As I walked out the door on the morning of Tuesday, March 21, 2023, I grabbed my Elecraft KX2, MM0OPX 40 meter end-fed half-wave, and a key I hadn’t yet taken to the field: my Bamakey TP-III!
I had a full day of errands, appointments, and carting my daughters to/from school, but I also had a good 90 minute window to play radio!
As I’ve mentioned previously, the Vance Birthplace (K-6856) is incredibly convenient this particular school term. I pass by it twice a week, and I feel incredibly fortunate because it’s a wonderful POTA site with POTA-friendly staff. They all know me quite well there at this point.
The Vance site is a small park and the only negative (from the point of view of a POTA activator) is if you have poor timing, you might arrive only to find that a large school group has taken over the site. This is especially a concern on weekdays during school hours–in other words, the time I usually activate Vance.
I pulled into the Vance site that morning and there were no vehicles there other than park staff. A good sign so far!
The only appropriate spot to activate at Vance (if you operate a portable HF station) is in or near the picnic shelter. The rest of the site is where visitors wonder through the old homestead and take guided tours.
I never set up my station in the middle of park activities or in a viewshed.
At the end of the day, we represent all Parks On The Air activators and the amateur radio community at large when we’re in public spaces. The last thing we want to do is detract from others’ park experience.
Before pulling any gear out of the car, I walked into the visitor center and asked the park staff for permission to set up in the picnic shelter. I always do this because if a school or tour group is scheduled to visit the site that day, they almost always need the picnic shelter and have it reserved.
Fortunately, no one had scheduled the picnic shelter, so the park ranger told me, “It’s all yours! Have fun!”
Proper POTA Flea Power!
I like shaking up each new activation in some small way so that it’s not a carbon copy of any previous activation.
Since, like most POTA activators, I visit the same local parks the bulk of the time, it adds a little extra challenge and fun to try different gear combinations, experiment with new antennas, or even (as in this case) try different power settings–!
After getting approval to set up my station, I decided I’d shake things up by, once again, by attempting to validate this POTA activation with my KX2’s lowest power setting: 0.1 Watts, or 100 mW.
I did this once before and was pretty blown-away with the results. During that activation, I logged my first ten hunters–thus validating the activation–with 100mW, then increased my power output to a QRP full gallon (5 watts).
This time, I decided to start with 100mW and work as many stations as I could; when hunters stopped calling me, I’d then up the power and see what impact that might have.
This would also be my BaMaKeY TP-III’s first POTA activation!
Last year, after being urged by so many readers to check out the TP-III, I ordered one in a moment of weakness. They’re not an inexpensive key at 161.00 EUR, but I love supporting our ham radio cottage industries. (At least, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!)
I received the TP-III a couple weeks later and used it in the shack for a few days. I then packed it in my MTR-3B field kit. That Tuesday morning, I opened my MTR-3B field kit, rediscovered the TP-III there and grabbed it for this activation!
QRPp weapon of choice!
The MM0OPX end-fed half-wave antenna was already packed in my field kit, so it was a natural choice for this QRPp activation. After all, it performed marvelously the last time I tried a 100mW activation!
Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, and eBay links are affiliate links that support the QRPer.com at no cost to you.
- Elecraft KX2
- Elecraft ES60 Pack (Note that mine is a discontinued LowePro CS60 pack, the ES60 is identical and Elecraft branded)
- Muji A6 Notepad
- MM0OPX QRP EFHW (Contact Colin for Availability)
- Key cable: Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold-Plated Retractable Aux Cable – 2.5 Feet
- BaMaKeY TP-III Ultra-Compact Twin Paddle
- Red Oxx Micro Manager
- Elecraft KXBT2 Li-Ion Battery Pack
- Mini Arborist throw line kit: Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray, Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Jovitec 2.0 mm Mechanical Pencil
- Muji A6 Notepad
- Camera: original OSMO Action Camera (the OSMO 3 is the current version) with Joby tripod
On The Air
Since I was using a 40 meter end-fed half-wave, the plan was to start on 40 meters, then move up to 20 meters if activity died down.
