Cheap POTA thrills with my new-to-me TEN-TEC R4020 QRP CW transceiver!

Last year, I made an impulse purchase.

You’re shocked, right–?

Right.

You see, I did something I’d never suggest others do: in a moment of boredom, I casually cruised the classifieds listings found on QTH.com.

One of the very first listings was for a TEN-TEC R4020 CW QRP transceiver. The price, if memory serves, was $120 (+/- $10) shipped.

Ten-Tec Model R4020 (Product Photo: Ten-Tec)

Without even thinking, I sent a message to the seller:

I’ll buy it if it’s still available!

He responded noting I was the first to reply to the ad, so it was mine if I wanted it.

I did, of course.

The R4020 arrived that same week, I opened the box, applied power to confirmed it powered up, then placed it on the top shelf in my shack.

At the time, I had a mountain of review and evaluations in process along with several articles in the pipeline for TSM and one for RadCom, and simply didn’t have time to properly explore the R4020. I thought it might be fun saving it as a little reward for meeting my deadlines.

Then, frankly, I just forgot about the R4020. This spring was a very busy time for me family-wise, then I spent the summer in Canada, and most of this fall has been all about catching up after having spent the summer in Canada. Funny how that works!

Fast-forward to November 11th, 2022 when I was packing a field radio kit to take on an overnight trip and I noticed the R4020 on the top shelf! My reward, finally–!

I quickly packed the R4020 in my Spec-Ops Order Pouch along with a 3Ah Bioenno LiFePo4 battery and a power cable.

South Mountains State Park (K-2753)

On Saturday, November 12, 2022, I jumped in the car and headed to South Mountains State Park with the R4020.

This past year, I’ve mostly set up at South Mountain’s Clear Creek Access on the west side of the park, but this time I decided to make my way to the equestrian picnic area near the main entrance and ranger station.

Continue reading Cheap POTA thrills with my new-to-me TEN-TEC R4020 QRP CW transceiver!

Now Shipping: The Halibut Electronics Common Mode Current Choke Test Rig

I’ve just learned that my buddy Mark (N6MTS) at Halibut Electronics has just kitted up a new batch of his CMCC Test Rigs and is now accepting orders. I know that some of the experimenters in our community might appreciate this brilliant bit of gear that Mark originally designed as a piece of test gear for his own workbench.

I asked Mark to shed a little light on this kit and exactly what it does:

A Common Mode Current Choke, aka a 1:1 Current Balun, is a common (pardon the pun) device in a ham shack. They can be used: at the Antenna feed point to prevent dangerous unbalanced return currents on the outside of the feedline, at the Radio’s antenna port to minimize RF noise picked up on the feedline, on DC or AC power cables and other interconnect cables to minimize RF pick-up in the shack, etc.

Most RF test equipment, such as a (Nano)VNA, measures the Differential Mode of a system, that is, the balanced currents that flow on the INSIDE of a coax cable. This is great for measuring things like: the frequency response of a filter, the complex impedance (or SWR) of an antenna, or the loss of a length of coax.

It cannot measure the Common Mode of a system, that is, the unbalanced current that flows on the OUTSIDE of a coax cable. This means it cannot (directly) measure a Common Mode Current Choke.

The Halibut Electronics Common Mode Current Choke Test Rig converts the Differential Mode signal generated by the VNA into a Common Mode signal, and places it on the outside of the shield of a coax system. This allows the VNA to directly measure how effective the choke is at choking common mode RF currents. Once you can directly measure a device, you can measure the real world effect of changes you make, and optimize the device for your specific use case. As opposed to relying on calculations and predictions of ideal conditions in free space.

The Common Mode Current Choke Test Rig is a kit that requires some assembly, using a soldering iron and Philips head screw driver.

Click here to purchase a Halibut Electronics CMCC Test Rig kit.

Mountain Topper MTR-3B: A quick POTA activation before leaving camp!

View from Yonah Mountain the previous day.

As I mentioned in previous field reports, the W4G SOTA Campout was amazing fun this year.  I enjoyed hanging with Joshua (KO4AWH) as we activated a total of three summits and a few parks–plus it was great meeting so many fellow SOTA activators at the Saturday evening potluck!

On Sunday morning, October 16, 2022, it was time to pack up the campsite and hit the road.

Although I was a little pressed for time, I decided to fit in one more activation as Joshua packed up his tent and before we took down the 40 meter Tufteln end-fed half-wave.

Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest (K-4473)

Fortunately, our campsite was within Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and since all I needed to do was to connect my rig to our campsite antenna, setup took all of two minutes.

I pulled out the Mountain MTR-3B for this activation. It had been quite some time since I used this wee radio because I had only recently finished a review of the MTR-4B V2 (look for that review on QRPer.com very soon).

The MTR-3B is now permanently at-the-ready inside my MTR-3B ultra portable field kit, but since there was already an antenna and key in place, I only needed the radio, power cord, logging items, and battery.

Continue reading Mountain Topper MTR-3B: A quick POTA activation before leaving camp!

HRWB 2002 Holiday Shopping Show

The Ham Radio Workbench podcast has just published their 2022 Holiday Shopping Show episode. I had the honor of being a guest in this episode and…well…it was essentially a license to release my inner enabler which–in the best of times–I have a difficult time containing.

Seriously, though, it’s always so much fun to hang with George, Vince, Mike, Rod, and Mark–they’re great guys.

I would suggest freezing your credit card in a block of ice before listening to this episode.

You’ve been warned!

If you’d like to see “how the sausage is made” check out this unedited video of the entire episode including before/after the podcast recording:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Or, if you’d rather hear the podcast–which is trimmed and formatted–you can listen via the embedded player below, or on the Ham Radio Workbench podcast website.

Click here to check out the Ham Radio Workbench website.

Mike turns a trailer wiring harness into ready-made ground radials

Many thanks to Mike (KE8PTX) who shares the following tip:

[Recently, I walked into a] big box store and this caught my eye:

When separated, they have very little memory.

So now we have four 25 foot radials. Bonus was all were different colors. Easy to untangle.

Performance, so far, is good. Total price with clip: 12 bucks.

That’s a brilliant tip, Mike! Thank you for sharing. Like you, I’m always on the look out for products that could serve double duty in the world of amateur radio. While one can find less expensive sources of wire, for 100% copper wire pre-cut to a standard radial lengths, this is a pretty good deal!

I did some searching and pricing varies between various suppliers. 

 

Sample Retailers:

Thanks for the tip!

Guest Field Report: K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report

Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following field report:


K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report

K3STL and K3ES at the entrance to K-0621.

by Brian (K3ES)

K3ES Perspective

Saturday November 19 dawned clear and cold in northwest Pennsylvania, but the truth is that I was up well before dawn.  The third Saturday of each month, I try to make the 2 hour drive south to help with Skyview Radio Society’s monthly Volunteer Examiner (VE) testing session for new or upgrading licensees.  Clear skies (which matched the forecast) meant that road conditions would not be a problem.  So, shortly after 5 am I pointed the truck south.

One of the creature comforts I appreciate about our VE session is meeting for breakfast before the test.  It was obvious on arrival at the restaurant that the VEs would greatly outnumber the test candidates, but many hands make light work.  Coffee and an omelet definitely helped fuel the effort.  Since the test sessions normally last less than 2 hours (and that held true this time), three of us VEs had made plans for post-test session POTA.

Before launching into the field report, let me acknowledge that K3STL’s photography was instrumental in providing a report with visual appeal.  Personally, I almost always forget to take the pictures.

POTA Plan

John “Tall Guy” K3STL, Steve K3FAZ, and Brian K3ES in the parking lot at K-0621.

The plan for the day was to attempt activation of two POTA sites, Beechwood Farms State Conservation Area (K-0620) in suburban Pittsburgh, and Todd Sanctuary State Conservation Area (K-0621) about 20 miles further to the northeast.  John “Tall Guy” – K3STL and Brian – K3ES would do a short activation of K-0620, then meet Steve – K3FAZ at K-0621 for the rest of the afternoon.

Knowing it would be a cold day for mid-November (temperatures peaked for the day just barely above freezing), each of us made plans to adjust for operating from our vehicles. That meant that we would be doing parking lot activations at both locations. While we each normally activate with slightly different operating styles that are suited to outdoor POTA operations, some tweaks made it possible to have wind and weather protection for this outing.  In hindsight, it was a perfect choice.

Operating Methods

K3FAZ works an SSB contact.

