Testing a new QCX-Mini Field Kit built in an Evergreen 56 Watertight case

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:

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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!

Affordable

I encourage you to watch my activation video (linked below) because I give an in-depth tour of this field kit before starting the activation.

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:

Buying everything pre-assembled and tested, you can still put this complete field kit together for less than $350 US (well, plus shipping and taxes where applicable).

Test POTA Run at Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

On Friday, November 18, 2022, I grabbed the new field kit and drove to 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:

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!

QSO Map

Here’s what this five watt 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 & Season’s Greetings!

Thank you for joining me on this activation!

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,

Thomas (K4SWL)

9 thoughts on “Testing a new QCX-Mini Field Kit built in an Evergreen 56 Watertight case”

  1. As for inexpensive CW keys, I can whole-heartedly endorse the little red paddles offered by Whiterook (https://electronicsusa.com/productsham.html). I have been using the MK-33 single-lever paddle for nearly all my field activations since 2016. Note, however, that these keys are very lightweight and you’ll need to use a free hand to hold the paddle as you key.

  2. What a presentation excellent as always. I loved it. Thanks. Amatuer communication can be achieved on a modest income.

    Happy Holidays

  3. This is helpful, thanks for putting it all together!

    I’ve been gradually assesmbling a kit to do park activations here in SF, and am thinking the QCX would probably be a good replacement for my FT-817, especially because my rig needs the same kind of external battery to work.

    As a side note, the larger version of that battery pack is terrible. They used the exact same charge management PCB, but doubled up all the cells in parallel to increase capacity. Mine didn’t last a year before crapping out. That said, I’d bet that the version you have will live a lot longer.

    I just cannibalized my old one last week, pulling out the 3 not-dead-yet cells and adding one more 18650 to make a little RC-style 4S pack for my 817 in the same enclosure, with 18650 cell holders making it easy to swap them out in the future. I’ve got an RC balancing charger, so this works great for me, but it’s a bit awkward versus the original package.

    Happy Holidays, and enjoy the Blue Ridge for those of us who had to leave the mountains of WNC behind!

    1. Thank you for the info, Josh! Yes, this smaller battery pack has worked flawlessly for me and a friend that bought one around the same time. A shame that the larger capacity battery is poor.

      I think the QCX would serve you well for your radio outings!

      I’ll be sending you some good Blue Ridge vibes this Holiday!

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  4. Nice video (as usual)! I’m finally going to build my Ver 1 20m QCX Mini soon. Anyone know the correct link to get the correct revised voltage regulator (78M05)? Much appreciated!

  5. Have you seen the Evergreen 56 National Park case? It comes with pictures of some national parks, and 5% of all sales goes to the National Park Foundation. Just bought one in orange with Yosemite picture on it……

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