family loves this site and we visit it frequently to hike in the spruce-fir forest.

On the morning of Wednesday, November 3, 2021, I realized I had enough room in my schedule to swing by Mount Mitchell for an activation, so I quickly assembled my SOTA pack around the QCX-Mini. Continue reading SOTA Report: New QCX-Mini, new Packtenna EFHW, and pileup insanity on Mount Mitchell

Quality LiFePo4 batteries that are available in the UK?

Many thanks to Mark Hirst who writes:

Thomas,

Bioenno batteries come up all the time when hams talk about LiFePO4 batteries, but I haven’t found a source for that brand in the UK.

When I search Amazon, I get all kinds of brands and I don’t know whether to trust the “reviews” or star ratings.

Brands I’ve found so far are Talentcell, Miady, Eco-worthy, and RoyPow, with only Talentcell being mentioned in a review by a US based ham on YouTube.

I wondered if you knew of other good brands I could try and find.

Mark

Thank you for your question, Mark, as I’ve been asked this a lot no doubt because I almost exclusively use Bioenno LiFePo4 batteries. Like you, I try to stick with quality battery products since cheaper/knock-off products tend to have inferior battery management systems.

Readers: Could you please offer Mark your suggestions for quality LiFePo4 batteries that are available in the UK?

Putting the KM4ACK End-Fed Half-Wave on the air at Table Rock!

Lately, I’ve been in the mood to build kits.

I say “lately” but in truth I’m always tinkering with something in the shack.

The radio room/office at my QTH is pretty small, though, and I don’t have a dedicated, full-time workbench. I’ve been mentally re-arranging the room and trying to sort out a way to make space for one because it would be so nice to have a spot where my soldering iron could remain hooked up at all times.

For the moment, when I work on kits I use our dining room table so I try to stick with one or two session kits as opposed to the multi-day variety.

KM4ACK EFHW

KM4ACK Image

A number of readers and subscribers have asked me to check out the KM4ACK 49:1 End-Fed Half-Wave antenna kit.  This kit is produced by Jason (KM4ACK) and purchasing his kits supports his excellent YouTube channel.

I have a lot of field antennas, so I don’t really need another EFHW, but then again I like having a dedicated resonant wire antenna with each of my radios and, (hey hey!) it’s a great excuse to build a kit!

KM4ACK Image

I purchased the KM4ACK kit and received it within a week. Building the antenna was incredibly straight-forward. Jason packaged the components in small bags so finding parts was easy. I really appreciate kits that aren’t one large “bag-o-parts.” Continue reading Putting the KM4ACK End-Fed Half-Wave on the air at Table Rock!

Elecraft AX2 20M modifiable pocket antenna now shipping

AX2 illustration by Elecraft

Many thanks to Wayne (N6KR) at Elecraft who notes that the Elecraft AX2 20 meter pocket antenna is now shipping:

https://elecraft.com/collections/antennas/products/ax2-minature-20-meter-whip-antenna

Here’s the product description from Elecraft’s website:

The AX2 is small enough to take anywhere – just in time for lightweight field ops during the new solar cycle. Use it HT-style with a hand-held, like the KX2; on a picnic table with an AXB1 whip bipod; or with a tripod and AXT1 tripod adapter. The AX2’s rugged, nylon housing is water-resistant, with low wind resistance and our new anti-wobble design.

Illustration by Elecraft

Experimenters will love the AX2’s versatile design. A snap-off cover provides access to the high-Q inductor. Simply remove turns and re-solder one wire to cover your favorite band. Clip-off tabs are provided for band identification.

Elecraft also provides an AX1 and AX2 comparison chart on the AX2 product page:

COMPARISON CHART

The table below shows how the new AX2 20-meter mini-whip compares to our original AX1 multi-band whip. Both are designed for lightweight portable operation. The versatile AX1 covers multiple bands via a selector switch and can handle up to 30 W continuous TX power.

