Three watts of POTA power with the Mountain Topper MTR-3B, an EFHW, and Hazel!

Recently on Twitter, I created an informal poll and asked if anyone else named their radios.

Here are the results:

I quickly found out that I’m in the 6.7% minority who freely admit that they name their radios.

We can also assume, however, that a healthy percentage of the “Neither confirm nor deny” crowd do too. They just have a professional reputation to maintain!

Truth is, I don’t name all of my radios; only the ones with “personality” that I plan to keep permanently.

Tuppence

My gift to myself after completing my very first CW activation in 2020 was to purchase a Mountain Topper MTR-3B from LnR Precision. I’ve always admired these tiny hiker-friendly transceivers and have watched as Steve Weber (KD1JV) updated the design over the years.

I first became intrigued with this radio series when I interviewed Appalachian Trail through-hiker and author, Dennis Blanchard (K1YPP) who packed one of Steve Weber’s early ATS-3A kit transceivers (built in an Altoids tin).

A closeup of Dennis’ AT Sprint 3A taken at Four Days in May

By the way, I highly recommend Dennis’ book, “Three Hundred Zeroes: Lessons of the Heart on the Appalachian Trail.”

When I took delivery of my MTR-3B and opened the box, I was floored with how tiny it was.

It’s no bigger than a pack of playing cards.

I knew the MTR-3B would be a permanent resident at QRPer HQ, so after some soul-searching and bouncing names off of a few good friends (who also name their radios), I called her “Tuppence.”

My friends in the UK may be thinking, “Hold on! Wouldn’t Thruppence be a better name?!?” True, the MTR-3B is a three band radio, but I just like Tuppence better. It suits her. So there you go.

Of course, I took Tuppence to the field quite a few times in those early days and enjoyed every minute on the air.

When I started recording my activations on video and publishing them to YouTube, I took the MTR-3B to the field much less.

Why? The 3B doesn’t have an internal speaker, nor does it have a volume control. When I’m activating solo (sans video), I simply use my in-ear headphones with an in-line volume control; but for video, I preferred audio from a speaker.  I’ve tested three different speakers over the past year and finally found one I really like.

My thanks to a number of readers who recommended the
Sony SRS-XB12 portable wireless speaker. The ‘XB12 is no longer produced, but I found one on eBay and purchased it. I liked it so much, I immediately purchased a second one.

What I love about the SRS-XB12 is the:

  • audio fidelity
  • long battery life (up to 16 hours)
  • AUX-in via a 3.5mm stereo plug
  • bluetooth connectivity (with microphone)
  • water resistant
  • durable construction
  • and size

In addition, the SRS-XB12 doesn’t loose its “lock” on the AUX-in audio. I found that two other speakers did this–one did in the middle of an activation, in fact.

On Friday, January 14, 2022, I decided to pair Tuppence with the new Sony speaker and see just how well they might get along.

That particular day, I had errands to run in town (and we had snow in the forecast) so I wanted this activation to be simple, quick, and relatively easy.

Hazel noticed that I put on my hiking boots, so she sprang from her pillow next to the wood stove and sat in front of the door with tail wagging. She knew I would have to pass by her in order to leave. I had not planned to take Hazel on this particular outing.

I tried to explain to her that 1.) I wasn’t planning to actually hike, 2.) this would be a quick activation, and 3.) I had errands to run post-activation.

It didn’t phase her a bit. She gave me puppy eyes, jumped in the car and I caved-in.

We hit the road.

Pisgah National Forest (K-4510)

I knew exactly where I wanted to set up when I arrived at the trailhead.

The hike to the site was very short. So short, I even took a proper folding chair instead of my three-legged hiking stool.

When I sat the chair and my backpack down at the spot, Hazel gave me a look like, “Seriously? I thought we were going on a hike!

Hazel’s short-term memory leaves something to be desired.

Gear:

Setup was easy: I launched a throw line into a nearby tree and deployed the KM4ACK EFHW.

As I mention in the activation video, I did manage somehow to lose a nut that holds in the radiator and strain relief on the winder. Fortunately, it was an easy field repair.

This activation did make it clear, however, that I need to sort out a way to protect the coil and mag wire windings on this particular antenna.

The coil is exposed; part of it is in the handle area of the winder (see above), so my hand often brushes against the fine mag wire. Also, I’m concerned the antenna might accidentally hit a rock in the field during deployment and break the toroid. I think this should be an easy fix, I just need to sort out a way to protect it. I took KM4ACK’s advice and protected the BNC connection wires by encapsulating them in hot glue (you can see this in the videos).

It is truly an indulgence to have a proper folding chair in the field. While I love my three-legged backpacking stool, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen off that thing! I have another portable chair that sits much closer to the ground but it’s designed to put you in a more reclined position which simply isn’t ideal for radio ops.

On The Air

The 40 meter EFHW is resonant on 40 and 20 meters–two of the the MTR-3B’s three bands (40/30/20).

