It’s hard to explain, but CW makes POTA and SOTA activations so much easier, in my opinion.
I’m sure many who’ve ventured down the path of CW understand. I know devoted SSB operators who started doing CW in the field and pretty much permanently switched to CW. Indeed, that was me.
That said, I do like SSB as well and it has some positives over CW in terms of POTA.
For one thing, there are so many more SSB hunters out there (compared with CW); even on a slow POTA today, you can still amass large pileups. The cadence of SSB exchanges is also faster than that of POTA CW exchanges (which rarely exceed 20 WPM) so it’s easy to log two or even three times the number of contacts in the same amount of time.
In addition–let’s face it–it’s also fun hearing another operator’s voice on the other end.
Many readers have been asking me to do more SSB activations and I’ve been meaning to. Truth is, though, the majority of my field radios are CW-only, so when I have them in tow, SSB simply isn’t an option.
Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)
It was during my hike that I came up with the idea to do a five watt SSB activation. I quickly realized, though, that the only radio in my car with SSB capabilities was the Elecraft KX2, but I didn’t have a hand mic or headset packed!
Fortunately, the KX2 has a built-in microphone for SSB. It’s not as ideal as my Elecraft/Heil Pro Set, nor even the basic Elecraft hand mic, but it works, so I thought it might be fun to do an entire SSB activation only using the KX2 internal microphone!
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- Elecraft KX2 and KXPD2 Paddles (paddles were not used during this activation even though I eventually attached them)
- KM4ACK 40M EFHW Kit
- Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC
- Elecraft KXBT2 Li-Ion Battery Pack
- 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
- Moleskine Cahier Journal
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera with Joby tripod (affiliate links)
On The Air
To be clear–and perhaps I’m wrong here–but I don’t think the KX2’s internal microphone would be as effective as, say, a hand mic would be unless you were willing to hold the radio closer to your face when speaking.
It does work well, though, if you’re directing your voice toward the radio body (the hole for the mic is next to the AF gain pot) and you speak up. There’s no need to yell at the radio, but if you can project toward the radio body, I’ve found that the internal microphone works effectively.
I would suggest for calling CQ that you record a nice, clean “CQ POTA” in one of the two voice message memory slots. This not only saves your voice, but also gives your CQ maximum punch when you play it back! Ideally, record this message at home and optimize the audio and intelligibility in a quiet environment.
Note that when using the internal mic, the KX2 will not allow you to monitor the outgoing message (if you use a hand mic, it will).
I hopped on the 20 meter band and used my voice message memory keyer to call CQ POTA on repeat while I submitted a spot for myself at POTA.app.
Band conditions were pretty unstable, so QSB (fading) was ever-present.
Still, within 17 minutes I logged the ten stations needed to validate the activation. I believe it would have gone more quickly had I been running 10 watts output–which the KX2 can do–but 1.) I’m stubborn about validating POTA activations with 5 watts regardless of mode and 2.) my KX2’s internal battery had already powered four activations on one charge, so it wouldn’t have had enough voltage to output ten watts.
Even though reports were weak and some ops noted strong QSB, I still managed to work the west coast thanks N7CCD who I’m sure was straining to hear my wee signal (you were, weren’t you, Michael?!?).
I thought about running CW for a while–I even attached my KXPD2 paddles at one point–but I simply didn’t have enough time to do a proper CW run. I would have had to cut it short, so I decided to stick with SSB a few more minutes and go QRT.
I managed to work two more stations for a total of twelve.
Here’s what this 5 watt SSB activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map.
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.
Look, mom…no microphone!
The built-in internal microphone is one of the many reasons I think the KX2 is a proper “Holy Grail” field portable radio.
I’ve considered building one of the little handheld microphones I’ve seen a number of SOTA ops use in the field, but I honestly don’t think it’s necessary. If I were operating SSB on a windy summit (and not recording a video), I’d simply hold the KX2 body a little closer to my mouth as I speak–much like I would for a handheld mic. I bet the results would be similar.
Wayne and Eric at Elecraft actually added this mic on the KX2 with the idea the radio could be paired with a telescoping whip antenna and used like an HF handy talkie–pedestrian handheld portable!
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation videos 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.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me!
Here’s wishing everyone a very Happy New Year!
Cheers & 72,