A Triple activation and why I switched from a KX3 to Icom’s IC-705

by Thomas (DM1TBE)


The last weekend was pretty nice and just like an invitation to operate outdoors. As I wrote in one of my previous posts, I often activate summits on the Swabian Alp, a high plateau, which falls with steep cliff-like edges and many SOTA summits to the northwest. If you approach it from the foothills where I live, the sharp edge is clearly visible.

On the way to the ascent, you came along old, picturesque villages. If you look closely, you can see the “Maibaum”.

The tradition of erecting a “Maibaum” (Maypole) is a long-standing custom in Germany, particularly in the southern regions. The Maibaum is a tall wooden pole that is decorated with colorful ribbons, wreaths, and symbols of the local community. It is usually erected on May Day or the night before and is a symbol of spring, fertility, and community spirit. In some regions, it is also accompanied by folk dances, music, and festivities.

It was my third activation of the summit Römerstein, and every time I used another transceiver.

My transceiver history

When I started with ham radio, I used an old Icom IC-706.

The lack of modern features such as DSP and filters, and the current consumption made it not the first choice for portable operators. I soon switched to an Icom IC-7300 at home and got used to a waterfall and spectrum display.  After two activations with the 706 I bought a Xiegu G90.

During the time of my first activation of the Römerstein, I operated only in SSB. So, I was happy with the G90. The display was small, but way better than my old 706. I was satisfied and used the G90 until I started with CW. In CW, I prefer using headphones until today. The sound of the G90 was uncomfortable for me. The lowest volume was too loud, a lot of loud cracks annoyed me, and I was never happy with the filters.

I heard a lot of positive things about Elecraft’s KX transceiver line and luckily, I got a used KX3 for a fair price.

I was impressed by the exceptional performance and the pleasing audio quality of the KX3 transceiver, which swiftly became my preferred device for portable operations – and the second device I used for the activation of this specific summit. Also, the CW memories were something I learned to appreciate, as it made long activations much easier.

After a while, I sought to enhance my comfort level and operating efficiency, I decided to upgrade my home transceiver to the SunSDR2 DX, which offered several nice features such as local skimmer functionality, clickable callsigns in the waterfall, and the ability to expand the waterfall display to the extent of my 34” monitor or view it along with other programs. That’s the nerd in me coming out.

However, I realized after some time that I missed the waterfall or at least a spectrum during my outdoor activations.

While recognizing that most people do not require or want a spectrum/waterfall outdoors, I found it to be an important element in my enjoyment of the activity. I explored the option of the Elecraft PX3, but was deterred by the need to carry and wire an additional device, as well as its high cost of approximately 1200€ or $1310, which was nearly equivalent to the price of the Lab599 TX-500 transceiver in its entirety.

After much deliberation between the TX-500 and the IC-705, I ultimately decided on the latter due to its internal battery, advanced display, and “fancy-ness”. Although I had to accept the absence of an autotuner and the device’s clunkiness, I was content with my decision.

The activation

So, I took the Icom IC-705 for its first test with me to this mountain Römerstein (DM/BW-078). The summit is in the Swabian Alb Biosphere/Nature Reserve which can be activated for POTA (DA-0203) and the WWFF DLFF-0034. The hike is rather short with 0.5 km / 0.3 mi and only a slight inclining trail

The name “Römerstein” means “Roman rock,” and it was believed referring to a large boulder at the summit that has served as a boundary marker during Roman times, as there was a Roman settlement between 85 and 260 AD east of the mountain. However, it is assumed now that the name is not derived from the Romans, but a family called Rem, which settled in the region during the 14th century.

On my way up, I have seen a boundary stone with the symbol of Württemberg, a former kingdom and one of the two regions that form the federal state I am in. The boundary stone does not make much sense to me as it looked too new and the border of Württemberg is not in the area. Unfortunately, I forgot to check the other side, maybe there was something on it that could provide me a hint.

On the summit of the mountain is an observation tower.

The tower with a height of 28 m / 92 ft was constructed in 1912 by the local hiking club, the Swabian Albverein, which operates 29 of such observation towers. I have written a bit more about this hiking association in my activation report for the Wasserberg. The tower’s architecture is a timber boarded structure resting on a stone foundation. Its viewing platform provides an unobstructed view of the northern region. At the bottom of the tower is a small shop for beverages, so you can enjoy a cold beer when using the BBQ sites at the foot of the tower or after operating ;).

The IC-705 found its place on a small camera tripod with flexible legs, that I bend, so it has a much more secure stand and was easily readable.

You may notice the names and callsigns below my notebook. Those are my top chasers and other people I want to greet with name.

