Leo’s first SOTA activation included impressive SSB QRP DX and a CW pile-up!

Many thanks to Leo (DL2COM) who writes:

Hey Thomas,

[…]I just wanted to give you a quick update on my 1st SOTA activation (May 18th). We spent a few days in the south of France with the extended family. From the garden of the house we rented we were constantly looking towards a beautiful mountain front and it turned out to be SOTA summit FR/CR-205 (726m, 2382ft). So I decided to try and activate it since we had enough people around who offered to watch out for our kids.

Next morning: 6am my dear XYL and I started our ascent.

What a wonderful scenery with morning mist covering most of the mountain landscape and the sun in perfect shape for an early hike.

At around 7:45am we arrived at the summit and I started throwing up my arborist weight into pretty much the only suitable tree available. Continue reading Leo’s first SOTA activation included impressive SSB QRP DX and a CW pile-up!

Xiegu G106 preliminary specifications and features

Xiegu distributor, Radioddity, has now publicly announced a product page for the new Xiegu G106.

No pricing/availability mentioned, but we do learn a few more details from their page.

Features:

  • The Xiegu G106 is a 5W SDR transceiver using 16bit-CODEC sampling
  • SSB, CW, AM modes are supported along with wide FM reception (for the FM broadcast band)
  • General coverage receiver
  • Three selectable CW bandwidths
  • Digital modes when connected to a computer with the Xiegu DE-19 interface

Specifications

  • Receiver frequency range: 0.55~30MHz and 88~108MHz (WFM)
  • Transmitting frequency:
    • 3.5~3.9MHz
    • 7.0~7.2MHz [I assume this is incorrect]
    • 10.1~10.15MHz
    • 14.0~14.35MHz
    • 18.068~18.168MHz
    • 21.0~21.45MHz
    • 24.89~24.99MHz
    • 28.0~29.7MHz
  • Receiver sensitivity:
    • CW: 0.25uV @10dB S/N
    • SSB: 0.5uV @10dB S/N
    • AM: 10uV @10dB S/N
  • Frequency stability: ±1.5ppm within 30min after power on @25°C: 1ppm/hour
  • Transmitting power: ≥5W @13.8V DC
  • Transmitting spurious suppression: ≥50dB
  • Audio output power: 0.3W
  • Operating voltage: 9~15V DC
  • Standby current: 0.37A @Max
  • Transmitting current: 2.8A @Max
  • Dimensions: 120*40*135 (mm)
  • Weight: about 720g (only host)

Radioddity notes: “The shoulder strap [above] is for display only. Final equipped accessories not decided yet.

My G106 takeaways?

Based on Xiegu’s previous offerings, I would have to assume the G106 could be in production within a few months (supply chains/C-19 pending). It’ll likely be released with basic firmware and updated with time. It’ll be price competitive for sure.

I would hope that perhaps they’ve worked on the audio characteristics and noise floor of the G106. Previous Xiegu products have mediocre audio characteristics and a higher noise floor than my other transceivers. Let’s also hope the front end is more robust than the X6100.

At 0.37 Amps, current drain in standby/receive is a tad on the high side for late model QRP portable radios. Still, quite respectable for a field radio.

It doesn’t appear the G106 has an internal tuner, nor an internal battery unless they’ve simply omitted this from the features list.

It also doesn’t mention CW and/or voice message memory keying which I consider to be so valuable for park and summit activators. If history is an indicator, I suppose they could add this later in firmware updates.

Also, the Radioddity announcement mentions that the G106 covers “[t]ransmission and reception of all amateur frequency bands within 3.8~29.7MHz.” Yet in the specifications, they fail to list the 60M band and the 40M band is noted as 7-7.2 MHz. I assume the 40M band range is simply a typo–I can’t imagine it would actually stop at 7.2 MHz. I also imagine they may have simply omitted the 60M band channels. RX seems to dip as low as 0.5 MHz, thus covering most of the mediumwave broadcast band.

Truth is, these are early days for the G106 and we may learn that it has more features than listed here on Radioddity’s page.

