A Casual 17 Meter POTA Activation with the Penntek TR-45L, PackTenna Random Wire, and a Furry Friend

On Sunday, February 19, 2023, I felt like I was moving in slow motion.

The previous day started early and I fit in a long hike, a SOTA/POTA activation, and a second park activation. Round trip driving time was about four hours, but it was worth it. I had an amazing time. Those field reports will be posted in the upcoming week.

The previous evening, I also participated in a live stream and after hours chat with Josh (KI6NAZ) on his amazing Ham Radio Crash Course channel. It was loads of fun, but I was up pretty late after a long day.

Sunday morning, I was feeling it and couldn’t decide if I wanted to do a POTA activation on the drive back to the QTH. In case I decided to, early that morning, I scheduled an activation at Table Rock Fish Hatchery with a very wide activation window. I often don’t have enough mobile phone service to self-spot at that particular site, so I decided that if I was able to make the activation, it would cover me.

I wasn’t even ten minutes into the drive home when I decided to go for the Table Rock activation, of course! I seem to never be too tired for some POTA!

I did make up my mind in advance to try to activate the park on 17 meters because 1.) there was a CW contest that weekend, and 2.) I wanted a more laid-back activation instead of a pileup. I figured 17 meters would have some activity, but not to the degree of the non-WARC bands.

Table Rock State Fish Hatchery (K-8012)

I decided to record the entire activation from set-up to pack-up so I grabbed the action camera from my radio bag in the passenger’s seat and started recording as I pulled into the site.

I had a lot of gear in the trunk/boot of my car–more than normal–because I brought along quite a few radio packs to show on the HRCC live stream for this trip.

I grabbed the Penntek TR-45L and PackTenna random wire.  I thought they would pair nicely for a casual POTA activation.

Set up

The great thing about the PackTenna random wire antenna is that the radiator is only 31′ long. It’s super easy to deploy.

As you’ll see in the video, it only took one throw to snag an acceptable branch, but I decided to give it another go just to have the antenna in slightly better configuration. I was happy I did.

There’s really nothing to setting up the TR-45L. Since this unit has an internal battery and Z-Match ATU, all I needed to do was plug in a key (my gorgeous Begali Traveler–thanks again, Jackie!) and the antenna.

Of course, being a non-resonant antenna, I had to to use the manual Z-Match ATU to match impedance. I very easily found a 1:1 match.

Canine company

As you’ll see in the video, one of my canine buddies joined me during this activation. She was quite playful, in fact, despite the fact her Beagle friend didn’t show up this time.  They’ve both become regulars during my Table Rock activations and, I’ll admit, are the reason why I take the slightly longer detour some days!


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On The Air

I hopped on the air, started calling CQ POTA, and quickly discovered that 17 meters was very much alive.

I worked my first ten stations–to validate this POTA activation–in exactly ten minutes.

I continued calling CQ and worked an additional eight stations in eight minutes–quite literally, logging one station per minute.

Once I had a break in call backs, I called QRT and hopped off the air. This little activation very much scratched my POTA itch!


Here’s what this 5 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.

Taking my time

It’s funny, looking at the activation video, I certainly see myself running in slow motion. It was nice to have enough time to do a very casual activation and while 17 meters was pretty active (not terribly surprising on a contest day) it wasn’t a never-ending pileup either.

I’ll say this: the TR-45L and PackTenna random wire do pair beautifully.

Speaking of the PackTenna, I learned from my buddy George (KJ6VU) recently that he hopes to start shipping PackTenna antennas again, likely in the May time-frame. Production had been delayed a few months while he moved from California to his new QTH in Oregon.

If you’re interested in snagging a PackTenna when they’re in stock, I’d encourage you to bookmark the PackTenna site and/or join the PackTenna discussion group.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this relaxed 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 very 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! I hope you have a wonderful week ahead!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

5 thoughts on “A Casual 17 Meter POTA Activation with the Penntek TR-45L, PackTenna Random Wire, and a Furry Friend”

  1. Another fine read TW thanks for sharing and the needed inspiration for learning dahditdahdit ditdahdah again. WV8T

  2. Nice blog and video….. Good to see all the steps of an activation, site planning, antenna deployment, operating and equipment list. Liked the TR-45. Makes me want to get out of my chair.

  3. Thomas
    If you had to choose between the PackTenna EFHW or the Random Wire with the 9:1Balun, which would you pick as best all around choice for POTA?

    1. That’s a very tough call, Paul. These days, 20 meters is doing so well, I might be tempted to get a 20M EFHW and then use my ATU when I was to use it on other bands.
      That said, the 9:1 UNUN works brilliantly.
      You really can’t go wrong with either. If my only radio was a KX2 (for example) that has a built-in ATU, then I might side with a random wire. If I need an external ATU, then I’d go with an EFHW so I’d always have an option of running resonant sans match.

      1. Thanks for feedback.
        I do have a KX 3, but am on the wait list for the TR 45L with the tuner, which did a nice job tuning the Random wire in this activation
        So both would work with Random wire version.

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