On Thursday, February 9, 2023, a rare opportunity opened up for me: a 3.5 hour activation window–!
I was visiting and helping my parents in Catawba County, NC, so considered the park options, almost all of which are within a 35-45 minute drive.
I thought about fitting in two shorter park activations that day, but it has been so long since I’ve had the opportunity to simply hang at one park and play radio for more than an hour, I chose the extended activation option.
Although the forecast was for clear skies that day, a front was moving through that afternoon and the skies were overcast with gusty winds. I could tell rain was a very real possibility, so I chose a site with a picnic shelter to make things a bit easier.
Fort Dobbs State Historic Site (K-6839)
Fort Dobbs was a no-brainer: not only was it the closest park (thus less travel time eating into my on-air time), but the staff there are very POTA-friendly, the site is quiet, and they have an excellent shelter that I suspected (due to the dodgy weather) would be unoccupied.
When I arrived on-site, I checked in at the visitor’s center to make sure the picnic shelter hadn’t been reserved. Fortunately, they said I could have the shelter all to myself!
I had a number of radios in my car and decided en route that I would use the Xiegu G106 once again.
My plan was to pair the G106 with MW0SAW’s 40 meter EFHW antenna.
In the activation video (below) I describe and show in detail how I deployed the antenna and my thought process.
On the way to Ft Dobbs, I noticed an AM broadcast tower perhaps 2-3 miles away as the crow flies. Knowing how easily the G106 overloads and not having an external BCI filter (more on that near the end of this report), I decided it might make sense to point the antenna away from the tower–meaning, not broadside to it. I assumed this might help keep the interference lower.
This was only the second time I’d taken the G106 to the field for a POTA activation. Keep in mind that this radio is still on loan from Radioddity (in full disclosure: a sponsor of QRPer.com) who currently retails the G106 for $300 US. I will be writing a full review of this radio for the May 2023 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine, then returning it to Radioddity. I’m grateful they’ve given me such a long loan period.
I also decided to pair the G106 with my VK3IL pressure paddles. These paddles don’t necessarily work with every radio on the market, but it has worked with every radio I’ve connected it to including, now, the G106!
- Xiegu G106
- MW0SAW end-fed half-wave
- Key cable: Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold-Plated Retractable Aux Cable – 2.5 Feet
- VK3IL Pressure Paddle V2
- Husky 5 gallon waterproof storage container
- Bioenno 3 aH LiFePo Battery (Model BLF-1203AB)
- Ham Radio Workbench DC Distribution Panel Model HRWB101
- Mini Arborist throw line kit: Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray, Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Tom Bihn Large Travel Tray
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch
- Moleskine Cahier Journal
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera
On The Air
Lately, my activation windows have been so short and the hunter activity so heavy, I rarely get to move off of the band I start on or even change modes. Having almost two hours on the air this time, I planned to do the first part of the activation on 20 meters, then the second half on 40 meters.
When I turned on the radio, I didn’t immediately notice any broadcast band bleed-through. After calling CQ POTA a couple of times though, I could hear the local AM station and fortunately it was relatively faint. I believe orienting the antenna pointing away from the tower must have helped.
I did schedule this activation in advance so after a few CQ POTA calls, the POTA spots page auto-spotted me from the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN). Then the hunters started rolling in!
Turns out, 20 meters was simply on fire that afternoon. The calls never stopped coming in.
At one point, there was a very brief lull in activity and announced I’d QSY, then more stations popped up out of the ether.
In the end, I never left the 20 meter band and actually had to call QRT with stations still calling me. I ended up logging 75 contacts in 80 minutes on 20 meters. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so many stations in one mode on 20 meters in one POTA session; my activation windows are typically so short, this simply doesn’t happen.
Here’s what this 5 watt 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.
More G106 Impressions
That said, there’s something with either the audio, the sensitivity, or the receiver front end–or a combination of those–that equates to signals sounding weaker than I believe they actually are.
My best guess is the local AM broadcaster was overwhelming the front end of the radio more than I realized. Even though the audio bleed-through wasn’t as pronounced as it is at my QTH, it was audible and perhaps it deafened the receiver a bit. I do believe pointing the antenna away from the direction of the broadcast tower–rather than broadside–helped.
Funny enough, though, loud signals were seriously loud; this, and ample sidetone volume, is why I doubt it has anything to do with the audio amplification chain. As I mention in the video, it almost seems like the G106 has no AGC, but I understand it actually has a fixed AGC that can’t be adjusted or even turned off.
I am pleased with the electronic keyer in the G106. It seems to have better timing than the X5105 or X6100. It doesn’t really provide true full break-in, but it’s very workable and actually quite pleasant to use.
It’s difficult to be very critical of a $300 multi-mode HF transceiver. There are few (if any?) similar transceivers on the market in this $300 price range.
BCI Filter Time
If Radioddity can let me hang on to this loaner radio long enough, I might actually purchase a BCI filter kit, build it, and try it on this radio. I’m looking at this one (in fact, someone here may have recommended it) but if you have a better suggestion, feel free to comment. G4ABX also has an excellent video tutorial on building a BCI filter.
I don’t have the components for toroids this size, so I believe the kit may be less expensive than home-brewing. That said, I need to check and see if my buddy Vlado (N3CZ) may have these components to homebrew it!
Even though the X5105 is the only other radio I have that seems to suffer from broadcast band interference, having an in-line BCI filter in my field kit bag wouldn’t be a bad thing!
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my (rather lengthy!) 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! Here’s wishing you an amazing, radio-active week!
Cheers & 72,