Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and AX1 with a little QRP Coffee for some proper portable POTA fun!

Driving home on Thursday, December 8, 2022, I popped by Food Matters in Morganton, NC and grabbed one of their amazing curried chicken salad wraps.

I sat in the car and listened to a podcast as I ate a late-ish lunch. I looked at my watch and sorted out what time I needed to be back at my home in the mountains. After a little mental math, I realized I had about 90 minutes to fit in a little radio fun.

Where to go on a rainy day?

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

Since it was a Thursday and I knew Tuttle would be open, it was really a no-brainer. Tuttle is only an 8 minute drive from the parking lot at Food Matters, so I made my way to Playmore Beach Road!

En route, I made a mental inventory of what radios and antennas I had packed in the car. I knew I had my KX2 and although its internal battery had already powered me through three or four activations already, I knew there’d be enough charge for one or two more.

Also, since it was raining, I thought it would be the perfect day to set up under Tuttle’s excellent picnic shelter.

As for an antenna, I remembered putting the AX1 in my antenna box, so why not pair the two and operate in the dry?

Coffee Time

Funny, but after I started recording the activation video (below), I convinced myself that I needed to make some coffee. I pulled out my field coffee kit and set it up for a quick brew.

The park had completely shut off all water fountains and closed the rest room area, so there was no place to get fresh water. Fortunately, I had *just* enough water left in my water bottle after lunch. Almost the perfect amount for a cup of coffee but no more.

This wasn’t a planned cuppa’ so I used one of my last Starbucks Via coffee packs. Had I planned this in advance, I would have ground some beans at home and made a pour-over coffee.

That’s okay, though. The Starbucks packs are better than no coffee at all.

Field Coffee Kit

If you’re curious about the contents of my field coffee kit, here’s the list:

Setting up

While boiling the water for the coffee, I set up my station. The great thing about setting up the AX1 is you can do everything save deploying the counterpoise (properly, at least) while seated. It’s so quick and easy.


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On The Air

Something I point out in the video is that while the picnic shelter keep me and the station dry, there is a negative: the roof is metal. It’s not ideal to have a metal roof directly above your already compromised (size-wise) antenna. Still, I’ve managed to complete activations in the past under this roof, so I knew it could be done.

I decided to start the activation on 20 meters and started calling CQ POTA in CW.

I logged my first ten contacts in 10 minutes. You really can’t ask for better than that when operating at 19WPM. Woot!

I continued working stations and added five more to the logs in 5 minutes.

Looking at my watch, I knew I was starting to run low on time. I had a few errands to run back home home in the mountains before shops closed at 5:00 pm.

I decided to QSY to the 17 meter band to at least make one or two contacts. The AX1 can only be matched to 40, 20, and 17 meters. I chose to move up to 17 meters because it was easier to set up. Using the AX1 on 40 meters requires adding a 40 meter coil and deploying the longer counterpoise.

I knew 17 meters would have much less activity than 20 meters, and I was right. Still, I managed to work one station and was very pleased! (Thanks N5PJ!)


Here’s what this five-watts-into-a-five-foot-antenna-under-a-metal-roof 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.

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. 

Thank You & Happy Holidays!

As I write this field report, a brutal winter storm is pushing its way across the US and Canada. At the QTH right now it’s 1F (-17C) and falling quickly. The winds gusts are incredibly strong here at our altitude. We still have power (for now) but our lights are flickering as I write this.

That’s okay, though, because we’re prepared for a multi-day power outage if it happens. We’re lucky because we have no major travel plans this Holiday season. We can stay put and re-arrange our family gatherings without much difficulty.

I really feel for those of you who have travel plans and must confront this storm–it’s a mess out there.

Please be careful and don’t take any unnecessary risks. This is a dangerous storm and should be taken seriously.

However you celebrate the Holiday season (Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza), I wish you and yours the very best.

Thank you not only for joining me on this activation but also for being a part of this amazing radio family & community!

