POTA Field Report: The Elecraft AX1’s secret power? Speed of deployment.

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.


The AX1’s secret power, as I mention in the title, is speed of deployment.

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!)


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On The Air

After configuring the AX1 for 20 meters (and pushing 5 watts), I started calling CQ and, fortunately, the calls started rolling in.

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.

Fortunately, before I reached my QRT time, I received a text from my daughters telling me they were running late. This added a good 15 or 20 minutes to my activation time and I soaked it up!

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:

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.

AX family is growing

I do get a serious thrill out of using these wee antennas with such modest power.

Elecraft AX2 illustration via Elecraft

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–?)

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this activation! It was so much fun.

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,

Thomas (K4SWL)

19 thoughts on “POTA Field Report: The Elecraft AX1’s secret power? Speed of deployment.”

  1. Thomas,, that’s amazing coverage with the AX1. You’ve done it with CW and I’ve had excellent results with digital, now we need to see how it works for SSB.

    Great report!

    1. I worked 22 stations in about 25 minutes using 5 watts SSB with my KX2/AX1 in handheld configuration from the Washington Monument this past Monday. I got decent signal reports and QSOs as far away as Utah and Puerto Rico. So it can do SSB! I do need to learn CW well enough to activate. I’m working on it!

  2. Thomas, it really is a cracking setup, and as a frequent traveller and flier I plan to use the KX2 and AX1 as my travel rig with an EFHW and throw line in reserve for when a site has something to throw a line up.

    I do look forward to seeing how well the AX1 will perform on the roof of a stationary car in the evenings at hotels along the way, or even from within hotel rooms.

    Thanks as ever for being a great advocate of ham radio, portable ops and of course CW.

    1. Ciemon, I have done a fair bit of traveling with the AX2. I get fantastic results as long as it is outside. In my experience it is unusable indoors in a high noise environment. If you are at a hotel in a rural area, that may give it a better chance, but I think roof of the car or even on the sidewalk would be much better. I have found the AX2 does best a few feet off the ground. I have also gotten a few contacts with it only a few inches off the ground, but that is very tough.

  3. Maybe if condx are very good! I know that the AX1 is kind of deaf and ineffective. I don´t want to say dummy load but any wire is better than that.

    1. Actually, I was just telling a friend that, for POTA, the AX1 tends to be the most productive antenna I own despite conditions. The AX1 is one of those cases where theory and practice don’t jive! I’ve only had spectacular results with the AX1 as an activator–it’s likely my most productive antenna.

      And is the AX1 adummy load? I actually made a post about that!

  4. Great report as always.

    I have the direct attachment hardware for the AX1 and 2 but also have a mag-mount w/coax, with a BNC connection so I can deploy the antenna a short distance away, with our one radial alligator-clipped to the mount as opposed to the radio chassis. Would let me stay in the car on a cold wet day but also can of course be used on a picnic table for a little stand-off distance.

    I’m curious, Thomas or others, has anyone done this separated hookup for the AX antenna and do you notice any significant benefit with that setup as opposed to the original direct-attach method? Thanks everyone.

    1. Hi David,
      Just one datapoint for you – I used the AX1 for a quick urban park deployment using a homemade “over the window edge” mount – with a counterpoise wire and 25′ of coax – made 20 Qs in 45min on 20m CW, including one DX to Poland from MA.

      1. Alan,
        That’s a pretty nice data point! Thanks for that info.

        This antenna always makes me think about big bumblebees. They’re supposed to be too big in the body, too small in wingspan, they aren’t supposed to be able to fly. But no one told the bees 😉 Apparently no one told the AX series that they can’t radiate.

    2. David,

      I used a tripod for the AX1 and a 25 foot cable from the radio to the antenna and it worked great. I wanted to keep the radiation away from. My computer which was running FT8.

    3. Yes! For picnic table portable I use the AXT1 tripod adapter and a Manfrotto mini tripod and six feet of RG 316. It “works a treat” as they say in the UK. I figure that puts the antenna just a bit more in the clear and not right next to my body. Would also work to sit the tripod on the roof of a car, perhaps with a bit longer coax. Scroll through the back pages of my blog for examples. https://kr8l.wordpress.com/ 72!

  5. Yes! For picnic table portable I use the AXT1 tripod adapter and a Manfrotto mini tripod and six feet of RG 316. It “works a treat” as they say in the UK. I figure that puts the antenna just a bit more in the clear and not right next to my body. Would also work to sit the tripod on the roof of a car, perhaps with a bit longer coax. Scroll through the back pages of my blog for examples. https://kr8l.wordpress.com/ 72!

  6. Hi Thomas! If you’ve answered this before, my apologies for cluttering the feed with it again, but when you log on HAMRS, do you include signal reports, or just callsign and time? I’ve noticed you normally don’t write down signal reports in your paper log. Thanks and 73 de Mark KM3P

    1. Hi, Mark,

      You’re correct: I do not write signal reports for POTA contacts. Some people do, but these aren’t conveyed or recorded in the POTA system. HAMRS records the time of each contact automatically.

      I record the signal report when I do casual ragchew contacts, though.


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