If it does indeed lack an internal ATU and/or internal battery, I assume the price point would be well below that of the X5105 and X6100; my (complete and total) guess would be somewhere between $300-400 US.

I’ll post more info about the G106 as we learn more. I’ll also try to update and correct this post if I learned some of these details are incorrect.

Click here to check out the G106 at Radioddity.

SOTA in the Clouds: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and MPAS Lite for brilliant QRP fun on Craggy Dome!

Although I live in the mountains of North Carolina and am surrounded by SOTA summits, it’s much easier for me to activate a park rather than a summit.

Parks can be quite easy: find the park on a map, drive through their main entrance, find a good picnic table to set up, and next thing you know you’re on the air! Of course, wildlife management areas and game lands can be more tricky, but typically you can drive to the activation site.

Summits–speaking as someone who activates in North Carolina–take much more planning. If it’s a new-to-me summit, I typically need to:

  1. find the GPS coordinates of the true summit
  2. map out the drive to the trail head
  3. read through previous activation notes (if they exist) to find out
    • what type of antenna/gear I might pack
    • and any notes I might need to find the trail or bushwhack to the true summit (quite often published, well-worn trails don’t lead to the actual summit)
  4. look up the trail map and make sure I have a paper and/or electronic copy
  5. pack all needed gear for the hike, activation, and emergencies
  6. sort out the time it will take to travel to the site, hike the full trail to the summit, activate, and return home

If you ask most any SOTA activator, they’ll tell you that the planning is part of the fun.

It really is.

One summit I’ve had on my activation list for ages is Craggy Dome (W4C/CM-007). Out of the higher summits in this region, it’s one of the easier ones for me to reach from the QTH. In fact, as with Lane Pinnacle, I could simply hike from my house directly to the summit (although one way to Craggy might take the better part of a day). The trailhead is about a 50 minute drive, and the hike about 30 minutes.

SOTA notes and All Trails indicated that Craggy Dome’s trail isn’t always easy to follow and that it’s steep and slippery.

Craggy has been activated loads of times, though, so I wasn’t concerned at all.

Living here and knowing how much brush there was on the manway to the summit, I knew that Craggy would be a pretty easy summit if I could activate it after the parkway re-opened for the spring and before the mountain “greened-up”; about a five week window.

Meeting Bruce

My schedule opened up for an activation of Craggy Dome on the morning of April 21, 2022 and I was very much looking forward to it.

I wouldn’t be alone on this hike either. Bruce (KO4ZRN), a newly-minted ham, contacted me and asked if he could join me on a hike and simply be an observer during a SOTA activation.

Fortunately, timing worked for him to join me on this particular SOTA activation. Continue reading SOTA in the Clouds: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and MPAS Lite for brilliant QRP fun on Craggy Dome!

Xiegu X6100: Greg uses an OTG mouse for better selection control

Many thanks to Greg who writes:

After seeing your YouTube channel, I decided to try my hand at POTA operations. There are at least three state parks on the POTA list nearby. I am trying to increase my CW speed, because CW would be a bit more efficient for operations.

[…]I have gotten an Xiegu X6100. The biggest reason was it is Linux based, which I am familiar. It is a nice size also has nice features. With an external battery (car jump starter) and a decent antenna, it should be able to make contacts.

My unit has the version 1.1.5 soft/firmware. I have found the Bluetooth and WIFI connectivity be lacking a few software components. I have been able to make Bluetooth connections to a keyboard and speaker, one at a time. However, there is no data connection to the just of the software.

So, one hears no sound and pressing a key generates no data. The X6100 has the potential to be a very capable modern transceiver. I got it through Radioddity.

I have working with the support group, who are good. Hopefully, the next software update will improve things.

What I found that worked and was a help was a mouse/trackball with OTG (on the go) cable connected to the USB Host port.

One was able to select the menu/submenu items.

The best improvement was Memory Editing the submenu Tag item. Using a trackball to update the Tag information via the popup screen keyboard was very easy and quick. Using a mouse/trackball with X6100 might be a good video.

