If you’ve read my “Anatomy of a Field Kit” series, you’ve likely gathered that field kits are a bit of an obsession. [Yeah, understatement alert!]
My field kits roughly fall into two main categories: modular and fully self-contained. My modular kits are ones where components like the battery, antenna, throw line, key, and radio are in separate pouches and can easily be combined to make a complete station before I leave for an activation.
My fully self-contained kits are ones that quite literally have everything needed to perform a park or summit activation in one pouch or box. A good example that I’ve documented here is my MTR-3B field kit.
For more on this, again, check out my “Anatomy of a Field Kit” series.
- It’s ready to grab for impromptu activations
- It’s handy in case of road-side emergencies in remote areas
- It’s always accessible to demonstrate amateur radio to those who are curious
- It’s always always there for those times when you hadn’t planned to play radio, but the opportunity presents itself
I always have a full radio kit in my Subaru and over the years, I’ve changed and adapted it. For the most part, though, it’s been located in the trunk/boot and lives with anything and everything else I keep back there. Sometimes, it’s in the way when we need to fill that trunk space with family items for a trip or when we’re hauling things around town. Other times, it’s floating/sliding around freely in the back.
On long family trips, I’ve been known to store radios under the floor, but it’s a true hassle to remove them because I have to remove anything in the trunk before lifting the floor.
I’ve always wanted a way to store my kit in the car in a dedicated space. In the past, I’ve tried to make a kit that could fit under the driver’s seat–thinking that might be ideal–but there’s very little clearance under it and it’s difficult to remove.
Enter the BROG Headrest Pouch Kit
Before I placed my initial order for the Blue Ridge Overland Gear (BROG) Gadget Bag, I checked out other items on their website. One that immediately caught my attention was their Headrest Kit.
It consists of a Velcro panel that fits around a vehicle headrest and a pouch (or pouches) attach to it.
BROG caters to Overlanders and vehicle storage/organization is huge in that community. The headrest kit makes a lot of sense: it’s using space that’s accessible, doesn’t interfere with any passengers, is off the floor, and is otherwise underutilized!
The big questions, of course:
- would the pouch offer enough space to store an entire radio kit,
- and would the kit weight too much for the Velcro back to hold it in place?
I asked for the Headrest Pouch Kit ($47.99) to be sent with my Gadget Bag order.
BTW: Big thanks to BROG for giving me flexibility with this order. Since I had no experience with their gear, I asked that they send me a list of items and allow me to evaluate them, then pay (full price) for what I decided to keep.
Would it work?
- Mountain Topper MTR-3B
- Venus SW-3B
- TEN-TEC R4020
I eliminated the QCX-Mini from this list because it’s mono band (mine is set for 20M) plus, I really love the field kit I already designed for it. Same for the MTR-3B–the kit I built for it is now time-tested and I love it as-is. The R4020, while quite compact, is the largest in this group of wee rigs.
I chose the SW-3B: it’s one of the smallest, lightest weight radios I own and it sports three very useful POTA/SOTA bands (40, 30, and 20 meters).
Even knowing dimensions in advance, it can be difficult figuring out just how much a pouch can hold until you actually have it in your hands.
As much as I was looking forward to checking out the Gadget Bag, the headrest pouch was the first item I grabbed out of the BROG shipment. I placed the SW-3B inside and knew there would be plenty of room for the other items in my kit. Score!
In fact, there was enough room in the headrest pouch that I actually decided to store my SW-3B along with an Elecraft KXBT2 Li-Ion Battery Pack and all power cables/fuses in a BROG Medium Velcro Pouch. Doing this simply helps to keep the interior of the main pouch a little better organized.
For an antenna, I chose my Tufteln 40/20M linked End-Fed Half-Wave (EFHW). Why would I chose to use links in my wire antenna when a standard 40M EFHW gives me 20M band coverage? Because a 20M EFHW may be all I need to complete an activation and it’s half the length of a 40 meter EFHW.
If 40 meters is needed, I simply add that link to get the coverage.
Of course, I need a means to deploy my antenna, so I also fit the headrest kit with one of my “bare-bones” 25 meter throw line kits. I also included a 10′ coil of RG-316 for feedline.
For a key, I chose my blue N0SA 3D-printed paddle (that’s no longer manufactured)–it’s compact, durable, and lightweight.
I need to log my contacts, so I also added a small Rite In The Rain notebook and mechanical pencil. Speaking of rain, I also included a small Mylar reflective sheet that, if needed, could cover the station in a pinch.
