An evening POTA activation with the Penntek TR-45L, a pileup, and buddy Steve


Last month, my buddy Steve (VA3FLF/KM4FLF) was in North Carolina visiting family and we hoped to meet up in person at some point.  Thing was, both of our schedules were pretty busy with various family activities and projects.

On Wednesday, September 21, 2022, we found an opening in the evening that coincided with a trip to do a little caregiving for my parents. We agreed to meet up at Lake Jame State Park (K-2739) which was on my way and also convenient to Steve.

Steve is also a fan of Parks On The Air, so why not fit in an activation? No better way to spend time with POTA family than at a POTA park, right? Right!

I arrived at the park around 18:30 local (22:30UTC) and set up MM0OPX’s 40 meter end-fed half-wave.

I only had one radio with me at the time: my prototype Penntek TR-45L.

At that point, the TR-45L had not yet been released and was in the very final stages of Beta testing. I was waiting on one more firmware update to bring the radio up to what would eventually be version 1.

Since I was still waiting on the final update that sorted out the CW message memory recording function (and boy did it–the final version is benchmark) I didn’t use message memories during this outing.

I offered Steve a hand at the TR-45L, but he claimed he wasn’t a heavy CW operator–he was interested in helping me with logging, though. How could I refuse that?

Steve (VA3FLF)

Turns out: I suspect Steve’s CW skills are good enough to do a CW activation. I could tell that he was doing a fine job copying calls at 18-19 WPM or so.

All video and no photos

I forgot to take even one photo during this activation. In fact, I had no intention of even filming it since the TR-45L was still in Beta.

At the last minute, I decided to pull out the camera and record it thinking John (WA3RNC) with Penntek might want to view it.

Since I was recording a video, I set it up as I would with any of my normal videos just in case I published it publicly at some point.

After the activation and before he even watched the video, John gave me permission to publish it, so I’m very happy I pulled the camera out that evening.

The few photos in this report are stills from the video, hence the low-light grainy appearance.


On The Air

Keep in mind that I planned to make this a short activation. I wanted to hang with Steve a bit and I also still had a one hour drive ahead of me.

I started calling CQ POTA on 40 meters and…holy cow!

Within eight minutes, I logged the 10 contacts necessary for a valid POTA activation. Since I try not to push speeds beyond 19-20 WPM, that’s about as fast as I can log 10 contacts while using standard POTA exchange formats (not reverting to something more akin to contesting exchanges).

I continued working stations (ironically) hoping that the pileup would eventually die down. I hate ending an activation with stations actively calling me, but sometimes I have to simply because my schedule demands it.

All in, I logged 41 stations in 40 minutes. I’m certain I could have added an additional 40 stations if I had the time.

A note for Joe (AI5DD): immediately following the activation, I realized I copied your call incorrectly and fixed it in my logs!

The majority of my activations take place in the mornings and afternoons on weekdays when would-be hunters are at work. Weekends and evenings seem to have 2-3 times more hunters, so it’s a nice change of pace to activate during these time frames.


Here’s what this activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map. The map was so dense with contacts in the eastern North America that I turned off the callsign labels.:

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.

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.

What fun!

It was great to finally meet Steve in person and I’m most grateful for the logging help! I didn’t anticipate such a busy activation (nor all of the mosquitoes!) but it was amazing fun.

Next time I meet up with Steve, I hope to log for him during a POTA activation!

Also, as this video pretty clearly demonstrated, I do love the TR-45L.

Only shortly after this activation, the TR-45L was formally announced and orders were opened on the Penntek website. I posted an overview and POTA activation the next day.

As of time of posting (23 October 2022) I believe the first pilot production run has shipped and more are in the works. Click here to check the Penntek website for the latest status. John is pretty much a one man show and I understand demand is pretty high–it could take him time to reply to email inquiries.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this evening activation!

I hope you enjoyed the short(ish) 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!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

14 thoughts on “An evening POTA activation with the Penntek TR-45L, a pileup, and buddy Steve”

  1. Tom-

    Thanks for sharing that experience- just outstanding!

    I’ve generally avoided weekend activations because of contest activities. One such event last year netted only 30 contacts before I packed it in- getting stomped on despite several changes of frequency.

    Yesterday – Saturday- was a wonderful exception. Very little contest activity. Fine weather and 61 contacts on 20M. CA, ID, NV, AZ, NM and as far as Ukraine to the northeast. You bet I’ll be keeping an eye on weekend contest schedules for further opportunities!

    Here in NH, there’s only a few weeks of favorable weather remaining before winter sets in. ‘The pressure’s on. ‘

    73- K1SWL

    1. Oh yes! Your activations are going to quickly become hand-freezing ones. 🙂 The pressure is on indeed!


  2. Hello Thomas,

    Elsewhere, AB4BA reports having received his fully loaded TR-45L – it’ll be interesting hearing the reports of others as they put these rigs on the air.

    John AE5X

    1. I look forward to checking out AB4BA’s thoughts about the TR-45L. Glad folks are stating to receive them!


  3. I received my TR-45L last Thursday. It’s bare bones – I have plenty of batteries and really only use resonant antennas. The weekend was busy and all I could do was a shake-out run on Saturday afternoon from home. Programmed both keyed memories and became familiar with its operation. I plan to take it into the field (POTA) tomorrow (Monday) between Noon and 2 PM Eastern Time. Look for my spots. Will file an after action report Tuesday.


  4. Thomas, did you have the tuner in line since you had a resonant antenna? The meter looked like you had very little reflected power with the power output knob fully clockwise.

    Great video as I anxiously await notification of mine shipping.

    1. I thought about that after the activation. I honestly can’t remember now if I confirmed that the tuner switch was out. It’s not a problem anyway as the SWR was still quite low.

  5. No autographs now that I am famous!, hi! Thanks Tom I had a great time. I did make it back to Lake James before I headed back North and got my first US activation.


    1. Now where can I send my autograph request? 🙂

      So glad you were able to activate Lake James, Steve. Next time you’re down here, let’s do a joint activation.


  6. I’ve just taken receipt of one of the first batch of Penntek TR-45s, probably the first in the UK. All I can say is wow! I thought the Tr-35 is amazing, but the TR-45 surpasses it. The sensitivity and selectivity are outstanding and the transmitted signal is very clean. I just love the retro look too.

    Fully (and independently) endorse Thomas’s comments about this rig. Mine however, will not be used in the field as it is already calling me for use as my QRP CW base-station!

    Richard M0RGM

    1. Oh I must admit that the TR-45L is a handsome addition to the shack. I recently mentioned that I think it’s about the most photogenic radio currently on the market. Indeed, possibly dating back to valve radios.

      You’re going to love the TR-45L.


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