SOTA Plan B: An aborted activation followed by an amazing (although gusty) alternative!

On the morning of Thursday, September 23, 2021, I had one thing on my mind: SOTA!

It had been well over a month since my last SOTA activation and I was eager to hike to a summit and play radio.

It had been raining for a few days but overnight, a front moved into the area that swept out all of the clouds. We were finally feeling proper fall weather.

It was gorgeous outside and I made up my mind I’d fit in a summit activation.

I was visiting my parents in Hickory, NC, so I knew I’d have to drive a bit to activate a unique (to me) summit. On top of that, I knew I’d be alone and trails would be very muddy after days of rain. I decided to stick with an easy hike, so picked Flat Top Mountain (W4C/EM-026) off of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I announced my activation via the SOTA website and drove about one hour to the trailhead of Flat Top Mountain.

Aborted!

As I drove up US321 to Blowing Rock I noticed that clouds were hangin over the mountains. In the foothills, it was blissful: clear skies, sunshine, dry air, and quite cool. As I drove up the Blue Ridge escarpment, it started getting a little gusty outside–I realized that the mountains were still on the edge of the cold front. Continue reading SOTA Plan B: An aborted activation followed by an amazing (although gusty) alternative!

Video: DL1DN’s amazing QRP DX and being aware of uSDR clones

Many thanks to Steve (MW0SAW) who shares the following video of DL1DN making a very enthusiastic contact with VK5MAZ–Germany to Australia–QRP SSB pedestrian mobile:

What an amazing accomplishment! I think I felt as excited as David did in his video. The reception of VK5MAZ was simply phenomenal, too!

uSDR clones

David (DL1DN) mentions at the end of his video that he had been in touch with Manuel (DL2MAN) who is the designer of the incredibly affordable uSDR transceiver project. David had featured a Chinese clone version of the uSDR in some of his previous videos. These days, it’s difficult to know if you’re ordering a clone or the original item because often the clone so closely mimics the original.

As I understand it, the uSDR is completely open source and, at least at time of posting, there is no comprehensive kit version available. However, all of the information needed for gathering parts and building the uSDR are public and free.

Manuel (DL2MAN) made the uSDR project open source with the condition that it cannot be used for commercial purposes (in other words, produced by another party and sold as a product). Of course, it was very quickly cloned by manufacturers in China and is now available on eBay.

David shared a link to Manuel’s recent video speaking about the differences between the two units:

You’ll note that I try to steer clear of clones on QRPer.com. I do this mainly because I like supporting the original developers and designers of radios and kits when possible. I feel like by doing this, I’m supporting the innovators in our community as opposed to taking money away from them.

On that note, I’m in the market for an M0NKA mcHF transceiver!

Joe finds a $10 off-the-shelf clear cover for the IC-705 Peovi cage

Many thanks to Joe (WB7VTY) who writes:

Hi Thomas,

Thanks for all the interesting videos. I have a Icom IC-705 with the Peovi frame/handles and I found a clear plastic box that makes a perfect friction fit with the Peovi for a protective front cover. Thought I would pass on the info as I know people are on a quest for such a thing.

I got it at “The Container Store”. SKU is 10077089. Costs 10 bucks. Known as “THE HOME EDIT Large Bin Organizer Clear.”

 

I’ve included a few photos. Thanks again for all the videos.

73
Joe Korpela
WB7VTY

Thank you for the tip, Joe! There are a lot of IC-705 Peovi cage owners out there, so this will come in very handy!

Due to how The Container Store organizes their online store, it can be difficult to find the exact product, even using the SKU number in the search. Here’s a link to the product page for the family of containers. Simple scroll down until you find this listing (click image to enlarge):

This will allow you to add it to your cart and purchase. The price is $9.99 US.

Thanks again, Joe!

POTA Field Report: Welcoming party plus QRP DX fun with the Discovery TX-500 & MFJ-1984LP

On Friday, September 10, 2021, I made a detour to the Table Rock Fish Hatchery (K-8012) on my way back to the QTH.