Since the SW-3B lacks an internal speaker, I added a pair of my favorite cheap Sony earbuds.
Everything easily fit in the Headrest Pouch. It’s roomier than it looks!
Next, I needed to see if it would reliably stick to the Velcro back on the headrest cover.
It attached perfectly. Turns out, the Velcro is incredibly strong and I can’t imagine it falling off the headrest. This shouldn’t surprise me because this item was specifically designed for off-road vehicles which are used to being jarred around.
Headrest QRP Field Kit
Here’s an inventory of everything included in the SW-3B Headrest Pouch Field Kit:
Note: All Amazon links are affiliate links that support the QRPer.com at no cost to you.
- Blue Ridge Overland Gear Headrest Pouch Kit
- Blue Ridge Overland Gear Velcro Pouch Medium
- Venus SW-3B
- Anker Soundcore Mini Speaker
- Tufteln 20/40M Linked EFHW
- N0SA portable paddles
- Elecraft KXBT2 Li-Ion Battery Pack
- RG-316 Feedline (10ft)
- Bare-Bones Arborist throw line kit: 25M Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Rite In The Rain Notepad
- Jovitec 2.0 mm Mechanical Pencil
- Mylar Emergency Blanket (make-shift rain protection)
- Sony MDREX15AP In-Ear Earbud Headphones
In this case, though, an early morning opportunity opened to do a quick POTA activation on the Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378), so I decided to take the kit directly to the field. I could do this confidently because I had an accessory pack in the car, so if something was missing, I could sort it out. Fortunately, I discovered I had everything I needed and nothing more in the headrest kit! Score!
Since I was filming the activation, I had to carry a few extra items:
On Friday, March 31, 2023, rain was in the forecast. In fact, as I drove to the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway that morning, I passed through two small rain showers. Not ideal conditions to play radio, but I was determined to fit in this activation.
I arrived on site, and the rain subsided. Fortunately, I never had to cover my gear during the entire activation.
I very quickly deployed my Tufteln EFHW with only the 20 meter section. I knew it was a bit early in the morning for 20 meters to be active, but hoped it might be effective enough to log my ten stations, then pack up and head home before a downpour hit.
I placed my SW-3B next to its clear cover zippered pouch so I could tuck it inside if needed. I also had my mylar blanket handy to cover the entire station if necessary.
Time to hit the air!
On The Air
When I plugged in my Anker Soundcore Mini speaker into the SW-3B that morning, I was hearing quite a lot of audio hash. I wasn’t sure what was causing the interference at first, but after a bit of experimentation, I found I could minimize it by lowering the speaker volume, increasing the SW-3B AF gain, and wrapping my paddle’s cord around my wrist.
I started calling CQ POTA on the 20 meter band and logged four stations in five minutes! Woo hoo!
Then nothing, save static.
After calling CQ with no replies for a few minutes, I decided to QSY to the 40 meter band.
This required adding the 40 meter extension to the Tufteln EFHW which, turns out, is actually quite a breeze to do. Check out my activation video below to see how little time that took.
Forty meters was in much better shape, of course (again, it was a little early for 20 meters to be productive).
I ended up logging an additional 22 stations in 21 minutes, for a grand total of 26 logged!
Here’s what this 5 watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (click to enlarge).
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.
Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with this field kit. Everything worked as it should and it’s just amazing that an entire SOTA/POTA/WWFF/IOTA station can fit behind the headrest in my Subaru.
In fact, I liked this headrest pouch so much, my wife and I decided to buy the BROG Headrest IFAK Kit for the passenger seat. We always carry a first aid kit in the car, but like my radio kit, it had been placed in the trunk area and wasn’t ideal. Now our first aid kit has a dedicated spot and is within easy reach of everyone in the car at all times.
I will add this: I’m impressed with the quality of Blue Ridge Overland Gear products. I’m accustomed to paying a premium to buy packs made by cottage industry manufacturers. Since companies like BROG are paying US labor and material costs, their items aren’t as cheap as you would find on Amazon, eBay, and AliExpress.
That said, I think BROG products are actually a great value. This headrest kit, for example, is $47.99 and guaranteed for life. Honestly, that’s a fantastic deal for something made in the USA.
I’ve no relationship with BROG other than being a customer (that said, I won’t protest if they ever decided to sponsor QRPer.com!).
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! Here’s wishing you an amazing weekend!
Cheers & 72,