KO4WFP: The Final Countdown and an Innovative Solution for My Nova Scotia Trip

Many thanks to Teri (KO4WFP) for the following guest post:

The Final Countdown and an Innovative Solution for My Nova Scotia Trip

by Teri (KO4WFP)

As I finalize preparations for my trip to Nova Scotia, during which I plan to activate six or seven parks, I ask myself “How the heck did I get here?” Those of you who read my first field report in this series know that Thomas Witherspoon’s decision to activate parks in Canada last year was my motivation. I admit it is gutsy of a relatively new op to believe I can undertake such a venture.

The necessity of traveling to Nova Scotia by plane drove the decision of what equipment to take. QRP became the name of the game, a great option for a CW op. I purchased the Elecraft KX2, a rig with a great reputation. Once it arrived in early May, I spent the next month and a half acquiring the necessary accessories and skills for this adventure. The final step before I leave is ensuring I have what I need and the room for it. Given others might want to undertake a similar venture, I will share what equipment I have chosen to take and how I am packing it.

I know most people prefer a roll-on suitcase, but after a trip to New York City last summer, I had enough of schlepping wheeled suitcases up and down the many flights of stairs we  traversed. Upon my return to Savannah, I immediately purchased an Osprey Fairview 55 pack. The Fairview pack can be carried as a suitcase by a handle on its side or as a backpack (my preference). As for its size, it meets airline carry-on dimension requirements for domestic flights and has a few points to attach items you might carry if actually using it for hiking. And, best of all, it is made for YLs!

Included with and attached to the front of the pack is a smaller backpack that can be used as a daypack. I figured this would be perfect for most of my ham equipment and proceeded to find a way to fit everything in it. The larger Fairview pack would serve as my carry-on and the smaller daypack as my personal item for the flight.

As you can see, the daypack has a fair amount of room. In the main compartment I have the gorillapod tripod for mounting the AX1 on top of the rental car or a picnic table, the carrying case for Craig, my KX2, and his accompanying items, and two Tom Bihn travel bins. There are two additional compartments inside the daypack – a mesh, zippered pouch and a slot for a laptop or iPad.

When I first began CW POTA activations, I used a notepad to track contacts. However, to save time, I switched to a refurbished laptop with N3FJP loaded to log contacts in real-time. Juggling it and the key didn’t prove as difficult as I originally thought. Also in the laptop slot are documents I don’t want bent like my license (not pictured), band plan, UTC conversion chart, and call sign prefixes for European countries. I am also taking a small steno notepad as a backup for logging contacts as well as making notes for the trip reports I’ll write afterwards.

In the zippered, mesh pocket are the Elecraft manual that came with the rig and my two longer lengths of RG-316, one 25’ and the other 50’.

When I purchased my KX2, I also purchased the Elecraft carrying case. I’m not sure if I will stick with this case long-term but for this trip, it works. The case actually holds a fair amount of stuff.

In the main compartment of the carrying case (on the right in the photo above) is my KX2, a repurposed bag with both the AX1 and my Tufteln EFRW QRP antenna, the two counterpoises for the AX1 (under the antenna bag), and on top, the 10’ length of RG-316.

The zippered pouch is a great catch-all for those little items you need but can’t figure out how best to store. In this pouch, I have a spare set of headphones, several carabiners, the 90 degree BNC attachment for the AX1, the AX1 instruction manual, a BNC binding post I hope to try one day for an antenna experiment, spare Fun-tak for holding my key in place, spare batteries for my digital recorder and key, some flagging tape, a spare cord wrap, my N6ARA spare key and cable, and the charging cord for my Sony noise-cancelling headphones (not pictured). After several early POTA activations on which I forgot items, I now keep a laminated checklist in this pouch. I noticed the one in the photo needs to be updated and replaced before the trip as I’ve tweaked my gear list.

In the middle compartment of the Elecraft carrying case are my digital recorder, splitter cable, AX1 bipod, and a spare pen.

The two Tom Bihn travel bags hold misc items I want contained. The red-colored, medium-sized one has my Sony noise cancelling headphones and cord, my key and its cord, and three bungee cords.

