Field Report: My first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-35

My most recent field report and video featured the Penntek TR-35 but it was not my first activation with this fantastic little QRP rig!

I pushed the last field report and activation video to the front of the line so that I could show how CW message memory keying worked in the TR-35’s updated firmware. It was, in my opinion, a major upgrade!

What follows is my field report from April 1, 2022: my first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-35. This video was made a week or so before I learned that WA3RNC was working on the new firmware.

Side note: If you’d like to read my full review of the TR-35, check out the May 2022 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine.

Although I’d used the TR-35 in the shack for more than a month I was eager to find an opportunity to take it to the field. April 1, 2022 was that day and I made a little detour to one of my favorite local POTA sites to break in the TR-35…

Table Rock Fish Hatchery (K-8012)

I arrived on site around 12:50 local and–as expected–had the whole picnic area to myself.

First thing I did was deploy my antenna. Table Rock has ideal trees for installing longer wire antennas, so I chose to deploy a 40 meter end-fed half-wave. This is the one Steve (MW0SAW) kindly sent me a few months ago and it’s been living in my SOTA pack, so has gotten a lot of field time lately.

The TR-35 sports 40, 30, 20, and 17 meters. The 40 meter EFHW is resonant on two of those bands: 40 and 20. If I wanted to use 30 and 17 meters, I could, but it would require using an external antenna tuner (trans match).

Since the TR-35 has no internal speaker, I also hooked up my Sony digital recorder to capture the audio directly. Keep in mind that the Sony recorder sometimes struggles with the dynamic range (audio lows and highs) of CW signals. Any popping you might here in the activation video below is likely the recorder AGC, not the TR-35.


On the Air

Setup was quick and easy!

In an effort this year to include more 20 meters and higher bands, I started calling “CQ POTA” on 20 meters first.

Glad I did, too! I bagged nine contacts in 13 minutes. Thank you so much, hunters!

Next, I QSY’d to the 40 meter band where there seemed to be lots of hunters as well–in 18 minutes, I logged 18 contacts! Woot!

Obviously, the TR-35/EFHW combo is a potent POTA pairing!


Here’s what 5 watts into an EFHW on 20 and 40 meters yielded at Table Rock Fish Hatchery that fine day:

Activation video

Here’s my real-time, real-life activation video. I spend a bit of time at the beginning of this video going over some of the TR-35 features. The video has chapters embedded so you can skip at will. As always, my videos have no ads.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you!

This was a really fun activation and I’m glad you joined me.

The TR-35 is such a fun little radio and I believe what makes it such a gem is that it isn’t feature-packed: it’s simple.  WA3RNC obviously focused on performance and ease of use. It works incredibly well and especially since CW message memory keying has been added, I can heartily recommend it.

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. It makes videos and reports like this one possible.

Here’s wishing everyone an amazing week, good health, and good propagation!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

16 thoughts on “Field Report: My first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-35”

  1. Excellent review, thanks Thomas.
    I hope to head out this week to SNP and use my wire antenna. Nice encouragement to get out there.

    Fr Richard

    1. Thank you–you’re so kind.

      You’re going to have fun out there! Perhaps if the stars align, I’ll catch you on the air!


  2. Thomas,

    Dang you (and others who have been raving about the Penntek TR-35). A friend of mine in Virginia needed to downsize and had one for sale. So I bit.

    A wonderfully simple Morse code communication machine that I would put next to my Elecraft KX1 as far as ease of use and abilities. No, no tuner but the right price as a kit. Beautiful audio and good filtering for home shack and park use.

    Thanks for your reviews and videos. Enjoy the coffee.

    Dave K8WPE

  3. fantastic lil radio, tho mine doesn’t have the newer message memories ( have external K1EL , K-16 for that purpose) i’ve thoroughly enjoyed using for first 7 POTA activations. i’m not a backpacker, ‘have been working from an SUV with complete station, contained in a plastic shoe box, the xyl was going to recycle. Antennas have always been homebrew EFHW supported by telescoping 28’ fiberglass mast. what fun… goal is to activate all 52 Rhode Island POTA sites. Although the going is a bit slow with 4w , what a blast ‘been having.

    72’s de k8zfj

    1. Hi Randy-

      Glad you’re doing POTA activations! I’m guessing that 52 entities will keep you busy for a while. We have 192 here, and I’m somewhere north of 25 activations. At the rate I’m going, that should last me a Iifetime. Good luck! 73- K1SWL

  4. Thanks for the great activation videos with the TR-35, Thomas. I’ve got a kit sitting on the desk to start when I finally get the time. Once I learned about the new firmware update from you, I knew it was time to give it a try.

    Just FYI, the video didn’t show up on my Youtube subscription feed, I assume because the video has a date of 4/25/22 attached to it. As an avid reader of I found it, but if it doesn’t get the normal number of views that could explain why.

    Andy K9ABR

    1. You’re going to be pleased with this little radio, Andy!

      And thank you so much for the tip about the video. I just posted a note on YouTube mentioning that it might not pop up in the feed. I know why: last week I accidentally published it for maybe an hour? It must have marked that as the publication date.

      Again, many thanks and let us know what you think of your TR-35!


  5. Another thumbs up for the TR-35. I did my first activation with mine over the winter and it was an instant happy relationship. I just got mine back from John with the chip update adding the CW memories, and the now TR-35 ticks all of the boxes for me. Well worth the shipping and John updated and turned the radio around very quickly.

    Cheers, Douglas K1GC

  6. I received my TR-35 last week, and got it assembled over the weekend. What a great little kit! Dare I say, it was easier than a QCX build.

    I’m looking forward to getting it out /P this weekend now that it will actually be nice up here in MN for a change.

    Tony AE0KW

  7. Oh, things get complicated in a hurry. Earlier this year I did some wrestling with what to get as a backup QRP rig for POTA. My TX-500 has been working great, but what would I do if it ever went down!?! So… I ordered a KX2, with 8-12 weeks for delivery. Then the TR-35 comes on the scene. I bought one and it showed up on my doorstep the same week! The potential for CW memory keying sent it back to WA3RNC for the upgrade. Now, today the TR-35 came home in new-and-improved form, AND I took delivery of the KX2. If we could just get beyond the predicted rain and T-storms, I’ve got real incentive to do A LOT of activations!!!

  8. Thomas

    I simply love your videos – both your impressions of the gear and the activations themselves. Great stuff.

    I’m curious – now that you’ve played with both the SW-3B and the Penntek TR-35, which is the favorite? Seems like they’re both roughly in the same price range.

    Thanks for your fantastic channel and website

    Pat n0hr

    1. Hi, Patrick,

      I think I’ll need to answer this in a post. 🙂 Check back at soon.


  9. I was able to get an N0SA paddle within the last week. I believe he is making a slightly upgraded version but looks almost identical.

  10. Thomas, I can’t decide between the CW-3B and the TR-35. What a dilemma to have. As of today and in your video, I favor the TR-35, but don’t think I could go wrong. Don’t worry, I am a QRP die-hard. My end goal is to do a POTA activation with my Tuna Tin 2 2.0-watt CW transmitter and I need a good receiver to make that happen. After seeing dozens of really decent used communications receivers sell for MSRP + 20% recently, I decided to get the best portable QRP rig I could. I built a Tuna Can TR-switch called Tuna Helper that would disconnect the external speaker from the TR-35 during TX of the TT2. At the age of 61 when I lost about 30 years of ham operating due to my former aerospace career, it is now all about having some fun with the hobby again like I did when I was aged 17-35, LOL. 72, Dave – KU9L

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