K3FAZ operated his treasured Kenwood TS-50 using SSB mode with an EFHW antenna in a tree.  Rather than setting up with a table and chair, Steve configured his station to fit in the front seat of his SUV. Continue reading Guest Field Report: K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report

Quickie Field Report: Pileups at Desoto Falls with the Penntek TR-45L and two 28 foot wires

I mentioned in a previous post that I’m quite behind publishing activation videos. Much of this has to do with the fact that I’ve been a pretty busy activator (by my standards) the past couple of months.

While I don’t make field reports and videos for each of my activations, I usually do one or two per week. Two is typically the max I can post because my field reports take 3-4 hours each to write-up and publish; it can be difficult carving that kind of time out of my busy schedule!

In order to catch-up, I’ve decided to post shorter format field reports from time-to-time; especially for reports like this one where I give quite a lot of info and detail in my activation video.

Desoto Falls National Recreation Area (K-7473)

In the previous field report (from October 14, 2022), I recounted two amazing SOTA activations in north Georgia (Big Cedar and Black Mountain) with my buddy Joshua (KO4AWH) during the annual W4 SOTA Fall Campout.

Immediately after wrapping up our SOTA activations on Black Mountain, we decided to hit a park on the way back to the campground. Desoto Falls National Recreation Area made for a short detour and a nice way to relax after a few miles of hiking that day.

We pulled into the parking area of Desoto Falls and set up our stations in the picnic area placing some distance from one another to help with any interference.

I pulled out my trusty Penntek TR-45L and two 28’/8.5m lengths of 24 gauge wire.  I extended the radiator vertically and unrolled the counterpoise on the ground. The wires were connected to the binding posts on the back of the TR-45L (red=radiator, black=counterpoise). I used the built-in manual Z-Match tuner to match the impedance in short order.

Continue reading Quickie Field Report: Pileups at Desoto Falls with the Penntek TR-45L and two 28 foot wires

Scott takes the Radio Flyer on a maiden voyage

Many thanks to Scott (KK4Z) who shares the following post from his blog KK4Z.com:


The Maiden Voyage of the Radio Flyer

by Scott (KK4Z)

Radio Flyer Logo (PRNewsFoto/Radio Flyer, Inc.)

When I was young, it was a simpler time. All you needed was a pen knife, cap gun, your dog, and a Radio Flyer red wagon to put your stuff in. The world was your oyster and adventure was right around the corner. Even though I am much older now, and my horizons have expanded; adventure is still right around the corner. It was fitting that my new camper is also a Flyer. I thought it fitting to name my camper the Radio Flyer, big boy’s red wagon.

For my first adventure, I chose to go to the Stephen C. Foster State Park located within the Okefenokee Swamp. It’s about a 6-hour drive from my home QTH. Getting off of the interstate at Valdosta; it’s about a 45-mile drive down a highway that is largely uninhabited. For a man who likes his solitude, I felt alone. I pulled into Fargo, GA for gas, and then it was another 18 miles of desolation to the park. The first gate was entering the refuge. Then another lonely stretch to the park entrance.

The park was quiet with several different species of Owl providing commentary. The park never got noisy while I was there. I liked it. The campsite was rustic and nice. In short order I was set up and ready to go.

One of the things I like about the camper is its simplicity. The interior is open and spacious. there is enough room for me and my gear plus I can sit comfortably. The AC and heater work well. The galley is all I need. I added a microwave that fits on the storage shelf. Continue reading Scott takes the Radio Flyer on a maiden voyage

Some random Black Friday 2022 deals

I’ve been trying to avoid looking at sales this week because I don’t really need anything. That said, I’ve had a few pieces of gear on my mind that I’ve been wanting to review/evaluate and Black Friday has made a few of them more accessible.

Nanuk Waterproof Cases

If you’re not familiar with Nanuk, they produce a wide variety of waterproof cases in Canada. They’re essentially Canada’s version of the Pelican case.

I’ve been eyeing their Nanuk 903 which is actually a very compact case–something similar in size to the Pelican 1060 and the Evergreen 56.

Nanuk, DX Engineering, and Amazon all have their Nanuk cases on sale today. I picked up a Nanuk 903 that I hope to use with one of my ultra-compact field radios (perhaps the Penntek TR-35).

Prices vary, but Amazon seems to have the lowest. I just purchased a blue Nanuk 903 with pick foam for $28.00 shipped (affiliate link). Other colors may cost a few dollars more, but they’re all exceptional deals (I picked the least expensive color).

CP Gear Tactical

I believe it was Rod (VA3ON) who first introduced me to this Canada-based pack manufacturer.

