Moody weather and a trailside activation with the amazing Discovery TX-500 and PackTenna EFHW

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m starting to sort out the gear I’ll take on a long road trip this summer. I still haven’t quite decided which radio will accompany my Elecraft KX2, but the lab599 Discovery TX-500 is on my very short list.

I pulled the TX-500 yesterday to do a firmware update and found my logbook for an activation I made on February 16, 2022. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember writing the field report for that activation.

I checked my YouTube channel and, sure enough, buried at the bottom of my video list was the activation video marked as “unlisted.”

That bit of time between mid-February and mid-March was crazy for me. I was in isolation for a week (thanks Covid) and had a very hectic family schedule. I accumulated a small backlog of videos then and this one was lost simply lost in the shuffle.

Here’s the report and video from that activation:

Clear Creek Trail

It was Wednesday, February 16, 2022, and I was driving to my parents’ house to help them with a few projects. I had enough time to make a little detour to the Clear Creek Access of South Mountains State Park (K02753) and had two things in mind: a good hike and trailside activation.

The weather? Man oh man was it was fickle.

On the interstate, I got caught in a proper downpour and traffic slowed to a crawl.

I thought about throwing in the towel then, but I made a promise to myself that I would continue driving to the park if it wasn’t raining when I approached the park exit on the interstate.

You know what? The rain stopped maybe 3 miles before the exit. So I continued my drive.

On site, it was overcast and misty. I had packed the TX-500 knowing the weather was iffy and I’d have no covered shelter.

I started my hike and was overall pretty lucky; it only rained on me once as I recall and lasted only about 5 minutes.

When I reached the end of Clear Creek, I deployed my field kit. Knowing it could rain again at any moment, I was happy I had the weather resistant TX-500 and my Rite In The Rain log book.

Gear:

Setup was speedy.

I did run into one problem: last time I had used the PackTenna EFHW, I dropped it in some thick mud. I thought I’d cleaned out the BNC connector, but evidently not enough. I could only barely get the antenna to connect to the feed line. I tried cleaning it a bit more, but it looked like a job for better tools back at the QTH, so I made do with the dubious connection point being careful not to force the connection too much and pack the dirt in tighter.

I love BNC connectors because they’re so easy to use in the field. The flip side is that they’re not as easy to clean as, say, a PL-259. I’ve since packed a toothpick in my SOTA pack to help when I need to do a little field connector cleaning.

On the Air

Using a 20 meter EFHW, I planned to complete my activation on one single band. If needed, I could have also used a harmonic (15/10M) or employ the Elecraft T1 in my pack to load 17M and possibly 30M. Turns out, that wasn’t necessary.

I started calling CQ POTA and within 11 minutes, I had accomplished a valid activation with 10 stations logged. Doesn’t get any better than that!

I continued operating 10 additional minutes and logged 9 more stations.

All in all, it was a load of fun and the 20M band was very kind to me.

QSO Map

Here’s what 5 watts into the PackTenna EFHW yielded during this activation. The 20 meter band pretty much afforded me a tour of the entire continental US and a short visit to Canada:

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the the whole activation. As always, these videos have no ads and I don’t edit out any contacts–you experience the activation as I did:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you!

Thank you for joining me on this trailside activation and reading through the field report.

As I finish off this field report, I’ve actually loaded the TX-500 in my car for a short weekend camping trip with friends in Pisgah National Forest. If you’re reading this report on the day it was posted, you’ll no doubt see spots for me at K-4510 later today through Sunday.

I’m looking forward to spending a weekend with the TX-500 and connecting with my POTA family on the air!

Of course, I’d also 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 which allows me to open up my work life to write more field reports and film more activation videos.

Those of you learning CW? Keep up the good work. CW takes patience, persistence, time, and practice, but I promise you can learn it. Trust me: if I can, anyone can!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Bonus photos

During my hike back to the car, the weather system moved through and the skies cleared up beautifully. I snapped a few photos of the lake at the Clear Creek access:

14 thoughts on “Moody weather and a trailside activation with the amazing Discovery TX-500 and PackTenna EFHW”

  1. Every video I watch on YT, or blog posts I read concerning anything with gear….my list of things to toss into the pack grows. Now, a toothpick, or old toothbrush to clean cable connections! Thanks, as always for sharing your adventures!

  2. What i don´t like is no internal battery and the fiddle here and there with the extra cable around. The 6100 / 5150 or the KX2 is so nice to have no additional cable…ok, not for muddy weather, but if you´re doing CW, you also could leave the TRX inside the Backpack.

    Howerver nice story again. I´ve the 6100 and for me it is not tough enough to be honest for “hard” outdoor activity. I was thinking between Yaesu 818 and the TX500.
    Came to the 6100 🙂

    At the moment i don´t know if and where to buy the TX500 anyway and also the future support, there is a big “?”

