In early November, I happened up a new waterproof case called the Evergreen 56. As with Pelican cases, it’s waterproof and also made in the USA. Like Nanuk cases (that are also waterproof and made in Canada) Evergreen cases have a built-in locking mechanism to keep the latch from accidentally opening during transport.
I thought the price for the Evergreen 56 at $28 US was fair and in-line with the Pelican 1060 and Nanuk 903 which are similar in size. I grabbed one made of a clear material with one radio in mind: my QCX-Mini!
There are a number of color options available for this Evergreen case, but I like the clear polycarbonate one because it makes it so much easier to see what’s inside (for a quick gear check) but also to confirm that no one part of the kit is being pressed too hard inside the case after the lid is sealed.
After receiving the Evergreen 56, I was very pleased with the quality–again, on par with what I would expect from Pelican or Nanuk. It is incredibly solid and the seal is watertight. The Twist Lock Latch (see above) is easy to operate and the case comes with two “keys” for adjusting the inner lock.
The Evergreen case has a soft egg crate-like rubber boot interior as opposed to the pick foam material you’d typically find in a water tight case. The case also has a hammock-like rubbery webbing on the inside of the lid that can be used to organize smaller contents (I knew instantly I’d use this to hold the antenna!).
The QCX-Mini fits in the Evergreen case perfectly–this was no surprise–but I was eager to see if my other station components could also fit. Note that I didn’t buy anything specifically to be used in this case; I used components I already owned. I could minimize the contents even further if I used a smaller battery, antenna, and key. Here are the components of the first version of the QCX-Mini Field Kit:
QCX-Mini Field Kit V1.0:
- Evergreen 56 Waterproof Case
- QRP Labs QCX-Mini (20M version)
- Packtenna Mini EFHW antenna & PackTenna 20′ RG-316 BNC/BNC
- MFJ-561K Travel Paddle Kit (included but not in photo above)
- Key cable: Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold-Plated Retractable Aux Cable – 2.5 Feet
- TalentCell Rechargeable 12V 3000mAh Battery Pack
- Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight (outside of Evergreen case)
This small kit basically includes everything I need for an activation save the arborist throw line and logging pad and pencil. I think I could re-configure the kit in the future and have enough room for both!
In fact, simply replacing out the MFJ-561K paddles with N6ARA’s TinyPaddles (above) would instantly save quite a bit of space.
I may have to put an extra set of Ara’s paddles on my shopping list!
One thing, in particular, that I mention is that this kit is actually quite affordable. All of the components are functional and of good quality. Of course, you could make this kit much more affordable by using a less expensive case or pack/pouch, and building your own antenna.
I think it’s important to remind new field operators that you need not invest thousands of dollars in a field kit.
I made this simple spreadsheet showing three optional ways this kit could be assembled: home-brewing the cable and antenna, building the QCX-Mini and antenna from a kit, and buying everything assembled:
Test POTA Run at Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)
Even though the components of this kit are few, I still believe in taking everything out for a test run before I pack it for, say, a long hike to activate a summit. It’s much better to discover that I left out a crucial component when I’m at a park and have lots of spare gear in the car!
Speaking of spare gear, here are some of the extra items–not inside the Evergreen case–that I used and/or mentioned in the activation video:
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch
- Moleskine Cahier Journal
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera
- Sony SRS-XB12 portable wireless speaker (no longer produced–eBay search)
- KM4ACK 40M EFHW Kit
- CW Morse “Pocket Paddle”
On The Air
The QCX-Mini is mono-band transceiver and mine is built for the 20 meter band. While being limited to one band is limiting in terms of frequency agility, it’s actually liberating in the sense that you only need one antenna and no ATU!
I did notice up front that my MFJ key was having an issue with sending dashes from the right paddle. I thought it might have been a poor connection (this was <cough> a kit I built after all), but later I discovered the issues were likely due to a bit of RF coming back to the radio from the antenna. The MFJ key is made of metal and I believe by holding it, I was making things worse. I used my (dielectric) CW Morse Pocket Paddle instead of the MFJ key, but even then I still noticed a few stray elements.
A common mode choke would have sorted this out quickly and I even had one in my car, but it wasn’t worth stopping this short activation to grab it. Plus, I think most folks hunting me expect less than perfect code!
How did it go? I logged my first ten contacts validating this activation in 11 minutes! Woo hoo!
All in all, I operated for 26 minutes and logged 21 contacts including one Park-To-Park (thanks WN5C)!
This activation was loads of fun!
Here’s what this five watt 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.
Thank You & Season’s Greetings!
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.
I had a load of fun not only putting this kit together but using the QCX-Mini in the field. It is truly an amazing little radio! I’m also very pleased with the Evergreen 56 watertight case. I know if I put this in my backpack, my rig and battery will be safe even if I’m hit by a downpour during a long SOTA hike.
These days, I feel so comfortable on 20 meters for both SOTA and POTA, I think I could get away with only using the 20 meter band to complete all of my daytime activations.
At time posting we’re only a few days away from Christmas and my family activities are in high gear.
No matter how you celebrate this Holiday Season, I hope you’re able to enjoy friendship, family, and perhaps even a proper feast!
And, oh yeah, a wee bit of radio! 😉
Cheers & 72,