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.

Here’s wishing you and yours the best of this amazing Holiday Season!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

16 thoughts on “Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and AX1 with a little QRP Coffee for some proper portable POTA fun!”

  1. Wonderful write up of your activation. I have the AX1 though have not really used it. Gives me hope. I am looking forward to putting the 2 together as you have and see what I can do, however, I have to wait, as that same storm is blowing through here also, temps way down……. and the wind is singing loudly as I sit in the warm, for now home. Praying electric doesn’t go out as the weather guessers have predicted.
    Merry Christmas Thomas, to you and your family, and to your readers.
    Fr Richard (if only I’d update with my trips)

    1. Thank you!
      We managed not to lose our electricity. This morning it was -6F with very strong winds at our altitude.
      I think you’ll enjoy the AX1. With CW and POTA/SOTA? It’s a very useful and productive antenna.
      Be well and Merry Christmas!

      1. Yes Thomas. I’ve always used CW when POTA, and with SOTA it has been CW and some 2m FM, though I’ve only been SOTA 3 times so far. Skyline Dr through SNP has been closed due to wx around here. Is below 0 here now, especially with windchill!!
        God bless and enjoy these Holy/holidays.

        Fr Richard

  2. I really enjoy the AX1 paired with my KX3 . I am mostly a SOTA activator and the AX1 has been a game changer for me on those bare summits when it is difficult to set up a wire. When the band conditions are cooperating, I have made many DX contacts into Europe with 5w from west coast summits. Unfortunately, my KX3 is with Elecraft awaiting repairs.

    Thomas, have you tried to pair the AX1 with your MTR4b? I have had mixed results. I used the T1 tuner to bring down SWR to 1.1-1.3 a few times, but lately I can’t bring down the SWR below 5, so I have been using a wire. But I sure enjoy the ease of deploying the AX1.

    Thanks for the write ups and your videos.

    Mike – N6MKW

    1. Hi, Mike!

      Yes, I think especially when you’re on a summit, the AX1 can truly work some DX! Thanks for sharing that and I hope you’ll have your KX3 back before long.

      I have paired the AX1 with my MTR-3B. Here’s a link to that activation. The MTR-4B was on an extended loan and I didn’t think to pair it while I had it. It would certainly work with an ATU or capacity hat to sort out the rest of the AX1 match.


  3. The fact that coffee leads off your story and proper coffee (fresh ground beans) would be your first choice says way more about you than most know. Coffee trumps radio any day. A civilized, cultured, all round good, radio guy! Keep the stories coming.
    Merry Christmas!

    1. Ha ha! Thank you for that comment–I take it to heart!
      Here’s wishing you a wonderful and very Merry Christmas!

  4. Thomas,
    Thanks for sharing this activation with us. I don’t often watch the videos, but did watch a good bit of this one. I am probably an outlier here, but the station setup is my favorite part!

    I love your coffee kit. I have similar set ups in our hiking kits, but with the increased risks of fire here in the Pacific Northwest, twig, solid fuel, and alcohol stoves are banned for much of the year.

    Thanks for the very enjoyable post and video, and Merry Christmas!

    1. Hi, Pat,

      Yes, it would be dangerous in those insanely dry conditions. I think it would be okay to pack in a thermos of a proper brew!

      So glad you like the video and report.

      Here’s wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas!


  5. If you like building things I suggest a Fancee Feast alcohol stove. It’s a stove and pot stand combined and will cost about $1 to make. It consists of a Fancee Feast cat food can (or potted meat can) part of a small tomato paste can cut off and a little bit of fiberglass tape or other wicking material. YouTube has several people showing how. The tomato paste can is cut to length and the wicking wraps around it. Push it into the Fancee Feast can. Put in alcohol and light the wick. Enjoy. Lots of hikers use them. Easy and cheap and works amazingly well. It saved my last hike when the canister stove was too cold to work. 73s

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