At some point during my Canada travels this summer, I realized I had been using the Elecraft KX2 quite heavily. If you’ve been following my recent field reports, you’ve no doubt seen a lot of the KX2.
This was never intentional–it’s just how it played out.
Why the KX2 in heavy rotation?
For starters, I only brought two general coverage radios with me to Canada: the KX2 and the Discovery TX-500. I also tucked away my KX1 and MTR-3B (hidden under the floor of my boot/trunk space), but band conditions were so incredibly poor most days, I liked the option of a QRP “full gallon” (ie. 5 watts+) for activations. The KX2 and TX-500 can push up to 10 watts when needed.
The KX2 tends to be the radio I reach for when I don’t know what to expect at a park. Most parks I activated in Québec were firsts for me so I liked having my most versatile radio option on hand.
Since the KX2 has a built-in ATU, battery pack, and even an internal mic; it’s so self-contained, I pretty much take it everywhere.
The KX2 is also one of the most compact radios I own–so compact, in fact, it fits on a small folding knee board my friend Carolanne (N0RNM) made (see in photo above and read more about the design in her guest post). With this kneeboard, I’ve no need of a table: just strap the board to my leg, add radio & log book, and I’m good to go!
Whereas I feel like the KX2 is a Swiss Army Knife of a radio, the TX-500 feels more like a tactical radio–ready for any changing weather environment. The TX-500 is water resistant, weather/dust sealed, and insanely rugged. It’s also the most efficient general coverage QRP radio I own, needing only 100-110 mA in receive.
The TX-500 is super portable and I tend to reach for it when weather conditions are uncertain. In a way, I often don’t think about it when there’s good weather. Odd, but true!
It’s a wee bit too wide for my current knee board, but (hint) if you own a TX-500, hang tight. There may be a knee board in your future.
All that said, the big reason I didn’t take the TX-500 to the field a lot is because it served as my “home base” transceiver at our rental condo in Québec. I had it set up for hunting POTA and SOTA activators and making casual contacts. The TX-500 sat on a table next to the deck at the condo and was hooked up to the CHA MPAS Lite most of the time; the KX2 stayed packed away for POTA/SOTA.
TX-500 field time!
My wife and daughters were up for a trip to Québec City, so I picked out a park in the Sainte-Foy part of town.
There are many POTA parks in Sainte-Foy (indeed, I already activated four of them) but the one that immediately came to mind was one of the few I’d explored previously in Québec: Base de plein air Sainte-Foy.
In 2017 and 2018, I joined the Club Radio Amateur de Québec (CRAQ) at the Base de plein air Sainte-Foy for the ARRL’s Field Day. I knew it was a pretty expansive park with a nice lake and beach. It looked pretty welcoming in the summer, but I imagine the park gets even more visitors in the winter for skating, cross-country skiing and sledding.
I was very surprised to discover that Base de plein air Ste-Foy was also a POTA ATNO. No doubt, there had been plenty of radio activity on-site int he past, but no POTA activations.
Base de plein air Sainte-Foy (VE-4945)
We arrived that afternoon and it was pretty warm–about 29C or 85F and very humid. It almost felt like North Carolina summer weather.
I grabbed my backpack and we walked into the park entrance path next to the parking area.
I immediately spotted a picnic table off to the side of the path and under trees. A very welcome site–although I remembered a few picnic tables closer to the lake (there are some right on the lake, in fact), I decided to go for the tables at park entrance.
Deploying the Tufteln random wire antenna (with 31′ radiator and 17′ counterpoise) was quick and easy. I then connected it to the Elecraft T1 and my Discovery TX-500.
- lab599 Discovery TX-500
- Bioenno 3 aH LiFePo Battery (Model BLF-1203AB)
- Elecraft T1 ATU
- CW Morse “Pocket Paddle”
- tufteln EFRW QRP Antenna Long Wire
(with 31′ radiator and 17′ counterpoise)
- Moleskine Cahier Journal (affiliate link)
- Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack
- Mini Arborist throw line kit: Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray, Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch (affiliate link)
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil (affiliate link)
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera (affiliate link)
On The Air
I started calling CQ POTA on 20 meters and was very pleased with the results; I logged seven contacts in about 9 minutes. This was especially nice considering some of the rough propagation I’d noticed from the home base that morning.
I then moved to the SSB portion of the 20 meter band but discovered I was getting feedback through my speaker mic. I was puzzled and didn’t want it to hold up my activation, so I moved up to the 17 meter band. (I sorted out the issue post activation; if I recall correctly, I had the monitor volume turned up and somehow it was getting feedback though the speaker mic.)
For fun, I then QSYed to the 15 meter band and eventually worked K4OK back in my home state of North Carolina.
In the end, I logged 13 contacts and had a lot of fun!
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation. As with all of my videos, there are no ads and I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time:
It was so great to take the TX-500 to the field again!
Post-activation, I walked with my wife and daughters around the lake. I did notice the other picnic table sites I remembered from our previous visits to the park. Next time I visit Base de plein air, I’ll set up at one that’s on the shore of the lake!
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.
Each time I write up a field report, I get to re-live these activations.
While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.
In fact, your support is what has made this extended family road trip to Canada possible. Seriously.
I apply any funds above and beyond the costs of running the website, producing the videos, and purchasing review equipment, to our family travel fund. This not only gives me an opportunity to play radio well outside my home area, but my family also gets to benefit from the work I put into producing activation videos and content on QRPer.com.
Here’s hoping you get a chance to play radio this week!
Cheers & 72,
Thomas (VY2SW / K4SWL)