I love this site: it’s fairly remote, has tall trees, loads of space to set up antennas, convenient picnic tables, incredibly friendly park rangers and, most importantly, a welcoming party.

Welcoming party

These two greet me each time I’m at Table Rock. They’re incredibly friendly and now that they know I’m a complete and total sucker for dogs, they hang around and get attention for quite a while.

This time, I think they even recognized my vehicle because they were there as I opened the door. Continue reading POTA Field Report: Welcoming party plus QRP DX fun with the Discovery TX-500 & MFJ-1984LP

The new QRP Labs QDX 4-band 5 watt digital transceiver kit

Many thanks to Pete  (WB9FLW) who shares the following information about the new QDX transceiver from QRP Labs:

The “QDX” (QRP Labs Digital Xcvr): a feature-packed, high performance, four-band (80, 40, 30, 20m) 5W Digi-modes transceiver kit, including embedded SDR receiver, 24-bit 48 ksps USB sound card, CAT control, synthesized VFO with TCXO reference. QDX transmits a SINGLE SIGNAL, it is not an SSB modulator with associated unwanted sideband and residual carrier, or intermodulation due to amplifier non-linearity. QDX outputs a pure single signal.

The Optional enclosure is black anodized extruded aluminium, very sturdy and elegant. The enclosure size is 89 x 63 x 25mm without protrusions. The front and rear panels are drilled and cut to match the QDX PCB with laser-etched lettering. The enclosure includes four self-adhesive feet.

List of features: 

    • Four bands 80, 40, 30 and 20m
    • 5W output at 9V supply (can be built for 4-5W at 12-13V supply)
    • Single signal transmission (zero unwanted sideband, zero residual carrier, zero intermodulation distortion)
    • Solid-state band switching and transmit/receive switching under CAT control
    • High performance embedded SDR SSB receiver with 60-70dB of unwanted sideband cancellation
    • Built-in 24-bit 48ksps USB sound card
    • Built-in USB Virtual COM Serial port for CAT control
    • Si5351A Synthesized VFO with 25MHz TCXO as standard
    • Easy to build single-board design, Professional quality double-sided, through-hole plated, silk-screen printed PCBs
    • All SMD components factory assembled
    • Connectors: 2.1mm power barrel connector, USB B (for audio and CAT control), BNC RF input/output
    • Built-in test signal generator and testing tools
    • Receive current 100mA, Transmit current 1.0-1.1A for 5W output with 9V supply (around 0.7A for 5W with 13V supply).
    • Optional aluminium extruded cut/drilled/laser-etched black anodized enclosure

Full details, see main QRP Labs QDX page.

Video tour of the QDX

Click here to view on YouTube.

Absolutely amazing! I’m not sure how Hans is able to innovate at the pace he does, but I think we’re all better for it. This will be a big seller for those who’ve been looking for a high performance QRP digital mode transceiver.

Thanks for the tip, Pete!

Click here to check out the QDX at QRP Labs.

Sneak peek at N0SA’s new “SOTA Paddle”

UPDATE 09 (Oct 2021): Larry (N0SA) informs me that he sold all of his SOTA Paddle inventory as of last night. In other words, very quickly. If he produces another run of them, I’ll post it here on QRPer.com!

A couple weeks ago, Larry (N0SA) reached out to me and asked if I’d like to evaluate a new set of precision field paddles he’s designed. Having purchased a set of 3D-printed paddles from N0SA last year, I didn’t hesitate.

Larry simply calls this model the SOTA Paddle. An appropriate name because this paddles is incredibly compact, lightweight, and perfect for hiking and backpacking. They also have a short Allen wrench cleverly stowed within the paddle body for any adjustments in the field. The Allen wrench is locked in in such a way, there’s no possibility it’ll fall out either. Clever!

They come with a high quality three foot cloth braid cord with molded 1/8” plug.

Over the past week, I’ve taken these paddles to two different park activations with the Elecraft KX2 and AX1 antenna.

My activation videos and field reports are perhaps a week down the road yet, but I couldn’t help but post my initial impressions.