I hopped on the air with low expectations. Running one tenth of one watt has its obvious limitations, right?
I started calling CQ POTA on 40 meters and was pleased to hear a station call back pretty quickly. Then another. And another…all in rapid succession… What?
Within a mere eight minutes, I’d logged the 10 contacts needed to validate the activation. Dang! That’s about as good as it gets!
I decided to stick with 100 mW.
I continued working stations until I simply ran out of time. After working my buddy John (AE5X), I called QRT and counted the contacts.
Turns out I worked 37 stations in 37 minutes! Holy Cow!
What insane fun!
Here’s what this 100mW activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map. Interestingly, this map shows a nearly perfect 40 meter footprint with a few “local” contacts from adjoining states as well. Looking at this map alone, I would have never guessed these contacts were made with 1/10 of one Watt:
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.
Flea power fun!
First of all, I wouldn’t try a 100mW activation at a rare park. I know by going QRPp, I’m not casting as big of a signal and am thus leaving some operators out of the mix; especially those who have to cope with high noise floors where they live.
Still, this was insanely fun!
Every single contact felt like a small surprise. This is why I love operating QRP so much. It’s amazing how little power you actually need to accomplish your goals as a POTA or SOTA activator.
I also enjoyed using the little TP-III key. It’s truly a cute marvel of engineering: a very precise, confident, and rugged little paddle! In truth, I personally prefer the CW Morse SP4 paddle because I like the larger finger pads, but the TP-III is a pretty flat key which means that it will fit in my most compact field kits!
In the end, I’m very pleased with the TP-III! Thanks to all of you for the recommendation. It has a permanent, happy home here with K4SWL.
Thank you for joining me on this QRPp activation!
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them. This is certainly an activation I’ll never forget.
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 and here’s wishing you all an amazing weekend!
Cheers & 72,
6 thoughts on “QRPp POTA: How many hunters can I possibly log with only 100 milliwatts–?”
So what did you think of the key? How does it compare to the Begali?
CW and QRP(p) make a remarkably effective combination in the hands of skilled operators.
The ‘lack of power’ has gone to your head! You delight in making things minimal and simple. Madness! (Kidding)
The TP-3 is a keeper. I too, in a moment of weakness, clicked the order button, a year or so back (Charlie @ Red Summit RF has a full review). It pairs nicely with my 20m QCX Mini, a 20m EFλ/2 and ‘Shotgun’ desk in my Wrangler. It works nimbly and precisely, even with my shaky code…
I loved the video & report! Great work afield, 72!
It’s like the secret love of my life that my wife doesn’t mind – CW
I enjoyed reading your article and have just recently ordered the morsino keyer and i’m anxiously waiting for its arrival,
Great post and video, Thomas.
When I go to a park that I’ve activated before, I also try to declare some kind of “mission” to keep things more challenging. Sometimes it’s leaving all of my just-in-case gear at home, or maybe a commitment to get all of my contacts on something other than 20 meters. I haven’t tried activating with .1 watt, but will keep that one in mind.
This is the spirit of the homebrew QRPp that I started with in 1979 and beyond when I incorporated ham radio projects from CQ, 73, Ham Radio, & QST into my college quarterly projects.
I am now more that 1/2 way through building my complete Two Tinned Tunas QRPp station with separate half-wave tuner, T/R relay, TPS power distribution, RF Monitor, & separate rock-bound TX & RX with 1.5Khz VXOs. Not sure what power levels years, I have kits between 250mw & Two watts, plus a full gallon 5W Tuna Topper amp I will build later. I have been spending my time on each kit to make sure it is functional & built to print so when I am finished I will have a great little station that has really expanded my mind, lol!!! I won’t give the address of my channel or the robot here will delete my post, lol. 72, Davey – KU9L