    1. Hi Andre,

      Yes, the TX-500 does require an extra cable for power, but in the great scheme of things, I have found it to be a minor issue. It is just a great radio overall. There is an active user group for the TX-500 on groups.io. They have a US service facility, and the tech is very responsive. It is rumored that LAB599 is taking direct orders, but I have not tried to confirm. They have a great product, but Putin’s war being what it is…

      73 de Brian – K3ES

      1. I took another look and the lab599 website does have a “purchase” option where they will contact you to arrange payment and shipping but it doesn’t say anything about a timeframe for processing.

        $1100 US shipped via DHL per their site. Markedly more expensive, I believe, compared to when HRO was stocking them.

        1. David,
          ” took another look and the lab599 website does have a “purchase” option where they will contact you to arrange payment and shipping but it doesn’t say anything about a timeframe for processing. ”

          Maybe thay have a purchase button, but they are banned by sanctions. I don´t thnik you can transfer money also if that would work, they can not deliver.

          Andre

        2. HRO might still stock some DIscovery TX-500s unofficially. I found out that they pulled the listing for them from the HRO website, due to complaints about them selling Russian radio, considering what’s going on in the Ukraine, and that I should give HRO a call to determine if they have any left (once again, many thinks for the info. and the suggestion Thomas 🙂 ).

          I e-mailed HRO 2weeks ago, and they said that they had a few left in stock, call their stores, and ask them. I called HRO Milwaukee (I live in the Milwaukee area), and sure enough, they had a few left. I ordered one over the phone, and picked it up after work. At that time, I was told they had 2 left in stock at the store.

          F.Y.I. David – the feds put like a 20% plus tariff on all Russian imports, because of the Ukraine war. As a result, the TX-500 cost me $1100 at HRO.

          I winced about paying the price, but so far it’s been worth it. The Discovery TX-500 is built like a tank, does great CW, and also had great receiver. I gave it a trial by fire RF workout last weekend in the CQ CW WPX, in the QRP category, and My Discovery TX-500 more than held its own. It brought a smile to my face.

          Oh yeah, and unlike when Thomas first reviewed the radio, the Discovery TX-500’s now come with all of the adapter cables, for connecting things up to the mil-type connectors.

          73,
          Ellen – AF9J

          1. Thanks for the updates.

            I have a couple of family connections in the HRO group and got early feedback on the radio, it looks like a great unit and one that I’d like to get some day. I decided to go up a bit and snag a KX2, which I love, but the 500 is still on my “someday” list. I’ve not met anyone that owns one that regrets the purchase.

  3. As ever an interesting post. It does of course raise the question of what “tools” to carry? Like a lot of Os I carry a multitool and a Swiss army knife, this does of course add in the questions around the other useful bits. As my Swiss army knife has tooth pick, tweezers, various screwdrivers and a file, most things are covered. However, some small screwdrivers hex keys, a tooth brush and abrasive cloth spring to mind.

    I always carry a first aid kit, maybe I need to create a radio/antenna kit to keep me operating for the “golden hour”.

    Any other thoughts/suggestions?

    Richard M0RGM

  4. Great blog this morning. Yes no some toothpicks……
    I just ordered the 3ah battery to put in the pack instead of the 6ah which is bigger.
    Thanks again for a great motivator today.

    73
    wb8yxf

  5. Very good video, one of the better ones although would like to see more of you putting up the antenna, hi. But guess kinda of hard to video this.

    As for gear some question, common sense. The rig, ext battery if needed, antenna w/coax/tuner, key, paper and maybe clip board for writing. That can make a complete POTA station.

    If you want to shave and brush your teeth during the event well that is not part of most POTAs.

    73, ron, n9ee

  6. I just finished watching your video on YouTube, Thomas, and what can I say, but yeah, from my own experience with my Discovery TX-500, it’s a great CW radio.

    As for the lack of an internal battery mentioned by some – ah it’s no big deal to me. I can remember back in the day (the 90s, and the 00s), that none of my QRP rigs I used portable (other than my relatively clunky Yaesu FT-897D), had any capacity for internal batteries, It was no biggie to me then, and it’s no biggie to me now. Ditto for the lack of a tuner. My old Emtech ZM-2 that I built back in the 90s, is lightweight, and does a great job of matching almost anything. It’ll see plenty of use with my Discovery TX-500.

    73,
    Ellen – AF9J

    1. the 897. What a terrific rig and even after all these years it still wears well. I have an 891 now to take up less space on the desk, be available for some portable work, and take advantage of the tech advances but the 897 is still with me under the desk just in case. Talk about a tank of a radio. My first rig after I got back into the hobby 20 years ago.

      Which now makes me wax nostalgic about my Kenwood TS-520, my first HF radio. A long time ago. And decidedly NOT a QRP rig!

  7. I really want this rig! I followed the link for the tray, but it looks like a bowl….that tray on your knee…I need it…lol! As always, love the vids and your videos continue to inspire me to practice CW!

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