Speedy POTA: An impromptu post-hike activation with the Elecraft KX2 and AX1

On Friday, January 27, 2023, I dropped off one of my daughters at the library for a creative writing session.

Hazel was along for the ride, so we decided to hike on the nearby Mountains To Sea Trail (MST) while my daughter was in the meeting.

During the hike, I realized that I should have taken my field radio pack along because it would have been so easy to activate both the MST and Blue Ridge Parkway as a two-fer.

Instead, Hazel and I enjoyed our hike and got back to the car with about 35 minutes or so to do an activation–including set-up, on-air time, and pack-up.  That would leave me just enough time to pick up my daughter at the library before they closed for the day.

Challenge accepted!

Because I had been using the Elecraft KX2 and AX1 recently, I had both packed in my Spec-Ops EDC backpack.  In theory–even filming a video at the same time–I knew I could probably fit in a whole activation with 25 minutes on the air. I only needed 10 contacts, and I’ve never been in a situation where the AX1 couldn’t achieve that goal.

Hazel and I grabbed my bag from the car, I started recording a video, and we made out way to the nearest picnic table at the Blue Ridge Parkway HQ parking lot!


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On The Air

After setting up the station (by the way, all of this is in the unedited video) I started calling CQ POTA on 20 meters.

Within nine minutes, I logged the ten stations necessary for a valid park activation. That included one Park-To-Park from KD5ICE!

I continued working stations until I reached a total of 22 contacts in 22 minutes. This also included my first contact–another P2P–with K1NGZ who only started doing CW activations a few months ago. He’s become quite the CW activator in that time! Amazing!

I had to cut the activation short to allow time for packing up, hopping back in the car, and driving to the library to pick up my daughter. It was one of those days, though, I felt like I could have achieved WAS on 20 meters if I only had enough time! It was so much fun!


Here’s what this 5 watt 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.

AX1 well-suited for this location

As I mentioned in a previous field report, one of the AX1’s strongest points is speed of deployment.

In this particular case, that speed of deployment meant I had more on air time to play radio and there were more people calling than I could work in the amount of time I had.

As I mention in the video, the AX1 is also a great antenna for this particular location. I’ve performed numerous activations at the BRP HQ, but in truth, it’s not an ideal spot for a portable operator. For one thing, in the spring, summer, and fall, it’s a busy place.  I spoke with a ranger once about operating and they were fine with using the picnic tables, but didn’t want antennas anywhere else because of the traffic patterns of guests walking around.

In fact, should you ever use the picnic tables at the Blue Ridge Parkway HQ and Visitors’ Center, note that people walk on both sides of each table to go to the main building and the trailhead. If you have wires on the ground or in a tree, you must make sure people don’t walk into them.  It wasn’t a problem for me on January 27 because it’s off-season. In peak season, I don’t bother setting up at the center because there’s simply so much foot traffic to mind. There are much better places along the parkway.

That said, the AX1 is well-suited for this location because I can put the entire station on the picnic table. The only thing I have to be mindful of is the short 13′ counterpoise laying on the ground.

Speaking of the ground, even though I was pressed for time, I found a lot of trash around the picnic table, so I collected as much as I could and deposited it before leaving the site. I feel like we activators should try to leave sites even cleaner than we found them. Not only does it make our public lands that much cleaner, but it certainly can’t hurt our public image as POTA activators!

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this speedy little activation!

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)

17 thoughts on “Speedy POTA: An impromptu post-hike activation with the Elecraft KX2 and AX1”

  1. Great post Thomas. I’m always amazed how you pull off an activation in short time windows that I would never consider trying.

    Two questions.

    I noticed all of the information that you included in the header on your log page. Do you use that to do any kind of analytics on your logs or is it just to jog your memory when you look at the log later.

    Also, have you ever done a head to head comparison of the AX1 and the AX2 on 20 meters?


    1. Hi, Marshall,

      Thank you! So the short answer is, I really only put the header in my paper logs for my own reference later. My digital logs via Hamrs or N3FJP have more data once exported. But frankly, I never really do anything with that other than uploading them to POTA.

      I only got my AX2 recently and haven’t put it on the air yet. I will soon, though! I suspect performance-wise, it’s nearly identical to the AX1 on 20M.

      I’m thinking about making a vdeo about the differences between the two.


      1. A video comparing the AX2 and AX1 would be interesting! I just received my AX2 and haven’t had a chance to try it outside of just setting it up inside. The capacitance hat I made didn’t bring the SWR down without the need for a tuner still, but like I said, I haven’t really had time to test it properly.

        For my IC-705, if the capacitance hat doesn’t work, the AX2 mounts nicely to my (also recently acquired), ZM-2 ATU. Sits right on the BNC connector and acts as a stand!

        1. I’m with Michael on this, I would love to see a comparison video. I had the AX1 and I felt like it was a little fragile. The glass tube kept twisting out of alignment with the switch. I had a friend that wanted it for his KX2 so I sold it. Now I am regretting that decision.

          If I can sell my Icom LC-192 backpack with the external antenna mounting bracket I will buy another AX1 or more likely the AX2. I hooked the AX1 up to the MAT-705 tuner with a short jumper then tripod mounted the AX1.

          1. Thanks, Marshall I have actually. I watched his video just before building my own little capacity hat for the AX2. I haven’t had a chance to test it outdoors where I should, but inside in my office, it didn’t bring the SWR down. I need to take it outdoors and do it properly… My guess is I need to lengthen the wires, but again that’s just a hunch.

            I think the AX2 could be a perfect alternative antenna when I don’t want to pack along my larger loop antenna, or am not checking a bag during work travels.

            I’ve been too busy the last couple of days since receiving the AX2 to do any real playing unfortunately!

  2. Talking about quick deployment… …last week, I arrived at my customer’s site in Cherry Hill NJ about 20 minutes early. So, I parked in the back of the parking lot, rolled down the driver’s window a few inches, slipped my homemade window mount over the edge of the window, assembled the AX1 and slipped it through the window and onto the mount. Tossed the counterpoise on the ground, connected the coax, and setup the KX2 and paddles on my steering-wheel-desk. I was up an operating in about 2 minutes, and never left the driver’s seat!

  3. I really like the VK3IL paddles and am thinking of building one. Do you have the longer (100mm) or shorter (63mm) version?

    Mike W5RST

    1. I have the longer version. For me, I think it’s actually better, but for someone who wants super compact, that should one should work a charm too!

  4. I appreciate how quick the AX1 can be deployed and tuned.
    Do you think the Elecraft T1 ATU would tune the AX1? I would rather use the AX1 with the SW-3B or TR-35.

    Pat N0SHU

      1. Ha. Thanks Thomas. I should have known. You seem to cover all bases. I am not sure how I missed that report. BTW…Chelegance antenna is on the way too (supposedly). It seems like using these two antennas is cheating!

        Pat N0SHU

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