Field Report: Pairing the Discovery TX-500 and Tufteln EFRW for an ATNO at Base de plein air Sainte-Foy

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.

Operating from my kneeboard at the Manicouagan Uapishka Biosphere Reserve (check out that activation)

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!

On July 18, 2022, I grabbed the TX-500 from the table and packed it in my field radio backpack.

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 had no room to complain about the temperatures–my friends over in the UK were enjoying/enduring high temps around 40-43C (104-109F)! Insanity!

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.

Setting up

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.

Gear:

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.)

Seventeen meters was pretty alive too: I logged five stations in 12 minutes including EC5CSW in Spain.

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!

QSO Map

Here’s what this 5 watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map:

Activation Video

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:

Click here to view on YouTube (and please subscribe).

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!

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this activation!

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.

Photo by K4TLI

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.

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)

8 thoughts on “Field Report: Pairing the Discovery TX-500 and Tufteln EFRW for an ATNO at Base de plein air Sainte-Foy”

  1. Great report Thomas.

    One note, you keep describing the EFRW as a 31′ radiator with a 17′ counterpoise. But the website only lists a 35’/17′ which is what I purchased after reading your first post.

    I’m just curious as to the differences in the radiator length. Are you referring to the trimmed length? Just a slightly faulty memory? Did you modify it? Has it been dropped so that it is no longer sold?

    I haven’t used mine yet due to the daily thunderstorms and getting things ready for the move north. So, I’m not sure how much or if any trimming is needed.

    W4MKH
    https://w4mkh-qrp.com/

    1. Mine is labeled as 31′. Joshua might be able to comment here about standard lengths. I can say that there should be no issue whatsoever with 35′–indeed, I’m curious if an ATU might be able to match 60 meters with that length. Let me know what you find out!

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  2. Being in the UK is difficult to get Tom Bihn, and what is available is expensive. So chances of getting a travel tray is remote.
    But had a small win. I spotted a travel dog bowl. It collapses, but when opened is robust and obviously waterproof. Perfect for throwing rope etc… And if a friend has a thirsty dog then that’s covered too. 😁

  3. Hello Thomas. Always good to work you on CW. I consider it a treat as we are often too close otherwise. I remember that contact. There was lots of QSB. I am now down to 2 QRP radios; the TX-500 and the IC-705. Hopefully, in the future, I will be bicycle mobile with the TX-500. Cheers and 73

  4. And I can only hope that, at some point, the painfully elevated price of the TX-500 will come down (but I’m not holding my breath). The KX2 has been used by military special forces folks, sounds like, as a back-up HF rig but I’m still concerned about it being robust enough for my “throw it in the side bag of the motorcycle” radio all the time. That was the role of the X6100 but that radio has been a bit of a disappointment on performance, weight, and battery life.

    The TX-500 would fit that role well – durable and compact. I should have snagged one when they first hit the market!

    David

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