I believe I mentioned in the past that when I first purchased my Elecraft AX1, I assumed it would be a bit if a toy or novelty item. I thought it was a fun concept–and that’s why I bought it–but I remember the first time I took it out to the field on an activation, I thought I’d be demonstrating that a compromised antenna delivers compromised performance.
In short? I was wrong.
The AX1 has instead become one of the most valuable tools in my antenna arsenal.
When you are the DX–activating a park or summit–the AX1 is more than capable as long as you live in an area with a reasonable amount of hunters/chasers within your normal propagation footprint.
Although I can launch a line into a tree and deploy an end-fed half-wave pretty quickly–I’ve literally done this hundreds of times–I can deploy the AX1 even more quickly without breaking a sweat.
Case in Point: Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)
On Tuesday, January 17, 2023, I had a day full of errands and projects in town, but needed to pick up my daughters at a school function around 15:00 local. There were too many variables to accurately predict where I would be at what time, so I didn’t schedule an activation that morning.
As the day progressed, though, I realized I had a very short window and K-6856 was practically en route to the pickup point. After I finished my last errand in south Asheville, I made my way north and based on Google Maps, I had no more than a 25 minute window to fit in a full activation from deployment to pack up.
I stopped in a parking lot en route, pulled out my iPhone, and scheduled an activation at K-6856 on POTA.app.
Keep in mind that my activations are typically short, but 25 minutes for set-up, on-the-air time, and pack-up leaves very little margin for error.
The AX1 is perfect for this type of activation.
A little time math
It takes me two easy minutes to set up the AX1 and maybe one minute to pack it up. If I wanted to, I could speed that up a bit (I take much longer on camera talking my way through the process). So that’s roughly three minutes to both deploy and pack-up the AX1.
My speaker wire antenna, on the other hand, is also very quick to deploy. With my arborist throw line, I can easily prepare that antenna in four minutes and pack it up in three minutes. Thus, I need to allow roughly 7 minutes to both deploy and pack-up the speaker wire antenna (we have to assume it might take 2 launches of the throw line to snag a branch).
Since it has a built-in ATU and battery the Elecraft KX2 takes maybe 20 seconds to set up. Seriously: pull it out of the pack, connect a key, turn it on.
Once I start calling CQ–assuming the RBN connection is working–it typically takes about one minute to be spotted and receive my first hunter call. That is, if it’s an average day (in terms of hunter activity) and our local star isn’t acting up.
In the end, the AX1 saves me about 4 minutes on the antenna side of things.
When your entire activation window is only 25 minutes, four extra minutes on the air is a big deal. After subtracting the amount of time it takes for your spot to show up and preparing the radio, it’s conservatively the difference between 21 minutes on the air and 17 minutes on the air.
Speaking of setting up…
Against my better judgment, I made a video of this activation. Time was so tight, I convinced myself to leave my camera stored away. My intros and outros (even when I try to keep them short) really eat into my on-the-air time.
When I stopped to schedule the activation, though, it hit me that if I did the video intro in my car en route to Vance, I could simply keep the camera rolling and show the full set-up and pack-up on-site. Hypothetically, that shouldn’t eat into my on-the-air time.
Why not, right? So my activation video starts on the drive to the site and there are no edits (No edits–? Yes, I’m sure you’re surprised. Ha ha!)
- Elecraft KX2
- Elecraft AX1 packed in a Maxpedition Fatty Pouch
- Key cable: Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold-Plated Retractable Aux Cable – 2.5 Feet
- CW Morse SP4 N0SA SOTA Paddles
- Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC
- Elecraft KXBT2 Li-Ion Battery Pack
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch
- Moleskine Cahier Journal
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera with Joby tripod (affiliate links)
On The Air
I logged my first ten contacts in nine minutes, thus validated the activation about as quickly as one can in CW doing POTA. Woo hoo!
I knew what time I needed to call QRT–my true drop-dead time–so followed my watch very closely during the activation.
In the end I logged 28 stations in 25 minutes! Dang!
I did finally hit my QRT overtime and had to hop off the air with others waiting to work me. I hate doing that, but I had to stick to my schedule!
Here’s what this 5 watts into the AX1 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.
AX family is growing
I do get a serious thrill out of using these wee antennas with such modest power.
After this activation, I decided to order an Elecraft AX2 mono-band antenna.
Elecraft announced that they were raising all prices sometime after January 31, so I ordered my AX2 before that deadline just in case the increases affected the AX2. (Pssst…at time of posting, the AX2 prices haven’t yet increased. Perhaps they won’t–?)
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video 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!
Cheers & 72,