Pit Stop Style Activation with Elecraft KX3 and AX1

(As is my usual, this article has a bunch of links – click on as many as you wish to receive the full experience)

by Vince (VE6LK)

In May of 2023 I embarked on a two week vacation to Hamilton Ontario, the city of Waterfalls. And I found myself with a spare 30 minutes so I decided to squeeze in an activation.

And as I am an opportunist, I made this decision at 23:25’ish z and I had not yet arrived at the park but the target was only a few minutes away! I would have until 23:59:59z to complete it if I were to be successful. “It’s time to break out the Elecraft AX1 antenna I bought at Hamvention last week I think to myself. It would be my first time using the antenna. I had pre-read the instructions and knew what had to be done in order to set it up.

The whole thing would unfold like a Formula 1 pit stop, albeit a wee bit slower <grin>.

Battlefield House

I arrived at VE-5351, The Battle of Stoney Creek National Historic Site and began to scout a location. Pausing only long enough to snap a few photos, I parked and immediately got to work.

Impromptu desk surface

Thanks to the helpful owner of this loaned car, I was able to spread out a towel and use the trunk lid as an impromptu desk surface. With the AX1 you attach the counterpoise wire to the screw nearest the antenna port, extend the whip, ensure it’s switched for the correct band (20m, or 17/15m) and hit the tune button before you start calling. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!

I set a spot on POTA.app and got to work, letting the KX3 memory keyer do the work of calling work for me. The clock was ticking and I’d be lying if I didn’t think to myself that this was both do-able and otherwise.

First view of the RBN within 30 seconds of first CQ

A quick check on the Reverse Beacon Network showed that I was being heard in Costa Rica! Score I think to myself, “if I’m being heard that fast and far away, I should be able to do it.”

Final contacts

Long story short, I made my 10th contact at 235330z, and just for insurance, I made one more. I was in and out of the parking lot with a complete activation in under a  half hour.

Final Reverse Beacon Network listing

If you haven’t tried one of these antennas, ask a friend to try one. For myself and many others, the simplicity of this antenna makes it a winner.

And if you don’t have one of these antennas, find one you like that you can deploy quickly and do your very own pit stop style activation.



First introduced to the magic of radio by a family member in 1969, Vince has been active in the hobby since 2002. He is an Accredited examiner in Canada and the USA, operates on almost all of the modes, and is continually working on making his CW proficiency suck less. He participates in public service events around Western Canada and is active on the air while glamping, mobile, at home or doing a POTA activation. You can hear him on the Ham Radio Workbench podcast, follow him on Twitter @VE6LK, peek at his anemic YouTube presence (subscribe!), and view the projects and articles on his website.

10 thoughts on “Pit Stop Style Activation with Elecraft KX3 and AX1”

  1. Congress ! This is real ham radio .. Great fun to read and I felt the clock ticking while reading.
    @Thomas: many thanks for sharing this platform and your superb activations …

    1. Thank you, Bosma. One of the true joys of running QRPer.com is opening it up for others to share their field reports. I get a real thrill reading about others’ adventures and I learn so much from them!

  2. I hope it was not just “a wee bit slower”, but also required a lot fewer tire changes 😉 This is a fantastic result. When I use the Ax1, I am usually not expecting to make QSOs at a record pace. Congrats on having the guts to take this on – and to finish it!

  3. On an unrelated radio note…it is strange to read of the history of this park and the Canadians memorializing a battle between the “Americans” as the enemy. I cannot think of more of an ally and similar cultures as the US and Canada.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly, we are indeed such good neighbours and so fortunate to have each other. This location is an interesting place, and each year on the first weekend of June a re-enactment of the battle takes place with hundreds of on-field participants. It is quite a sight to see such a large-scale live re-enactment in person.

    2. The war of 1812 is actually quite important in Canadian history and referenced heavily in our schooling. It pre-dated “Canada” by a long time, but it did create our current borders. Up until then, there was an American sentiment that all of North America would ultimately be under the union, and it ended that notion, and created an acceptance of British North America that ultimately became Canada. It doesn’t define much for American identity, though, so that’s why you don’t hear much about it. It’s not about animosity toward the Americans to memorialize it -but about a defining point that made our country possible.

  4. Hi Vince (and Thomas)!

    I have this same setup (minus the convertible…insert drool here…) and I did a park activation in Tennessee a couple months ago while traveling for work, only I was on SSB; never would I have imagined making almost 40 contacts in less than an hour on 20 meters using the AX-1 antenna and 10 watts! I was blown away at how well this “compromised” antenna performs. 72/73 de KM3P

    1. The craziest thing happened to me just last night when I was activating. I inserted the 40/30m coil on my AX1 and laid out the ground radial. It was only when I was packing up that I realized I never connected it d’oh! I still made contacts! 72 de VE6LK

    2. It’s a very handy little antenna, Mark. It has never let me down and, in fact, has been one of my best performers in terms of its ability to hop on the air in short order and rack up contacts quickly. That said, if I have a choice, I do not choose it if I know for a fact propagation will really poor. That’s when I’ll reach for a longer wire antenna.
      The AX1/AX2 is a great antenna to keep in your field kit. I never leave home without it! 🙂

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