3 Watts of Fun: Pairing the Elecraft KX1 and PackTenna 20M EFHW at South Mountains State Park!

On Monday, September 12, 2022, I had one primary objective in mind: to test the Eton Elite Satellite portable shortwave radio.

Many of you know that besides being a QRPer, I’m also an SWL or shortwave listener. Over on my other blog, the SWLing Post, we post news, information, guest posts, and reviews covering the diverse world of shortwave radio and international broadcasting.

Occasionally, I evaluate new receivers and the Eton Elite Satellit is the latest shortwave portable from the Eton Corporation.  It was meant to be their flagship, benchmark portable but unfortunately early production units were plagued with a bit of internally-generated noise. On September 12, I was trying to sort out just how much this internal QRM affected the radio’s performance.

South Mountains State Park (K-2753)

I wanted to go to a known RF-quiet area to check the Elite Satellit and the South Mountains State Park Clear Creek Access was an easy detour during my errands that day.

The Elite Satellit

First thing I did after arriving on site was to put the Elite Satellit through some basic paces (AM/SSB, Mediumwave, Shortwave, FM, AIR, etc.). I also compared it with the Tecsun PL-990 portable.

I made a long list of notes and observations to send to Eton that afternoon.

After I finished the tests, I checked my watch and–woo hoo!–I had just enough time to squeeze in a short activation. I only had a 45 minute window, so this activation needed to be a very quick one.

I had two radio kits with me: The Mountain Topper MTR-3B kit, and the Elecraft KX1 kit.  I chose the Elecraft KX1 because I had such a blast using it the previous day at Lake James.

I had a number of antennas in my pack, but chose the excellent PackTenna Mini End-Fed Half Wave that I cut for 20 meters. This is one of my go-to SOTA antennas since it’s compact, rugged, efficient, and easy to deploy even if your only option is a short tree or telescoping mast as is often the case on a summit.

I felt like 20 meters would be a worthy band for the time of day and recent propagation trends as well. Hopefully, it would be productive enough to provide the 10 needed contacts to validate the activation.  If I needed, I could use it on 30 meters with either its internal ATU or (more likely) the Elecraft T1 that was also along for the ride.

I deployed the PackTenna within three minutes. Very easy and straight-forward setup.



As I did with the previous activation, I used the new CW Morse CNC Machined aluminum paddles. I now keep them permanently in my SOTA backpack because I believe they’re some of the most durable full size paddles I currently own.

As I mention in the video, these paddles were sent to me free of charge by CW Morse to evaluate prior to their introduction to the market a few months ago. CW Morse is a sponsor of QRPer.com and they now even give us affiliate links to support the site. If you order one of their keys with the affiliate link, it generates a small percentage shared with QRPer.com. (If you choose not to use the affiliate link, that’s perfectly fine, too!)

On the air

Since I was using a resonant 20 meter EFHW, after turning on the KX1, I made sure the internal ATU was in bypass mode. It was.

I hopped on 20 meters and started calling CQ POTA. Since I anticipated potentially fitting in this activation, I scheduled it on the POTA site in advance. There was no need to spot myself since the POTA Spots page would auto-spot me using the Reverse Beacon Network (this functionality alone was a strong motivator for me to start doing CW activations–!).

I was spotted and the contacts started trickling in. In 17 minutes, I logged the ten contacts needed to validate the activation that day at South Mountains State Park.

I kept calling CQ POTA for two more minutes and logged two more stations.

After about six or so unanswered CQs, and noticing a family of five (two parents and three kids) slowly approaching my table, I decided to call QRT, hop off the air, and end the activation video. As I expected, the family had a lot of questions about radio, Morse code, the antenna, and Parks On The Air–I was very happy to answer them all.

That is actually one of the joys of being a POTA and/or SOTA activator: we often get to play ham radio ambassador and educator. What a privilege!


Here’s what this super quick 3 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, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos at times.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page.

Click here to view on YouTube.

A visit from Dave

The legendary Dave (W4JL)

During the activation, I received a text from my buddy and fellow POTA activator/hunter Dave (W4JL). He saw my spot on the POTA network and said he’d pop by for a quick “eyeball QSO.”

Although Dave and I have been in touch for quite a while and have certainly worked each other a number of times, this was the first time we’d met in person.  Dave lives close to the opposite end of South Mountains State Park and frequently activates it. In fact, at time of posting, he’s the South Mountains park leader with 48 activations! Dave is also an avid SOTA activator and chaser.

Dave brought along his radio kit to activate South Mountains after I left.  He showed me his recently acquired Wolf River Coils Sporty Forty that he deploys with five (ground) radials. He tells me he’s had a lot of success with that antenna setup–I may have to order one and check it out for myself!

It was great meeting you in person, Dave.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this quick activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.

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.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.

Thank you so very much and have a wonderful week, everyone!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

3 thoughts on “3 Watts of Fun: Pairing the Elecraft KX1 and PackTenna 20M EFHW at South Mountains State Park!”

  1. Thanks for your evaluation of the Elite Satellite radio receiver. I was considering buying one when the new one came out. But after that review I won’t. Thanks for your honest evaluation. It is an expense that I can pass up. Glad you are around to give your opinion. AC5VB

  2. I watch all your videos bigtime. I like them lots. Btw looking to buy a complete with all options TR35L. Your thoughts please?

    I have an ic705 and a micro sdx ” which I love for CW the sdx. Use the buddy pole lots but want to know your favorite small park antenna also. Tnx
    Jimmy Cary wx9dx

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