POTA with 500 milliwatts CW and 10 watts SSB using the Elecraft KX2 and PackTenna Random Wire combo

I’d like to start this field report with a side story. I’ll keep this reader anonymous since I haven’t asked for permission to post his story (although I’m certain he wouldn’t mind!):

A QRP Christmas Gift

Yesterday, I was contacted by a reader who had just received an amazing gift.

On Christmas morning, his wife presented him with a tiny wrapped box and inside there was a small note:

“Get yourself a great field radio. You have Carte Blanche!” 

What an amazing gift…right–?! She literally said Carte Blanche!

Evidently, she is familiar with my YouTube channel  (poor thing) because he often watches my activation videos on their living room TV. [Between us, I’m a bit surprised she still loves him after subjecting her to my videos.]

She told him, “Run your choice by Thomas before ordering.”

The funny bit? He approached me with this very question in November as he plotted a 2023 radio purchase. He couldn’t decide between the Icom IC-705 and the Elecraft KX2.

He wrote yesterday to tell me that he placed an order for a new Elecraft KX2 with all the trimmings; Elecraft’s KX2 “Shack-In-A-Box” package plus a set of KXPD2 paddles.

The KX2 is back-ordered due to parts availability, so he won’t receive his unit for several months, most likely.

Based on his operating style, I think he chose wisely. The IC-705 is a benchmark field radio, but he was looking for something that he could pair with a random wire antenna (the ‘705 lacks an internal ATU) and that would be easy to use on SOTA activations. He’s new to CW as well and loved the fact that the KXPD2 paddles attach to the front of the KX2.

Why do I mention this story? Because it’s not only fresh on my mind, but it’s the same radio and antenna I used during an activation on Thursday, December 1, 2022.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

As I pulled into Tuttle’s parking area that day I had a tried-and-true field radio kit pairing in my pack: my Elecraft KX2 and PackTenna 9:1 Random Wire antenna.

As I mention at the start of my activation video (see below), with the Elecraft KX2 and a random wire, I could easily activate all of the summits, parks, and islands I desire. It’s such an effective, flexible, and portable combo.


To shake things up, I decided to knock the output power of the KX2 down to one half of one watt–500 milliwatts–at least for the CW portion of my activation.

Why not?

Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever validated a POTA activation with 1/2 of a watt, so it might make for a fun challenge!

The cool thing about the KX2 (and its bigger brother, the KX3) is that the operator has granular control over output power. Once below one watt, you can actually change output power in increments 0.1 watts.

Could this even work on a day when the bands were a little shaky?  Only one way to find out: give it a go!

I also remembered to bring my Elecraft hand mic and my new CW Morse SP4 N0SA paddles.

I tied off the throw line to the picnic table. The high visibility line makes it easier to see and less likely to trip over.

I deployed my PackTenna random wire in short order and hopped on the air!


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On The Air

I started calling CQ POTA in CW on the 20 meter band after turning to power output down to 500 mW.

Contacts started flowing in with modest signal reports, of course. I worked my first ten contacts in 12 minutes validating this Tuttle activation with 500 mW! Mission accomplished!

I worked one more CW contact, then moved to the SSB portion of the 20 meter band pumped the power up to a blistering 10 watts!

After self-spotting, I started calling CQ POTA and managed to log an additional 17 contacts in 16 minutes. What fun!

Here are my paper logs (click to enlarge):


Here’s what this activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map.

A few notes: All GREEN lines represent 500mW CW contacts and RED lines represent 10 watts SSB. Also, if memory serves, I believe W6CZ may have been operating remotely. Click map to enlarge.

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.

500mW fun!

I so thoroughly enjoyed validating this activation with 500 mW.

Frankly, it was much easier than I would have expected. Then again, when you’re a POTA or SOTA activator, you are the DX! That always adds quite a few dB to our flea-powered signals!

After this activation, I made up my mind to try going even a little lower in power. Stay tuned for that!

Thank you!

Thank you for joining me on this QRPp activation!

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 and here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year filled with field radio fun!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

17 thoughts on “POTA with 500 milliwatts CW and 10 watts SSB using the Elecraft KX2 and PackTenna Random Wire combo”

  1. My week is never complete if I have not read and viewed your posts Thomas! Your thoughts and adventures capture so eloquently my similar attraction to, and fascination with, QRP CW portable ops.

    72 de Brent VA3YG

  2. Nothing like a cup of coffee and reading another adventure with Thomas. Well done brother! Well done! Thanks for having us along. To all, a Happy & “Radioactive” New Year in 2023!

    Don, KD5REW

  3. Thomas, you shouldn’t be surprised by the influence that your online content provides. In particular your use of the KX2 shows what a cracking radio it is, with the various antennas and now power levels too.

    In the same way that your anonymous reader has done I too ordered a shack in box some 3 months ago, and it’s waiting with a friend for my next trip to the USA, in the meantime, my FT818 gets me on the air.

    Thanks as ever for your excellent videos.

    Ciemon, G0TRT

    1. Thank you, Ciemon. Wow–you’re going to have the KX2 and an 818? You truly have some top-notch field rigs in my opinion. I promise, there’lkl be no buyer’s remorse with the KX2.

      K4SWL / M0CYI

  4. Once more, how wonderful to dream about the un-affordable and/or “un-obtainium” things in Ham! My “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Be healthy and well fed.

      1. Thanks Thomas, you and yours as well..
        Happiness in the New Year is me reducing my expectations to decrease my frustrations!

  5. Thomas, I’ve enjoyed your posts so much so that I’ve just recently purchased a Xiegu G90 to get started again in ham radio. It was delivered yesterday. At 80 years old I figured that my hands were too arthritic to do cw anymore and decided to just get out of ham radio, but reading and watching your posts has rekindled my interest. I can’t wait to get out to my local parks. Within 50 miles of me there must be well over 200 parks to work. Thanks so much for what you have done. The arthritic bug may slow me down, but so what? I can still join in to the fun.

    1. This pleases me to no end, Bill. I think the G90 is the best of the Xiegu radios, too. You’ll have many radio adventures with it–and its ATU can tune anything!

      Don’t you worry one bit about your “arthritic bug.” It’ll just add to the music that is CW over the airwaves. I look forward to working you someday!

      Have a brilliant New Year!


  6. Yes another great article. What really got my interest in this post is the 500mW CW. We work lots of QRP 5W stations, but when I hear someone using 1W or less I am really impressed.

    I save most all of the article on QRPer to a folder in my QRP Activity folder.

    73, ron, n9ee/4

    1. Thank you, Ron. I’ve got to admit that the less power I use, the more fun I find all of this stuff! 🙂

      Have a great new year!


  7. I’m curious as to why your friend chose the KX2 over the KX3? As Brent (above) said, my day ain’t complete until I check in with Thomas and Friends.

    1. Hi, Al,

      I love it: “Thomas and Friends.” 🙂

      Very good question. He might chime in here if he sees the comment, but as I recall size was a very important factor for him. He also considered the KX3, but sided with the KX2 because of the battery pack and the fact he never planned to operate 160 or 6 in the field.

      The KX3 is an amazing field radio, though. With it, there’s really no need for another radio. It’s brilliant and I love mine.


      1. Thomas,
        I do so enjoy all the content you manage to pump out and can’t believe how fast you do it whilst working a day job and managing a family! Your friends Christmas Gift was amazing and I’m sure he is happy with his choice of gear. I myself have purchased a KX-3 in November of 2022, but alas, I am still awaiting delivery ?. Hopefully, when I finally receive the radio, I might just be lucky enough to be one of those operators that log you in California from a very high mountain top! Fine business, old man! And thank you very much!

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