The ultra-compact AX2 has a new anti-tilt base design that minimizes BNC connector wobble – ideal for hand-held (HTstyle) use. While the AX2 covers 20 meters as shipped, it can be modified by the user to cover any single band from 17 through 6 meters. The base unit includes small tabs that can be clipped off to identify the target band.

NOTE: Both whips are intended to be used with an ATU to compensate for terrain, body capacitance, height, etc.

A reader recently asked if I’d be selling my AX1 after learning about the AX2, but that isn’t going to happen. The AX2 is a 20 meters and up antenna and I see it as being a brilliant SOTA companion since its lightweight, stable design should do well on windy summits.

For POTA and WWFF, however, I really rely on the 40 meter band for most of my contacts. The AX1 covers 40 meters brilliantly (and 20M and 17M) so I’ll still rely on it quite heavily.

Click here to check out the AX2 antenna on Elecraft’s website. The price is currently $79.99 US plus shipping.

Josh checks out a pre-production Xiegu X6100

Josh (KI6NAZ), over at the excellent Ham Radio Crash Course YouTube channel, has just published a video demonstrating a pre-production Xiegu X6100.

If you’ve been interested in the X6100, I highly recommend checking it out.

Josh compares the X6100 with the X5105 in terms of size and functionality, and even makes a QSO with it. For CW ops, he also demoes the relay clicking sound (spoiler alert: it uses relays instead of PIN Diode switching).

His particular unit is really a pre-production unit–it sounds like the first production run (that many early adopters should soon be receiving) will have upgraded software and even hardware.

Josh (rightfully so) holds out on making a recommendation until he’s able to test the first production run unit–the same version early adopters will receive–which is being sent to him soon.

Check out his video below:

Click here to view on YouTube.

I’ve gotten so many questions about the X6100 from readers and YouTube subscribers. Fear not! I will get a chance to check out the X6100 in the near future. In fact, Josh is sending me the Radioddity loaner unit he’ll be testing. I’m not sure how long I’ll get to hold onto it, but I’ll give it a thorough workout.

In addition, I know Scott (KN3A) has purchased one of the first production run units and will give us his impressions–since he owns the IC-705 and has owned the X5105 in the past, he should have some valuable insight. Stay tuned!

If you’re considering purchasing the X6100, you might check out Radioddity’s upcoming Black Friday sale.  They have a sign-up form on the X6100 product page. I have no inside information, but I must assume the X6100 will either be discounted or come with extra goodies (or both?).

Do you already have an X6100 on order? Curious if it looks like the X6100 is on track to meet your expectations after watching Josh’s demo.

QRPer Notes: Paul’s Page of Radio Groups, Seven Transistor SSB Transceiver, Xiegu X6100 Update, and Hamvention 2022

Because I receive so many tips from readers here on QRPer, I wanted way to share them in a concise newsletter format.  To that end welcome to QRPer Notes, a collection of links to interesting stories and tips making waves in the world of radio!


Paul’s Page of Ham Radio Groups

Many thanks to Paul (W4/VP9KF) who shares this list of popular ham radio groups. He updates these regularly and the page even dynamically monitors the number of members in each group:

http://www.g4bki.com/groups.htm

Paul’s website is chock full of info, so grab a cuppa’ and start exploring!

Novel SSB transceiver design with only seven transistors (Southgate ARC)

Ryan Flowers W7RLF writes on Hackaday about a simple 7 transistor QRP SSB transceiver

When Pete Juliano N6QW sat down to design a sideband transceiver for the 20 Meter (14 MHz) ham radio band, he eschewed the popular circuits that make up so many designs. He forged ahead, building a novel design that he calls Pete’s Simple Seven SSB Transceiver, or PSSST for short.

What makes the PSSST so simple is not only its construction, but the low component count. The same circuit using four 2N2222A’s is used on both transmit and receive.