The smaller Tom Bihn travel bag holds my throw line and one of the Weaver 10 oz. weights. Note: Thomas advised me that some hams have received questions regarding the weights when going through TSA. Not pictured is a printout I’ll carry from Amazon of the invoice and item photo from Amazon’s website to hopefully quickly address any questions about the Weaver weights.

On the outside of the daypack in one of the front mesh pockets is a pouch with my spare throw line and weight.

The remaining pieces of equipment for the trip I will put in the larger Osprey pack – the chargers for the KX2 and ASUS laptop as well as the KX2 manual written by Fred Cady. But one final piece of equipment remains – the SOTAbeams Travel Mast.

When I decided to do this trip, I opted for the AX1 antenna due to its smaller footprint and light weight. However, as I learned during my Alabama activation, this antenna might not perform well enough on a given day to give me the ten contacts I need for a valid activation. So I added a EFRW antenna to my arsenal and learned how to get antennas into trees. But what if I don’t have any trees at a site? The first site I plan to activate, the Citadel in Halifax (VE-4841), is such a site. How then can I successfully deploy the EFRW?

I do have a SOTAbeams travel mast but, as I am flying, there is no way I can take a pole and hammer or my hitch mount to support the mast. Then I remembered I have a guying kit for the mast. Problem solved! Until I looked at the tent stakes for the kit and read on the TSA website those are not allowed in carry-on luggage. (No, I am not checking any luggage – why give the airline permission to lose my stuff?) Hmmm. Back to the drawing board.

Surely there had to be a way to use the SOTAbeams travel mast. After some thought, I realized I could try bungeeing it to the outside of the rental car at the support between the driver and passenger windows (assuming it isn’t raining). But that wouldn’t provide enough stability to keep the mast from kicking out at the bottom. And then my husband suggested I put the mast INSIDE the open backseat window. Guess what? It worked, though I may have to shorten the height of the mast if the conditions are windy.

After I took these photos, a friend suggested sliding the driver’s seat forward and putting the mast between the back of that seat and the window frame of the driver’s side. Of course, how this ultimately works out will depend on what rental car we are assigned, but this gives me the possibility of a mast if there are no trees to support my EFRW!

There remained one last question to answer – would the travel mast fit in my Osprey backpack? It did – barely – when situated diagonally. Then I remembered it came with a fabric bag. Removing it from the plastic protective case and inserting it into the fabric bag shortened it just enough that it will fit in my suitcase lengthwise!

Well, there you have it! At this point, there is nothing left to do except head to Nova Scotia and finally begin this grand adventure. Stay tuned…

Equipment List for Trip

16 thoughts on “KO4WFP: The Final Countdown and an Innovative Solution for My Nova Scotia Trip”

  1. Excellent post! Thank you for taking the time to do a break down of what’s in your travel pack!

    By the way, I completely relate to this:

    I know most people prefer a roll-on suitcase, but after a trip to New York City last summer, I had enough of schlepping wheeled suitcases up and down the many flights of stairs we  traversed. Upon my return to Savannah, I immediately purchased an Osprey Fairview 55 pack. The Fairview pack can be carried as a suitcase by a handle on its side or as a backpack (my preference). As for its size, it meets airline carry-on dimension requirements for domestic flights…

    100%! I used to travel by air extensively in Europe when I lived there.
    When I first moved to Germany, I ditched my rolling suitcase first thing and did all of my business travel out of a travel backpack by Eagle Creek. I think the catalyst was the morning I took a taxi from the airport to a small village in France. It was maybe 11:00PM and I had to pull my rolling case on a cobble stone street–I felt like I woke everyone up in that sleepy little village as I made my way to the inn.

    To this day, I am a one-bag carry-on zealot! 🙂 So much so, that on discount airlines, I refuse to carry anything more than a personal carryon item (I make a note in this post).

    That Osprey will serve you well. They’re very comfortable.

    I love how you’ve arranged everything in your pack and can even break it up into a small daypack and main pack.

    And honestly? It seems you’ve prepared for every contingency. You’ve backups, documentation, and…what…three different antenna types you can deploy? You’re truly prepared for most any POTA site.

    All this to say, “very well done!” I look forward to reading about your trip and also, perhaps, a follow-up after you’ve used your travel kit. 🙂

    Safe travels and I do hope to work you in beautiful Nova Scotia!