The antenna was a multi-band end-fed half-wave antenna for 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10-meter band. I have thrown one end over a nicely placed tree and tied the other end at a picnic table. The bright color of the cord came in very handy as the place became increasingly busy over the time of my activation.

I started with the 30-meter band, but since the antenna wasn’t resonant, I had to use an external ATU. On the 30-meter band, I made 29 QSOs in about a half hour. It is very convenient to have one QSO per minute. If I forget to note the time, what happens regularly, it is easy to interpolate.

During my activation in France in the previous week, I had numerous SSB contacts. So, I thought giving it a try again and switched to the 20-meter band. After I completed a sked with a member of our local ham radio club, I spotted myself and had a huge pile-up just seconds after sending the spot. I singled out a callsign or better the last 3 letters, but about 5 chasers did not stop but shouted their callsigns and other inaudible things again and again, so I couldn’t hear the station I wanted. After several attempts to bring order into the chaos, I became angry and stopped the activation in SSB without having completed a single SSB QSO and continued in CW. What a pity!

However, I can see two chaser QSOs for SSB and one FM (???) that were submitted to the SOTA website. After a brief discussion in our local SOTA group, I learned that those QSOs are called “phantom QSOs” and occur regularly. But I still don’t understand why someone wants to fake a system without having any benefit.

I completed another 30 QSOs in CW on the 20-meter band, so I ended the first test of the transceiver with 60 QSOs. Not too bad for the very first operation.

I am quite happy with the IC-705, except the things I already knew, i.e. the clunkiness and the external ATU. I will need to find an adequate transport casing for the transceiver, and Thomas (K4SWL) videos are a good source to get ideas for it. The only thing that bothers me -even after days-, is the abysmal operating discipline on SSB that I have experienced. I am very sorry for all the operators who tried to get the 10 points in an orderly way.

25 thoughts on “A Triple activation and why I switched from a KX3 to Icom’s IC-705”

  1. Another brilliant field report, Thomas!

    I have never heard of “phantom QSOs” in SOTA. I wonder if it’s possibly people re-spotting you and not checking the mode field in their apps? Very strange.

    I think the IC-705 is an excellent radio for all of your SOTA/POTA adventures. It has some of the best audio available in the world of portable radios. It is just a tad awkward to pack being in that “brick” shape, but there are so many excellent padded lens cases that fit it, you’ll have no trouble finding something that works for you!

    As I’ve mentioned so many times before, your field reports make me homesick for Germany. I’m way overdue a visit. I would love to attend HAM Radio Friedrichshafen this year but, unfortunately, timing coincides with a family trip here in the States. I do believe I’ll make every effort to attend next year, though.

    Thanks again for the fine report, Thomas!

  2. Nice report, Thomas and thanks for sharing it; as for the external ATU, did you consider building one ?

    The PA0FRI “Fri Match” may be just “what the doctor ordered”


    for QRP ops it may be built using a pair of cheap polyvaricons and a small “T” toroid like shown here


    and adding a simple LED indicator for SWR won’t be a problem, the resulting unit will be lightweight and allow you to tune your “random” from 80 up to 10 meters 😀

    1. Hi Andrew,

      thanks a lot. So far I have not thought about bulding my own ATU. Thanks for pointing me to it, I will consider making my own.
      Thanks again 🙂

  3. Henry good recap of a successful POTA trip. From the SSB experienced on this POTA activation I am glad to stay on the CW side of things. I’m not the fastest and no one needs to be but I will ALWAYS slow down to hell another HAN trying

  4. “ghost” QSO’s are a phenomenon that occurs when chasers are allowed to submit logs. It’s a nasty game, there the chaser logs an activator, when they never completed a contact with them, hoping the activator will assume they busted or missed the activator’s call sign, so they just acknowledge the fake QSO.

    In POTA, for example, only the activator’s logs are submitted, so generating fake QSO’s by activators just simply doesn’t work.

    Ham radio is a hobby, but some folks take themselves way too seriously, and cheat to make themselves feel superior.

    1. Wow, Dave. I was not aware of this until Thomas and now you mention the rational behind it. I don’t understand why someone would “cheat” in a program that’s really all about having fun and hopping on the air. Achieving one’s own personal goals. Very strange.

    2. Hi Dave,

      thanks a lot for you comment. So far I have not seen the chaser QSOs submitted to the SOTA program. With the recent relaunch of sotadata.org.uk/, accessing this information is now just a click away. I’m uncertain if the intention is to seek acknowledgment from the activator, noting that they will receive credit regardless of the activator log.


  5. I use an Onyx 36 camcorder bag for the IC-705.


    It holds the IC-705 in a padded compartment and my battery, mic, and paddle on the other side of an included separator. It has a shoulder strap which you can use to put around your neck during an activation to hold the radio within arm’s reach. I would share a picture of the setup but there is no way to attach one here. Anyone interested can reach out to me at my QRZ email address.


