With so many great radios in your livery, how do you decide which one to take with you on an activation? I mean, outings other than when you are reviewing a particular radio.
Do you just grab them in a rotation to keep operating features fresh in your mind? Or do the radios have “personalities” that you match to the type of trip you are taking them on?
Thank you for your question, Greg, because I’ll admit, this is a decision I make each and every time I go on an activation run. I’m absolutely spoiled by having access to some of (what I consider) to be the best portable transceivers out there. I’ve acquired the bulk of these in the past four years.
You essentially answered your question for me.
I enjoy rotating through my transceivers, ATUs, and antennas because I love trying different pairings. Sometimes, I decide what radio to take on an activation by looking at previous field reports and then pick one I haven’t used recently.
I love using gear in rotation because, as you suggest, it keeps their operating features fresh in my mind. It’s nice to be actively working stations in the field and not struggle with the rig to find filter adjustments, memory keying, keying speed, mic gain, RF gain, etc. With so many small radios having nested menus, using radios in rotation helps my rig feature “muscle memory.”
With that said, I will ignore rotation if I’m going to a site and know that one model of radio might give me an advantage over another.
If I’m going to a park and plan to do a picnic table activation, for example, any of my radios will work. These tend to be the times I try new antennas and new accessories because I can bring spare gear if something doesn’t work properly.
But, if I’m taking a long hike to my activations site–say for SOTA–I will grab a rig that’s more portable, with more built-in features, and pair it with antennas I know I can deploy on the summit.
Here’s how I would describe the personalities of some of my favorites:
- Mountain Topper MTR-3B: Wee, fun, effective, and bare-bones yet nearly custom for CW field activations.
- Elecraft KX1: An effective, impressively portable, and reliable CW companion.
- Elecraft KX2: The bees knees for a portable HF operator. Always ready-to-go, never intimidated by site conditions, a proper super compact HF Swiss Army Knife.
- Discovery TX-500: If Jeep or Land Rover made an HF rig, it would be the TX-500. It’s ready for any weather, packs great performance, and is incredibly fun to operate.
- Icom IC-705: All the comforts of a shack-grade, wide range, multi-mode transceiver, packed into a QRP brick.
- Yaesu FT-817ND: The Toyota sedan of portable transceivers. Super reliable, rugged, and capable.
- Xiegu X5105: An unrefined, competent, and rugged field performer. It’s a lot like one of those dogs that’s so ugly, it’s kind of cute.
- Mission RGO One: A low-noise champion that has contest-grade receiver characteristics. I love this performer’s unassuming, simple design.
- Elecraft KX3: An HF portable champion. The KX3 will handle the roughest, densest RF environment you can encounter with the optional roofing filter. Possibly the best performing CW rig I own.
So there you go.
I do go through a bit of a selection process prior to each outing and, honestly, it has become part of the fun for me.
Less is more, too
With that said, I could easily get away with only owning one or two of the radios listed above. Indeed, for most of my ham radio life, I’ve only owned one or two HF radios.
I actually enjoy being “stuck” with one radio, in fact.
During a normal year, my family will often travel to Canada for the better part of two months. Before leaving, I try to choose only one radio to go with me and it must double as a ham radio transceiver and shortwave listening receiver. It’s fun spending so much time with only one radio and getting to know its features, nuances, and personality.
How about you?
How do you choose radios? Do you feel like your radios have personalities? Do you name your radios? Inquiring minds want to know–please comment!