On Thursday, April 27, 2023, it was pouring rain, so the perfect time for a little POTA, right–?
Actually, I had an idea: in the past, I’ve been known to play POTA under the roof of a picnic shelter on rainy days. I’ve even been known to use my AX1 antenna inside the shelter, under a metal roof. Quite a few times, actually.
Of course, it’s not optimal to operate with your antenna under a metal roof, but with POTA? Let’s just say that you can get away with a lot of less-than-optimal antenna deployments.
That’s the benefit of being the DX!
The MC-750 Tripod
An in-the-shelter activation was also the perfect opportunity to test the new Chelegance tripod that fits both the MC-750 and the JPC-12.
A number of readers have reached out asking about this tripod, so when Jesse at Chelegance asked if I’d like to test it, I agreed to do so.
To be clear, he sent this to me at no cost for evaluation. It’s actually quite affordable ($30 on the Chelegance website, $40 at DX Engineering, for example) so purchasing it would have been easy enough, but Jesse also wanted me to evaluate their new FT-818 ATU, so he sent both at the same time (you’ll see the ATU in a future field report).
The tripod feels very sturdy and is simple to deploy. It’s also a little heavy, so keep that in mind if you plan to pack it in for a long SOTA hike.
A number of you have purchased this tripod and have only had positive comments. I now see why.
I speak about this in more detail in the activation video below.
Lake Norman State Park (K-2740)
I decided that it had been too long since I had activated Lake Norman State Park, so I hopped in the car and headed to Troutman, NC! Lake Norman has a number of picnic shelters and covered areas thus a very safe bet.
It was a rainy day so, of course, I pulled into the Lake Norman picnic area only to find one other car there. In fact, by the time I had taken my backpack to the picnic shelter, that other park visitor appeared at a trailhead, hopped in her car, and left.
The picnic shelter sign wasn’t set to “reserved” either, so it looked like I had a green light to claim it for POTA!
As soon as carried the antenna, my backpack, and my camera to the shelter, I pressed record and started my activation video. I described (in quite a bit of detail) what I planned to do, the gear I planned to use, etc. I then turned off the camera to prepare a spot for the antenna to be deployed.
I mention this in my activation video below, but something a bit odd happened during that time…
Not one, but two park ranger vehicles pulled into the lot at the picnic shelter. I’m actually quite used to park rangers pulling up and asking about my activation or just checking in. I was, after all, the only park visitor there and maybe it seemed odd?
As the rangers got out of their trucks, I greeted them and then asked, “Oh no, is this shelter reserved?” They said, “No, this shelter is free to use today.” I then volunteered, “Okay, great, because I’m an amateur radio operator and am setting up a Parks On The Air activation right now.”
Both of them seemed to relax a bit when I said that. In fact, I recognized one of the rangers because he and I had a long talk one day about amateur radio; turns out, his dad is a ham.
One of the park rangers said, “Oh we love POTA activators here. It’s great to see everyone set up their antennas outdoors and have fun.” He then said with a chuckle, “So the reason we paid a visit is because a park guest contacted us to say that there was a guy in this shelter with a pile of ‘long rifles.’ I have to assume you’re not hoarding a small arsenal of rifles are you?”
I couldn’t help but laugh, too, and said, “Nope. No firearms here. The only thing I’m packing are radios and antennas!”
We chatted a bit longer then they wished me luck with the activation.
The park visitor that spotted me when I arrived was never closer than 20-25 meters from the picnic shelter, so certainly viewing me at a distance. The only thing I was carrying that could remotely resemble a rifle was maybe my action camera and tripod? Nothing else had even been taken from my backpack at that point.
That was a first for me! I’ve been asked if I was a spy, if I was a pirate radio operator, and if I had plans to contact other planets with my gear, but no one ever assumed I was a sniper.
I’ll admit, around that time there were a number of mass shootings in the US in the news, so I think she was simply on heightened alert. We park activators have to remember that, to most of the world, we’re quite a novelty. Not many people expect to see someone set up a radio station at a park and have Morse Code emanate from their picnic table.
No harm done and, in fact, it was great chatting with the rangers for a bit. They were curious why I was setting up an antenna inside the shelter rather than outside. Oh yeah, back to that…
Setting up the MC-750
Setting up the MC-750 inside the shelter was super easy.
I simply unfolded the tripod, attached the threaded post, then screwed the MC-750 matching unit to it. Next, I deployed the whip antenna.
I extended it as far as I could without actually touching the ceiling. It wasn’t quite long enough to reach the resonant mark on 20 meters, so I simply planned to use my Elecraft KX2’s ATU to find a good impedance match.
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)
- Chelegance MC-750
- Chelegance MC-750/JPC-12 Tripod
- Key cable: Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold-Plated Retractable Aux Cable – 2.5 Feet
- CW Morse “Pocket Paddle”
- Mystery Ranch Scree 32 backpack
- Blue Ridge Overland Gear Gadget Bag
- Elecraft KXBT2 Li-Ion Battery Pack
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil
- Rite In The Rain Top Spiral Notebook
- Camera: original OSMO Action Camera (the OSMO 3 is the current version) with Sensyne Phone Tripod
On The Air
I started calling CQ POTA and worked nine stations in eleven minutes. Not bad at all considering the rough propagation that fine day.
After taking so much time to describe my set-up in the activation video and chatting with the park rangers, I didn’t have a lot more time to be on the air, so I called QRT while it was quiet for a grand total of twelve contacts.
Here’s what this short 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.
MC-750 Tripod Assessment
- easy to deploy,
- super sturdy,
- folds up to be quite compact, and
- pretty darn affordable.
The only negatives of this tripod are that:
- it’s a tad heavy if you’re looking for a super lightweight SOTA tripod (some tripods are made of lighter-weight aluminum), and
- it doesn’t have a wide base to spread out the center of gravity which could be an issue if you’re experiencing wind gusts.
That said, I think the new tripod is fantastic and I’ve already used it at a historic site where I wasn’t comfortable driving the antenna spike in the ground. It performed flawlessly despite breezy conditions. Look for that activation report and video in the near future!
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my rather wordy 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! Have an amazing weekend!
Cheers & 72,