QRP & Tea: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 & AX1 under shelter at Tuttle Educational State Forest

Sometimes field activations can be relaxed and laid-back. Other times they can be absolute mayhem!

Having explored the whole mayhem style activation the previous day, I was seeking a more chilled-out field activation on Thursday, November 4, 2021.

It was pouring rain, but I had a respectable three hour window to fit in a park activation while visiting my parents in the foothills of the NC mountains.

I had such an enjoyable experience pairing my Elecraft KX2 and AX1 antenna under a shelter at Tuttle Educational State Forest during a previous rainy day activation, I decided to revisit the same site.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

I knew I would likely be the only visitor at Tuttle that day; it was pretty cold and very wet.

Knowing rangers might not expect visitors on a day like this (keeping in mind this type of park caters to educational groups and are otherwise relatively quiet) I made a courtesy call to the park headquarters. I asked the ranger for permission to use their main shelter for an activation.

As expected, he said, “It’s all yours!”

I’ve met all of the park rangers at Tuttle having spent many an activation there and they’ve all encouraged me to make myself at home.  They’re incredibly accommodating.

After pulling into the main parking lot, I could see that I was, indeed, the only visitor on site.

I grabbed my GoRuck GR1 field radio backpack and walked to the picnic shelter.

The Tuttle shelter is actually quite large and can accommodate as many as two school groups at once.

Inside the shelter, there’s even a huge double-sided fireplace.

I’d be lying if I said it never crossed my mind to build a fire on this cold, rainy November day. I mean, they even have dry firewood conveniently stacked beside the shelter!

Of course, I wouldn’t waste their firewood on one guy doing an activation, but if I ever decide to organize a winter POTA meet-up here (and I am thinking about this–email me if interested), I would definitely ask permission!

Something you might not notice in my reports and videos: even though I visit the same sites a lot, I very rarely actually set up at the exact same spot if I have the option not to.  In this case, I was in the same structure as I was in a recent activation, but this time I deployed my station on the other side of the shelter.

Less is more

One of the great things about QRP gear is that it’s so compact.

I was using the same backpack and gear I had deployed on the summit of Mount Mitchell the previous day.

In my pack, I had a QCX-Mini transceiver, PackTenna EFHW, Packtenna 9:1 UNUN, the Elecraft KX2 transceiver, and AX1 antenna. Basically, I had enough gear for two completely independent QRP HF stations including a few antenna choices!

This is the magic of QRP gear: it’s typically much more compact, lighter weight, and packable than 100W transceivers–even those QRO transceivers designed for field use.

Tea time!

Another thing in the pack? My portable coffee and tea field kit.

It being a rainy, cold day it was the perfect excuse to brew some tea to warm my bones.

I chose a nice Twinings Darjeeling my friend Mike (K8RAT) had recently sent.

I put the kettle on (okay, so technically I started heating the water on my alcohol stove) and set up my radio gear.


On The Air

I started calling CQ on 40 meters with 5 watts and, once again, the Elecraft AX1 antenna more than delivered. I racked up the 10 contacts necessary to validate my activation in exactly 10 minutes.

You really couldn’t ask for more! This AX1 antenna continues to impress.

I decided to simply stay on 40 meters for the entire activation rather than changing out counterpoises and moving up the band.  After all, I wanted this to be a “chillaxed” activation. You know, proper relaxed radio therapy!

I continued working stations on 40 meters for another 20 minutes logging an additional 12 contacts.

Thank you to everyone who chased me!


Here’s what my 5 watts with the Elecraft AX1 yielded on 40 meters in 32 minutes:

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation. If you’ve never seen my videos before, keep in mind that they’re not edited for time; you’re essentially joining me for the whole activation as it happens. I don’t monetize my YouTube channel, so at least there’re no ads, right!? 🙂

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you!

I hope you enjoyed this field report and activation! Thanks for coming along with me.

It’s funny how quickly a freshly brewed cuppa’ tea transforms a cold, rainy day into something surprisingly special and memorable.

It also instantaneously transports me right back to the UK.

A special thanks to those of you who are 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.

As I’ve mentioned lately, I’m plotting a few upgrades to my field video equipment that should improve both the video and audio quality. Your generosity helps make that a reality.

Thank you!


Thomas (K4SWL)

14 thoughts on “QRP & Tea: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 & AX1 under shelter at Tuttle Educational State Forest”

    1. To be honest, I’m just not into doing activations in the car if I have any other alternative. I’ve got all the mounts I need and could even install a mobile in both my car and truck, but I just prefer being out of the car for activations.

  1. What a beautiful park. Always enjoy your reports and videos. Someday I will get lucky and make a contact with you.

  2. These posts are the epidemiological gold standard in portable ops. I have learned so much and more importantly given me confidence. I’m learning cw through Long Island cw. Bought a beautiful elecraft KX3. Thomas if you did a talk at Dayton you would pack the place. I hope to work you one day. 73

  3. I just reciever the AX1 and 40m coil and am wanting to get out with my IC705 and T1 and try the antenna. I think I will mount the AX1 on camera tripod and put out in the open.

    Thanks for the good video and report.

    73, ron, n9ee/r

  4. Thank you Thomas for your enjoyable and educational reports.

    Let me know when you are having your meet up, I’ll work at getting there.


  5. The weather in Surrey is positively tropical compared to further North, however there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing as my neighbour says.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s really enjoyable to read and watch.

  6. So … Thomas … you made me buy an Icom IC-705. Kidding, of course, but your presentation at the Winter SWL Fest inspired me.

    I fully admit that, ahem, I’ve yet to make any QSOs on it as I’ve used it solely for chasing NDBs and Standard Broadcast stations. 🙂 Crazy, I know. But actually making RF with it is the plan and I’m curious to know how that AX1 works with the Icom? It’s BNC, I know, but do the clearances “work”? Clearly, it works great with the KX2. Of course, no ATU in the 705 so if I end up with a pocket tuner, clearances are sort of moot. Still, I’m curious.

  7. Hi. Another great post. My fingers got cold just thinking about what you did. I need to get out on the beach again on a “warm” day with still winds and operate before it REALLY gets cold up here. I should invest in heavy-duty, insulated gloves with the fingertips cut off.

    Ummm, you used the AX1 (17m and 20m) for 40m? And I think I see the counterpoise running off the back?

    Susan in Maine

  8. Just got an Ax1 today. Set up at the kitchen table and worked the first two stations I called on the first call! Should have listened to you sooner Thomas!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.