So how would I describe N0SA’s new SOTA Paddles–?

The Bee’s Knees!

I love them.

These truly feel like precision paddles. They’re entirely constructed of aluminum and stainless steel parts.

Although the body/frame of the paddles are open, they feel incredibly sturdy. No doubt, they’ll survive the environment inside a backpack or field kit.

They’re very compact, yet feel perfect in the hand.

Larry also includes 6 pieces of 3M dual lock for mounting the paddles on a clipboard, radio, or any other surface.

As readers know, I love my CW Morse Paddles–they represent an amazing amount of quality at such an affordable price.

If you’re in the market for a compact precision aluminum key, however, I can recommend these without hesitation.

Here’s the deal as I understand it: Larry may only make a couple small production runs of these. He does this as a fun side hibby, not for scaled-up production and distribution. I believe he may have as many as 20 units available soon.

Again, you’ll see the SOTA Paddles in action in upcoming videos, but I wanted to mention it here on QRPer so that–if this sort of thing interests you–you might have a chance to place an order before the first and/or second production runs are spoken for.

The price is $125.00 US (each) plus $15.00 for priority mail shipping. You’ll have to inquire if located outside the US (I’m not certain if he ships internationally).

Payment can be made via PayPal to his email address which is his callsign @att.net. (You can also check out his contact details on QRZ.com.)

Email him with questions and to check availability in advance.

Larry is a long-time reader of QRPer.com, so he might add notes in the comments section.

Speaking of which, thank you so much, Larry, for sending me these paddles. They are simply amazing.

Elecraft KX2 and AX1: Seriously…how effectively can such a compact field kit work?

On September 20, 2021, I had a full day planned in town. It was one of those days where my few errands and appointments were spread out across the day in such a way that driving back home between appointments made no sense. I knew I might have a bit of time to kill.

The big appointment holding me in town was recall service work on my Subaru that would take most of the day. The dealership reserved a loaner car for me.

That morning, I cleaned out my car (removing a couple of radios and antennas) and I packed a backpack with the supplies I’d need for the day; water, sandwich, laptop, and (fortunately) my Elecraft KX2 and AX1 antenna.

I would take this pack with me in the loaner car as I ran my other errands.  I remember thinking that there was  likely no possibility of doing an activation–it was rainy and I knew even getting set up at the service center might take an hour. I packed the Elecraft gear nonetheless. (Never leave home without a radio, I say!)

That morning, I drove to the Subaru dealership and–long story short–the service work had to be cancelled. While I wasn’t happy that I’d made the early morning trip to the dealership for nothing, this did essentially free up a good portion of my morning to play radio. Even though I had my own car for the day, I had completely emptied it of radio gear, so the KX2 and AX1 were truly all I had. Continue reading Elecraft KX2 and AX1: Seriously…how effectively can such a compact field kit work?

Video: A tour of my Red Oxx “Micro Manager” Discovery TX-500 field radio kit

Shortly after acquiring a lab599 Discovery TX-500 earlier this year, I did what I always do: invest an insane amount of time in researching and configuring a dedicated field radio kit.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I’m a serious pack geek, so this is incredibly fun for me even though the choice is often difficult.

I like to buy packs and cases from manufacturers in the US and Canada when possible, so started searching through all of the options.

Requirements

The Discovery TX-500

I wanted a pack that was compact, versatile, and offered proper padding (even knowing the TX-500 is a rugged little transceiver). I don’t handle my packs with kid gloves, so I expect them to cope with sometimes rough field conditions and still protect the gear inside. I also like a certain level of organization inside the pack.

I wanted the kit to be relatively compact, but large enough to hold the transceiver, all accessories and connections, logging pad and pencil, paddles, a proper arborist throw line, portable ATU, and a 3Ah LiFePo4 battery. A the end of the day, I wanted this TX-500 field kit to be fully self-contained.

For more on my field radio kit strategies and philosophies, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my Anatomy of a Field Radio Kit series.