Thank you for the tip, Greg! I will have to give this a go. I’m curious if other readers have explored using a mouse/trackball with the X6100 as well. 

One of the most appealing things about the Elecraft K4 interface (another Linux-based transceiver, I believe) is that you can connect a mouse and have full control of the radio. This made selecting items so much easier than using a finger to do the same on the touch screen. 

POTA camping in West Virginia and focusing on the radio journey

As I mentioned in a previous post, instead of going to Hamvention this year, I went on a POTA expedition with my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) and his son Miles (KD8KNC) in West Virginia.

Just a random roadside waterfall.

In short? It was a brilliant trip!

Amazing WV

The New River Gorge

West Virginia is such a beautiful state and it’s absolutely chock-full of state and national parks. Eric and I were left scratching our heads as to why there are so few activations in many of West Virginia’s most accessible parks.

The iconic New River Bridge

In fact, though it’s still relatively early in the season, we found the parks to be rather busy with tourists from across the globe.

We set up camp at Babcock State Park and used it as our home base to activate numerous parks in the area. In the late evenings we activated Babcock from the comfort of our campsite.

The Grist Mill at Babcock State Park.

I didn’t bring Hazel on this trip, but Eric brought his little dog, Theo– A.K.A “The Great Warg”–who was our little POTA mascot and certainly our ambassador at each site.

The Great Warg enjoying a little ice cream at Dixie’s Drive-In in Anstead, WV.

Theo attracted a lot of attention from pretty much anyone and everyone. That little guy never meets a stranger.

On a mission

Our goal wasn’t to activate as many parks as possible, rather it was to enjoy camping, sightseeing, and simply hanging out together during our activations.

Wow–what a success!

I stole Eric’s K1 field kit and used it to activate Hawk’s Nest State Park. Only made me wish I’d never have sold my K1 some 10 years ago!

If you’ve been on the air the past few days, you’ll have noticed that band conditions have been pretty rough and unstable at times.

We met this confident little guy while hiking at Hawk’s Nest SP.

We had to allocate more time than normal to work our ten contacts needed for a valid park activation.

That was perfectly fine, though, because the scenery at our activation sites was simply spectacular. I just hope the rushing waters didn’t create too much QRN in my videos!

Gauley River at the Summersville Hydroelectric Project

We also learned early on that (since we had no band pass filters in tow) it was best that we work non-harmonically-related bands simultaneously and, of course, separate our stations as far apart as reasonable at each site. When Eric was on 40 or 20 meters, I was on 30 and 17 and vice versa. It worked out pretty well.

Time management…

Now that I’m back at the QTH, I’ll pull the videos from my camera then process and upload them. I’m currently a good four weeks behind on field reports.

Thurmond Depot

If you’ve tried to contact me recently, you’ll notice I’m also at least two or more weeks behind on email as well. Unfortunately, there’s simply not enough time in the day and I need to sort out a better way to handle questions from readers and subscribers. I love answering emails and attempt to reply to each and every one, but the amount of time it takes to manage email is actually now taking a significant bite out of my content creation time. Between QRPer.com and the SWLing Post, I receive an average of 25-40 messages per day from readers, many of which are new to the site. Those stack up rapidly when I’m traveling or out and about doing activations.

I receive questions about choosing gear, asking about operating practices, and general advice on a variety of radio topics. They’re all great questions, but I feel like I’m a bit of a bottleneck in terms of delivering answers.

I might build a discussion board or create an email group where people can find community support. I certainly welcome your thoughts and comments on this.

I need to take action soon, because I’ve got a lot of travels planned this summer and will be off-grid for days at a time.

If I’m being perfectly honest, another reason why I didn’t attend Hamvention this year is because I knew it would only add to my work and correspondence load right before nearly two months of planned travels.

Our POTA camping expedition was a more relaxing option than Hamvention for 2022. (You can bet I’ll be at the 2023 Hamvention, though!)

Sharing the journey

Indeed, this trip reminded me why I do what I do here: I love to share the radio journey.

