Impromptu POTA activation using the Elecraft AX1 Antenna

A few weeks ago, I posted a report about doing my first park activation with the Elecraft AX1 super compact antenna. If anything, I felt the activation almost went *too* well using such a small antenna. I didn’t want to give others the impression this is all the antenna you’ll ever need–it’s just a brilliant compact antenna designed for convenience and accessibility. It’s a fun field companion and can be used pretty much anywhere.

Yesterday morning, I had a number of errands to run on the south side of Asheville and had not planned to do a POTA activation. While I was waiting on a curbside delivery, however, I was admiring the nice weather and thinking that I might venture out later in the day to do a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation. Part of me knew, though, that if I returned home, I’d get involved with projects and never make it back out to the field.

I always carry a transceiver and antenna in my car, so I opened the trunk and found my Elecraft KX2 transceiver field kit which included the Elecraft AX1 antenna. Technically, that’s a whole station! Why not give it a go–? I’m always up for a challenge.

Since I would be passing by the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way home, I quickly scheduled an activation on the POTA website via my phone so that the spotting system would know to grab my information from the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) when I started calling CQ.

Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)

I knew this might not be an “easy” activation: I would be using a super compact field antenna that’s quite a compromise in terms of performance, propagation wasn’t exactly stellar, and I was activating a popular (hence somewhat stagnant) park on a Monday morning. Not necessarily ideal ingredients for a successful activation.

I also discovered my phone tripod in the trunk of the car, so decided to make one of my real-time, real-life, no edit videos of the entire successful or failed activation. (Hint: It turned out to be a success.)

Gear:

If you’d like to accompany me on this park activation, check out my video on YouTube:

At the end of the day, the AX1 continues to impress me. It is a compromise? Yes. Does it perform as well as a resonant wire antenna? No. Can it activate a park as well as my other antennas? Yes.

AX1 QSO Map

Click to enlarge

No doubt, part of my success with the AX1 is because I’m primarily using CW instead of SSB to complete activations. I’ve made SSB contacts with the AX1, but I’ve never completed full park activations with it yet–in truth, though, I’ve never tried.

In fact, perhaps it’s just a lucky streak, but so far the AX1 has been as effective as many of my wire antennas in terms of simply completing valid park activations in less than an hour. My signal reports aren’t as strong as they would be with, say, my EFT-MTR resonant antenna or Emcomm III Portable random wire antenna, but it’s enough to get the job done.

If nothing else, I’ll admit that the AX1 reminds me of the magic of low-power radio each time I use it. When I log stations hundreds of miles away, with such a modest station, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

In short? It’s fun to use.

Black Friday Sale

FYI: I just received Elecraft’s latest Black Friday 2020 ad and noticed that the AX1 antenna package (which doesn’t include the 40M extension) is on sale. Click here to check it out.

8 thoughts on “Impromptu POTA activation using the Elecraft AX1 Antenna”

  1. I checked RBN, you werespotted in zone 5 and also spotted in zone 4, adding that you were also using only pwr from the KX-2 I say this is a great arial.
    A pity you did not use it on 20 or 17 in your activation. Good for next timeI gather.

    73
    ON6UU

  2. Hi, Frank,

    Yes, next time I likely will. Frankly, I had a number of projects at home that were waiting on me and I didn’t want to delay them.

    I believe I might actually attempt a full activation on 20 and 17 meters next time and see what that yields. If I time it right, maybe you’ll hear a faint whisper of me in your neck of the woods! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Thomas
    K4SWL

  3. Hi Tom….I actually enjoyed a view of a full activation…..even with the long delay before first contact….adding a dose of reality that was good for me….your commentary was especially informative for me about the AX1/AXE1 setup…

    FYI: If I read the MAXEXPEDITION website correct….they have a buy1 get one free on the “Fatty” case you used for the antenna….

    Fatty Pocket Organizer (Buy 1 Get 1 Free. Mix and Match in Multiples of 2. All Sales Final.) × 1
    OD Green ….$31.99

    I am curious about you non-use of a cover for the KX2….eg., Gem Products end-plates + clear cover….I can only presume after this much time you don’t see a need for it?

    Thanks…great video,
    73, Jim / AC3B

  4. How much does performance change if you elevate the “radial”, instead of leaving the counterpoise wire on the lossy ground.

    Thanks,

    -kb

  5. Good question, Kent. I’m not really sure, to be honest. The one time I tried both configurations during an activation, propagation was so terrible that day I didn’t notice a difference. It did require re-tuning and, for whatever reason, it was actually slightly more difficult to get a good match with the counterpoise elevated. The length, I believe, becomes more important when the counterpoise is elevated. When laying on the ground, that effect overrides the length beyond 15 or 20 feet, I’m guessing.

    I’ll need to experiment more. I’m certain having the counterpoise elevated is optimal.

    Cheers,
    Thomas

  6. I bet they designed the antenna for the counterpoise lying on the ground, raising it would change things, I forget in which direction. I think lowering the impedance and shifting the resonant frequency…dang, I forget.

    Do you have one of those inexpensive nanoVNAs? You could watch the resonant frequency shift as you raised the wire.

    -kb

  7. One of the best things is they are “crude” in that they have a hard power switch. Which means if you leave it sitting for a few weeks turned off the battery won’t be dead when you pick it up again.

    The most concrete thing I’ve used mine for is put a little MFJ-9201 antenna tuner directly on my crude portable vertical, use the nanoVNA to guide my tuning, then use a comfortable length of coax hookup to my KX2. It can’t retune automatically the way the build in tuner can, but it reduces loss on that coax , is cheaper than an Elecraft T1 remote tuner, and it teaches me stuff as I do the tuning, mess with the antenna, etc.

    I’m not very good at it yet.

    -kb

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