In the end, I adopted a pack with which I’m already very familiar…

The Red Oxx Micro Manager

Product image via Red Oxx

Red Oxx is my favorite pack company and if you’ve been a reader for any length of time, you’ve obviously seen a number of their bags and packs in my field reports.

Back in 2016, when they introduced the first iteration of the Micro Manager EDC bag, they actually reached out to me–as an existing customer–knowing that I had been looking for a good radio pack with proper padding (many packs don’t require side padding and internal padding). They sent me a prototype of the Micro Manager for my feedback and then incorporated some of my suggestions.

My KX2 NPOTA Micro Manager kit

I ended up using the Micro Manager as my dedicated Elecraft KX2 field kit which served me very well during the National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) event.

I also purchased a Micro Manager for my wife who quickly turned hers into a mobile art studio!

She chose a red Micro Manager!
Her field-ready art kit

Much like my buddy Steve (AC5F)–whose XYL creates some amazing water color art in the field–my wife (K4MOI) is also an artist and loves to paint/draw during park and summit activations. Her art kit is always at the ready and she’s traveled with it extensively over the past five years.

The Micro Manager is a pack carried over the shoulder, much like a messenger or laptop bag.  Those times when my field activations require a lengthy hike, I’ve simply pulled all of the items out of the Micro Manager (since I do modular packing, this is super easy), else I’ve even been known to stick the entire Micro Manager pack into a backpack!

Over the years, Red Oxx has made iterative upgrades to the Micro Manager including a pleated front pocket, slip-in external pocket, and they started lining the internal pocket with a more flexible and thinner dense foam padding. The new padding not only fits the TX-500 better than the first Micro Manager version did, but I believe it will have enough dimension to accommodate the TX-500 battery pack when that’s available next year.

Inside the Micro Manager I also use a Tom Bihn Large Travel Tray to hold all of the TX-500 accessories: key, microphone, ATU, battery, and cables.

I own a number of these large travel trays and highly recommend them. I especially like the ballistic nylon versions for radio kits as they open and close so smoothly.

Video tour

I made a short video tour of the TX-500 Micro Manager kit before a recent activation at Table Rock:

Clci here to view on YouTube.

TX-500 Micro Manager Kit Contents:

I’ve used this pack for a number of field activations and couldn’t be more pleased. Looking back at the contents, it’s funny: the pack and almost every single item inside (save the notepad and pencil) are made in the USA while the radio is made in Russia! A bit of international harmony going on here!

If you have a field pack for the TX-500 (or any radio), I’d love to know more about it. Please consider commenting with details or even submitting a guest post with photos!

73,

Thomas (K4SWL

Appalachian Trail On The Air Day: Saturday, October 2, 2021

Many thanks to Henry (K4TMC) who notes that the AT On The Air Day is tomorrow: Saturday, October 2, 2021. For full details, check out the AT On The Air website. I’ve pasted the announcement below:

Appalachian Trail (A.T.) On The Air Day
Saturday, October 2, 2021
1200-2100 UTC (8 am-5 pm EDT)

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, licensed amateur radio operators are invited to take their two-way portable radios to the trail on Saturday, October 2, 2021, for an on-the-air get-together. The goal is to contact other amateur (“ham”) radio operators either along the Trail or elsewhere in North America (or beyond) and to showcase our amateur radio hobby.

This is an impromptu activity and is not sanctioned or endorsed by any national or regional organization. It is not a contest, it is a get-together. Participants should read the Guidelines page for more details. We welcome participants from SOTA, POTA and WWFF. No awards will be issued, although a Summary Report will be published on this website afterwards to gauge participation levels and acknowledge the participants. This is intended to be a fun event !

Stay well & 73!

Mike, WB2FUV

ATontheair@atontheair.com

 

BREAKING NEWS: In accordance with an opinion by AT Conservancy, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail consists of “the A.T. footpath and designated viewpoints, shelters, campsites, water sources, and spur trails linking these features” — in other words, part of the white blazed main Trail, or the blue blazed side trails to shelters, campsites, summits, etc. This is especially helpful to POTA activators who need to be within 100′ of the Trail. POTA also accepts activations from trailheads along the national trail.