I started calling CQ on 40 meters and was surprised with the number of chasers that popped up. In the past, it’s been a struggle to activate this site quickly–I always attributed it to being surrounded by tall ridges as it’s in a relatively deep valley. Compound that with the fact I’d only be pushing 2.5 to 3 watts?

I had nothing to fear.

In a mere 9 minutes, I worked the ten contacts needed for a valid activation. Brilliant!

I then moved to the 20 meter band and worked 11 more hunters within 20 minutes.

I was very happy with the results and, frankly, it was pure joy operating Tuppence again!

The Sony speaker worked brilliantly as well.

QSO Map

Here’s what my 2.5 to 3 watts of power did that Friday morning:

Activation video

Here’s my full activation video. Keep in mind these are real-time, real-life videos and have no ads. I don’t edit the activation part at all–it’s as if you’re in the field with me:

Click here to view on YouTube.

All-in-all it was a brilliant little activation. In fact, it was actually two activations in one–a “two-fer”–because the activation site is located where both Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Pisgah WRC Game Land (K-6937) overlap.

After I packed up, I did take Hazel on a short hike before heading into town to knock out my errands.

Thank you

Thanks so much for reading this report and for joining me on this activation.

As always, I’d 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.

You’re going to see a lot more of Tuppence in the field–especially since I outfitted her with a dedicated, fully self-contained, ultra-compact field kit.  I do love the simplicity of the MTR-3B: everything a field activator would want, and not a lot more.

I hope you get an opportunity to play radio this week! Stay healthy out there, okay?

Cheers & 72/73!

Thomas (K4SWL)

10 thoughts on “Three watts of POTA power with the Mountain Topper MTR-3B, an EFHW, and Hazel!”

  1. Hi Tom….wonderful video, beautiful setting, and great results….. Inspirational for sure (as always)…..

    I especially liked the complete simplicity of the whole setup….no fuss use of 40/20 resonant EFHW without a need for tuner…all making for especially fun way to get out and smell the (albeit ‘chilly’) roses while activating…..very cool….

    Speaker worked great too…

    Thanks,
    Jim / AC3B

  2. Hi again…I forgot to recommend this rather ‘pricey’ yet wonderful camping chair. I wouldn’t call it back-packable….but it’s a lot better to carry than what I saw in the video. Of course if you are happy with the one you use….stay with it…..but for me, I need a little ‘recline’ to keep my back happier….

    Here you go The Helinox Sunset Chair: https://www.rei.com/product/158003/helinox-sunset-chair?CAWELAID=120217890006601855

    Cheers!
    Jim / AC3B

  3. You take away the fear of getting it and POTA’ing for many. You make it look and sound effortless and calming. Many people need that inspiration. Fine job.

    I have only named my original FT-817 as “Old Betsy”. A tried and true reliable radio that has yet to let me down.

    N0SA: Did you get a set of his SP4 paddles on order? I have mine and while they are not the original, they are great and at a lower price point.

  4. Another very inspirational as always, I ike this MTR-3B but it is no more available. The only one is the new MTR-4B.
    It is another one of my dream Hi! but I checked this morning the exchange rate, here in Canada,

    Exchange rate: 1.00 USD = 1.272584 CAD (1.28 CAD)
    So $350.00 you add the exchange rate= $445.40, Plus Canadian sale tax = 5% PLUS 9.75% Provincial Tax = $512.21, plus shipping which you add the Canadian & Provincial taxes it is nearly around $550.00 !!!

    I write this just for your information

    But back to this post, it is again very instructive and complete
    Nice video very well done with all the details

    Thanks again, keep on this very good work,
    72/73 Mike VE2TH
    QRp ‘er for 58 years …- .- ..

    1. Wow, Mike! That does add up.

      Frankly, the shipping costs alone with anything that crosses a national border seems so high these days. You’re right, too. VAT, fees, duties, etc all add up along with currency exchange too.

      FYI: Look for an email from me.

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  5. Thomas,
    Thank you for doing what you do! I love that you don’t just make it look easy, but you make it look real. You’re not afraid to show that you don’t have to be perfect to send code, and that inspires me to code! Thank you! Hopefully I’ll get to do a park to park with you one day!

    73
    KB5UWS ..

    1. I would enjoy logging a park-to-park with you OM! Thank you so much for the kind comment.

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  6. An easy protection for those toroids is to simply Plasti-Dip them. With the one you have, I’d unmount it, dip it, let it dry and reattach. I haven’t seen any performance impact, although I never ran it through a spectrum analyzer before and after either 😉

    73!

  7. Thomas, I may have missed it, but can you share the source of your tiny little paddle? Love it.

    Jeff

    1. Hi, Jeff,

      So the paddle is made by N0SA, but he no longer makes this exact same paddle (it was a very limited run). He still makes paddles, though, and anything he makes is pretty amazing. You might reach out to him via his QRZ.com email address.

      Cheers,
      Thomas

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