    Thomas (K4SWL / VY2SW)

    1. Thomas – I owe much of my kit to posts on QRPer.com so thank you! I had only planned on two antennas – the AX1 and EFRW QRP – however, I have room for the Pacific Antenna 2040 trap dipole and will bring it as well. (Having options is a good thing!) I am excited to see how this grand adventure plays out. Thank you for giving me the idea!

  2. Teri, GL with your trip. Visit Hall’s Harbour for fresh lobster while you are there, a must-do experience.

    With all the gear you listed I somehow thought this was Thomas wiring under a pseudonym LOL! Excellent choices for gear and strategies to handle everything.

    I’ll suggest one more thing that surprised me when I had rental vehicles on a recent trip – use the hatchback supports as one of your wire ends – details here https://qrper.com/2023/05/the-joy-of-a-low-slung-wire/

    vy 72,

    1. Vince – Thanks for the suggestion! I am so accustomed to my Subarus, I forget people drive sedans without rails on top of the car or a hatchback! This is one thing I thought about the other day. I am going to check into what category of rental we requested and tweak that if necessary.

      1. Teri, sure roof rails are great – but the struts that hold up the hatchback, as long as it’s open, work FB as well. The third photo in the article (kind of) shows it in action.
        GL and 73

  3. Great set up and you have given me some wonderful antenna ideas. You can get rid of single sheets of paper by snapping pictures of those sheets on your smart phone.

  4. Cape Breton has several areas with trees for operating and accessible by vehicle. There’s a provincial park at Aspy Bay with trees. Off the Cabot Trail at Dingwall there’s a road that leads to Cape North, another good site for operating. Have fun and stay safe. 73

  5. Best of luck, Teri. You’ve made some very impressive preparations and I look forward to reading of your results. Be safe and have fun!

  6. Putting you in hamalert now! GL and have fun. Hopefully you’ll make it thru TSA without too much hassle. I saw a guy try to bring overnight oats in mason jars in my last trip. The TSA gave him hell. Hopefully he’ll be there to take the heat of all the radio gear. ???

    – cainan KQ4DAP

    1. Cainin – I’ve already advised my OM and son that we need to arrive at the airport with plenty of time for me to get through TSA. The TSA in Savannah, GA are usually chill but we’ll see how this goes. Coming back through Halifax, Nova Scotia might be another story. Hopefully the agents on duty those days will be in a good mood.

      1. Teri – Great job on the Go Kit. I took my SOTA Mast to Nova Scotia last year without stakes and a hammer. It worked great on fences using a bungee for the mast base and attaching the legs (DiPole) along the top of the fence. (VE-0881). Mine was the 22″ mast — FYI – TSA did not like the mast in carry-on so I had to check it in the luggage. The smaller SOTA mast might fly (no pun). -Tony

  7. You have all the bases covered, with excellent antenna options. I’ve used benches and park grills to bungie the mast to and even the side view mirror of the car. But your window idea looks great, good luck!

    73, N2YCH

  8. Teri, a couple notes

    First of all, if possible add a male/male adapter to your kit, it may be useful in case you’ll need a longer coax, the adapter would then be used to join the two runs of coax you have

    Second, since you have both the EFRW and the travel mast, consider setting up the EFRW as a “vertical”, in short, the mast has a total length of 33ft while the EFRW is 35ft long, let’s say you hang 30ft of antenna to the top of the mast, connect the remaining (“dangling from the top”) 5ft to the arborist line and use the latter to slope that portion of wire obtaining a mostly vertical inverted L antenna which will serve you pretty well


  9. Wonderful write up! I also carry on all my travel gear and have done monthly for the last couple years. You never know what they will look at. Throw weight, Carbon 6, or some other random item. But, I really don’t need the hassle of a lost bag. I hope you enjoy the antenna!

    Joshua N5FY

  10. Excellent post Teri!! It’s been a very pleasant and extremely interesting read.
    I’m assembling my Pota/Sota kit that I plan to test on the field this summer during my summer holidays on italian alps. I got my license last year and I’m building my experience from the ground up on the field (and you all are a fantastic resource of ideas and experiences).
    I found interesting ideas in your post and I’ll try to share my setup and personal solution in the near future.

    Michele IU2RNU

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