I’ve had their their Aircrew/Pubs Bag with Padded Tablet Pocket on my wish list since the Ham Radio Workbench podcast episode where we talked about backpacks and pouches. CP Gear Tactical manufactures a wide variety of gear primarily for the Canadian military market. Everything is made either in Canada (NB) or the US (or both), thus prices are much higher than mass produced gear.

I’m hoping their Aircrew bag might fit my 2nd Yaesu FT-817ND which is now outfitted with the TPA-817 pack frame I purchased from a reader.  If it doesn’t, I still have many other uses in mind.

Everything in their store is 20% off today if you use the coupon code BKFRIDAY20.

The pack, shipped to my address in the US was $92.60 CAD.

Chameleon Antennas

Update: Many thanks to NJ0Q who notes:

Chameleon has a 25% off Black Friday sale. I grabbed another MPAS lite and saved $90.

Click here to check out the Chameleon Sale!

Yaesu FT-891

I noticed that Gigaparts and Ham Radio Outlet has the venerable Yaesu FT-891 on sale for $599.95 US. That’s a brilliant deal.

Last year, I came so close to buying the FT-891 for $629 during a Black Friday sale. I decided against it at the last moment because I know I tend to reach for my lightweight QRP field radios that can provide me a few hours of radio fun on a 3Ah battery. Even at QRP output levels, the FT-891 needs a larger capacity battery.

That said, if you’re looking for a new 100W radio for the shack or field? The FT-891 is a solid choice.

Radioddity

Radioddity always has deep discounts on Black Friday. This year, they have a store-wide 15% off sale with a coupon code.

Radioddity is a great place to purchase Xiegu Products. They are a sponsor of QRPer.com.

SDRplay RSPdx

SDRplay manufactures affordable, high-performance SDR receivers in the UK. They are currently offering their RSPdx for £130/€156/$169.95. Click here for details and click here for my review of the RSPdx. The RSPdx is a choice radio for mediumwave and low band work. That said, the frequency range is exceptionally wide. This and the RSPduo are my favorites from SDRplay. Note that SDRplay is a sponsor of the SWLing Post.

Airspy

Another SDR and radio accessory manufacturer, Airspy, is offering 20% off of all of their products. I consider their HF+ Discovery SDR to be one of the best sub-$200 SDRs for the HF bands–check out these posts and reviews on the SWLing Post.

Ham radio retailers with Black Friday deals

Here’s a list of ham radio retailers who have Black Friday sales today. If you’ve been looking for an item in particular, you might compare prices between these stores:

Spot any other great deals? Share them in the comments section!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here in the States, we’re celebrating Thanksgiving today. It’s my favorite holiday because it’s all about giving thanks and spending time with friends. family, and (of course) eating some amazing food.

In the spirit of gratitude, I’d like to thank all of you for making what I do here on QRPer.com and YouTube possible.

I’ll admit that I get a real thrill out of sharing what I learn and even taking you along on my various field activations in videos and field reports.

It’s funny, but I’ve made activation videos long enough now that the camera feels more like a companion–with you there at my side–as I enjoy field activations. In the early days, I used to cringe a bit with each video I posted. I knew they weren’t polished, they weren’t edited, and they certainly weren’t ever going to be mainstream on YouTube (and I’m 100% fine with that). Typical YouTube viewers don’t care to watch videos that happen in real time without editing.

In the beginning, I thought I’d be laughed off of YouTube (and I was prepared to face that) but instead, it’s been completely the opposite. I receive kind comments from subscribers on a daily basis and I appreciate each and every one.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m happy if I even play a small positive role in someone’s radio journey.

Back in 2008 when I put QRPer.com on the web, it was always my intention to make it a space to share everyone’s radio journey, not just mine alone. That’s the reason I chose the name QRPer instead of my callsign for the website.

I strongly believe that radio enthusiasm is infectious and we’re all radio ambassadors when we put ourselves out there in a positive and encouraging way. The contributors and guest posts here on QRPer have proven this over and over again. I’ve learned so much from you and I’m most grateful. Thank you.

Grateful…

Again, thank you dear readers for making QRPer.com such a welcoming community. This is a true labor of love, and it’s an honor to serve it up to you!

I’d especially like to thank our Patrons, Producers, Executive Producers and Coffee Fund contributors. Your financial support helps keep this a dynamic radio space over the long haul!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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