    1. Hi, Scott, Email me one and I’ll attach it to the comments. My email is my callsign at qrper.com

  6. Thank you for this post. What a wonderful tour you gave us of this beautiful area. The comments on the transceiver models were very instructive. Unfortunately, uncivilized and boorish behavior seems to be increasing these days. Here in New York, we seeem to suffer from the same disease as exemplified by local drivers.

  7. Hello!
    Totally agree about the IC-705, I use it since autumn 2020, still very happy with it. I was also thinking a lot about how to solve the “missing tuner issue” and how to protect it during both operation and transport. Finally, have ended up with an over-shoulder camera bag, which is still quite small, but big enough so that IC-705 and all the accessories fit in.

    I have mAT-705 mk2 in there, already plugged together, so I just open the bag, unwind a piece of coax, attach to an antenna and press TUNE on the IC-705, such as I would do with internal tuner, it’s almost the same comfort. I have to disconnect it for VHF use unfortunately, because it screws up SWR on 144 MHz even when bypassed.

    Then I have BaMaKey TP-III there, attached to a small iron plate so the CW operation is also very comfortable. Additional things I have there are a spare battery for IC-705, USB cable for charging or data modes, a couple of BNC adaptors, Koss Porta Pro headphones and a power bank for charging IC-705 or the tuner.

    I have tried also a rugged suitcase, etc, but then I have realized that all the portability is gone with the suitcase, while the QRP power remains… When transporting a heavy suitcase, why not to take FT-891 with 100W then… Before that, I had all the parts stored separately, but I had to plug all the cables together each time, which also turned out to be uncomfortable and slow, especially when operating in dark, fog, rain, snow storm, etc. After that, I have converged to the camera bag, having the rig not perfectly, but reasonably protected, wired with the accessories for quict station deployment, while keeping it still lightweight.

  8. Hi Michael,
    thanks a lot for the info. Your setup sounds very similar to mine, and I can find myself in your description. Could you let me know what over-shoulder camera bag you are using? Many thanks


    1. Hello Thomas. Yeah. I see finally the exactly same BaMaKey in your pictures, nice! Well, my bag is Starblitz WIZZ15. Quite happy with it. If it was slightly larger, I’d put a throwing rope and little 9:1 unun/randomwire in it, but when hiking, I’d wish it being slightly smaller… 🙂 But I think it’s quite good compromise. I might remove the powerbank, but it happened to me once that the tuner was out of battery and with randomwire, not having a way to charge it, I’d be unable to operate that day. Another problem of external tuners!

      The bag has customizable dividers, allowing me to store everything as needed while still having cables connecting the devices together. I just went to a camera store with all the gear, explaining them the purpose and then I tried out all bags they had and this one fit best.

      However, finally, for having possibility for even lighter setup, last autumn, I put together a bum bag with SW-3B CW-only tribander, Elecraft T1, BaMaKey, headphones and battery. Together with telescopic antennas like AX1 or Diamond RHM8B, I can ski a whole day and it does not bother me too much.

      I was thinking about the setups for long time, also built a manual tuner (rather tunable unun for EFHW) with LED indication, but it did not work well with the SW3B (because the LED needed too little power (e.g. 0.3W, which can be set on IC705 but not on the SW-3B)…

      I am also thinking of some LiFePo external battery, but since I activate QRP only, the internal ones are OK, I don’t need 10W, but might be good for VHF contesting, etc… Still ways to upgrade! 🙂

  9. Hello Thomas.

    greetings from Germany DL7CW. I bought recently a chinese made automatic tuner at Ama**** for under 100€, with internal battery, capable of 100W. It matches my End fed well and is very small. Otherwise, I highly enjoy reading about your adventures. Maybe we work each other onthe bands soon! POTA on!

    Cheers & 73 de DL7CW Chris

  10. I use the Maxpedition 12″x5″ Bottle Holder for my 705:
    The 705 with the Peovi Carry Cage and clear front cover fit snugly. Mic and cable easily fit on top. The front pocket holds small connectors/extra bits easily. ATU and connecting cables are in a separate Maxpedition Beefy Pocket Organizer.
    Would love something similar but a bit larger to accommodate the 705 & PA500 amp (with built-in tuner) together.


  11. Hi Thomas- thanks for the interesting article!

    I activate POTA from local parks in NC. Sometimes, I switch over to SSB to see if I can chase one or two operators.

    I heard a station and was looking to make a SSB Park to Park contact, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard such rudeness before- people cutting in with rude comments, saying ‘LALALALA’ to try to interfere, etc!

    Like you, I switched quickly back over to CW!

    Take care
    Doug KO4ICM

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