Read the full Hackaday post at
https://hackaday.com/2021/11/20/pssst-heres-a-novel-ssb-radio-design-with-only-seven-transistors/

Xiegu X6100 Update via Radioddity

Several QRPer readers have reached out noting that Radioddity is now taking orders for the second production run of the Xiegu X6100–they’ve already sold the first batch. Radioddity hopes to ship the first batch soon and the second batch before the end of 2021.

They’re currently running a Black Friday promotion which includes the X6100.

I haven’t heard from other Xiegu distributors yet, but it sounds like early adopters will be getting their units before the end of the year.

I will receive a loaner unit to evaluate and take to the field hopefully within the next few weeks and several readers have orders in the first production run. Scott (KN3A) will be sharing his early experience with the X6100 as well.

Dayton Hamvention is a ‘Go’ (Southgate ARC)

Dayton Hamvention 2022 is not just going to be a premier hamfest but a reunion, as organizers prepare for the first gathering at the Xenia Fairground and Expo Center in Ohio after two years of cancellations.

Hamvention’s general chairman Rick Allnut WS8G said in a phone interview that committees have been meeting and volunteers are committed to making up for the time lost to pandemic cancellations.

Hamvention will be happening on Friday May 20th through Sunday May 22nd with an international reception scheduled on Thursday May 19th. Rick said the registration site is already taking bookings from vendors and inside exhibitors and individual visitors can already buy their tickets. All details are available on the hamvention.org website.

RIck said: “Tickets are all printed and ready to go.”

https://hamvention.org/

Randy shares experience with the MFJ-1899T and seeks “shady” advice

Many thanks to Randy (KJ4UBM) who writes:


Thomas,

I think you had said you were going to test the MFJ-1899T at some point.

I remembered I had one in a bin so I pulled it out, went to the local park and did some FT8 as my radiation test. All of the PSK reporter screen shots (below) are using the 1899T at 8 watts from my IC-703. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it did plus I was able to work several POTA folks from Texas to NY on voice still at 8 watts.

10 meters
15 meters
17 meters
20 meters
40 meters

Continue reading Randy shares experience with the MFJ-1899T and seeks “shady” advice

40M Activation: Pairing the Icom IC-705 and CHA LEFS at Tuttle Educational State Forest

I’ve gotten a few messages from readers lately asking, “Why no love for the Icom IC-705?

Looking back, I realize that I haven’t had the ‘705 in the field for quite some time (at least, in a video and field report).

Truth is, the ‘705 has been doing duty as a shortwave listening receiver in shack and just hasn’t hopped into my field pack recently. Since it’s important for the health of all field radios to soak in the outdoors on a regular basis, I packed it in my bag and took it to one of my favorite parks.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

The weather was beautiful on Thursday, October 21, 2021.

When I arrived at Tuttle, the first thing I did was hike their 2 mile loop to get the blood pumping.


This also gave me time to decide on the antenna to deploy: my Chameleon CHA LEFS.

The CHA LEFS sloper

The CHA LEFS has served me quite well in the past, especially on days with mediocre propagation.

During my hike I decided to do the entire activation on 40 meters only, just to get a better idea how the CHA LEFS’ propagation footprint might look with a larger sample size.

Gear:

On the Air

This was also the first time I’d used my N0SA paddles with the IC-705. Isn’t it cute?

Setup was quite easy.

I deployed the CHA LEFS with the feed point at about 35-40′ into a large tree.

The radiator sloped down to a point in the middle of a field and the end was elevated perhaps 4′ off the ground. I secured the end of the antenna to a length of paracord, the end of which was attached to a heavy stick on the ground, stretching the radiator.

The CHA LEFS is resonant on 40 meters, so no external ATU was necessary.

I hopped on the air, started calling CQ POTA in CW and within 10 minutes was rewarded with 10 contacts. It doesn’t get much better than this for a good start!

I continued calling CQ and, in the end, worked a total of 22 contacts in 30 minutes–almost all in CW. Check out the video below to see how it all played out.

Many thanks to KC5F and N9UNX for the Park-To-Park contacts!

Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation (less antenna set up and take-down):

Click here to view on YouTube.

QSO Map

The QSO Map shows an interesting pattern: a ring with a few close regional stations (almost NVIS), and an outer ring of 40 meter skywave:

Thank you!

I believe one of the attractions of activating parks and summits is the fact that we really have no idea in advance how it might all play out. It’s a bit like going fishing.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions from readers lately about what propagation tools I use. In truth, my main propagation forecasting tool is my buddy Mike (K8RAT). Before I head out–or if he knows I’m hitting the field–he’ll usually text me current conditions and they’re quite accurate.

At the end of the day, though, propagation forecasts never stop me from doing an activation when I want to play radio. I just go out there and see what happens. As I’m sure my childhood fishing buddy–my Great Uncle Luther–would have said, “Any day fishing is better than a good day at work!” (Of course, a real quote from Uncle Luther would have included more “colorful metaphors.”)

A special thanks to those of you who are supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free–I really appreciate the support.

73,

Thomas (K4SWL)

QRPer Notes: South Asian Amateur News Blog, Keying with the IC-705 Mic, and KX2/3 Capacitive Key Clearance

Because I receive so many tips from readers here on QRPer, I wanted way to share them in a concise newsletter format.  To that end, welcome to QRPer Notes, a collection of links to interesting stories and tips making waves in the world of radio!


VU3HZW’s News blog primarily for South Asian Amateurs

Many thanks to Saquib (VU3HZW) who writes:

Hello Thomas,

My name is Saquib VU3HZW from North Eastern India. Your blog is a trove of knowledge for any QRP operator. Your style of writing is awesome!

Now, here’s the story. I’ve started a Amateur Radio News & Blog – itshamradio.com. As a QRPer, you must be familiar with VU3SUA (Sunil Lakhani) from https://amateurradiokits.in.

We would be pleased if you [and your readers] could read some of the articles and give us some valuable feedback. This is just an honest attempt by us to create a vibrant amateur radio news blog primarily for South Asian Amateurs.

Click here to visit ItsHamRadio.com.

Good luck with the new site and thank you for sharing it with us, Saquib!

IC-705 Mic A/B button CW Keyer Challenge

Many thanks to Keith (GW4OKT) who points out that the Icom IC-705’s A/B buttons can be set up to send dits and dashes. It doesn’t allow for proper iambic keying and, as Keith admitted, isn’t terribly easy in practice. Nevertheless, he gave it a go and provided these short videos operating the IC-705 at 20WPM CW:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Keith followed up by saying, “Not for the faint hearted Tom, it’s difficult; I think I’ll just take a spare key!”

Indeed! Thank you, Keith!

KX2/KX3 Capacitive Key Clearance

Many thanks to Dennis (K2DCD) who notes that UC6UAA is selling out his inventory of the KX2/KX3 Capacitive paddles.

If I didn’t already own KXPD2 paddles, I would certainly buy a set. The price is excellent at $40 US with free shipping.

Click here to check it out and/or place an order.

Thanks for the tip, Dennis!

POTA Field Report: Coffee & QRP at Tuttle Educational State Forest

Thursday, October 28, 2021 was a wet, rainy day but I wanted to do a POTA activation on the way back to the QTH after having visited my parents for a couple nights.

I didn’t have a lot of radio gear with me on that trip, but I had the right gear: my Elecraft KX2 transceiver and AX1 antenna. If I could activate a park under a covered picnic shelter, I knew I would stay dry while playing radio.

There are only two parks within a reasonable detour that have covered picnic shelters: Lake James State Park and Tuttle Educational State Forest.

Lake James was the shortest detour, but they tend to be busier than Tuttle and last time I was there? Yeah, the picnic shelter was occupied.

On the other hand, I was nearly certain that I would have the picnic shelter all to myself at Tuttle. It would be a slightly longer detour, but worth it. Continue reading POTA Field Report: Coffee & QRP at Tuttle Educational State Forest