You’re shocked, right–?
You see, I did something I’d never suggest others do: in a moment of boredom, I casually cruised the classifieds listings found on QTH.com.
One of the very first listings was for a TEN-TEC R4020 CW QRP transceiver. The price, if memory serves, was $120 (+/- $10) shipped.
Without even thinking, I sent a message to the seller:
“I’ll buy it if it’s still available!“
He responded noting I was the first to reply to the ad, so it was mine if I wanted it.
I did, of course.
The R4020 arrived that same week, I opened the box, applied power to confirmed it powered up, then placed it on the top shelf in my shack.
At the time, I had a mountain of review and evaluations in process along with several articles in the pipeline for TSM and one for RadCom, and simply didn’t have time to properly explore the R4020. I thought it might be fun saving it as a little reward for meeting my deadlines.
Then, frankly, I just forgot about the R4020. This spring was a very busy time for me family-wise, then I spent the summer in Canada, and most of this fall has been all about catching up after having spent the summer in Canada. Funny how that works!
Fast-forward to November 11th, 2022 when I was packing a field radio kit to take on an overnight trip and I noticed the R4020 on the top shelf! My reward, finally–!
I quickly packed the R4020 in my Spec-Ops Order Pouch along with a 3Ah Bioenno LiFePo4 battery and a power cable.
South Mountains State Park (K-2753)
This past year, I’ve mostly set up at South Mountain’s Clear Creek Access on the west side of the park, but this time I decided to make my way to the equestrian picnic area near the main entrance and ranger station.
Fellow POTA activators Dave (W4JL) and Max (WG4Z) first made me aware of this particular spot because it’s one of the very few places on the park grounds where you stand a snowball’s chance of getting a cell phone signal for self-spotting!
I did operate from here once before with Max.
Turns out, the R4020 fits beautifully in my Spec-Ops Order Pouch (see above), so this might become its permanent home. This particular pouch used to hold the QCX-Mini kit, but I recently moved the QCX-Mini to a waterproof box (more on that in a future report).
Although the R4020 covers both 40 and 20 meters, I decided to pair it with my PackTenna 20 meter EFHW (see above) because I thought 20 meters might be in better shape–propagation was a bit shaky.
I also brought my CW Morse Paddle with base. I had been using it in the shack a lot but realized that a paddle with heavy base is a huge plus for one-hand operating those times when I’m operating on a picnic table. I agree with my buddy John (AE5X) that it’s worth the weight. (Of course, for SOTA and trailside activations, I’ll still use my pocket and compact paddles.)
This was literally the first time I’d transmitted with the R4020 and in the activation video (below) you’ll see that I actually spent a few minutes skimming the owner’s manual.
Funny, but while preparing this report, I realized I first published an announcement about the TEN-TEC R4020 inthis post on QRPer from May, 2010–! That was over twelve years ago–since then, TEC-TEC was sold (twice), the factory in Tennessee was demolished and I’m not sure where the company stands at present. In fact, I mention in the video that TEN-TEC seemed to have completely closed down, but I just discovered a post on the T-T website noting that news of their demise came from a counterfeit press release.
This radio is super simple, so was a breeze to set up.
It was time to hit the air and see if she might actually transmit!
- TEN-TEC R4020
- Sony SRS-XB12 portable wireless speaker (no longer produced–eBay search)
- Spec-Ops Brand Op Order Pouch
- Packtenna Mini EFHW antenna & PackTenna 20′ RG-316 BNC/BNC
- Key cable: Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold-Plated Retractable Aux Cable – 2.5 Feet
- CW Morse Outdoor Double Paddle With Steel Base
- Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC
- Bioenno 3 aH LiFePo 12V Battery (Model BLF-1203AB)
- Mini Arborist throw line kit: Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray, Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Tom Bihn Large Travel Tray
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch (affiliate link)
- Moleskine Cahier Journal (affiliate link)
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil (affiliate link)
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera (affiliate link)
On The Air
I then started calling CQ POTA hoping the POTA RBN auto-spotting functionality was working because my cell phone signal was very weak. Fortunately, it did appear the R4020 was transmitting–I never really doubted this because the seller tested it before shipping it those many months prior.
Despite a somewhat anemic 20 meters, I worked my first ten contacts–validating the park activation–in only 9 minutes.
Woot! What fun!
I continued calling CQ POTA for an additional 16 minutes and worked eleven more stations for a total of 21 logged!
Here are my paper logs:
I would have continued logging stations, but I decided I had just enough time to fit in yet one more activation that day, so called QRT.
Here’s what this activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map. Note that the 20 meter band was a bit “short” that morning:
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.
Cheap POTA Thrills!
Sure: it’s pretty feature-lacking and has a sidetone that sounds like an 8 bit video game, but it has everything needed to make for a fun-filled activation!
In fact, there’s a part of me that appreciates the simplicity of a radio like the R4020. Paired with a battery like the rechargeable Talentcell and a kit or homebrew 20 meter EFHW or dipole? You could build a high-quality, compact POTA/SOTA field kit for under $200.
Before you think that I got an exceptional deal on the R4020, I know someone who picked up one of these for $70 at a local hamfest. Seventy bucks was an exceptional deal for sure, but there are plenty of these and the YouKits equivalent floating around out there for under $150 US on the used market.
No doubt, the R4020 would be a very capable SOTA radio as well. It draws less than 60 milliamps in receive, so is insanely efficient to boot.
This little radio is going into regular rotation. Who knows? It might be time to think up a good name!
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.
Thank you so very much and have a wonderful weekend!
Go play radio!
Cheers & 72,