On that note, I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed with kind comments from readers and subscribers. It’s humbling and I’m most grateful to each and every one of you. Thank you so much!
Sharing the radio journey is indeed my main focus here on QRPer.com and on my YouTube channel. Sharing my journey and yours via the many excellent guest posts I’ve received.

I’ll sort out a way to manage correspondence in due time and, in the meantime, I appreciate your understanding.

Thanks for reading this post and many thanks to Eric and Miles for an amazing trip exploring the rivers and mountains of West Virginia! I can’t wait to do this again.

Indeed, this trip has me absolutely energized about the activations I’m plotting in Canada this summer. Stay tuned!

MJ’s Mountain Topper MTR-4B brag photo!

Many thanks to Mike “MJ” ( WO9B) who writes:

Hi Thomas,

I’m not normally enthusiastic about an equipment review, but as for the MTR gear…welcome to the 4B-V2 club. For no good reason I have to pass along a brag photo of my setup.

After growing tired of chasing a key around the picnic table, a removable epoxy bracket was added to mount the venerable Begali Adventure paddle. The battery is a small LifePO4 1.1 Ah battery which provides about 5 hours of Field Day operating.

Naturally, I use a Spark Plug for my antenna. The last two Field Days have been with this setup. It is an outstanding piece of gear. It took me one email exchange with Steve, WG0AT, to overcome the lack of a volume control. Not a moment of buyer’s remorse.

See you on the air….

MJ, WO9B

Thank you for sharing this, MJ! I love brag photos.

What a nice combo, too: the Begali Adventure and the MTR-4B! 

Readers: MJ is owner of www.sparkpluggear.com. I’ve heard many good things about his Spark Plug EFHW. I need to grab one and give it a go soon!

And yes, MJ, I’ll see you on the air!

Using WSPR Data to Study Propagation 40 & 20 Meter Bands

Many thanks to Jim (KX4TD) who writes:

Hi Thomas,

I am a subscriber and ham radio operator circa 1974. Like you (and a lotta hams) I started as a SWL using a transistorized Lafayette Radio receiver.

Last evening, I listened to the April 2022 Wireless Flirt podcast from Ireland where you were interviewed about the comeback of SW radio. Well done Thomas! You are one articulate dude!

I currently have a uBitx that I use for base and portable operation. We share an interest in POTA and other QRP field operations.

My latest obsession is WSPR. Attached [linked below], please find some of my WSPR findings on 40 meters.

73,

Jim KX4TD

Click here to download PDF: “Using WSPR Data to Study Propagation on the 40-meter and 20-meter Bands”

Thank you so much for sharing this and for the kind words, Jim! It’s strange, but I’ve yet to dive into the world of WSPR. I actually have a QRPLabs QCX+ transceiver kit I purchased specifically to explore WSPR. I just need to find the time to build it now! 

Thanks again for sharing your amazing report!

Update: A few more details about the new Xiegu G106 QRP transceiver

Yesterday, I posted some photos of the new Xiegu G106 transceiver.

Since then, I’ve been getting a few updates from my friend as, I assume, Xiegu releases preliminary info.

This is the latest illustration (click to enlarge):

You can see Xiegu is certainly eyeing the park and summit activators out there.

They’re also touting digital mode operation and I’ll have to assume this means the radio has an internal sound card which would certainly simplify a field-portable digi mode kit.

I was originally told that the G106 had six bands, but this image implies 80-10 meters including the WARC bands. We’ll have to verify this once the production marketing information is released. Since this is the 2022 Hamvention weekend, we could be learning more int he next couple of days.

I’ll continue to post updates here on QRPer.com. Bookmark the tag G106 if interested.

Oh yeah, I do hope there are some fold-out feet or a bail hiding under that G106 chassis!

Hike and Talk: Future of Ham Radio, POTA/SOTA’s Role, CW Renaissance, Power of Kindness, and Engaging our Youth

As I drink a cup of coffee and type this post, I’m also packing my camping and radio gear in the car for a four day POTA expedition with my buddy, Eric (WD8RIF). As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s what we’re doing in lieu of going to the 2022 Hamvention.

I’d planned to write up a field report this morning (I’ve a few in the pipeline) but I simply don’t have the time to do a proper job and I like taking my time with these reports.

Instead, I unearthed a “Hike and Talk” video I made earlier this year and completely forgot about.

Be warned…

My “Hike and Talk” videos aren’t for everyone. I don’t edit them–they’re pure unscripted stream of consciousness. And they’re quite long by YouTube standards.

If this isn’t your sort of thing, just skip this one–I won’t be offended.

On this particular day, I had the future of amateur radio on my mind.

Since it’s been a couple of months since I made this video, I listened to it this morning while packing if for no other reason than to simply refresh my memory. Since I don’t typically do this sort of thing (sharing my thoughts and opinions out there in the public space) I always find it a bit cringe-worthy to review these after the fact. I’m no authority on any topic and never want to paint myself as one, so I typically only discuss these things in interviews and even then, I rarely, if ever, listen my interview post-broadcast (save this one, perhaps).

Proud Prof

But this rambling “Hike and Talk” session reminded me of something that still makes me swell up with pride. I mentioned one ham radio class in particular that I taught for the high school students in our home school cooperative.

It reminded me of a couple of photos I took during that class:

In this first photo (above), I took the class out to the parking lot at the school and I had them set up a (then prototype!) Mission RGO One transceiver on a folding table under a large tree. I had the students erect both an end-fed resonant antenna and a simple 20 meter vertical. I picked the RGO one because all of the adjustments we had talked about in the classroom—AGC, Filters, A/B VFOs, Direct Frequency Entry, Pre Amp, Attenuation—are on the front panel and one button press away. Plus, it’s just a cool radio!

We hopped on the air with one of my students calling CQ (SSB) on the 20 meter band. Her very first contact was with a station in Slovenia—and she simply beamed with excitement. Thank you propagation gods!

In the photo above–taken a week or two later–we were forced to play radio indoors. I’d planned to set up the ALT-512 QRP transceiver outside and see what sort of DX we could work with a simple home brew mag loop antenna. Heavy rains moved in, though, so we moved back to the classroom, they set up the loop in a small window of this large brick building, and we worked station after station on FT8. You can see one student operating, another logging, another looking up each grid square and address, and one at the board calculating how many miles per watt we were achieving with each contact. We had huge fun!

All of the young ladies in my class passed their Technician exam by the end of the term and are all now licensed amateur radio operators. They were all amazing students.

I couldn’t have been more proud of them.

The Video

But I digress. Here’s my “Hike and Talk” video in all its glory:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you!

I hope you enjoyed watching (or skipping) the video!

Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been 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 which allows me to open up my work life to write more field reports and film more activation videos.

Here’s wishing you some rewarding radio activity this week!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Photos of a new Xiegu G106 HF transceiver [updated]

A friend who works in the amateur radio industry has shared the following photos and given me permission to post them.

These are images of the Xiegu G106 HF transceiver (click to enlarge):

As a field operator, one thing I noticed immediately are the protrusions around the faceplate that protect the encoder and what I assume in a multi-function knob. The form-factor seems to be roughly that of the Xiegu G90 (even smaller) with a backlit LCD display that resembles the Xiegu X5105 (only, again, much smaller).

I’m assured this isn’t vaporware, and I have to assume we’ll learn a lot more about the G106 soon.

The front panel is incredibly simple, so I must assume it’ll reply on menus for filter control, etc.

I have no other details at this point. When I learn more about the Xiegu G106, I’ll post updates here on QRPer.com.

Xiegu G1M replacement

Update (17 May 2022): I’ve just learned that the Xiegu G106 is the replacement for the Xiegu G1M . It’s sports 6 bands [actually, it might be more according to this update] has 5 watts of output power, and, of course, is SDR based like other Xiegu products. I’ve also learned it can receive wide band FM (hence the FM broadcast band image above).

An additional photo:

I’ll continue to post updates here on QRPer.com. Bookmark the tag G106 if interested.

QRP radios, product announcements, reviews, news and more. Low power amateur radio fun!